Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore

Michael Eric Dyson on the marketability of misogyny

Filed By Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore | September 08, 2007 3:45 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: civil rights movement, Michael Eric Dyson, structural homophobia

Okay, so author/social critic Michael Eric Dyson is quite a brilliant speaker, which is evident from the beginning of an interview on Uprising Radio that starts by addressing the history of hip-hop, its global reach, and paradoxes of commercialism/resistance, but the part that really blows me away is when Dyson goes right into the heart of misogyny, and even throws in a savaging comment about structural homophobia -- here's the highlight for me:

... How do you shape and re-shape a culture that produces misogyny as a marketable phenomenon to begin with? Because the marketability of misogyny is not exclusively piqued, if you will, within the environs of hip-hop. I mean, the marketability of misogyny undergirds American capitalism and corporate life, the marketability of misogyny is part and parcel of churches and religious institutions and sanctuaries, the marketability of misogyny is as American, to borrow a word from a black revolutionary of the sixties, H. Rap Brown, as cherry pie. So, the pretense that we are somehow abhorred by the prospect of women's misogynistic treatment at the hands of patriarchal men being marketed is rather ludicrous, because even the civil rights movement, which did undeniable good for our people rested upon the labor of black women who were often unacknowledged, in fact Ella Baker, one of the great strategists of social protest and resistance in the sixties had to leave the SCLC, Martin Luther King Jr.'s group, because he was too sexist and they were incapable of acknowledging her particular role and genius. So again, though one might find legitimate, what Rev. Sharpton is attempting to do [to fight against racial and sexual slurs in rap music], I think that it's problematic because the same art that you want to undermine and subvert is the same art that allowed young black men in particular, to express themselves against bourgeois Negro captivity and white supremacist discourse and white corporate capitalism. The same art form that contains undeniable expressions of misogyny and sexism and homophobia, which never counts, because black bourgeois culture as well as hip-hop agree that fags just don't matter, and gays and lesbians and transgenders and bisexual people just don't count. They don't want to get rid of that epithet because it doesn't even count, it doesn't even register on the radar, so already the implicit hypocrisy of making moral distinctions upon varieties of suffering blow up in our face. I think Rev. Sharpton should also pay attention to not only the Black church experience, but also I think come to grips with the fact that these symbolic gestures, while important, don't really relieve us of the responsibility of doing something more profound and more pervasive and ultimately, I think, more noteworthy and significant and uplifting, and that is, how do we re-educate ourselves about how all of us participate in the bloody prospect of subordinating women, of constantly, and consistently, and continually, but subtly, deferring their interests and lives.

(Thanks to Gina de Vries for transcribing.)

Mattilda blogs at

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Wow! And to think that Michael Eric Dyson managed to say all that without once using the word, "heteronormative"!

Seriously though, Dr. Dyson is very influential as a member of the Religious Issues Advisory Board of the National Black Justice Council. He rarely fails to include homophobia when discussing social attitudes that the African-American culture could improve upon, and his courage to do so here is very characteristic of him.