I’ve decided to join Luvvie’s #31WriteNow. I’m not sure if I can actually successfully write one post a day for the entire month of August, but I will try. As much as I’m frustrated with writing these days, it’s also good therapy so I will use this challenge to practice my memoir skills and jot down whatever other random thoughts I want to articulate. Today’s post was inspired by #ThrowbackThursday and an encounter with Luke.
I always figured that I was a feminist based on my ideas about how women fit into society but I never gave the label any serious thought in terms of what it really meant until the day that Luther Campbell, yes, Uncle Luke of 2 Live Crew fame, called me a bitch and I liked it. I was an intern at a radio station for a popular radio host turned talk show host and Luke stopped by for an interview. I was charged with escorting him in and out of the host’s office, where all guests and staff chilled for most of the day in between takes.
After my initial exchange of pleasantries with the publicist, I waved at Luke, purposely not shaking his hand because of the transparent look on his face. It was a look told me he was attracted; a gaga face’d look that all men get at the site of a pretty girl. He said hello and I escorted him to the office, where all of the staff, entirely female, happened to be hanging out.
I sat on a chair across from Luke and his publicist who were on a couch, and said nothing. Interns weren’t really supposed to mingle and I took that seriously. However, despite my outward calm, I was excited. I wasn’t Stan level excited but Luke’s music was a crucial part of my childhood. He made all the forbidden booty bass that my friends had no business listening to but still did because raunchy music was plentiful in the neighborhood once we broke free from the parent regime. We danced to it in the park, we danced to whenever someone’s older sibling was left to babysit. It was the music that taught us how to twerk and drop it; the music that we looked forward to at the Skate Key because it meant we could wild out like adults and “shake what our mamas” gave us. Luke’s music even followed me to college where classics like “Hoochie Mama” and “Scarred” became the pre-party anthems for when we were trying to turn up for the club.
Luke wasn’t verbally talkative but his eyes were articulate. He kept taking long glances at the he women in the room, and he and I kept making eye contact. At first I thought, “Nah, he’s not looking at me like that,” but then I realized that he wasn’t just looking, he was staring as much as he could and I was in denial about it. I tried to convince myself that he wasn’t by keeping myself busy by examining the wall posters that I had seen a billion times, chatting with other interns or the talent booker, and generally feigning obliviousness. I finally got the courage to test this out by holding my gaze the next time we made eye contact. I figured he’d do what most men caught ogling would do—look away, but nope, he was bold. We stared at each other for a good 10-15 seconds before he shifted his facial expression mid-gaze—it was sort of a subtle eyebrow raise accompanied by a slight nod—as if to say, “Yeah, I’m looking at you!”
When he finally ended up in the studio to start his interview, one of the first things he said to his host was, “Damn, you got some fine staff back there. I don’t want to leave.” The host laughed because it was something she heard a lot from male visitors. She even added in the fact that most of us were curvy to exacerbate the banter.
Once his interview was done it was time for him to record a drop with one of the radio host’s producers. I was also responsible for that but I had to bring him back to the office first because the producer wasn’t ready. At this point, it was just Luke, his publicist, the talent booker and myself in the office. I remember being sent to get them some refreshments from the next room over but in order to get out I had to walk past Luke, who was still staring intermittently and intensely. His gaze followed me from my seat to traipsing across the room and just when I got close enough (the couch he was sitting on was next to the door), I heard him say, “You a hot ass bitch.”
I did a double glance at him, met his gaze again and he did the face emphasis thing again that telepathically communicated, “Yeah, I said it.”
I pretended that it didn’t faze me and made good on the task I was sent to fulfill. Eventually, he did his drop and then he came back to the office to hang out for a little while longer. Finally, a group of us escorted Luke and co out once it was time for them to leave. The talent booker and another intern were slightly ahead of the group as we walked them out; I was adjacent to he and his publicist. He took a few more glances around then brought his eyes back down to mine again. I looked away swiftly but still utilized my peripheral vision. He smirked and then muttered under his breath again, slightly different from the first time, “Y’all some hot ass bitches working here.”
My inner dialogue, between angel me and devil me, upon hearing this went something like, “So, he did say what I thought after all. Oh, my God, Luke thinks I’m cute!”
“Girl, that was degrading and you should be offended.”
“But it’s Luke. He specializes in women. Helloooo…Luke dancers.”
“Damn, I’m not insulted but should be, right? I’m supposed to be outraged, right? I know better. ”
“Knock knock, Luke muthafucking dancers…true, true.”
Eventually the dark side, aka my ego, won and I went with being called a hot bitch by Luke (and only Luke) as a compliment. Later on that day, I posted a quick status update to MySpace (yes, this was still when MySpace was popping) that went something like, “I got called a hot bitch by Luke today, and I liked it.”
Ironically, a very conservative man, who had been an Internet friend of mine for a few months, commented something to the tune of, “I’m surprised at you for this.”
Most of the other comments, from men and women, expressed amusement or congrats but when I discovered that said conservative man unfriended me I felt conflicted again. Even if I did take offense at the time, was I going to go all U.N.I.T.Y. on Uncle Luke? No. And did the fact that I took it as a compliment make me any less of a feminist? I wasn’t innocent as I secretly referred to women as bitches (I’ve long since come out of the closet as a “feminist” who uses the b-word) on occasion (I think women can say it but not men but that’s another post).
After over-thinking for a while, I realized that all self or societally imposed labels aside I’m human first. My MacBook’s dictionary simply defines feminism as, “The advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men,” but people complicate that theory in real life and it becomes so many different things that often scares people. There are the people who think feminists are always angry, there are the people who think that feminists really just want to be men, there’s racism within the movement itself which is why some people prefer to be considered “womanist,” and then there are feminists who feel the need to attack other women whom they feel are objectifying themselves to please a patriarchal power structure (just Google Beyonce and feminism for one of many examples). Yet none of that really described how my version of feminism played out and I didn’t realize that I was just going along with the movement without a clear idea of who I was within its philosophy until Luke called me a “hot ass bitch” and I didn’t get mad about it.
After giving it some thought, I realized that fundamentally I believe that women should be allowed to apply for and get the same jobs as men without discrimination and with equal pay, have the right to walk down the street in peace without being subject to patriarchal privilege and demands (enter street harassment), have the right to control their bodies without ridiculous double standards, and be treated with respect and consideration when it comes to our child baring and rearing needs, yet there’s the other part of my feminist belief system that thinks women should be allowed to make any informed choice that they want to make without being lambasted. Those choices include women being able to be flexible and flawed human beings, meaning that Beyonce can do the uh-oh dance in a leotard if she so chooses and that she can make songs like “Ring the Alarm,” “Independent Woman,” and “Cater 2 U” yet still be considered a feminist if that’s how she viewers herself. It also includes Jane Doe down the block deciding to become a stay-at-home mom without being judged for it, and me being flattered and kind of turned on (for the record, I am NOT physically attracted to Luke but there is something alluring about him) by something as raunchy as Luke calling me bitch without being seen as a disgrace because I didn’t get mad about it for once. Admittedly, if this were Luther Smith from up the street I’d be offended but given the figure and the context, that was a dope ass compliment, one that I sometimes use to remind myself about and have a good chuckle over when I’m not feeling so pretty, and one that helped me settle into my feminist self the way I see fit, perceived flaws and all.