For the last month or so, I have been trying to wrap my mind around how Antoine Dodson’s instant celebrity fame helps his sister, Kelly Dodson. Yes, I know Antoine’s internet fame allowed him to move his family from a less safe neighborhood context to a safer residential area. But, the reasons why a man could easily climb through Kelly’s window without the fear of being accosted intending to rape her and the reasons for Antoine individual solution—“We will find you . . .”—have yet to be answered or addressed. However, what has transpired is that the Bed Intruder Song has gone viral to point that both Verizon (yes, the phone company) and Tea Party Candidate, Christine O’Donnell, have used the song to show the need for net neutrality (i.e. digital stratification and no FCC regulation of price) and how Chris Coons is a Democratic Bed Intruder so, “Hide your wills, hide your lights . . . ‘Cause he’s taxing everything out here.” Honestly, as a black woman/advocate/feminist, I find Christine O’Donnell’s comparison of rape and taxing as what my grandmother would call, “dumb as bricks talking out the side of your neck” talk.
Anyways, the question is, once the media both mainstream and internet viewers are finished with consuming—laughing, caricaturing, dancing, featuring, debating—The Bed Intruder Song, what will happen to Kelly and Antoine Dodson?” And, let’s be honest our society’s consumption for new internet entertainment is ravenous so eventually people will find a new YouTube clip to enshrine, to remix, to mash-up. Perhaps, the next viral video will feature someone pretending to be a gay youth who pretends to commit suicide as they croon their pain to an auto-tune sound. I know that sounds harsh given the current CNN showcase (yes, I said showcase because these suicides were happening before CNN picked it up) of suicides of LGBTQ youth and suicides of youth who are perceived to be gay. But the fact remains, that the Bed Intruder Song’s origin is about rape and what it means to be black and woman and live in a disadvantaged neighborhood context where you are at a higher risk of being sexually violated simply because you are poor, black, and woman.
So, Antoine along with one of the Gregory Brothers performs on the BET Hip Hop Awards show, now what? How does this once isolated story of violence now viral internet song change the conditions that expose women and girls of color to more and often worse forms of gender-based violence? And the simple answer is it doesn’t. It doesn’t change anything. It can’t. The police have yet to capture the man who tried to rape Kelly Dodson. You see, the same ole monsters—the man who tried to rape Kelly—lurk around the corner or hide within allies waiting. And given where you live the same ole monsters don’t have to hide themselves fully because they know we as a society do not care about marginalized people and marginalized communities. So, they wait and they lurk.
And so I question the full power of publically outing or publically exposing or publically auto tuning serious issues that affect marginalized groups. Of course, this is not to say that we should not publically create videos that expose oppression because we should. But, that it must be one of many strategies and, most importantly, the videos must encompass a critical understanding of the problem as complex and not simply entertain people within stereotypical images of people of color. Honestly, when the Bed Intruder Song went viral people told me that it would help catch the rapist and that it would help to shed light on the act of rape. But, I have not seen that and the only thing that has happened is that Antoine has made enough money to move his family from a bad neighborhood to less bad neighborhood which is a good thing. However, it is an individual solution to a widespread systemic problem.
So, to protect black women and girls we need to move them to better neighborhoods. Of course, there are some Moving to Opportunity (MTO) Studies that show that black girls who moved from very poor black communities to less poor communities feel safer in their new neighborhoods. However, for every woman and girl to move themselves and their families to a better neighborhood would require a lot of resources, resources that often people of color lack because of systemic racism, systemic sexism, and class oppression. Furthermore, we would need to find some way to change people’s everyday thinking about poor people of color as lazy, deviant, promiscuous, welfare cheats, etc.
Honestly, I just feel that in some ways that publically outing or publically exposing or publically auto tuning is a limited strategy if we are not attacking the structural conditions and the “inner psychological monsters” that make these things possible and seeing how various forms of violence are interrelated and complex. Simply moving your family from a better neighborhood does not help to solve the underlining issues that make low income communities unsafe, women easy prey, and gay black men entertaining “flamboyant” jokes. The same ole monsters remain.
Also, in some ways Yasmin Nair of Gender Just makes this point in her piece, Queer Suicides: Complicates the Issue. As I read Nair’s essay, she is critical of the media and celebrities videos that simply advocate Gay Marriage and the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell as remedies to LGBTQ youth suicides and youth who are perceived to by gay suicides. She states:
The last few weeks have seen a flurry of stories about the supposed rise in queer suicides, particularly by youth and young adults. But while the deaths are undoubtedly tragic, they are by no means unusual and have not increased in number; they are simply being reported on more often. The exact reasons why the press would, at this time, take such an interest in queer suicides are the subjects of a future piece . . . But none of this justifies a logistical leap to the point of arguing that allowing gays to get married or join the army will somehow make people hate queers, or people they think of as queers, less. When a queer gets bashed, the basher isn’t thinking, “I hope this person isn’t the married kind because THEY would be all right.” The issue facing us is not how to make the bigots love us, but the bigotry they express. Which is to say: twisting and turning gay marriage into a solution for queer suicides is an abhorrent tactic to bolster the cause of gay marriage, on which there is no consensus in the LGBTQ community. The simple truth is that people hate us and will cause us harm. They may hate us because they secretly see themselves in us and are terrified of what that means, or they may hate us simply because they see us as the evil to be wiped out. But they hate us and they will cause us harm. The fact that we might be able to marry will not make a bit of difference to such deep-seated hatred.
And, I fully agree with Yasmin. It is the inner monsters or what a wise ole man once said the “En-e-my” the “Inner Me” that we have to deal with. It is how people see Kelly and Antoine Dodson and how people see LGBTQ community that fundamentally shapes how they will respond when there is no publically outing or publically exposing or publically auto tuning of the problem. So, for me it is important to know which structural conditions are creating the problem and know what belief systems people have that rationalize their hatred for LGBTQ communities and poor people of color. And if we look closely there are some similarities in how people see both communities and how to dominate/control both communities . . . it is unnatural/un-Christ like to be gay . . . it is unnatural/un-Christ to be poor . . . you must have had some type of sexual trauma to make you gay . . . you must have not worked hard enough to make you poor . . . poor people deserve what they get . . . gay people don’t deserve to be married . . . etc.
Yep, when the lights go out the same monster remain hiding not in your closet or under the bed, but within.