Your tax dollars at work

"Hopefully I'm done. I didn't intend to have this many, it just happened."

There are so many negative comments running around in my thoughts. I'm gonna refrain from writing the majority of them. The comment uppermost in my mind, is that those children deserve better. Even if the mothers chose to have more children in his family, those kids didn't choose this man.

Seeking Cheap Attention

Its been a long time. I shouldn't have left you. Without a dope beat to step to. Seriously though, I haven't posted in a while because I like to follow the universal grandma saying of "If you don't have anything nice to say, then don't say anything at all." Between trying to refrain from saying something negative for the sake of reading my own words, I was a little stumped over a compelling post. I'm not happy about the state of the black woman's image these days. Between that and the violence that is being committed against black women and girls, I needed to take a step back and focus elsewhere for a bit. But I felt I needed to write something or you all would disappear!

So here is that something. *cracks knuckles*

I tried to ignore the media frenzy that focused on Rihanna and Cassie's nude pics. That was a big ignore fail. Part of the speculation is the source of the pics: were they leaked by the women themselves to gain attention? If not, then who circulated the pics? I found it interesting that most of the comments I read contained a huge assumption that Cassie leaked the pics herself. Its not a hard stretch to make. Both women are nominally talented. I mean, for serious, Cassie has no entertainment value for her voice and dance skills alone. And neither does Ri Ri, as much as I like her. They are no up-and-coming Tina Turners.

Where Rihanna found success was in being different. Yeah we liked her and thought she was cute when she was just an island girl who was unfaithful. But once she cut and dyed her hair, went all punk and became a fashionista, that edge is what kept us as fans. I was never really a Cassie fan, to be quite honest. I thought "Me and You" sounded like a song made with a Casio keyboard. Like someone pressed one of those buttons next to the Rumba beat, and voila. And when she started modeling for Sean John (or whoever, I dunno) I really lost all attention on her. To me, she wasn't talented enough or a big enough star to branch out in other areas. Her personal brand just didn't do it for me.

In general, I think personal branding as an artist is tough. Not only do you have to make music that grabs the listener's attention (as we can see lately, talent, relevance and sense is not required), you have to sell yourself, your image and your presence as a commodity itself. A prime example of that fact is Beyonce. We aren't stans fans because of her great singing ability. We follow her sightings, as much of her personal life as she allows, her fashion sense and even what she does with her hair. Every time she steps outside her house she is performing. Stars these days can't turn that off. For Miss B in particular we love her personal brand and buy into that, which her bank account abundantly reflects.

In the case of Rihanna and Cassie, their personal brands aren't that interesting. Granted, Rihanna is more musically entertaining that Cassie, but right now she doesn't have much going on. Outside of getting beat up and then dumped by Chris Brown, if she's not at an event then we don't care about what she's doing. Her album isn't new so there isn't that to focus on. And as an entertainer, our focus is where her paycheck lies, either now or later.

And herein lies the dilemma for these two young ladies, and by extension, women everywhere: when you have to sell your person as commodity, your value lies in the attention you garner. When you don't have much to sell as person-commodity, you take your attention cheaply. To further extend this point, here's a familiar analogy: women who give it up on the first date. Because, clearly, if there were interesting facets to their personality and value in that particular woman as person-commodity, she wouldn't have to resort to easy sex. Conversely, women who are valuable to men define their commodities in other ways: rarity, cooking skills, conversation ability and quick wit. As grandma would also say, why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? So the value doesn't lie in whole milk, but in Silk Soy Milk. So much rarer, so much better for you and not as easy to obtain.

The common denominator between Rihanna, Cassie and the every-day black woman is the fact that we all define what our value, and thus our commodity, is. If you don't define your own worth, someone else will do it for you. And you might end up seeking cheap attention by showing off your nipple piercings or giving it up too quick. What these ladies, and the every-day undefined commodity women will realize is that attention spans are short, seeking cheap attention doesn't pay and in the end you still have to come to your own personal definition of self. Which, unfortunately, can still be influenced by others if you're not strong enough to set that definition for yourself.

The thing about cheap attention is that its a form of instant gratification. Instead of knowing who you are, weeding out those with bad intentions and taking value in genuine interest, we cling to cheap, easy attention because it superficially reassures us that we're desirable and valued. But its a negative cycle. Because our commodity is common, once that fan, that man or whoever tires of us or his attention wanders, we're back at square one, looking for reassurance, cheap attention and in the case of celebrities behaving badly, fans who'll support them financially. Only to rinse and repeat over and over again.

Lets encourage black women, ourselves included, to build our personal brands, set our own value and ignore fleeting, cheap attention.