Mayweather’s baby girl and boxing out mean girl behavior

It seems no matter how much we insulate our virtual networking walls or the lengths we go to safeguard our online communities, this culture of Black girl aggression seems to penetrate. The latest viral infection is the video of Floyd Mayweather’s  daughter, Iyanna, in a school fight…well, it can’t honestly be called a fight as it appears she was jumped by various girls. Having that video show up in my timeline along with others like it pulls us back into the stark and unfortunate reality that our girls, no matter where they are, can find themselves pulled into this ugly world where violence is normalized.

As a mother and girls advocate, I instinctively felt compelled to reach through my computer and pull all involved into a sister circle to find out what caused them to lower themselves to physical fighting; to bring about a resolution. Hopefully the parents and school officials give the type of redirection and support that is desperately needed.

Yet, I understand the fighting itself is just a manifestation of a larger societal problem; the societal problem that exploits a mean girl culture of aggression and pain. I explored this very phenomenon with clinical therapist, Lisa Butler, on Voices of Advocacy Radio a few weeks ago.  Comes down to simple math, hurt people hurt people and the number of those hurting is evident in the staggering statistics of girls engaged in physical violence against other girls.

Still, moving beyond that we must question what is the impetus for these videos constantly making their way into cyberspace. What is the curator trying to share? Are they really conscious of the implications, both to the individuals involved as well as those who view the videos? Furthermore, why do we reward with our reposts, shares, and comments?

During my “OMG: Mindless Social Media Behavior©” workshops, it always intrigues me to hear how little girls think about the consequences of their social media culture. The shock they experience when they come to understand much of what they are engaged in online has criminal repercussions including harassment, accomplice to a crime, fraud, defamation, and aiding in suicide.

Sadly, by the time it makes it to my social networks, an adult has made the very poor decision to repost, which altogether sends a damaging message about appropriate behavior. Not to mention, when our girls are inundated with media messages that glorify gossip, yelling, threatening and physical confrontations as normalized woman-woman interactions; we are presented with an urgent need to have consistent and targeted conversations about media literacy and healthy interpersonal relations. We’ve obviously sunk to our lowest vibration when this type of posting makes it as a headline for online “news” outlets.

Too often this behavior is typical for teen spaces, be it school, community centers and I’ve spoken with several pastors of churches who have shared this same type of situation has infiltrated their youth ministries. So, the question remains: who’s having the conversation? Who are our girls looking to for their mirror?

Solutions:

  • Talk to girls about appropriate online behavior
  • Create peer-resolution councils to help interrupt conflict
  • Get passwords to ALL social media accounts
  • Check out Common Sense Media for more tips on teaching teens’ good digital citizenship
  • Become familiar with #BlackGirlsMatter and issues that impact Black Girls
  • Girls Like Me Project, Inc. offers the following workshops: Media is Not Your Mirror© and OMG: Mindless Social Media Behavior©

*This blog does not repost videos depicting violence of any kind*

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Take It Back: Huff Post Black Voices promoting Black girl “beef”

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One would think that there are more than enough instances of “bad girl” promotion and instigated “beef” between Black girls and their real or phantom “haters.” Just do a media audit, surely you’ll find an excess of lyrics and images blasting messages that insist on competition, superiority, gossip, and violence amongst girls. From reality TV to music (rap or a tune from your favorite pop divas), to videos and film. Yet, apparently staff at Huffington Post Black Voices  (a curated NEWS platform) felt the need to add their voice to the negativity and pit girls against one another when they posted a very baiting headline on their Facebook page regarding the new film adaptation of the musical, Annie, starring Quvenzhane Wallis.

"How Quvenzhane snatched the role of 'Annie' from Willow Smith?”

“How Quvenzhane snatched the role of ‘Annie’ from Willow Smith?”

 

“How Quvenzhane snatched the role of ‘Annie’ from Willow Smith?”

Really?!?

There’s no telling what prompted “Black Voices” to use such divisive, antagonistic phrasing as a headline. One can only deduce the reasoning is sensationalism, especially when the actual article, published in Playbill and written by Karu F. Daniels, makes no reference to any competition between the two girl stars. In fact, there is a very minute mention of Willow, simply saying she was originally cast as Annie. It also mentions her parents remain producers.

A moment of shining celebration for the history-making, Academy-Award nominee Quvenzhane Wallis was otherwise ceded to the mindless/heartless decision that could have a detrimental impact on the very tone in which our girls consume AND are portrayed in media. The post acquired more than 50 shares and stirred conversation on social media.

Several commenters, myself included, requested Black Voices retract the title and find more affirming phrasing.

I thought it practical that when brought to their attention, an editor or someone on staff there who is sensitive to the influence media has on our girls, their interactions and identity,  would realize how important it is to correct the wording. I even crafted a few recommendations as a  guide: “Quvenzhane Wallis Glows as America’s First Black Annie” “Willow Smith opens lane for fellow girl actors…” “Black Girls rock the big screen; make history…”

We’re still waiting for HuffPost Black Voices  to move in the right direction on this. How long that will be is anyone’s guess as the post has sat for more than 5 days and as of Monday, November 17 remains.

Why make this into a big deal? In a space and time when young girls are bombarded with messages that glorify them into “mean girl” behavior and the internet is saturated with fight videos where girls get a digital audience for taunting and provoking their peers, girls deserve responsible media to share their stories.

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At the same time, as we so often have to all but conduct an anthropological dig for intentional language that affirms our girls, I did want to include here what the director says about Quvenzhane in the original Playbill piece:

“The people in the press have been saying, ‘Wow, there’s an African-American Annie, and why [would] you make such a change?’ and my response to that is, ‘This is an 11-year-old girl who has to shoulder the entire movie with her music, with her singing, with her acting. How many times in history do we have an 11-year-old girl who has been nominated for an Oscar? So we were extremely lucky that she was available and that she existed and that we didn’t have to find someone. ‘The Beasts of the Southern Wild’ found her for us, and we were really lucky for that.”

Perhaps those of us who work closely with girls are more connected to the impact media messages have on their development. This is why we encourage media to truly reflect on the way it narrates the reality of our girls and be mindful of how their messages are consumed.

What do you think, should Huffington Black Voices retract the headline? Should we be concerned about this? If so, how do we hold media accountable for influencing positive interactions among girls?

Thankfully, Essence magazine got it right!


Credit: Columbia Pictures Twitter

Credit: Columbia Pictures Twitter