The Effeminization of the Black Male
This has been brewing long before Kanye West broke out on stage in kilts or Young Thug paraded around at shows with lipstick, red nail polish, wearing young girls’ skirts and calling members of his entourage “bae” and “my hubby.” These last couple of years have just been the manifestation of what had been bubbling for decades. We have seen everything from men dressing in skirts and dresses in movies for years (Tyler Perry, Kevin Hart, Martin Lawrence, Eddie Murphy, etc.) for supposedly comedic purposes. However, as many with a functioning noodle know, imagery and the constant repetitive pushing of images emblazons the idea in the minds of both impressionable children AND some adults (sadly). You have seen Busta Rhymes dress as a geisha, Ceelo Green come out on stage in a reincarnation of the flamboyantly gay Liberace, and even Jay Z come out on stage in whatever people are calling those things other than “skirts” and somehow this is more accepted than guys wearing what many equate to the same gear that “menacing thugs” wear in the heart of urban areas throughout the United States?
Case in point, the NBA code of dress policy. The NBA and its sponsors had such a severe gripe with the way players were dressing in the late 1990s and early 2000s, that the league instituted a policy requiring the players to dress in nothing less than slacks, a button down shirt and hard bottom shoes (as opposed to white t-shirts, jeans, sneakers and general attire that most fans would wear to a game, or how players dressed in their casual time.) This was further veiled by the claim that players represented their respective teams and the NBA (and its whiny sponsors.) While that point is generally accepted as fact, the real reason behind this was for the league to assuage the concerns of its league partners following the melee in Auburn Hills featuring the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons in 2004 –– https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EqrFNRt80cI – and a series of off-court issues that many players had in the NBA at the time.
Fine. Protect your interests. It makes perfect business sense. It is just too often that the bottom line ($$$) is the motivation for doing things, not for social or responsibility purposes. However, the point here isn’t to make delineations or draw conclusions based upon racial and cultural differences, but to explore what has taken place as a result of the dress code changes that went into place in the season following the Malice at the Palace, which went into effect for the 2005-2006 NBA season.
Naturally, players felt they were being targeted and unfairly being forced to alter the way they chose to express themselves through attire. To be fair, some players showed up at games (particularly if they were injured, ill, or otherwise not active for a game) appearing slovenly and grimy. However, to counter this, the NBA did not care until the police blotter became a regular topic for discussion, which forced its hand in creating the dress code.
Fast forward a decade, and while the days of wearing jerseys of other sports teams, XXXL t-shirts, baggy jeans and Timberland boots are long gone from players on the bench during NBA games, you don’t see players wearing standard suits or business casual attire. Now you have players dressing like drag queens, cross-dressing fruitcakes and looking just as ridiculous as they did in “street attire” 15 years ago. Many pundits are jokingly taking bets on how soon it will be before we see players show up in a kilt or a skirt. Some, like Dwyane Wade and Russell Westbrook are on the verge of doing so, with their questionable attire at times. It goes right along with the times, as so many Black faces in music and entertainment in other areas of the public eye are pushing an effeminate image more and more frequently. Instead of this becoming a moratorium on attire, as it had become with the baggy jeans and construction boots, now it is public fodder and laughed off on shows such as Inside the NBA after televised games, and by members of the media on social media. It’s fine that players look like they are preparing for a stroll along Christopher Street in Manhattan after a game, but not like they just came back from/heading back to the block to pitch halves and chief on left hand smoke with their crew, apparently.
Grown men can dress any way they desire. This isn’t criticism of rather questionable attire choices, but rather questioning the absence of criticism from the same people who were so up in arms about how players dressed before the mandated dress code. Sponsors may no longer be offended by the way players dress, but many fans ARE. And at last check, fans are part of the constituency that enables sponsors to make their billions in partnership with the NBA.
This is part of a larger debate in general. The effeminization of Black Males through mass media. Everywhere you look throughout rap (no longer Hip-Hop, at least through the mainstream, promoted arena), Hollywood and elsewhere in pop culture, there are constant images of Black males being stripped of the “threatening” bravado and uber-macho image that was once prominent throughout actual Hip Hop, which also permeated throughout professional sports and Hollywood. This is not some wacked out, warped railing against “The Machine” and feeding Eugenics claims (as some would suggest in other areas of society), but rather to stimulate and seek answers to one basic question:
WHY IS SO MUCH OF AMERICA THREATENED BY A MASCULINE, POWERFUL BLACK MALE, BUT ACCEPTING OF AN EFFEMINATE, “DE-CLAWED” VERSION OF THE BLACK MALE, WHICH IS SO COMMON NOWADAYS?