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When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost

A Hip-Hop Feminest Breaks It Down
By Joan Morgan

Reading Group Guide

    TOUCHSTONE READING GROUP GUIDE
    When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost
    1. Morgan says that, more than any other generation before, this generation needs a feminism committed to "keeping it real." How does this translate day-to-day, person-to-person? Is it possible for a woman to be a good feminist and not pay for her own dinner, not hold the door open, or not become a master mechanic, as Morgan's feminism prescribes? Are you a feminist? What does Morgan mean when she says that "the empowerment of the black community [has] to include its women" or that "sexism [stands] stubbornly in the way of black men and women loving each other or sistas loving themselves"?
    2. Hip-hop and rap have come under attack lately on many fronts. Is it possible to like this music despite the fact that it contains so much misogyny? Are you able to listen to the music and use it as a tool to understand how the community works, as Morgan advocates, or would it be better to silence its violent content?
    3. Morgan says, "We're all winners when space exists for brothers to honestly state and explore the roots of their pain and subsequently their misogyny, sans judgment." Besides rap and hip-hop, what are some effective ways, or forums, in which black men and women can "lovingly address the uncomfortable issues of [their] failing self-esteem, the ways [they] sexualize and objectify [themselves, and their] confusion about sex and love"? How about ways to address the "unhealthy, unloving, unsisterly" ways black women treat one another? What are some things you regret doing, and how would you change your words and actions?
    4. The author says that, by consenting to appear in raunchy music videos, certain women only promote sexist images of themselves and that there will always be women who trade on their sexuality to get the person (or the "protection, wealth, and power") they want. Do you agree that young black women share in the responsibility for hip-hop's antiwomen attitudes? Do you believe that women who value their erotic power over all else stand to seriously damage their self-esteem? Are there other ways, besides trading on sex, to attract the opposite sex? Is there a bit of Chickenhead in all of us?
    5. What do you think of Morgan's notion that the popular urban myth of the "ENDANGEREDBLACKMAN" (EBM) should also apply to black women, who suffer from breast cancer and AIDS and poverty and incarceration at rates much greater than white women? What does Morgan mean when she states that ENDANGEREDBLACKMEN "succumb to being ENDANGERED" and that "EBM are wholly incompatible with daughters raised to be strong women"?
    6. Does the notion of the "STRONGBLACKWOMAN" empower you or oppress you? Do you agree that contemporary black women perpetuate the myth of the STRONGBLACKWOMAN to boost their fractured self-esteems? How do they do this? Do you believe that black men are less capable of surviving the afflictions of life than black women?
    7. Throughout the book, the author emphasizes that lack of respect is a problem that plagues the black community. Do black women love, yet not respect, black men? What do you think of Morgan's idea that women shouldn't spend time with other women who don't respect men and that "participating in...men-bashing sessions means...commiserating with sistas who are just as clueless as [you are] about how to have a healthy relationship"?
    8. Since black women have provided everything for their families for so long, is there any room to believe that men can be relied on and won't drop the ball? What can mothers do to affect their sons' abilities to respect women? Author Marita Golden says, "The generations-old backlog of anger that African-American men and women hoard and revisit and unleash upon one another...becomes a script that our sons and daughters memorize....Only when our sons and daughters know that forgiveness is real, existent, and that those who love them practice it, can they form bonds as men and women that really can save and change our community." How can we practice forgiving one another? Can you forgive someone today?
    9. Morgan implies that one of the reasons there are so many black women heading single-parent families is because they feel they have little chance of being a part of a traditional two-parent family. Do you agree? Is having a child something you have to do because you have no choice? Do you agree that people should be having discussions with their partners about whether or not they want to have children before they sleep together? If they can't even discuss it, should they even be having sex? What are some ways two people can open a dialogue about this?
    10. What are "male reproductive rights"? Why is it so easy to condemn men for not offering full support when they find out that a woman they've been with is pregnant? Can you imagine what it would be like to be pregnant by a man whose child you don't want but he does, and to not have any say about it?
    11. Morgan was told that black women don't have time for feminism (or don't "have time for all that shit," to be exact). Where does this ambivalence toward feminism come from? Is it an outgrowth of "black women's historic tendency to blindly defend any black man who seems to be under attack from white folks"? Do you agree that "acknowledging the rampant sexism in [the black] community...means relinquishing the comforting illusion that black men and women are a unified front"?
    12. In the chapter "STRONGBLACKWOMEN," the author shares a Yoruba fable that helped her figure out what she needed to make her happy. Have you had to learn how to put your needs first, as Morgan did? Can you share some ways that you have done this?

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