My oldest was surfing Twitter when it happened, and soon the whole household was debating whether or not it was a bit.
Then we saw Jada Pinkett Smith’s struggles with alopecia. And a closer look at the video of her reaction to the “joke” made it clear this was in no way staged.
I realize everyone on the planet has talked about this nonstop for the last 48 hours, but there really is something I see missing from all that exposition and an angle I haven’t seen explored so imma beat this horse a new way here.
This Is About Cruelty To Jada Pinkett Smith
I’m not going to utter the name of her husband or her bully in this article. Because the entire world is focusing on them and she, the beautiful Black woman this is actually about, is being pushed aside.
Jada Pinkett Smith has very publicly battled a condition that can be devastating to women, especially women in the public eye. Our value is only as good as our appearance (unless we manage some feat of herculean self sacrifice for the comforts of those around us, and those sacrifices aren’t just taken for granted) so when you have entire handfuls of hair in your hands instead of on your head, it’s bad. Crying, shaking, screaming type bad.
In fact, Jada Pinkett Smith has recalled, “It was one of those times in my life I was literally shaking with fear. That’s why I cut my hair and continued to cut it.”
Jada Pinkett Smith cannot lose handfuls of hair privately, so she did the only thing she really could do and shared her struggle with the world. To be completely honest, I don’t follow her on the socials so I had not heard about it. I’ve seen a couple of her videos now and she seems very open and vulnerable. It was crystal clear to me this has been a very emotional issue for her. Really, as a cis woman in our society it’d be pretty weird if losing her hair DIDN’T deeply affect her at a core level. Appearance is identity for women. This is cellular level stuff.
Enter The Bully
This is not the first time that man has said ugly things about Jada Pinkett Smith. In 2016 she boycotted the Oscars to call attention to the awards’ lack of diversity. (Which, uh, seems to have worked somewhat, no? It got people talking about it at least.) Same host that year patronizingly quipped the TV star’s boycott was as relevant as him “boycotting Rihanna’s panties.”
Arguably, pointing out Pinkett Smith’s boycott on the Oscars stage could be said to add publicity to her effort. Maybe. But let’s get back to this year.
The man in question did a whole ass documentary about the relationship Black women have to their hair. He knows the Smith’s. He lives in that town. He’s not like me on the other side of the country in bumfuck Appalachia clueless about what’s going on in Jada’s life.
He knew. Better than most, he knew.
And he stood on the stage of the most prestigious event of both his and her careers and made a very pointed joke about something that could have cost her that career. About something that he knows affects how she sees herself as a woman, again because he made a whole documentary about it.
He stood there and mocked her for not being feminine enough and wanted a room full of her peers and potential employers and the critics who judge her work and the public who judges her as a person to laugh at her for it. Right in front of her. And she was just supposed to sit there and take it, powerless.
And let’s add a whole nother layer. Because we cannot ignore the fact that the Oscars are – as Jada herself publicized – a historically white event. The Academy is a majority white organization. The audience in attendance was majority white.
And in this context a black man mocked a black woman for something he knows exceedingly well (again, whole ass documentary) white people have used to judge black women for since the time of slavery. There is history here. There are layers. This shit cut Jada Pinkett Smith deep on worldwide television.
If that ain’t bullying I don’t know what is. Unless maybe you wanna call it abuse. Verbal assault. All of the above.
Emotional Abuse Is Violence
Yep. In my life I have been assaulted sexually, physically and verbally. Guess which one had the most lasting impact?
Emotional abuse by a long shot.
What was done to Jada Pinkett Smith in front of the world on Sunday night was violence. But all anybody wants to talk about is her husband and what he did, or that oh my goodness the man that bullied her got hurt.
I’m here to tell you that the man on stage is just fucking fine. He was not hurt one iota. Again, I have experienced violence, and that was not it. He didn’t lose his balance, he didn’t stumble. He barely even stepped backwards. Hell his eyes didn’t even water. Ain’t no way his cheek even puffed up the next day.
As I said on the bird app it was really like back in the old days when some crusty dude with bad teeth would be all “I say good sir!” in a huff before he pulled off a glove and wapped you over each cheek with it. Right before somebody shouted something about “40 paces at dawn or you have insulted my honor!” or something.
No the only violence we saw that night was the misogynistic verbal assault on Jada Pinkett Smith.
Bullies Only Listen To Violence
This one is a shout out to my friend Chris who has a similar history to me. She pointed out on facebook that “violence is never the answer” is the voice of privilege. For many of us always taking the high road and never fighting back can kill you.
The man on stage has a history of talking shit about Jada Pinkett Smith. But guess what? I bet you $5 her name never comes out his mouth again. Would that have happened if Jada’s husband had somehow used his crystal ball to know this was gonna happen and that he was gonna win Best Actor and used his speech to take the high road and humiliate the host for being a bully?
Well has that high road thing worked yet?
My former parents used to talk shit like that to me all the time. Know when they stopped? When I stole their Trump 2016 signs out their yard and burned them. Then I hexed them and he almost died from blood loss.
That dude was not gonna stop until someone made him. So someone did.
Jada Deserved To Be Defended. And She Was
As the victim of extended abuse in the past, I have to say there is no better feeling than when someone else sees it and steps in to correct it.
The incident Sunday made me think of one time among many when my husband and I (probably with the kids, but I don’t remember exactly when or how old they would have been) were at my parent’s house and my mother started in on me about something. She was being particularly vicious and in my face, and he (who is normally very non confrontational) stepped between us.
I’d like to quote what was said but it was mostly a lot of gesturing and “noooo!!!” in accusational tones back and forth between them. I remember just stepping back and looking at them and realizing… I don’t have to this time. He’s got me. And I felt so very loved and validated.
I hope that’s how Jada Pinkett Smith felt Sunday night. I have a feeling it was. 💜