“Morgan has given an entire generation of Black feminists space and language to center their pleasures alongside their politics.” —Janet Mock, New York Times bestselling author of Redefining Realness
“All that and then some, Chickenheads informs and educates, confronts and charms, raises the bar high by getting down low, and, to steal my favorite Joan Morgan phrase, bounced me out of the room.” —Marlon James, Man Booker Prize–winning author of A Brief History of Seven Killings
Still as fresh, funny, and ferociously honest as ever, this piercing meditation on the fault lines between hip-hop and feminism captures the most intimate thoughts of the post-Civil Rights, post-feminist, post-soul generation.
Award-winning journalist Joan Morgan offers a provocative and powerful look into the life of the modern Black woman: a complex world in which feminists often have not-so-clandestine affairs with the most sexist of men, where women who treasure their independence frequently prefer men who pick up the tab, where the deluge of babymothers and babyfathers reminds Black women who long for marriage that traditional nuclear families are a reality for less than forty percent of the population, and where Black women are forced to make sense of a world where truth is no longer black and white but subtle, intriguing shades of gray.
Morgan, a contributing writer at Essence and former contributor to the Village Voice, brings iconoclastic, often vituperative gusto to 10 previously unpublished essays on feminism, motherhood and the "endangered black male." Morgan's lingua franca is hip-hop music,which she calls "one of few forums in which young black men are allowed to express their pain," and is also the cultural arena in which she undertakes to carve a place for herself as a feminist. In her take-no-prisoners redefinition of "the f-word" (feminism), she reviles black female intellectuals who "had little to do with everyday life" and "butch-cut anti-babes... who use made-up words," and admits there are "things kinda digs about patriarchy." In the essay "babymother," Morgan considers the feminist dilemma of career versus motherhood, ending with a defense of male "abortion" through which men "abdicate" parental rights when pregnant women refuse to have abortions or put children up for adoption. The title refers to women who "effectively work their erotic power," in a play on Malcolm X's "chickens come home to roost" speech (which signaled his break with the Nation of Islam and the creation of his Muslim mission in the U.S.) that simultaneously fractures the meaning of Audre Lorde's essay on women's rightful claim to "erotic power." Morgan concludes that "trickin'" (rendered as a kind of lighthearted prostitution) is "prevalent across class lines" and shows how "deeply wedded money, sex, and power are to our notions of male and female identity." Though she claims to "explore the world of the modern black woman from a variety of viewpoints," Morgan comes off as a self-consciously styled hip-hop provocateuse.