Nobody Knows My Name
RAIMIST, RACHEL. 1999. NEw YORK: WOMEN MAKE MOVIES. 58 MINUTES, COLOR, 1999. VHS RENTAL: $90.00. VHS PURCHASE: $250.00.
Hip Hop music and culture is one of the most popular forms of expression for young persons of color in the United States. Ironically, Hip Hop music and culture has also silenced an entire generation of women (represented by Leschea, Asia-One, DJ Symphony, TLove, Nikki Nicole, Lisa, and Medusa) who have attempted to express themselves through its singing, rapping, break dancing, and deejaying.
Nobody Knows My Name is an apt title that illustrates the pervasive invisibility of women in Hip Hop, an already invisible and marginalized form of expression. Specifically, Raimist focuses her documentary on the following issues: (1) the need for young women of color to experience community as women within traditionally male-dominated environments, even men of color-dominated environments; (2) the omnipresent, oppressive images of Hip Hop women as objectified, scantily-clad sex objects and their corresponding destructive effects on female viewers; and (3) the gritty, raw, and painful emotions these women experience as they express themselves to the viewer and each other.
A recurring theme of the film is the notion that women strongly need to “see themselves in the mirror” of Hip Hop culture. Asia-One states, “Sometimes it’s lonely. I’m tired of rolling with all guys.” The need for a female community is an angle that skilled facilitators can use as a catalyst for intergroup dialogue among men and women of color, because the film conveys the subtle challenges women face, even within their communities of color.
Additionally, Nobody Knows My Name leaves a clear impression that women need to accurately “see themselves in the mirror.” Through a brief barrage of Hip Hop music videos, the film points out that the role of women in Hip Hop culture is rigidly defined as being the natural sex object for men, including men of color. She is expected to wear little to no clothing, exude obvious sexual desire and attraction, and of utmost import, be absolutely silent. Nonetheless, women in this film firmly express misgivings about their role in Hip Hop culture. Medusa states, “If you didn’t know anything, you’d think that Hip Hop hates women.” Facilitators using the video can employ these video clips to illustrate the idea that one can simultaneously love and be a member of a community while engaging in thoughtful critique.
Nobody Knows My Name is also an excellent resource for facilitating conversations about privilege and multiple identities in that it plainly exposes the myth that marginalized communities cannot, in turn, oppress others. Experience suggests that the average participant, in general, does not regularly engage in an examination of his or her own privileged identities and/or balks at the notion that people of color can have privilege. Thus, facilitators should focus the conversation using pedagogical exercises designed to facilitate the recognition of privilege, even in identities other than race.
As a documentary that gives voice to marginalized women, Nobody Knows My Name is likely to stir emotions among young female participants. The emotional reaction is especially heightened when participants see women like themselves expressing their fatigue and isolation due to the absence of other women around them. These emotional reactions could also be exacerbated because the film comes with little narration that digests the emotional content in an understandable way. Thus, facilitators will need to be especially aware that the film may leave participants feeling unfinished and frustrated.
Though Nobody Knows My Name is not suited for use in generalized diversity training and facilitation, its specific qualities and content make it an excellent choice for working with young people and people of color on the aforementioned issues.
-Reviewed by Mark Brimhall-Vargas
Copyright Caddo Gap Press Summer 2002
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