Interview with Kay Siebler about Black Women Stereotypes: A Streaming Revolution
KAY SIEBLER is an award-winning writer. Her academic essays have appeared in Journal of Popular Film and Television; Palgrave Studies in Gender and Education; Journal of Gender Studies; Journal of Gay and Lesbian Mental Health; Journal of LGBT Youth; and Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition, and Culture. She is the author of three books: Composing Feminism(s): How Feminists Have Shaped Composition Pedagogy available from Hampton Press, Learning Queer Identity in the Digital Age available from Palgrave Macmillan Press, and Black Women Shattering Stereotypes: A Streaming Revolution available from Lexington Press. Her teaching and research interests include literacy education, composition theory/practice, contemporary pop culture rhetoric, gender and sexuality studies, and rhetorics of traditionally marginalized populations. A graduate of University of Nebraska-Lincoln (B.A. in Journalism & M.A. in English) and Miami University (Ph.D. in Composition and Rhetoric with an emphasis in Gender Studies), she is an Assistant Professor at UNO.
Her latest book project, BLACK WOMEN SHATTERING STEREOTYPES: A STREAMING REVOLUTION deals with the work, voices, and perspectives of Black women in films and series produced since 2015 that are made by, for, and about Black women. Siebler recently talked about her latest book and her writing journey with me, Hau Nguyen, an English major at UNO.
Nguyen: What genre is Black Women Shattering Stereotypes: A Streaming Revolution?
Siebler: The genre would be academic book. It is not a textbook, but it would be a book that upper-level undergraduate or graduate students would be assigned for a class. The book addresses issues that would be looked at in Media Studies, Feminist Studies, Black Studies, or Rhetoric classes.
Nguyen: When did you start writing Black Women Shattering Stereotypes: A Streaming Revolution? And how long did it take you to write the book?
Siebler: Usually, it takes me about three or four years to write or publish a book, but this one was really fast because of two things. One, it started out as an article. An editor contacted me about an article that they had read and asked me if I could write a book, and I thought sure. It was Covid so I had a lot of time at home. And I wanted to interview Black women even though I am not a Black woman because I wanted to understand what they were thinking about the media that they were consuming. Because people were at home and did not have a lot of demands on their time, it was easy for me to find people to interview. The editor contacted me in the fall of 2019, and the book came out in September 2021. So just a little under two years.
Nguyen: Why focus on Black women?
Siebler: I think that society does not often listen to Back voices, particularly Black women. So, one of the reasons I wanted to write the book was to interview a lot of Black women, see what they had to say, and get their opinion out there about the representations of Black women that they were seeing in films and television shows.
Nguyen: What challenges did you experience when writing this book?
Siebler: I did not actually encounter any challenges, and that is why it took such a short amount of time to write. I think the best thing that happened as a result of the book was the conversations I had with the women whom I interviewed. Every time I interviewed a woman, it would create a snowballing technique. I would ask them who else I should talk to, and then they would give me names of other women and names of other women and names of other women. So, I was able to have conversations with women all over the country about what they were watching and how they felt about what they were watching.
Nguyen: Among the seven chapters in the book, what was your hardest chapter to write?
Siebler: I think it is the one on female sexuality. It is just because there is so much to be written, particularly about Black female sexuality and how it is portrayed. I think that it could have been a book itself. And I hope that somebody does write that book because I think it is an important perspective to explore, write, and talk about. It may not have been the hardest or most interesting, but it was definitely the one that was the most complicated.
Nguyen: How would you comment on the idea that internalized racism is the most dangerous racism that Black women are encountering?
Siebler: I think any sort of internalized oppression is the thing that kicks an individual in the teeth over and over again their entire life. When the source of oppression is coming from external, the culture, at least you can identify, deal with, and address it. When it is coming from messages that a person has internalized because they live in a white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchy, that is harder to deal with, recognize, understand, and heal from.
Nguyen: What do you hope readers take away from Black Women Shattering Stereotypes: A Streaming Revolution?
Siebler: I hope this book is a springboard for other scholars to keep writing and for other people to keep having these conversations. There were a lot of genres that I could not address. A lot of women talked about science fiction and Black women in science fiction. There was a lot of participants who talked about the representation of Black womanhood in psycho thrillers and horror films. Things like that again I did not write about. I really believe that the texts that we consume as entertainment really define who we are and how we think of ourselves. I think it is really essential that we start writing about the effects of media and its representations of underrepresented and marginalized groups. There's a lot of work to be done.
Nguyen: What advice would you give to a writer working on their first book?
Siebler: Don't give up! It is all about perseverance. I submitted the first book that I wrote to over 25 editors before an editor said that they would publish it. I think that the biggest error that writers make is giving up before the project is done and giving up before they find a publisher once the project is done. If there is an editor who says, “Yes, this is interesting but I want to see revisions,” then I will put the effort toward revising.