Coffee Rhetoric: arn't I a woman
Showing posts with label arn't I a woman. Show all posts
Showing posts with label arn't I a woman. Show all posts

January 08, 2015

#LessClassicallyBeautiful: Viola Davis Sticks it to New York Times & Mass Media

Photo credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images
This past September, New York Times writer Alessandra Stanley wrote a passive-aggressive feature on actress Viola Davis and her role in the titillating new series favorite, How to Get Away With Murder. Stanley not only ascribed the ‘Angry Black Woman’ trope to Davis’s character Annalise Keating (and acclaimed TV producer and screenwriter Shonda Rhimes) in the opening paragraph, but she also suggested that the actress inhabited an unlikely position as a leading a woman on Primetime TV, because she isn't as “classically beautiful” as actresses like Halle Berry (who is biracial) and Kerry Washington (whose aesthetic, style and stature are considered 'safe' enough to placate, and even inspire, mainstream TV and film viewers).

May 13, 2013

Film: 'Eyes On The Rainbow: A Documentary With Assata Shakur'


The 1997 documentary, The Eyes on the Rainbow is a 47 minute film highlighting the embattled life of black activist Assata Shakur. The film visits Assata in Cuba, where she relays the details of the life she’s come to know as a political refugee, within an Afro-Cuban context. 



Brief background about Assata Shakur: Born Deborah Ann Byron (married name Chesimard), Shakur is a Black-American activist and was an active member of the NYC chapter of the Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army. Assata and other BLA members were being surveilled by COINTELPRO--(which was par for the course for black civil rights groups and activists, including Martin Luther King and the black feminist groups, during the 50’s and 70’s).

October 27, 2012

Don't Speak: Women Don't Have to Smile or Say 'Hi' on Command



Pic from: stoptellingwomentosmile.com
Recently on Tumblr, I shared an experience I had while out-and-about, that left me feeling a bit taken aback, because it ceases to amaze me how men go about exerting dominance and upholding patriarchy in shared spaces, towards women they don't know. And in doing so, will say the most crude things and make the most dictatorial demands, as if it’s their due. 

September 25, 2012

Black Hurricane Isaac Worker Spit on and Assaulted by Racist



2010 and 2011 were years that saw Black women being put under intense scrutiny. Studies and shoddily collected data that seemed based on biases and tropes about Black female pathology, outlined why a high percentage of us are single, why we’re scientifically uglier than non-Black women,  how disgusting or unappealing our bodies and attitudes supposedly are compared to our White counterparts, how horrible it is to be a Black unwed mother, and how we’re somehow the key to ending military suicides.  And while 2012 didn’t really take the magnifying glass off Black women, it definitely seemed to mark a growing level of [oft-times inadequately reported] violence and infractions against us.

September 16, 2012

Yet More Thoughts About My Nina Simone Post


Since weighing in about the controversial casting of Zoe Saldana, in the upcoming Nina Simone biopic, several blogs and media platforms have picked up on my blog piece regarding the matter and especially since my comments in Tanzina Vega's New York Times piece. There've been a couple of misconceptions, so I feel as if I need to offer some clarity as well as reiterate my stance on the matter...

First and most important, I actually was not the first person to broach this topic, as was suggested on one popular celebrity gossip blog. The Black independent film website, Shadow and Act was the first to present the information about the movie. The site's creator, Tambay A. Obenson initially made mention of the project in April, and he's been keeping tabs on the Nina Simone biopic since then, announcing and confirming in August that Zoe, was indeed, slated to play the title role. With that confirmation intact, I merely contributed my two cents, via a blog post, about the matter. I also did not circulate or start the petition to get Zoe Saldana removed from the project. In fact, a thorough read of my initial blog post, touches on the reasons why Zoe being cast as Nina Simone, are problematic. I never wrote that she wasn’t “Black enough”, I never mentioned her complexion, nor did I question her race. I said she didn’t share Nina’s phenotype. Nina Simone was a vigilant, unapologetic, mercurial, and amazing force, presented in a package that often isn’t preferred in the entertainment industry. 

June 16, 2012

Conversation with Toni Morrison

"I don't like those either/or scenarios where if you do this, then you can't do that. I think one of the interesting things that certainly, feminine intelligence can bring, is a kind of a look at the world that you can do two things or three things or be ... the personality is more fluid... more receptive; the boundaries are not quite so defined and I think that's part of what modernism is."

June 06, 2012

No Disrespect: In Which Erykah Badu Falls Victim to 'The Male Gaze'

Last week an experimental music video (which has since been yanked from the web, per Erykah's management folk) featuring a collaborative effort from singer/performance artist extraordinaire, Erykah Badu and alternative rock band, The Flaming Lips for their project "Western Esotericism"... was released on the internet.  The video, which featured Erykah’s sister Nayrok in all her full-frontal ‘nakeditity', rubbing various substances— blood-like... stuff and a sticky white mixture that looked like male ejaculate— and glitter all over her body, drizzling the white stuff about her mouth and face, with occasional cut-away shots of Erykah (also naked in a tub of water) singing a staccato rendition of "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" while Wayne Coyne waved some… foil thing around.  The visuals stupefying to say the least, and even outdid Erykah’s other naked, controversial video for her song “Window Seat”… which appeared less opaque once she explained the social message she was trying to convey. 

Her latest effort with The Flaming Lips however, left some fans scrambling for an explanation… while others were put off entirely, vowing never to watch it again. Some folks across the Twitter-verse and Facebook commended Erykah for being fearless and waxed poetic about what Nayrok’s sensual expression symbolized. Granted, some folks sounded as if they were blowing hot, putrid air, but boy did they speculate and try to tie it all together into a cohesive meaning.   
Erykah herself, commended her sister Nayrok for being a good sport for sacrificing her body in the name of artistic expression. While I didn’t even attempt to formulate my own interpretation of the video, I did find it interesting and chalked it up to Erykah and Nayrok embracing their bodies on their termsThose with a keener eye, saw it for what it was and didn’t buy it as art; and so refused to whip out their checkbooks to co-sign for the meat that was being sold. The video was deemed another exploitative piece of work showing Black female bodies on display for male profit and for the male gaze (a notion Black feminist Bell Hooks challenges in her essay “The Oppositional Gaze”). I left the video open to interpretation because I assumed Erykah would eventually offer an explanation. 

According to Black cinema blog Shadow and Act, Erykah has since reached out to her fans via Twitter and asked what they thought about the video. After receiving a wide range of responses, Badu then posed another puzzling question: “What if the video has no meaning at all? Now how do u feel?” 

In a far more interesting chain of events, Erykah's professional relationship with The Flaming Lips' lead singer Wayne Coyne, publicly imploded due to what appeared to be a sinister example of exploitation. In an official statement, Coyne more or less admitted to releasing an unfinished and unedited version of the controversial video to the public, before getting the input of Erykah and her sister and before green-screening away the nudity like he allegedly promised to do, according to the singer. Erykah explained her agitation after Wayne aired her grievance on Twitter. He also released the following statement...
The video link that was erroneously posted on Pitchfork by the Flaming Lips of the Music Video 'The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face', which features Erykah Badu, is unedited and unapproved... Sorry!! We, the Flaming Lips, accept full responsibility for prematurely having Pitchfork post it. It has outraged and upset a segment of fans and we apologize if we offended any viewers!!! This is a Flaming Lips video which features Erykah Badu and her sister Nayrok and is not meant to be considered an Erykah Badu or Nayrok statement, creation, or approved version.
Erykah was none too pleased and fired off a litany of angry words of her own, expressing her dismay and regret for not listening to her initial feelings of apprehension about Wayne's idea...
@waynecoyne then... perhaps, next time u get an occasion to work with an artist who respects your mind/art, you should send at least a ROUGh version of the video u PLAN to release b4 u manipulate or compromise the artist's brand by desperately releasing a poor excuse for shock and nudity that sends a convoluted message that passes as art( to some).Even with Window Seat there was a method and thought process involved. I have not one need for publicity . I just love artistic dialogue . And just because an image is shocking does not make it art. You obviously have a misconception of who I am artistically. I don't mind that but...By the way you are an ass. Yu did everything wrong from the on set .  
First: You showed me a concept of beautiful tasteful imagery( by way of vid text messages) .  
I trusted that. I was mistaken. Then u release an unedited, unapproved version within the next few days.  
That all spells 1 thing , Self Serving . When asked what the concept meant after u explained it , u replied ,"it doesn't mean anything , I just want to make a great video that everyone is going to watch. " I understood , because as an artist we all desire that. But we don't all do it at another artist's expense . I attempted to resolve this respectfully by having conversations with u after the release but that too proved to be a poor excuse for art. From jump, You begged me to sit in a tub of that other shit and I said naw. I refused to sit in any liquid that was not water. But Out of RESPECT for you and the artist you 'appear' to be, I Didn't wanna kill your concept , wanted u to at least get it out of your head . After all, u spent your dough on studio , trip to Dallas etc.. Sooo, I invited Nayrok , my lil sis and artist, who is much more liberal ,to be subject of those other disturbing (to me) scenes. (Read the rest here). 
Needless to say, the video went against all the tenets of 'Baduizm': it harbored no real meaning like people wanted it to, it wasn’t Erykah’s full vision like many of us assumed it to be, contrary to the usual proprietary authority Erykah has over her art, it appears as if she (and her sister) got bamboozled and used… which is unfortunate: “As a sociologist I understand your type. As your fellow artist I am uninspired. As a woman I feel violated and underestimated.”

There are many lessons to be gleaned from these sorts of situations, particularly when you're a Black woman trying to maintain ownership and respect over your image and body within the realm of the arts and media. And while Badu seems philosophical about the jarring experience...  "He’s got a record coming out, so you do what you do. But as artists we don’t do it at each other’s expense. I  adore his art. But not at my expense.”  

... I think Maya Angelou's warning very concisely sums it all up: “The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them.”

May 28, 2012

These and Those: My Petition or In Which Coffee Rhetoric Vents


I’ve been blocked for the past two weeks or so and have been dying to spill open. I’ve stopped-and-started several different blog posts but couldn’t quite streamline my thoughts enough to compose them separately.  I figured I’d kill two birds with one stone and vent them all in one post via a series of mini-posts.

On Fat:  Very rarely do I feel the need to explain why I do what I do and am what I am, about me and mine, because folks who have no direct impact on me or who know nothing about me don’t deserve an explanation or to have their foolery placated however, allow me to wax poetic about the thunder in my thighs.  I’ve noticed whenever the topic of Black women’s bodies and/or images (especially when weight is the topic of discussion) come up, folks… men and women…  seem to get particularly up-in-arms about Black and their personal struggles with weight.  When Alice Randall wrote her controversial article in the New York Times’ op-ed  section, suggesting that most Black women were fat because they wanted to be so, there were a fair number of blog posts challenging her sweeping generalizations about Black women and weight (most of which she framed using her own, random experiences).  There were also the ubiquitous comments from the concern-troll chorus who opined “Black women are fat, because they eat too much and don’t exercise! You’re in denial about your fat, fatty!!” Cut-and-dry, because anybody can be a pretend licensed physician when rage-typing about fat, non?  

Full disclosure about yours truly (and this is the last time I’ll broach the topic of weight); First and foremost, I am a full-figured Black woman.  

My weight has always fluctuated and I’m prone to bloat, some of which I hold in water, apparently, and can pee right on out if I drink enough fluids or eat enough produce.  I’ve been smaller than I am and I’ve been much bigger (which I don't wish to be again). Contrary to popular anti-fat belief; I am active, I’m not diabetic, and I’ve dated actively… and no not as a “jump-off” for fat fetishists or chubby chasers.  I’m not a fucking “Mammy” or the "Sassy Black chubby friend" to anybody, so those of you who like to toss those ridiculous phrases around freely when describing women with my body type, can stop... especially when it doesn’t always apply.

Up until about four years ago, I was a vegetarian for more than a decade. I’ve walked two marathons so far, in my adult life; one for Breast Cancer, another for Obesity. I’ve also grappled with an eating disorder and put my health at risk trying to force myself thinner.  I subsisted off a diet of Saltine Crackers and Extra-strength Dexatrim.  Sometimes I’d chew my food and discretely spit it out in a napkin… never swallowing.  I put my health at risk; my nail-beds turned an odd orange color and my skin, an took on an odd grey pallor… but, but my face was so angular! And while I wasn't necessarily skinny, I was a lot thinner than I was.  Then I made (what I considered to be) the "mistake" of masticating and swallowing my food... and I gained back all of my weight and then some.  I eventually lost it having spent an entire summer exercising along with a plus-size aerobics instructor named Idrea on a VHS tape I'd found and maintaining a mostly vegetarian diet.  

Once I started eating meat again and I gained back a few pounds. Would I mind being thinner? No. Do I loathe myself because I’m not thin? Nope (and folks are apparently upset about it, because they think I should be wallowing in a sea of shame and self-loathing). Do I sit around stuffing my face with cake, pie, and ice cream? No. Sounds delectable, but no.  Do I believe that Black people need to take their health and overall well-being (both physical and mental) seriously? Yes.  While I’m not a gym rat, I am active and try my best to stay as such.  I am not diabetic, but I do have a fat rear, big thighs, and wide hips.  This doesn’t bode well for the fat police and quite frankly, I don't care.  I’m not a pro-fat advocate, but hearing the word “fat” stopped making me wince ages ago. Because while I realize there's room for improvement (as far as my body goes), I've grown comfortable in my skin. And most people will read that as me being "in denial". Fortunately I'm not here to placate most people, so feel no need to try and convince or prove anything. 

What I do endorse, is Black women maintaining their best selves.  And to people who are prone to fat-shaming or accusing Black women of being proud fatties who’re in denial, I implore you not to worry or get so incited to wrath about it, because fat isn’t contagious… it won’t rub-off on you like the plague… you can’t get fat via osmosis, so you can stop taking the struggles of someone else and their road towards body acceptance, so personally; as if it’s impacting your lives.  Those of you who don’t struggle with weight, get incited to wrath on social media forums and it makes me… well… chuckle.  If someone is grappling with weight, chances are they’ve already discussed it with their physician (and, um you’re not him or her) and are probably working towards being healthier; so keep that in mind when some of you whine, “Why can’t we be open about discussing how fat Black women are?” Having a frank discussion about the health of our community versus waging an all-out attack on a group of women, using nasty rhetoric isn’t having an “open discussion.”  And spare me the argument about semantics... "fat" vs "thick". That's a futile disagreement and it doesn't interest me.


Black women in my sphere are taking their health seriously… they’re full-figured, in-between, and/or thin and/or have lost a great deal of weight (and still fight the good fight to keep it off). None of them are in any state of denial. If someone is fat, they know it and don't need to be clubbed over the head by angry masses about it. As someone pointed out in the comments section of my Alice Randall post, there’s a distinct difference between wanting to be fat and accepting being fat... and body acceptance isn't about denial or advocating for fat, as much as it's about not wallowing in self-loathing and doing the absolute best to work with and maintain the body and health you have now... which sometimes results in lost poundage, inches, and good overall well-being.

And If it still bothers you to see fat bodies (even when fat bodies are at the gym, walking around your local track, in the produce section of your local Whole Foods, or hyuking it up enjoying herself at your favorite wine bar)… then I’m sure there’s a nice cave you can sequester yourselves in. Cheers. In the meantime, for fatties who like to stay healthy and active, For Harriet (a blog that legitimately aims to help elevate the state of Black women and our health and wellness), compiled a helpful list of online communities to aid Black women in staying healthy and fit. Additionally, fashion blogger and size-acceptance advocate, Gabi Fresh also encourages active and healthy full-figured women to head to the beach and enjoy themselves, as she did on a recent trip to Las Vegas with her boyfriend. Gabi showed off pics of herself clad in a striped bikini on her blog, titling her post, Fatkini 2012


On Having My Very Own Pinterest Troll:  I recently contended with a prolific Internet bully and Pinterest troll named Kelli Romero, who wrote “EWW YUKK!” among other obnoxious comments, when I pinned my op-ed post about Alice Randall’s article to my “Women’s Issues” board. She also wrote, “Sorry, but you look gross” mistaking a nude photo of Anansa Sims for me… and much to my delight actually… after I told her to keep her negative, trollish comments (which I likened to defacing private property) to herself and to stay off my boards.
Upon checking her activity, I discovered she made trolling various body acceptance boards and many others featuring plus-size models or bodies, a full-time job.  She also made sure to spew a bunch of racist and homophobic rhetoric in the comments section underneath other people’s boards and seemed to delight in going out of her way to look for those with pornographic material, just so she could type “Gross, I’m reporting this page!” in the comments section.  Needless to say, Kelli (who appears to be the mother of two adult women and a grandmother and therefore, too old to be a bullish, racist, homophobic internet troll) lost the battle when she was challenged head-on, by a fed up Pinterest user, who beat her at her own game, or at least shut her up. When confronted, she deleted her comments, some were flagged (since Pinterest has yet to employ a "block" option), Kelli seemingly cleaned up her hateful activity, changed her Pinterest avi (from a picture of herself) and name, and she hasn’t done any trolling since… at least for now. But like most online (or real life) bullies tend to do; she insinuated herself into the role of victim, but not before cleaning up her own filth, so her Pinterest defender(s) couldn’t see the trail that led to someone creating a Pinterest board in her dark-sided honor, emblazoned with some of her favorite troll-rhetoric. 


On Intra-racial Stereotyping:  Improving the quality of one’s life is something Black women… and anyone really… should aspire to do.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Often, Black women are relegated to the bottom of the totem pole. We’re told that we’re too fat, not attractive enough, to angry to be considered as marriage material, unattractive, too dark, too light, too awkward, too... well you get the hint. And often, a lot of those hurtful tropes are perpetuated by Black men. So imagine my disappointment upon noticing a pattern of intra-racial stereotyping on different New Media platforms, being perpetuated by a subgroup of so-called Black Women Empowerment collectives (or at least they attach themselves to the movement), targeting other Black women.  The rhetoric is a nasty and divisive way of thinking and it does absolutely nothing to “uplift” Black women, as alleged. 

So far I’ve read comments accusing darker-skinned actresses who don’t play sexpot roles described as Mammies, Black women who pursue intra-racial dating preferences labeled as “Black male identified” or as not being feminine enough, Single Black mothers brushed off as “Ghetto Queens”, a call for Black women to divest from Black communities entirely, so on and so forth.  When did we start extolling the tenets of White Supremacy to denigrate one another?   

Perhaps I’m confused or was hopeful, but how can we honestly build as Black women, when some of us seem intent on condescending to those we perceive to be lesser-than or spiteful towards those who hold opinions that are contrary to the rhetoric that's being put down?  
To say you’re building a movement to help empower Black women, while seemingly putting your foot on and mocking those who’re poor, uneducated, or already downtrodden seems counterproductive. Moreover, why can’t we accept people’s dating choices without resorting to petty name-calling? Haven’t we already realized by now, that none of us are a monolith? Shouldn't we be past that tired interracial vs intra-racial dating argument at this juncture? Who cares? We are probably the only group of women who put so much painstaking emphasis on it.
Being empowered, is being free to make choices that suit your lifestyle... without fear of being chastised for it. If a young Black woman is making destructive lifestyle choices... then let's either figure out why and offer solutions to help her as opposed to calling her a "ghetto queen"... or simply, shut up and be happy you aren't unfortunate enough to have to navigate those particular trials and tribulations.

As was pointed out to me during an email discussion with another hyper-aware Black woman I love building with online, it seems Black women are so desperate to be loved and accepted, we’ve resorted to turning on one another and breaking off into factions. And if that works for you, then fine... godspeed. We won’t always thrust our hips in accordance with the djembe beat. Perhaps Zora Neale Hurston was onto something when she opined, “All my skinfolk ain’t kinfolk.”  


On being an Angry Black Woman:  I am a Black woman. And I reserve the right to express anger when and where it’s warranted. I take issue with the term "Angry Black Woman", because it robs me of the right to be human. Often, Black women are considered to be nothing more than mules … unemotional Super Women, unfairly saddled with carrying heavy loads without the capacity or right to become exasperated. I've always wondered why I have to be an "Angry Black Woman" and guilt-tripped about expressing a very real and human emotion. I rarely hear White women described as "Angry White Women" or Asian women described as "Angry Asian Women", etc. when they express their dismay over an indignity. 

In many instances, a Black woman's displeasure about certain situations is justified. To rob me of the right to emote as any other woman does, then stereotype me by comparing me to folks on TV, who're getting a check to act over-the-top foolish (aka Nene Leakes, Tami Roman, and the rest of the Basketball Wives) is ridiculous. And I'm tired of the comparisons, especially since no Black women I interact with in actual life, act out in that way. 

Black women have the right to emote and express righteous indignation when and where it's warranted and should exercise that right without having to worry over trying to placate the self-righteousness, ego, or ignorance of someone else.

I'm over seeing us at war with one another. Just... live and relish your lives in the ways in which it works for you, and allow other people to do the same with theirs. We don't have to agree and you don't even have to like how other people go about choose to live. In fact, we don't have to build or be bothered with one another in order to live and let live. Seems simple enough. 


On Race and Oppression: If you're a non-Black person or not a person of color who doesn't believe that racism still exists or who rolls your eyes whenever you come across conversations that deconstruct White privilege and supremacy, homophobia, or patriarchy that is definitely your right however, bum-rushing online communities where people of color or marginalized groups build with one another, deconstruct racism, and do anti-racism/anti-oppression work to derail conversations to suit your own interests, is not the way. You may not want to believe or even hear that marginalized groups still experience discrimination, but it's not your place to dictate to people how you think they should navigate being discriminated against or even how to address these issues. You don't get to demand that people "just get over it", and grow defensive and try to paint yourself as a victim when you're taken to task for your ignorance. If you're truly an ally of anti-oppression work and are interested in participating in the discourse, the first rule of thumb is to listen... LISTEN LISTEN LISTEN and read carefully. 

Trivializing people's experiences and suggesting that they're exaggerating or that it's all in their head is not listening. Moreover, it's obnoxious. If you're a racist, misogynist, or bigot, then I suppose it's par for the course; in which case, perhaps you shouldn't try to participate in the discussion and steer clear of those forums, lest you just paint yourself as an internet troll. 

Unless you can morph into a person of color, a woman, a woman of color, a gay person, a gay person of color, a Transgender person, a sex worker, a person who has been sexually assaulted and/or harassed, a person who has been denied basic human and civil rights, etc... you don't have even an inkling of what it's like to navigate their world. These stories are bitter pills to swallow, because they aren't meant to soothe your ego, make you feel better about yourself, placate your privilege, or comfort your sensibilities.

May 11, 2012

NY Times Writer, "Black Women Want to be Fat"


In case you’ve been napping from the fatigue beating a dead horse induces and haven't heard, brace yourselves, because yet another article has surfaced, throwing Black women under the bus. Black women are not only the Face(s) of Spinster-hood apparently. Now this country's obesity problem is being framed to be an affliction suffered solely by that demographic.  In a growing list of articles and blog posts seemingly aimed at acquiring a paycheck and garnering blog hits as opposed to informing, thinking critically, and helping resolve; writer Alice Randall penned a “Black Women are Proud Fatties; Proud Fatties are Black Women” piece that ran in this past Sunday’s New York Times op-ed section. Through a couple of personal anecdotes and random stories about acquaintances, Randall surmised that most Black women are fat, because they want to be that way. And you do know that Black women are a monolith sans the capability of acting and thinking singly, right? (This is asked with the utmost sarcasm, of course).
“What we need is a body-culture revolution in black America. Why? Because too many experts who are involved in the discussion of obesity don’t understand something crucial about black women and fat: many black women are fat because we want to be."  Randall writes in her op-ed piece.
She goes on to opine…
“How many white girls in the ’60s grew up praying for fat thighs? I know I did. I asked God to give me big thighs like my dancing teacher, Diane. There was no way I wanted to look like Twiggy, the white model whose boy-like build was the dream of white girls. Not with Joe Tex ringing in my ears.”
Needless to say, Randall’s article sparked a flood of rebuttals via New Media, mostly penned by Black women, fed up with being publicly dissected and made to shoulder a burden that should be shared by Black men and actually a good portion of this country.  Go ahead and add this post to the 'exasperated' list of folks who eye-rolled at Randall's article.

While I've gleaned that Randall is attempting to advocate for health and wellness, I can’t help but take her to task for using her own personal experiences to speak for and judge everyone else. Across my social media platforms and/or timelines, I read nothing but updates by Black women (including and especially women of size) checking-in at the gym and touting the benefits of “cleaner eating”. A lot of us are in fact, taking our health seriously. As a relatively healthy, fuller-figured Black woman myself-- (full-disclosure, I did have a brief stint with an eating disorder when I was a teen and again as a young adult, in an attempt to will my body slimmer) --  and contrary to what Randall suggests; I don’t walk around fist-pumping in the name of fat nor do I have an aversion to healthy eating habits-- (up until about five years ago, I’d been a long-time vegetarian)-- or being active. More importantly, I’m not fuller-figured via some man’s request and my experiences don't mirror every other plus size woman's. While I admittedly grapple with my body's fluctuating weight, I don't wrestle with the idea of being mostly comfortable with myself like many people would prefer... at least not beyond the norm of any woman who fusses over her looks. And it took a bit of work to learn to accept maintaining my body in its fullness, while shirking the opinions and judgement of others who haven't a clue about my well-being or social life. 

Randall also makes the foolish (and common) mistake of generalizing the preferences of Black men (once again, due to her own personal experiences), suggesting that most of them prefer a woman with a fuller-figure and will express dismay at their partner’s weight loss…
“How many middle-aged white women fear their husbands will find them less attractive if their weight drops to less than 200 pounds? I have yet to meet one.
But I know many black women whose sane, handsome, successful husbands worry when their women start losing weight.”
The backlash from Randall's article has been palpable, and she has felt the impact and responded to it:
“My statement was that many black women are fat because they want to be. I said the word, “many,” there was no “all.” When I talk about, “want to be,” I use an example of husbands. Let me use an example that’s even more profound to me—grandmothers. My grandmother was big as three houses. She was a brilliant, strong woman who ended up having grandchildren and great-grandchildren that went to Harvard and MIT and the like, to do big things.

When I think of what it is to be powerful and beautiful, I think of her. That’s something I wanted to be. In the heart of my hearts, when I think of strength and beauty, the first thought I have is of her. I am acknowledging her influence on me. I wrote and published four novels in 10 years. That’s doing a lot of work. The way I get that work done is not sleeping much or taking time to exercise and take care of myself. Those are choices I’ve made.

I haven’t gotten fat because of eating horrible foods, but by overwork. That’s a choice that most blacks make—going out and working the job as a domestic servant."  (source)
And there she goes once more... Alice Randall has made a blanket assumption about Black men, based on her experiences. Even when she attempts to personalize the article in her follow-up statement by asserting her own internal issues with her body, she seemingly projects it onto other Black woman.

This brand of writing, which analyzes Black women’s bodies, rarely ever features anything particularly revelatory we aren't already aware of or haven't read lately. The emphasis is always put on Black women and is often written by other women (who are just as culpable for trying to police female bodies).
Living our best lives is important. Indulging a sedentary and excessive lifestyle is detrimental to anyone's health, so enough with the "Fat Black Women Represent Obesity in America" trope; last year it was "Single, Educated but Sad and Unattractive Black Women” -- and that one gets resurrected every now and again.  When it comes to Black female bodies and obesity,  there’s an amalgamation of factors at play and it’s not as cut-and-dry as Alice Randall -- (who has a agenda book to promote, apparently) -- and other people would like it to be, whether you like and/or agree with it, or not.

For once I’d like to read an analysis about the issue of Black people's (not just women) health and wellness, which advocates healthful lifestyles, but is supportive in its exploration while presenting carefully documented reasons and solutions. I’d like to read more commentary from licensed experts, who’ve done the field work and painstaking research. Because honestly, these Bloggers, quasi-social scientists, and journalists playing couch-Physician while wagging their fingers at Black women for not “fitting-in” or to try to shame them into submission, is not the way.

May 08, 2012

Documentary Short: 'Shadeism' - A Global Look at Colorism



Bleached Kwaito singer, Mshoza 
"Shadeism" is a short 2010 documentary, written and directed by up-and-coming Canadian filmmaker Nayani Thiyagarajah (a young woman of South East Asian descent), and it details intra-racial discrimination experienced by young women of the Caribbean, South East Asian, and African Diasporas, as they navigate the trials and tribulations of having dark skin and the Colorism they face within their respective communities.

We often hear narratives from people who've experienced Colorism within Black-American communities, but Shadeism takes a more global look at the issue and its impact on young women of color. Intra-racial discrimination tends to be a hot-button issue whenever the topic is broached. It ruffles people's feathers because, speaking within the context of my own (Black-American) community, folks deny the prevalence of the issue, and the dialogue never extends beyond the superficial claim of it merely being a self-esteem issue. Colorism is institutional and it's structural. Darker-skinned people (women especially) are denied jobs, are subject to erroneous racial stereotypes, and are railroaded by the prison industrial complex.  

It's a destructive message that's notoriously perpetuated by the media, fashion and entertainment industries, and the cult of celebrity. Even casting calls for car commercials require that
only light-skinned Blacks need apply.

In India and various parts of the Caribbean and Africa, the skin-lightening cream industry continues to thrive, as people seek quick-and-easy ways to become the fairest one of all. 


Shadeism from refuge productions on Vimeo.

April 20, 2012

So I Creep: Men Who Don't Like Being Called Creepy


According to an article at the site Jezebel, men’s rights activists (or MRA); a movement that surfaced in the 1970s to address inequities in reproductive rights, divorce settlements, domestic violence laws, sexual harassment laws, education, fathers’ rights, health care, and genital integrity among other issues-including ensuring that their entitlements stay intact by challenging the tenets of feminism – don’t like us women, hurling the word “creepy” at them in response to what is deemed, (more times than not) legitimately shifty behavior while in our presence and/or space. 
Apparently the ability to“creep shame” is a special power men seem to think women have; used to ostracize them in the worst way, because earth, wind, and fire forbid we have the unmitigated gall to exercise the right to say “no”, “I’m not interested”, shut down in response to elevated levels of unwanted attention, or even change our minds about wanting to date somebody for whatever reason.  

Writer Jeremy Paul Gordon wrote of creepiness in a 2010 article for The Hairpin;  
“Without a doubt, creepy is the worst casual insult that can be tossed at a guy. A guy can publicly scoff at something you say and be a “douchebag;" sleep with your best friend, never call her back and become an “asshole;" cry while listening to Neutral Milk Hotel and forever be a “pussy.” But creepy is not that simple. It doesn’t relate to someone’s appearance, actions, or behavior. More accurately, creepy is a vibe. You can’t define it — you just know it. It’s when a guy looks at a girl for a little too long, when he friends her on Facebook a little too quickly, when he doesn’t understand that no actually means no, not “Try harder.” It’s a tag that isn’t easily dispelled.” 
In any event, the Anti-Creep Shaming Brigade’s shoddy attempts at advocating against women who use their instincts to protect themselves against douche-like behavior, is an exercise in futility. And it's an unfair demand, to expect women to pacify the male id, particularly if she's protecting herself. But at least allows me the opportunity to share this excerpt from novelist, Phaedra Starling’s 2009 guest blog post, originally featured on the (now defunct) site"Shapely Prose", Schrödinger’s Rapist: or a guy’s guide to approaching strange women without being maced. (Which I was fortunate enough to come across via writer and cultural critic, Son of Baldwin's  Facebook page).
You want to say Hi to the cute girl on the subway. How will she react? Fortunately, I can tell you with some certainty, because she’s already sending messages to you. Looking out the window, reading a book, working on a computer, arms folded across chest, body away from you = do not disturb. So, y’know, don’t disturb her. Really. Even to say that you like her hair, shoes, or book. A compliment is not always a reason for women to smile and say thank you. You are a threat, remember? You are Schrödinger’s Rapist. Don’t assume that whatever you have to say will win her over with charm or flattery. Believe what she’s signaling, and back off.

If you speak, and she responds in a monosyllabic way without looking at you, she’s saying, “I don’t want to be rude, but please leave me alone.” You don’t know why. It could be “Please leave me alone because I am trying to memorize Beowulf.” It could be “Please leave me alone because you are a scary, scary man with breath like a water buffalo.” It could be “Please leave me alone because I am planning my assassination of a major geopolitical figure and I will have to kill you if you are able to recognize me and blow my cover.”

On the other hand, if she is turned towards you, making eye contact, and she responds in a friendly and talkative manner when you speak to her, you are getting a green light. You can continue the conversation until you start getting signals to back off.


March 06, 2012

The Disintegration of Black Sexy Times


As a young girl, I’ve always been a bit curious about porn, and while it never prompted any deep desire in me to sneak and watch anything particularly hardcore; I did develop an affinity for the erotica shown on Cinemax after 11pm as well as, finding and then reading Jackie Collins's titillating plots, Erica Jong's Fear of Flying, and the illustrated wonderment of The Joy of Sex. I found adult literature and cable erotica far more compelling.

I didn't watch hardcore porn until I was in college, with my best friend. We watched out of sheer boredom and because we wanted to know what it’d be like (as two young women) to blatantly walk into an adult video store, rent a porn DVD, and watch the puzzled look on the cashier's face. We walked down to the college town's local video store and picked something from the late seventies/early eighties, much to the store cashier's amusement,  as expected.

The flick we chose and brought back to the dorms featured an interracial raunch-fest; Basic man-on-woman boning, nothing too shocking or sexy, and void of anything particularly depraved and disgusting. It was the usual cheesy porn fare, in fact. Neither of us found the antics sexy or arousing. We laughed raucously and critiqued the clownery the scenarios and uncompromising positions. Other than an art house flick there and here- (like the movie Short Bus, Romance, and 9 Songs; which featured un-simulated sex)- I haven’t felt any pressing interest or need to rent an actual DVD.

Over the years... after having watched and read a great deal of behind-the-scenes documentary style films and books, I came to realize that most mainstream porn that’s distributed, directed, and produced by men, isn’t erotic or very female-audience friendly. It features distorted visions of how women should look and the ridiculous sexual positions we should be bent and twisted in. I've never been one of the detractors screaming for the industry to be wiped from the face of the earth. That being said, a lot has changed with the porn industry. The ever increasing advances in technology, the internet, video cameras, webcams, and the like have made porn more accessible and more achievable for aspiring porn mongers. Any amateur can film their sexual exploits and upload them onto Xtube or Pornotube with relative ease. In turn, the industry has become a virtual free for all. College fraternity houses host parties where group sex and orgies abound, while their peers (men and women spectators) stand off to the side, cheering the guerrilla fuck-fests... clutching beers, fists pumping in the air.

These "gonzo"  films have raised-- (or lowered, depending on how you look at it) the stakes... and the stakes have become even more disturbing in their delivery. The acts women subject themselves to is enough to make the most hardened, difficult to offend person cringe. And it takes a lot to make me want to gag (no pun).

I recall watching a compelling documentary some time ago called, Sex: The Annabel Chong Story, which documents- Grace Quek's (Porn name, Annabel Chong) - rise, exploitation, and eventual fall from the porn industry. Annabel allegedly pioneered the whole "gang bang" trend in the industry. Nothing was too graphic or hardcore for her. She performed a diverse array of hardcore sex acts, including "triple penetration." Annabel's motives for starring in The World's Biggest Gangbang were troubling as the documentary delved into her past. Needless to say, in some respects the current wave of pornography breeds misogyny and perpetuates racial stereotypes about women, particularly the gonzo films featuring Black, Asian, and Latino women and mostly White mal antagonists who take trips to urban areas or under developed countries, in search of "Black ghetto sluts" or African prostitutes willing to oil up, shake, and then spread their cheeks in a seedy looking hotel room, on film. The perpetuation of sexual stereotypes is what frustrates me the most. I believe in people having the right to engage in whatever consensual sexual act they desire, but I would love to see more sex positive images in porn, especially those depicting Black women, which is why I’ve been so intrigued by the history of Black pin-up/adult models and our image in the adult industry and overall media. And why I love and appreciate the photography work of Carnalas Vidal and what Scottie Lowe of Afroerotik is doing and whose company exists to provide people of African descent a place to escape the narrow-mined, stereotypical, limiting and oft-times degrading beliefs that abound about our sexuality.  No, not all Black men are driven by lust by white flesh or to create babies and walk away.  No, not all Black women are promiscuous welfare queens or willing to do any sexual favor for money. “

www.tinynibbles.com
While I don’t expect porn to be riddled with deep, complex plots and soft, romantic interludes; I wouldn't mind seeing a shift in the very limited images featuring women (and even men) of color, rather than the racist portrayals that continue to pervade the industry. To my knowledge, I don’t know that there are any Black porn producers and distributors… or any Black female porn producers, directors, or distributors who aren’t perpetuating these stereotypes.  

This criticism of the porn industry isn’t about being a prude or even about taking an anti-porn stance. I'm merely challenging the habitually crude images portraying women (and men) of color. It makes me wonder why people continue to frame my folk within this type of based sexual, "ghetto gagger"context. And while I'm sure Black women in the industry don't think folks should be ringing the alarm, it doesn't negate the fact that the racist elements presented in porn definitely sexualize Black women in a negative way and sometimes those ideas spill outside the confines of porn. Porn aficionados, please weigh-in...

Also read: 

February 26, 2012

Coffee Rhetoric Redux-- If You're Black, Get Back!



In the wake of the latest foolery courtesy of a St. Louis-based promotional company, involving an ill-conceived marketing idea, themed: "Battle of the Complexions" pitting dark, brown, and lighter complected Black women against one another, I'm re-posting an essay I did in August, 2011 about Shadeism or what's also known as Colorism; which is still very much an issue in the Black-- (and other minority)-- communities, despite denials to the contrary. 
In perhaps, an equally as foolish attempt at insulting the collective public's intelligence, the promotional company responsible for the event released a convoluted apology (below), chalking up the idea as a tribute to Black History Month... 
MACK TV WOULD LIKE TO CLEAR UP THE MISUNDERSTANDING OF OUR CONCEPT FOR THIS PARTY...ITS NOT TO DEGRADE WOMEN OR DIVIDE SKIN COLORS. ITS SIMPLY TO SEE WHICH COMPLEXION OF THE AFRICAN AMERICAN RACE REPRESENTS THE MOST (lightskinned, caramel-brown, or darkskinned) AS A WHOLE , MALE & FEMALE! I CAN SEE THE MISUNDERSTANDING WITH OUR PROMO.....WE COULD HAVE USED A BETTER CHOICE OF WORDS....WE DID NOT MEAN TO OFFEND THE OFFENDED
ITS BLACK HISTORY MONTH , SO WE MADE A PARTY THEME DEDICATED TO OUR AFRICAN AMERICAN CROWD. THE YOUNGER GENERATION IS LOVING THIS PARTY BECAUSE HERE'S THE FIRST TIME EVER YOU CAN COME OUT & BE PROUD THAT YOU ARE BLACK!! REGARDLESS OF YOUR SKIN TONE SORRY FOR THE CONFUSION & MISLEADING INFO.
ITS BLACK HISTORY MONTH , SO LETS BE PROUD OF THE SKIN WE'RE IN!! REPRESENT YOUR COMPLEXION! ...



If You're Black, Get Back!  
Originally posted August 8th, 2011

No rap lyric has incited Black women to chorus the way the beginning of Lil Wayne’s verse in Every Girl in the World, in which he expresses his desire for “a long-haired, thick Redbone, who opens up her legs to filet mignon” has.

Hair and skin-color continue to haunt my sistren. Deeply rooted issues of Colorism are extensively blogged and written about by mostly Black female bloggers and writers, who take rappers to task for preferring racially ambiguous looking, seemingly non-Black women to frolic with on and off the sets of their videos.
Recently controversial novelist, Kola Boof sounded off at Wale via Twitter, in a long, sometimes expletive-filled tirade about his video Pretty Girls not featuring enough Black women… that eventually culminated in a feud of sorts. Kola berated Wale (whose parents are Nigerian)- accusing him of prompting young Black women in Nigeria to want to bleach their skin in order to compete: “Wale is doing more than just dig light women. He [sic] selling AFRICAN CHILDREN on skin bleaching … making them feel BLACK is ugly…”

Additionally, Actor/Singer Tyrese also felt the backlash of frustrated darker-skinned women, confused as to why his video was seemingly devoid of obviously Black women. “So I’m getting tweets … why aren’t any “Black Women” in your video.  I had a 2 days audition.[Sic]  I welcomed ALL women and went with the BEST.” he tweeted exasperatedly.

When framed within the context of entertainers and their sex lives, Colorism is undeniable. I acknowledge that it thrives within this realm and influences the aesthetic of many Black men, however, I’m a bit flummoxed as to why Black women continue to look to entertainers and athletes to validate their worth and personal brand of beauty. I understand wanting to see more honest and diverse examples of Black beauty in music videos; But when do we stop holding rappers responsible for how we essentially should view ourselves? When do we stop allowing Lil Wayne’s preference for a “long-haired, thick Redbone” to bother us and realize that when Black men (many of whom are also darker-complexioned) punctuate their preferences with disdain for dark women, it’s their deep-seated issues… and has nothing to do with us? When some Black men reach the pinnacle of financial success, they get to dictate who keeps their mattress warm and comfy… and for some, darker skin just doesn’t suffice.  As frustrating as their self-loathing is, that’s just the way it is. Quite frankly, when I look in the mirror, I’m not wondering whether heavily tattooed rappers with platinum dental work and several children by several different women, think I’m too dark to be considered attractive. Black men who look down on women for having darker complexions… have soul searching to do. Black women who agonize over and doubt themselves on account of a troubled individual’s superficiality… have soul searching to do.

This is definitely not an attempt to trivialize the impact of Colorism… My hope is that Black women with darker complexions move away from seeking acceptance in empty, cold places and hold themselves in high regard, despite the odds stacked against them.
Prolific film director Bill Duke eloquently explores the issue in this 9-minute trailer for his documentary,  
Dark Girls





Original post

              Recommended Reading:  

February 23, 2012

Post-Racial America: The Mis-Education of Mainstream Youth...

The featured video is what happens when parents (and so-called responsible adults) fail to educate their children properly and mainstream media perpetuate tired racial tropes and stereotypes...
This is yet another inarticulate and very public rant courtesy of the sad and misinformed; this time in the form of two young high school aged women from Gainsville, Florida; who-- coincidentally enough-- opine that Black people "can't fucking talk right", yet can't discern between the words "intelligible" and "eligible".
Needless to say, these two unintelligible young women aren't eligible representatives of what evolved young minds are supposed to be. And while one of these quacking ducks has enthusiastically pointed out what a very "nice white neighborhood" she lives in, her rant is one of the reasons why platforms like the Un-fair Campaign have cropped up and are needed.

Racism, hate-speech, and class-discrimination -- (some of which comes from Conservative Republican pundits and political hopefuls) -- seem to be at an all time high (especially in the wake of the current political debates). This is why I refuse to subscribe to the post-racial, color-blind propaganda people like to trot out, whenever the issues of race and xenophobia come up.

White privilege and supremacy is still very much alive and kicking. The idea that there's a post-racial society is a farce concocted and heavily pushed by its proponents, because they want to be able to spread hate freely, marginalize people of color and falsely appropriate marginalization as an issue that solely affects them, and teach their ignorance to young people, without having to be held accountable for their actions. I'm curious to know what type of conversations these girls have with their respective families at home and how their parents will set about dealing with their daughters' racist YouTube rant and the subsequent fall-out. On a completely unrelated note, I hate World Star Hip Hop and everything that site represents... That's all.

**Additional Reading







February 16, 2012

In Which I Share in Earnest: The Uprising

 My writing prowess isn't just relegated to essays, blog posts, and articles. For years-- well before I delved further into the world of print journalism, blogging, and freelance writing; I was a prolific short-story writer. Short-story fiction is my first love and I haven't done nearly enough of it lately. 

I dabbled in poetry, participating in half-hearted public readings at open mics (I'm not a performance artist by any means), but I've always had an affinity for writing prose. Every now and again I dust off an old piece of work and put it through a series of revisions with the intent to self-publish. The Uprising, perhaps my favorite Pièce de résistance, is no exception. It's a story I've always aspired to have published as a novella since conceiving and writing it while at college. 

I rarely share anything I've written within the realm of short-story fiction via the Blogosphere and have an inkling to do so now. 

In observance of Black History Month, I've decided to release the prologue to The Uprising.
Perhaps if the mood strikes me, I'll share more.   


**Also, check out Dolen Perkins-Valdez's compelling book, Wench. I recommended this before however, I'm currently re-reading it for the third time and it's what prompted me to share an excerpt of my own work.


Read The Uprising...
 

January 13, 2012

Blogging Elsewhere: When Sh*t Hits The Fan


It all started with the video Shit Girls Say and then spiraled (and has since disintegrated) into a barrage of Shit (insert ethnic/gender group) Say… spoof videos. Shit Girls Say morphed into Shit Black Girls Say, which prompted Shit Black Guys Say, which encouraged Shit Latinas Say. And you know the natural and relaxed haired sistren had to create a spoof of their own: Shit Naturals Hair Girls Say /Shit Relaxed Girls Say to Natural Girls… until many of us implored, Enough!
The series has definitely run its course, yet people won’t let it die a quiet death until they’ve squeezed the last vestige out of the joke… adding Shit to an already heaping pile. Amongst the wreckage of daft Shit Whoever, Everybody, & Their Mama Say videos, popular YouTube vlogger Franchesca Leigh Ramsay, better known as Chescaleigh to the rest of us, managed to stand out and prompt an interesting discourse on race relations. In her spoof video Shit White Girls Say to Black Girls; Chescaleigh dons a blond wig and an affected Valleyspeak accent, as she cleverly lampoons the ways in which some White women may try to relate to Black women (or any woman of color).
As a Black woman who went to a predominantly White liberal arts college in the Midwest and who has interacted with White women from all walks of life during college and throughout my everyday life, Chescaleigh presents circumstances that are very familiar to me and many of my friends. The: “Come on! Lemme just touch your hair this one time, really quick!” and the “Look at my tan, I’m almost as Black as you!” comments or bizarre questions I’d get from White women, initially flummoxed and then frustrated me. Once during my first year at college, questions about my otherness from a floor (and dormitory) of mostly White women, ran the gamut. “How often do you wash your hair?” and “Do Black people get the chicken pox?” were popular ones. Whenever I divulged where I was from, I’d get asked, “Oh, do you know someone named Tyrone Jones? He’s Black and from Connecticut too.” I know Connecticut’s a small state, but umm…