Tag: Women

Women’s Marches Open Up Truthful Dialogue About Race

Many thousands of women are expected to converge on the nation’s capital for the Women’s March on Washington the day after Donald J. Trump’s inauguration. Jennifer Willis no longer plans to be one of them.

Ms. Willis, a 50-year-old wedding minister from South Carolina, had looked forward to taking her daughters to the march. Then she read a post on the Facebook page for the march that made her feel unwelcome because she is white.

The post, written by a black activist from Brooklyn who is a march volunteer, advised “white allies” to listen more and talk less. It also chided those who, it said, were only now waking up to racism because of the election.

“You don’t just get to join because now you’re scared, too,” read the post. “I was born scared.”

Stung by the tone, Ms. Willis canceled her trip.

“This is a women’s march,” she said. “We’re supposed to be allies in equal pay, marriage, adoption. Why is it now about, ‘White women don’t understand black women’?”

In Tennessee, emotions ran high when organizers changed the name of the local march from “Women’s March on Washington-Nashville” to “Power Together Tennessee, in solidarity with Women’s March on Washington.” While many applauded the name change, which was meant to signal the start of a new social justice movement in Nashville, some complained that the event had turned from a march for all women into a march for black women.

In Louisiana, the first state coordinator gave up her volunteer role in part because there were no minority women in leadership positions at that time.

“I got a lot of flak locally when I stepped down, from white women who said that I’m alienating a lot of white women,” said Candice Huber, a bookstore owner in New Orleans, who is white. “They said, ‘Why do you have to be so divisive?’

In some ways, the discord is by design. Even as they are working to ensure a smooth and unified march next week, the national organizers said they made a deliberate decision to highlight the plight of minority and undocumented immigrant women and provoke uncomfortable discussions about race.

“This was an opportunity to take the conversation to the deep places,” said Linda Sarsour, a Muslim who heads the Arab American Association of New York and is one of four co-chairwomen of the national march. “Sometimes you are going to upset people.”

The post that offended Ms. Willis was part of that effort. So was the quotation posted on the march’s Facebook page from Bell Hooks, the black feminist, about forging a stronger sisterhood by “confronting the ways women — through sex, class and race — dominated and exploited other women.”

In response, a New Jersey woman wrote: “I’m starting to feel not very welcome in this endeavor.”

No one involved with the march fears that the rancor will dampen turnout; even many of those who expressed dismay at the tone of the discussion said they still intended to join what is sure to be the largest demonstration yet against the Trump presidency.

“I will march,” one wrote on the march’s Facebook page, “Hoping that someday soon a sense of unity will occur before it’s too late.”

But these debates over race also reflect deeper questions about the future of progressivism in the age of Trump. Should the march highlight what divides women, or what unites them? Is there room for women who have never heard of “white privilege”?

And at a time when a presidential candidate ran against political correctness and won — with half of white female voters supporting him — is this the time to tone down talk about race or to double down?

“If your short-term goal is to get as many people as possible at the march, maybe you don’t want to alienate people,” said Anne Valk, the author of “Radical Sisters,” a book about racial and class differences in the women’s movement. “But if your longer-term goal is to use the march as a catalyst for progressive social and political change, then that has to include thinking about race and class privilege.”

The discord also reflects the variety of women’s rights and liberal causes being represented at the march, as well as a generational divide.

Many older white women spent their lives fighting for rights like workplace protections that younger women now take for granted. Many young activists have spent years protesting police tactics and criminal justice policies — issues they feel too many white liberals have ignored.

For too long, the march organizers said, the women’s rights movement focused on issues that were important to well-off white women, such as the ability to work outside the home and attain the same high-powered positions that men do. But minority women, they said, have had different priorities. Black women who have worked their whole lives as maids might care more about the minimum wage or police brutality than about seeing a woman in the White House. Undocumented immigrant women might care about abortion rights, they said, but not nearly as much as they worry about being deported.

This brand of feminism — frequently referred to as “intersectionality” — asks white women to acknowledge that they have had it easier. It speaks candidly about the history of racism, even within the feminist movement itself. The organizers of the 1913 suffrage march on Washington asked black women to march at the back of the parade.

The issue of race has followed the march from its inception. The day after the election, Bob Bland, a fashion designer in New York, floated the idea of a march in Washington on Facebook. Within hours, 3,000 people said they would join. Then a friend called to tell Ms. Bland that a woman in Hawaii with a similar page had collected pledges from 12,000 people.

“I thought, ‘Wow, let’s merge,’” Ms. Bland recalled.

As the effort grew, a number of comments on Facebook implored Ms. Bland, who is white, to include minority women on the leadership team. Ms. Bland felt strongly that it was the right thing to do. Within three days of the election, Carmen Perez, a Hispanic activist working on juvenile justice, and Tamika D. Mallory, a gun control activist who is black, joined Ms. Bland.

Gloria Steinem, honorary co-chairwoman of the march along with Harry Belafonte, lauded their approach. “Sexism is always made worse by racism — and vice versa,” she said in an email.

Ms. Steinem, who plans to participate in a town hall meeting during the march with Alicia Garza, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter, said even contentious conversations about race were a “good thing.”

“It’s about knowing each other,” she wrote. “Which is what movements and marches are for.”

But the tone of the discussion, particularly online, can become so raw that some would-be marchers feel they are no longer welcome.

But then she read a post by ShiShi Rose, a 27-year-old blogger from Brooklyn.

“Now is the time for you to be listening more, talking less,” Ms. Rose wrote. “You should be reading our books and understanding the roots of racism and white supremacy. Listening to our speeches. You should be drowning yourselves in our poetry.”

It rubbed Ms. Willis the wrong way.

“How do you know that I’m not reading black poetry?” she asked in an interview. Ms. Willis says that she understands being born white gives her advantages, and that she is always open to learning more about the struggles of others.

But, she said, “The last thing that is going to make me endeared to you, to know you and love you more, is if you are sitting there wagging your finger at me.”

Ms. Rose said in an interview that the intention of the post was not to weed people out but rather to make them understand that they had a lot of learning to do.

“I needed them to understand that they don’t just get to join the march and not check their privilege constantly,” she said.

That phrase — check your privilege — exasperates Ms. Willis. She asked a reporter: “Can you please tell me what that means?”

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*Article originally published on New York Times.

Remembering Gwen Ifill (1955-2016)

Distinguished journalist Gwen Ifill was of the most successful female African American news correspondents of all time, having worked for the Washington Post, The New York Times, NBC and PBS. She moderated two vice presidential debates and received 15 honorary degrees. Ifill died of cancer on November 14, 2016 at the age of 61.

Journalist, television news correspondent, news program moderator Gwen Ifill was born on September 29, 1955, in New York, New York. The daughter of a minister, she had a strong religious upbringing. Ifill went to Simmons College in Boston where she majored in communications, and through an internship got her first hands-on experience as a journalist.

After graduating in 1977, Ifill went to work for the Boston Herald-American as a reporter. She began to focus more on politics with her position at Baltimore’s Evening Sun. While there, Ifill had her first opportunity in front of the cameras as the host of a news show for a local public television station.

After stints at such prestigious publications as The Washington Post and The New York Times, Ifill switched to television reporting when she joined NBC News in 1994 as a congressional correspondent. Besides her work as an on-air reporter, she appeared as a guest on several political programs, such as Meet the Press and Washington Week, a show that features a roundtable discussion on public affairs.

Impressed by her analytical skills and journalistic savvy, PBS hired Gwen Ifill for two of its news programs in 1999: NewsHour With Jim Lehrer and Washington Week. She worked as a senior correspondent for NewsHour, conducting interviews with key figures and filing reports on the latest news. Ifill also filled in as news anchor for Lehrer from time to time. On Washington Week, she served as the program’s moderator and its managing editor. Well respected as a journalist, Ifill was called upon to moderate a number of political debates, including the first vice presidential debate during the 2004 presidential campaign between Dick Cheney and John Edwards and in the 2008 campaign, between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin.

As a distinguished journalist with a long career, Ifill received 15 honorary degrees. Her book The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama was published in 2009. She was also a board member of several organizations, including Harvard University’s Institute of Politics.

Ifill died of cancer on November 14, 2016. She was 61. “Gwen was a standard bearer for courage, fairness and integrity in an industry going through seismic change,” PBS NewsHour executive producer Sara Just said in a statement. “She was a mentor to so many across the industry and her professionalism was respected across the political spectrum. She was a journalist’s journalist and set an example for all around her. So many people in the audience felt that they knew and adored her. She had a tremendous combination of warmth and authority. She was stopped on the street routinely by people who just wanted to give her a hug and considered her a friend after years of seeing her on TV. We will forever miss her terribly.”

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*Originally published on Biography.com

Should Rape Accusers Be Anonymous?

There have been a lot cases in the news lately about sexual assault & the men who have faced charges because of it. According to government research, it is estimated that one in five women will be raped at some point in their lives, 1 in 5 women on college campuses have been sexually assaulted during their time in school and in eight out of 10 cases of rape, the victim knew the person who sexually assaulted them. Rape costs the U.S. more than any other crime at $127 billion per year, making it a heavy financial burden for everyone.

With such alarming statistics & the high costs of this particular crime, it is understandable how stressful this experience can be for these women. But like with any other crime (and sometimes even civil), criminal cases are public record. And public records are exactly that – PUBLIC! So if a criminal case is public record, shouldn’t the victim’s information be made public? In many of these cases, the rape victim is allowed to remain anonymous but is that really fair? Should a women’s name be withheld when she is making a public case against a man? Why should it be kept private when the name of the accused is oftentimes dragged thru the mud (even if he’s later found not-guilty)? Should things be made easy for rape accusers or be made fair?

Read the article below from Yahoo & let me know what you think –

 

The woman who filed the civil complaint alleging that former NBA Most Valuable Player Derrick Rose and two of his friends drugged her, broke into her apartment and gang-raped her while she was unconscious in August 2013 spoke publicly this week for the first time, granting multiple interviews in an attempt to present her side of the story less than three weeks before the scheduled start of the civil trial on Oct. 4.

The woman previously identified in court documents only as “Jane Doe” is a 30-year-old college student who told Janie McCauley of The Associated Press that her family doesn’t know anything about her relationship to the former Chicago Bulls and current New York Knicks point guard, with whom she had what both sides acknowledge was a non-exclusive sexual relationship from late 2011 until July 2013, or the lawsuit, in which she is seeking $21.5 million in damages.

“They have a sense something’s wrong, but there’s no way I can express to them or explain to them how I feel or what I’m going through,” Doe told the AP. “Having to think of alternative ways to communicate that pain is very stressful and it takes a lot out of you.”

Doe’s anonymity has been a central element in what has become an increasingly contentious legal battle.

In May, Rose filed a motion calling for Jane Doe’s parents to be deposed so that his attorneys could “question the plaintiff’s parents about her ‘traditional, religious upbringing,’” and asking the court “to force Doe to reveal her identity,” claiming “she has waived her privacy rights by putting her emotional condition at issue.” Rose’s attorneys have also argued Doe’s “use of Twitter and other forms of social media” — including Instagram, where they say she posts photos “that are sexual in nature [where she is] dressed in provocative nature, is in sexually suggestive poses, and is in photographs indicating that she engages in sexually charged encounters with more than one man at a time” — “belies her apparent desire for anonymity.”

A judge found no compelling reason to publicly release the woman’s real name, meaning Rose’s defense will not be able to use her social media as evidence of her ‘sexual’ nature at trial, but did “allow the disclosure of her name within the realm of the discovery, or fact-finding, process” of the trial. Even so, the judge chastised Rose’s lawyers for the logic of the social-media claim:

Defendant Rose appears to suggest that women who publicly portray themselves as “sexual” are less likely to experience embarrassment, humiliation, and harassment associated with gang rape. Such rhetoric has no place in this Court. No matter how Plaintiff chooses to depict her sexuality on social media, her allegations of rape entitle her to the protections of anonymity.

In June, Rose’s lawyers filed a motion for summary judgment in the case, seeking its dismissal. A judge denied that motion in July due to substantial disagreements on the most important facts of the case between the versions forwarded by Doe and by Rose and his fellow defendants, Ryan Allen and Randall Hampton, who have repeatedly maintained their innocence during the pre-trial process.

“The record presents a genuine dispute of material fact as to the central issue in this action: whether Plaintiff consented to sexual intercourse with Defendants in early morning of August 27, 2013,” U.S. District Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald wrote in his judgment. “Because the jury and not the Court must resolve this central issue, summary judgment is improper.”

From Lindsay Gibbs of ThinkProgress:

[The plaintiff and defendants] don’t agree on much, but they do agree that Rose and the alleged victim met in 2011, dated for a couple of years, and officially broke up in the summer of 2013 after (but not necessarily because) the alleged victim refused to have group sex with Rose. Then on August 26, 2013, she reached out to Rose and he invited her to a party at his house. She arrived for said party with a friend around 9:00 p.m. in a car that Rose provided, and left in a taxi around midnight.

The two sides disagree whether she was drugged at his house, whether she had sex with Rose’s friends at his house, whether or not she let Rose and his friends into her apartment later that night, and whether or not she consented to have sex with all three of them.

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7 Ways Women Can Lift Up, Not Tear Each Other Down

This is go time for women, as we collectively rock politics, medicine, education, the arts, and business with our women-strong wisdom, compassion and collaboration.

But women can’t become a truly unstoppable force for good unless we shake off an old shadow that holds us back: how harsh we can be to one another.

Who among us hasn’t suffered the sting of a woman’s snarky comment or workplace sabotage? Or experienced the ickiness of mean-girl shunning or lie-spreading?

Women heap an avalanche of abuse, discrimination and incivility on one another, from the boardroom to athletic clubs. As I work on a book about this topic, I read about a woman who said the “cool” women in her yoga class often shunned her, made snide comments and even ridiculed her yoga clothes. Big, downward, sad-faced dog.

Come on, women! We deserve better than this. We are better than this.

There’s too much progress to be gained right now for women to regress into mean, middle-school girls — especially as the world’s girls watch and model our every move.

“There’s a Wonder Woman inside every one of us,” as Diane Von Furstenberg has said. Let’s unleash her this year—to better support one another. To help our sisters, from Africa to Asia, realize long-overdue healthcare, safe water, jobs, and literacy.

To lean into the toughest conflicts around the Earth. To stop turning against and fighting with each other.

We can’t afford to fall back into outdated, destructive ways: when we hold one woman back, we hold all women back. And when we empower and support each other, we all go big. The world is calling for us to go big!

Here are seven steps for unleashing your inner Wonder Woman:

1. Shine a light on the shadows. There isn’t a big enough rug in the world under which this secret can be swept. Whether you’re a mom’s group member or an HR director, begin to end this problem by having a candid and hopefully game-changing conversation about it. Granted, this is as about as fun as having a botched root canal. But, like healing any wound, once this “taboo” topic is aired and out in the open, real change can happen.

2. Live from your own incredible worth. Express your own brilliance — don’t block someone else’s. Be an amazing woman. Unleash her now. To do good. To raise the roof. To be kind. To change the world. Be a superstar yourself, and you won’t feel the need to tarnish another’s star. As Bindu, an Indian actress popular in the 1970s said, “Women who understand how powerful they are do not give into envy over meaningless things; instead they fight to maintain the beautiful bond of the sisterhood. These are the real women who know that we need each other’s love and support to survive in this world.”

3. Advocate for zero tolerance. Our workplaces, health, and economy are drained by something we’ve avoided, pretended doesn’t exist, or justified. From coffee groups to conference rooms, stop tolerating abusive talk and behavior among women. If you’re a manager or leader, enforce anti-bullying policies. Retrain or remove workplace bullies, both men and women. If you’re being bullied, document the abuse, report it, and be clear about how you want to be treated. If you witness bullying, don’t hide the truth to keep the peace. And if you’re a bully, seriously, why? Learn how to exercise real power to have authentic friendships and respectful colleagues, not ones that loathe your presence.

4. Be a Wonder Woman with your wise words. Kudos to Reese Witherspoon, who asked: “Why do we have to tear other woman down to build another woman up?” And to author Elizabeth Gilbert, who recently posted herself on Facebook holding up a note: “DEAR WOMEN – BE KIND TO OTHER WOMEN! LOVE, A WOMAN.” Look, of course, we don’t have to agree with every woman. But we can stop trash talking about women’s appearances, parenting, or successes. Gossiping and snarky talk can be addictive and pass the time in a boring day. But they’re destructive. Find a legit feel-good fix. Find new friends, if necessary. Find your integrity.

5. Tune out media that glorify mean-women pile-ons. Let’s all stop feeding the media that glorify women being mean to other women. Cheers for Jennifer Lawrence’s candor: “When I watch these shows and I watch these women on these television shows pointing to [other] women and judging them and calling them ugly and calling them fat — where are we from? Why are we here? Why are we doing this to each other? Men were doing it hundreds of years ago, and now we’ve turned around and we’re doing it to each other.”

6. Applaud a woman’s success. Some women I’ve interviewed say they’re scared to share their successes with other women for fear they’ll be bludgeoned with their own victories. That’s insane. Don’t hold a woman’s gifts against her. An anonymous person once said, “Jealously is when you count someone else’s blessings instead of your own.” If one woman soars, it doesn’t mean your wings are clipped, or that there’s limited air space. We all came here to fly—fly far!

7. Even Wonder Woman has to rest. These work harder/faster times can shred us, making it all too easy to turn on one another. Slow down, breathe, and nurture yourself, if only for 30 minutes. It’s soul-crushingly tough enough to get through some days. Do we have to make it harder by crushing each other’s dreams and dignity? When we’re more rested, it’s easier to give a big thumbs-up to a woman’s ideas at work. Or hold the door open for a mom struggling with a stroller. And cheer for a sister on fire with her creation, whether it’s a painting or a product.

Actress Lynda Carter, who played the original Wonder Woman, said, “Wonder Woman belongs to us all. She lives inside us. She’s the symbol of the extraordinary possibilities that inhabit us, hidden though they may be.

“Perhaps our real challenge in the 21st century is to strive to reach our potential while embracing her values. She sees the good in everyone, convinced they are capable of change, compassion, and generosity. She’s kindhearted and hopeful, and she has a great sense of humor.”

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*Originally posted on Huffington Post.

Tune In To Him

TODAY’S SCRIPTURE

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27, NIV)

TODAY’S WORD

Right now, there are hundreds of radio frequencies in the air, hundreds of television signals all around you. But, you don’t hear them all. The reason is that you’re not tuned in. If you tune a radio or television to one of those frequencies, then you would pick up the signal.

In the same way, God is constantly transmitting to us. He wants to lead us, guide us, protect us and give us insight. But too often, we’re not tuned to His frequency. You have to pay attention to Him and learn His voice. God doesn’t speak to us most of the time out loud. He speaks to us through subtle things. He leads us by peace inside.

The best way to “tune in to His frequency” is by reading and meditating on His Word. The more know His Word, the more you know His voice. It’s like when you constantly tune in to a radio station and learn that DJ’s voice, you’ll recognize that voice when you are in a restaurant or at the mall. It’s the same idea. Tune in to God’s Word, tune in to Him and let Him lead you and guide you into victory all the days of your life!

A PRAYER FOR TODAY

Father, thank You for leading me and guiding me in Your truth. I choose to tune in to You, I choose to tune in to Your Word. Help me to hear Your voice so that I can follow Your leading all the days of my life in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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— Joel & Victoria Osteen

Dumb Stereotypes About Thin Girls

People generally think that skinny girls have it all and that there is nothing wrong in their lives. How can thin women have problems? As a thin woman, I’ve experienced many stereotypes and instances of thin-shaming. I’ve had people literally bring me food and try to force me to eat. If I wasn’t skinny, would people act that way? I’m not sure. I’m pretty sure no one would tell someone who’s overweight that they should stop eating.

Skinny people don’t have it easier than everyone else. We have our own struggles. Here are some things you’re probably wrongly assuming about thin girls:

1. That they’re bitches

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The term “skinny bitch” has become pretty common these days, which is unfortunate. Being skinny doesn’t make you a bitch, and not all thin girls are mean. Being mean has to do with your personality and actions, not your weight.

2. That they don’t eat

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I get real sick and tired of people assuming I don’t eat enough or at all. No one’s eating habits are anyone else’s business, but thin girls are almost always told they need to “eat a cheeseburger” or something. It’s rude.

3. That they all are fitness freaks

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It’s also unfair to assume that all thin women are in the gym 24/7. Sure, I enjoy a good workout, but I don’t spend the majority of my time working out. Plenty of people do a few exercises just to be healthy and not to lose weight. Don’t think that every thin girl is trying to be thin or focusing only on her body.

4. That they’re superficial

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Thin girls are often portrayed as superficial and shallow, as if all they care about is physical appearances. This is so wrong to assume of anyone, but especially because of someone’s weight.

5. That they don’t get insecure

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Many people think that thin girls don’t have insecurities about their weight or otherwise. False. I’ve been insecure about my weight since I was a kid because people always made me feel like there was something wrong with me. Just because someone is skinny, doesn’t mean she can’t have insecurities about herself.

6. That they have eating disorders

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Eating disorders are a very sensitive issue, and you should never assume that anyone has one. Even if a thin girl does have an eating disorder, it’s not something you should just chit chat with her about.

7. That they feel complimented when people say things like “You’re so skinny, you’re lucky!”

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There might be some thin girls out there who don’t mind being told how skinny they are or that they’re lucky for being so thin. What are you even supposed to say if someone starts talking about your weight with you?

8. That they’re not “real” women

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So they’re fake? Why would you ever tell someone they aren’t real?

Are you a thin woman? What stereotypes have you experienced? Share in the comments section  below –

 

*Originally posted on Gurl .

Sorry Bernie, I Should’ve Voted For You!

Bernie

I’ve been a Hillary Clinton fan since day one. As a matter fact I even voted for her when she ran against then-Senator Barack Obama in 2008. My thinking was that she had the experience and the knowledge to not only hold the highest office in the land but also do a great job. Other than sitting alongside her husband during his eight years as president, she also had a pretty successful term as a New York state senator.

But in 2016 Hillary Clinton has far more experience and has definitely made a name for herself outside of who she’s married to. Yes, there’s a lot of baggage around the Clinton name: Benghazi, “email-gate” and even national healthcare going back to the 90’s. But she is still Hillary “The” Clinton. Regardless of whatever baggage is associated with her name she still has the most experience, the best experience and for the most part outpaces Donald Trump in all of the national polls (although those numbers fluctuate). So today in the lovely state of California I cast my ballot for Hillary Clinton. But should I have marked off Bernie Sanders’ name instead?

As soon as I left the polls I called my dad (to talk about something else). The conversation quickly turned to politics. My dad is a political nut and loves discussing the latest election news. So I knew any conversation surrounding today’s election might turn into a lengthy one, but I still found myself defending my reasons for voting for Hillary Clinton and not Bernie Sanders. My dad’s argument in favor of Bernie Sanders was that he has long since fought for civil rights, he’s been a successful senator (albeit from Vermont), and he really is a man “for the people”. Hillary Clinton, while well qualified for the position of President, has too much baggage and has since fallen in the polls against Donald Trump. Now we know the polls can change on a daily or even hourly basis so that point didn’t mean much to me. Shoot, the way Donald Trump has talked about other races, even as recently as yesterday, makes me think that anyone running against him would win in a landslide. In my opinion, he’s talking himself out of office every time he’s in front of a microphone.

But back to Bernie Sanders. Should I have voted for him instead of Hillary? Yes he is older, yes he’s from Vermont and yes he’s got some pretty “crazy” ideas (like free college for all) but isn’t that what this country needs right now?

Honestly I felt as if Bernie didn’t have the experience to run this country. Yes he’s been politically active all of his life, and has even fought for African American civil rights. However running the state of Vermont doesn’t exactly qualify you to run the entire country. That’s like saying because you know how to ride a bicycle that qualifies you to drive a 16-wheeler big rig. It doesn’t; it just doesn’t.

America is all about giving the ‘little guy’ a chance (unless you happen to be African-American, but that’s a whole nother post). So while I knew deep down that the state of California would’ve selected Hillary Clinton as our nominee, I should’ve cast my ballot for Bernie. Because even the Jewish guy with the crazy ideas from Brooklyn deserves a chance to be our next President.

 

Hating Other People’s Kids Is Not A Crime

It’s my world too. Strollers don’t inherently have the right-of-way.

I was in love with Marion in that way you fall in love with your best friend. She’d pick me up like a pile of laundry and scrub me clean after every bad breakup, and there were many. She was my rock, she was the one friend I wasn’t embarrassed to introduce to my parents, she was my favorite person in the world… until she had her child.

Marion and I promised ourselves we wouldn’t turn into one of those bargaining-with-their-kids parents, one of those pushover parents, one of those newfangled spiritual let-your-kid-be- whoever-the-Goddess intended parents. Yes, we’d have kids, but we’d be better, smarter, and stricter. We wouldn’t be those people who would make other people feel embarrassed for us because we have rotten kids. Then, in different ways, we both failed to keep those promises. She became one of those parents, and I closed my baby factory forever.

After Marion married Phil, they tried desperately to have a child and after two years, they had Daisy. Marion’s pregnancy was unremarkable. Even her daughter’s first year didn’t raise any red flags. It wasn’t until Daisy’s second year that my friend Marion started showing signs of what I consider dysfunctional parenting.

Our friendship probably held steady for as long as it did because Marion and Phil moved to Missouri shortly after Daisy turned two. There wasn’t enough proximity to destroy our friendship. When I finally went to visit them, their daughter was already 4. I had missed the in-between years: the transition from Marion, my friend, to Marion, Daisy’s mom.

On my first day, I saw Daisy naked and playing with herself while watching TV. Daisy is “exploring herself,” Marion called it. I thought: OK, they don’t want to shame her. I get it. Masturbation is natural. It’s fine, I think.

My second day, I walked in to see Marion breast-feeding Daisy. Marion and Phil are very tall and Daisy had inherited their height. Seeing a child at her length sucking on Marion’s teat was like watching a Great Dane climbing a sapling. I thought: OK, breastfeeding is cool. Look away. Look away. Dear God, why can’t I look away?

The fifth day, Daisy allowed us to leave the house without throwing a fit. We went to a sushi restaurant. Twenty minutes into dinner, Daisy stripped off her clothes and ran through the restaurant, peeing, with Phil running after her pleading, “Daisy. Sweetheart. We don’t do that. We don’t do that,” in a voice that made Daisy “do that” even more. We were asked to leave by a woman who leered at me like it was my fault.

The rest of my 10-day visit didn’t go much better. When Marion finally dropped me off at the airport, I left the family of three and any desire to have kids in my rearview. I haven’t seen Daisy (now 8), Marion, or Phil since, except on Facebook.

I felt like such a horrible person for despising the kid until I stumbled upon Alfie Kohn’s Washington Post article in which he blames milquetoast-y modern-day parents for “raising a generation of undisciplined narcissists who expect everything to go their way.”

My friend and her husband aren’t bad people. They are among a demographic who find themselves victims of a cycle. Like the 5 Stages of Grief, I call this ‘The 5 Stages of Progressive Parenting’:

Denial. Knowing other people are staring at you and your screaming child, but pretending they’re not.

Anger. You’re outraged that other people want to come up to you and say “You have a horrible sushi-ruining kid.” Instead, they shake their heads or leave. Like a deadly fart, a bad child can clear a room.

Bargaining. The act of offering something for nothing. “If you are good, I’ll give you $5!” Or the time Marion said, “If you stop kicking Aleks, Mommy will make you cookies!” This tactic only works temporarily, if at all. With Daisy, “temporary” meant twenty minutes, or until she had finished her cookie. It can work permanently for losing friends, though.

Depression. Marion would sometimes look down-to-the-bone exhausted, her face damp from residual tears. She would smile when she caught me looking but we both knew she wanted to die some days.

Acceptance. Realizing that this is your life. Even after they go off to college, get married, have their own kids. This is your progeny, your legacy, and it’s forever. You are responsible for their beginnings until your ending, and you’re ok with that because you have to be. Forever.

Yes, Marion’s Daisy was the main reason I decided not to have kids, but she was not the only reason. My friends are at an age where they’re all having and raising children now — all spoiled monsters, the lot of them. Frankly, I know maybe two out of ten parents who have continued to be normal people who have successfully raised sweet, well-mannered kids, though I don’t want to hang out with them either.

When I tell people I would prefer not to be around kids or that I never want to have kids, they laugh uncomfortably. How can anyone hate kids? If those people are parents, they say I’m a bad person, or that I don’t know what I’m talking about, or I just don’t understand how nuanced the world of parenting is. What I know is this: It’s my world too. Strollers don’t inherently have the right-of-way. 

When a friend has a child, it’s a loss for the childless friend. Maybe the new parent feels the same. I’ve never asked. I have to admit, sometimes I wish a woman like Marion had been my mom. My mother had no problem disciplining me, a lot. Maybe I would’ve been a happier adult if I had been allowed to eat sushi naked in a restaurant while peeing on myself. Who knows?

Of course kids can’t get enough of me. Like cats, if you ignore them, they’ll want to sit on your lap. I think they can sense I don’t like them so they circle me trying to get me to change my mind. Sometimes, if I don’t think about Daisy or Marion, I almost do.

kids

*Originally published on Yahoo.

Lemonade: Moving Beyond Pain

Fresh lemonade is my drink of choice. In my small Kentucky town, beautiful black, brown, and white girls set up their lemonade stands and practice the art of money making—it’s business.  As a grown black woman who believes in the manifesto “Girl, get your money straight” my first response to Beyoncé’s visual album, Lemonade, was WOW—this is the business of capitalist money making at its best.

Viewers who like to suggest Lemonade was created solely or primarily for black female audiences are missing the point. Commodities, irrespective of their subject matter, are made, produced, and marketed to entice any and all consumers. Beyoncé’s audience is the world and that world of business and money-making has no color.

What makes this production—this commodity—daring is its subject matter. Obviously Lemonade positively exploits images of black female bodies—placing them at the center, making them the norm. In this visual narrative, there are diverse representations (black female bodies come in all sizes, shapes, and textures with all manner of big hair). Portraits of ordinary everyday black women are spotlighted, poised as though they are royalty. The unnamed, unidentified mothers of murdered young black males are each given pride of place. Real life images of ordinary, overweight not dressed up bodies are placed within a visual backdrop that includes stylized, choreographed, fashion plate fantasy representations. Despite all the glamorous showcasing of Deep South antebellum fashion, when the show begins Beyoncé as star appears in sporty casual clothing, the controversial hoodie. Concurrently, the scantily-clothed dancing image of athlete Serena Williams also evokes sportswear. (Speaking of commodification, in the real life frame Beyoncé’s new line of sportswear, Ivy Park, is in the process of being marketed right now).

Lemonade offers viewers a visual extravaganza—a display of black female bodies that transgresses all boundaries. It’s all about the body, and the body as commodity. This is certainly not radical or revolutionary. From slavery to the present day, black female bodies, clothed and unclothed, have been bought and sold. What makes this commodification different in Lemonade is intent; its purpose is to seduce, celebrate, and delight—to challenge the ongoing present day devaluation and dehumanization of the black female body. Throughout Lemonade the black female body is utterly-aestheticized—its beauty a powerful in your face confrontation. This is no new offering. Images like these were first seen in Julie Dash’s groundbreaking film Daughters of the Dust shot by the brilliant cinematographer Arthur Jafa. Many of the black and white still images of women and nature are reminiscent of the transformative and innovative contemporary photography of Carrie Mae Weems. She has continually offered decolonized radical revisioning of the black female body.

It is the broad scope of Lemonade’s visual landscape that makes it so distinctive—the construction of a powerfully symbolic black female sisterhood that resists invisibility, that refuses to be silent. This in and of itself is no small feat—it shifts the gaze of white mainstream culture. It challenges us all to look anew, to radically revision how we see the black female body. However, this radical repositioning of black female images does not truly overshadow or change conventional sexist constructions of black female identity.

Even though Beyoncé and her creative collaborators daringly offer multidimensional images of black female life, much of the album stays within a conventional stereotypical framework, where the black woman is always a victim. Although based on the real-life experience of Beyoncé, Lemonade is a fantasy fictional narrative with Beyoncé starring as the lead character.  This work begins with a story of pain and betrayal highlighting the trauma it produces. The story is as old as the ballad of “Frankie and Johnny” (“he was my man alright, but he done me wrong”).  Like the fictional Frankie, Beyoncé’s character responds to her man’s betrayal with rage. She wreaks violence. And even though the father in the song “Daddy’s Lessons” gives her a rifle warning her about men, she does not shoot her man. She dons a magnificently designed golden yellow gown, boldly struts through the street with baseball bat in hand, randomly smashing cars. In this scene, the goddess-like character of Beyoncé is sexualized along with her acts of emotional violence, like Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” she destroys with no shame. Among the many mixed messages embedded in Lemonade is this celebration of rage. Smug and smiling in her golden garb, Beyoncé is the embodiment of a fantastical female power, which is just that—pure fantasy. Images of female violence undercut a central message embedded in Lemonade that violence in all its forms, especially the violence of lies and betrayal, hurts.

Contrary to misguided notions of gender equality, women do not and will not seize power and create self-love and self-esteem through violent acts. Female violence is no more liberatory than male violence. And when violence is made to look sexy and eroticized, as in the Lemonade sexy-dress street scene, it does not serve to undercut the prevailing cultural sentiment that it is acceptable to use violence to reinforce domination, especially in relations between men and women. Violence does not create positive change.

Even though Beyoncé and her creative collaborators make use of the powerful voice and words of Malcolm X to emphasize the lack of respect for black womanhood, simply showcasing beautiful black bodies does not create a just culture of optimal well being where black females can become fully self-actualized and be truly respected.

Honoring the self, loving our bodies, is an appropriate stage in the construction of healthy self-esteem. This aspect of Lemonade is affirming. Certainly, to witness Miss Hattie, the 90-year-old grandmother of Jay-Z, give her personal testimony that she has survived by taking the lemons life handed her and making lemonade is awesome. All the references to honoring our ancestors and elders in Lemonade inspire. However, concluding this narrative of hurt and betrayal with caring images of family and home do not serve as adequate ways to reconcile and heal trauma.

Concurrently, in the world of art-making, a black female creator as powerfully placed as Beyoncé can both create images and present viewers with her own interpretation of what those images mean. However, her interpretation cannot stand as truth.  For example, Beyoncé uses her non-fictional voice and persona to claim feminism, even to claim, as she does in a recent issue of Elle magazine, “to give clarity to the true meaning” of the term, but her construction of feminism cannot be trusted. Her vision of feminism does not call for an end to patriarchal domination. It’s all about insisting on equal rights for men and women. In the world of fantasy feminism, there are no class, sex, and race hierarchies that breakdown simplified categories of women and men, no call to challenge and change systems of domination, no emphasis on intersectionality. In such a simplified worldview, women gaining the freedom to be like men can be seen as powerful. But it is a false construction of power as so many men, especially black men, do not possess actual power. And indeed, it is clear that black male cruelty and violence towards black women is a direct outcome of patriarchal exploitation and oppression.

In her fictive world, Beyoncé can name black female pain, poignantly articulated by the passionate poetry of Somali-British poet Warsan Shire, and move through stages evoked by printed words: Intuition, Denial, Forgiveness, Hope, Reconciliation. In this fictive world, black female emotional pain can be exposed and revealed. It can be given voice: this is a vital and essential stage of freedom struggle, but it does not bring exploitation and domination to an end. No matter how hard women in relationships with patriarchal men work for change, forgive, and reconcile, men must do the work of inner and outer transformation if emotional violence against black females is to end. We see no hint of this in Lemonade. If change is not mutual then black female emotional hurt can be voiced, but the reality of men inflicting emotional pain will still continue (can we really trust the caring images of Jay Z which conclude this narrative).

Lemonade

*Originally published on Bell Hooks.