Tag: Women

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.

So This Is What It Feels Like To Be In Your 30’s…

Old 2

With every passing year I truly realize how much older I am getting. Little things that didn’t use to be an issue have now become a whole ordeal (if you’re over 35 you know what I’m talking about). Things that no young person would think about have started to happen to me. Here are just a few of those things:

I literally have to stretch as soon as I wake up – when I was younger I could just hop out of bed & start my day. But now I have to do stretches as if I’m preparing to run a marathon before I can even brush my teeth. It seems that my muscles are getting tighter as I get older.

stretch

Drink more water – really everyone should do this no matter what age they are, but there’s something about getting older that makes drinking water a necessity more than ever before. It’s almost as if I have to make up for all that bad food and drink I had when I was in my 20s. Oh well, good thing I actually like water!

water

Get tired earlier – I’ve always been a night owl so it’s nothing for me to stay up well past midnight. But as I get older I realize I’m getting tired earlier & earlier. I’ve started to get ready for bed earlier, but I haven’t quite got it in my head that I actually need to go to sleep earlier. I’m sure there’ll come a point when I start to fall asleep on the couch more & more which will prompt me to start going to bed earlier.

tired

Talk to your friends less & less – As you get older people that you know become more & more absorbed with their own families. This leaves them less & less time for talking with their friends – like you!  It’s one thing to build your career & still have friendships. It’s easy to chat with someone while you’re on the way to the airport or in the office working late & need a quick break. But when you’re raising children, your time & attention is devoted solely to them which leaves less time for your friends. I’ve been a victim of this more times than I can count, but that’s life I suppose! (But that’s also why I continue to make new friends; gotta replace the ones who are too busy for you)

friends

Okay ya’ll, when did you know you were getting old?! Sound off in the comments section –