All Those Ghetto Black Women

 

     

 

    Please take this time to imagine a black woman.  Name any old stereotype that comes to mind. Don’t be shy! Curvy, big ass? Loud? Ghetto.  Welfare queens. Tons of baby daddies. Overtly sexual or religiously prudish.“Angry black women”? I didn’t make these up. These are actual stereotypes that exist in American society today. No really, I literally just Googled “black women.” I must say, as young black woman living in the United States, none of these stereotypes represent me. However, too much of American media perpetuate these stereotypes on a daily basis. This makes me sad.

      If you decided to present a black woman on a TV show, so many factors come into play. You must be cautious not to create a stereotypical character-so as to not offend. But what sucks is you can’t have a loud, feisty,black female character without perpetuating stereotypes of black, feisty women. Minorities don’t have the privilege of just being human in media. If a feisty, loud white female character is on TV, white women don’t have to identify with that character as someone that represents their whole group. 

      That feisty white woman would be just an aspect of humanity; just a wacky character rather than a representation of female whiteness, because there are so many other types of white women presented each day in media to counteract. 

Now, let me level with you. There are definitely more white women in the United States than black women. There just are. This is no conspiracy. But that’s exactly why it’s not okay to perpetuate minority stereotypes in our media. It’s inevitable that stereotypical characters will stand to represent the whole minority. 

    So how do we solve this? Just don’t do it. No more stereotypes. I know, rash statement, but really that seems the only way to stop this. As an oddball skinny black queer with a degree in film and vegan parents, I’d love to see more minority female characters that I can relate to. It’s not so hard. Really! I once had a professor in college make the argument that if we all eliminated race descriptions from our vocabulary, that would accelerate our overcoming racism. I understood her point, though I feel that approach is far too Utopian. Instead, I propose we un-define race descriptions through our media but debunking deeply-rooted stereotypes in our characters.

 

 

     “Community” does a great job of presenting minority characters that are well-rounded and unique. There’s Abed, an Indian and Polish young man with autism and an obsession with film and television, Troy, a sensitive and imaginative black man with a boyish charm, and Shirley; while a single black woman with children, she’s also a brilliant ping-ponger. In spite of her mammy-like sweetness, she’s been known to have her fair share of romances and sexy-time. Shirley is humanly balanced, not stereo-typically flat.  Come on, it’s so lazy to write a black character that “just so happens” to fit every stereotype in the book.  Real humans are more than labels. And minority characters deserve more of these boxed-in portrayals. Thank you “Community” for all your quirky goodness. Now- More please.

I Wanna be Like Maude

 

Harold and Maude. I’d been contemplating seeing this film for at least a year before actually watching it. All I heard was that it was “really good” or “worth watching,” which I’m sure is understandably vague. For that reason, I had no idea how amazing it actually was! Ok,  Harold and Maude  tells the story of a death-obsessed, twenty-ish fellow that lives with his wealthy mother. He spends a lot of time faking his own demise, until he  meets the coolest, most adventurous 79 year old woman you’ll ever lay your eyes on, Maude.

 

 They develop a friendship that becomes a romance and while you may think this is odd from the outside looking in, I don’t think you’ll feel that way after watching this. I only say that because I found nothing strange or odd about their relationship. I found myself rooting for them. Really! The real reason I love this film? 

 

 

I wanna be like Maude when I grow up! Maude steals cars on a whim, dresses like a bohemian gypsy, totally borderline-horder status without seeming crazy, and truly practiced carpe diem. Maude represents the most natural and graceful form of beauty because she embraced  all that she wasl; No apologies! She wore little to no makeup and grinned her wrinkled smile with pride. Age meant nothing to Maude and I think that’s why their relationship seemed so … acceptable? Contrasting Maude to normal representations of beauty makes her even more unique. Youth seems to exemplify some sort of advantage when it comes to beauty. 

On one hand, this is understandable seeing that old age inevitably means less time to live, and most of us aren’t obsessed with the subject of death like Harold. Maude embraced her old age as an advantage rather than disadvantage. She appreciated her life experiences and took each day for what it was. She was thankful for her years rather than regretful of her past. Old age is often taboo, but with this story, it’s accepted. Maude shows us that aging gracefully, naturally and happily is beautiful. And I so admire that.

You Sweet Darling Little Girl, You

 

    Since age seven, I had a very narrow idea of the gender expectations of a young girl. And I must say,  I hated them.  I despised what ‘being a girl’ represented. A good girl is dainty. A good girl is sweet. A good girl is polite and kind and wears dresses; and heaven forbid she ever gets dirty. 

 

     I believed practicing femininity required a certain level of submission that I’ve never been too keen on. Whereas I saw masculinity calling for a bit of aggression and good amount of assertiveness that I’ve always felt was much more desirable, for the simple fact that assertion leads to more control, therefore more agency. Submission linked to femininity is the main catalyst to the flawed concept of womanhood in relation to men; that women are the weaker sex. I didn’t even realize that my ignorance was only fueling this dangerous belief.

You see,  I feared for many years to use my assertiveness,  in fear of being seen as too boyish, or too much like a tomboy. And this on top of my then closeted genderqueerness made everyday interactions with cis girls and women VERY difficult for me. 

     It wasn’t until my preteen years that I learned that being a woman does not mean you must be submissive. Let me rewind. In middle school I was very shy and quiet and insecure. One day one of my classmates thought it was funny to pester me with one of the arts project we’d just made in class. It was homemade potato head made of a real potato. Yes. Though I was annoyed, I sat there like a good little girl and did nothing at all.  He kept swinging the potato at me and I simply rolled my eyes, hands neatly clasped at my desk. But then I couldn’t hold it in anymore. The real me came out and I flung my hand out to knock his annoying potato out of my face. Before I could shame myself for being so bold, the guy punched me right in the temple. Like, right there. I’m surprised I didn’t faint. Everything I had learned up to that point about being a young woman flew out the window. I got up and beat that kid’s ass like a boss. No inhibitions, and far more impulsive that I’d EVER been before.

    It’s not the fight that changed my life but the reaction from my friends and teacher that completely altered my concept of femininity. And it’s all because instead of being scolded, I was congratulated for standing up for myself! For weeks the kids in school gave me the nickname Ali. When I got home my mom told me my teacher called and expressed how proud of me she was. What? I was so confused. I thought girls had to play nice. No. Submission is only a rather negative, stereotypical display of femininity, not what makes a woman. I know now that women can be assertive and aggressive and even crude, and that, I love. 

Queer Eye for the Bi?

 

 

  (first Published 5/26/13)

    Remember that time Cynthia Nixon said she chose to be gay and there was this huge backlash from the gay community over it? Well this is my take, months later. 

 

    Nixon later clarified her “choice” statement, claiming  bisexuality is indeed a fact, not a choice. However,  she still says that she chooses to be in a gay relationship.

    I don’t see why this was such an issue. It’s true that bisexuality is often viewed negatively in the gay and straight communities. Possibly because of the strong need for binary establishments in our culture. Bisexuality blurs the lines of sexuality that many feel should be black and white. Grey areas are confusing, and confusing topics are often misrepresented. 


   Nixon made an interesting statement on the sexuality spectrum when asked in a Daily Beast article whether she was a heterosexual woman in a lesbian relationship, or the other way around:

 

 

 “…I think for gay people who feel 100 percent gay, it doesn’t make any sense. And for straight people who feel 100 percent straight, it doesn’t make any sense. I don’t pull out the “bisexual” word because nobody likes the bisexuals. Everybody likes to dump on the bisexuals.”

 

     Why is it so questionable that there might be more of a sexual spectrum rather than straight versus gay? As much as we like to box things in, it’s not always the case that everything is so easily defined, binary, or concrete. Honestly, as an out gay, genderqueer, I can’t say I haven’t found a few Ryan Goslings or John Cho’s attractive. Sue me. Let’s just face it; The fear of ambiguity stems from humans fearing the unknown. The unknown often leads to discrimination because if you don’t understand something, it’s difficult to relate. But an open mind leads to learning things you may not have known, otherwise. Think about it. Maybe, just maybe, bisexuality is more than just a stop on the road to Gaytown.

 

Hmm… Which shall I choose- Miss Mrs. or Ms.?

 

Hmm… Which shall I choose? Miss Mrs. or Ms.? I possibly knew about this before, but it didn’t occur to me how sexist an issue these three title options were, until after a discussion in Women’s Studies, today. Mrs.  If you’re married, Miss if you’re not, and Ms. for either; or if you’re a feminist. You might recognize Ms. as the title of the women-positive magazine created by Gloria Steinem, a well-known feminist, journalist and political activist for women’s rights. Bet you can guess which title she uses. The need for the use of Ms. instead of Mrs. or Miss was brought on by second wave feminism. However, I remember getting in trouble in middle school for calling my teacher Ms. instead of Mrs. because she’d just been married. Note, I am from the south, and things seem to move a little slower down here.

            It seems so odd that men don’t have this same title trio. Why don’t men have an equivalent to Mrs. for when they’ve been married or Miss equivalent for our single guys out there? Gotta know if he’s a bachelor, right? The need for three title options with women stems from the earliest gender molds of our society.

Those foundations stem way back in the 1700s, even, when women were seen as property to be passed on from father to husband. Women take the man’s last name so why not add a title like Mrs. that emphasizes this, right? Wrong.  Why is it necessary that everyone know whether we’re married based on such a title? We’re no one’s property and we don’t need a stamp of Miss or Mrs. that says we are. As a budding feminist, I love that Ms. is an option. It is the woman’s equivalent to Mr. . It’s a freeing title that attaches to no expectations. Ms. could be a girl, a young woman, a married woman, whatever. None of your business. Just like Mr. implies.  It’s a strong statement to correct someone to call you Ms. as a married woman.I’ll go so far to say, I’d be great for Mrs. and Miss to be eliminated, altogether. They’re definitely not necessary in modern society, that’s for certain.

Why We’re Awesome: Go Ape With Us!

“Woman must not accept; she must challenge. She must not be awed by that which has been built up around her; she must reverence that woman in her which struggles for expression.” — Margaret Sanger

Why We’re Awesome- A series spotlighting wonderful organizations that empower women and girls all over the world.

 

“Go ape with us!”

       Art’s been a big part of my life since just about forever. I come from a musical family and my father has advocated to keep the arts and music in schools for what seems like one million years. So when I learned about the  Guerrilla Girls , I damn near “peed- mah-pants” (figuratively, of course). Here’s an initiative I believe in .The Guerrila Girls have been advocating for equality in the arts since 1985 and they’re still going strong. What’s really neat is all these years, the members have kept their identities anonymous. Member take the names of dead female artists as pseudonyms (so cool) and post funny, political, art questioning societal standards- when it comes to not just art but also social issues that involve inequality for women. They started out in New York City out of frustration, as women and people of color were extremely underrepresented in NYC art galleries.  

       When making public presentations, the women (there are no male members) wear disguises involving gorilla masks. Pretty clever, if you ask me. One of their most well know posters from 1989 presented the hideous statistic that only 5% of  the work in the Modern Arts section of the Metropolitan Museum of Art were women. Today it’s only 3%! Depending on how you look at it, maybe it’s a step up that the percentage of female nudes in the Met Museum has gone down since 1989 from 85% to 83%. Whoop-di-freakin-do. We’ve got a lot more work to do, with stats like that.

       I consider their whole agenda pretty bad ass. And I secretly want to be a Guerrilla Girl. Of course, I am not and will not be one, as they don’t usually accept new members into their small group (I looked it up). Nonetheless, I support them and I’ll definitely be putting up some of their posters when I get to New York, as I’ll be moving there in the next few months. You go, Guerrilla Girls!

 

All American Beauty?

      

     Oh to be tall, thin, and beautiful and yes, white. For some reason, this is what our society sees as most beautiful. Don’t take my word for it. Just check out your closest clothing ad. Now, there are more minority models these days. But let’s be real, minority models are still a novelty and are few and far between. It’s not often you see a kinky haired, dark skinned, uber ethnic black woman. And when you do, she’ll definitely stand out. Actually, you don’t see that a lot in everyday life, either.

    Could it be art’s just imitating life? I’ve noticed something interesting over the past few years. Before I tell you what that something is, you should know this fun fact. I used to relax my hair. Meaning, I used to use these chemicals that permanently straighten my curls. The year 2009, I cut off all my relaxed hair and made the adamant choice to embrace the “natural me.” That’s right folks, I went natural. Ever since, I’ve been a prevalent part of the natural community. The first year or so, I was one of few. I would sometimes get stares from people that didn’t get why I’d leave the house “like that” and other times I’d get compliments from women that respected my being so “brave”. Yes, brave. 

 

         See, that’s where I have a problem. I hate that me wearing my hair the way it comes out of my head is seen as such a bold and daring fashion statement. But at the same time, I love that more women are doing it, and I understand a lot of American’s aren’t used to seeing black women with their natural hair. So it stands out. And that’s fine. But, I can’t wait for the day when my hair isn’t seen as a fashion statement. There are so many different kinds of beauty. I think minorities have trouble sometimes accepting this. When you see a certain sort of beauty being pushed in the media, say blonde hair or a tiny frame, whether you want it or not, that image gets ingrained in your brain. Women that know they can’t achieve this look of beauty may feel insecure. I get that. And if you have something that’s the pure opposite of that representation of beauty, say kinky, curly, dark hair, it takes a bit of moxie to go against the grain and embrace your uniqueness as beautiful. I don’t believe there’s just one kind of beauty. Model’s do not represent all women, but only a fraction. An eensy-weensy tiny little fraction. Like, so small. Ok, you get it. 

Why We’re Awesome Series: The Girl Effect

 

“A woman is the full circle. Within her is the power to create, nurture and transform.” — Diane Mariechild

Why We’re Awesome- A series spotlighting wonderful organizations that empower women and girls all over the world.

 A few months ago  I learned about The Girl Effect . According to their website :

 

   “Adolescent girls are capable of raising the standard of living in the developing world. Girls are the most likely agents of change, but they are often invisible to their societies and to our media.”

     I agree. The Girl Effect works by a number of wonderful foundations, networks and what The Girl Effect call “Girl Champions” that donate micro loans to women in poverty ridden communities. These micro loans help those women to start businesses in their areas that benefit the locals and most specifically, the girls in their town. This is the Girl Effect. I was so inspired when I saw their video and I’ll honestly never be the same. I know, quite dramatic. However, I’m not even joking. Women are suppressed all over our world and it’s so fascinating to me how much brighter the world could be if women had more power. As noted earlier, women are the most likely agents to create positive change. Now I’m not just saying this.

    That statement’s actually driven by fact. Look at some of the baffling research done by Girl Effect supporters:

“It has been shown that an educated girl will invest 90% of her future income in her family, compared to 35% for a boy.”

  Yet, girls in high-poverty communities are often overlooked for education and the opportunities for success are far less than their male counterparts. There are a lot of social media videos out these days to promote change, but I must say, this one touched me most. I want to do something about this. It’s absolutely ridiculous and almost unbelievable that our world is functioning this way. Why is this even okay? I’m devoting myself to being a part of the positive change with the Girl Effect. I’m a film student and I’d love to write for a living. I know that I can mold my creative career into a helpful voice for female empowerment, and that’s just what I hope to do. It means so much to me that by the time I’m old and grey, this injustice will probably be far less prevalent. And I hope to have some part in that change.