Not only do I have a unnecessarily large collection of dolls for an adult woman but in my spare time I am also obsessed with avatar makers, virtual selfies and graphic arts. In other words, in addition to be an introverted home-schooled vegan raised Black lady, I am also part geek. This reality is harder to negotiate when you’re Black because even when I’m in the presence of other geeks of color I question them! I judge! I judge them for not being “Black” enough when my own “Black” card has been pulled countless times.
I remember just a few weeks ago waiting for my husband online at the MOMA and observing the anime cosplay girls, no doubt there for the BJork show, huddled in one corner for the lobby. Among a few girls of who better the fit the bill of “whiteness” in tufts of short frilly pink frou frou dress attire were a couple of Black girls. Black girls in Japanation outfits have always made me nervous. I think to myself, will young people of color ever have an animated of color geeky chracter to emulate or will it always be Sailor Moon and the like? I’m older and not really up on this so maybe there already is one but I’m not aware. How does being a young Black girl dressed up like a Japanamation character affect her esteem? Do they really look in the mirror and think “I am Sailor Moon?”
But who am I to talk? I know how much of an influence standards of white beauty and patriarchy play even in Asian culture because I collect dolls! In Asian culture (Japanese in particular) dolls and adult woman are like rice and beans. And I while admit to being fascinated by that kind of craziness, I’m deeply concerned as well.
I may be part geeky but I draw the line at cosplay.
The only person whose look I emulated in High School was Janet Jackson because she wore all black and was in “Controoool.” LOL! I wore a key on one side of a pair of my largest my hoop earrings. Janet was also the name of my imaginary best friend.
…yeah, the geek admissions are just pouring out today.
All this is to say that I’ve always loved the idea of playing with images, challenging ascribed social roles (with like three other Black girls, I wore a jacket and tie quite often in Jr High for like most of 8th grade) and identities and creating alternate realities based on and challenging the external conditioning I received in my formative years. I’m fascinated by the thing which doesn’t look like the others, the one who splits from the pack, the counter culture movements, the rebellion that is generated from questioning the “norm” or rethinking those definitions which we often accept blindly. I think this also just a part of my contrary Gemini nature.
I kept playing with dolls long after I was supposed to “put away childish things” because I wasn’t quite finished. I did it in secret (’cause I knew I was too grown) every once in awhile and I wasn’t raised by the kind of parents who would have demanded that I stop even if they did know that I snuck into my childhood closet now and then to comb Black Christie’s hair, change her dress and have her dance with Michael Jackson…the doll. LOL!
Through art and play, we literally create our worlds and they can reflect anything we want them to. Once you become aware of the true intent behind images created by a dominant class, there’s a kind of freedom in that. There is the ability to redirect and re-appropriate. For all I know that’s what the Black girls in the Anime outfits were doing.
At least that’s what I hope.
Urban Geek: Over and out.