Tag Archives: women

The F Word

So my girl Khalilah shared this great article with me yesterday, written in 2008 by Alice Walker’s daughter, Rebecca Walker all about how their relationship was torn apart by Alice Walkers “fanatical feminist views.” Rebecca came to her happiness as a proud mother and wife with no help from her mother, a feminist icon, who felt that having children was a form of slavery. In fact, at least according to Rebecca, Alice Walker, a woman whose writing I loved so much in my youth, played the position of detractor, and competitor to her daughter most of her life and very rarely, if ever, as a supportive and nurturing force. I won’t say too much more about the actual article here since Khalilah and I will definitely be discussing it on a future episode of Soultv.

But I will say this.

I have seen and heard the word Feminism defined, interpreted, remixed, reconfigured and re-framed many times and for varying reasons, but the one theme that seems to remain, is the one in which Feminism is understood to represent the strength, capability and independence of a woman without a man and the diminished tone reserved for women who choose to dedicate as much if not all of their lives to motherhood, family and home as they do to their business or career.

The new Miss USA sparked a ripple of controversy recently, when she was asked about feminism and responded that “As a woman scientist in the government, I’d like to lately transpose the word feminism to equalism.”

…………………….BLANK STARE

I mean…gurl….

What?

And as  expected, feminist twitter went ape shit, just like they did when Chimimanda Adichie suggested that cis women (God, I hate that term) have a different experience in their bodies and in the world than trans women do because we-were-born-women? All of a sudden, Adichie was painted as an enemy of a community which she is actually an advocate for.

All this to say, as much as I would love to believe in and support a future feminism which includes, supports and addresses the needs of Black and Brown women and mothers who proudly love Black and Brown men and want to find spaces which encourage and facilitate the enrichment, re-education and unification of the Black family and community…

It ain’t happened yet.

But if it does  and already has, let me know because I’m down. However, I would strongly suggest a change of name for said future movement because the term Feminism, no matter how much we hyphenate and pre-fix it to suit the present day needs of certain ideas about today’s woman, still continues to carry the oppressive and divisive mission associated with it’s early origins, a mission that was created primarily to suit the needs of white women whose needs at the time when the movement evolved were respectfully relevant and though, they may intersect with the needs of Black and Brown and women, will never be equal to them. And that’s just a long way of saying that our needs are vastly different from those of White women and they always will be.

Acknowledging difference seems to really offend certain people unless they’re using difference to discriminate, monopolize, categorize, stereotype and disenfranchise. I see difference as a guide that tells you how to best serve a population whose right it is to thrive and grow like anyone else on the planet.

Until later

I remain

as ever

forever yours,

…unfeminist

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Your Pussy Blues Ain’t Mine

Our troubles as women in America pale in comparison to theirs. In my opinion, the things women complain about in the United States cause us to look like a bunch of ungrateful piss ants! I wouldn’t dare take a stand with a bunch of cry baby white American women. Why are you so upset? White women aren’t being shot down in the streets like dogs. You aren’t being incarcerated by the masses. Your families aren’t being torn apart while you struggle against a system designed to keep you behind. Until you take a stand for the disparity Black men encounter daily, I give zero fucks about your hurt feelings.

Shemeka Michelle

Yesterday, a co-worker informed me that she would be off today and offered, that in part, she was taking the day off in commemoration of International Women’s Day. Now, I was dimly aware that this was happening at some point but since I had no interest in participating, I never took note of its approach. So I was like, what’s that, what happening now? She explained to me the intent of “A Day Without Women” as a way to show how valuable women are blah blah blah… and that I should wear red tomorrow.

Internal blank stare…

Then I asked “What is this in response to? Did something happen?” Did someone else’s pussy get grabbed? She couldn’t really give me any other explanation except to say that it’s to so show how important women are….

…..sigh

…internal side eye

Great! “Happy International I Have a Vagina and it’s important but it’s really about White Women Day!” Enjoy that shit.

This morning my best friend in Divine Black Feminine Love posted an article by Shemeka Michelle titled,

Dear White Women, F#*K You and Your #DayWithoutAWoman

In it she expressed my sentiments about this day and more. And basically it just gave me all the life I needed to carry on through all this Women’s Day BS. Because as a Black woman when I hear the words Women’s anything, just like when I hear the words Americans, I think only one thing.

WHITENESS

And Michelle just confirmed the fuck out of my feelings with facts to back it up and pettiness like honey to sweeten one of the best reads I’ve heard all day. Let’s give thanks for BFFS who give the gift of facts with righteous frustration and pettiness sprinkled in.

I passed this article on to another sistah this morning and she was just floored with confirmation. She got it. She called me immediately thanking me, and telling me that she subscribed to the blog. This is how deeply we need community, need our own space and platforms to express our true feelings about things. Because otherwise, we (Black people) get bombarded with what the majority deems as event that are appropriate to celebrate and circulate without even fucking knowing what that shit has to do with supporting or acknowledging the truly marginalized, the oppressed, the underpaid, incarcerated and brutalized.  What the fuck am I Marching for “women” for? I’m a woman and I have no problems being one. I have no complaints. The way I am treated as a woman is not and never has been the point of my contention in America. Point blank period.

As Michelle says in her blog entry:

I will NOT stand with you. You’ve climbed the corporate ladder at the expense of many Black men and women. You are just like the White men that you want us to help you fight against.

So count me out of this and every other pussy hat brigade organized protest from now until the end of time. I and everyone who looks like me has been counted out by a violent monopoly of systemic racism for hundreds of years so that should be easy.

Plus, I saw like tons of women at work today, like everywhere I went, women were working, like at work, like at jobs…working.

Soooo….exactly who the fuck was taking the day off today?

Tell me.

Who?

 

I said the word vagina to an audience last night

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Well it was a poetry audience at Lenox Coffee in Harlem but I was not reading poetry. I was promoting Soul Sistah Series’ latest event “Your Yoni  You” which is happening this Sunday, May 31st at 9:30am. It is an event that centers around women of the Diaspora reconnecting to our sacred feminine through our sensuality. Because the major feature of this event is the ancient practice of vaginal steaming, I just figured I’d cut straight to the chase and mention the word vagina to a coffeehouse full of people by way of explanation.

Then I read a poem. LOL!!

I wasn’t nervous or anxious or self conscious about it, which is weird for me but recently in situations where I would normally feel anxiety and tightness and don’t, I just kinda roll with that. I don’t want to function with heart palpitations and knots in my stomach every time I come up against something that makes me nervous. But the not wanting to doesn’t always result in not feeling it.

But I wasn’t feeling it last night, not about anything I made announcements about. Maybe its the turning 40 thing. I turned 40 on Memorial Day and mentioned that to the audience last night as well.

Maybe it’s some Mercury Retrograde glitch where normally fluid communication comes to a halt but you have no problem saying vagina to an attentive and unsuspecting crowd? LOL!

I don’t know. It’s probably best not to question it and chalk it up to what I’ve been putting out in the universe with regard to challenging my fears and self consciousness. That’s all I can make of it at this point.

Oh the sun feels so good on my neck right now. I’m sitting in Bryant Park eating chips and guacamole, feeling the breeze and looking forward to the exciting weekend ahead. 

Happy Friday!

My First Headwrap

Ill thrill

So I don’t know if you remember how last year I was raving about this head wrap company that I found at fanmdjanm.com. I was especially jazzed to see that they had these cool, funky video tutorials on different ways to wrap the fabric on their site. That had me really excited. It made me feel like this was something I might actually be able to do. My bff, Vanessa and I used to wear African fabrics on our heads in High School but I never really learned how to do anything fancy and I never really wrapped my whole head.

The one other time I can remember rocking a head wrap was in my mid- 20s. One day when I just got it into my head that it would be cool to wrap my head in a white fabric that I had to go this poetry reading my white ex-boyfriend invited me to. I had my hair out natural then after having cut my second set of locs and I thought I looked really cute. Well we were sitting at a bar that night and he looked at me smiling a smile that I had come to know as a snarky kind of “what’s this?” smile and then he called me a Nubian Princess but not in the way that brothas in Harlem on 125th Street do. I think he meant it kind of as a joke because he couldn’t take it seriously. He wasn’t familiar with this part of me. I was annoyed and offended and generally put out for the rest of the evening and never wore a head wrap in public again.

erykah
Badu brought the head wrap forward in a way I had never seen before and blew my mind

Well I finally ordered my head wrap fabric from Fanm Djanm (which means strong woman in Haitian Creole)  last week and I can’t wait to see it. That’s it just above. It’s called “Ill Thrill” and I like it because it feels like the pattern than can transition easily from a formal or work (because I do intend to rock it at work) as well as a recreational setting and can be paired with a range of different outfits. I just love the shade of orange which has been a color that started rocking my visual world last year.

Orange started speaking to me loudly saying, “HEY!!!! Come and play with me! Everything is cool! I’m bold and can’t be ignored but I’m also very friendly and happy and I want you to come take a closer look. I want to sooth you and excite you at the same time.” It’s hard for me to look at orange and feel anything but a kind of blind joy for no reason. It also emanates a glowing, loving warmth. Few colors do all of those things to me at once. It was one Fall Season a few years ago while I was taking pictures outdoors that the color orange started to emerge for me with a deep significance I had never noticed before. I couldn’t believe I had been alive for so long without ever appreciating the golds, yellows and bronzes of sunsets and Fall foliage. Now, I can’t pass these colors in nature without being driven to distraction.

Color is wonderful and traditionally, many African fabrics have been full of color and ornate patterns but I haven’t always felt comfortable appropriating the looks I see worn by African hair braiders up and down Harlem standing at street corners in beautiful dresses that they wear all the time. But that’s just Western thinking getting in the way of what I feel drawn to and what I’m entitled to connect with by way of my ancestral roots.

If Erykah Badu can do it, so can I right?

So YAAAAY head wraps!

it’s about to be on…on my head!

: D

Everything’s Coming up Yonis!

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While creating some flyers for Soul Sistah Series next upcoming event, my sister friend and co-worker came up behind me and made one of those sounds we make when we see something that makes us go Ooooo!! Like when you see someone naked unexpectedly. The words “Yoni and You” caught her eye and while she initially responded coyly the way most women are conditioned to respond when we see words describing intimate body parts, but she was also intrigued. She is someone who is open to the concept of learning and dialoguing about issues which affecting our bodies in ways that unify rather than divide us.

When soulsistah4real first told me about “Vagisteaming” for the first time last year, I was more than skeptical myself. Since then, Vagisteaming has been on the rise in trending discussions about female health. My sister friend told me that she heard about it from a certain female celebrity whose name I’m sure we can guess and whom I will not pay more lip service to here.  I told C. that this was not a new practice but an old one that women have done since ancient times to condition and heal themselves as well as enhance their sexual pleasure.  She happens to be on the Soul Sistah Series email list so I told her to check her email for our latest newsletter which talks about our first event, “Manicures & Mimosas” as well as explaining the history and the benefits of vagisteaming.

More ohhs and ahhhs came from my friend, but this time they came from joy, interest and excitement!

YES!

I’m not perfect. I’m always surprised by how unconnected I am to my own body and spirit, even when I think I am. But I never question the moments when I do find myself fully present in my body, trusting the divine energy that connects directly to my heart. And I know that as women of color, there is no better time than right now to start having more open and transparent conversations with each one another which will hopefully lead to an understanding that the bodies’ connection to pleasure is also a connection to health and well being. Reclaiming the bliss that comes with embracing contentedness to the five senses is part of the essence of life.

My Gyn Has Candles in the Examination Room

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Well not real candles. I’m guessing that would be a fire hazard. They’re those fake candles that are actually like flickering electric lights in candle holders. My gynecologist has those going on the table across from the examination table and no overhead light ever.

Whenever I’m there on the table with the sheet wrapped around me, waiting for Dr. Simmons to come in, I’m usually pretty relaxed and at ease, the light from the faux candles have a very calming effect on me. Naturally, I’ve had several gyns before and it occurred to me while I was there last, that this is not the usual examination room experience. Simmons tells me that this was the intention of her and her partners when she opened the spa, and that this room and the candlelight effect was intended to decrease anxiety and lower the heart rate. I love it when women put thought into creating spaces that evoke warmth, relaxation, calm and insulation, particularly in any medical capacity. This is not a room that you want to hurry away from but one that allows you to really settle and be present. In situations where you need to be vulnerable and be examined in intimate ways, this is very important. Plus my gyn has a great bedside manner. The candlelight room is like an extension of her attitude so I never feel like I’m being handled, treated roughly, being rushed in and out like cattle or being neglected or forgotten. I’ve also never witnessed crowding or even remotely heavy traffic at the practice. When I arrive there are never more than three or four women in the waiting room which is also softly lit with low music playing always.

Continue reading My Gyn Has Candles in the Examination Room

Why Shouldn’t I Care what Smart Black Women are Wearing?

I don’t comment on Facebook threads very often that appear outside of my network. But every once in awhile, situations present themselves that I cannot resist. For instance whoever posts for Harry Belafonte (is it really you Harry?) posted some anti Kanyeness story last week, positing something like “He doesn’t have all the answers.” To which I commented, “No one has all the answers.” Someone later responded to that by saying, “God does.”

…okay. That’s fair. Not relevant. But fair.

Yesterday there was a post on Chimimanda Adichie’s  FB page, which directed interested readers to see what she was wearing on a page titled “Day 3 of Nigerian novelist’s Vogue Today I’m Wearing Photo Blog.” There was a long list of comments responding to that which expressed displeasure about why they should be interested in what she wears, that they only wanted to know what she was writing or thinking.  To which I commented that I was interested in everything she did, what she’s wearing, writing, thinking…

I mean it just so happens that in addition to being a highly educated brilliant writer, thinker and speaker, Adichie is also stunningly beautiful. Her dress game is sickening. Her hair is always tight and on point. Her skin is flawless and she has an infectious inner glow that pours out from her eyes and her voice whenever she is on camera. Are we’re supposed to not notice this?

Continue reading Why Shouldn’t I Care what Smart Black Women are Wearing?

Team Urban Eve

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I was out and about this weekend running errands and attending to my regular self care when it occurred to me that the women who provide indispensable services to me on a regular basis are some amazing women. And I have selected them especially not only because of excellence with which they provide these services but because of the love, warmth, support, and receptivity that come with it.

You know what I mean.

We pay for services all the time but if we have a pleasant experience, a deeply beneficial exchange with the person who delivers those services, we go as much for that loving, supportive inspiring energy as for the service itself.

My therapist is a woman who just rocks. Like, I love her! She challenges me, makes me feel safe, helps me to be more accountable for the goals I set and much more.  Her role in helping me in my journey towards helping me peel away the layers of my own psyche to reveal my purpose in this life has been indispensable.

There’s my brow technician in Chelsea. Unless I am really desperate, there is only one woman I want to do my brows. She’s the only one who makes my sparsely growing non-thick brows work. She just makes it work. And she is always, warm and sweet and hospitable and just makes me feel dope. I took my mom to see her the last time she visited me and if you knew me well enough, you would know how huge that is. If I’m taking mom to meet my brow tech, I love my brow tech. And mom approved. Mom approved.

There’s my weekly yoga instructor, an independent contractor who has been coming to my workplace to give staff yoga classes since 2009! I’m not saying I will never take yoga with anyone else and I certainly have before. But I have never in my life taken yoga consistently the way I have with Sara. It’s more than just the yoga. It’s Sara. It’s her energy. It’s her way of explaining and executing moves, of moving with us, of challenging us, correcting us, making us laugh, keeping it light but also as she says, respecting the divine in all of us and calling attention to the ways in which yoga is not just about moving the body but also the spirit, about accessing the infinite within. I need that. So I show up as often as I can.

As I adjust to my new life in Inwood I have seen several cute nail places in the neighborhood but in my mind I know there is still only one nail salon that gets my money. Bed of Nails Harlem is not just a nail salon to me. I go there as much to chit chat with my nail tech and other ladies in the shop while sipping a complimentary tea or Bellini as to get a set of amazing color changing gel done on my fingers. The women there do amazing nails as well as provide a warm, and comfortable space where you are encouraged to linger, sit, talk and converse while music plays. It’s a class act. And I am a person who is slow to warm up to people, but once I feel like I can let down my guard, I’m inquisitive, quick to laugh, learn, talk, teach, and take mental notes. I knew from the day I walked through those doors that I would return again and again.

Because, as women of color we often struggle to find spaces in which to engage with images of themselves that are not marginalized, destructive and stereotypical it is extremely important for us to carefully select other women who care for us in ways that are particular to serving our needs based on the goals we have set and the ways in which we wish to meet, influence and engage with the world.

Gathering in spaces regularly to get  pampered, fed, educated, mentally and spiritually stimulated, all the while learning and discovering things you never would have anywhere else is an absolute necessity.  My girl at SoulSistah4real always reminds me that in ancient times it was our divine right as women to make time for ourselves in this way, for self care, for emotional, mental and spiritual care.

It still is. And it is up to us to make that happen not only for ourselves but for each other.

 

Heavenly Creature

I took me a few days to get through Maron’s WTF podcast interview with Melanie Lynskey for a couple of reasons.

  1. I really like her a lot as an actress (Heavenly Creatures” is one of my all time favorite films) and apparently she is very shy and meek with a super quiet voice who has and does struggles with several disorders causing Marc who loves her as well to really apply some tough love to bring her out of herself. In this case it got a bit raw and shaky at times but they were both very smart and respectful of one another so it seems they still liked and deeply respected one another by the end.
  2. I’m an accent junky, so I got really wrapped up in listening to Lynskey’s New Zealand accent. I just….I love accents, twangs and distinctive voices in general. The one time I was in England years ago I remember meeting my cousin there for the first time and not really understanding everything he said because of his thick cockney accent. Oh, God, how often as a girl did I do my own version of the cockney accent after watching “Upstairs Downstairs” on PBS with my mom? And now here was my own cousin just wafting his thick cockney over me unaware that I just never wanted it to stop, that although I nodded in comprehension, most of it was just me prompting him to keep talking. LOL!!

So I had to listen to some parts of this interview several times so that I followed it all the way through. Because it gets a bit harrowing, at least for me when Melanie starts talking about her struggles with an eating disorder as a girl and Marc gently shares his own struggle with body and food shame with her.

The part I just loved is when she talks about stopping her obsession with thinking about food and just decided to let herself enjoy eating. Believe it or not, this all starts with Melanie bringing Marc a gift of cookies at the beginning of the interview. The thread of food and body shame runs pretty heavily throughout their exchange. She shares a moment where she looks at her body one day and actually finds herself enjoying it for the first time and thinking how lovely and sexy her roundness was. “What’s wrong with that?” she said. Of course the answer is nothing and I’m smiling and nodding affirmatively at this point.

Many of us who know of Melanie, know her from Peter Jackson’s “Heavenly Creatures” a dark film based on the true story of two severely emotionally dysfunctional high school girls in New Zealand who successfully plot the brutal murder of the mother of the girl played by Lynskey. They do get caught. Yes, I know it sounds awful if you’ve never seen it but it’s really a very nuanced, funny and beautifully directed and performed study of the interior of female adolescence gone just terribly wrong. Lynskey’s pasty, miserable, dour portrayal played across from a young Kate Winslet’s hysterical, fantastical glamour is brilliant.

I saw nothing from Lynskey for years until one day last year I saw her appearance on a few episodes of “Two and a Half Men” which I never watch. But I wasn’t sure it was her because she had a flawless American accent. She was taller, slimmed down and on an American comedy. I was confused. Where had she been?

After hearing this interview it’s become obvious that she may not have believed she really deserved to be working as much as many of us wished she had been. Her self-esteem just seems so precarious and I guess it reminded me of what a lot of women in general struggle with in regards to what they feel they deserve, despite a significant amount of well deserved praise, acclaim and accomplishment.

Now I’m not going to sit here and say, what’s up with that, although I could hear the words in my head several times while listening to the interview. I know why. But it’s funny when you’re listening to a woman you admire, sharing very intimately, the nature of her struggle to see herself at all, let alone see herself the way the gaze of celebrity and fame do. In fact the latter would have greater potential to destroy by degrees without the other.

One of Lynskeys greatest triumphs was just to see herself and her body through her own eyes and to enjoy food! I can relate to that struggle. I can also relate to the fact that there’s really no point at which as women we’re not always working through it, and that accepting that is okay as long as we’ve made the decision that self-hate in it’s various forms does not work for anyone.

There were also discussions between Marc and Melanie about the roles in which both their mothers informed their body and food shame issues which were of course integral to breaking this cycle without making them feel guilty or like they were throwing their mothers under a bus. I know from experience how important this is. As someone who was raised vegan, I have only recently come to understand that in a deceptively indirect way the message that slimness and skinniness is healthy, is also the message that the opposite of that is bad, is automatically equated with shame, unattractiveness, lack of value and beauty. It’s a message I received in my life in formative stages and a way that I looked at the world without being conscious of it for a long time.

Lynskey, in expressing her revelations about seeing herself also said that she likes the differences in the way people’s’ bodies look and immediately cops to freaking out when she watches Awards shows and seeing how skinny everyone looks, feeling like maybe she should look that way as well. Naturally! I would imagine that any woman in the industry who doesn’t look like a stick is always doing the comparison game when looking at red carpet shows. We all do it. But I too have always loved differences and the uniqueness and distinction that people bring to the table by embracing not who they feel they should be or how they should look but who they were born to be. Like so much we know intellectually, that is so much easier said than done, I know, but ultimately, there is beauty in the struggle towards it. At least I think there is.

What Revolution Looks Like

“I cannot know who am if you do not know who you are.

Will you help me know?”

A Huey P. Newton Story

I was chatting with my good friend over at Life As I Know it this past weekend during that insane downpour in NYC which is still going on now and I mentioned some issues I experience when I’m blogging here with regard to my own identity. In this new world, we write and record things for public consumption which often sit in the draft position forever and never get seen. For whatever reasons, we doubt ourselves, have fears about what others will think, have trouble connecting to our authentic selves and back down into the seeming safety of silence where we serve no one, not even ourselves.

It was in one of these unseen drafts that I said I am not a revolutionary even if I do and say revolutionary things. But I call bullshit on myself because I think that’s a cop-out. I just have a hard time taking responsibility for the enlightenment of others because it means I am responsible. And that’s just it. I AM! We all are. Otherwise, what is the point of this life we’ve been given?

Brown Girls Blythe
Three Black Blythes

In 2008 I became obsessed with a collectors doll called Blythe. Shortly after purchasing my own first Blythe Doll I began to see Black versions of her which I could not find for sale. When I discovered that collectors were painting their white dolls Black, I inquired online with collectors and customizers and learned everything I needed to know in order to make one myself. In doing so I created a doll that was one of a kind, and the first of several. It was an incredible feeling. The politics of color with regard to doll manufacturing is crazy. “Skin Trade” by Ann DuCille helped to to understand a bit about that world and how it affects young girls of color.

Reconstructing a pattern of oppression so that it reflects images that you seek and are familiar with in a world that is dominated by ideals from the dominant culture is nothing if not revolutionary.Through doing so in this regard, I have connected with some incredibly creative women who do revolutionary things within this hobby which I am endlessly inspired by. Photographers, crafters, diminutive seamstresses and much more.

My mom was revolutionary when she replaced white baby Jesus with a Black one in the elaborate nativity scene she would put under our Christmas tree each year and when she designed ornaments that represented the animal hierarchy in the mythological Tree of Life connecting Heaven to the Underworld.

Like the history of people of color, revolution has never had only one face, one name, one story, one movement. And that has never been so obvious as it is now with the internet and social media being used to promote the work and voices of innovators, entrepreneurs, educators artists and activists alike. We all have the opportunity to revolt against injustice in our own way.

For myself, I will work hard on not letting my own rigid ideas of what it means to be revolutionary keep me from sharing my own unique voice with others. Because you can never know how revolutionary you are if you keep your light hidden out of fear.