Archive | September, 2012

Lady Gaga, Beauty, Ugliness and the Call for a Real Body Revolution

27 Sep

Earlier this week, Lady Gaga launched a campaign, via her website, called Body Revolution 2013. An attempt to reclaim the conversation from the folks in the media who were writing about Gaga’s body as seen in a few recent photos, wherein she looks a little larger than she usually does. (I’m not linking to those photos and articles, Google if you must.) Essentially, these (assuredly svelte) members of the media were calling Lady Gaga fat. Gaga, in a missive in which she’s both vulnerable and angry, spoke out about the fact that she’s been dealing with anorexia and bulimia since the age of 15. And as only a global susperstar can, she’s re-energized a conversation about the challenges that young people, young women and girls in particular, are facing as they struggle to accept their bodies in a world that is hateful and cruel. These struggles are both external (how do others perceive me?) and internal (what do I see when I look in the mirror?) and they are nothing new. But a dose of celebrity adds another dimension to this already pressing issue.

Several have written about the potential impacts of a celebrity naming their struggles with eating disorders – some think it’s helpful, others don’t and others find it complicated. There’s something both valuable and limiting about a celebrity like Lady Gaga coming forth. On the one hand she embodies a relatively conventional ideal of beauty, being young, thin and white. On the other hand, it’s notable that these extremely narrow conventions of beauty are insufferable by almost ALL people, Lady Gaga included. I won’t (re)litigate the conversation about the value of her admission here. Generally, I find that anything that breaks into the mythology of celebrity is at least minimally useful, because it allows us to disrupt the damaging messages that come from and through our obsession with fame and fortune as measures of worth. (Here, I mean “worth” the existential sense, as well in the context of capitalism. Lady Gaga is very well compensated for her art, which is entangled with her “image.”) So, yes, a “body revolution” in which we flaunt and expose our “perceived flaws” and  “make our flaws famous, and thus redefine the heinous” in order reclaim our sense of self from the media machine is a good thing.  But there’s something else going on here.

In this charged context, what does it mean to be beautiful? And what does it mean to be ugly? And another question, to complicate the binary between beauty and ugliness, because binaries never serve us well: what does it mean to be invisible entirely? Or hyper-visible?

We, as the social creatures we are, long to see and be seen. And to be seen as valuable, worthy of love, and affection, and deserving of care, personal, interpersonal, social and political. There are many measures of value, and they all depend upon being “seen.”  So, this question, of what it means to see and be seen, is rooted in understanding the pain and agony of people around the world who struggle to see themselves and to be seen by others as valuable. This is about those little girls, who look at themselves in horror and anguish, feeling worthless if nobody calls them beautiful. And in the cases of young girls and women of color, seeing themselves as inherently less valuable. In this context, answering the question “what kind of body revolution do we need?” is urgent. A lot is at stake.

Jessica Valenti’s argument in favor of embracing “ugly” comes from the notion that we must confound traditional notions of beauty and the social value that comes with them. In light of the emergent trend in which young girls get plastic surgery so as to avoid bullying and shame, Valenti argues that there are virtues cultivated from resisting these notions, and embracing the anger and dispossession they engender. We fashion the world in our own image, then, and refused to succumb. I find this argument compelling, to be sure. I am routinely pissed off about the way beauty is defined and described so as to exclude me, and so, so many others. And I certainly derive strength from that rage.

But then, I also have to pause. I notice my discomfort begin in earnest whenever we have conversations about beauty and body image that do not include in intentional analysis of beauty as something that lives right at the intersection of race, age, ability, gender and sex. It’s not an expendable luxury here, to name these things. For women of color, the notion of embracing and seeking the upside of ugliness is a complicated task in the fight against invisibility on one hand and hyper-visibility on the other. Think of how transgender bodies are erased by the various industrial complexes in which we are mired. CeCe McDonald’s very identity is rendered irrelevant when she, a trans woman, is incarcerated and placed in a men’s detention facility. Think about the double-sided scourge of Islamophobia and misogyny that Middle-Eastern and South Asian women face daily. Think about the legacy of slavery in which black women’s bodies were treated as commodities with categorically dehumanized desirability, worth and beauty. Think about the research telling us that women with disabilities are more likely to suffer domestic violence and sexual assault than women without disabilities. Think about the incessant slut-shaming and victim-blaming that characterizes our national conversations about violence against women.

In these contexts, what is the upside of ugly? Or as Lady Gaga beseeches us to, how do we “redefine heinous?” When “ugliness” carries the threat of violence and disenfranchisement, what does it mean to embrace  “ugly?” For a person whose body is dehumanized and positioned as the very definition of undesirable, is it possible to “redefine heinous?” Perhaps, but its not neat. To do so we have a lot to dismantle. To do so we have to dwell in the intersections. Beauty and ugliness are not two sides of a coin, they are the same side of the same coin.

To dismantle them involves thinking through what the other side of that coin is. What does is mean for us to see each other as fully human? And as singularly and collectively valuable?

This project is different than the project of asserting that we are all beautiful in our own way (like those Dove “Campaign for Real Beauty” campaigns implore of us). It is different than embracing the character building elements of being seen as “ugly.” It involves conversation about what makes us human and valuable. And it must also include a re-definition of both “beauty” and “ugliness” alike.

Maybe THAT is the body revolution we need.

Pic via.

Throwback Thursday Remix: How to Say No…And When to Say Yes!

20 Sep

(This entry combines a previous entry, dated March 14, 2011, with a new reflection).

Saying No

It took me years to unlearn the habit of saying yes automatically when someone asked me for (or to do) something. So often had that single syllable fallen from my tongue that I would often agree to things before people even asked.  In time I realized that I had spoiled the people around me to the point that they assumed I owed them a response of agreement, no matter how inconvenient and unreasonable it was. Many times, if I was unable to concede, they would be agitated and annoyed—and I would feel guilty. To this day I find that when I tell someone no, even a stranger, they seem surprised, almost offended, at my nerve.

And perhaps it is nerve. And the fact that saying yes all the time got on my very last one, and kept me on edge. I would say yes because as a self-described superwoman and strongblackwoman it was the only word I knew to say. I would say yes because I was flattered at the request(s), anxious to people please, and focused on making other people happy. I would say yes because it felt like the right thing to do, the polite reply to any well-intentioned question, and evidence that I was a good/nice/sweet/reliable/thoughtful/friendly/generous person. I would say yes because I felt like people were taking score, and I wanted to always be on the plus side (even though, like most people who perpetually say yes, I hardly ever asked anyone for anything). But the yeses nearly took me out. I realized that saying yes to everyone else was in essence saying no to myself. No, my personal time and space wasn’t important. No, sleep was optional and it was reasonable to expect me to accomplish multiple tasks in a day. No, I don’t deserve a moment to breathe or a moment of reprieve.

When I learned to say no, I realized that it did not require an explanation and that “No” is an adequate one word response. There didn’t have to be a substantial reason why. No. I didn’t need an excuse or grand reason that I didn’t want to participate in an event, or guest lecture in a class, or attend a workshop, or go to dinner, or review this book or this article, or go out on a date, or join a club or support group, or be a mentor/advisor/reader. No.

Sometimes it (the no) is because I am simply tired, overwhelmed, depressed, moody, PMSing, jonesing, or otherwise distracted. Other times it is because my plate is already full, overflowing with the residue of other unintentional or well-meaning yeses. And sometimes, it is because I simply don’t want to, don’t have any interest or desire to, and would prefer to indulge in doing something else or nothing at all.

No, I don’t have other plans or a laundry list of chores to accomplish first;

No, I am not sick or bedridden;

No, I don’t have a deadline or a stack of papers to grade;

No, I’m not caking or sexing or crying;

No, I just don’t want to.

I don’t feel like it.

I have a date with my damn self, bubble bath, glass of wine, mellow music and all, and I’m not breaking it. I have had a long day/week/month and I just want to chill. I need some personal, one-on-one, just me and the reflection in the mirror time. No, no, no, no, no!

So, in the spirit of knowing how to say no… I have the following suggestions that I have learned over the years (post 30):

1. Always say “no” first. Do not allow “yes” to be your default answer. It is easier to go back later and say yes, than it is to go back later and say no.

2. Never agree to do something on the spot. Always take some time to think about it and consider whether or not it is going to be an imposition. If it is, say no.

3. Limit yourself on how many things you agree to do (beyond your comfort zone) every month/semester/year, etc. I say “yes” to three things beyond my regular responsibilities every academic semester. After that, I almost always (depending on the request) say no. NOTE: I said beyond my regular responsibilities, which already leave me with limited personal time.

4. Never compromise your peace. If you have a full plate, acknowledge it. Don’t try to overcompensate for a previous “no” with a present “yes.” Never agree to do something you are not comfortable doing or that will stretch you beyond your limits. You do not owe anybody anything!

5. If you have a choice (and clearly, sometimes, whether it be for personal or professional reasons, we don’t), reserve the right to decline or say no.

6. Save some “yeses” for yourself. Women have the tendency to put other people’s needs and priorities above their own. Self-care is not selfish and even if it were, we deserve self-indulgence every now and then. Don’t say yes to something that is essentially saying “no” to yourself. Take care of yourself.

7. Don’t apologize for saying no. You have every right to decline a request or refuse an opportunity. You should not feel like you are doing something wrong, being rude, disrespectful, or obstinate. No is the other option to yes. It is a neutral response, neither positive or negative (regardless of the requestor’s reaction).

8. It is not a sin to change your mind. Don’t feel locked into something just because you may have agreed to do it in the past. Circumstances change. Your #1 obligation should be to yourself.

Saying Yes

After reviewing my “no” list, at the near end of a painstakingly stressful week of long days and short nights, I realized that while it is important to know how to say no, it is equally important to know when to say yes.  Here are some reasons to say yes:

1. Say yes if/when you are being offered a once in a lifetime opportunity.  Last year I traveled to South America in August and went on a 7-day cruise with my maternal family for Thanksgiving, two things I almost declined doing because of the physical and financial costs.  When I thought about the uniqueness of each opportunity, and how I may never have the same chance again, I said yes.

2. Say yes when saying yes makes you feel good.  Whether it be indulging in a sinful dessert, buying the bad-ass shoes, or making love, give in to your cravings when possible. And let others love on/take care of you.

3. Say yes when saying yes can/will make a positive difference in someone’s life (including your own).  Sometimes something seemingly insignificant to you can have a lasting impact on someone else.  And sometimes the smallest effort on your part can make a significant difference in your future.

4. Say yes when you really want to say yes.  While I don’t think we should ever say yes out of some sense of responsibility, if you want to say yes, you should!  There have been times I have been tempted to say no just for the hell of it, or because I was already over-committed, or because I didn’t want to seem too available, or because I didn’t want to seem over-eager, or because I wanted to give someone else the opportunity, or because I felt guilty for having declined a different invitation (see #3 of The No List), or out of concern about what someone else may think/say.  At the end of the day, if it is something you want to do, something that will make you happy, do it!

5. Say yes when it is the opportunity to do something you have never done before.  Be open to new experiences. (Hike a mountain…why not!?!)

6. Say yes when saying yes can benefit your overall health and well being (i.e., yoga, juicing, massage, exercise).  Sometimes saying yes is saying no… yes to healthy choices, is no to unhealthy ones.

7. If it has anything to do with your Mama… say yes!

8.  If there is ever a conflict between the yeses and the no’s (meaning you feel conflicted or uneasy and/or you feel ambivalent) say no!!  A guilt-inspired or unenthusiastic yes is really a silent no.  Say your no’s out loud (so people can hear them)!

9. Always revert to #1, 2, 3, 6, 7 & 8 of The No List.

Here’s a little Destiny’s Child to bring this throwback flashback full circle.

Striking Teachers are Also Parents

17 Sep

Image

After a civil and frank discussion, the House of Delegates voted NOT to suspend the strike, but to allow two more days for delegates to take the information back to the picket lines and hold discussions with the union’s more than 26,000 members throughout Chicago. Teachers and school staff will return to the picket lines of the schools at which they teach at 7:30 a.m. Monday and, after picketing together, will meet to share and discuss the proposal. (http://www.teachersforjustice.org/)

When I look at this picture I see striking teachers and staff, but I also see mothers, grandmothers, fathers, aunties, workers just out of college, homeowners, community members, taxpayers, etc.  When I look at this image I see folks that look like the parents and children that are most effected by the strike and have been most impacted by high stakes testing policies.  To be clear, these policies have not produced significant gains for poor, working poor, and working class students of color in Chicago or nationally, but they are doing other types of political, social, and economic work.  Unionized workers have less political voice, schools are largely re-segregated (public/private), and testing is big business.

I recently spoke with a friend who used to teach in Atlanta Public Schools, which has been devastated by test cheating scandals and subsequent school closings( largely in black communities).  She now works at a Kipp charter school. When I asked if there was a significant difference in administrative support for her as a teacher her response was, “Not really.”  But now she works from 7:30am-5:30pm.  I keep hearing the “whatever it takes” mantra often from male administrators in elected office, charter management companies, and school officials.  What I do not hear is any recognition that my friend may want to have children or that many teachers do have children which should not decrease their ability to be teachers.

My experience working in labor taught me that I had to look at the whole person.  A teacher is not just a worker, then a parent, then a spouse, then a daughter, then a grad student, then an active church member, then an involved member of the polity, then a block captain for her street.  She is all of those things at once.  A ten hour work day, with impromptu mandatory meetings at 5:30pm, or an Open House at 6pm after the ten hour day is exactly what unions should be fighting against.  The lions share of the burden for improving our children’s education can not rest on the shoulders of women.  Teachers need protections and they must have the ability to exercise their voice to fight for the rights of children in the classroom, and to protect the best interests of their households as members of Chicago communities.

26,000 teachers and staff made a decision to strike in a Chicago climate where youth violence has been horrific, a housing crisis has wrecked communities, and the financial “crises” have destroyed households.  There is so much more to the story of Chicago education woes.  I have to believe that recent college graduates who choose to go into this profession and veterans who choose to stay in this profession, knowing that all the difficulties the city experiences show up in the classroom everyday; I have to believe that they are bargaining for long-term investments not only in our children, but our collective future as a nation.

For more than a decade now teachers have been vilified as the reason for poor educations standards.  In this moment they are making themselves visible and speaking back in a collective voice.  I for one, as a parent, am listening.

For more on the Chicago teacher’s strike check out the following links:

THE STRIKE IS STILL ON!

The Chicago Teachers’ Strike: Its National Significance

Why I Support Chicago Teachers and Parents: $15 Billion Wasted on NYC Teacher Evaluation System

Mayor Rahm-Ney’s Attack on the Chicago Teachers Union

 

Cake! Cake! Cake! Cake!: Let’s Take 2Chainz to School

13 Sep

At the Crunk Feminist Collective, there are educators among us who teach in unsafe classrooms, around uncomfortable kitchen tables, in crumbling youth centers, and between warring crowds on police-barricaded streets. We teach because we believe that offering a lens and the language to critically engage the world are fundamental to changing the world.  It seems to be a lofty charge, but we are anchored by it especially when we spend thankless, countless hours preparing the “perfect” lesson plan and notes to incite and inspire young folks.

Today, I am bringing the classroom to the blog. From a horsefly’s golden bum named Beyoncé to poisonous Tupperware-like butt pumping parties, the CFC has covered how the booty continues to frame desirability and identity. We have described how the commodified, sexual display of Black buttocks dates back to the iconic backside of South African Sarah Baartman, dubiously dubbed the Hottentot Venus.

Let’s talk about eating the Other as theorized by bell hooks. Here are two recent objects/images of dismembered Black female bodies molded as cakes and offered up for public consumption.

The first object/image circulated this Spring when the Swedish Minister of Culture kicked off World Art Day with a ceremonial cut to the genitals of the black-coated, blood-colored cake. The blackface performance artist screamed amid gawking onlookers who laughed, snapped photos, and later gobbled the cake, bottom upward. The viral video sparked outrage across the globe.  In a refined statement the Black male artist, Makode Linde, said his intention was to make viewers uncomfortable and to call attention to “genital mutilation” or more specifically clitoridectomy (i.e., the removal of the clitoris).  The second object/image is also of a cake—a cake in the shape of a thong-wearing booty that is presented to the Black male artist 2Chainz in a music video. In the chart topping record, “Birthday Song,” the rapper repeats: “All I want for my birthday is a big booty hoe.”Cake from "Birthday Song" by 2Chainz

If you can stomach watching both of the videos, tell us:  Is there any difference between the two cakes?

(Warning: Videos links contain explicit material.)

Swedish cake art termed racist Cake art stirs heated debate over racism in Sweden. CNN’s Nima Elbagir reports

Birthday Song by 2Chainz featuring Kanye West

Further Reading:  Willis, D. (2010). Black Venus, 2010: They called her “Hottentot”. Philadelphia, Pa.: Temple University Press.

Next Class:

The Crunk Feminist Collective will talk to three authors about hip hop feminism featured in their new books, Wish to Live: The Hip-Hop Feminist Pedagogy Reader edited by Ruth Nicole Brown and Chamara Jewel Kwakye, and Hip Hop’s Li’l Sistas Speak: Negotiating Identities and Politics in the New South by Bettina Love.

Starting With A Guide: New models of collaborative scholarship

10 Sep

Back in July, I attended nerd camp, THATCamp CHNM. I learned about the visualization tool Viewshare, created by the Library of Congress. I’m happy to announce the launch of Dr. Stephanie Evans’ “SWAG Diplomacy,” a project I helped her build in Viewshare.

SWAG Diplomacy, as described by Dr. Evans, “maps locations of 200 African American autobiographers who wrote international travel memoirs.” You can click on any country and see all the famous African Americans who wrote about traveling to that place. You can click on a person and discover the places they traveled. You get a sense of the amazing places that Black folks have been and the cross-pollination of cultures throughout the Diaspora. Students can “Start with a guide” and learn more about these prominent historical figures and hopefully be inspired in the process.

Dr. Evans specifically designed a project that would be free and open to the public with the expressed intent of having it used in K-12 classrooms as part of a multi-pronged curriculum. She even made sure that it met the Georgia public school curriculum requirements and consulted other teachers along the way. This is the kind of academic work I want to produce. As we think about how to address the crisis in U.S. public schools, I wonder how projects like this can be a model. How can we create more collaborative spaces across the various levels of educational institutions? I am very proud to have been a part of a project that integrates theory and practice so well.

After completing the project, the fine folks at the Library of Congress were interested in how we created our map. Dr. Evans and I were interviewed about the project and you can read the interview in full at The Signal, The Library of Congress’s blog. It’s work like this that gets me excited about the possibilities of the academy. I got to collaborate with Dr. Evans, fellow Crunk Feminist and Women’s Studies colleague Whitney Peoples, and create a map that has application beyond colleges and universities. This is scholarship!

What projects are you excited about and what’s on your radar as a cool innovative tool for the work you are doing in the world?

Throwback Thursday: In the Meantime–Some Thoughts on Voting

6 Sep

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be a progressive in a political world that mostly recognizes the binary of Republican and Democrat. Now that the Democratic National Convention is in full swing–especially after rousing speeches by First Lady Michelle Obama and former president Bill Clinton–the questions concerning the role of those of us on the far left in mainstream politics seem more pressing than ever. So, for this Throwback Thursday, I wanted to revisit a post I wrote in 2010 about voting.  What is your take on those with radical politics voting in our decidedly imperfect political model? *****************************************************************************************************************************

This was originally posted on November 4, 2010  

 

Though the gains the Republicans/Tea Partiers/general all-around fools have made this past Tuesday should be no surprise, they are, nonetheless, disheartening.  Living in Alabama where the electoral choices seem to be conservative candidate A v. ultra-conservative candidate  B, it’s hard for this crunk feminist to feel good about her choices. ‘Cause let’s be real: when you choose between the lesser of two evils, you’re still choosing evil.

Nonetheless, with a heavy heart, I went down to my local voting spot to exercise my right and, to be honest, to show my damn face.  As I walked toward the entrance, there was a trio of law-abiding black folk sitting exactly thirty feet from the front door. One called out to me, saying, “My princess, here’s a sample ballot.” (Side bar: I don’t think I’ve ever been called “princess” in my entire life, but I’mma let that one slide since the sister was an elder and trying to do her civic duty). I noticed they were handing out sample ballots to every black person who crossed their path. I also noticed that they were getting some serious side eye from some melanin-lite voters. Sigh. 

I entered the building feeling a lot more sad than I did two years ago. Not that I was jumping up for joy in 2008 either, but I digress.  Once I got inside I noticed lots of black people voting. Like, a whole lot. Like, most of the people in the room.I’ll admit it. I had a sort of kumbaya moment seeing everybody.  Standing behind a sister, we exchanged greetings. I asked how she was, and she replied, “Blessed, really blessed. Happy to be able to do this.” She said this with a simple grace and dignity. All I could do is nod in reply.

Herein lies the rub. Black folks in Alabama have not the opportunity and safe conditions to vote in for all that long. The politics here are so retrograde that driving through this state sometimes I feel like I am not in the 21st century at all, but in some strange time warp. So, I can’t dismiss the mere right and opportunity to vote as something that is not particularly significant. At the same time, in a place like Alabama (and increasingly across the country), those of us on the left–shoot, even moderates!–are getting shut out as the Right/Wrong has a very successful political temper tantrum. So, what does it mean when 1) you have to choose between the lesser of two evils and 2)your “lesser evil” has no chance of even remotely winning. Let’s be clear, while fools like Palladino are dismissed in New York (for now), candidates in his vein (who are ridiculous, uninformed, and who spew hateful nonsense) summarily thrash their more moderate opponents in my neck of the woods.

In other words, what does exercising the right to vote mean when the system is so ridiculously effed up? I guess what I’m trying to figure out  is, what are the strategies those of us on the left (can) employ in the face of such rapidly encroaching/re-entrenching conservatism, both locally and nationally? For while I see the most efficacy in battling oppressions in our local communities, the fact of the matter is national de jure sanctions do affect the everyday lives of Americans. For example, I remember reading about so-called welfare reform as a kid in my social studies class and not soon after experiencing its effects in my own home, so the notion of opting out of the national dialogue does not ring true to me at all. At the same time, I’ve been known that hope is not a political strategy and that we are going to need more rigorous and radical applications for justice and social change. I’d love to hear your thoughts on voting, the election, and the state of progressive politics.

At the Risk of Sounding Angry: On Melissa Harris-Perry’s Eloquent Rage

3 Sep

The internets were all abuzz over the weekend sharing clips of our collective Black feminist shero Melissa Harris-Perry’s Saturday morning show. During the show, she lost her cool with panelist Monica Mehta, a conservative financial expert, who represented every unthoughtful mythic thing that I’ve come to believe a person has to believe in order to be a member of today’s racist Republican Party.

After I posted the clip to my FB page, a former student of mine, simply commented that this was an example of “eloquent rage.” She knew I would get the reference, because the first time she ever used it was in reference to me, and my impassioned style of teaching students about the politics of race, class, and gender. My first reaction to being characterized in this way was denial. “I’m not angry,” I told her. “I’m passionate.” And then she looked at me with a tell-tale knowing honesty and said simply, “You know you’re angry, Brittney.” (Sometimes in some places, I let my students call me by name.)

It was one of the most transformative moments in my teaching because I realized a.) that it was anger, and not merely passion b.) that I was bringing it with me into the classroom c.) that I had a right to be angry about the injustices that I teach about  and live daily and d.) I could resist and deny my anger or use it to make me better at what I do. I chose the latter.

When I watched Melissa lose it, oh so beautifully, passionately, eloquently, and truthfully, for the brief moment that she did I experienced deep and profound knowing, the knowing that comes from the frustration of having to listen to people talk sideways to you, about shit that is merely theoretical for them, all the while you know that the attitudes they hold are especially detrimental to people who look like you.

It is even more infuriating when people of color espouse such bullshit. I know that all Black and Brown folk don’t think alike. I also know that when folk of color align themselves with the Republican Party, that alignment is often deeply tied to a deep disdain and disavowal for what they perceive to be a narrative of Black victimhood that makes one beholden to social entitlements (welfare). I know Black and other non-white folks who’ve made their life paths about distancing themselves from such a narrative. There is also a liberal version, and that version is a Toure’ style “post-Blackness” “post-race” blah. But to believe in any of it is to remain in deep denial about the way that white supremacy structures our society. 

This denial allows people to see MHP’s expression of anger as over the top and out of order, and miss the fact that Clint Eastwood’s “performance” at the RNC last week was nothing if not a classic white male racial temper tantrum.

It also allowed Monica Mehta’s persistent use of racial microaggressions towards Black people to come off as earnest commentary, while Melissa’s emotional reaction was perceived as disproportionate to the slight. There is also a racialized gender dynamic at play as well in which white women and non-Black women who are frequently exoticized  can use the hyperfemininity ascribed to their bodies as a shield behind which they get to say the most racially problematic shit, and have it remain unrecognized as aggressive and offensive. 

I applaud MHP for her show of eloquent rage. It was honest, and it is so necessary in this moment of massive political dishonesty. Moreover, in light of the destruction caused by Hurricane Isaac and the personal impact that it had on MHP’s family, her stress was completely understandable.

MHP’s house destroyed in Hurricane Isaac

Even when she apologized for losing it, I’m glad that she took off the strong Black woman mask, and said in effect, I’m stressed, my family just lived through another Hurricane on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, and even though I have this fancy job and resources at my disposal, all is not well. In other words, she wasn’t just showing anger. She was showing pain. The kind of pain that Black women are frequently not allowed to publicly  acknowledge is actually happening in our own lives.

One of the ways White supremacy and sexism works is through a putative disavowal of emotion as a legitimate form for expressing thought. Women and Black people are overly emotional, so the conventional wisdom goes. We have been taught to overcompensate for this stereotype by being overly composed, even when anger is warranted. And we are wholly unprepared when our emotions start to split the seams of our tightly put on public selves. Perhaps it’s time to change clothes, and intentionally put on something that gives us room to breathe.

For me, that has meant embracing my own crunkness. Why go off when I can GET CRUNK? And by that I mean I can make an  intentional choice to use my legitimate and righteous anger in an honest and compassionate way that is potentially transformative. 

I, for one, am thankful for MHP’s voice and her courage, and yep, you guessed it– her CRUNKNESS.

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