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The Joys of Stillness

9 Jul

Recently, Tim Kreider published a piece in the New York Times called “The ‘Busy’ Trap,” where he extolled the virtues of being both lazy and ambitious. Krieder is not really talking about genuine busyness brought on by meaningful obligations, but all the small stuff that can take up a lot of room in our lives. In fact, Kreider insists “Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day.”

Whoa.

But when you think about it, constantly checking Facebook, or tweeting, or answering email, or staying late at work to complete a list of inane tasks that you can do tomorrow can really be desperate cry for validation—even if everyone else is doing it.

When I read Kreider’s piece, I thought of all the academics and activists I know. Folks who are, indeed, engaged in a whole range of cool projects and important things, but who were often crushed under the burdens of too many obligations, too many meetings, and just plain old too much stuff to do. Like Kreider, I believe there is virtue (and sometimes even productivity) in stillness. I know getting quiet and listening to what my spirit needs has helped me tremendously, both personally and professionally.

But what I want to call out today is the commiseration around busyness, as if that mess was cute. It goes a little something like this:

“Oh my God. I really want to do (xyz reasonable, soul-sustaining activity), but I’m super busy!”

“Oh my goodness. Me too! I have this, that, and the other self-imposed, toxic activity on my plate. Oh well. I’m super busy!”

And on, and on. Folks complain but it’s a badge of honor. What I’ve also noticed more and more frequently is the guilt-tripping that some “super busy” folk try to lay on those around them. Yes, the busyness police. Let me assure you that I will rebuke anyone trying to haze me with their to-do list. When I see those folks coming I try to ground and shield myself from the foolishness.

Lately, I’ve gotten back to reading for pleasure as one of the many ways I reject the narrative of busyness. (I know, an English prof who doesn’t have time to do the very thing she loved so much that she decided to do it for a living! It boggles the mind). My friend and colleague, Chantel, a talented novelist in her own right, has recommended and passed along several books that I’ve been holding hostage for months.  I’m reading those bad boys—without the nagging notion that I should be doing something “more important.” Come to think of it, I can’t think of anything more important than feeding my soul. Can you?

So, family, what are some of your methods for avoiding the busy trap and/or its guilt-seeking minions?

The Evolution of a Down Ass Chick, Part II (or Why Miss Independent Is Probably Single)

25 Jun

NOTE:  This blog continues the conversation about the implications of hip hop masculinity on heterosexual love relationships between black men and women (see The Evolution of a Down Ass Chick).

Independent Woman: A woman who pays her own bills, buys her own things, and DOES NOT allow a man to affect her stability or self-confidence. She supports herself on her own entirely and is proud to be able to do so (Urban Dictionary)

My father’s absence and general disinterest in me growing up, alongside my mother and grandmother’s insistence that I know how to take care of myself, led to a fierce independence in my twenties that annoyed some and confounded others.  On the outside I held myself together with super glue.  On the inside, I felt my independence was a symptom of larger issues that required me to be self-sufficient.

My independence was not (immediately) linked to (my) feminism both because I didn’t have the language at the time, and because there was no consciousness or intentionality behind it.  I was independent out of necessity and fear.  I needed to be self-reliant because I was afraid of the consequences.  (What would happen if I needed someone and they left?)

My mis-independence was informed by the singleness of many of the women in my life and the way they came together to take care of me and each other, sometimes with harsh words warning me that blackgirls become strongblackwomen, and I better not depend too much on anybody but myself (and, when applicable, them).  What they didn’t say was that there is nothing wrong with wanting to be kept, cared for, and loved on.  I imagine they didn’t want to get my hopes up so they taught me to be prepared because the ability and luxury of being dependent was reserved for rich women or white women or rich white women and we were none of those things.

The lessons I was given insinuated that I should never tolerate the malfeasance of a man, (as in “you can do bad by yourself”) while watching women, with needs that went beyond money-help or affection, put up with all manner of foolishness from men (as in “do as I say, not as I do”).

The confusion of these childhood lessons are equivalent to the confusion forwarded through mainstream media and hip hop.  Last month I wrote about the evolution of a down ass chick, and while an independent woman, like the “good girl” I discussed in the first installment, is in theory the antithesis of the stereotypical down ass chick, I think in a way she can be manipulated into another version of the DAC, riddled with contradictions about being desirable and unwanted at the same time.

I have always questioned the so-called odes to independent women.  When I taught a Women and Communication course at USF and we discussed the independent woman phenomenon black men overwhelmingly said they wanted an independent woman but they didn’t want her throwing it in their face (I would often tease them and ask if what they really wanted was an independent woman on the down low who was self-sufficient in private but needy in public–an adaptation of the lady in the streets, freak in the sheets meme). But their opinions, largely informed by patriarchy and hip hop, were consistent with what hegemony requires and what we were hearing on the radio at the time.  Patriarchy doesn’t allow for women to be truly independent, and hip hop doesn’t allow women to have much gender versatility.  So, the independent woman becomes an anomaly of sorts and can only be acceptable in hip hop, as a romantic option, if she imitates the down ass chick.   I have a theory… stay with me…

Let’s look at the music.

Destiny’s Child first penned a song about independent women in 2000.  Their theme was borrowed by Kelly Clarkson in 2005… and then a rapper and crooner caught on a few years later.  Webbie’s Independent came out in early 2008 and then Neyo’s version, which came out the latter part of that year, was so popular he offered two parts (the follow up She Got Her Own featured Jamie Foxx and Fabolous).

Something happens to the independent woman trope depending on who is behind the mic (or writing the lyrics).

For example, the original version, Independent Women by Destiny’s Child,  upset a lot of men.  The song lyrics paint the picture of an independent woman as cold and aloof, fully financially independent, and disinterested in men or relationships except for occasional sexual encounters.  This “independent woman” taunts men about how she doesn’t “need” them and they aren’t on her level.  This is the independent woman that pissed off my male students.  Essentially, this independent woman is alone because she deserves to be and supposedly wants to be.  She is the modern day Sapphire, emasculating men with every hard-earned dollar and stinging them with every harsh reminder that they are disposable, replaceable, and not needed.  Her vocality about her independence is a turn off.  She doesn’t play her position.  She is not “down” for the cause.

The Kelly Clarkson (I know, not hip hop, but go with me) version of Miss Independent is a woman who has been hurt so much and so bad that she doesn’t believe in love anymore so convinces herself that she doesn’t need a man…or love… but (in the white-washed version) is able to “get over” her temporary independence and find true love.  Note that this version isn’t about the limitations of men, but rather about the erratic nature of love.  This “independent (white) woman” is redeemable, innocent,  and only alone long enough to get over her heartache and defensiveness.

Webbie’s i-n-d-e-p-e-n-d-e-n-t woman “has her own house, car, and works two jobs.”  His version is a down ass chick in disguise because she is a “bad bitch” who he can brag to his friends about.  She is not classy, and is therefore not bourgeois, and doesn’t use her independence or success to intimate men, but rather to entice them.  She “never trip” because she is only interested in the relationship for sex.  She is preferable to a golddigger and instead provides money to her dude, but unlike the Destiny’s Child version she is not braggadocios (instead allowing her man to brag about her and what she does for him).  According to the song, she has a good job, doesn’t need his help with her bills, has good credit, has straight sex game, and “spoils him” (buying him gifts).  He, therefore, can’t be bothered with a woman with material or emotional needs (a fact that he brags about towards the end of the song).

Then there is Neyo’s Miss Independent, which he reportedly wrote as a tribute to his mother and grandmother.  In an interview he described the song saying, “This song is an ode to my mom, my grandmother, my aunts, and all the women all over the world like them – women that can do it themselves and make no apologies for who they are. They’re strong because they’re strong, love it or leave it.”

Neyo’s initial intention of Miss Independent was not a woman he was necessarily checking for, but rather one he appreciates and admires (which he says in the intro to the song).  So, even if Neyo & Jamie Foxx sing “there is nothing that’s more sexy than a girl who wants but don’t need me”—they are checking for models-turned-housewives, not Ph.D.s and supervisors.  And while I imagine that there are many men who deep down desire to be with a woman who puts them in the mind of their mama when they settle down, this is eerily similar to the good girl—DAC binary.  This version of the independent woman is the good girl that gets put on the backburner while the needy woman gets all of his attention and affection.

There are at least five things that the independent woman has in common with the original down ass chick:

1)      She loves and WANTS a black man (but doesn’t need him…except for sex)

2)      She makes her own money (&/or goes to school)

3)      She is fly

4)      She is put on a pedestal (albeit different pedestals and for different reasons)

5)      She is in competition with the other (DAC vs. IW)

So essentially I think there are versions of the independent woman, some of which challenge the DAC, some of which mimic the DAC.  I also think that when a woman defines herself as independent it is seen negatively, but when a man recognizes her as independent it is an asset.

Independent women get a bad rap.  Seems they are largely damned if they do, damned if they don’t.  They have needs but to articulate them out loud is emotionally dangerous.

Like Destiny’s Child says, “it ain’t easy being independent” especially since according to one of my homegirls, “men need to feel needed…”  Ultimately the men in my class agreed, saying they wanted to feel needed (like their girl can’t do without them) even if its bullish. (Fair enough, I think everyone, to a particular degree, needs/wants to feel needed/wanted).

Here are the questions of the day:  Do you think independent women are another version of a down ass chick?  If independent women don’t “need” a man for material things, how can they express emotional and physical needs without feeling vulnerable (a fear that oftentimes fuels their independence)?  And how can men in/and hip hop create a space that makes it safe for them to do so?

The Evolution of a Down Ass Chick

31 May

Down Ass Chick:  a woman who is a lady but she can hang with thugs. She will lie for you but still love you. She will die for you but cry for you. Most importantly she will kill for you like she’ll comfort you. She is a ride or die bitch who will do whatever it takes to be by your side. She’ll be your Bonnie if you are her Clyde. Thugs love these bitches and they show this by showering them with stacks of cash, flashy jewels and rides. (Urban Dictionary)

I taught a class on black masculinity during the pre-summer session and the course covered everything from black man stereotypes, and the patriarchal requirements of black masculinity to big black penis myths, homophobia, and hip hop.  One of our most recent classes on romantic relationships between heterosexual black men and women inspired an interesting conversation that stayed for days. Forgive me for a quick (perhaps academic) summary.

Several black women scholars, including Patricia Hill Collins and bell hooks, tell us that black love is an act of rebellion.  In a culture that claims black women are unlovable and undesirable, and black men are violent and irredeemable, it is considered “rebellious” when black men and women love each other.  In an article called “Can a Thug (get some) Love? Sex, Romance, and the Definition of a Hip Hop ‘Thug’” Michael Jeffries discusses the ways in which a thug (or hip hop) masculinity makes room for romantic love.  Further compelling (per Michael Eric Dyson) is the fact that patriarchy (and hip hop) forwards a binary way of seeing women as either good or bad; a virgin or a whore; a “good sister” or a “ho,”; a down-ass bitch/chick or, yep, you guessed it…a ho. :/  Black women are situated as either a ride or die chick and wifey (but not a wife) or a disposable chick used for sex and good times.  I wasn’t feeling those options.

As a self-proclaimed “good girl” I find it problematic that “good girls” are punished for being good.  While we may be the ones men claim to “want” (in the long run, when they are finally ready to settle down and do right) most of the good sisters I know are situationally single.  The good girl is put in the pocket while the other woman gets the attention, affection, love, sex, children, etc.  What is wrong with that picture?  And the catch is, if good girls grow tired of waiting and become ambivalent about this wait-and-see kind of love, and if they transform themselves to the version of themselves that men will pay attention to, they will no longer be “good” and therefore no longer be desired (in the long run).  Ain’t that some ish?  Patriarchy at its finest…

When I was 17 years old, I aspired to be a down ass chick. I was into pseudo-thugs and pretty boys, or any combination of the two, and (would have) gladly compromised my goals to be “down.”  Here is what a down-ass chick was:  loyal, sexual, willing to lie, die, kill (read: fight), or steal for her ni**a.  She kept her mouth shut and legs slightly open, but only for her dude.  She was supportive and submissive, and essentially self-sacrificing.  She was glamorized in the music and films of the late 90s, early 2000s (and even currently) and she always got the dude—whether he was worthy of being had or not (keep in mind that having the dude included being his “main girl” if he had other girls, or being his faithful chick on the streets if he was locked up).

The promises of the down-ass chick were intoxicating, seemingly liberating, but what did I know?…I couldn’t even vote yet!  It is only now that I can carefully critique a love scenario that makes it nearly impossible for a black woman to measure up.  For example, while hip hop thug masculinity acknowledges that “thugs need love too”—it is a particular kind of love that cannot be accomplished by one woman.  Women have to be conflicted and oxymoronic to be “enuf.”  For example, you need to be good, but willing to participate in criminal activity; you need to have your own, but let him take care of you; you need to be virginal but sexually talented enough to keep him satisfied; you need to be faithful to him, but willing to tolerate his infidelity; you need to be masculine enough to kick it with the fellas, but feminine enough to be sexually desirable; you need to be quick witted, but not more so than him, etc. etc. etc…

When we went around the classroom, quizzing each other on our “downasschickness” (or desire to have a DAC) I willfully and happily opted out.  “Hell nah,” was my reply when it was my turn.  My interpretation of a down ass chick (the ride or die chick who is willing to sacrifice herself, lie to the feds, take a case for a dude, sit idly by why being disrespected and dismissed, tolerant of emotional and physical abuse and infidelity, etc.) is not desirable to my grown woman sensibilities.  The 17 year old in me was saying yes, but the grown-ass, 30+ feminist woman with things to lose said “hell nah.”  When I said I was NOT a down ass chick the black men in the room were visibly disappointed. I don’t think they saw down-ass-chickness as something linked to maturity, education, or knowing better therefore doing different.  For them, the fact that I was cool and cute, and had been unapologietically vocal about my love and advocacy for black men, should have made me automatically down for being down (DAC).  And then I wondered why something I had once embraced was suddenly something I felt I had outgrown.

When I discussed this conversation with a beautiful man friend in NYC, he explained that what a down ass chick is for a 20 year old black man and a 30+ year old black man are utterly different. At <25, (given the limited prospects and opportunities black men have to prove their manhood outside of macho norms, and the misogynistic and womanizing expectations of his peers and culture about owning his masculinity) it makes sense that a dude may be looking for a woman who is all about him, who will meet him at the precinct and courtroom to plead his case, and be willing to wait on him if he is ever incarcerated…but for a 30+ year old man, who has his ish together, a down ass chick is someone who is down for you in other ways, who is not a liability, who brings something (other than just herself) to the table, and can help you build.  Both versions are loyal and have your back, but when you are older you shouldn’t need your girl to lie to the feds or bail you out of jail or take you back when you cheat.  Further, the 30+ DAC is not willing (nor required) to sacrifice herself or her goals for her man.  They are building together!

After that conversation I realized that maybe I am a down-ass chick after all.  I mean, I’m with the grown ass woman version of a down ass chick.  I am down to be a lover, a partner, a friend/homegirl.  I am down to be a woman who calls out all of your beauty but also calls you out on your shit.  A woman who loves, supports, defends, holds, co-creates and motivates.  Yeah, I can be that chick.  I am that chick.  But she is somehow missing from the (mainstream) music… (or is she some desirous version of the independent woman that, though perpetually single, was heralded and serenated through song five years ago?).

What do you think?  Is there an evolution to the down-ass-chick?

a praise song for mamas: cfc mother’s day mix

10 May
my sister, mom and me

my sister, me and mom (flanked by a passionate couple)

I am invested in sepia mamas. My mother lines my eyelids and floats my dreams. She sits on the right hand of the throne she abdicated to all I might become. “Mama gonna work it out,” Martin versioned at his best. Her frame, I shouldn’t calcify. And I’ll leave her flesh be. I know they all can’t be spirit walkers, miracle workers, love lighters but my life tells me so. And just surviving the ‘buking and scorning is worth sainthood. Much more is our mothers’ legacy though, my life, but one humble example. As these years have gone by, I have come to know the women who’ve mothered me as real people with fears and faults and that has not diminished their astounding light. My soul feels good about the ties that bind and with this mix I sound thanks.

a praise song for mamas

“Jalylah’s Theme” Hezekiah & Muhsinah
“Momma” Hodges, James & Smith
“The Sweetest Song” Stu Gardner
“Blessed” The Emotions
“Echoes Of Love” Black Magic
“Mama Used To Say” Junior
“I Wish” Stevie Wonder/ “Hamburger” Eddie Murphy
“I’ll Always Love My Mama” The Intruders
“Mama Says” Black Magic
“Mama Prayed For Me” The Williams Brothers
“Do You Know Where Your Children Are” Birthright /“Mothers and Fathers” Bill Cosby
“Don’t Cry Mommy” Phylicia Allen
“My Love Is Your Love” Whitney Houston
“All I Can Become” Emily King
“The Sweetest Song (Part II)” Stu Gardner

[STREAM/DOWNLOAD]

no strings

3 Mar

i thought that i

could be brave enough

to make love to you

with

no

strings attached

but your arms around me felt like strings

your fingers, like strings

when you used them to massage my neck

and caress my back

and my legs

felt like strings

when i

held them around your neck

& squeezed and scratched your back

leaving marks that looked like strings

i thought

we could be happy together

laughing before, during, and after

wrapped up in damp sheets

and avoiding each other’s eyes so that we can pretend that it wasn’t that deep

all that touching and holding and moaning

we just did

because we are f’cking without strings

attached

but it felt like a string

pulling and luring me back to you

tying your hands above your head

torturing you with my eyes

because the strings would not allow me to look any other way

or place

as I straddled you and rode you to perfection

but it’s cool because

i never promised to love you

and you never promised to love me back

and i don’t need you to love me

i just want you to want me. . .back

but these strings in my heart

won’t let me

my pride

won’t let me

hold on to false strings

yet somehow i got attached

© R. Boylorn, 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

This poetic response offers an extension of Crunktastic’s Birthday Sex post on March 1, 2012.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Queer Sisters Keep Saving Me: The Brilliantly Selfish Act of Being an Ally

17 Feb

 Guest Post by Black Artemis

Today is the first St. Valentine’s Day in three years in which I write a new blog about what this day means to me. In 2009 I wrote one wherein I recount why St. Valentine was a historical figure worthy of recognition especially in these times and reiterate my support for marriage equality. (These may seem like disparate themes, but trust me, they come together in the blog.) Rather than write a new post, I simply pulled The Spirit of Love and Resistance Behind St. Valentine’s Day from the archives and put it back into circulation every February 14th.

This year is different because St. Valentine’s Day has acquired deeper significance to me. On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of this year, I learned that I have breast cancer.For many reasons, it has been challenging to reveal my condition to those I know who love and appreciate me never mind acquaintances, colleagues and virtual strangers who follow me on social media. While I got over the shock of the diagnosis fairly quickly – I had to – accepting this frightening contour to my identity enough to make it public has been more difficult.

So why am I “coming out” today as a person with cancer? I do it to acknowledge all the queer women of color in my life who have stepped up for me since I was diagnosed. Rest assured, I have been showered with heartfelt messages of love and encouragement and genuine offers of support from people of all walks of life. Every one of them has been integral in activating and sustaining my new warrior mode, reminding me of how too blessed I am to not beat this disease. All of these people are soldiers in my quickly formed and ever-growing wellness army.

But there have been certain sister-friends who have played immediate and special roles through the early days of my devastation and terror. Not even weeks after my diagnosis, the woman I affectionately call my Minister of Defense and her husband helped me clean and reorganize my bedroom so that it can be a space much more conducive to my healing, physically, emotionally and spiritually. In fact, she has been fielding the outpouring of concern from our mutual friends and has appointed herself the coordinator of my extended support system – rides, meals, escapes and other things I may need as I undergo treatment. My Minister of Defense and I were supposed to leave for Sundance a few days after I was diagnosed. Not only did she cancel her trip, she let the others we were going to stay with about my condition. Upon receiving the news, those women made time in their hectic festival schedule to pray and chant in community for my recovery.

It was critical for me to not wait until conventional treatment started to take action towards healing myself. I needed to build my sense of agency as well as my immune system, and before I could even take the first step, my Minister of Defense and another friend teamed up to split the cost of having a box of organic fruits and vegetables shipped to my house each week so I can juice every day. I could not afford to do this otherwise. They also take turns accompanying me to my appointments which is not only of comfort to me but to my elderly parents who insist on coming with me. When not taking the copious notes and posing the questions that I may be too overwhelmed or frightened to ask, they are engaging my parents in the language in which they feel most comfortable about anything and everything but the fact that their youngest adult child is facing a life-threatening illness. It helps them, and that in turn, supports me. Another lifelong friend – a doctor who is facing a challenging transition of her own at this time – not only sent me hundreds of dollars in health assessment and improvement kits including immunity-boosting supplements, she flew to New York City so we could have an ol’ fashion slumber party in her hotel room.

In the fight for my life, these women have been on the frontline. Each of them, at one point in her life, has been in a romantic partnership with another woman. Because I had not gone public with my diagnosis, one of the friends who went to Sundance actually sent me an email to ask permission to tell her partner because her wife had a very strong relationship to powerful ancestors who answered her prayers. I have no doubt that she organized the prayer circle for me in Park City even when her primary reason for being at Sundance was to premiere and promote her own film. All this slander against LGBT people, painting them as ungodly, immoral and such, when from where I sit, they are the most spiritual and even prayerful folks I know.

This is not the first time I have written about being an appreciative ally. I am the first to say that heterosexual people especially women owe a tremendous debt to the LGBTQ struggle for some of the sexual freedoms we enjoy. Ironic as it may seem, the boundaries queer people bend and bust at the risk of their own lives in many ways expand our heteronormative privilege. Their radical decision to be simply who they are makes it much safer for the rest of us to redefine who we may want to be. We have a broader range of acceptable sexual expression because of the queer liberation movement for every time they push the envelope, they set a new “normal,” and it’s not even they who benefit the most for their courage. Rather it is those of us whose sexual identity is already validated.

While I admit now that this is an oversimplistic analogy, I liken it to how the presence of Malcolm X made the work of Martin Luther King, Jr. more palatable in a society where his ideas were already deemed radical. Same visions, different philosophies, both to the left of what was considered acceptable and therefore also dangerous and vulnerable to the status quo. They needed each other to survive long enough to make the impact that the rest of us, regardless of what we may believe, continue to enjoy today.

Perhaps I am stretching for meaning behind my receiving the news on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day this year, but one thing remains true. For the longest time I have felt that in many ways I can choose to do with my life and body – have (a certain kind of) sex or not, get married or not, have children or not – because the authentic living of openly queer women make it more permissible for me to make choices that buck the heteronormativity that attempts to govern even my life as a straight woman. What I do or not and why or not is on me, no doubt. But I have more sexual choices that carry less negative repercussions because of their sacrifices as much if not more than any other freedom movement.

And so it is on this St. Valentine’s Day, the lapsed Catholic with breast cancer is reminded yet again in the most visceral way why supporting full equality and acceptance of LGBTQ people is not some noble feat of reneging her privilege. It is a radical act of self-preservation. In more ways than I can count, queer sisters keep saving me. Again, I am humbled, appreciative and grateful to new depths of my being. 

The day after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California affirmed the unconstitutionality of Proposition 8, I sat in a waiting room at the Evelyn H. Lauder Breast Cancer Center with my parents and a lesbian “sister from another mister.” She reminded me of the previous day’s historic significance. We slapped a high five, and I joked, “If these MFers can’t support marriage equality because they can’t see past their religious dogma that it’s the right thing to do, at least do it because it’s strategic. It’s good fiscal policy!”

“You know how many people would flock to get married?” my friend said. “How much money that would put into the economy?”

 “It’s a recession, yo,” I reminded no one. I reminded myself, however, how lucky I am. Here I face the biggest challenge of my life, and choosing to be on the right side of justice is proving to be one of the most brilliantly selfish things I ever did.

Confessions of a Swagga-holic

9 Feb

My name is Crunkista and I am a swagga-holic. I am under swag’s spell. It is my kryptonite. In fact, the only thing that saves me from this powerful vice is my feminism. I have found myself in some very sticky situations because of my addiction and have too many embarrassing stories to tell as a result of it. For instance, I once flew across state lines just to see a woman whose swag caught my eye at a club. Her swag was intoxicating and I needed more. The night we met, her unfortunate friend tried to kick it to me and it became a whole night of matrix maneuvers trying to get to her while letting her friend down gently. We exchanged numbers and I flew back home the next day.  A few weeks later I was flying back to her city, trying to get my next fix. It did not work out. Sadly, the only thing that was there – was my addiction and her supply. Had I not had that little feminist voice in my head screaming “get the hell out of there” with each and every red flag, I would have found myself in some serious trouble. She was so damn cute though.

Speaking of beautiful women, I recently came across one of the “Shit Black Lesbians Say” videos and was pleasantly surprised when the protagonists were women of color. It turns out that they were promoting a new web series called “Between Women.” I really don’t know much about the web series business and was only recently introduced to them by fellow Crunk Moyab’s admiration for Awkward Black Girl. I am now a fan of both.

“Between Women” follows the lives, trials and tribulations of a group of friends living in Atlanta, Georgia. So far, only five episodes have aired. It has been quite refreshing to see the characters develop and the story lines become progressively more complex. Episode three features a powerful domestic violence plotline, followed by a PSA that I really appreciated. We don’t talk about the domestic violence that often plagues LGBTQ communities and I commend them for taking on that story.

The show features some really interesting characters. I enjoy watching the quirky, awkward and lovable, Sunny Walker, the youngest member of the group “navigating her way out of the closet.” However, (due to my addiction) my absolute favorite character is Miller Harris, the ever so dapper “successful marketing director.” Miller is pretty much delectable and an unapologetic womanizer. She oozes swag and it just ain’t fair. I am under her spell and I like it. Will this be a reformed bad boi story? I sure hope so.

I really enjoy watching the show and thoroughly appreciate losing myself in the lives of these women. It is incredibly comforting to see women of color desiring and loving other women. As much as I enjoy watching the show, however, I will admit that it is not without its flaws. So far, I am not a fan of what sometimes seem like stifling butch/femme dichotomies being promoted where the women who present themselves on the more “masculine” side of the spectrum continually disrespect, cheat on and basically play those who present on the more “feminine” side. I fully understand that it is a drama, and that the writers need to portray stories that hook an audience. But I do expect more.

When I think of the work that remains to be done in our LBGTQ community, I always think of Good Asian Drivers’ performance of Queer Nation. Kit Yan puts it beautifully,“[…] but the truth is that we screw up too. See, we still haven’t found our groove on the outskirts of society. We’re still using old blue prints with bad foundations.”

Check it.

I have high hopes for this series especially because of the way they presented the domestic violence plot in episode three. Given that it is a web series, they depend on the donations of its viewers. I pledge to donate to them and will continue to tune in with the expectation that they depict a healthy romantic relationship and at least one butch/stud/boi who respects women and isn’t a womanizer. A girl can only dream.

“Between Women” is now on episode five but the third episode is incredibly entertaining. Please show your support.

 

The World Can Wait

30 Jan
Members of the CFC smiling for a picture.
Cis and trans* women of color do a lot of work that they don’t get paid for. Work at home, work at work, work in our communities, everywhere really. And a lot of it is done out of love. Love for our communities, love for our lovers, and things/people we believe in.There’s a saying, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” and it has always missed the mark for me because it assumes that we would and do treat ourselves well. Women of color don’t always do that. We have a well documented history of doing for others before we do for ourselves. This self-sacrificing martyrdom has its consequences but I’m really interested in the impact it has on each of us.

It seems like we expend so much energy helping and saving others, we have nothing left for ourselves. I see too many of us feed everyone else and forget to eat. In the case of this blog, I’ve seen us use a lot of energy dealing with negative comments and backlash, finding and becoming resources for those who ask, then end up with little time or reserves left to support each other.

I take inventory from time to time of what posts get the most attention on the blog. Pop culture posts and even more specifically, moments in pop culture when white women do racist things or black men do sexist things get folks all atwitter. To me, this speaks to the gendered racism and racialized sexism that impact many of the cis women of color bloggers here. These posts that rise from our particular stand point are often the ones where we have to do the most work, reminding folks that no, this is not a post racial world and gender, race, and sex are always at work in complex ways. And we want so badly for folks to get it, that we neglect each other and ourselves in the process.

I think because we are so used to an embattled position with folks who wield power over us, we cut corners and are sometimes less patient/more careless with each other. As of late the CFC has taken some hits from other women of color, some deserved, some not, about what and how we write here. I’ve seen moments of real opportunity for engagement squelched by reactionary stances. I look for models of fierce and loving critique between women of color and I’m saddened by how rare it seems to be.

As I check my own willingness to hear the hard truths about myself, I see another connection to  my thoughts about women of color’s labor in the world. Why is it that my self-care to do list is the shortest and the last one I get to? Why do I expend more energy trying to make people understand rather than giving that time to the people who show up for me? Why do I lay claim to allyship when I’m too busy to be present in the ways people ask me to? Honestly, I think I find it easier to deal with someone else’s stuff than my own.

Racism, sexism, queer hate? I know how to handle those. I’ve got my arsenal of feminists theory and lived experience to take them down. By dealing with the world, I can avoid my own places of privilege or the stickiness of issues that don’t have such clear power differentials in my life. In an age where internet courage can allow you to rail at any deemed threat through a screen, we still have trouble saying the hard things to the people who are closest to us.

But I want to do better. For me that means not using the continued assaults on marginalized people writ large to shirk my own accountability to myself and fellow marginalized folks who I claim to love. It also means not expending inordinate amounts of energy on people who have no interest in my well-being because it impacts my ability to be there for the folks who love me.So, I’m adopting a new (for me) and modified mantra:

Me and mine first.

The self-care list gets checked first. The work I need to do for myself is next. Then comes the family/friends/loved ones.

The world can wait.

There is only love…

1 Jan

2011 was a very good year. Last year, I had the utmost pleasure of spending time and falling in love with a wonderful woman. She is one of the most kindest individuals I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. Her smile has the power to light up my heart. Her voice soothes away all sadness. Her touch…[give me a minute]…her touch is just ever so gentle. If I had to describe the relationship in one word, it would be magic. Yes, magic.

What? You thought crunk feminists couldn’t get down like that? Well, think again. Our hearts come in a variety of sizes.

The romantic relationship ended. Why, you ask? Lets just say that life became too complicated. Strangely enough, amidst all of the chaos, she gave me peace of mind like I had never experienced before. When it was just she and I, time simultaneously stood completely still and ran away from us. Like, magic.

Instead of feeling the usual “why me?” after a romantic relationship ends, [warning this will sound weird], I keep growing from this experience. Oddly enough, the fact that I was able to love that deeply, let someone break down each and every one of my walls, and trust that for the first time in my life I had met my match–someone who could take care of me the same way I could take care of them–actually gave me incredible hope. The realization that I had the capacity to experience a love like that actually leads me to believe that if I found it once, I will find it again. Loving her taught me that although I had said the words “I love you” plenty of times before, they were just empty promises of feelings I was sincerely hoping one day to have. Now that I know what actual love is, I refuse to settle for anything less than the pure bliss I felt by her side. Something tells me that now that I have this knowledge, it can only get better.

I have never been the kind of woman that remained friends with an ex. In fact, I felt very fortunate to move to a different city after two major breakups. Additionally, I never had to deal with any “lets try and be friends” nonsense till Facebook came along and ruined everything. With her though, things are just different. I have so much appreciation for her as a person that even after we ended, I just could not find a reason to resent her.  There is only love.

I can’t do anything but carry her with me like I carry my most cherished family and friends. She will always be a part of my inner circle and I honestly cannot picture my life without her friendship. Most importantly, I know that although this lifetime was not meant for our love, she will find me in the next.

For now though, watch out world: I have all this love to give and I am finally ready to give it.

Sexy, Self-Conscious, Sanctified, Sassy & Single: Why I Married My Ph.D.

14 Nov

2011 has garnered a lot of conversations centering on the undesirability (hence un-marryability) of (professional) black women.  Black women have been fed unsolicited and unnecessary information about how to correct and prepare ourselves for our soulmate without giving us the credit due grown ass women who routinely (and effectively) handle our ish, look good doing it, and write home about it.  By mid-year I was already exhausted of the black woman dramas that were being written about (but not by) black women.  It was almost as traumatic as last year’s For Colored Girls

In response and in reaction to many of the speculations around black women and their experiences of being single, I began to write poetry excerpts, sometimes owning my feelings, sometimes distancing myself (as is evidenced by the first and third person techniques).  The following poem is featured in a recently published anthology, With This Ph.D., I Thee Wed: Experiences of Single African-American Women Professors.  I use the poem to think through my internal dialogues about single professionalism.  I am still thinking through…

Sexy, Self-Conscious, Sanctified, Sassy & Single: Why I Married My Ph.D.

sexy.

thirty years later

nakedness prevailed in dim lit rooms

smelling of sour musk and

dull like water,

she longed for silver touches

on her skin, violently brown and calm

and longing to be touched

after years of reckoning

she did not want to be another man’s invention

but rather his salvation

becoming whatever it was he wanted

in the moment, sacrificing herself

to be everything he needed

subsiding his aggression,

swallowing his wonder,

tracing his steps with her fingers.

she was not told about love

only the loneliness it left

and the possibility of scorn

and the vulnerability and visibility inherent in

nakedness

she was told

desperation is never sexy

self-conscious.

ness,

i lose consciousness

when faced with the self-awareness

that swallows me, cradling the duality of roles I play.

professor by day, woman by night.

but not superwoman

and not strongblackwoman,

just woman.

vulnerable and newly aware of childhood scars

and moles like mama on my face.

working these curves because it gives me more than attention,

but ambition,

and power.

because between these thighs is as much treasure as my brain,

and my heart beats strong for every wrong I ever made.

i am self-conscious of the image i see in the mirror facing me.

a seeming fraud, a scam artist

a black girl docta

holding all these damn credentials

in my hands

& a ringless second finger

pushing away doubt and doubters because I can do this, be this

sanctified.

she remembers

falling to her knees and praying loudly and silently at the same time.

loud enough for the people to hear her on the back pews

saying lines of scripture long memorized and silently begging God to hear her

this time,

save her from herself, this time,

& her ambitions,

& fierce independence,

her feminist, can-do-bad-by-her-damn-self self.

sassy.

seemed to my mother another word for acting grown,

womanish,

too big for my britches,

and she felt it her right and responsibility to wear me down,

or with switches harboring her own stifled sass,

wear me out

until I learned how to watch my mouth

but as I grew older,

sass,

kept my tongue sharp like a razor,

with words of fire rising in me,

words on fire forcing me to speak my mind and speak out about what I thought,

no longer under my breath in intimidation, but out loud and lyrical

in a take-it-or-leave it tone

and a take-me-or-leave-me way.

& so often I got left

quintessentially single

statistics startled me

from whitegirl fairytales

& my own flagrant fantasies

so I married me

a ph.d.

to stifle the possibility of loneliness

& it spoiled me with the possibilities & promises

of permanence and prominence

being enough

when stable arms were not there

my ph.d. sweet talked me like the man who never stayed

& the one who never showed up in the first place

this education thing is what mama promised me

what daddy left as a viable option

what the church ladies were so proud of

my ph.d. is not a substitute for a husband

but it is my destiny, my soulmate

the reason I changed my name

& everything I fought so hard for

this must be love.

AFTERTHOUGHT (later morning musings):  I think it is important that we learn how to celebrate ourselves both inside and outside of relationships–or perhaps see our relationship with ourselves as the most significant one we will ever have.  Loving myself intentionally has been the most difficult, yet necessary, feat of my life.  There were times, this year, when I questioned my successess, questioned my accomplishments, as if I had somehow done something wrong by “doing me” and prioritizing my life goals.  This would have been one of those moments when after reading an assanine assessment of why Black women are perpetually single I had a temporary lapse of individual judgment, and wondered, sometimes out loud and oftentimes to my friend girls, should I have not pursued my Ph.D.?  Should I have not devoted my twenties to self-improvement?  Should I have settled?  The answer is no, hell no, to all three questions.  I became a feminist during my pursuit of a Ph.D.  I became a feminist in my twenties.  Being a feminist urges me to never settle… for anything… less than I deserve/want/need.  So in many ways my Ph.D. was my salvation, my awakening, an irrevocable investment in myself and my consciousness.

So yeah, after having slept on it, I embrace my sexy, self-conscious, sanctified, sassy, single self!  You can call me Dr. SSSSS!

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