Tag Archives: body image

‘Dos and Don’ts

5 Mar

The summer of 2000 I went to my hairdresser and said, “I want you to cut all of this off,” pointing emphatically to my badly-damaged permed hair.  She asked me if I was sure and I told her I was–and off went four or five inches of angst onto her linoleum floor. What was left was less than an inch of cottony soft dark brown hair.

I was both relieved and scared. I didn’t even remember what my natural hair looked like and I’d never had my hair cut so short. That very day I went to the mall and bought a whole bunch of big hoop earrings so that I “wouldn’t look like a man or a lesbian,” as my mother suggested I would and as I secretly feared. Oh, the internalized patriarchy.

It didn’t take long, though, for me to enjoy waking up every day and looking cute, taking just a few minutes to get ready, and generally having healthy hair. The stylistic change also helped to bolster my already burgeoning crunkness around gender representation. After I got my mind (and my hair) right, I never looked back.

So, when I saw Viola Davis rocking a natural ‘do on the red carpet at the Oscars’ last week, I thought, “She looks great. And she’s working that dress out.” Now, I was still giving her the side eye about The Help and her conversation with Tavis Smiley, but I hoped the sister would get an Academy Award for her trouble.

 I was also pleasantly, but warily, surprised at the generally positive review of her ‘do in the mainstream media. Giuliana Rancic over on E! News positively gushed about Davis’ hair and I read more than a few articles praising Davis’ “bravery” for wearing her natural hair. Now, I know better than to think that the status quo regarding “good hair” had been changed overnight or anything, but I did appreciate the seemingly expanded range of what is being discussed as “beautiful.” That being said, it’s a hot mess when someone is considered brave for wearing their hair pretty much as it grows out of their head.

There’s always a hater though, isn’t there? So, after all of this gushing, television personality and self-declared wig connoisseur Wendy Williams went on record saying that Viola Davis’ look was not formal enough, in addition to some other disparaging remarks.

Really, Wendy?

Now, ain’t nobody really studying Wendy like that and I’m pretty sure Viola Davis isn’t crying into her soup about this either. However, just thinking about all the crap women of color, and black women in particular, get about our hair, Wendy gets the supreme side eye for this. The thing is, all that Wendy has said is what you hear in barber shops, beauty salons, and on the streets.  Her ill-informed opinion is, all too often, not the exception, but the rule.

When I googled "Viola Davis hair" this medley of wigged out hairstyles appeared under the label "Viola's Best Hair." I'm sort of digging numbers 2 and 9.

And before the chorus of “It’s just hair!” rings out, as Britni Danielle over at Clutch recently suggested, “For centuries, our bodies, our hair, and our being have been up for public discussion and display and we cannot deny the fact that sometimes hair is political.” Let’s not get it twisted.

Between the weather running amok, Republicans trying to get all up in folks’ vaginas, and other general shamtastery, we have big fish to fry. Still, that is not to say that the politics around hair don’t matter or can’t hurt. I know I’ve seen the pendulum swing in the other direction, with folks with naturals questioning the politics of progressive folk with straightened or chemically relaxed hair, wigs, and weaves.  Really? Does the revolution have a dress code? At the end of the day, the choices around hair and representations of feminine beauty are complicated–indeed, as complicated as the folks who rock the hairstyles. If we could remember that, along with remembering that folks just want respect, we can help shift the conversations at beauty salons, among our friends, and in our families. So, with the abundance of foolishness going on I just want to send out some love to sistas rocking wigs, weaves, blow outs, tiny afros, kinky twists, locs, baldies, and any other manifestation of crowning glory. With so much surveillance over bodies (and our minds), seemingly simple acts like confidently rocking a fro or skipping down the street in a lacefront take on all types of social significance.  I’m not suggesting that we forget that, but I am saying ‘do you, boo.


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Hail to the…Naw!

22 Jul

Summer's Eve Hail to the V logoSo Summer’s Eve has a new marketing campaign for their line of “feminine” washes and deodorants called “Hail to the V!”  And, just to be clear, that “V” is for vagina!  If you visit their website you can take a quiz to “ID the V” and get your hands on a “Vagina’s Owner’s Manual.” In case you thought this was some kind of corporate altruism, you can also learn more about Summer’s Eve’s products which, after you take the quiz and read the manual, you will know you need to keep “Lady V” on the right track!

Wait! I think I’m hallucinating so I hit the refresh button… No, this is for real.  In a world of sub-par sexual health education I’m all for some public knowledge sharing about women’s reproductive health.  And in a world that denigrates women and routinely uses “pussy” and other vaginal references to indicate somebody’s lack of courage or general inferiority I am all for shouting out and offering a big up to the vagina.  But this campaign is neither educational nor complimentary; it’s sham.  A sham masquerading as education, homage, honor and respect.

Take their commercial “The V” for example, in which a properly ambiguously female and European voice-over tells us “It’s the cradle of life.  It’s the center of civilization.  Over the ages and throughout the world, men have fought for it, battled for it, even die for it.  One might say it’s the most powerful thing on earth!”  First, it sounds like the marketing team for Summer’s Eve just finished reading some of the vintage works of Brother Cleaver (All Hail  the Power of the Pussy!!!).  Second, the honor that Summer’s Eve asks us to bestow upon our All Mighty Vagina is that of cleanliness and not just any cleanliness but one that smells like a

Picture of Summer's Eve Feminine Wash in "Delicate Blossom" for Sensitve Skin

What exactly does a "Delicate Blossom" smell like anyway?

“Delicate Blossom” or “Morning Paradise.”  In other words, your “wonder down under” stinks and you need to fix it!  This, of course, panders to the same old ideas that the vagina is inherently unclean and its processes are also unreliable and suspicious.  Bringing to mind “dirty” words like discharge, yeast, bacteria and menstruation. Of course, they do offer a scent called Naturally Normal  but who the hell said all our “normals” smell the same.  Not to mention the very idea that you can somehow bottle and sell normality!

Finally, to call “it” the most powerful thing in the world and to talk so romantically about its supposed influence and power ignores the very real ways women find themselves marginalized and made vulnerable at the site of “it”.  How women access adequate health care, navigate sexual assault or the threat of sexual assault, the right to have an abortion, the right to have a baby all demonstrate the ways in which the mistreatment of vaginas has nothing to do with how clean they are but with where they are situated in the matrix of power, privilege and disadvantage. But this commercial, this campaign would have women believe that all we need to do is tap into the Power of the P, most quickly done through washing it with Summer’s Eve, and, like Beyonce says, we could run the world!  Pause…Side Eye!  So yes, let’s talk about what it means to recognize, honor and respect our vaginas! But let’s not allow that conversation to be tethered to the sale of products.  Let the conversation be about what feels good, what feels right, what feels necessary and what feels healthy.  Until then, as my homegirl Tiffy Rose said when she saw these commercials, “Hail to the Naw!” Summer’s Eve, you can keep your faux celebration of my vagina right along with your overly-perfumed washes, spray deodorants, cleaning towelettes!

 

Who the hell you calling fat? … I hope it was me!

22 Jul

What y’all know ‘bout big girls in sassy outfits, swinging hips from left to right and daring anybody to say a damn thing about it? If ya don’t know and you want to, this post is for you. Let me introduce to the world of fatshionistas.

Fatshionistas are reclaiming their right to enjoy their bodies and the clothes they put on them. They make up a growing movement of women who are instituting a new conversation about fat, size, women’s bodies and fashion, all through blogging. From posts on the summer or fall line of a particular designer to posts that call out racism in the fat acceptance movement, these bloggers and their blogs enter the weight debate from a variety of places. Some are dedicated almost exclusively to fashion, or as they call it fatshion, while others are more explicitly concerned with cultural criticism and the politics of bodies, diet culture and fat hating. In the end, regardless of focus, they all push for an expansion of the boundaries around women’s bodies, beauty and fat! For me they strike a chord because, simply put, they reminded me that my body is not my enemy and, as a matter of fact, that my relationship to it can be and is fun and celebratory.

Now, as a card-carrying feminist, I know that I am supposed to already know these things. But feminism doesn’t make us immune to the bullshit it just gives us some extra resources for fighting it. As a Black woman born, raised and living in the south my round body has always been a source of compliment as much as, if not more than, it’s been a source of ridicule or shame. Lately, however the jeans have been a little more snug and the stairs have started to become my enemy so I decided it might be time to get on that dreaded weight loss band wagon once again. But with the diet culture we’re all bombarded with and the fat hating, obesity-fearing messages we get on a daily basis, I sometimes find myself walking a fine line between a little slimming down and all out body hating madness! So, I have to find ways to counteract the latter and encourage the former.

Enter the wonderful world of fatshion!

These women are fierce and absolutely revolutionary, at least in my book! Armed with laptops and digital cameras, they have parlayed flickr and WordPress into platforms for resistance and redefinition and they look damn good while doing it! Or, as one fatshionista put it, she’s “Not a photographer or style icon, but shit, she works it out.” And, work it out they do! They are complicating the relationship between feminism, fat and fashion. For some, fashion is always a part of a hierarchical and oppressive machine that dictates narrow standards of beauty. Fatshionistas are challenging that kind of hegemony by declaring their right to name their own standards. They are reclaiming language, refusing to let words like fat be used as weapons against them. They are providing new versions and new visions of what bodily acceptance and self-care can look like!  Now if that ain’t crunk, I’m not sure what is…

So if you haven’t been introduced to the fatshionista game yet, let me help you out with a mini blog roll:

Young Fat and Fabulous: http://www.youngfatandfabulous.com/

Musings of a Fatshionista: http://www.musingsofafatshionista.com/

Fatshionable: http://fatshionable.com/

Saks in the City: http://saksinthecity.blogspot.com/

Fatshionista: http://www.fatshionista.com/cms/

Corazones Rojos: http://corazonesrojos.tumblr.com/

Big Beauty: http://www.leblogdebigbeauty.com/

Corpulent: http://corpulent.wordpress.com/

Check them out, get inspired and, if you’re like me, reintroduce yourself to your body … but this time on friendly terms!

So, who’s a Fatshionista? I know I’m damn sure trying to be one!

Necessary Fierceness

29 Mar

Its not my day to post but recent events caused me the catch the spirit and pick up the laptop.

If you haven’t heard, Erykah Badu released the video to her second song  off her 6th studio Album (Release party @ the crib tomorrow, feel free to roll through) New Amerykah Part II: Return of the Ankh.

*spoiler alert*

In the video, she gets naked. Actually, its not that simple.

A more accurate statement would be that she gets real vulnerable.

We know this not just because of what we see on screen but because of what she has been tweeting about for most of the month. Erykah lets us in to the must private pieces of herself. We witness her thought process, her checking in with friends, family, babies, and their daddies about what she is about to do. She’s not asking for permission but letting them know as people are bound to talk and not surprisingly, the web is already filled with people slinging hate her way.

Some folks say she copied Matt and Kim. She says that. She says that the video was inspired by what they did. And frankly what she did seems a lot more intentional and connected to what her relationship with the world is. Additionally, Erykah is reaching a completely different audience than Matt and Kim. One of her tweets led me to this response to the video by someone who is not a part of Matt and Kim’s demographic and was able to garner her own meaning from the video. I love that about Erykah. She reaches people where they are while simultaneusly creating  a horizontal loving line that pushes them a bit from where they are.

This album and the one before are incantations. She is using her magic to save her people and get folks to wake up and shake that load off that is groupthink and others expectations. She is being brave even when she’s petrified and creating the world she wants to see by daring her audience to push just as she has in her own town!

She’s f*cking fierce!

Read other praise by M dot and Summer M!

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