I recently read a piece written by Kimberly Foster titled “Why I Will Not March For Eric Garner.” The author plainly states her argument: she refuses to rally in support of Eric Garner — who died of cardiac arrest after being put in a chokehold by an NYPD officer — because she does not believe Black men equally support Black women in their struggle against oppression. In her own words directed to Black men: “I’m not settling for anything less than reciprocity. If you refuse to hear our calls for help, then I cannot respond to yours.”
Many were offended that the author used the untimely death of a man to launch a discussion about sexism in the Black community and I shared that sentiment. Yet the piece sparked a huge discussion about gender inequality amongst myself and a group of coworkers — who happened to be Black men — nonetheless. Keep reading »
When I got to my friend’s place for my self-defense lessons last week, he told me we were going to do basic self-defense techniques and toward the end, simulated assaults. The simulated assaults were walk-bys: We would walk across the room in opposite directions and he would either do nothing, or he’d very suddenly grab my throat and wrist. The purpose was to train me to react quickly and correctly if it were to happen to me in real life.
But it had happened to me in real life, and after the first or second walk-by, I wound up having visceral, vivid flashbacks to my former partner putting me in arm locks and finger locks, pinning me, kicking me, putting his hand over my mouth, pushing my head into the floor or the bed. I hyperventilated and cried, and my friend hugged me and helped me calm down. He also didn’t let me stop, because the things I experience will upset me sometimes and I still have to know how to handle it, especially when physical danger is involved.
Which brings me to trigger warnings. Keep reading »
A world without abortion is unsustainable for Black women. The barriers that exist to basic healthcare make it a fundamental necessity to have the constitutional right and unobstructed access to terminate a pregnancy we cannot carry to term. If you hold the belief that a person should not exercise their constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy under any circumstances, I challenge you to read to the last paragraph. Open yourself up to the possibility that there is more room for discussion, more opportunities for compassion, and that a world can exists where allowing Black women to choose for themselves, devoid of judgment, when to be pregnant.
Every day we make dozens of decisions: what to wear, what to eat, and with whom to spend our precious time, among other things. Some of us are privileged to have more decision-making power than others. And all decisions are made in the context of our everyday lives; where we live, what we look like, into which circumstances we were born, etc. One consequence of decision-making is being given the benefit of the doubt by the people around you; that is, being trusted that you are deciding for yourself the best thing to do. Unfortunately, this value isn’t extended to everyone, especially not Black women who still bear the burden of genuine mistrust. Keep reading »
When my feminist friends and I began our communal Facebook message thread, we envisioned a no-holds-barred place to discuss careers, gender politics, and the gospel of Beyoncé. But ever since soccer season took the Internet by storm, our only mentions of “Flawless” have concerned abs. In the past week alone, my “progressive” peers and I shared 10 “World Cup Hottie” listicles, 18 winky faces, and too many Netherlands-based puns to count.
As over-the-top as our behavior was, we were never ashamed. There was an implicit empowerment to our objectification, like a hard-earned reward for eons of inequality. Even when I read our conversation (and watched a video of Ronaldo slow-motion jogging) in a very public, very crowded coffee shop, I didn’t bother to turn down my laptop brightness. If anyone saw my screen, I trusted they would be impressed: I wasn’t some creepy guy browsing Google images of Megan Fox — I was a proud woman, flaunting the sex drive to which I was entitled! Keep reading »
Saturday evening on her Instagram profile, R&B singer Ciara debuted a new hairstyle: waist-skimming loc extensions. The style, a temporary version of the loc-ed hair many Black people of all genders sport, sparked discussion both among fans and style outlets.
One in particular, People magazine’s StyleWatch section, posted a story Tuesday about Ciara’s newest mane and stirred a dialogue about far more than trendy summer hair colors. Associate Style Editor Brittany Talarico noted that Ciara is set to wed fiancé Future in a “very elegant affair,” then said immediately afterward in parentheses that the wedding was “another reason [People thinks] she’ll ditch the dreads.”
While the phrase has since been removed, the undertones of Talarico’s words were not lost on some Black readers. YouTube comedienne, natural hair guru and Upworthy curator Franchesca Ramsey pointed out People’s words on her blog shortly after the article was posted. A Black woman with dreadlocks herself, Ramsey noted that the article suggests Ciara could not possibly want to keep her loc extensions for an “elegant” wedding—meaning the locs extensions themselves cannot be elegant. Keep reading »
“You guys know about vampires? … You know, vampires have no reflections in a mirror? There’s this idea that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. And what I’ve always thought isn’t that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. It’s that if you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves. And growing up, I felt like a monster in some ways. I didn’t see myself reflected at all.” — Junot Díaz
As a kid, I never tried to sneak out of the house. It’s not that I was a stickler for the rules (sorry, Mom) — it’s just that all the wonders I could ever want to explore didn’t exist outside the confines of my home. They were waiting for me when I woke up each morning, tucked neatly into the hallway bookshelves whose ever-expanding ranks housed J.K. Rowling, Leo Tolstoy, Judy Blume, and Sarah Dessen. Keep reading »
Fun facts about me: My mom’s whole family is Catholic going back centuries. It’s part of our family legacy – the Veteri Ponte (shortened to Vipond) were Catholic barons in England, and depending on who was ruling and whether they were Anglicans or Protestants, we had our land granted and taken away over and over. One of my ancestors was Queen Elizabeth I’s handmaid, and apparently she was mouthy (now you know where I get it from).
Which is all to say, Catholicism is part of my identity. I was loosely raised in the Catholic church. I stopped short of getting confirmed because I didn’t want to make a promise to a god if I didn’t know that I believed in it. Later in adulthood, when I was attending a Jesuit university, I started inching further back toward it. I took classes on Catholic history and on sacramentalism, I started reading the Bible more, I grew an affinity for Graham Greene. One of my favorite novels is still The Power and the Glory, in no small part for this very twentieth-century Catholic point of view, which I still think is a beautiful way of framing Christ:
“Man was so limited: he hadn’t even the ingenuity to invent a new vice: the animals knew as much. It was for this world that Christ had died: the more evil you saw and heard about you, the greater the glory lay around the death; it was too easy to die for what was good or beautiful, for home or children or civilization–it needed a God to die for the half-hearted and the corrupt.”
Keep reading »
When I was 13, my 7th grade science class was assigned to dissect a fetal pig. This made me massively uncomfortable. My teacher told us that we could opt out of doing the dissection and use approved online resources for the project instead if we wrote a convincing essay as to why we didn’t want to do it. I wrote about the fact that human fetuses are used for scientific research, but only with the parents’ consent, and you couldn’t obtain consent from a pig; and besides, we weren’t talking about important scientific research, we were talking about a classroom of seventh-graders (read: little barbarians) who had other resources with which to learn the lesson.
I was able to do the online project. The next philosophical step, in my thirteen-year-old mind, was to say that if I was going to give an animal the same dignity as a human being in this respect, I had to apply it in terms of my food, too. So I stopped eating meat on the basis that I didn’t want anything to die in order for me to live.
That lasted seven years.
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Remember school dress codes? Did they ever give you a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach as a teenager, or did they stay comfortably off your radar? Peggy Orenstein’s opinion piece on the subject in The New York Times brings up some of the more troubling questions about what the real purpose of those rules is –do they protect kids or just perpetuate body shame?
Orenstein insists that:
Telling girls to “cover up” just as puberty hits teaches them that their bodies are inappropriate, dangerous, violable, subject to constant scrutiny and judgment, including by the adults they trust. Nor does it help them understand the culture’s role in their wardrobe choices.
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President Obama issued a proclamation at the end of May stating that June is officially Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month, but June has unofficially been Pride Month for the LGBT community for decades. We place it in June, and our pride parades at the end of June, to mark the anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion. This year will be 45 years.
The fact that our President is so markedly in support of LGBT rights is historic, but what really makes it remarkable to me is that he and his administration have been vocal lately about transgender rights. Sex reassignment surgery can now be covered on Medicare. Chuck Hagel is now “open” to reconsidering the military’s ban on transgender service members. This is all part of a very fast, sweeping change in our culture’s conversation about transgender people, marked just since the beginning of this month, for example, by Laverne Cox’s appearance on the cover of TIME and a viral video telling the story of a family raising a transgender child. Keep reading »