For the last several years, natural hair “trends” have been on the rise for African-American and other women in the U.S. Just last week, Oprah graced the cover of O Magazine donning an enormous Afro, much bigger than the one she wore in the late ’70s when she first started on primetime. Oprah’s gesture pays tribute to the millions of women who have tossed relaxers and weaves to the side and embraced their own hair — their natural hair.
As I wrote last spring, women of African decent, and some others too, sometimes use a product called a perm to make their hair “more manageable.” These began as a trend in the 1920s so blacks (both men and women) could more readily assimilate into white culture and evade the detriments of racism. If you’ve ever read or watched The Autobiography of Malcolm X, you’ll remember the scene in which he dunked his head in a toilet bowl to find reprieve from the smoldering “conk” (what a perm used to be called) he was using to straighten his hair.
Oprah’s hair was a wig designed by lock guru Andre Walker but the idea of it still persists – Afros, and other natural hairstyles are here to stay … or are they? Keep reading »
Everything you’ve heard about “Fruitvale Station” is true. The biopic, which won the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award for U.S. dramatic film at Sundance, explores the final day in the life of Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old Black man from Oakland who was shot and killed by a BART officer on New Year’s Day in 2009.
The movie flashes between the past and the present, exploring Grant’s relationship with his four-year-old daughter, his mom, and his girlfriend, who was with him on the night he was shot. After a scuffle on the BART, Grant and his friends, who are all people of color, were detained on the platform. Numerous witnesses filmed the incident with their cell phone cameras, including the moment when Grant, who was unarmed and being restrained by several officers, was shot in the back. That cop claimed he had meant to reach for his Taser; he served less than one year of prison. My three friends and I legitimately bawled for the last 10 minutes of the film. Keep reading »
It’s safe to say that Netflix’s latest original series, “Orange is the New Black,” is nothing short of binge-worthy. I devoured the entire first season in under 96 hours (seriously). Groundbreaking on many levels, the show openly displays queer female sexuality and features a uniquely complex portrayal of a black transgender woman (played by the brilliant black trans actress Laverne Cox). What’s more, the vibrant cast of diverse characters offers viewers a rare exploration of what privilege is and how it works. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the show’s main character, Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling), a perfect lesson in privilege.
I can’t stand Piper. I find her whiny, entitled, possessive, incredibly self-obsessed, an emblem of unchecked privilege. But I actually think that’s intentional; Piper would be the character we all root for, when in reality, she seems to be one of the least liked. As Salamishah Tillet noted over at The Nation, the main character of “Orange” probably had to be white and college-educated for the show (and memoir upon which it’s based) to get picked up, and this is a valid point. But with Piper, we’re also forced to come face to face with her privilege, and we can’t stand what we see. [Spoilers after the jump!] Keep reading »
Last week, the controversial professor, feminist blogger and personal essayist Hugo Schwyzer announced on his blog, in an interview with NYmag.com and again in LA Weekly that he was retiring his notorious public persona and quitting the internet for good (or— for the time being, he corrected himself some days later in yet another goodbye). Maybe you don’t know or care who this person is and that is just as well. He is a semi-big deal in the feminist blogosphere in the way that Serge Haroche is probably (hopefully) an even bigger deal among mathy-type people (he won the Noble Prize in Physics in 2012, according to this random website I found when I Googled “Nobel Prize winners”). And maybe we should all know more about Serge Haroche. But here we are talking about Hugo. (For a complete list of criticisms of Hugo’s work, you can go here. Or here. Yes, there are entire websites created for the sole purpose of criticizing this man and his work.) [Note: A few of Schwyzer's pieces on The Good Men Project were crossposted on The Frisky a few years ago.]
I can’t help it. Honestly, I’m kind of obsessed with him. As a freelance writer as well as a writing instructor — I teach courses in memoir, personal essay and opinion writing, the genres that both Hugo and I write — this whole brouhaha is pushing all my buttons. Some people are taking a certain joy in this character’s downfall — which I feel is mean but, yes, a little tempting. Like many, for me, the redemptive narrative of Hugo Schwyzer always rang less than true. Keep reading »
Anthony Weiner’s communications director calling a former intern a “cunt,” “slutbag” and other slurs is just one aspect of the choppy waters surrounding the sex scandal-ridden NYC mayoral candidate’s sinking campaign. But of all the what-are-they-thinking? Weiner campaign moments in the past few weeks, it is the one that has stood out in my mind. Because when Barbara Morgan, the communications director, went off to a Talking Points Memo reporter about former intern Olivia Nuzzi, who dished secrets about the campaign in the New York Daily News, it wasn’t just Morgan’s overall frustration or unprofessionalism that was questionable. It was how she called another woman “cunt.”
That’s a word that I use myself, quite liberally in fact. Now I’m thinking maybe I shouldn’t anymore. Keep reading »
Yesterday was a big day: the Royal Baby! Carlos Danger! New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner’s wife Huma Abedin publicly “forgiving” him for his latest sexting/Internet affair gaffe! While Kate and Wills were unveiling their new baby, Weiner was doing damage control and responding to claims that he’d been sexting and consorting with women online (under the moniker Carlos Danger) as recently as 2012. This was after Weiner was forced to resign from Congress in 2011 amid a sexting scandal. At a press conference on Tuesday, Weiner sounded almost annoyed, and certainly not particularly contrite about his most recent troubles. Keep reading »
I don’t know if I’m the right kind of feminist.
Oh, my principles are in the right place -– birth control and abortions for those who want/need them; equal pay for equal work; full participation in government and society; equal funding for girls’ sports; the right to wear whatever the hell I want and not get chased down a street; and so on and so forth. But sometimes when I read articles by professional, ivory tower-approved feminists, I can’t understand what the hell is going on.
I’ll see an interesting headline over on one of the feminist-friendly websites, and I’ll click on through to expand my knowledge. And then I’ll come upon something like this:
The intersectionality of the diagonalism of the duality of the Hegelian manifesto advanced by Paglia shows evidence of unchecked cannibalistic governance that was meant to be unpacked by POC. Constructivism teaches us that inordinate amounts of identities are compromised by the culture of “being-ness” currently infecting conversations that ought to question assumptions of race, class, and woman-ness. We must disrupt notions of cis intertextuality.
OK obviously the paragraph above is total nonsense. But “nonsense” is exactly how some of these essays read to me. Keep reading »
As I sit in my living room, the familiar sound of rotating blades of a helicopter whoosh above me. I can hear them, hovering. They’re following the Oakland protestors who have taken to the streets outraged by the not guilty verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman. “No justice, no peace,” they shout as they embark on a mile-long march for justice. This custom is a byproduct Oakland’s long legacy of dissent. To outsiders signs that say “Fuck The Police” seem entirely unrelated to the trial, but the relationship between the department of justice and local law enforcement is one that Oaklanders understand very well.
Like Oakland, the rest of the country is in mourning. People everywhere are trying to reconcile how no one is being held accountable for the untimely death of a teenage boy. We’ve taken to the streets, the Internet, to church and community, but one thing that social media has made apparent is that we’re mourning for very different reasons.
For many, we mourn because this case crystallizes how the legal system does not provide equal protection of the laws for everyone. Some mourn because the not guilty verdict means Martin’s parents will not be vindicated in their son’s death. Others mourn because another young boy of color was robbed of his life and it could have just as easily been their son. And of course, some don’t mourn at all — the death of a black boy is insignificant to their life. Keep reading »
Last month, Blogger sent an email to any blogs flagged as having “adult content,” informing them that they had only four days to remove all adult advertisements on their blog or face deletion. My Twitter feed exploded with sex writers trying to figure out what exactly Blogger considered “adult” in both their content and advertising links—pictures of nipples? Stories of hardcore gang bangs? Links to sex ed sites like Scarleteen? Four days also wasn’t enough time for many people to rework their blogs and the material therein — one person lamented that they’d be on a business trip until the day before the “pornpocalypse.” As Violet Blue tweeted, “Google’s @Blogger will delete scores of blogs that have existed since 1999 on Monday under its vague new anti-sex policy purge. It’s wrong.”
Censorship isn’t a new concept for anyone who writes about sex on the Internet, but the Blogger email is just one more example of popular Internet-based companies and social media sites banning porn after years (or in Blogger’s case, more than a decade) of tolerating it. Just a few months ago, Nerve wrote an article on how Tumblr porn might change sex journalism, but for every success, there’s another story of a major social media platform or Internet retailer clamping down on a thriving community or popular authors. Amazon is famous for tinkering with the rankings of its “adult” ebooks,FanFiction.net threw out an estimated 62,000 stories last year, and Facebook’s guidelines are notoriously confusing. We may live in a world that’s more open to sex, but if so, our social media platforms are lagging behind. Keep reading »
As a feminist, kinky person and sex commentator, I am the target audience for Jillian Horowitz’s xoJane essay “I’m a Sex-Negative Feminist” — and that’s exactly the point. Part of the site’s “Unpopular Opinion” series, I can only surmise that the essay, like others before it, was written largely with the intention of riling up its supposed targets rather than fostering a nuanced debate.
I’d also quibble with her quickie history lesson—yes, sex-positive feminism in part emerged as a response to anti-porn feminist activism, but it also sprang from the anti-BDSM and anti-lesbian bent of much of mainstream 1970’s and ’80’s feminism. My understanding is that sex-positive feminism was about embracing feminist ideals and furthering sexual freedom—for everyone, not just women. Keep reading »