Category Archives: Womanism

THE WHOLE KIT(CHEN) AND CABOODLE

When I was growing up, my mother was always funny about how she wanted her house cleaned. Certain towels and t-shirts were deemed rags to be used for dusting while others were deemed unusable and tossed. She wanted the bathroom sinks and tub cleaned with Comet, not some newfangled cream based product. And I had to be sure I folded the towels the way she taught me because what self-respecting woman would have her towels folded in anything but geometrically sound rectangles? Though she had her preferences about the whole house, she was most particular about the kitchen. She made it a point to say to me ad nauseam, “You can’t just wash the dishes and think the kitchen is clean. Wipe down the stove, wipe down the counter, put the dishes away, clean out the microwave, sweep and mop this floor. IT’S ALL A PART OF THE KITCHEN.”cup-in-sink-03

That line always annoyed me. Granted, I knew I was being lazy for not addressing everything, but being called out as such still left me brooding or soundlessly mouthing snarky shit while my mother was out of the room. I mean, couldn’t she lighten up a little? Why did EVERYTHING need to be pristine? The dishes were washed, what more did she want? It wasn’t like I didn’t do any work at all. I did plenty – even if the floors weren’t clean, the microwave had old food stuck to its walls, and the floor was covered in black shoe prints. Clearly, moms was just trippin’.

I see the same attitude I had about the kitchen from Nate Parker and the folks who refuse to see the flaw in his indifference and attempted disengagement from his rape case and the suffering of his now deceased victim. When asked about his rape case, he stems annoyed, indifferent, and he’s quick to point out what he has accomplished since then. He had the trial, he was acquitted while his partner in crime was convicted. He went on to graduate from another college. He married and started a family. And now, Nate Parker has a blossoming career in acting and filmmaking. To him, he’s made all the necessary moves when really, he just washed the dishes but failed to wipe the counters and mop the floor.

No one can restore the life of Nate’s victim, but the least he can do is be remorseful. The least he can do is talk about the importance of consent, integrity, and honesty. The least 1453915282377_cachedhe can do is apologize for causing hurt, for being dismissive, for being dishonest, and for putting his dick and ego above the well-being of his victim. Instead of these things, he is angry because folks are pointing out the fact he washed the dishes, but his kitchen still ain’t clean.

Dirty kitchens are what keep me from being able to stomach The Cosby Show reruns, what has my musical selections free of R. Kelly songs, and ultimately, what will keep me out of the theater while others are watching The Birth Of A Nation. Holding up a few clean dishes while standing in the middle of a filthy floor does not imply a room is pristine and I can’t support anything that involves Nate Parker until he learns it’s all a part of the kitchen.

FREE REFILLS

When I was a little girl, ordering a soda at McDonald’s meant whatever was in that cup was all I had to drink. I ordered, a worker poured my soda from behind the counter and that was that. If I finished my Hi-C Orange before my burger and fries were done, because enhanced-30752-1395980139-8McDonald’s uses those huge straws that suck up everything in one gulp, it just meant my meal ended on a very dry note. Over time, I learned to savor the soda with smaller sips until one day, magic happened. McDonald’s started offering free refills. I could get my same small soda, drink all that orange goodness, and then get myself some more until I was full or suffering from brain freeze and a tummy ache. It was a magical time in my childhood fast food life. Now, the same rules apply, but not just for soft drinks in restaurants.

Lately, I have seen so many women and girls thirsty for attention, validation, love, a compliment, etc…, they hang on the words of boys and men hoping to take any verbiage and turn it into that thing they need to feel satiated. If it’s an insult, they pick it apart, reassemble it, and present it to themselves as a flimsy compliment he really meant to give. If it’s disrespect, they break it down and try to make the words form something else like a Soul Train scramble board – so they can convince themselves that isn’t really what he meant and those words were just him joking because he’s so damn funny. They are willing to create the reality they wish they had and excuse the inexcusable because that need to feel relevant to boys and men is paramount. I understand that need, but it can never be met in the midst of unkind words and backhanded compliments because it simply isn’t there.

In the same way I got to start getting my own soda, girls and women have to start quenching their own thirst to be loved and respected. Feeling frumpy and looking for polls_phil_0041_631151_answer_8_xlargesomeone to boost your ego? Get in that mirror and tell yourself you look good. Feeling unloved and/or unwanted? Have a talk with yourself about how great you are, how smart you are, what a good friend you are, how hard you work, how you excel in areas, and you are worthy of love. Never be so thirsty, you will accept any old words as the validation you need – particularly not when you can fill up your own cup.

Like anyone, I love a good compliment. I like to feel wanted, relevant, and even vital. I thrive off positive attention and engagement with folks I know love and care for me, but when no one is around and I need a feel good moment, I get myself an extra-large cup and fill it to the rim because refills are free. ©

WHO DOES A SISTA HAVE TO SCREW AROUND HERE TO MATTER?

The-Black-Mans-StruggleI love black men, God knows I do (I absolutely said that in my Oprah as Sophia in The Color Purple voice) – but part of my frustration has to do with the fact I had to start off acknowledging my love for them as a disclaimer for what I really want to say. Since I have been old enough to understand the very basic parts of racism against black folks in this country, I have been indoctrinated with the “black man’s struggle.” I think most black folks; girls and women in particular, have heard it since childhood:

  1. The life playing field isn’t level for a black man.
  2. It’s harder for a black man to get a job.
  3. It’s harder for a black man to get a promotion when he does have a job.
  4. It’s harder for a black man to get respect everywhere.
  5. It’s harder for a black man to be acknowledged in the academic world.
  6. You know, you really have to be supportive of black men and boys because after all, it’s harder for them.
    blackwomenmatter

I’m sure plenty of folks reading this know this unfortunately true rhetoric. Most of my life, I assumed  “white men” were the implied group of privileged folks who had it easier than black men and what I thought totally made sense because the concept of white privilege is real. But these days, I’m not so sure the “white man” is the only one implied to have the lion’s share of privileges. In all this talk of how hard it is to be a black man (or boy), the black majority has forgotten an equally important conversation – the fact black girls and women have it just as hard, if not harder. The playing field isn’t really level for black women either. It’s challenging to be taken seriously in the professional world, despite one’s educational background and body of work that should speak for itself. Promotions are definitely not growing on trees specifically planted and grown for black women. It’s difficult for black girls and women to find respect in the white world, let alone in the black one. Black women graduate from college more often than black men, but we’re often discouraged by professors, administrators, lovers, and family members during our educational pursuits. And we have to rail against sexism outside of, but more importantly, within our race, and shit – it’s just hard being a black woman in this society. And folks thought it was hard out here for a pimp. He should try being a ho and see how that works.

Black girls and women are beaten, raped, and murdered by law enforcement officers just like our beloved black boys and men. We are denied opportunities we earn, just like our beloved black boys and men. We struggle with finding our footing in a society that MUGSHOT2constantly reminds us it doesn’t love us, just like our beloved black men. And from childhood we fight against being told we aren’t worthy, smart, beautiful, relevant, creative, innovative, or worthwhile, just like our beloved black men. But we forge our way anyway. We plot, plan, protest, politic, and prance up and down streets on behalf of our boys and men reminding this world the lives of our counterparts matter.

But who exactly marches for and with us? Who lets folks know when we say, “Black Lives Matter,” Black includes girls and women? Who campaigns for us with photo shoots shown in caps and gowns, posing mug shot style, with a sign in our hands stating our major in which we earned a degree? Who tells our story about how hard it is to be us and about how we really just need support during our struggle? Who surrounds us with love? Who RIDES for us? Who lets the world know we aren’t petty or unaware of the way our gender counterparts suffer just because we point out the fact we suffer too? Unfortunately, the answer to that is usually – US.

thumbI love black men, God knows I do, but I don’t love them or respect their struggle any more than I love and respect that of black girls and women. To succeed, to progress, to exact change in any way, we must support each other. The struggles of black girls and women must be acknowledged and seen as inextricable to the black struggle. I can be about that ride or die life, but I don’t always want to be in the car alone. ©

 

SAY YES TO THE SUMMER DRESS

I spent the greater part of my morning fiddling with my skirt and trying to think of new ways to make my stomach disappear without control top panties, a corset, or some quick pre-workday surgery. Unfortunately, none of those options were really viable or appealing, so I had to come to a realization or two – I look good as I am, even as I’m working on my body, and I need  to stop comparing myself to someone else’s body reality and remember to love and live in my own. 2f07044280693a5140b08330507333d1

The whole concept of body image and feeling good about being in one’s skin is an ongoing effort for me. I hate to call it a struggle because something about viewing my body that way seems counterproductive, but figuring out how to love it as is while working to improve it is most certainly a stru…er…challenge.  On one hand, I think about what my body looked like light years ago, pun intended, and I feel like I somehow ruined everything, but on the other hand, I think about how much my body has experienced, how well I treat it, how healthy it is, even if it doesn’t look the way I want, and how it gives me a great return on my investment in it. My blood pressure, heart rate, and cholesterol have never been problems for me. I eat clean more often than not, and I exercise. I should pat myself on the back for that – even if the back I pat has an extra roll on it I don’t like.

As is the norm around the warm months of the year, memes about women, warm weather, and summer dresses permeate my Facebook feed. Today, I saw this one and was immediately annoyed. 11196248_823727781052664_5193530587267528661_n (1)As a woman, I deal with enough. What I don’t need are folks scoping me out to see if I have a spare tire so they can spend time judging it. Whose stomach is this anyway? I spend my days concerned about my professional progress, whether I write enough, whether I can do what I love and support myself, and  if I’m a good enough daughter, friend, sister, writer, and thinker. I obsess enough over my body and have no desire to deal with others who are more concerned about my stomach than I am.

So ladies, if this warm weather has you itching to put on a summer dress – do that shit. Don’t make apologies for your body to any other person because you don’t owe anyone any apologies for it. Just make sure you get the cutest one you can find and that your stomach feels right at home in it. ©

 

AREA CODES

Tupac saw the same ones everywhere he went, Ludacris had them in every area code, and Snoop never loved them. Yes, people.  I’m talking about hoes – the word often used to describe women and girls from every walk of life. According to urban conversational and social norms, a woman can be a rotten, stank, dirty, useless, or crappy one. But take heart, because a woman can apparently also be a good, down ass, and loyal ho as well.  I mean, balance is important, right?

When I was a whole lot less informed and self-reflective, I subscribed to the existence of hoes. I didn’t see the word as a compliment and was of course careful to only apply it to the women who fit the description – women who gave up “the goods” to too many men, women who screwed too soon, women who were too liberal with blow jobs, women whose dresses and skirts were too tight and/or too short, women who wore too much makeup, women who couldn’t stay away from the club spotlight, etc… See, it was ok for me to think of those women as hoes because they weren’t anything like me – the well-behaved woman. I was close-legged, quiet in public, well-read, and had on clothes that showed just the right amount of skin. In retrospect, I am a little ashamed I bought into the man-dated tomfoolery of what a “real” woman versus a ho should do and be, but I’m glad I learned before it was too late.

The entire intention behind the word, “ho” and all its synonyms is to separate girls and women from one another, stifle their sexuality, and destroy their confidence in who they are and the power they hold. The older I get and the more in tune I become with myself as a multi-faceted woman, the easier it is for me to see the flaw in my young thinking and the 58999724disservice society, mostly at the hands of male and religious dominated thought processes, has done to folks as a result. I know now there are no hoes. Hoes and ho-dom are nothing more than constructs created to keep women in check and within the bounds set for them by men and reinforced by society as a whole. I know what some folks might be thinking while reading this – “What do you mean there are no hoes? Of course there are. I mean, what else are we supposed to call ‘those’ women?” My answer for that is they should simply be called women. Since I can remember, I was programmed to separate myself from other girls and women. I couldn’t hang with so and so because she was “fast,” I couldn’t go to certain places because that was where the “loose” girls hung, and I wasn’t allowed to wear certain clothes lest anyone mistake me for a tramp. The divide started early and I was convinced it must have been warranted. I didn’t want to be seen in a negative light and heaven forbid anyone should see me as any kind of ho. With introspection, information, and maturity, things changed.

One of the main problems with calling women hoes is the way it suggests a woman should downplay her sexuality and even apologize for it. A woman isn’t allowed to have sex when she wants with the partners she chooses without feeling guilty because it apparently gives her entirely too much control over her body and seemingly – a certain amount of control over her partners.  If that autonomy is stripped from her, she is left to define herself by someone else’s standards and must spend her time trying to reach for an unrealistic and unfair ideal to maintain her decent reputation. If a woman is completely true to herself and does as she sees fit, her full power is in her possession and no one else can convince her she is wrong.

When having this conversation with a friend, he asked how I categorize women who don’t have sex out of a sense of personal sexual liberation, but instead do it to somehow help/heal themselves because of low self-esteem. I told him those women aren’t hoes to me – they’re just hurt. Though most folks are likely having sex out of a sense of enjoyment, many are having sex trying to replace something they lost or compensate for what they may have never had. Those folks are simply damaged. They’ve been banged up by life and think their sexuality is the playing field where they can recoup. To me, women like this are victims who are hurting and misunderstood, not hoes. These are the women and girls who need someone to reach out instead of ridicule.

I realize it’s difficult for some women to look down from their good woman level and go against everything they’ve been taught about what it is to be respectable, but it’s necessary if they are to ever understand the position of women who seem to have broken all the “good girl” rules.  If more women subscribed to the belief that we aren’t all nearly as separated as we are think, the divide would start to close. This undertaking is probably even more difficult for men. They would have to throw out almost everything they’ve been indoctrinated with to make room for the idea that a woman who goes against the good girl grain is still a woman worthy of respect.

Ultimately, I think it simply comes down to girls and women defining themselves and being unapologetic about it. We are not hoes, tricks, and tramps. We are individuals who tank and triumph and who wear sexy dresses and business suits. Women sleep with whom they like, live a committed life of abstinence and everything in between and not a bit of it makes us hoes. Instead, we are human and for that, we should not have to ever feel ashamed.©

WOMEN – FTW

These days, it seems the best way to get through to a lot of women is to be a man who comes up with memes and mini-motivational messages that sound pretty but really don’t do anything but disparage women, blame them for failed relationships or lack of relationships, and remind them how they must bend themselves into pretzels physically, emotionally, and spiritually to “keep a man.” Though I realize I’m living a testosterone- free existence sans the alleged benefits of testicles and a penis, my hope is what I have to say will permeate the minds of the women who read this despite my lack of “maleness”. The ongoing attack on women and girls is real and its effectiveness is evident in face to shoeface conversations, books, film, articles, social networking, advertising, etc… From every direction, women and girls are bombarded with ill-conceived, sexist, and antiquated ideas about who they should be, how they should behave, what they should think, how they should dress, and what they can say without losing that ever important air of femininity all self-respecting girls and women should possess. If a child misbehaves, the first question folks ask is, “Where is his/her mother?” Because after all, a child engaging in humanistic behaviors such as tantrums is surely lacking in proper mothering, right?  If a woman is accosted by a man in public, be it verbally, physically, or both, the question is, “What did you do to provoke this?” Because after all, that woman knows how her “mouth” can be plus, she really shouldn’t have worn that outfit if she wasn’t looking for something to happen to her. If a once married woman is freshly divorced or separated, she is quickly labeled as yet another woman who, “just can’t keep a man.” Because after all, the positive and lasting status of a happy relationship solely falls on the shoulders of the woman and if that connection is somehow compromised, it must surely be because the woman didn’t cook enough, work out enough, listen enough, or blow her man enough. I mean, seriously, when are these women going to get it together? That seems to be the prevailing question when it really should be, “When is this society going to stop holding women responsible for all the tragedy while stripping them of their parts in all the triumphs?”

In this meme and social networking laden society, I see countless attacks on girls and women. Before there is even sufficient opportunity for a girl to develop into an independent minded, pragmatic, creative, self-assured individual, there are all these societal rules and standards applied to her that do nothing but stifle her personal growth. She must learn early on to suppress her intellect, her interests, her ambitions, and her sexuality lest she run off all the boys with her well-earned confidence. She can’t think too highly of herself and what she has to offer the world because what good is education and professional success if one has no man? I mean, all the personal achievements in the world won’t hold you at night and give you babies. So, before a woman can even effectively get started, she’s stunted by someone else’s boundaries for her life. If her clothes are too body conscious, she’s a ho. If she dresses too conservatively, she’s a stick in the mud. If she likes to have an unabashedly good time, she’s a party girl only good for one thing. If she prefers books and baking to bashes, she’s the ideal for a wife, who will likely be cheated on with the woman having the unabashedly good time. On the surface, all this makes it appear there is no winning. However, girls and women can walk away with the win – if they create their own definitions. When women opt to define womanhood for themselves, be it a homemaking, cookie baking, baby raising, homeschooling one or one of bachelor degrees, boardrooms, mixers, and contract negotiations (or even one in between), we WIN. When we understand “real” women are not just one way but are made up of every kind of woman conceivable from the video vixen to the nun, we WIN. When we stop defining ourselves based on the antiquated and damaging views of old wrapped up in a bow and made to look pretty, we WIN. I see memes regularly pitting one type of woman against the other. Recently, it was Amber Rose v. Michelle Obama waxing philosophical womenabout doing anything for attention versus demanding respect. It raised my dander without question. I don’t know Amber Rose or Michelle Obama, but I do look at them and see two women seemingly doing the work that makes them happy. One twerks and one touts the goodness of homegrown vegetables and regular exercise and to me, BOTH are women deserving of respect and patriarchy has no right to strip it from either of them.  When women become elitist and use what they see as their social status to down other women whose life choices are different, we LOSE. When we let the framework of patriarchy define womanhood for us causing division among us, we LOSE. I hate being a loser. It took a lot of introspection, reading, listening, inquiring, and rewiring for me to get past my upbringing and the affect societal ideals of what makes a woman worthwhile for me to understand the constructs of femininity and realize I get to define what it means to me without the influence of old adages, religious rhetoric, or sexist foolishness developed by men and sadly partly perpetuated by women.  Though it took me almost 40 years, the journey was worth it because – I WIN. Now I know without question, the prostitute on the corner is a woman just like I am in the corporate world. The 21 year old woman with two children by two different men trying to hold it down is a woman, just like the wife of the President of the United States. Different lives, different choices, but still women and deserving of better than a bunch of judgment and denigration.

Despite my lack of male parts, I know now what it is to be a woman. It is simply about being comfortable in one’s skin, being interested in constant self-improvement, and not feeling the need to make apologies for being witty, talented, flexible, sexual, or spiritual. It’s about standing firm in who one is and not letting it be a result of who someone else said one should be. That is how we WIN. When we teach these ideas to our daughters, nieces, and mentees, we allow them to visualize a world in which they create their own reality instead of one that picks the truth for them forcing them to acquiesce to an existence of mediocrity and glass ceilings. I need to see little girls WIN.

Memes and mini-motivations messages via cell phone videos have their place, I suppose. I generally think of these things as funny ways to pass time, but when they are used as tools to down women and convince them everything that ails humans is our fault, I have to take exception to them.  Changing the definitions is how women WIN

 

 

 

Dying To Say NO

whistling

Woman Shot, Killed After Saying No To A Man’s Advances, Detroit Police Say

I wish it wasn’t the case, but I think it’s happened to most girls and women: while walking along minding one’s own business, one or more men scream out their approval of a woman or girl’s looks and a desire to possibly have sex with her by way of obscenities, crass gestures, and sometimes actually touching her without her permission. If she doesn’t seem interested or pleased with the attention, she is told to “smile” or to “lighten up”,  physically assaulted, or advised she probably just needs some dick, because really, isn’t this what all women need? Of course, every man who thinks this way has the power to cure all a woman’s ills with his penis.

Street harassment and cat calling are the most popular names for this behavior and it seems steeped in misogyny, chauvinism, and the lack of accountability this society applies to men regarding how they view, approach, and treat women. Recently, Mary Spears, a Detroit mother of three, was murdered because she dared to be disinterested in a man who approached her. He became agitated and started shooting, killing her and wounding five others. And though this man is somewhat of an outlier, he is an example of what it’s like for women who turn down the advances of a man who thinks like the ones on the street who cat call, bully, harass, disrespect, and insult the women in their paths.

I Was Just Saying Hello

I tire of this excuse. Most people know communication is not just verbal. Tone and non-verbal cues are methods of communicating as well. The way I say hello to my mother is definitely not the same way I say it to a man in whom I am interested. This consistent feigning of innocent gestures based in common courtesy needs to stop. A greeting accompanied by hungry stares and sexual innuendo is not a simple, “hello.” It is a sexual advance and in most cases, it is one that isn’t welcomed. Just stop it.

You Need To Smilenosmiling

STOP telling women they need to smile. They don’t need to do anything but mind their business as they travel from one place to another. Smiles are not required. There is no city, state, or countrywide ordinance requiring women to perform all their life tasks while grinning maniacally to appease strange men who might be interested in seeing what their smiles look like before attempting to have sex with them or for them to smile so men can feel better about cat calling and street harassing them. Just cut it out. If you want to see a woman smile, work on being a decent guy who treats his woman well. I guarantee you won’t be able to get a woman to stop smiling. In the meantime, leave us and our dispositions alone on the street.

That B*tch Is Rude

Listen, no woman has to greet a man back if he greets her first. This is not a life requirement. Frankly, in many street harassment scenarios, the scene feels so unsafe, trying to be polite to a street bully by speaking politely does nothing more than exacerbate an already dangerous situation. Really, even if a woman doesn’t speak because she just doesn’t want to, that’s ok too and the men who cat call need to know that. No woman owes a man any of her time, conversation, smiles, or words of gratitude.

Telling a woman you like her pants while staring at her ass is NOT a compliment. That is creepy behavior and a woman is not a bitch for ignoring that or for checking the man who says it. Letting a woman know you’d “hit that” is NOT a compliment to her level of attractiveness and a woman who ignores that is not a rude bitch. Ultimately, even if the greeting really is a simple hello sans sexual innuendo and a woman still doesn’t respond, that is her right too. No woman has to speak to men on the street. It’s all choice and should be respected as such. Besides, if a man is truly polite with his greeting and doesn’t receive one back, he should just chalk it up to avoiding interaction with a woman who doesn’t want him. Lucky you, sir.

harassmentHow Else Am I Supposed To Meet Women?

How men meet women is never a woman’s problem. Not ever. And men who think the way to “meet” women is by harassing her on the street while she tries to reach her destination safely and peacefully, don’t EVER need to meet women anyway.  Now, there are all sorts of social settings people attend to meet others – bars, restaurants, clubs, art galleries, museums, mixers, meet up groups, etc… There are a long list of places where women likely feel safe and amenable to a man respectfully approaching her. Perhaps the men bothering women on the street should mull this over instead of blaming women for not wanting to be harassed on the street.

As a woman who sometimes walks from A to B, I don’t ever want my safety to be at risk because some clown feels entitled to my time and attention and demands it by verbally or physically assaulting me. I am not anybody’s ho, baby, shorty, girl, or bitch and I don’t answer to those because none of them are my name. Men who know my name wouldn’t talk to me this way and those who don’t need another approach. ©