Links of the Week April 1, 2013

Hi Everyone,

We were away last week. Actually spent it in the beautiful mountains of Colorado. Hoping to write a blog post related to that experience soon.  But here are some articles and blogs that we thought were interesting.

1Beyoncé asks women to ‘bow-down’: Is this an identity crisis? [ The Grio]

And this is why it seems so… jarring, really, for Beyoncé, after 15 years in the game, to start calling fellow women “b***hes” and demanding that they “bow down” like they are her lowly subjects.

Maybe Bey’s picked up her husband’s hip-hop swagger and God Complex by association, but I wish she’d put it back down. If for no other reason than as much as everyone dislikes a sore loser (like Cole appears to be), they loathe an arrogant winner even more. (And it’s not because she’s a woman. Kanye West is maligned for his arrogance, too.)

24 Amazing Black Women They Don’t Tell You About in School [Our Common Ground]

Even as a slave, Elizabeth Freeman, known as Mum Bett most of her life, had the audacity to sue for her freedom. Born into slavery in Claverack, New York around 1742, Freeman, at a reported six months old, was sold, along with her sister, to John Ashley of Sheffield, Massachusetts, a judge in the Massachusetts Court of Common Pleas. Enslaved to Ashley until she was almost 40, Freeman was spurred to action when the mistress of the house Hannah Ashley tried to hit her sister with a heated kitchen shovel. Freeman intervened and was hit instead, leaving the house, vowing to never come back.

Aware of the 1780 Massachusetts state constitution and its declaration of all men being free and equal from Sheffield’s many conversations, Freeman sought the services of Theodore Sedgwick, an attorney with anti-slavery sentiments. In 1781, a Massachusetts court awarded Freeman and another of Ashley’s slaves named Brom their freedom in Brom and Bett v. J. Ashley, Esq., even requiring Ashley to pay damages.

3. Why It’s Important to Keep Knocking [ The Simply Luxurious Life]

One of the most significant lessons to learn as we each traverse toward our most ideal life is to keep a burning persistence within ourselves. For when we set our sights on what we wish to achieve and are able to not be distracted by an endless list of goals that only tickle our fancy but then quickly lose our interest, we streamline our energies toward an eventual success.

Links of the Week 03/16/2013

1. Stop Following the Rules [Happy Black Woman]

Just because you go to college and get good grades doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll land your dream job. Ask all the unemployed college grads and they will tell you. Just because you go on to get a Master’s degree and your own condo and a nice car still does not guarantee you happiness in life. And we all know that even if you follow The Rules in any dating book or manual to the “T”, you are not guaranteed love for a lifetime.

That’s because The Rules were created for all the people who are satisfied with “good enough.”They are perfect for the people who are fine with someone else telling them what to do with their lives and how to do it. The Rules are for people who are willing to settle for a mediocre life because they aren’t willing to put in the time or effort to create an amazing one.

But for those of us who want more out of life, The Rules are useless. We see that they can only take us so far and then we have to figure out the rest ourselves. We realize that we’re actually sick and tired of playing by The Rules anyway.

And then we decide to create our own.

2. Swedish Mannequins! [Feminist Philosophers]

Swedish Manequins in H&M store

Swedish Manequins in H&M store

An H&M clothing store in Sweden is being hailed by women around the world after a photo of two surprisingly curvy mannequins there were photographed and posted online.

“Dressed in skimpy lingerie, the mannequins displayed softer stomachs, fuller thighs and generally more realistic proportions than the traditional department store models. For comparison, most mannequins in the U.S. are between a svelte size 4 or 6—a departure from the average American woman who is a size 14.”

3.Joan Morgan on Black Sex, Identity and the Politics of Pleasure [Parlour]

To me Beyoncé does work that isn’t discussed beyond ‘Why did she have to gyrate that way?’ or ‘Why is she wearing that kind of clothing?’

I want to get past that. I want to look at how people, and women, are getting pleasure from what Beyonce does and so is she, and why that’s important.

Links of the Week 02/09/2013

1. The Power of Michelle [ For Harriet]

Messages that decry my value as a black woman and elevate the status of whiteness are non-stop. Black womankind is reduced to a gyrating rump on prime time television, a cluster of conniving welfare queens with no ambition.

Despite criticisms about her “work,” I believe our First Lady has advanced women’s interests in a powerful way. Simply by being who she is, where she is, Michelle Obama is disrupting reductive narratives about what it means to be a black woman in America today

2. Turning Fairytales into Reality [The Simply Luxurious Life]

If happily ever after is depicted as finding our metaphorical Prince Charming, perhaps what it literally means is not that we should all aspire to find that one person to complete our lives, but to dare to dream grand, wildly amazing dreams that surpass even our own expectations. A life that is rich with travel and endless new experiences – it can happen. A life lived as a well-paid writer/graphic designer/designer – it can happen. A life that involves owning your own boutique selling beautiful independent designer garments and accessories – it can happen. 

3. New web series, ‘African Time,’ focuses on individual experiences of Africans living in the United States [Africa is a Country]

The lightheartedly named African Time is a lovely new web series produced by the Waave + Dada artist collective.  Each short episode consists of a different individual discussing their individual experiences as Africans living in the United States.  There are no frills to speak of, with subjects speaking directly to the camera, usually in front of a black backdrop.  Yet, many of the characters and their anecdotes are captivating enough where it doesn’t seem to matter how bare bones the whole production is.  This is especially true for the episode (video above) entitled “Smiles and Popcorn,” in which the mother of one of the series’ creators, Mawuena Akyea, discusses her confusion with what she calls the ‘cut-and-paste smile’ of white America and the absurdity of the buckets of popcorn (and refills) available at American movie theaters.  More than anything else, Mrs. Akyea provides viewers with a unique and subtly biting analysis of some of the nuances of American culture.

4. Some of us are fierce. [consciouscypher]

We are not represented for all that we are, not to mention that historically white feminists have had a lot to gain from our misrepresentation. We were simply collateral damage in their search for liberty/equality with patriarchal white men.

And as a young black woman, seeing her on stage, singing songs such as baby boy or single ladies with Destiny’s Child gave me more pride in being a black woman.

So for you to tell me that Beyonce was out there objectifying herself is just a no no. Especially because she was up on that stage refusing to objectified. Everything about Beyonce and her all female band screams FIERCE. Partly because they completely defy the prevalent male and white gaze. They were unapologetically powerful while revelling in their femininity at the same time.

5. A Defiant Dance of Power, Not Sex: Beyoncé, the Super Bowl and Durga [David Henson]

Because Beyoncé’s performance Sunday night in New Orleans wasn’t about sex. It was about power, and Beyoncé had it in spades. In fact, her show was one of the most compelling, embodied and prophetic statements of female power I have seen on mainstream television.

That a Black woman claimed and owned her power during the misogynist, consumerist celebration known as the Super Bowl only highlights Beyoncé’s brilliance and boldness.

Rare, Maybe Exotic, But Ethnic: A reflection on GQ’s hottest list

pretty-for-a-black-girl

I am so tired of being the other woman. And I am especially fed up with being the other beautiful woman. Why can’t I just be a beautiful woman?  As a Caribbean woman I have been placed into the rare, maybe exotic, ethnic beauty box time and time again. In high school, people always told me that I was beautiful for a black girl. I could not say thank you to such a back handed compliment or could I? I always felt awkward when people made these compliments because it seemed like black and beautiful were a paradox. And I was beautiful because of my Caribbean heritage.

Reading about GQ’s offensive hottest women’s list barely caused me to bat an eye lid because GQ clearly did not label these women in its magazine as ethnic others. The author of Shine questions why Beyonce, who was on the cover of GQ, was named Miss Millennium instead of Miss African-American Millennium.  And why wasn’t Mila Kunis’s Ukrainian roots or Kim Kardashian’s Armenian heritage mentioned. But Beyonce, Mila and Kim are all American, why does their ancestry matter? I don’t support men’s magazines but GQ did the correct thing by not pointing out their heritage, because they are American. Isn’t GQ an American magazine?

GQ also goes on to mention hottest women from countries around the world. Describing a woman, for example  as a “hot Indian chick,” and “hot for an Indian chick” are two different things. One implies it is rare for Indian chicks to be hot like the example I gave from when I was in high school, and one is a compliment using the woman’s ethnicity as a description.  I don’t think the GQ list is racially offensive because it is highlighting beautiful women from around the world and stating their respective countries of origin.

The point is that women of color have been placed in a beauty box.  Their beauty is confined to their ethnicity either as something exotic or a rarity and I find that insulting. Whereas white women, or white- looking women can break through racial beauty barriers and are seen as just beautiful.

It would be interesting if the media, and everyone else saw ethnic women the way I see myself; before I am a black woman, a Caribbean woman, I am a woman.

Who told her that it was better to be a freak than what she was?

Flickr Pic

Someone once told me that if I had green eyes, I would be more beautiful.

I was shocked and puzzled by his comment.  Aren’t brown eyes beautiful? Aren’t they as beautiful as green eyes?

But everyday, I see this pursuit of white beauty. I meet countless black women with store bought eyes, ranging from hazel, to grey, to green and to blue.

I turn on the television and I am inundated with high-profile black women who look like whitewashed versions of their former selves.

Now, I don’t have an issue with anyone wanting to change their appearance and try a new look. But often times these women undergo radical changes to their appearance. Suddenly they were ‘born’ with green or hazel eyes. Blonde appears to be their go-to hair colour. Their skin looks shades lighter than when they first started their careers and their noses become more hooked and narrow than flat. To name a few: Beyonce, Keri Hilson, Rihanna, Lil Kim, Nicki Minaj and the list goes on. At times the transformation is almost freakish, unnatural and alien-like.

Toni Morrison, in her novel, The Bluest Eye, shows how society and the family impact a black woman’s view of beauty and her belief that if she possesses a white feature that she will be seen as beautiful. In the afterword of the novel Morrison states: “Implicit in her desire [for blue eyes] was racial self-loathing. And twenty years later I was still wondering about how one learns that. ”

Too often I hear the mantras: “black is beautiful” and “black pride.” But when we alter our appearance so drastically that we erase our blackness, how can we say that we are black, proud and beautiful?

Morrison goes on to pose a powerful and still relevant question:

“ Who told her that it was better to be a freak than what she was? Who had looked at her and found her so wanting, so small a weight on the beauty scale?”

The answers to these questions are varied and at times painful.  They may begin with a stray remark a mother makes about her child’s hair. Or that we do not see ourselves on the television or in magazines or in Disney fairy tales  How everyone fusses over the girl or woman with the European features. Maybe at school we are bullied because of our appearance. Or we are told that our success in a certain industry requires a certain look .

The overarching message we receive is that black women are deficient in beauty. And in our quest to possess a beauty that  is not our own, we twist and pull, sculpt and carve, until we are neither black nor white,but distorted  versions of the furthest thing from ourselves. Sadly, we fail to enjoy and experience our own beauty.

Little Black Girl

Little black girl enjoy your youth. Enjoy the freedom of running around with big plaits in your hair. Take pride in the fact that your textured hair grows upwards like a crown. Dance in the sun and be proud of your black skin.

Little black girl you are more than what is between your thighs. More than your perfectly plump bottom and shapely legs. You are blessed with curves that go on for miles, but you are more than those too.

Little black girl you do not need to dye your hair blonde or bleach your skin. You do not have to look white washed like Beyonce’ or Keri Hilson. Your brown eyes do not need to be replaced by store bought blue ones.

Little black girl you are beautiful. You have almond shaped eyes the color of dark brown sugar and pouty soft lips. You do not need hair that hangs down to your bottom because your face was blessed with the intricacy and delicateness of your creator’s hands. Your skin is bronze like copper or black like rich coffee.

Little black girl you do not want to be like one of the girls that Drake, Kanye, or Lil Wayne rap about. You are better than dancing in rap videos and sliding down a stripper pole.  You do not want the life of the Draya Michele’s, and Brooke Bailey’s ( Basketball wives LA)of the world. Your aspiration in life should not be to become an urban model or a video vixen.

Little black girl either you are invisible and not seen, or you are put in a box and seen in a stereotypical light. I used to complain that black women were not represented in the media. I used to whine and fret about black women not having their own TV shows, or being on reality TV. I complained about the stereotypical magical Negro, mammy black women being used over and over again. I hated how the beauty of women like Viola Davis is continually down played in movies.  Now, I detest the way black women single-handedly objectify themselves in the media.

The image of the hyper sexual black woman is far worse than any of these other stereotypes. She is that woman in the music video scantily clad, legs spread eagle, shaking her shame to lyrics that degrade her. She exchanges her body for currency, for expensive cars, or clothes and she is not ashamed to say so. She is that woman who is proud to be a stripper, and is proud to let everyone know that she has a price. Unfortunately, her presentation is beautiful, which makes this life style appealing to little black girls with young malleable minds.  She sends the message to the world that she is her body, and that all she has to offer is sex. She embodies everything that is negative, and shameful about womanhood, yet she is packaged so nicely. This is not a life that any mother wants for her daughter. This is not a life that any woman, should choose.

I repeat, little black girl you are more than what is  between your thighs. More than your perfectly plump bottom and shapely legs. You are blessed with curves that go on for miles, but you are more than those too.

Images: Image 1, Image 2.