2.12.2014

Short hair

Do men ACTUALLY BELIEVE that women with short hair are "damaged?" At least one dude does. More evidence that women's hair seems to be something which some men feel comfortable taking ownership of... and also that there are many women who don't care. :)

Why Patriarchy Fears the Scissors: Short Hair Is a Political Statement

2.08.2014

Blogging at 30,000 feet



It's rare that you get to write about a major life event as it's happening, but thanks to the marvels of modern technology (and $39.95), I'm writing this as Less and I fly out to San Francisco to start our new life together.

I came to Atlanta to go to Emory. When that was over I would have left (to go where, I'm not sure, but I think it would have been some cool city) except that I had found the love of my life in Atlanta and he owned a house there. The house was lovely, but it was located "outside the perimeter," which refers to the area outside of 285 which encircles the city. To Atlantans anything outside the perimeter is "super far away" and "not really Atlanta."

I wasn't nuts about living 40 minutes away from the stuff I like to do. Going swing dancing was an hour in each direction, and going to the Northside Tavern, my favorite spot to dance, sing and generally carry on, felt like a slog. There were no coffee shops near us, and when I need a place to work or socialize, that's where I go (in fact, it's the first thing I find when I move to a new city).

Less doesn't mind driving, and he has a motorcycle-- so of course he had a great time riding in the summer. Me, I got tired of how my friends would never visit me "way out there" and feeling like I had two options on Friday night: either drive ten minutes to the freeway, spend another fifteen on said freeway, get off, fight traffic, and arrive at my destination; or, stay home. I stayed home way too much, and when I graduated and all I had to do all day was write, I went crazy pretty quickly.

Fortunately for me, I married the most amazing person I have ever met, and when the opportunity came up for us to relocate to California he asked me if I wanted to go. I love my friends in Atlanta but constantly having to work to keep the feelings of isolation at bay was exhausting. It didn't take much consideration on my part to say yes.

And wonderful man that he is, my guy uprooted his life, moved from the city where he'd been for twelve years, took a risk with his job and underwent the stress of moving (which, when you own a five-bedroom house plus a basement full of stuff is considerable... never mind moving our six animals all the way across the country), and got on this plane with me, all because he knows I'll be happier if I have a hand in choosing where I live.

I don't know what's coming when we land on the other coast, but as we were pulling out of the driveway today I was wondering if I felt sad about leaving the house. I usually get pretty bummed when I leave someplace-- I'm a sentimental person, what can I say?-- but suddenly I realized that all of the things that I would have missed, all of the experiences I'd had there, were based on the person sitting next to me.

I will miss the lake, though. It's hard to top sitting on the porch, listening to frogs sing.

8.30.2013

Solidarity Is For ALL Women-- It's just that white folks can't talk about it

So despite my reservations (women oversexualizing themselves for fame or money in public tends to make me so angry that I can’t sleep-- really), I watched Miley Cyrus’ performance at the VMAs.

And no, she’s not a role model. No, she hasn’t yet figured out how to be sexual without behaving like a sex worker (sex workers are fine, they’re just not the only iteration of female sexuality-- believe it or not, voraciously sexual women are not always strippers or porn stars). And yes, I was a little grossed out, and a little bored, and I wondered what the hell those teddy bears were doing there.

There were, however, two moments when I got really uncomfortable. One was when I realized that all-- not just a few, but every last one-- of her backup dancers were black women, and black women of a very specific body type; the other was when Cyrus gave one dancer with a particularly rotund posterior a rim job and slapped her ass like Cyrus was in a Ying Yang Twins video.

Jezebel.com and I are not exactly besties anymore, and it was their article about this performance that made Women of Color (WoC) very angry: white feminist authors avoided the topic of Cyrus’ appropriation of what is considered by some to be black culture (twerking, ratchet whatnot) in favor of arguing that if Cyrus wanted to grind on Thicke in a flesh-colored bathing suit while sticking her tongue out she could, and she shouldn’t be “slut-shamed” for that. Cyrus can be as overtly sexual as she likes, said the white feminists, and if that’s what she feels she wants to do then the rest of us should just shut up and let her do it. Here here. Right there with ya, sisters. It may appear tasteless and over-the-top to some of us, but that doesn’t make it wrong.

What is wrong, say many black women (also this one from Slate), is using African-American female bodies as props, cashing in on harmful stereotypes like the uncontrollably sexual, “fat” black woman, in order to further your image. Regardless of whether or not you’re OK with whatever the hell Cyrus was trying to do when she tried to act like white America’s perception of a black rapper, the fact is that she used black women as set pieces. That’s a problem.

I agree-- but I couldn’t have been the one to say it.

It makes me sad that so many WoC feel that white feminism is hostile to their point of view because white feminists almost never comment on racial issues. But it seems to me that black women are forgetting something.

That something is: White people have been told over and over again that we don’t know what it’s like not to be part of the privileged class, and so we should shut up about it. We don’t get to judge anything related to racial inequality, because we ourselves are the beneficiaries of The System. No matter how hard we try, we’ll never really “get it,” and our culture is not short on people who don’t know what they’re talking about but feel the need to talk anyway, so many of us feel like the most respectful thing we can do is let WoC lead the discussion on race. Honestly: If I had written an article on how Cyrus uses black women as props in that performance, how much hate mail would I have gotten about how I don’t know what it’s like to be a WoC, and so I have no right to comment on it?

My point is: black women, it’s not that we don’t care, or are unaware, of the ways in which white women contribute to the subjugation of black women. It’s not that we don’t see it, or we don’t want to talk about it-- we do.

It’s just that many of us have gotten the message over the last several, hyper-politically-correct years that we should stay away from the topic of race unless a brown person brings it up, and even then we need to tread very, very lightly. Perhaps it’s just a function of living in a society where, as George Takei puts it, we must bow to the “lowest common denominator of butthurt” (be really, really PC all the time to everyone), and if that’s the case then our well-intentioned attempts at being open to others’ views have evolved into the kind of silence that prevents anyone from understanding each other because we just can’t talk about it anymore.

Well, I wanna talk about it. Because that performance was just creepy on so many levels, but I can’t imagine how much it must have sucked to see every harmful stereotype about your gender and skin color used to make a white woman look “edgy.” Again. And in discussing it I will probably offend you-- not because I don’t care, but because our collective oversensitivity has made all of us more ignorant, myself included.

But maybe we can take such a blatantly racist moment in American culture and use it as a starting point for discussion-- because clearly, white folks avoiding discussions about race has made things worse, not better.

At the very least, I really don’t want to see that kind of thing happen ever again, because… ew. Just… ew. On all the levels.

7.10.2013

THANK YOU!!

I don't have much time today, but I want to take a minute and thank the people, from the bottom of my heart, who have chosen to share their struggles with beauty/ modesty/ masculinity/ motherhood etc. with me after reading about the project. I have learned so much in the past few days about the beautiful relationships some women have with their physical appearance, the painful struggles to accept oneself, and the various spiritual reasons and rewards for covering.

I'm so sorry that I haven't had time to respond to all of your very detailed, carefully thought out emails to me, but again, I need to finish this book so that when it's on the shelves, we can keep engaging in this issue. If you haven't yet shared your story with me, please feel free to do so: your responses are helping me compile my information, and some responses may be included in the book (with your permission and your name changed, of course).

Again, THANK YOU so much for your generosity and trust. I truly appreciate it.

OH! Also, check out this awesome article by a woman who covers, and what goes through her mind when she sees bikini-clad women:

http://www.djiboutijones.com/2012/05/hijab-and-bikinis-sexy-oppressive/

7.09.2013

Only one week? REALLY?

Well, it seems like at least a month, but a week ago yesterday was the day my Salon article was published, and all of this started.

I've found an agent, Linda Loewenthal of the David Black Agency, and we're very excited to be working together! Linda is passionate about women's issues and spirituality, the two things this book is all about. I have done two interviews for Australia's Channel Nine and Channel Seven (the second one was more fun, maybe because it wasn't my first) and a couple for online magazines.

However, I've decided not to do any more interviews until the book comes out. Something I have learned in the past week is that when your whatever-you-did draws controversy, you have to be very careful about keeping yourself sane. There will be awesome supporters and angry critics, and especially folks who are offering "constructive" criticism. I appreciate the engagement-- I think this is a conversation which is badly overdue, the oppressive nature of the "looks-first" values forced down women's throats-- but believe me, I now have lots of folks who are ready to help me shape the project. If you really feel like you have something to tell me, please email my agent and she may incorporate consistent critique into her feedback for me. Also, arranging and doing interviews takes time and keeps me from actually finishing the damn thing. I'd rather write a book and have a chance at making a real change than be a flash in the pan who never published because she went crazy.

In any case, I see all the controversy as a good sign: people clearly feel very strongly about this, and if we are all firm but respectful maybe we can shift things in the right direction, for women AND men. I may be overly idealistic, but I can't help that: I think that our culture needs to change, now, and that we can do it if we want to. If I piss you off I'm sorry (sometimes). Don't buy the book, and we can both go about our business.

7.06.2013

Exactly my point.