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.

2.02.2012

The End of the Blog, the Beginning of the Book

Well guys, it's been awesome. You've really kept me accountable, and the encouragement of seeing people's comments and looking at the visitor count on my Stats page helped me to complete this project and not wuss out (especially when I was trying to meet boys).

This post is to officially close the BLOG, but I'm working on a book about this. There is a tremendous amount of interest in this project, and I have a tremendous amount of passion for it-- and where the world's needs and your gifts intersect, the universe is pointing out your path! Also, I want to do this now, while the Experiment is still fresh in my mind. Who knows how this'll turn out, but I feel like I should do the work of attempting to synthesize all of this.

Thanks again for all your support, both online and in person (I'm talking to you, Candler peeps and various friends and family!). Remember:

True story.

1.04.2012

One Year Later

This time last year, I was getting used to covering my hair, arms and legs, and (much harder) not wearing makeup.

This year, my "I need less stuff" crusade continues, because I still have a long way to go in simplifying my life. I just threw out three boxes of beauty stuff because I'm tired of it all. I have four things of eyeshadow, concealer, three blushes, mascara, and that's it; I threw away most of my hair products and lotions because after TME I never used them again.

So basically, the lesson I learned-- that I really don't need a bunch of stuff to look beautiful-- is an ongoing commitment.

My life just continues to get better, and I have to wonder if it's some sort of cosmic reward for getting beyond my vanity a little and taking a leap. (More likely, it's both TME and the changes I've been making in my life for the last few years, but whatevs.) Two nights ago I spent hours in the studio with a well-known producer (who's a neighbor of my partner's), having fun and making up vocals to a track he wrote; I was back in the booth for the first time in years, and I LOVED it. Remember this? That was what it felt like.

My cats are happy living with my partner and I out here by the lake, my grades were good (could be better, but that'll be next semester), my relationship with my grandma, who's in hospice, is good, the church I work for is growing, I had a great time with my family over the holidays.... OH! And by total chance, I was in the Atlanta Journal Constitution today:

More web users aim to thwart prying eyes

A year later, I have no interest in ever investing so much of myself into how I look. I still haven't gotten my hair cut-- I'm trying to learn to cut it myself, and when I hate it, I wear a headscarf like I used to. I occasionally get made up for fun, but I make a point of going out barefaced as often as I feel like it, just so I don't get overcommitted to it again.

Here's me, one year after the beginning of TME. I'm wearing pigtails, and the extensions are gone:


I am a smiley, smiley woman.

10.29.2011

A Month After TME

Actually... I'm kinda sick of doing my hair.

That probably has more to do with the fact that the dreds need a lot of maintenance, and my actual hair is showing-- my real hair is easier to deal with than the fake stuff. I need to go spend another couple hours in the chair to get them tightened, and I am NOT looking forward to how bad that shit hurts. Also, I don't really have four hours or whatever to watch TV or movies while Heather fixes my head-- I can't study in the chair, cause I have to keep my head up, which means holding my books etc. in front of my face. Lame. On the other hand, if I keep the dreds, I can grow out my hair without any crazy in-between phase.

With regards to makeup, I find that I have fun with it still, but that I often don't bother to wear it because I don't have time or whatever-- which I NEVER EVER would have done if I hadn't gone without makeup for nine months. Makeup is optional now, which is really nice.

All in all, I think I got the results I thought I would end up with: I don't put too much emphasis any more on how I look, but I appreciate the days when I have the time to get all dolled up. On the days when I don't, it doesn't really bug me any more.

The party was OK-- I switched the date at the last minute, so a lot of people were confused or unable to come. Still, there are a few pics to be posted, which I'll get to. Life has been NUUUTS lately: Less broke his collarbone in a motorcycle accident, I tried to reconnect with someone who is hard for me to deal with (I sorta gave up on that-- it was taking way too much energy), my classes are BRUTALLY heavy homework-wise, and I'm still trying to recover all the damage from having my wallet stolen. I've sort of been hanging on by my fingernails to life in general... but, I'm relatively happy.

I still enjoy wearing headscarves. :)

9.16.2011

TODAY IS THE DAY!!

You guys... I feel like a flower that has burst into bloom, or a tree that has borne big, juicy, happy fruit.

I'm unsure whether this is because TME is over, or because I'm turning thirty, but the combination of the two did something really remarkable for me. As a woman in America (and prolly as a man, too), we all know that there's this stigma around turning thirty. I felt it when I decided to start this project, that dread of facing the fact that I was no longer "in my twenties" which meant I was no longer young. I know, it's stupid and makes no sense, but let's be honest: that's how we think, way down deep in our animal midbrains. We think that somehow when you cross that threshold, you're fat and lame and no longer relevant, or are supposed to have it all figured out, or whatever. Thirty = old.

But combining my thirtieth with TME made me look forward to turning thirty, and even better, it helped me learn to accept myself as I was gradually and without having clothes or makeup to hide behind. It made the last year of my twenties one in which I learned to think I looked just fine without all the extra stuff, thank you very much. It reduced my Big Scary Thirtieth Birthday into what it really was: just another day. It forced me to face my fear of not always being young and beautiful and helped me focus on other aspects of myself over a long period of intentional work, instead of having thirty "thrust" upon me.

In short, TME made my thirtieth birthday a coming-to-fruition day, instead of a falling-off-the-tree day. Look at me, all glowy:

 Now remember, that's not my real hair. It was a gift from The Less-- which would have cost over $2000 if he had been paying full price. This is NOT sustainable for me. (Well, my bangs are real.) And yes, I acknowledge that this is another form of "fakery"-- it's not MY hair. But the way I see it is, I feel bloody gorgeous like this, so I'm gonna go with it. Tonight I'm going out in a short dress and some new boots Mom got me for my birthday, and Less will take pics, which will be posted. Oh yes.

The other thing is, I fully believe that the universe supports you when you have faith and go out on a limb in the service of bettering yourself or the world; if that's true, then the universe (God, as I call it) has met me more than halfway. I grew spiritually and emotionally, and now, on the other side of TME, I have a relationship where I get to have this incredible coming-out party and all this crazy-ass hair, two augmentations to this experience I never would have had otherwise-- and the experiment itself was part of what drew him to me in the first place.

You know what I was thinking? What if I wrote a book about this, and other women could choose to undertake TME before their thirtieth birthday? It made turning thirty a highly positive rite of passage for me-- which, sadly, is not the case for most women. Many of us deny that it ever happened, or try to ignore it when it does. It really is just another day, but for me, it's the day I get to emerge as a happier woman, inside and out, and I can't wait to celebrate. How great would it be if there were a movement towards making the unacknowledged milestone of turning thirty into something to look forward to, instead of dread all through one's twenties?


What if I could share this with other women? Would you read a book like that, one that walked you through and supported you in designing and undertaking your own Modesty Experiment?

The party is tomorrow, comments book and all. I can't believe how great I feel.

9.15.2011

Is pain beauty? Or is beauty pain? I think it's the second one. Definitely the second one.

So my awesome boyfriend, Less, has badass multicolored dreds, courtesy of The Hair Police's Heather. Less had offered to pay for some nifty streaks in my hair from her as a b-day gift. I was thinking, "Sure! Lemme do something different!" My appointment was yesterday at 2:30. Here's what happened.

The Hair Police have this awesome way of threading REALLY brightly colored streaks into someone's hair-- so no dyeing and no resultant damage, and the colors are purer than pure. Cool, right? Unless you already have dreds, you get them woven into your hair on the lower layers so they blend, and they can't add too much length-- otherwise, they look totally stupid, like, you have your regular hair, and then BAM, there's this looooong streak of purple or something down to your butt. Dumb.

Well, I'm a white chick with no dreds, and my hair is about down to my earlobes in back and to my nose in front. I don't have much hair, so the streaks were going to be woven in in the back under my real hair. I was so excited to be done with TME, though, that I decided to let the stylist go a little crazy. Hair is supposed to be fun, right? (At least, is usually is for me.)

The stylist told me we'd go for an hour, which would be about 20 streaks, and then we'd see where we were. Well, an hour turned into 2. And then four. And then twelve. And then... 18.

Yeah. 18 hours. When the streaks were put in, they looked really really weird with my natural hair. So the stylist gave me more to make them blend... and more. And more. And then, before I knew it, I had class to go to-- at 8AM-- and an entire head full of dreds.

It's not done yet-- I had some stuff I needed to get done, so I'm going back on Saturday to get the length reduced and the last extensions dredded. But that stylist, man, she's DEDICATED. Here's what I have so far:

RAWK!
Is it wrong that I... actually... kinda like it?

In any case, I'm going back to get them trimmed so that they blend with my natural hair length a little better-- so, I'll have chin-length dreds. People may make fun of me for having this kind of hair (i.e., not mine), but whatevs. I'm just happy to be having fun with my hair again! Oh, and this kind of locking doesn't destroy your hair, so I get to keep growing it out!

I'll post more pics when it's done, and of course, there'll be pics of the party.

Now my biggest issue is, How in the hell am I supposed to catch up on all this work after losing 18 hours to this, and another whole day to sleeping? That's the rough part-- I hadn't planned on spending two whole days on my hair. Well, stuff won't get done with me sitting here blogging...