Friday, January 31, 2014

Black Women & The Continuing Problem of Respectability

The myth of hyper-sexuality is a stereotype Black women have been forced to bear for centuries. It originates from slavery and is still thoroughly woven into our cultural imagination. It controls how Black women's bodies are viewed. It minimizes our sense of personal choice. It takes sexual subjectivity away from Black women.

Scholar Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham coined the term "politics of respectability" in her landmark text Righteous Discontent. In this text, she outlines how nineteenth century Black Baptist women countered the notion of hyper-sexuality by supporting a strict form of sexuality: a more perfected and stringent version of the rules of sexuality in which white women were expected to follow in their hetero-patriarchal society. They believed that this would allow them to escape some of the vitriol of being labeled immoral and impure.

Of course, respectability politics makes a fallacious assumption in believing that Black people are maligned because of an inability to strictly conform to white middle class norms. Most white people do not even conform to white middle class norms. Black folks are degraded because of race. Every other reason is simply an excuse or a way of masking the true nature of anti-Blackness.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Carefree Black Girl & Princess Tiana's

I am supremely interested in the concept of the Carefree Black Girl. 

I am not sure where the term originated  from but I believe it’s an important one that illuminates on the greatness of managing to exist as a Black girl and simultaneously happy, self-secure, and with a real sense of freedom.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

I Am Whole, Not Perfect: Reflections on Black Girl Perfectionism

Like a classic perfectionist I told myself that perfectionism assisted me. It gave me the edge needed to survive and thrive in spaces where I was doubted due to my race, class, and gender. It made me feel more resilient against charges of inferiority because I could prove that I was intelligent, hard working, and therefore deserving.

Of course, the great lie of perfectionism is similar to the lie of respectability politics. There is nothing you can do to ensure that you are universally respected. This is particularly true if you possess identities which are marginalized and oppressed.

For me perfectionism became an unhealthy coping mechanism for my feelings of self-doubt and low self esteem no doubt provoked by the constant onslaught of racist and sexist microaggressions. I began to commodify myself by believing that I would always be sure to have value as long as I was producing, making things, winning awards, and busy in a quantifiable manner.

Black women tend to celebrate their perfectionism as if it's a benefit instead of a dangerous character flaw that can potentially lead to anxiety and depression. In fact, my perfectionism made me feel like an authentic Black woman for a long time since I was parroting the behavior of the Black women around me.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Being Mary Jane & Reflections on Being a Single Black Woman

I'm not sure what age it starts when girls and women are supposed to start feeling bad about not being in a relationship. Everyone is quick to make fun of a girl who dislikes being single if she's in high school or below but they never challenge the causes for their feelings. Everybody is quick to disparage a woman who is single in her mid twenties and up even if she is happy being alone.

And I'm stuck in a weird kind of purgatory at 21. I'm supposed to be enjoying my independence and focusing on professional and academic development but simultaneously I should be thinking about dating. But not seriously. But I'm supposed to still do it or else something is wrong with me.

Of course, when you add race everything is exacerbated. And BET's Being Mary Jane reminds me of this. It is one thing to be a single woman. And another entirely to be a single Black woman.

This is because in our hetero-patriarchal society "single" means "worthless" when attached to women. It means "faulty." But Black means all the same things in our racist cultural imagination. So it's really a double problem to say "single Black woman."

Saturday, January 25, 2014

I am Tired of Talking About Interracial Relationships

I'm convinced that Black women are the most questioned when it comes to interracial dating.

Interracial dating is a topic that comes up more than I care to talk about it. I'm always asked what I think about interracial relationships, if I personally would interracially date, if I'm attracted to men who aren't Black, if I'm attracted to men who are Black, and if I get upset when a Black man is with a non-Black woman. And for the most part these questions do not receive a serious response because they are not serious questions.

Friday, January 24, 2014

I'm Natural... But I'm Not a Naturalista

I think naturalistas are great. They are the people who go above and beyond to make sure their natural hair is always on point. And bless them for it but I can't claim the label. I am just a regular 4C Black girl who has natural hair.

Is there any room in the natural hair movement for 4C girls like me?