Our power does not have to lie in our sexuality.

Sure, we can find power in our sexuality. But let’s not let that define who we are.

For women, it’s often tricky to find routes to power that do not compromise our persons in some way or another. It really is an issue of our society in general that power is so fought after, or perhaps just an issue of humanity. What does power mean in contemporary society? That is a question for another day, but we can easily identify a few types of power straight off the bat. There is physical power that one does not really choose for themselves save for enhancing whatever genetic makeup they’ve inherited from their parents. There is, of course, political power, which almost seems like power for the sake of power when we remove all of the ways that politics influence the lives of millions (as if any House of Cards characters actually care about their constituents – and as if real politics is any different from House of Cards lol).

Then there is the power that is a little more difficult to define. The power that gives men the ability to move throughout public space without a question of their belonging (all other factors aside). The power that buttresses economically privileged individuals from encountering constant physical danger. The power that allows white individuals to get tased, or frisked, or warned – but not shot. (No disrespect to all the thousands of white people who have died or been injured at the hands of the police). These powers are harder to define because they are not ever absolute. Part of the craziness of being part of a devalued group is not ever knowing for sure if that one comment that one dude made really meant what you thought it might mean…

There are ways, however, that this sort of covert, slippery, undercover unsure power shows itself, and that is through (in)visibility. Particularly in a world where “personal branding” is becoming a thing, who is seen and not seen is of utmost importance, and it denotes who has power or not. I remember a time in France where I was in a new city and struggling to find the bus stop before my bus left. Looking around myself for people to ask, I automatically chose the man who was walking towards me and made eye contact with me. Later I thought about why I had chosen to ask him. I must have felt that he was trustworthy and had the authority to tell me where I could find my stop. There was a woman walking next to him who I remember not having made any eye contact with. In that interaction, she was invisible, although I was aware of her presence. It was an interesting experience for someone like myself who at least tries to always acknowledge the women in any interaction. Why didn’t I ask her? True, she hadn’t made eye contact with me that I had noticed, but why didn’t I notice? And if she hadn’t, why hadn’t she? I could have easily approached her and asked her instead, but my own deeply placed internal bias towards men triumphed in my moment of uncertainty. (fuck that lol)

It is easy to parse out this factor of hard-to-define power when observing the dynamics of walking down a street. Yes, street dynamics are heavily influenced by location, time of day, culture, etc. However, I would be willing to bet that most women, when having eye contact made towards them by men, are the first to look away. I know because I do it myself, and I don’t control it. There are other times when your difference makes you stick out like a high beam, and you are very highly visible whether you choose to be or not. And then let’s think of older women in any country. Who takes the time to glance at older women? Invisibility can make us fade into the background.

As I think of the ways then that women can gain visibility – and therefore an aspect of power – then it is impossible to disregard sexuality. Sexuality it seems at times is the only “positive” way to be seen as a woman in the public sphere. Think of social media and how this clearly plays out there. Yes, there are women who are being seen everywhere, by their friends, their family; but the ones who are really seen, who have “presence,” are the ones who bring an aspect of sexuality into their persona. All of this to say what we already knew: hot girls get attention, and these days, attention = power.

For a while I was down with this whole scheme of things, too, but it was easy for me because I was a hot girl. We want to act like we don’t know, but that was the reason that some people liked me at all, and why some people liked me more than they would have otherwise. I was banking on my hot girl power because I am smart – and I figured out at one point that I could use my sex power to get what I wanted or make things swing a little bit more in my direction.

A lot of people choose to employ the basic ass thinking that condemns attractive women for knowing that they are attractive and reaping the benefits of it, but that is just lazy logic. Think about it: you grow up being told (implicitly and explicitly) that your value lies in your service and relationship towards men, and that that value must be procured through your looks and sexuality (motherhood included). Then it is confirmed by the attention (wanted or not) that you receive as you grow older and “develop.” If you’ve ever been a teenager and know what that feels like, tell me you wouldn’t exactly bank on whatever resources you had to gain attention and admiration from your peers. The takeaway here: let’s all stop being so basic about attractive women (because as much as we want to hate, we know we are all complicit in supporting that system).

And so now here we are: a hot girl, who recognizes the privilege of her looks and uses it to leverage the other aspects of her life. Sounds about right? Regardless, it feels about right when you are the one wielding your sword of sexuality, using it to manipulate the outcomes in your life and therefore empowering yourself. It is a sort of power, and I am not fussing about that – it is visibility after all. But what I am here to say and feel compelled to say is that we should recognize it as a false sort of power, and as women, not get sucked into the temptation and greed that that feeling of power can cultivate.

I remember when I was stripping many of my female friends asked me for advice on how to get into stripping, thinking it was all glitz and glamour and being the sexy centerpiece on the stage of the night. What they didn’t know and what I found hard to truly convey to them was the utter lack of attention that is shown to you at a strip club – see, being one of many girls, all of whom are dressed in their best, most sultry (read: profitable) sexual presentations, renders you actually less visible despite the obnoxiousness of trying; you may catch the eye of the gentlemen you just passed but you sure as hell won’t keep it from the next girl that passes him.

This is the clearest evidence that our sexual attractiveness is a false power – because it is always dependent on the gaze of another, and that gaze is never, ever exclusively yours. Whatever happened to Megan Fox? What happens when the instagram honey-of-the-month, well…. gets to the next month? What happens when a woman gets fat? FAT is still a word that strikes fear into the heart of the person whose mouth utters it. How fucking stupid is that?!!! XD

Real power, at least to me, or power that is worth cultivating, is solid. It puts down roots for itself and is stabilized by its own intentions, and not the opinions or whims of others. A real power for me is the power I find in making room for myself, in accepting myself, not always liking myself but loving myself with an understanding that I am not different from another. When you cultivate your own imagination, you carry with you something that no one else, not one person, can ever take away from you. Only death can take away our imagination, and death is the great equalizer anyway. This is not to say that we shouldn’t enjoy our sexual presence and have fun being sexy with others, but that far too often, women – we are conned into accepting the pithy fruits of temporary visibility, even when the path to it is lined with insecurities because there will always be the next one.

It was fun for me, to be “powerful” and popular, well-liked and wanted. I did enjoy myself, but, there was something that eventually needed resolution. One, that I was enjoying privilege that otherwise oppressed people, and two, that I didn’t want to be so married to my sexuality/ sexual presentation/ perceived attractiveness that I made it my focus to maintain it. It takes a lot of effort to keep up with what is the latest in sexy, and a whole lot of perceiving oneself through the eyes of others. When I was in Japan I got “fat” – fat being subjective and in this case, meaning “too fat for Japan.” Up until then I had been living as a hot girl, and gaining many privileges from it (and annoyances) whether I chose to or not. In Japan the culture is too homogeneous and too well-mannered for me to have gauged my attractiveness to others at any given time. Just like that: I was hot, and then I was not. And actually I am grateful for it. I struggled very much with this loss of identity and had to come to terms with my own disordered body image, but I was able to lose the privilege of something I wasn’t sure I wanted anyway, and in turn start cultivating a power within myself that was not dependent on how sexy I ranked.

Now, after that, I am still sexy. That’s not the issue haha :D. But there are times when I am not sexy, and it doesn’t matter. There are people who’ve I’ve met who don’t give a second thought to the way I look, an experience that would have been quite foreign to me in my college ho years. Yes, there are privileges that I have given up, but now, I am not striving to fit some sort of mold that tells me people will pay attention to me if I fill it. I am cultivating my own power, in my imagination, where no one can strip me of it but me.

This is a call to all my ladies out there: don’t be hot for a day. Don’t try to be hot for a day. We are valuable as women whether the president wants to fuck us or no one wants to fuck us. Let’s stop caring about being hot, and just be hot on days we want to be hot, or just be hot because fuck it! Why not? Or just be hot because we think that we’re hot! It is so taken for granted that that is what we are all striving for, but what if we just say: “No, I’m not, and I do what I want.”

When you give yourself the power of seeing yourself, then being seen by others becomes less important. Detach yourselves from the imperatives of false power, and you will find something that is easier to root your soul in. It is not easy work, but I would argue that it is necessary for a freer womankind, and a more liberated sense of self.

It feels so good to be free

Also known as: Why I ain’t gonna slap a bitch

“you don’t want no problem, want no problem wit’ me”

To be free, to be free, to be free… liberation… *sparkles*. You know, all this talk about Trump, all this talk about how bad the world is, who is oppressing who, who wants to be oppressing who…. blah blah blah is how I really feel about it (not that what I feel is any more valid or important than what anyone else is feeling, ha). But really y’all, what is the end goal/result of all this? I understand getting caught up. I understand wanting — needing — to let all of the deathful energy that enters our bodies leave in some way or another, whether that be through writing about it or crying about it or allowing it to manifest itself into something ugly hidden in your expression.. but you know what feels really good? What feels better than cathartic grief? To be free. It feels soooo good to be free.

I’m not saying that I have the key to freedom or the secrets to happiness; what I do know is “being more free” is a blueprint that I have set for myself in my own life, and that every inch freer tastes so, so sweet. Here is what being free feels to me now: it feels more aware, like I am more alert to my movement on the surface of the earth. It feels more joyous because my joy is decreasingly dependent on all the shit that don’t really actually matter — like whether your roommates are uncomfortable with the type of music you listen to, or whether that guy over there thinks you’re cute (because we as women are taught to value this shit even when we don’t personally find a particular man attractive), or whether your boyfriend is meeting gorgeous women in his new city, or whether your brothers are making the right financial decisions in their youth (etc., etc., etc. i.e. bullshit). It feels more joyous because when you are freer you know deeper what truly matters to you — what would matter to you if you were staring your own death in the face in this exact moment. Would Trump’s ass matter to you then? I think not.

It is not that on my deathbed I would suddenly find irrelevant the suffering of peoples on this earth or the oppressive effects of more imperialism, more capitalism, more hate, more suffering that we are seemingly going towards, no. It is that when you are faced with your own death it is the moment in which the complete honesty of your life is revealed — and would you be happy with what you saw? If I died tomorrow I know I would be happier knowing that I danced all crazy by myself in the middle of the street today than not. I know that I would be more satisfied having known that I chose love every time, or at least gave my best effort, instead of the easy temptations of the ego or the addictiveness of power and control (it is important to note here that choosing love must include choosing love for yourself — always).

Think about something that bothered you today, or a decision you have had to make. If you knew your life was coming to a close, what would matter to you really in those moments? For me, being free is living in harmony with life and death in a perfect balance. It is impossible to always balance the two — as we are only human — but it is the effort to do this that engages us in our vocation towards humanization. Assuming that full humanity is what we are after, we must accept death into our lives if we are to respect our own time on this earth and remain in solidarity with those who are closest to death, or already dead.

To put this into words that make more sense, here is the way I perceive it: I did not choose to inhabit the body, class, gender, color, country, citizenship, privilege that I do. I did not choose my oppressions either, they have chosen me. If I want to be more fully human then I need to understand the value of my own life alongside the lives of every other living thing on this earth. This means that I understand that I am no more valuable than any other life on this earth (because death is the ultimate equalizer), but also no less valuable, because I am alive. How do I then, live in accordance with this knowledge having not chosen (at a very fundamental level) which position I occupy in the matrix of all living things? I do this by accepting death as a reality (not in a “I’m going to die one day” sort of way but a someone is dying right now and it happens not to be me sort of way), and in turn living with respect to the fact that it just happens not to be me.

This, to me, is the best way to live in solidarity with those who are closest to death: it is to live my life as if I am them, and to live as if I was given a pardon at death’s door. Let’s imagine it this way: you are a child, from some poor country, no one even knows your name, you are mostly “irrelevant,” and lets say about to die at the hands of an abuser who is attempting to traffick you (insert any oppressive situation you want here really). If that child, in that moment, instead was granted by the universe the ability to live in your body instead of dying unnoticeably, what kind of life would they lead? Do you think that, if granted life at the brink of death, that you would not gulp it in like fresh water in the desert? Do you think that, if you switched places with someone who was differently oppressed than you, that you would care about the same things?

To be free is to live as if we are dying; and when we are dying, being hateful towards others because of who they voted for, or because they do not understand and have hurt you, being hateful towards yourself because you are not x pounds or because of some arbitrary-ass “credit score” — those things maybe start mattering less. I am not saying that things are not all relative and that the issues we have in our lives are invalid. I am saying: if the point of all of this is not to live freer and therefore closer and fuller in our humanity, then what is it? Living our lives truly hand-in-hand with death is to give honor to ourselves and to the lives of all living beings. If you are not doing that then all of the things we are saying and doing are null; the struggle itself cannot be our lives, living has to be our lives. And when we live with death in mind, we live freer and fuller, and damn… does it feel so, so good.

Yo, but like… FUCK JAPAN

…and everything that rode in with it. (Okay, not the food.)

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Japanese food

I would never be so arrogant as to say “Fuck [blank]” about any country that was not my own. Luckily my Japanese heritage allows me the opportunity to say: fuck Japan, fuck its culture, fuck its values, fuck most everything about its society… because it needs to be said. Now if I am speaking honestly, of course I realize that each culture has its good and bad, has something unique to offer and can be valued for some — many — reasons or others. Japan is not an anomaly in that sense; there are many wonderful parts of Japanese culture and I am very happy to be Japanese (in no small part due to the food). As we can all learn from other cultures, I think Japan can offer the rest of us some insight into cooperation, striving for excellence, humility, and pride.

But this is not what this post is about. Today I choose to write about a part of Japan that is often absent to the rest of us, that we do not think about before, during, or after we have traveled there, and maybe only passingly when consuming Japanese pop culture. This is not to say that there is not Western analyses of Japanese culture. Only yesterday did I hear on BBC radio a discussion of the population crisis and the potential reasons behind it. There are many feminist analyses that point to sexism in Japanese anime, manga, and gaming culture as well (otaku culture to those interested in learning more about it). But what really makes me express myself so strongly against Japan is not situated in statistics or political understandings of the mechanisms of our society; rather, the day-to-day reality of what it means to be Japanese living in Japan.

Kyoto is a good starting point. Kyoto is the city that I am from. It is known for being the old capital, for having the best cherry blossoms, and for its historical preservation of old temples, shrines, and the like.

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Kyoto

Amongst the beauty of Kyoto (my favorite spot being Kamogawa river), you may also notice the beauty of its women — beauty, not subjectively but objectively — the young women of Kyoto are dressed immaculately; hair coiffed, nails trimmed, not a pleat out of place. Like our stereotype of Parisians, it can seem very appealing in a high-fashion, snooty type of way. Japanese women (/people) present themselves very well, and it can be quite a delight to those of us who don’t understand the mechanisms working behind it. There is a reason why it is difficult to spot a unkempt individual in Kyoto, let alone in most metropolitan areas of Japan (except maybe Osaka*); the word is だらしない [da-ra-shi-na-i], and we just don’t do it.

See, “darashinai” (to be sloppy) is something we just don’t do because other people don’t do it. Japan is a society that operates on the basis of shame, and othering. It is quite easy to be an “other” in Japan: not shaving your facial hair, drawing (any) attention towards yourself, being loud, or “dark,” or having any sort of assertive self-expression whatsoever. Social shame is the linchpin of Japanese culture. Being shamed by others around you, in the Japanese collective imagination, is possibly the worst thing that can happen to you. There is a reason why so many people choose suicide as an alternative to ousting themselves as someone who may not be leading a humble and productive life as is expected, or more accurately, proscribed in greater Japanese society.

The shame mechanism works like this: we teach children at a criminally young age that they are to police themselves and each other. For those who exhibit “bad” social behavior, we teach judgement and ostracization — quickly. Japanese television largely comprises of shows that focus solely on laughing at others who do not adhere to social standards and norms — and yes, while it can be highly entertaining to watch (some) people deliberately make a fool out of themselves for the greater humouristic cause, on a slightly deeper level, it can be quite cruel.

The language of Japan itself is laden with ways to distance yourself from others by identifying their appearance or behavior as undesirable. It would be very difficult to explain the nuances of Japanese language here in English, but what I can say is that we learn to communicate with one another through policing, judgemental language. Children as young as 4, 5, in schools can be heard talking to their peers in a very paternalistic and disciplining manner. It is very peculiar to hear a young child say to another something like: “you know people who don’t wash their hands can’t make any friends, right?” (It is kind of a shit example, but it is really, really difficult to translate this particular nuance into the English language). This is not about children mimicking the language they hear from their parents and other adults around them. It is about children learning at such a young age that their behavior is always to be on watch, and in turn that others’ behavior also must be looked upon down the bridge of one’s nose.

The shame element becomes even more insidious when you add in factors such as gender and power. Not unlike many other cultures in the world, women are taught to feel ashamed for… just about anything that has to do with being a woman. We are taught to be ashamed about the shape and size and color of our bodies, about our sexuality (take a look at Japanese porn if you really want to know what we think of women), about our individual thoughts and values. In such an extremely male-oriented society such as Japan, women are very literally meant to be seen and not heard — to the point where a woman being assaulted on a train will not cry out for years and years of socialization not to draw attention to herself or cause “disturbance” to others.

Here is an even better example of how the extremely male-angled framework of society and the imperative upon women to not speak out work together: I was sitting in front of a class of 5-yr-olds once when one of the young male students attempts to lift my dress and touch the inside of my thighs. Despite witnessing the entire incident, the female teachers did not say one. word. to this young boy chastising his behavior, because this is the kind of thing that is too shameful to be addressed, especially by women. The awkward and apologetic laugh/bow was instead employed here, and I had to take it upon myself to tell the boy that it was not appropriate to touch others’ bodies without their permission.

Because women are not meant to speak out about things like this. And women are not meant to do this, or that… we aren’t even meant to enjoy sex even within the most acceptable conditions. Women are meant to be beautiful, and then to be mothers. Women are so socialized in Japan to present themselves in a certain way that their physical compositions are altered. Ever see a bow-legged Japanese woman? That shit is intentional, and unhealthy as fuck.

http://www.iromegane.com/japan/culture/the-secret-of-japanese-girls%C2%B4-bowlegs/
Because its cuter that way.

Dinner conversations can go something like this:

“I saw a woman at the train station today who was so fat! She had to wait in line for the next train because she couldn’t fit. What a burden she is causing to the rest of us.”

While watching TV:

“Oh she is so pretty because she is white (in skin complexion) and has a small face.”

On speaking about co-workers:

“What a stupid burikko bitch. She is so stupid and annoying. I can’t stand her.”

Let me not even get started on what burikko actually entails — to give a general gist let me just say: women are thought to be most attractive when they are “kawaii” (cute); the best way to be kawaii is to act as much as possible like a little girl. What are character traits of little girls? Cute, yes, and naive, innocent, easily manipulated, eager, and dumb (at least in the burikko imagination). Japan’s ideal woman is trapped in a cell padded with schoolgirl uniforms and oversized stuffed rabbits. Sounding rape-y yet? (Good. Because it is.)

I cannot be bothered here to go into full scope of the state of women in Japan, because what can be said can produce volumes. What I can say is that not even in our language do we have words that point to empowerment, self-assuredness, to self-assertiveness. It is not enough to analyze the awkward pedophilic tones in manga or question the existence of games like Rapelay.**

The day-to-day lives of women in Japan are almost entirely constructed, leaving little to no room of dreaming of different possibilities for oneself and one’s future.

The women who are born in, live in, and die in Japan are subject to a reality of living as an animated puppet. I think of my grandmother, and what kinds of dreams and aspirations she must have had as a little girl. At one point they faded away, and she is a now a woman who plans and prepares meals for her husband on a daily basis, despite not liking cooking at all. What about the young women who are at the prime of their potential, who instead of wondering: “What do I want to do? How do I want to live?” are caught trimming themselves at the edges, trimming trimming trimming trimming so they can be “kawaii” and appropriate, just like everybody else? There is not even ONE mainstream, visible form of resistance to the dictates of Japanese society — because of course, any sort of resistance is met with social shame, and collectively, we just don’t “do” that in Japan.

The level of suppression (oppression) in Japan is one of deep, deep concern. And yet because of our success within capitalism it often is not thought of as “too bad.” But it is. I can’t even say that the women in Japan are suffering because to suffer is to feel something that has not been deemed acceptable by the larger society. It is possible, I think, to teach suppression of the soul so much as to make suffering unrecognizable. It is possible to distort humanity to the point where puppetry is the only viable alternative. Japan needs help. And it needs to help itself find some sort of authentic humanity before as Japanese we are sterilized out of any true and meaningful existence. Fuck Japan, yo. Fuck Japan. Fuck Japan. Fuck Japan.

BOOOOOOO!!!

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Two thumbs, waaay down.

*Osaka is somewhat of an anomaly in Japan. For whatever reason the attitudes are much more lax, people are much more expressive and direct. Because of the unbridled honesty of Osaka culture, people there are often regarded as the niggers of Japan, if we want to make an appropriate Western comparison. (Whaddup mah niggaaaas!! Hahahaha)

**I advise caution when seeking information about this game.

Resistance should not be an identity.

sick of motherfuckers trying to front because they are “revolutionary”

It’s fun when, you end up in those after-class university-sponsored debates about non-violence and see white women wearing “Brother Malcolm” t-shirts (in the U.K. no less!). It’s fun when your former Women’s Studies classmates bash other people for being “cis,” or “straight” or “not feminist enough.” It’s fun when you are in Falasteen and the white internationals show hostility towards you for not being down to talk politics and Netanyahu all the damn time.

Here’s a newsflash for all y’all motherfuckers:

don’t nobody give a fuck about you or your politics –

I spent a decent portion of my youth being just like this; thinking that my resistance and political ideas made me special, that people should know exactly what I’m all about so that they can walk away thinking “Wow, that girl is really radical, man!” I spent a lot of time doing that, and I think its a normal step in the process towards decolonizing oneself … the point being of course, to move on from it. It is so easy to think that we are better than others, isn’t it? To think that our beliefs and our positionality make us superior to those who do not share the same ideas…

It is so easy to get caught up in the confusion of what is going on in the world and to brand our resistance to it all by feeling different, or unique, because what we have to say is not the “norm…” and then finding others who also share that same brand and building community out of it. There is nothing wrong with building community out of resistance, but when that community is about the identity of resistance, then things get a little more complicated.

Back when I called myself a feminist I wore that identity like a badge, a label to differentiate myself from others, to say: this is who I am! I felt that I was ahead of the curb, that I was unique because I was thinking about things that most of us don’t think about. I found myself in “feminist communities” of people who spoke the same language as me, who held the same viewpoints, who validated my identity because it was shared. But then it got to a point where I started to behave exclusively; where those who didn’t identify as such were looked upon with pity, pity that they hadn’t “found the light” of resistance or whatever the fuck.

Later, when I moved on from feminism and more deeply into radical black forms of resistance, the urge to do the same was strong. It is tempting to want to give ourselves wholly to an identity of resistance when resistance seems to be the only option in a situation of extreme futility and grief. I have been so consistently heartbroken along the trajectory of my own political consciousness that I have wanted to give myself fully to that pain, to the struggle — I have wanted to dedicate my life to the struggle because it is the “struggle” that grips me so completely.

But when we get too caught up in our resistance to the point that it is through that which we identify, we actually lose a lot of ourselves in the process. We must ask ourselves this: If we identify as revolutionaries then what happens when the revolution is over? Who do we become then? The temptation to let our resistance become our identity, to let it become who we are, actually distorts the very nature of our resistance. We should be resistant because it is our historical and ontological vocation to strive towards humanization. Once we begin to wear that as an identity then we become attached to it as we do all of our identities, and it becomes difficult to lose and easy to protect.

The point, though, is that we don’t want to protect resistance — we resist so that we can resist no more. Holding on to resistance as an identity makes it so that we have much to lose in losing it, and blinds us from the interactions and possibilities that can actually help us to move closer towards a reality where our struggle is but a historical phenomenon to be studied (idealistic, I know, but that’s besides the point). I am fully committed to resisting all forms of oppression of humanity, but I also know that I cannot give myself up to it; I also need to live outside of it, even if only in those moments of hopeful calm in the calamity; I cannot always be struggling or else I have lost to the struggle.

I know that many of us are tired. I know that many of us, like myself, resist for survival, out of necessity and not necessarily by choice. But we must be careful not to let it become who we are, because the whole point of our bravery is so that we may live fuller, and freer; and as much effort as it may take, we must live full and free now (in the ways in which we can). The revolution is not waiting for us, it is now, and it means living resistant, but not only through resistance. As much as it is a central part of us, it cannot be all that we are.

And for the rest — for those of us who can choose when to be resistant or not, whether through women’s marches or carefully curated outrage on facebook, ask yourselves: how do you choose to show your resistance to the world? What would it mean if no one saw you doing these things? If we are truly committed to the struggle, then we must not exploit the struggle for our own personal gain; that defeats the whole purpose, that distorts the whole point; it renders useless the vocation to be fully human.

Listen up white girls: I ain’t yo mammy

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America’s favorite mammy

In an attempt to make new friends and generally be open and accepting to other people in my young adult life, I have extended the hand of companionship to the white women who are my peers, despite the initial feeling of skepticism and cautiousness that almost automatically accompanies any sort of interaction with white people. As much as I have struggled with my own evolving feelings about white people (from being best friends with them as a child to gradually growing farther apart due to the inevitable racial divide), I still make a concerted attempt not to let any of that cloud my openness when meeting new, unique individuals. It is a hard thing to do when so many interactions turn out predictably disappointing, but what is the point of us suffering from the effects of racial discrimination if we cannot learn from it? (Hint: there is no point to suffering from racism). So in an attempt to still follow anti-racist virtues of acceptance and “tolerance,” I open my heart, to white girls.

And at first it can seem okay. I grew up around white people and whiteness is ubiquitous enough in my culture (American culture) for me to know how to connect with them even if I hadn’t. Especially when we interact on those nights out, those nights where everyone is looking to let loose and have a great time, the connection can seem as if I am right back at my elementary school, giggling about boys to a girl whose race is the last thing on my mind: a Barbie to my Christie doll. The connections made on nights with substances can seem downright preordained – all the facades come down and it is straight friends friends friends, and there is nothing like women’s friendship.

Which is why it can be so disconcerting when those connections never seem to make it past the initial spark of camaraderie, like pushing tomatoes through a sieve and all the pulpy bits stay behind while the juice is left wondering like, wtf? In my experience it is hard for white women to get past that initial bit, the part where you go from acquaintances who really like each other to real, actual friends. See real actual friends are people with whom your relationship is mutual; you hold my hair and I’ll hold yours. True friends are interested in knowing about your life, what you’re feeling anxious about and what excites you. True friends can expect that you will listen to them rant about their new boss but also can be counted on to return the favor.

I know white women have the ability to be true friends, so what stops them when it comes to us black women? Maybe it is the stereotype that black women are strong, therefore why would we ever need a shoulder to cry on? Maybe it is the expectation that we will give tough, “no-nonsense” advice, so come to me with all your problems, I’ll tell it to you straight! Maybe it is that white women hold a certain level of uneasiness with black women’s emotions, because once we’re angry nothing can stand in our way, right? Whatever it is rooted in, it has got to stop, because not only is it perpetuating same old racism, but it is also preventing any true solidarity between women, keeping us the proletariat to the ruling powers of men.

See white women do this thing where they don’t ask us any questions about our own lives. It is almost so unbelievable as to not be believable, but even in friendships that have had longevity and supposed depth I have realized, oh this b only wants to talk about her damn self!  I have been sista-girled enough times to realize that even in the friendships that look and feel genuine, the level of understanding and concern returned to me by my white gal pals pales in comparison to what they take and expect from me. The moment you stop yourself from sharing your distress about some recent racist current event, the moment your “homegirl” relents about how she could NEVER go to jail – those are the moments that make you think: Can I really be myself around this individual?

It is not only that white girls seem so unwilling to give the support that black women need, it is also that perhaps they cannot; they don’t know how and are afraid to even enter into that territory, lest their delicate white fragility be challenged by the realities of our lives. And then let’s add to the mix men and constructed female competitiveness, and you can see who your real friends are, really really quickly. Perhaps you are nice to have around because their white boyfriends will presumably never find you attractive (you’re safe). Perhaps they will never want you around their “man” in case he has a case of chocolate fever. Bottom line is: white girl envy very much exists within faux friendships.

The most disappointing part is that, it becomes such a waste of invested energy. I don’t extend an olive branch to just any white girl, but when I do it is meaningful. It is me saying: regardless of the legacy of racism and how it could potentially make it impossible for us to ever find common ground (despite the fact that we are women), I am willing to give it a try; I am willing to weather the ignorance and lack of understanding you probably have about my experiences to forge a friendship with you, to enjoy the company of another despite the difficulties. And then when that woman tries to take the whole damn tree and even thinks that she is slick because of her casual racism, it becomes more and more discouraging to want to keep offering damn olive branches.

So white girls, here’s a note to you from a fellow woman, who is black. We are no different than you; we are not your saviors, your sista girl, your go-to pick-me-up to feel alive and sassy (cause white people always be feeling cool when they get to be involved in “black people stuff”), the Jennifer Hudson to your Carrie. While I am happy to share any of my black girl magic deep love vibes with the people I care about, you have to do your part too, to show you care, and to show that even if you don’t “get it” you are willing to try. The quality of our friendships, particularly over racial lines, can be such a powerful source for a broader mind, deeper understanding, and most importantly, a haven of solidarity against the forces of sexism that deeply oppress us.

In my phone I have the number of a white girl I made a wonderful connection with the other night. I’m still deciding on whether or not to call her. Make the first move, ladies. Show us that you are genuine. We are people too, and if you manage to see that clearly, the rewards to our friendships will know no limits.

white people aren’t worth the time

Being a Black american, or rather just an individual with eyes and ears and a soul and a conscience, it has been rather impossible for me to not notice the impact that whiteness has and has had on societies and cultures around the world, and to not feel pissed off about it. Ask any of my good friends, and they will easily tell you that white people (and whiteness) is a subject matter for shit-talking for me; I really could go on and on and how many times in my life have I said the phrase, “Giiirl, don’t even get me started on white people!!?” (hint: many). Talking shit about white people is an entertaining past time as any poc can attest to, and of course the reason for such is that it is a form of catharsis and connection: catharsis because we have an opportunity to speak about our experiences, connection because our experiences are common. Like any type of social interaction, it is easiest to connect with others over shared experiences because then we feel like we can relate and be understood by one another. This is why it is so important to have the opportunity to say fuck white people, fuck men, fuck capitalism, fuck Apple or whatever, because it acknowledges amongst ourselves that we similar experiences in relation to those things (saying “fuck bitches” is a different type of community-building btw).

And so talking shit is one thing –  catharsis, entertainment, connection, etc – but what is really behind it? Why is there a need for catharsis, why is it that there is a community of people who understand the concept of whitegirlenvy, or laugh at the idea of whiteboy trying to be down? Our need for catharsis and simply having the space to be able to discuss such things stems from our shared experiences dealing with and navigating whiteness, i.e., the world(s) we live in: the ambiguous “compliment” received, the looks of surprise or the lack of looks at all. The reason poc are seemingly able to connect with one another more easily (than connecting with white people) is because we share an understanding of the world that has been tainted by racism and white supremacy, an understanding of the world that actually has no choice but to keep it real, because “real” is our lives and the realities we embody.

Underneath the layer of humor and the playfulness of shit-talking lies a stew of emotions for each of us as we continue to move throughout the world in our particular bodies: sadness, anger, confusion, frustration, futility, humiliation, grief, hope. While the individual components of this “stew” may be different and unique for all of us individually, what is the same is that it is there, and more often than not it includes some level of indignation with having been cast second-class citizens by the global powers of our world. This shared sense of indignation is what has allowed me to connect so well with the closest of my friends; of course, our friendship is more than just a shared frustration about racism and white supremacy, but without that, our friendships would certainly take on a different character. This is only because whiteness, white supremacy, racism, all of these things, are such a big part of our lives. To those of you accusing “us” of making everything about race, it is a little hard not to when we are being reminded of our race/position on a constant basis. Don’t tell me not to make it “about race” after one of your white homeboys decides to call me exotic. Don’t tell me not to make it about race when “ching chong” is the only thing you know about Asian culture (which, for the record, is not monolithic).

See racism plays such a big part in our lives that the “stew” of emotions that comes with it ends up taking up quite a bit of space within our mental and spiritual file cabinets, because ANY emotions that are a result of racism are unnecessary, because racism is unnecessary. And while the shit-talking is fun, and I would never advocate for anyone to stop talking shit ever, the emotional cauldron can bear such a burden on our minds as to distract us from the things that should really matter in our lives, like cultivating our spirits, exploring our passions, spending quality time with the people we love. When the cauldron begins to bubble up and overflow, it spills into the spaces of our psyche that should be free for living our best lives. And that, my friends, is what we call “the struggle.”

The struggle doesn’t only have to be the obvious struggle, the day-to-day frustrations like wondering how to pay rent, hoping your name won’t turn a potential employer off you, having to be the “first black person” of anything. The struggle is the distraction, the distraction in our minds that racism creates, having us worrying about things that no one needs to be spending time worrying about, like damn am I the only black person at this party?, or, maybe I shouldn’t live in that city because it is predominantly white, et cetera, et cetera.  Well I am here to tell you that: white people aren’t worth the motherfucking time – I know that we are struggling in relation to them, but they are not worth our struggle, they are not a cauldron’s-worth worthy of our time and energy and emotions.

I only learned this because – I have spent so much time in my emotional cauldron, I have spent so much time being angry at white people, “struggling,” feeling bitter about racism and hateful towards any representatives of its institution. I used to go out of my way to make white people feel uncomfortable, and be adamant about asserting my identity and creating my space within a world that doesn’t make space for me. When I left the United States at the time that I did, I was more than bubbling over with an emotional stew of resentment at things that I had not chosen, I was ready to knock a motherfucker out (still kinda wished I did though). And all my anger and sadness and indignation and grief enticed me; it drew me into a place with the promise of understanding the things happening around and to us, when in all honesty, the consequences and expression of racism in the world is quite incomprehensible.  I was so wrapped up in my anger that it directed me. My anger became a framework through which to understand the world, and in turn my interactions with those around me, particularly white people.

It wasn’t until this year, a year after I left and lessened my exposure to the fucked-up-ness of it all, that I started to have more focus and catalytic energy towards what was actually making me a better person, and not worse. It wasn’t that white people were no longer around me or that racism has stopped (yeah right lol), but rather that I was becoming burnt out on the fuel of resentment, and it wasn’t doing anything for me. As mad as I was at white people and as uncomfortable as I may have tried to make them feel, at the end of everything, they are still white and still get to enjoy the privileges of that, and my anger means nothing to them. It is like preparing to tell your boss off during your entire commute to work, only to find out that she has taken the day off. Like anything else in life, we should only put in as much as we are getting back, and yes, there is the inverse of that logic that argues that you get what you put in, but guess what? With white people, you get nothing. Ha! Joke is on us.

When I was at the height of my anger and resentment towards white people, I thought that I would never not want to be angry at them. Rightly we have just reason to be indignant, and I didn’t want to “let them off easy” by being one of those people who weren’t angry. But the anger never did anything for me (nor to a white person), and in exchange my cauldron kept taking and taking so much energy to fuel itself that it was becoming highly un-economical. It has been difficult to make the transition from having so much active resentment to actually more or less just being really sad; it is a loss of identity for me, an identity that empowered me no less. But there is a threshold as to how much our unacknowledged indignation can empower us and give us strength to assert our identities before it takes over and instead renders us helpless to grow above, and beyond.

We owe it to ourselves to reinvest our emotional fuel in the things that actually make us better people and just stop giving a fuck about the discomfort of white people, showing them our teeth and making sure they know the score (with us). Because while for us those things might be wrapped up in a whole legacy of racial indignation, for them it just rolls off of their backs – the angry black woman or the weird brown guy – as they return to their boring, boring lives. White people just ain’t worth our time y’all; or our anger, our sadness, our grief and our struggle. Those feelings may still be there, but instead of projecting them onto the white people around us, we can just laugh at the ridiculousness of their lack of understanding (it is not even worth pity). To stop giving a fuck about not giving a fuck about white people is to be the most baller you can be.

so Take a Moment

(This picture): A moment from the best morning of my life, a morning where I laughed so hard I thought I would puke, and although all the things around me were still there, I didn’t care. And it is difficult – not to care, and sometimes it feels like: am I just leaving my people behind, am I just basking in my own undeserved privilege, am I just being apathetic to things that too many people are already apathetic to?

But happiness is not privilege, and happiness is actually something that we can all attain, like love. At first I want to think that as the layers of oppression are laid upon us it is more difficult to be happy, but let’s reverse that and see that the happiest places and the happiest people are often the ones who have the least, Any one of us can be happy at any moment; no, not happiness as a myth of continued and maintained joy, but joy in a moment – a moment of laughter or of surprise or of a surge of the feeling of love.

It can seem so difficult sometimes, those moments, because we’ve been working so hard to find them that we miss them or because we’re so mired in grief that they seem impossible and almost wrong to experience – but it is quite essential that we open ourselves to noticing them when they arise, because it is those moments that are resistant. The moments where we feel joy in our hearts, even if only fleeting, are the ones that make up our internal collage of the feeling of love: the energy of resistance and the frequency of life.

I’ve wondered lately what it means to heal; what it means to be healthy and whole in a diseased environment (how does one heal a wound that will never close?) – and maybe the answer is that the healing comes from the inside. The environment itself is stubbornly slow to change, and it will keep inflicting blows upon our bodies, but perhaps instead of looking for a salve to rub upon our wounds we fight it from within… Joy is the antibody to the virus of oppression, and we owe it to ourselves to be happy. We owe it to ourselves to experience moments of joy wherever they may come to us. We owe it to ourselves to take a break from the fight, to sit for a moment and laugh if even only at the ridiculousness of it all, to put ourselves before the struggle, because we are the struggle. (what’s the point of getting to the other side if we don’t know how to be free?) Not every single one of our actions has to be towards the greater fight; there is merit in simply doing something because we want to and in doing it we can find a shrug of joy in our hearts.

Let’s make less time for guilt and obligation and grief and instead let it inform our deep saturation within those small moments where something so ordinary can be extraordinary because we have learned to value bonheur as much as our tragedy. Appreciation, if only for the knowledge that we are alive and so able to continue to live our stories; appreciation for all the moments that are devastating and for all of those whose stories no longer continue.

Happiness is resistance and joy is love.

The Black Joy Project. #blackjoy