Catcalling is Anti-Black

A reach? Lets Debate. Catcalling is something I only thought happened in episodes of “What Would You Do?“, and Queen Latifah’s U.N.I.T.Y music video. That was until I actually moved to New York, and I was subjected to it every time I’d leave the house. For those that aren’t familiar with this practice, catcalling is defined as:

” a loud, sexually suggestive call or comment directed at someone publicly (as on the street)”

Merriam Webster

The execution of this looks like a woman walking down the streets of Midtown Manhattan by herself, armed with her purse, some earpods (airpods if you extra bougie), and a cell phone. She’s wearing an all-white sundress that enhances her curves, her coconut oil infused afro is shining in the summer sun, and her dark brown skin is glistening and smelling of cocoa butter lotion (sis is feeling GOOD). Cue man wearing sneakers, a jersey shirt, and a fitted baseball hat:

Man: A-O Ma!
Woman: *increase the volume of her Solange playlist*
Man: OH, YOU CAN'T HEAR ME?
Woman: *starts walking faster, lowers head, and stares into phone*
Man: OH!? FOR REAL?! F*** YOU THEN! B****

I understand that there are people who’ve grown up in communities where this is normalized, and I welcome the Black Women and LGBTQ folks of those communities to comment their thoughts on my think piece (I’ve heard that depending on your background less vulgar catcalling may be considered acceptable courting, and I don’t want to dismiss that if it exists). With that being said, while this may be common behavior in highly populated cities, Catcalling is often just normalized harassment. Sometimes these interactions aren’t only a few sentences in the middle of board daylight, sometimes they aren’t just between two people. Personally, I’ve been stalked by groups of men, grabbed countless times, and harassed by multiple men at one time. It’s humiliating, and it feels like a group bonding experience for men at the expense of my safety.

The issue of catcalling is beyond just my experience, from conversations with other Black women I’ve gained awareness that for many of us these acts inspire terror/paranoia. Some of us recently survived rape/sexual assault and having random men on the street using our bodies as vessels to validate their masculinity/ego only perpetuates the symptoms of PTSD. Many of us live with anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues, and the act of men disregarding our feelings can be really damaging. According to the article “African American Women’s Beliefs About Mental Illness, Stigma, and Preferred Coping Behaviors”:

“Approximately 7.5 million African Americans have a diagnosed mental illness (31.9% of Black Women), and up to 7.5 million more may be affected but are undiagnosed (63.8% of Black Women in total) (Davis, 2005). Women may be over-represented in these populations given the reported 2:1 gender ratio of depression (Immerman & Mackey, 2003). Additionally, negative sociopolitical experiences including racism, discrimination, and sexism put African American women at risk for low-income jobs, multiple role strain, and health problems, all of which are associated with the onset of mental illness (Schneider, Hitlan, & Radhakrishnan, 2000). 


Earlise C. Ward and Susan M. Heidrich

In addition to mental health considerations, there’s an undiscussed element of Power & Privilege Cis Men hold over Women when they Catcall. As a gender-fluid person, I’m no stranger to people being confused by my gender identity. This manifests itself in questions about my sex/gender when I’m walking down the street, and homophobic/transphobic comments being made against me and the LGBTQ community. It’s in these situations that fear becomes enhanced; I don’t enjoy feeling pressured to answer questions about my gender/sex on the street. For one, it’s none of anyone’s business, and two, being publicly outed can jeopardize my (or any LGBTQ’s person’s) safety. The rates of murder against specifically Trans and Non-Gender-Conforming (NGC) folks are increasingly growing, and over the past 5 years 102 (and counting) Trans folks were the victim of a fatal crime (at least 88 of these individuals were women, and at least 87 of these individuals were people of color). When you’re Black, when you’re a woman, and when you’re LGBTQ, catcalling is more than just “being bothered.” Catcalling is an act of harassment that you can only pray doesn’t result in fatal death, just because you threatened somebody’s fragile male ego.

Originally, I was going to share the reasons behind men catcall (based on conversations I’ve had with men and research). But at this point, I don’t think it’s relevant. I do not care that it’s cultural. I do not care about a man’s self-esteem needing a lift, especially if it means stepping on the esteem of others. I do not buy the excuse that this is a “coming of age” activity, and “boys will be boys.” Men suffering from mental health issues, poverty, and other adversities does not justify them using the bodies of women to perpetuate oppression. Women, Black women, Black Trans Women, do not exist as objects to use and abuse. To my original point, Catcalling is Anti-Black because anything that encourages, enables, and perpetuates the harassment and degradation of Black Women/LGBTQ folks is Anti Black.

I have seen a number of thought pieces, videos, and protests that acknowledge catcalling as an issue. But often times I feel as though Black Women and LGBTQ folks are left out of the conversation. I do understand that this issue impacts a wide array of women, however when you add in the intersections of sex/gender, race, and orientation you find that your experience with Catcalling can be worse. Therefore I specifically call on more Cis Black Men and Cis White Women to speak on this issue and stand up for Black Women/LGBTQ folks. When we are left out of these conversations when folks within our own community ignore and perpetuate street harassment, it looks a like like y’all want privilege and not equality.

January 2019 – Middle Month Oracle Forecast

This year I’ve predicted that this month will be hallmarked by healing, and I definitely still stay true to that interpretation. In the first 2 weeks of January we witnessed the release of the Surviving R Kelly documentary series, and that Cynotia Brown was granted clemency and will be released August 2019. While these are great strides towards healing, I urge everyone to be patient (especially when it comes to the healing you’re going through in your own life). Healing is a journey, and often a long one filled with twists, turns, and obstacles. Receiving legal justice in the United States of America does not make. break, or define the healing process. The survivors of R Kelly are still carrying the scars Robert had inflicted on them, and while investigations are being done in Georgia and Chicago, he still walks. Cyntonia Brown may be able to begin her life in August, but that’s still 7 months away. She still has to recover from familial trauma, the trauma of sexual abuse and trafficking, the abuse by the legal system, the abuse of the prison system, and the stigma that comes with her identify.

I remain optimistic though, we can still heal. I know many of you are dealing with less than fortunate situations, I myself am still healing from my traumas (and still learning how they show up in my life). That is ok, healing is a journey.

What we are holding onto:  Ephemeral

The concept of survival alone doesn’t seem of much significance, but until you bring into context that we are survivors of circumstance, trauma, and adversity. We are more than mouth feeders just staying afloat, we are fighters dismantling invisible powers to be. The pain from our battle wounds are still healing, many of them are still open flesh wounds. What I am reading from this card is that many of us are holding onto false ideas of what healing should look like; a lot of blame and deflection is going around. We may have hopes of people changing, despite the realities that we are presently being faced with. Perhaps we feel as though we should instantly be ok now that we have exited toxic situations, ignoring the fact that we still don’t know all the places where we got hurt yet. Let go of the idea that healing is this small package that we can neatly wrap with a bow, healing is more like a forest fire that even after we put out we are still left with the burns. Being kind with yourself means being fair with yourself, don’t expect perfection from impatient people and situations.

What has a hold on us: Abundance 

The will the live has a hold of us y’all! I think overtime this card will come into context for us, if it hasn’t already. I do believe that energies around us will begin to bring blessings and gifts into our lives. May your health improve, let your friends love you, have your family of choice around you. I won’t pretend to know what factors surround you, but I do pray that the positive ones are taking your hand right now. Keep your eyes opened for that friend that stays by your side no matter what, appreciate them. You have a pet that always keeps your spirits high, buy them a treat and appreciate their presence in your life. If you can’t identify a positive factor in your life, identify that you are the positive factor in your life. Sometimes we can’t see the wealth that life has provided us, or we identify it too materially or externally. As where those types of wealth are nice, we are also blessed with gifts that can be found within us. Sing today, write today, run today, celebrate you today. What has a hold of us are the most beautiful things in life, let them embrace you.

What energy accompanies us: Build

Yup, you guessed it! Capricorn energy surrounds us, lets welcome it. Capricorns may get a bad rep for being such married-to-work loners, but at the beginning of the year, at the beginning of our collective healing, that energy may be exactly what we need. We need the ability to self-isolate if need be, to take space for ourselves! What I truly love about capricorns is that they are such advocates for themselves when they want to be, they ain’t letting you get in the way of their finances/deadlines/work/school/projects/goals. Identify what you need, develop a plan, identify obstacles, create a timeline, and execute. It’s important to recognize that even though things aren’t fair and healing isn’t complete, we must still celebrate how far we’ve come. R Kelly has investigations being conducted against him, we are having conversations about Black girls being hyper-sexualized and exploited. I am so proud of the team that worked on the Surviving R Kelly documentary, and the survivors that came out (y’all did that!). I am so happy that Cyntoia is receiving clemency, y’all were effortlessly fighting with this Woman. We are limitless, and we are powerful. Don’t you for a second forget how absolutely capable you are; now go achieve your goals.

Advice to combat challenges: Tribulation 

Please don’t be discouraged, when towers fall a lot of rubble follows. The world feels like a mess right now, and I get it, that’s a lot to digest. I am disgusted by the horror stories we are hearing about the world, but it’s scary to witness any tower that falls. We are breaking down a lot of toxic towers my loves, rape culture, racism, misogynoir. We would be fooling ourselves to not expect sights to be ugly before, during and even after we see the collapse. My advice for this middle month reading is to remember, as ugly as things look right now, we are getting closer to the healing we desire. There will be no healing without anger, there will be no healing without sadness. Let yourself feel all the emotions that come up for you, accept reality as you are seeing it so you can act appropriately. Develop a plan for yourself based off what’s happening around you, and I bet my last dollar that you’ll start seeing results later on in the year.

Bandersnatch, What’s Free Will when you’re Mentally Ill

Spoilers ahead, please watch the movie first.

Black Mirror is one of my favorite television shows, once you get past the episode where that guy had to do that thing with the pig. After that, you really learn to appreciate the show. This British drama lays the best and worst of humankind, forcing us to reevaluate what we as a species actually appreciate (I hope it’s not pigs, at least not in that kinda way). The latest and long-awaited release of Bandersnatch did not disappoint. Like many British shows, I felt as though it had a slow and mildly confusing start. I tried to watch this movie when I was about to sleep, but the interactive aspect was a bit lost on me. Once I did actually have the energy to brave this movie I ended up getting absolutely wrapped up in the characters life, so much so that I got lost in my own anxieties.

Bandersnatch follows the life of Stefan, a 19-year-old aspiring video game designer, who is living during the year 1984. Stefan lives in an ordinary town in England with his father, and frequently sees a therapist for what I assume is anxiety and/or depression (possibly a long-term adjustment disorder). In the film, Stefan is given the opportunity to bring to life his video game Bandersnatch, based on the novel by fictional author Jerome F. Davies (the genius who cut off his wife’s head). This Netflix movie mimics the storyline of the novel, and game(s) Bandersnatch creating this meta-analysis of free-will. As we progress in the film, we watch the decline of Stefan’s perceived (and actual) freedom. He becomes a victim of his impulses, a victim of our decision. We watch him lose control of his ability to choose, fighting inexplainable drives, and spiral into a pool of is own mind. He begins to question if anything is real anymore if we are all just P.A.C. (Program and Control) Men trapped in an inescapable maze.

I won’t act like I have the best explanation for this movie, but I do want to throw my hat into the ring. Bandersnatch, in my opinion, is a metaphor for Mental Illness. The protagonist of the film is living with it, and it’s not lost on me how Colin (Stefan’s idol/guide/mentor) also seems to be impacted by it (educated guess). When watching the film, some might assume that Stefan is suffering from Schizophrenia. As where I can understand why that is a conclusion some would come to, I’d like to point out that the DSM 5 outlines the below criteria must be met to make that diagnosis:

Two or more of the following for at least a one-month (or longer) period of time, and at least one of them must be 1, 2, or 3:

  1. Delusions
  2. Hallucinations
  3. Disorganized speech
  4. Grossly disorganized or catatonic behavior
  5. Negative symptoms, such as diminished emotional expression

There’s a bit more that goes into a diagnosis for Schizophrenia, but I’d like to point out that the only symptom of the 5 that I think it’s fair to say Stefan exhibits is hallucinations. I’d argue that he can’t possibly be suffering from delusions because there’s nothing false about his beliefs, and it may be ‘crazy’ from the outside looking in, but given context, we see there’s truth to his beliefs. It’s arguable that he does suffer from hallucinations because there are two separate times (that I’ve seen) that he comes across the lion in Bandersnatch, however, it’s worth noting that one of those times he’s under the influence of acid/LSD. I don’t think he has a disorganized speech at all, nor does he exhibit grossly disordered or catatonic behavior (when put into the context of his unseen reality). I think it’s debatable to say he showcases signs of negative symptoms of Schizophonia, but it’s extremely important to take into consideration that he was under extreme pressure and wasn’t eating/sleeping to meet a deadline (could also explain his hallucinations). Never the less, his therapist doesn’t diagnosis him as having Schizophrenia (or so we know), and that’s what’s most important to me.

Regardless of if Stefan suffers from Schizophrenia or not, the reference to the matrix and free-will wasn’t lost on me. We as humans need to believe in free-will, even if it is just a myth. Without it, we lose hope. I also couldn’t help but appreciate how Stefan’s impulses, his reality, and his experience was discounted because of others we unable to see it. As a Black woman, I could relate to him. My experience with racism, sexism, homophobia, etc is constantly dismissed and gas-lit in this society and my cries for help and understanding are also taken out of context. Medication is given to people like me, because either my reality is dismissed, or all I can do is try to cope with it.

My interpretation of the film is that the Audience/Netflix is a metaphor for Mental Illness, and Stefan is us. When you suffer from any mental illness, often time you feel trapped in a maze that you’re incapable of escaping. You are a P.A.C. man, trapped in this game we call life, forced to consume the bullshit that comes with it. Grasping for cherries for short-term highs as attempts to cope/escape from the demons that are chasing you. No one else but you and other mentally ill people understands and validate your reality. You’re passed off as crazy, and the only people who have an idea of how crazy you are, are passed off as crazy too or eccentric as well (see Colin).

This piece has no fair ending, much like how Bandersnatch has no fair ending. There’s no escaping Mental illness, you can only learn to cope with it. This film forces us to consider if the sense of control and security we have over our lives is false. It challenges us to reconsider if free will is actually real. Most importantly, it makes us ask the question: Who or What is controlling us?

Increasing Emotional Intelligence by Giving “Full Consideration”

Emotional intelligence, something young girls are conditioned to have, and boys are conditioned to lack. I find that when I interact with most men I often have to teach them how to be sensitive in general, as well as sensitive to me.  It’s not my duty to teach my partners how to have a healthy baseline of emotional intelligence; it can be exhausting.

 To me, it is not fair to have to over-think in order to translate how to have basic relationship skills to my partner. When I think of a partner, I think of someone who’s evenly yolked in multiple different areas (spiritual, mental, emotional, sexual, and practical). This is so in a relationship we can focus on bettering each other from a shared baseline.


What happens if you’re not evenly yolked with someone, and you have mix-matched baselines?


The way I see it, a relationship is the meshing of two people to create a partnership (one unit). Follow my metaphor:

  • Relationship = Hybrid plant
  • Partner 1 = Mango plant
  • Plant 2 = Lemon plant.

For these two individual plants to become a hybrid, each must coexist with full consideration of what each plant requires.


Well, what does “full” consideration look like?


Fair question don’t you think? I’m going to start with what full consideration isn’t. Full consideration is not selfish, nor is it self serving. Full consideration is the act of taking yourself out of your own body (metaphorically speaking), and into the perspective of an imaginary third party to then decide what is the best decision for all parties involved.  Women in my experience are taught this level of consideration from an early age. These teachings can range from reasonable considerations or to unfair considerations. See an example of both:


“I’m really stressed out, and having a drink is what I’m used to doing to feel better. But now I’m pregnant, so I have to find a new coping mechanism.”


“Damn, I really feel confident in this dress. But it’s a bit short, and I don’t want guys to think they can grope me because I’m wearing it.”


As where the latter consideration may be accurate, it is unfair to expect women to give an unfair level of consideration to others.  If men were condition to have high levels of emotional intelligence, women may not consider their safety and survival when choosing to do ever day activities. Studies show that once girls begin puberty (sexual development), they are twice as likely have an anxiety disorder than men are. A clear correlation can’t be made without further research, but I do think that it’s a study worth conducting.

Should women stop being so considerate? No, that’s not what I’m arguing. I think that our society does not raise men and women to be evenly yolked emotionally, so in return you see women having to be hyper-sensitive to the needs of others and men lacking in that area of emotional intelligence.


So what can be done to even the playing field?


In order for men and women to be evenly yolked, a desire to increase their emotional intelligence and unlearn unhealthy habits is needed. This desire should not be motivated by a girl they are attracted to, because women do not exist to be rewards for men who learn basic decency. The desire should not be motivated by the desire to have sex, because if you’re only a feminist to get laid then you haven’t truly increased your emotional intelligence (i’mma challenge y’all to think about why that is). The desire must be driven by the want to improve as a person, and to the best version of who you can be as a human being. This in turn will breed more emotionally intelligent people who are taking balanced consideration into each other’s needs, which makes it so one person does not have to be hyper-sensitive and over-extend themselves because of the other person.


So back to our plant example:

  • Semi-Consideration: Only looks at the type of environment that the mango tree is comfortable in, and developing an environment that’s best the mango plant, thus leaving the lemon plant as an afterthought.
  • Full Consideration: Takes into account what both plants need to survive on their own, and find a way to create a compromise for those plants so they can have an environment conducive to mutual growth. Only when both plants have a fair amount of their needs met can they become a hybrid plant and have a healthy relationship.


I would argue that if someone isn’t able to/doesn’t desire to give full consideration in their relationship, I do not think that they are ready to be in a healthy relationship. I also think that there are situations where no matter how much consideration is given, two people are not able to meet their own separate needs together (these people are incompatible). It does hurt if people aren’t ready to be in a healthy relationship, or when they aren’t compatible with you. But, it’s better to know that then to over-extend yourself, and eventually find yourself in a toxic or abusive relationship. I think that when we respect people, we treat them with consideration because they matter. I hope you noticed that this post was cis-normative, because now the next step of consideration for men and women is to consider the feelings and needs of people who don’t fit in the gender binary.

Consideration isn’t selfish, nor is it self serving. Consideration is going beyond yourself. I challenge you all to increase your emotional intelligence, the world will be a better place when we treat each other a little better.

BLACK WOMEN: A BATTLEGROUND FOR OUR SOULS

“This brother here, myself and all of us were born with our hair like this, and we just wear it like this because it’s natural. The reason for it, you might say, is like a new awareness among Black people that their own natural physical appearance is beautiful and is pleasing to them. For so many years, we were told that only white people were beautiful–that only straight hair, light eyes, light skin was beautiful so Black women would try everything they could — straighten their hair, lighten their skin— to look as much like white women. This has changed because black people are aware. White people are aware of it too because white people now want natural wigs like this. Dig it. Isn’t it beautiful? Alright.”


Kathleen Cleaver, 1968

When you’re a Black Woman, you never truly feel like your body is yours. Your skin becomes the light of a riot, your body the playing field for political wars. Your ass is sexualized for White bodies, and your identity is a scapegoat for Black men. When you’re a Black woman your body is a secret for uncles to stare at, and aunties to demonize. When your a Black woman your features are for White Women to appropriate, and for society to make a mockery of. When you’re a Black woman, you become a very special type of tired. Your body becomes a temple for any colonizer to invade, so you teach yourself to hide your spirit where the sage flies high. When you’re a Black woman, the only safe place exists with our ancestors and the Orishas on a plane we still have yet to define. When you’re a Black woman, you learn an attitude. You learn a bitch face, a look of dissatisfaction, a mean mug, an aura of aggression. 

“Of course I’m mad, I’m as mad as I am Black. I’m as mad as I am Woman.” 

Saartjie “Sarah” Baartman, died December 29th, 1815, her stuffed body wasn’t buried until August 9th, 2002. Lucy, Anarcha, and Betsey, while alive the world was told that ‘Black women don’t feel pain.’ Their bodies were used without consent, without anesthesia, to birth the “Father of Modern Gynecology.” Serena Williams, unarguably one of the most iconic athletics of our time, and frequently compared to a man or a monkey. Tell me how I’m supposed to love me when everything about me is under continuous critique. How am I not tempted to bleach my skin, and install a weave when nothing about this world is conducive to my external existence? Self-love is something that is difficult for anyone to possess. But ain’t it incompassionate to tell Black women to love ourselves, when since we touched foot on America our bodies became objects of labor, objectification, (sexual) abuse, and exploitation? How am I supposed to love me when it is because of my identity that society seems to hate me?

Regennia Johnson,December 7, 2016

“Her name is Tiarah Poyau. On Tuesday, September 6th, I found out a young Black woman who was my same age was fatally shot in the face for doing what I had just done the night before in Madrid, Spain. I was reminded what it meant to not only be a woman, but to be a woman of color, to be a Black woman who commands ownership of her body. To be vocal, resilient, and push back towards the objectification and entitlement over our bodies. I fought with the reality that as much as I want to go off on men who don’t understand NO or “I’m not interested”, by doing so, whether politely or not, I could be next on the list of women who died due to fragile masculinity. Rape culture, misogyny, racism, respectability politics, and extremely fragile masculinity are issues Black women experience differently than women of other races.”


Regennia Johnson, December 7, 2016

To be Black Woman is to be a constant fighter and advocate of your own humanity. To think for yourself, to transcend toxic tribal mentality. To be a Black Woman is to shatter expectations, and not concern yourself with stereotypes. To be a Black woman is to wear your hair blonde and nappy, or straight and colored like cotton-candy. To be a Black woman is to be your own freedom, your own serenity, your own divine being. To be a Black woman is to define your own strength, through sensitivity, through spirituality, through tears, through throwing heels, and clapping hands between your words. To be a Black woman is to be a multidimensional individual. To be a Black woman means being your own momma sometimes, it means finding that little Black girl inside of you and protecting her.

To me, to be a Black Woman, you must learn to be carefree.  Thank you for being, because of Y’all I am. 

Y’all hate Tiffany Haddish but Love Cardi because society wants Memes, not Black Lives

With the popularization of Black culture(s) and the increase of allies, I couldn’t help but notice (especially living in the Liberal bubble that is New York City), Y’all don’t really know about Black Culture(s). For many people, I think the lens they understand “Black culture” from is through the narratives of popular culture (via social media), and maybe an African American studies class they took once in college (bonus points if you minored in it). But when it actually comes to understanding Black culture(s), I still notice that most people fall short. The recent arrest of Arthur Posey, who is facing 2 charges of claiming false information of planned arson, because he expressed that he intends on “Blow the bathroom up,” goes to show that there’s a HUGE disconnect of cultural competency for Black people and our culture. Black women feel this frustration, because our bodies as where we have ideal physical features (large asses, thick lips, etc), we are literally reduced to those features.. That being said, our features are often looked down on, until White Women possess/appropriate those features.

From my perspective, this really speaks to society’s desire to capitalize on Blackness without taking the time (or interest) to really understand or appreciate it. I think this phenomenon explains why Cardi B is more accepted by society as opposed to Tiffany Haddish (obviously Colorism plays a role). Cardi B has gained her popularity in part because of talent, he ability to be relatable, and because she capitalized on being viral due to memes. Yes fam, before Cardi B was a famous rapper, she was on Love and Hip Hop and definitely gained more mainstream notability than her co-stars for her usage of facial expressions, relatable comedy, and catchphrases. Cardi B has been able to take an identity that people typically look down on, and inspire people who’ve never stepped foot in the Bronx to wish that’s where they hailed from (sorta). This being said, I highly doubt most of the suburb teens singing along to “Bodak Yellow” aspire to actually step foot in the Bronx to actually learn about Cardi’s upbringing. Cardi is only one example, however, of how non-Black people enjoy the commercialization of Black folks but don’t actually hold any interest in learning about Black people. Cause bet, If Tiffany Haddish rebranded herself to be more “meme’able,” you’d likely see a spike in her popularity and to some extent “worth” in society. 

This is not to say Tiffany Haddish isn’t worthy, she absolutely is! But when I say “worth,” I mean her value in the eyes of a society that cares more for memes/pop-culture and not Black lives. In a lot of ways, Cardi B fits exactly who people expect a Black/Latina girl from the Bronx to be like. Tiffany Haddish however, doesn’t really fit any stereotypes that non-White folks can relate to. They don’t understand her humor, nor do they aspire to. Understanding Tiffany Haddish’s comedy (or the comedy of many other Black people) involves actually knowing Black people (you must have more than one Black friend to relate) and understanding the pressures society puts on us. Racism (and I’d argue colorism) comes into play when you realize that White people (and probably many non-Black people of color) have a harder time feeling empathy for Black people than they do their own race. Cardi B may not be a White woman, but she is biracial/light skin and we see that Lighter Black woman are treated and regarded better than darker Black women. Considering the Black women that people idolize, may it be Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Beyonce, or Cardi B, you’ll find that the common denominator is Light skin. 

When Black women are able to break into mainstream culture it’s typically because of their ability to fit into a very stereotypical idea of what it means to be a Black woman (slave roles, baby momma roles, angry Black women roles, etc). Examples of that are Tiffany Pollard and GloZell Green, who’ve both had their 5-seconds of meme-worthy fame. Noted by the blog What Whites Will Never Know:

They (GloZell Green) reinforced negative stereotypes and reinforcing what the media taught the mainstream about Black people.” 

I do acknowledge that this post is entirely based on my opinion, perhaps I am being too “sensitive” about the topic. However, my experiences as a Black woman have to lead me to this conclusion. Throughout my life, I’ve found that people’s ideas of me as a Black women are largely shaped by stereotypes, and the very thought of having to expand their perspective of my identity was considered to be ‘too much work.’ In a lot of cases I find that boys on dating apps just want to focus on my ass and ability to twerk. Schools and organizations would prefer to just order soul food and play a slave movie on Black history month. Society seems like they’d rather just prefer to say #BlackLivesMatter than actually having to understand what’s going on in our Black lives.

I am interested in hearing your opinions, what do y’all think?

How Women are Conditioned to be Raped

“No means no.”

I’ve spent my entire life struggling to stand up for myself. I’ve always been sensitive, and thoughtful towards people’s opinions and feelings. To some extent I think I care a little too much about what others think; I’m too thoughtful towards people who don’t matter. I backbend to appease strangers, and second guess the way I word messages to people who probably won’t remember them. I think I grew up to become a “People Pleaser.” Not a “Yes man,” I’m not scared of having opinions, but I care too much about how those opinions impact people.  So much so that I compromise myself so others won’t feel bad.

I don’t consider this a noble thing, in fact in ways I think it can be more cowardly than anything. Ghosting slowly after first dates, replying to messages, entertaining hope even though I don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. Which leads me to my second problem, I think I’ve internalized that I may not know what’s best for me. I have issues trusting my own intuition, even though it’s right more often than not. I end up dating the worst people, and being in the worst situations because I assume the little voice in my head is just me being “too sensitive.” 

I won’t blame everything on race and gender, I think it’s important to take the onus of our personality traits (or at least try to). At 11-years-old I recall being in Winn-Dixie with my mother. My little black hands grasped on to the cool metal of the grocery store cart. I don’t remember what my mother was talking about exactly, not that it probably mattered. What I do remember was the feeling I had when she mentioned “White people.” I felt like all ears and eyes would be on us if she said it any louder, I was fearful of the conflict that could occur if someone was offended. At 11-years-old I was trying to preserve the comfort of all the White faces in the store that day, as well as feeling a strong desire to ensure my mother’s safety.

As the years passed I grew to understand my mother’s frustration, and would eventually inherit it with age. Isn’t it funny what we inherit? Frustration, rage, sadness. I have Brown skin, I assume my ancestors were forced to appease White people. Forced to whisper words about them, forced to wear masks so as to see another day. I won’t pretend to know exactly what that feels like, I’m oppressed but not the same type of oppressed as they were. The oppression I face is more social suicide, meets “accidental murder.” If I lash out, talk too loud, and my lips fall short of a smile, I’ll receive a label.

“Mad Black Woman,” because any woman with a working mouth must be mad. “Overly sensitive and over-analytical,” because my existence takes too long to digest. I think became a people pleaser for a lot of reasons, survival being one of the top ones. Women who scream too loud get silenced, and Black folks get killed. It’s the worst type of humbling, the type that pushes you into a “sunken place.” The type of Sunken place Black men don’t write about, because they aren’t in it. The type of sunken place that our momma warn us about “don’t be wearing that, you’ll attract the wrong type of attention.” The type of sunken place that we don’t talk about, that we can’t talk about.

I think if I were a Cis Straight White Man I would speak a lot louder, express my opinions even if they were unasked for. Spread my legs on the subway, and drive fast on the freeway. But I’m not, I’m not a Cis-Het White Man, I’m a Trans-Pan-Black Woman (gender fluid). I know nothing other than my black face, and thick lips. I am still teaching myself to say “No,” at risk of being deemed a “Mad Black Woman.” If only I were that privileged. This piece isn’t a call to action, I have no intention of stirring up a protest. This piece has no answers because the question itself is difficult to comprehend. This piece does challenge you all to really consider what sunken place you may live in, maybe your sunken place is about poverty, or physical ability, or even sexuality. Think about how often you’ve reached into the air to grasp onto words that fell on deaf ears; think about how you would describe the color and the taste of an orange to someone who’s never seen one. They might think you mad, wouldn’t they?

I think a lot of America’s problem with social issues (Race, gender, sexuality, etc) isn’t that we aren’t talking about it (in most cases), but that we aren’t understanding it. We don’t challenge ourselves to go out of our own world. We are too fixated on things that bother us, and we refuse to have empathy for other people. To actually touch on the title of this piece, I believe that the very moment that I was born as a woman I have been expected to be comfortable with my sunken place. Older men would stare at my undeveloped body, drunken men would figure they could take a grab if they wanted to. If I spoke up, I’d be a prude. My first boyfriend told me he felt like it’s a wife’s duty to make sure her husband is sexually satisfied, my grandmother taught me I need to make sure I look good for my man. When I am with men, I am expected to be the referee. “Stop, no, I said no, fuck man I said no!” Are words I’m never bold enough to express because when I am with men I’m expected to also be “polite.” Bitch is such an ugly word, and my grandma made me feel like I as a woman am supposed to be pretty. Bitch is such an ugly word, and what would if I scream too loud? What happens when a woman screams too loud, or a black person, or a Black woman even?

To be fair, on the flip side I feel like young men are conditioned to be rapists. Not only by society but because of individual interactions as well. “What the fuck? You don’t want to fuck me? You must be gay.” I can’t imagine what it’s like to be a man, that’s just not how I identify. But I have observed the irony in unpacking rape culture. I have observed in theory we encourage quotes like “No means No” and “Ask first.” But what happens when someone does want to ask about everything, are they then considered un-sexy? What of the men who find no particular interest in being sexual aggressors, are they then deemed submissive and undesirable? As a little girl, I recall being fed this idea that the man I want would be like Beast from Beauty and the Beast. That I was supposed to deal with all the horrible ways he presented himself, and it was my job to teach him how to treat me. I think we are all bounded by expectations, by roles we are told we are supposed to fulfill. I don’t think this is an issue with men or women, I think this is an issue with society. How do we deviate from society if we are still holding onto our tribalistic nature? As individuals, I think the answer is going out of our comfort zone. But as a society, maybe the answer can reveal itself with a little more understanding.

What Being Sexually Assaulted at Afropunk Taught Me

I’m no stranger to unwanted touch, non-desired looks, and involuntary comments. I’m used to people having the impression that my body exists for their gaze, and no longer has value when they’ve finished with it. This isn’t the first time I’ve written about sexual assault, and given the world we live in, I doubt it will be the last. 

I attended Afropunk this past August, for the second year in a row. My first year wasn’t too amazing considering that the festival over-sold tickets, and due to the high quantity of people there were numerous jams and congestion at the festival. I’m someone who has social anxiety and I do tend to have panic attacks when I’m in large crowds, so I suffered from feeling severely triggered my first year there. My second year was a lot better in regards to congestion, there weren’t as many people so I was able to actually enjoy the festival without having a mental breakdown (haha). I was also joined by friends that I don’t get to see often and new faces that I hope I will be able to get to know better over time. For the most part, my Afropunk experience was pretty amazing. Between seeing Tyler the Creator, Erykah Badu, and ACTUALLY being able to eat all the vegan food I want, I was living on cloud-9.

This year there were only really three things that made me feel uncomfortable, and I’ve spent a significant amount of time on my own trying to process it. The first being the presence of so many non-black folks. I love seeing so many people celebrating Black culture and Black joy, on the other hand, I understand Afropunk to be a festival for Punk Black folks by Punk Black folks. Afropunk to me is a festival that celebrates the Black kids who were teased for being weird, or acting too “White.” Obviously, it’s not become a festival that is for ALL Black folks (which is a conversation for another post), but I can’t help but side-eye White folks in African print and Dashikis made in India. I can’t help but wonder if they put on my culture for the weekend, and consider it unprofessional for the rest of the year. I couldn’t help but feel like it was ironic that folks were wearing tribal face paint while taking selfies next to shirts that say “No Cultural Appropriation.” 

The second thing I realized out of relief actually. When I would attend other festivals I’d constantly feel uncomfortable because of all the kids running around trying to drink illegally, or asking me to buy them alcohol (awkward). Then I realized, the reason why there were more adults at Afropunk is that a lot of Black families might not be able to afford for their kids to go to a super expensive festival. Yeah, you can volunteer and get free passes, but I started to feel uncomfortable that Afropunk wasn’t really for Black people. It was becoming a festival for the Black middle/upper class. 16-year-old Monisha, no matter how much she’d be able to benefit from being there, couldn’t afford the ticket. 23-year-old Monisha gets to bask in the magic because now she has a bit more privilege to afford it. The third thing that bothered me about Afropunk was a situation I’ve had to force myself not to be numb to. A situation I’ve spent a great deal of talking about, and researching about.

At the end of the first day of Afropunk, I was rather intoxicated and exhausted. I walked away from my group of friends because I felt extremely weak, my feet were hurting because I was wearing wedges, and I wanted to find somewhere that wasn’t so crowded so I could sit down. I went to the 21+ section and found a bench to relax on until my feet could recover a bit. “Hey.” I turned to my right to see a slender, clean-cut White man with a moderately thin mustache on his face (think Porn-stache, because that’s ALL I could think of). “Hey” I replied, figuring that there was no harm in having an exchanged with this stranger. It started with small talk, he asked me how I liked the festival and I explained how I loved that there were so many diverse types of Black folks. I loved seeing LGBTQ people being able to express ourselves, and that this festival really felt like a safe space for me. He then cut me off and asked: “Do you identify as trans?” I wasn’t stupid, at this point I figured he was probably asking because he found me attractive. I do technically fall under the trans-umbrella, but I didn’t feel like I had to answer that question. I tried dancing around it and expressing avoiding the question, but he just kept asking. Eventually, I snapped and said, “If you’re asking if I have a penis, no I do not.” You’d think he’d get the hint that I was really annoyed and was no longer wanting to engage, but I guess he figured that was a pass to pursue (looking back I wish I knew how to better handle that question).

“Oh, I’m not a millennial you know.” I couldn’t help but rolled my eyes. “Being Trans isn’t anything new.” I can’t remember if I thought that or said it out loud; guys I was really gone. I’m the type that has one drink and I get drunk off of that, do imagine a day of day drinking under the sun. I don’t exactly remember the rest of what he was saying, but eventually, I just became more uncomfortable with him than I was my blisters. I do recall him trying to get me to stand up and spin around for him, but at that point, I was REALLY over it and told him “I’m going to go… To better watch the show.” I started to walk away, and he went in for a hug. It seemed harmless, so I returned it. He used that as an opportunity to pull me in close, to run his hands down my back, my butt. I started to push him away, and he attempted to kiss me goodbye. I didn’t want to make a scene, so I went in like I was going to give him the European/Latin American kiss on the cheek farewell. Then he held my shoulders and tried to force me to kiss his lips. It was a back and forth for about 30 seconds of him trying to force the kiss, and me trying to dodge it. Him expressing that I should take it, and then me pushing him away and quickly darting out of the 21+ section.

I didn’t consider this sexual assault when it happened. I just figured I was being groped, he was transphobic, I was uncomfortable, I didn’t want any of that, he was preying on me because I was intoxicated and alone. But I never considered it sexual assault. I originally laughed it off with my friends, joking you can’t trust those guys with Porn-Staches. I figured next year I’d just pay the extra charge to be VIP, then maybe I’d be safe from predators and anxiety attacks. It wasn’t until I started noticing other people critique Afropunk for ‘selling out.’ So many of my Black friends have expressed feeling like Afropunk is no longer for Black folks, that it’s just perpetuating the commodification of Black bodies. After enough time to process, I sorta feel that way too. I’m biased, what happened inevitably makes me look at things from a cynical perspective. But I kinda look back at Afropunk sorta feeling like it’s becoming like a zoo for Black folks and Black culture. I’m beginning to feel like it’s a place where people can oogle-oggle at the mythical “Black Magic,” and can enjoy dressing up like a Black person with cheaply made African print.

Ironically, I’ve never been assaulted, harassed, or made to feel unsafe at any other music festival until Afropunk.

I don’t blame anyone at Afropunk for the singular event, nor do I think they are responsible for vetting every person who enters the festival. I do think though, that this festival no longer serves the people that it was intended for. Afropunk was made for Black punks, it’s evolved to include all Black people. Now it’s evolved to include all people that take interested in Black people. Now it’s starting to feel like it’s becoming a festival for people who want to sample Blackness and Black people.

I’m not going to end this by undermining my opinion or excusing this. I am going to end this by pointing out that all things evolve, and by questioning what is Afropunk evolving into if it’s no longer serving the folks it was intended to serve? 

Damn, I’m a Pick-Me Ass Bitch

A “Pick Me Ass Bitch,” by definition is the “woman” who tries too hard to be liked (Men can be pick-mes, but this ain’t for them right now). She will compromise her independence, her self-esteem, and her self-respect for the opportunity to be chosen. Some examples of Pick-Mes are Phylicia Rashad, in the case of defending Bill Cosby’s rapist ass, and Erykah Badu arguing that Teenage girls need to ‘cover up’ so as not to distract male teachers. “Pick Mes” are women who are conditioned to internalize misogyny and changes their behavior to fit the narratives of a sexist society. Growing up in the rural South, I was surrounded by religious propaganda that conditioned me to internalize self-hate. Statements like “Don’t be easy” and “Boys don’t want a woman who has been used” were the main motivation for me wanting to be a virgin till marriage. I felt as though that’s how I would gain a man who respected me, by being “worthy” of “respect.”

Then I was raped… I found that living in a world where I internalized misogyny became difficult for me; how was I supposed to heal when in the back of my head, I felt as though my value had decreased. On one hand, I believed it wasn’t my fault, I was completely covered up, I wasn’t a “whore.” But in the back of my head I remembered the details, I had “no business being intoxicated,” why was I even at a boy’s home? I faced a rude awakening that existing as a woman, as my own woman, meant existing outside of other people’s expectations of me.

Now as a grown ass woman living in New York, surrounded by people who are “sex-positive,” I feel as though I am still unpacking my pick-me ways. Yes, my environment has changed, the narrative has changed, but I still found myself performing the same song & dance. For most of my life, I’ve had issues with my self-esteem, and finding “self-validation.” For as long as I could remember I would talk to my friends about every single thought, feeling, emotion, and response. I’d look at them as my stamp of approval, the people to prove I wasn’t crazy. When I dated men, I tried so hard to not fit into the “crazy” or “jaded” archetype.

In my last relationship, I think I went in with the subconscious thought that it was my job to compromise who I was. I had committed to him, so I had to be comfortable with the fact that he wasn’t comfortable with me showing too much flesh. I had made a commitment to him, so I get why he wouldn’t want me to be friends with males I’ve had sex with. He was my man, so I had to be understanding of why he was uncomfortable with my sex worker past. I felt like I owed him countless explanations, I owed him undeserved vulnerability, and that I owed it to him to shrink myself. But damn Y’all, I gave that man an inch and he took a WHOLE mile. When I cut my hair, he told me I looked like a man and expressed an issue with the fact that I didn’t “consult” him first. When I had sex with someone else after he broke up with me, he expressed he didn’t understand how I could be so ‘easy’ if I had been raped. The micromanagement only increased over time, and I was punished for standing up for myself or confiding in my friends and family.

Now, I’m at a very similar place as I was when I was 18, trying to figure out how to heal. After I left him I internalize his messages: “Good luck finding someone that will deal with you.” He made me feel like because of who I am and who I was that I had something to be ashamed of. The next guy I dated I found myself trying to do everything to appease him. He was surprised when I wore a crop top, so I changed it (even though he said it was fine). I kept my past hidden from him, “He doesn’t need to know the ‘dirty’ parts of you that made you who you are.” Eventually, when it came time to commit, I truly don’t think I was ready. But so many of my friends seemed happy with him, and I figured that I was stupid for dating so many “bad guys” that why shouldn’t I give a “nice guy” a chance? Then very shortly after he asked me for a relationship, he ghosted me. Immediately I blamed myself. I figured it was because of the times I was too annoying, too affectionate, too attentive, too me.

I felt destroyed, I felt like my ex was right. I wasn’t able to keep him, and I wasn’t able to keep the next guy. I didn’t begin to snap out of my funk until I realized that it’s really hard to mess up the “right thing.” That no guy who REALLY likes you sits at home and thinks: “Damn, shawty type bad and I deadass like her, but, she was too affectionate, so I ghosted.” Maybe men don’t prefer the affectionate type, but a person who is invested in and values you won’t just ghost you. Once I accepted that I realized that being ghosted hurt not because I really liked him, but because just like he was probably using me to validate himself, I was doing the same. I allowed myself to commit when I wasn’t ready and almost agreed to a situation I felt tricked into (that’s another story) because I was seeking validation that I could keep a man. I wanted to feel worthy, and I wanted to believe that I was able to pick a “good guy.”

Y’all, just like 18-year-old Monisha had to do, 23-year old Monisha is working to undo her pick-me programming. Very shortly after I was raped, a man told me that if I had a dominant man in my life that I probably wouldn’t have been in that situation. I don’t think I’ve talked about how I internalized that things that happened to me were my fault. I don’t think I’ve owned up to the fact that in some cases I date men who are more “traditional” because I lack the self-esteem to combat my internal feelings of incompetence. I think I still have a lot of “pick-me” in me because I’m scared Y’all. I’m scared of being alone, I’m scared that I won’t have to protect myself, I’m scared that I’ll always have to be a “Strong Black Woman.”
When I have daughters, I hope I can raise them to have more faith in themselves than I did. Cause nothing for nothing, I don’t want to raise daughters, I need to raise women. I need to raise girls who don’t internalize that they are incapable of being their own person, I need to raise myself to internalize that I am cable of being my own person. It’s a process, I am healing, I am transforming.

For Black Women who “Look Like Men.”

Us Black girls don’t tend to have hair that falls down our back, our hair grows upward towards Heaven.

I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with my cotton-candy curls, loving them is a battle I’ve had to fight internally and externally. “You look like a boy” is a statement my ears are far too familiar with, and my heart feels too tired to argue. I didn’t have the words to explain to people at 7-years-old that little boys and little girls don’t look all that different, and hair isn’t a means to tell someone’s sex or much less their gender. “You look like a man” is what I’ve heard too many past lovers tell me whenever I took my extensions out, as if it wasn’t enough for them to not love me, now they had to try take away my ability for me to love me. I’ve always had difficulties accepting how femininity was both forced on and taken away from Black women, completely depending on the situation.

I’ve had difficulties grappling with how our bodies are seen as museum exhibits for oogling, ogling, and appropriation. From an early age Black Girls are fetishized for our butts; “twerk for me.” For our lips; “damn girl you have some DSLs” Yet degraded for our hair; “She’d be cuter if he sh*t wasn’t nappy.”  From the moment we begin to exist our bodies are controversial war-zones, and like land, we are damaged from the cross-fire. Our basic humanity gets negated from all directions, Black men, Non-Black men, Non-Black women, and yes even ourselves. We are taught from an early age to shrink ourselves like hair being met with water (this metaphor ain’t for White girls); “Don’t walk around with an attitude.” Our tears are perceived as ugly, our bodies treated as unfeminine. As a child, I never had the words to express what was happening against me, but damn, I was always left wondering “Ain’t I a woman?”

I never understood Sojourner Truth’s speech in its entirety until much later in my life (if you haven’t read it, please read it), what resonates so deeply is that even to this day Black female bodies are still subjected to the mockery and critique of others. When someone wants to embrace our femininity, we are expected to be “lady-like”. When someone wants to de-feminize us, it’ll happen within the blink of an eye. Originally this piece was going to be about hair, but it’s so much more than the way our hair grows out our head. It’s the fact that our dark skin is seen as a threat, so people treat us very similarly to how they’d threat Black men in this society. It’s the fact that our voices tend to be deeper, so we are expected to make the pitch higher so as to not come off as rude when we speak. It’s the fact that we have always been treated differently than other women, as if we are expected to be Super-Woman and depend primarily on ourselves. The worst part is, I think the internalization of these messages are unavoidable.

From afar, I appreciate how Non-Black feminists are growing out their body hair, spreading their legs when they sit, and paying for themselves (and maybe even the guy) on dates. But I can’t help but feel like we, Black women, our feminist movement has to look a little different. It has to look like not laying down our edges and cutting our hair short (if we want that). It has to look like wearing those booty shorts and that crop top if we want it, because it isn’t our fault that our bodies are hyper-sexualized. Our feminist movement has to look battling double standards of attire, because why can that White girl wear it, but I’m a “slut” if I do? Hell, I think our Black Feminist movement looks like Black women reclaiming their sexuality, however and whenever they want (That’s why Amber Rose is important to me). The world isn’t going to be kind to our feminist Black movement, I don’t even expect most of our mommas to understand it. But from one Black girl to another, we need a movement for Black Women who are told they “Look like men.”

For Black Girls who are too young to understand the battle ahead of them, 
don’t listen to the haters. Your hair is beautiful, long, short, curly, or kinky. Your skin is beautiful, regardless of if your Light and Bright or Midnight Black. Black girls, your bodies are yours, and you’re gonna have a lot of people who try to take that away from you. But whatever you do, try not to let your self worth as a Black girl be belittled by a society that doesn’t see the beauty in you. 
For Black Women,
we have to go out our way to make Black girls feel special. We have to compliment their hair, we have to compliment their skin. We have to tell them that they are beautiful, not because girls are supposed to be beautiful, but because beauty is something we Black women have grown up thinking we don’t have. We have to engage in conversations with Black girls about how they feel about themselves, and really listen to what they have to say. We have to protect them from a world that will make them feel like they aren’t worth protecting, we have to show them they are worth protecting. Because anti-Blackness comes in many forms, and society not seeing us, Black women and girls as what we are, that’s declining refusing for the inclusion of our being.