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.

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.

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.