Arn't I A Woman?


This blog intends to be a safe public space; A communal cyber sanctuary from oppression. All are welcome here.

Feb 17, 2017

Please Help Me and My Baby

Please Help Support Baby Violet Mariah 

I am currently 7 months pregnant. I am a freelancer and work 4 jobs, but have no paid maternity leave... and I just found out that I owe $3000 in car repairs as well as $1700 to the IRS. This is more money than I even have saved up to take time off after I give birth. At this point, I have no idea what to do. I thought I was being diligent and saving for the baby, and then right when I am about to give birth, I get hit with the two most expensive things I have ever owed in my life. I have a massive anxiety disorder, and at this point I am truly worried about going into preterm labor if things continue this way. The last thing I would ever want to do is ask anyone for help, but if I can't raise money there is a good chance I will not have a place to live anymore because I cannot afford rent, bills, and pay off these repairs and pay the IRS. I would be so grateful to anyone that could help me because I don't know what else to do. I feel completely desperate. Taxes are due in April (my due date is April 11th) and I took out a second credit card to try and get the car fixed; I travel for work and am planning on working up until I give birth so I can't not have a car. However, I just don't have the funds to pay this off when I am about to be on unpaid maternity leave. I am trying to be positive but to be honest I am so scared and I am really worried for my unborn baby. Thank you so much if you took the time to read this.

Jul 23, 2016

The Dark, Twisted Downfall of Kanye West's Social Relevance

Before becoming obsessed with fame, Kanye West was once an artist of value. While not always agreeable and often misguided, an integrity still resonated subliminally behind not just his words and art, but also his real world antics. His abrasively unwavering belief that art- specifically his art – could affect massive social change when on a large scale platform has buttressed most of West's professional career. As recently as 2015, West received an honorary doctorate for his “transformative, genre-defying work.”
College Dropout, West's first official solo album released on Roc-a-Fella records was a purvey into the socio-political landscape of modern America, transforming his commentary on education, race, and the immobility of the class system in America into an anthemic classic. Even the way Kanye West made his music was politically charged, showcasing how the cost of making art often has classist implications. In a 2003 interview West remarks: "Basically, people come out with albums, and I jack their drums. I hardly ever use drums from an actual record like “real hip-hop producers” do. This is a new form of music: broke hip-hop. I can’t spend $40 on some drums."
West found the lack of accessibility to quality production equipment in hip hop offputting and subversively found a way to reclaim a sound that was partly born through the lived experiences of impoverished communities.
West's productions style helped usher in a new wave of hip hop producer/rappers using accessible means to create hip hop anthems, probably the most notable example being 2007's "Crank Dat (Soulja Boy)," which was produced by 17 year old DeAndre Cortez Way using the downloadable program Fruity Loops.
I watched Kanye West throughout the years calling out through song and art, and could empathize with the obvious pain behind his passion. Lurking underneath the grand, obtuse exterior of an egomaniac there seemed to be real, substantial layers there. No one else with his kind of global reach would ever have the guts to admit to the world that "George Bush doesn’t care about Black people." That is still one of the bravest moments in television history, and makes you wonder if perhaps the revolution will be televised.
Kanye has also been the leading voice to call out racist barriers many Black designers face when attempting to navigate the fashion industry. Sometimes you need someone with such bravado to unabashedly say the things many of us lack the ability to articulate with such conciseness and conviction. His stream-of-consciousness live monologues have often felt empowering to me, because the subtext reads: 'Fuck the industry and the
ways in which society oppresses us and teaches many of us to devalue ourselves. Fuck that and love yourself and follow your dreams.'

And I'm ok with that message. But recently Kanye's new music and identity's overarching message seems to be floating around somewhere, lost in translation between Kanye's mind and reality.
The biggest concern I have is- you guessed it- with Kanye's new song and video for "Famous." And no, it's not about Taylor Swift. Not really. The twitter wars and snapchat revenge uploads continue to highlight the aggression between West, Swift, and Kim Kardashian. This is upsetting because the original narrative marking most of the criticism of the video- before Swift got involved- focused on the violently sexist undertones of using naked images of celebrity lookalikes (particularly of women) without their consent. When I voiced this opinion on Twitter, I was quickly put in place by the young, mostly White male Kanye fans. Though mainstream rap has always had a large White audience, I was surprised to see this was apparently the new type of Kanye West fan. And that frightens me.
I do want to say that there are some important perspectives that have helped me understand Kanye's viewpoint- or more so, understand the racist undertones behind the Swift/West/Kardashian part of the story- that I agree with. But they mostly focus on the Taylor Swift portion and leave out the entire other parts of the conversation.
The public seems to forget that Taylor Swift wasn't the only one replicated in the video. In particular, West showcases a nude Rihanna laying next to her known abuser Chris Brown, as well West's ex-girlfriend Amber Rose. West once had this to say about his ex: "By the way, it's very hard for a woman to want to be with someone that's with Amber Rose. I had to take 30 showers before I got with Kim."
I don't personally condone using the naked image or likeness of anyone without their consent. But I take specific issue to using women's unconsented naked images, and particularly of Black women's bodies, and putting them on display for public consumption. The history of America exoticizing, sexualizing, and putting the Black female body on display is often traced back to The Hottentot Venus, or Saartjie/Sarah Baartman, her "baptized name". Baartman's naked body was displayed across Europe, selling her as a "human oddity" for her supposed disproportionately large buttocks. Her experience of being passed around from place to place, her naked body put on display by men for profit, against her will, has now become, according to English Professor Rachel Holmes, “a symbol of the alienation and degradations of colonization, lost children, exile, the expropriation of female labor and the sexual and economic exploitation of black women by men, white and black." The naked female body being used to buoy a powerful
man's image, record sales, or celebrity is a long running theme within the music industry.
The only real explanation Kanye offered about the "Famous" video concept was vague and meaningless, a stark contrast to the man that normally can't keep quiet about his art. About the video he offers this: “It’s not in support or anti any of [the people in the video]. It’s a comment on fame.”
I find it incredibly troubling that West thought he had the right to use anyone's naked body (or at least, the [very] realistic likeness of them), for his own profit, but most notably for including a woman whom he continuously publicly degrades and slut shames.
In a tweet to Wiz Khalifa, Rose's ex-husband and father of her child West sneers: "You let a stripper trap you. I own your child!!!!” "I know you mad everytime you look at your child that this girl got you 18 more years."
In the song, West proclaims: "For all the girls that got dick from Kanye West If you see 'em in the streets give 'em Kanye's best Why? They mad they ain't famous. They mad they're still nameless"
So what's the comment on fame? What's the take away from these lyrics and images? Forget about Taylor Swift. (Though how fascinating that Swift's placement in the video ushered in most of the public outcry, eliciting multiple published articles defending Swift and ostensibly placing her as the sole victim, while most remained notably silent about the other Black women also on display or relegated them to a side note of the story.)
The male erasure of the strong female identity is prevalent when West relegated his past paramours as "nameless," in the song, only to be viewed as sexual conquests whose lives, values, ideas, and attitudes are meaningless. To combine these lyrics with images of a woman laying naked next to her abuser and an ex girlfriend to "make a comment about fame" has no value or substance. West didn't eagerly explain away the meaning behind his video, because there wasn't one. There's no deeper social message behind his increasingly meta approach to fame.
As a Kanye West fan, I'm more disappointed and confused than angry. OK, I'm a little angry too; if this is Kanye West's version of famous, then I prefer to remain nameless.

Apr 12, 2016

OK Ladies Now Let's Get in Identity Formation

new piece on Beyonce, Rihanna, and Identity Formation over at Wussy Mag!

Jan 24, 2016

What's love without tragedy?: On Turning 30

What if I forgave myself? I thought. What if I forgave myself even though I’d done something I shouldn’t have? What if I was a liar and a cheat and there was no excuse for what I’d done other than because it was what I wanted and needed to do? What if I was sorry, but if I could go back in time I wouldn’t do anything differently than I had done? What if I’d actually wanted to fuck every one of those men? What if heroin taught me something? What if yes was the right answer instead of no? What if what made me do all those things everyone thought I shouldn’t have done was what also had got me here? What if I was never redeemed? What if I already was?

As my 30th birthday looms around the corner, my mind has been racing for ways I can prove to myself that I am worthy of transitioning into a new decade, one ripe with adulthood charm and class and the ability to move beyond childhood trauma and maladaptive coping mechanisms into a glorious freedom. Coupled with the light sheets of white winter snow glittering across a Georgian landscape, I interpret these as signs of a theoretical spiritual cleansing I must undergo.

Except I feel more dirty and down and haunted than ever. 

I am motivated by fear and control. My therapist and I have discussed recently how I may have complex trauma from my childhood, which can be similar to PTSD except instead of experiencing trauma from one catastrophic event, "complex trauma describes both children’s exposure to multiple traumatic events, often of an invasive, interpersonal nature, and the wide-ranging, long-term impact of this exposure"(National Child Traumatic Stress Network). My trauma compounded into adulthood created pockets of fear in my brain that desperately taught me to do anything to avoid hurt and pain, for fear of exacerbating the trauma. Avoiding pain because of fear leads you to try to control everything: yourself, other people, your environment. It also is underscored by perfectionism; perfectionists are afraid of not being good enough, and trying to be perfect is also a form of control in an attempt to avoid negative experiences. The truth about perfection, of course, is that it doesn't exist. Like finding the limit on a vertical asymptote, we can approach infinity but we can never reach it. 

 I guess what I'm trying to say it, I'm disappointed in myself. With all the work I've done, I feel like the same lost girl I was at 20 or 21 or 25. Even in the context of this week, I find I am repeating the same patterns and behaviors that serve to hurt me. I lead with insecurity, refuse to exist inside any confines of uncertainty, get too drunk, fail to enforce boundaries, and get down on myself when things don't go well. 

I met a boy and I really like him. But there has been a series of unfortunate circumstances surrounding us. It's brought up huge walls of insecurity for me. I'm mad at myself because I've been really afraid things won't work out, and maybe they won't, but that shouldn't be the end of my world. And it's never entirely one person's fault when things don't work out, so this idea that there is something so wrong with me that it is impossible for someone to love is rooted in irrational thinking patterns, not truth. It is an insidious belief. 

Still, in my mind I had a beautiful picture of my 30th birthday. I looked great, and was with all my friends and family, and I had this new boy by my side and I felt happy. Instead I feel lost. I feel as if I can not find a way to break through old patterns. The beginning quote of this blog is from the movie Wild, and it helps settle me sometimes when I feel lost. Maybe I just have to go through it, all the mistakes and feelings of insecurity and trauma and heartbreak over and over again until I can really grasp my freedom. Recovery is a long term process, not a short-term goal. Still, I wish I was in a happier place. 

But maybe that's exactly where I need to be for this transition. Maybe it's just a part of my story, and this pain I feel is what will guide me through to the other side. I feel free right now, as I type this, phone off and no worries about what anyone else is doing or thinking. I can just be me. This is the gift writing has given me. I spend such little time really focusing on myself in regular life; instead, I focus on externals. My job. My relationships. My body. I want to focus on me. I want to be brave but maybe in order to become brave you must first experience cowardice, conquer it, and then move through it. 

I don't know. My life is way messier than I thought it would be when turning 30, but hey, that's where I am. One of the things that really resonates with me is I was told the other night I always expect the worst thing to happen (which is true and is a common cognitive distortion called catastrophizing). So my goal, just today, is to be mindful, and radically accept everything that comes my way without assuming the worst, but being prepared for the myriad possibilities the day can bring. My goal is also to carry that through my transition. My goal is to be strong. To recognize that I am in a sticky place, but that I can respond differently in this moment. I can remember my value and remember that value is not predicated on what I look like, who I am dating, or my station in life. My value is eternal and can never be taken. Here's to 30. 


 I knew that if I allowed fear to overtake me, my journey was doomed. Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me.

Older Posts

Sojourner Truth

Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that 'twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what's all this here talking about?

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man - when I could get it - and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman?

Then they talk about this thing in the head; what's this they call it? [member of audience whispers, "intellect"] That's it, honey. What's that got to do with women's rights or negroes' rights? If my cup won't hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn't you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?

Then that little man in black there, he says women can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wasn't a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.

If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back , and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.

Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain't got nothing more to say.

Sojourner Truth

Delivered 1851 at the Women's Convention

Akron, Ohio