Arn't I A Woman?


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

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.

Oct 4, 2015

Baby I know the real you: Amber Rose is my Role Model

Often when you are at your lowest you feel surrounded by other people who have everything you want, or who are coming up while you are very down. It can feel very in your face and you wonder why everyone else is in such a good place when you aren't and it can truthfully be hard to be happy for others when you are suffering.  I’ve recently had time to reflect on the past year of my life, literally one of the worst. I keep expecting things to slowly get better but somehow the pain keeps dragging and certain people keep hurting me, either through memories or real life actions. 

After tragedy, I usually try to immediately dig my way out of my pain, because it is so massive I can’t handle feeling it. But by avoiding it, I never fully process what has happened, and it simmers inside, a latent displaced anger that often doesn’t reveal itself for years after its triggering cause has occurred. I’ve been through such pain and suffering this past year, but honestly that's one of the first times I've really even allowed myself to admit that, for fear of people seeing me as throwing a pity party, or victimizing myself. I have tried so hard to focus on positive things, starting a healing blog, getting in shape, taking a brand new job, so I didn’t have to feel any of the pain from my break up, or from a situation that I won’t speak about anymore due to ongoing issues- but I will say I was very deeply hurt by someone that I have known for a very long time. I was betrayed and violated and rendered ostensibly homeless. The pain I have experienced from my ex, who treated me like absolute shit after we broke up because he wouldn’t let me go, and instead loved me only conditionally, and made me believe for two months we were getting back together if I just became the right person and we never did..this pain is all real. It all really happened. Some of the worst possible outcomes occurred and I am just now allowing myself to comprehend that.

Often when bad things happen, I question myself. What did I do wrong? How did I put myself in this situation? I tend to try not to blame others and often internalize the tragedy due to low self-esteem. 

After I got let go from my job a month ago, I have finally decided to process some of these feelings more authentically. And it is very, very painful. I have realized how angry I am. I am incredibly angry. I didn’t deserve anything that happened in the last year. I didn’t deserve to have someone else’s bullshit be projected on to me. I didn’t deserve to believe it was all my fault. 

I finally let myself say “I DON’T forgive you.” At least, not right now. Because I don’t, and even through all the spiritual self-help ra ra shit will tell you to just forgive and let go, that can’t happen over night and it is unhealthy to try and pretend you forgive someone before you have even processed your own pain, because it invalidates your very real feelings. I’ve allowed myself to go to very real but scary places, where I say thing like “I fucking hate this person” and “there are actually evil people in the world that will never be good.” I’ve allowed myself to be depressed and lay in bed for days because the depression is so deep; normally I try anything to just not feel it and it just floats around in hidden cracks in my brain. I make fucking documentaries about mental health to not deal with my own poor mental heath. 

Because I don’t want to be this person. I don’t want to be angry or sad. But maybe it’s time I fully allow myself to travel through Hell so I can actually heal this time. I don’t forgive those people for the things they have done to me the past year; not yet. I will eventually. But I can’t until I acknowledge the very real shitty things they have done, and the poor ways the have treated me, and I stand up for my broken, fragile self that is too afraid to, and say, “fuck you assholes. I will never fucking forgive you and I hope you feel as horrible as I feel.” 

I know that feeling won’t last, but I am going to feel it. I am going to allow myself to only work part time right now because I need it. I need to process my pain before I can be happy, and before I can be happy for others. I'm not fully functioning right now, and that needs to be ok. 

Is it where I want to be? Of course not. When a friend sends me a text message telling me how happy they are about how things are going with the new guy they are seeing, do I want my initial reaction to be like a punch to the gut? Of course not. I want to be the person who can be happy for my friends who undoubtedly have suffered just as much if not more than I have. 

So I have just been very confused the past month, because I finally feel the pain and it sucks. I feel like I am reliving the bad shit of the past year in my brain now over and over, every day. I don’t feel like it will ever get better, and I don’t understand why these things happened. I can’t handle looking for the lesson right now because I haven’t even fully processed the pain. 

So here it is. The past year has sucked. Getting dumped by the “so called love of my life” sucked. Having a major depressive episode, self-harming, and trying to reach out to him and other people who have been very important to me last month and being ignored by them sucked. Their love was never real. They never loved me; he never loved me. That sucks. Having people think I had the perfect relationship and reminding me of that sucks. I want to tell people to shut the fuck up when they mention pictures of us; how cute we are. I want to punch them in face but instead I smile. 

And the ongoing shit with the person from my past that is still trying to destroy me, sucks. I have never encountered a pathological evil person like them. I might continue to get hurt by them and it sucks. 

This isn’t meant to be a happy blog, it’s meant to be an honest one. After contemplating the painful idea that maybe there are just bad evil people in the world, when my belief system tells me otherwise- that there are no bad people, just bad behavior and actions; that we should forgive everyone to achieve inner peace- hanging with my nephew all day who is 14 and is able to talk about self-love at such a young age when I am 29 and still can’t even achieve that, constantly fearing I am a freak and will be alone and sad forever, well, quite frankly the last thing I want to see is other people being happy.

This comes from so many people basically telling me to just pull myself up by the bootstraps, get over the shitty things that have happened, and move on. Fuck those people! 

But then I watched this Amber Rose video, and I realized that I won’t be stuck here forever. And that everyone gets hurt, very very deeply, and that everyone is fragile, and that I can empower myself through this very action- speaking out and having the courage to say scary things that might scare people but also could resonate with people, is where I am at. And that at some point, I can be brave enough to forgive these people for everything because I value my life. I can be happy for my friend, because that’s what my higher self truly wants. 

“I want to forgive Kanye for what he said about me. I want to let all that negativity go. I also forgive Wiz for what he said. Wiz actually apologized to me already, so I have forgiven him. I suggest that you guys do the same, and I’ll tell you why: because they’re ignorant at times. People are ignorant, and you have to be the bigger person, and be the positive person to forgive and move on and help other people around you that have been through the same thing.”

Just know this: it’s ok to not always be happy all the time for other people when you are hurting. It's ok to not be able to forgive people right off the bat. Allow yourself the time to feel your pain, but know that your power lies in NOT being like the people who have hurt you. Your power lies in trying your best to still be happy for others when you can, and be kind to yourself when you can’t. It’s ok to hate sometimes. Don’t hide it. Please speak up. 

It’s ok to not be perfect. Have your own slutwalk and know that "one day your pain will be your strength."

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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