Alabama just wrapped up a Senate race between racist, sexist, pedophile Republican Roy Moore and Democrat Doug Jones. And by the grace of God (despite what Moore may have said in his refusal to concede), Jones narrowly won. As CNN and many other outlets have reported from exit polls, Jones’ win was handed to him by the ballots of black voters — black men and even more black women who voted for him almost unanimously. This led politically-active liberals on Twitter to praise black women en masse, causing “#BlackWomen” to trend on Twitter for some time after the exit polls/voter demographic information was released.
As a black woman, I surely do appreciate the praise. I mean, I know. Black girls and women are magic, as the saying goes. (Evidence here, here, and here.)
But something about it makes me…pause. It makes me 🤔. Something about the praise doesn’t taste right on my lips. Let me explain.
This Twitter user articulated my exact thoughts scrolling through my TL and seeing tweet after tweet with praise from all liberal circles inclusive of both black and white folks.
when y’all gonna realize that treating black women like deities is just another way to keep pretending that we aren’t human
You see, I immediately see this barrage of tweets as hypervisibility. In terms of social issues, hypervisibility is exactly what it sounds like — a specific demographic of people being prominently discussed, depicted, or represented in media or social situations. To unlearned eyes, this may seem like a good thing. For black people though, hypervisibility of our issues, regardless of whatever spin the media puts on them, has doomed us to the status of Menace to Society.
The media over-representing black issues and activism has been an insidious tool in our oppression. Psychologically, the hypervisibility of black pain, poverty, death, and activism has caused society as a whole to become apathetic to it. We ache less when black people die — in TV, movies, and real life — because we see it endlessly. We’re used to it. Numb to it. We walk past black homeless people on the street, because we’re used to seeing the black poor on our televisions. If we’re being real, the history of black people in this country in itself is hypervisibility, because our understanding of race as written in our textbooks is literally black and white. And all the while, to other people of color, their jealously boils, because they believe that the visibility of our pain equates more sensitivity from white people about them. So in the end, we have white people who can’t empathize with our struggles, and non-black POCs who antagonize us out of spite of the representation of those struggles.
Hypervisibility dehumanizes black people. It reduces us to a mere niche demographic, a whole to be marketed to or tokenized and thus, routinely ignored on a one-to-one basis. This is why I’m afraid of people praising black women in this way. Thanking “black women” as a general salutation strips us of our individualism and humanity. The more we say “thank black women” and “trust black women,” the more those words lose their meaning. It’s one thing to say the words, but how are they practiced? What are you doing in your everyday life to show the black women you know — not some vague monolith — that you appreciate them? Are you caring for their needs emotionally, supporting them in their careers, hell, are you even friends with some?
I don’t want to be worshiped by gaggles of people on a social media platform. I don’t want “thank black women” to become a meme. I want to be seen. Yes, as a black woman. But as a part of a larger whole, not the whole itself. Until black women are valued as varied and nuanced individuals, no one’s well-meaning thanks, even if they have the political support to back them up, really mean much of anything.
As fans and former emo kids around the world know by now, Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington committed suicide last week at the age of 41. Fans mourned the loss of the singer, describing him as one of the great rock vocalists of our generation and the leader of a band that progressed the alternative music genre. But in these posthumous tributes, Bennington was often described with words like “angst” and “victim.” Much of Linkin Park’s discography revolves around the lead singer’s emotional point of view. If Bennington was feeling a negative emotion, like sadness, anger, or even nihilism, he expressed that wholeheartedly and without reservation. As a man in this society, Bennington displayed a vulnerability and raw emotion that was unprecedented for rock frontmen that came before him. And even in his class of rock stars, with pop punk peers like Blink-182 and later Panic! at the Disco and Fall Out Boy, Linkin Park stood out. Their songs spoke to heavy themes of loss, trauma, and degradation that transcended the superficial pain of not getting a Manic Pixie Dream Girl.
And that is, I believe, Chester Bennington’s most important legacy. He shattered the emotional glass ceiling that men have to live under in their everyday lives. His vulnerable masculinity told millions of teenage boys it was okay to feel things and sit in the sadness for a little while.
Bennington’s own personal struggles have been well documented and openly discussed by the singer. He was a victim of child sexual abuse and spoke about how that trauma informed the lyrical content of his band’s songs. In addition, he turned to alcohol and drugs to cope with the depression that his traumatic experience caused. He said these substances gave him a boost of “confidence” to face the world and control his surroundings. While Bennington overcame his addictions for the most part, pain and the journey to overcome it remained a consistent theme in Linkin Park’s music up until Bennington’s death.
But it is perhaps because of the depth of this pain, or in spite of it, that Bennington felt compelled to express himself so openly to his fans. And that action was groundbreaking. To the very end, Bennington used his music to grieve and work through his emotional turmoil. Society demands that boys and men stifle unpleasant or “feminine” emotions in favor of presenting “masculine” strength. They must not cry or express sadness, for fear of being perceived as weak. They must not linger on instances where they have been hurt, but instead “suck it up” and move on. They can be angry, but only with malicious intentions and not as a feeling of desperation. The fact that Chester Bennington did all of these things was an act of defiance to society’s norms of masculinity, despite Linkin Park’s sound being very masculine with intense vocals and at times aggressive, brooding melodies.
Bennington’s message could not have been lost on the male youth in America. This is the country where despite men having lower rates of depression than women, male suicide rates are exceptionally high. Suicide was the leading cause of death among men younger than 35 in 2014, and four out of five suicides involve men. Not only that, but while women are more likely to attempt suicide, men are more likely to be successful in their attempts, due to the more lethal methods that men tend to use. Research has also shown that depression is harder to diagnose in men because they often downplay their own symptoms; this has led researchers to conclude that the percentage of men suffering with depression is likely higher than what is statistically reported, simply because men are less likely to seek help for or recognize symptoms. The behavior of men in terms of their mental well being is carried from adolescence, and teens who are not encouraged to speak out will grow into adults who repress their deepest feelings.
Linkin Park gave young boys an outlet to sit in the murkiness of feelings they couldn’t express. Chester Bennington as a sensitive and victimized man himself gave voice to emotionally stunted young men across the nation, letting them know they weren’t alone. He refused to suffer in silence, and because of his powerful music, his young male fans now know they don’t have to either. Linkin Park’s music maay not be the antidote to the toxins that poison young boys into believing they must hide behind a facade of cool stoicism. And society still has many questions to answer as far as methods to best support our boys in teaching them to understand and work through their experiences. But it may help alleviate some of the stress of pretending. If only for four minutes at a time.
If you know me IRL, you know that I am an avid wrestling fan — or specifically, a fan of WWE. I am a big cheerleader for the women’s division, and a large reason I was brought back to WWE fandom after a long hiatus was because I’d heard that the company was finally deciding to invest in their female competitors. So naturally, milestones in women’s wrestling are important to me, as they are to many female fans. The ladies of the locker room hit another milestone at the most recent WWE pay-per-view, Money in the Bank. For the first time ever, a women’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match would take place.
The match, a staple in WWE for the last decade, guarantees the winner a blank contract for a title match that they can “cash in” at any time for up to a year. The rules of the match seemed pretty straightforward for years: the first competitor to retrieve the briefcase containing the contract from high above the ring would be declared the winner. In the past, this was typically done when a competitor climbed a ladder and unhooked the briefcase themselves. But in this match, the trailblazing women’s MITB, it would be James Ellsworth, noted male specimen and lackey to competitor Carmella, to climb a ladder, unhook the briefcase, and drop it down to her below. This somehow made Carmella the winner of the match, despite her not actually retrieving the briefcase for herself.
Twitter was in an uproar about the joke ending to what was hyped by WWE as a historic match. Many women lamented that a man shouldn’t have been the one to “win” in a match for women, especially since it was the very first match of its sort for WWE’s female Superstars. As the initial shock wore off, it became apparent that WWE (as they often do) swerved fans on purpose, as they used the screwy result to hype the following Tuesday’s Smackdown show in advertisements.
On Smackdown, Carmella and Ellsworth came out to the ring to address the controversy. Carmella explained that she wasn’t in the match for “girl power” and said that her intelligence won her the briefcase, in that she figured out she and Ellsworth could pull such a win off. Her mantra was that she couldn’t break a rule that had never existed. And to her (and the writers’) credit, she is right. It was announced at the beginning of the show that general manager Daniel Bryan would make a decision on the fate of the briefcase’s ownership, and it was treated as a big deal throughout the night. After Carmella’s opening promo, each of the other competitors in the match were spotlighted in segments venting their frustrations with the finish to Bryan, complaining that the spotlight was taken away from their hard work. And even though Bryan ended up stripping Carmella of the briefcase by the end of the night, it all still felt a little….off.
And that’s when I started thinking. While I remain firm in my resolve that the ending to the women’s MITB was shitty and sexist, I had to admit that it got the spotlight on the women for the entirety of an episode of Smackdown. For the first time in a while, each woman felt genuine and showed signs of depth. I was excited about this, but at the same time I was pissed that it took the writers giving the women a sexist match finish to actually write them well. And, that in order for them to do this, they needed to involve men in the form of Ellsworth and Bryan to an extent. Do the ends justify the means? Why must there be a barrier for oppressed characters’ triumphant story arcs, one that says they first must endure oppression to rise above adversity? Why can’t we just write them as triumphant despite their marginalized status?
As my wheels starting turning about these essential questions, I thought of two popular examples — Game of Thrones and Orange is the New Black. Both shows due to their settings (medieval fantasy world and New York prison, respectively) have imagery and plotlines that arguably necessitate violence against oppressed people. “Arguably,” because while many fans of GoT and OITNB let the violence portrayed against women and people of color slide because it makes the shows “realistic,” many other fans have been critical of the degree to which writers include this violence, saying that much of it is unnecessarily gruesome.
First, there’s Game of Thrones. Every GoT fan goes through an initiation of sorts with the first season, with casual female nudity in almost every episode and abuse to women’s scantily-clad bodies featured just as prominently. Acknowledging that sexism, fans typically excuse it to a degree, chalking it up to the show’s Middle Age feel and remembering that the writers wrote the women on the show in this way to portray that world “authentically.” However, as the seasons progressed, it seemed this casual violence against women was beginning to have a smutty feel. It began with Jaime Lannister’s rape of his sister, Cersei, in season four. The scene was markedly more aggressive than what took place in the books, and fans definitely noticed. Then, the entire fifth season infuriated lady fans everywhere, with Shireen Baratheon’s burning at the stake, Arya’s constant abuse, Sansa’s rape, and Cersei’s walk of shame. Season five was the final straw for droves of women, sweating off the show for good.
Yet, for those that did stay with the show into the sixth season, it was clear that the abused women of the previous season got their redemption arcs. It’s unclear whether this was the writers’ plans all along or if they were doing damage control in response to season five’s backlash, but either way, the main female characters seemed to finally get their comeuppance. Cersei killed pretty much everyone and became queen, Arya became a “faceless” warrior, and Sansa had her rapist viciously killed. But the question remains: why did all of these women have to go through hell and back to get to their Promised Land?
Then, there’s Orange is the New Black. For its first few seasons, fans were pretty much in agreement that the show managed to humanize its characters while still portraying the very harsh realities of prison life for women. But, with OITNB‘s fourth season, that perception turned sour. Scores of fans (specifically black, brown, and queer ones) wrote scathing reviews of the season on social media, proclaiming that it was essentially “trauma porn” for oppressors. The death of Poussey — not forgetting all of the other awful and sadistic ordeals the inmates faced that season — was inexcusable to many during a summer when police brutality against black bodies was plastered all over the news. It was also yet another death of a gay character, adding to the “Bury Your Gays” television trope. And, since the show focuses on women in prison, it was uncomfortable to watch male guards abuse them for the entire thirteen episode run.
Despite the gut-wrenching (and frankly, triggering) ending to season four, the show powered on for a fifth season, wherein the inmates get their bitter revenge against the guards that harmed them and killed one of their own. And while the imagery of these women beating their abusers may have been cathartic to some viewers, again I wonder why they needed to be utterly exploited for our voyeuristic gaze in order for the writers to give them some sort of power. Wasn’t the original intent of the show (or so it was marketed to us) was to show how these women still had some sort of power within themselves, despite their criminal history?
These TV shows, while all different, share a common thread. It is clear that these narratives, those of oppressed people attempting to reach their full potential, break barriers, and find happiness only to be humbled by some sort of obstacle, become tropes when the writing of these characters are controlled by largely white, straight, and/or male authors. Much of the anger toward OITNB last season came at the revelation that its writers are primarily white. It is par for the course for Game of Thrones to exclude women on almost every level of production. And I’m not sure about WWE’s writing team, but given my own long history in knowing the company, I can be pretty certain they don’t have a good number (if any) female writers. They did after all hire their first female trainer only a couple years ago.
Therefore, the writers of these shows only relate to these characters insofar as what they see them go through in everyday life, which is typically pain and working excessively hard to reach their goals. You can’t connect to the emotions of a person who doesn’t share your identity. You can’t create stories that lend themselves to making characters look strong if you believe they must be weak first. It is true that in life, we must overcome struggles and discomfort to reach become fully realized individuals. It builds character. But it seems that when in the wrong hands, the stories of the marginalized become subjugated, essentially breaking down characters to be nothing more than the oppressed identities they hold. In a supposed effort to have characters overcome oppression, these writers are actually undermining the strength that these characters gain in the aftermath of their struggles. It means more to have characters that don’t feel as if they were created with the gaze of their oppressors in mind, a la the audience of white people, men, and straight people.
It is a complicated dynamic to portray, despite my criticism. My own critique is imperfect, as I still love Game of Thrones and WWE while simultaneously expressing indifference toward Orange is the New Black. If done with enough care and foresight, this trope may even work. Still, it’s worth investigating why these barriers seem to exist for specific characters and not others, and who writes those stories. If these bland writers’ rooms handed the pen over to the people who have stakes in these representations, the day may come sooner that marginalized identities become more than a demographic to check off on an EEO form.
In the last decade or so, the silver and small screens alike have been saturated with remakes. From beloved sitcoms like Fuller House to remakes of remakes like the upcoming Mummy film, Hollywood studios can’t seem to get enough of updating already adored shows, films, and franchises.
And I’m sick of it.
I get it. I really do. Showrunners and directors are capitalizing on my generation’s (yes, those Millennials adults on the internet seem to hate so much) collective nostalgic personality. Eighties and nineties babies grew up in a time of rapid technological and cultural growth; many of us remember growing up with VCRs and flip phones and graduated to DVD players and smartphones as teens. We groan at our ’90s and ’00s fashion tastes compared to our current ones and reminisce about summers playing outside until sunset with our friends before we could spend hours inside waiting for our YouTube videos to buffer. And of course, we remember fondly all of the shows and movies we watched growing up, even if some of those gems predated our birth (gotta love cable TV reruns).
I will preface my critique of remakes with an acknowledgment that there are exceptions to the cursed remake trend: any remake of a Marvel or DC film (now with the juggernaut studios that each respective enterprise has) is generally good and acceptable, and long-awaited sequels like Star Wars or Jurassic World can be enjoyable precisely because they are fresh continuations of dated treasures. (Also Ghostbusters was not that bad, just throwing that out there for fanboys.)
But for almost anything else, remakes fall short of the magic of the originals. This is because remaking most classic series or movies entails that those films, in a way, are de-contextualized and re-manufactured with today’s industry trends and cultural norms. And the act of doing that, in and of itself, will doom these remakes to fail.
I write this post with several recent/upcoming remakes in mind. The first and most obvious one is the Dirty Dancing remake that premiered on this past week on ABC. This version was a made-for-TV movie. We can stop right there. How many made-for-TV movies are on your top ten list?
There has been much written even in a matter of days about how bad this version of the 1987 Patrick Swayze/Jennifer Grey classic was, but without even reading them all I can say what the common theme was; this version did not have the same charm as the original. It was stiff and forced, and made changes to original format and storyline that made the new one feel….inauthentic. The 1987 version made the world swoon because it was befitting of the period in which it premiered. You love Dirty Dancing now because it is so obviously dated, but still timeless. You love it because of its dated charm, not in spite of it.
Another remake on the horizon is Roseanne. Although it will be a reboot rather than a remake of the old series, it will still feel present with the times because, well, we’re in the present. Even though the ending of the series left many fans upset, I still don’t believe that it warrants a new perspective on the Connor family, even if the original cast is on board. Roseanne in particular is an interesting case of a remake. I liked the series growing up, as it was a representation that, at the time, felt different than other sitcoms I was used to seeing. One of the main reasons Roseanne stuck with audiences is because it offered a narrative that countered the typical white, perfect, middle to upper-middle class nuclear family that had dominated television screens for decades prior to its debut. It presented a blue-collar, working class, semi-miserable white family that had children who talked back and a matriarch that wasn’t afraid to stand down to her husband. The two leads, Roseanne Barr and John Goodman, were also fat, which was another representation of whiteness that was subversive in the ’90s (despite it being more normal on black sitcoms). America — or more precisely, white America — was ready for a white working class narrative, and the show’s popularity made sense in an era of Democrat Bill Clinton, the good ol’ Southern boy that became a politician, as President.
But since Roseanne’s rise and end, and perhaps because of it, the visibility of the white working class has increased. The landscape of America has changed culturally and politically. And audiences crave more diverse representations on television, those which include more people of color, LGBT people, and women to name a few. Roseanne was diverse for its time. Television simply doesn’t need its narrative anymore.
Back on the film side, Halloween, my favorite film franchise of all time, is also supposedly getting a remake. The Rob Zombie films of the ’00s were okay, albeit unnecessarily gruesome in parts. But even though this new iteration has the approval of the film’s original director John Carpenter, it still won’t work in 2017. The original film is almost 40 years old, having hit theaters in 1978. It arguably pioneered the slasher genre. With its famously low budget and simplistic scares, it somehow became one of the most commercially successful franchises of its generation of horror films. Halloween’s success rested on its understated production. It was scary without gore; it was a suspenseful story rather than a horrific one. We may scoff at the slasher formula today because it’s been done to death, but for its time, Halloween was hella scary because there had simply not been a film like it before to that point. Therefore, to attempt to add big budgets, special effects, and hitting-you-over-the-head violent death scenes to Halloween would be taking away what made the original film fantastically fearsome. And with the way the genre has evolved, to not do these things would be difficult for filmmakers today and expect the film to break even in profits.
Lastly, let us not forget the trainwreck that was the 2016 made-for-TV production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Starring Laverne Cox as Dr. Frank-N-Furter, this production failed to hit with fans of the cult classic. The consensus was that it tried too hard to recreate the quirkiness of the 1975 Tim Curry film. But that’s the thing — you can’t just try to be camp. The very nature of camp assumes that the object, be it a piece of media or clothing, is cheeky without having to try. Campiness is as effortless as it is over-the-top. (See: Susan Sontag’s “Notes on Camp.”) The original movie was so strange, so absurd, and so kitschy in part because it was everything you loved about 1970s humor, science fiction, and taboo. Now, with drag culture having gone mainstream and Broadway shows like Kinky Boots putting butts in seats, by the time Rocky Horror premiered on FOX, camp had become much less shocking to the senses. The TV musical production became part of a landscape where it is the norm to have a self-awareness of your own exaggerated performance. The ’70s was a period when being “meta” wasn’t a trend, when being campy wasn’t cool. That’s why Rocky Horror worked back then, and doesn’t now.
To love a piece of media means loving it for everything it is and is not. But to love an old television series or movie doesn’t mean that you want that media text to be brought back to life. Sometimes, loving something means letting it be exactly what it was, forever. That was, after all, the way it was when you first fell in love with it. You can’t force something to be magic again, otherwise it wouldn’t be called magic in the first place.
It’s been 5 months since I last had a relaxer, and at this point I have enough new growth to be able to talk about my natural tresses! I have about an inch and a half all around my head, with certain areas a little longer or shorter depending on the location of the growth. For context, I did successfully make it through six weeks of protective styling with Marley twists. Because I hadn’t had a protective style since 8th grade, it took some getting used to all of the extra hair and weight on my head. After the first week, though, I grew used to the twists and the general upkeep. After three weeks, however, I was ready for them to come out. After five weeks, the twists got frizzy and matted. Despite this, when I went back to the shop for my takedown, the stylists said the twists were in good condition and I could have kept them in longer. It wasn’t that I disliked the twists (although admittedly I think box braids would have looked better and fared better throughout the weeks), I simply missed being able to touch and feel my own hair. Yet, it was for this exact reason that I needed them to begin with — to keep my hands out of my hair and allow it to grow. And boy did it grow. With my first wash post-twists, the hair at my roots was so thick that I had to section my hair differently as I washed just to make sure I got to it all. Not only that, but the texture of both my natural hair and relaxed ends is different now. So let’s talk about my hair!
My hair is…thick! If the sample of hair I have at my roots is any indication, my natural hair will be thick in density. Right now, the thickness of my roots makes it difficult to style my relaxed ends which have absolutely no body. Therefore, it’s also harder to blend the two textures. Speaking of…
My hair is…textured differently throughout! It seems as if my hair has different textures in different parts of my head. The top and sides of my head are the loosest; there’s a weird wave-slash-poof thing going on in this section. Because the pattern is so loose, this section has the most visible length with minimal shrinkage. The middle-back portion of my head has the tightest curl pattern. This section has about the same amount of growth as the front and sides but shrunken. The strands in this area have to be stretched in order to see their full length. And the nape of my neck is a mystery. When my hair was relaxed, this part of my hair grew the slowest and reverted the quickest, so I think that fickleness is carrying over to my natural growth. The only way to describe this section is kINKY. I can’t see a defined curl pattern except at the very roots, where the pattern seems to match the middle-back portion. After a trim a few weeks ago, there’s next to no relaxed hair in this portion of my head, so I’m not sure what that means for the texture…
Across all areas of my head, it feels like my hair’s curl pattern is that of a Z that varies in looseness or tightness.
My hair is…soft and fine! It’s uncommon for naturals to have hair that is both dense and soft at the same time. I’m discovering that this is the case for me. When moisturized correctly, my hair is suuuper soft. And I love it! When I was relaxed, one of the things I hated was once my hair reverted, it would become extremely dry, coarse, and brittle. But now I know I just wasn’t moisturizing enough. It’ll be difficult to figure out what’s best for my hair when I’m trying to incorporate products that will be thick enough to reach my dense tresses but delicate enough to not weigh my strands down, especially my weak relaxed ends.
My hair…is developing different needs! As my transition continues, I am learning that my hair’s needs have changed since more of it is natural. I’ve had to reconsider or even switch out products that I was using pre-twists. My hair needs to be detangled now at the roots or it’s pretty much unmanageable. I tried the coveted Kinky Curly Knot Today, and after two tries, figured out that my hair HATES it! You live and you learn; Knot Today does not contain water as a primary ingredient, and my hair noticed immediately. Rather than loosening up my strands, Knot Today caused them to matt together into a goopy mess. If anything, the product made it more difficult to detangle my hair than the crappy (Carol’s Daughter) liquid leave-in I was using before. On the flipside, my hair absolutely loves shea butter! Hence, any SheaMoisture product I’ve used in my hair I’ve loved and had great results. I’m looking to try the Peace Rose Oil Complex Shampoo and Conditioner combo to replace my Whole Foods shea shampoo and Giovanni Tea Tree Triple Threat Conditioner. I want to see if using a shampoo and conditioner from the same product line improves my results. After all, if a line isn’t cohesive, then what’s the point? Further along in my transition, I’d also like to try out SheaMoisture’s High Porosity Deep Conditioner.
I’m still styling my hair with bantu knots, but I now have to really be diligent about doing more knots to achieve a curl that will last through the week. Right now, co-washing in the middle of the week doesn’t fit into my schedule, and this was previously when I would refresh my curls. Nine-to-five jobs don’t exactly create the time to wash and style on a Wednesday. Also, because my roots are filled out now, if I style in bigger sections for each knot, the parts in my scalp will be visible because the relaxed hair at my ends (which is usually the curl) doesn’t have enough body to fill the style out. Just imagine a triangle in your head: a wide base meeting at a smaller point. That’s what it looks like if I section too big. The smaller the section, the tighter the curl and the more filled out the style looks. And smaller curls means more longevity out of the style — for now at least.
I really want to experiment with flat twists, but I think my hair is too short at this point. But whenever I do go through with the style, it has to be on dry hair; my relaxed ends are too limp to be manipulated into any sort of braid or twist style when wet.
That’s about it for now. I forsee a challenge in the next few months, as it’ll be the first time I’ll have to deal with my natural hair (and styling) in heat. I have to find the right balance and ways to keep moisturized when the elements are trying to suck my hair dry. We’ll see if adding fresh aloe vera to my regimen quenches its thirst.
When you’re a woman that loves men, you learn quickly that there are many things you’ll do in your relationships with them that will be taken for granted. Keeping track of chores, following through on those chores, making to-do lists up the ass.
But as a straight (or bi/pansexual) woman, you also realize over time how little is expected of your man in your relationship, be it from yourself or from other people. Whether consciously or unconsciously, our socialization from a young age teaches us that there are certain expectations of women and men in heteronormative relationships. These expectations hit me in crashing waves. I’ll get a twinge of hesitation right before I ask my fiance to scoop the litter for our cat, or run an errand I can’t do myself.
I’ll second guess whether or not I should ask him to wash the dishes “for me.” I’ll feel subtle guilt when I ask him to pleasure me a different way during sex.
And it finally hit me today, when I was texting him about our wedding planning. I told him he needed to do something (exactly what is irrelevant) and he responded to my request with “I’ll be an adult about it and do it.” And instinctively, I almost said “Thanks” in return before I stopped myself. I was perplexed. Why was I about to thank him? After all, it is our wedding, as in something we’re both committing time and energy to. Therefore, anything I ask or demand of him during the wedding planning process shouldn’t be something I have to thank him for. His equal participation should be something, as I described of myself, that is expected of him.
I have questioned myself on countless occasions over why I feel the range of emotions I do when I make simple requests of him. Will he hate me for asking too much of him? Am I making him do too much work? Am I just lazy for not wanting to do whatever I’m asking him to do? And so on and so on. It’s a cycle of hesitation, frustration, and disgust toward these intrusive thoughts that tumbles like clothes in a dryer around my head before I ask him what I want him to do. And I can’t be the only woman that feels this way.
It is mutually reassuring and disheartening to remember that we live in a society where women’s equality to men is perceived as excess, and men’s minimal efforts are perceived as equal to women’s. Consider that studies have shown that in social or professional settings, men perceive a 50-50 representation of men and women when women make up less than 20 percent of a group. Think about the fact that in order for men and women to talk an equal amount in a group conversation, the group must be overwhelmingly female. It’s the cherry on top to discover that among Millennials, while both men and women have increased their respective domestic roles compared to the generation prior, women still do notably more housework than men. The timidity of expectation that so many women have toward their male spouses could explain why, on average, women are less happy in their marriages than men. It’s not enough to suffer in silence; we have to deal with the stigma of speaking up, of becoming the nagging wife (or for black women, the “Sapphire”) representation that so many men bemoan. Or worse, we’re labeled as bad wives if we don’t do “our share” of the work in a relationship. We’re asked to bear the emotional labor of entire families without expecting a base level of burden-sharing from our boyfriends or husbands, all while smiling and being thankful for whatever help is given to us.
These reservations about asking my fiance to do things around the house or for our wedding are a consequence of being raised in a patriarchal society. I occasionally hear my mother’s voice in my head, echoing the words she told me as a 20-year-old, “You have to let a man be a man.” As I grew more confident in myself and my relationship, I vocally challenged that notion. I don’t “allow” my fiance to be anything. I definitely am not keeping him from being a man by having expectations of him beyond washing a dish or going to a venue showing. Expecting him to do more than the minimum is not making him more “feminine” or less of a man, it’s expecting him to be an adult. I shouldn’t have to thank him for being a grown-up. It’s the least he can do for committing to a relationship with another adult.
Perhaps women should start saving their gratitude for men that brave oceans, not puddles.
At the Oscars, Viola Davis in her acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actress in Fences paid tribute to her craft by eloquently saying that the artist community “[is] the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life.” While the internet perhaps took too much from these words in the aftermath of the ceremony, I took her statement at face value. Even still, as I heard the words leave her lips I didn’t quite understand them. I appreciated her insight on why art is important for the artists that create and perform, but as the camera panned to an audience of rich actors and producers, I couldn’t connect to her words as a viewer, a consumer of art. Her statement felt very personal to the acting community, therefore I felt distance from it.
But Thursday night as I sat on my couch watching Scandal, the episode entitled “Extinction,” I had a revelation about the meaning of Viola Davis’ words for lovers of art and media. (SPOILERS AHEAD)
As I explained in detail in a previous post, I am currently in the process of transitioning my hair to natural. Since I’ve made the announcement to my friends and family, I’ve gotten awkward questions like, “So how does it work?” or “When will it be natural?”
While these questions are well-intentioned, they stem from ignorance of black natural hair and how it works, both on the part of black and non-black people. I hope I’m able to answer some of the questions many people curious about natural hair are too afraid to ask, the first being,
What is “transitioning”?
Transitioning is the process of growing out one’s relaxed, heat damaged, or chemically processed hair. Rather than doing a Big Chop right off the bat (cutting off the hair completely and starting with new, natural growth), transitioning allows you to retain the length of your strands while your natural hair grows in from the roots. Transitioning is great for people who aren’t quite ready for a TWA (Teeny Weeny Afro) and those who want to practice healthy hair habits before the Big Chop day comes. Long-term transitioners are those who keep their relaxed ends for at least a year. I plan to transition for 13 months, or Big Chop by the very end of 2017. The trick with transitioning is working with two different hair textures (straight or damaged ends with curly or kinky roots) and finding styles that blend the two so people can’t tell. You also must make sure you’re being gentle with the line of demarcation, or the point where your relaxed hair meets your natural texture. Because it’s so sensitive, it is very prone to breakage, and too much breakage can cause you to Big Chop earlier than you want to.
If you said you’re going natural, why doesn’t your hair “look natural” yet?
Natural hair doesn’t happen overnight. Right now, I’m still in the early stages of transitioning at 10 weeks post (relaxer). At almost three months, my natural growth is still minimal. But, it is becoming more visible at my roots to the glancing eye. It will be a couple more months before I have significant enough growth to hold and style in my hands.
So what are you doing differently with your hair now?
In the rule book of Going Natural 101, the first step to transitioning is to stop doing the thing that damaged your hair to begin with. For me, this is realxing my strands. Second, you stop using chemically harmful products with sulfates and alcohol and swap them out for hair products with natural ingredients like shea butter and various kinds of oils (olive, almond, avocado, grapeseed, Jamaican black castor, etc.). I now shampoo my hair once a week and co-wash in between shampoo sessions. (Co-washing is conditioner washing, or refreshing your hair with a conditioner that won’t remove the dirt from/strip your hair like a shampoo would.) I also deep condition once a week. Lastly, I use protective styles to retain the moisture of every step in the wash or co-washing process. Needless to say, I spend hours tending to my hair every week, and I’ve almost tripled the amount of products I use on my hair, and I’d say my product collection is minimal at the moment. That’s how little I was taking care of my hair before.
The products I’m currently using.
My go-to styles are perm rod sets and bantu knots. My hair is at an awkward length right now, so these are really the only two styles that will curl my hair to retain moisture. I recently tried bantu knots, and I’m in love with them. I could never get the perm rods to wrap and roll the way I wanted them to, and the curls didn’t spiral the way they’re supposed to. But, with bantu knots, the strands of my curls hold together longer, and the curls as a whole don’t go flat as quickly.
Still, because my hair is mostly relaxed, the sucky thing is that it’s hard to make protective styles last without completely starting over by wetting my hair. When you have a head full of natural curls, your hair is a lot easier to manipulate and style because the strands are already inclined to curl or coil. I also can’t do wash and go’s because I don’t have a natural curl pattern to fall back on.
I’m planning on getting Marley twists in the next month to protect my hair through the rest of the winter, when it is most prone to breakage and damage due to the cold. It will also allow my natural hair to grow in without me constantly manipulating and styling it, which is good for it every few months or so whether you’re transitioning or completely natural. After I keep my twists in for eight weeks, I’ll take them out and re-assess the needs of my hair. I may need to change up my routine or the products I use, since I’ll have a significant portion of natural hair at my roots by then. I also plan to cut my hair a little so that my strands are equal length throughout my head.
So far, I’m satisfied with my hair growth, but still learning what healthy looks like on my hair. The next few months, from what I’ve read, will likely be the most troublesome, so I’m really trying to nail down a routine that retains my hair’s moisture from roots to tips. Stay tuned in the coming moths for the latest on my Road to BC!
It all started in February. The beginning of Black History Month saw the milestone 50th Super Bowl. In the days leading up to the most-watched telecast of the year, it was rumored that Bruno Mars and Beyonce would both join Halftime headliners Coldplay. Then, the day before the Super Bowl, Beyonce dropped a surprise song online entitled “Formation.” The internet was abuzz with the lyrics and connotations of the song. Many wondered if Queen Bey would dare to perform such a song on arguably the biggest national stage.
After Coldplay performed a song or two, Bruno and his “Hooligans” took to the stage along with Mark Ronson. He finessed his way through his 2015 smash “Uptown Funk” wearing shiny black pants, black sneakers, and a gold chain round his neck. Although produced and performed by two non-black artists, the jam is unabashedly a tribute to funk, soul, and disco — all genres perfected by black musicians. It should also be noted that Bruno’s backup dancers were black and, like Bruno, wore black outfits.
After performing several bars of “Funk,” Beyonce stormed the field with an army of black women behind her. Beyonce wore a black leotard and a black bomber jacket of sorts with two gold sashes crossing diagonally across her chest. Her dancers wore black shorts and crop tops with black berets. She eased her way into the lyrics of “Formation,” sashaying slowly through her dancers. (It would be discussed later that the outfits worn by Beyonce and her dancers were a tribute to the Black Panthers. The dancers were even photographed doing the Black Power fist.)
“I like my baby hair with baby hair and afros/I like my negro nose with Jackson Five nostrils….”
Swaying side to side, then twerking at a 90 degree angle (surely working them quads), Beyonce and her black girl squad worked their way through the choreography.
She then joined forces with Bruno for a mashup of their two songs. Chris Martin of Coldplay joined in toward the end of the performance. But as Bruno and Beyonce sang the end of “Funk,” working the camera in their black getups front and center, it was clear that despite a white artist “headlining” the Halftime show, blackness — both literally and figuratively — had taken over.