Thursday, October 20, 2011

My Hair is Better than Yours, So Don't Criticize Me

I just read an article on Black Girl with Long Hair called "Some People Would Rather Look a 'Hot Mess' Than Go Natural?" from a woman of color who wears her hair natural (without any processed perms or curls). She tells about how she recently got on a bus and had to endure really ugly comments about her tresses from two other women who were seated near her.

Now, since I wear my hair in an afro, when I read that I was feeling indignant for the sister. All of us who live in the USA and wear their hair just as it grows out of our head have experienced this. It's so common that I've lost count of how many times it's happened to me and my daughter. It hurts, but it comes with the territory. It's one of those things that you will have to endure, if you want to be true to how you want to look.

Often, when women with natural hair get together, we talk about it. We comfort and encourage each other. We praise the hair styles that each of us come up with to accentuate our kind of beauty. Doing this really helps. My daughter is a self-confident young lady now and she has lived her whole life as a natural-haired girl, so she has more clever responses than I do when someone says something negative about her coiffure.

However, there's a nasty little secret that some women with natural hair won't admit. When a lot of us get together and talk about how some sister with processed hair made ugly quips about us, it often goes much further than that. I'll tell ya', the conversations almost always turns from praising our beauty to comparing us to them and attempting to reaffirm our decisions by putting down the way that some sisters with processed hair look. And as this article and the majority of the comments shows, it gets really, really nasty.

This time, the writer went on to criticize weaves and women with alopecia and women who dye their hair in vibrant colors. On and on it went, all about how inferior those women are and how their hair proves that we are superior to them. And the folks weren't just talking about our hairstyles being superior to all others. Several of them (and I'm not just referring to a few isolated comments) waxed on about how these hair choices showed that those women don't have the same courage as we have, that they are jealous of us, that they lack confidence. You may have to see it to believe it, but it's all there.

I think that the writer and most people who commented are overlooking the real problem. The problem isn’t how the writer’s hair looked or how the other girls looked. The problem is WOMEN JUDGING EACH OTHER. Until we see that this is a serious problem, there will always be women with perms snickering at women with natural hair and there will be women with natural hair making snide comments about someone’s weave. Criticizing their choices or their hair just as they criticized yours is a bit hypocritical. I think that instead of having a few laughs or rolling our eyes about bad weaves and alopecia–it should be noted that it’s not always the result of anything that the person did to their hair–we should try to figure out what is making BOTH groups think that it’s okay to do this. I don't even have the energy to delve into the classism that's also involved in this.

This makes me so sad for both those with natural hair and those with processed manes and disappointed with us all. The “hot mess” is that both groups do it and then turn around and get mad when it’s done to them. On days like this, it’s just so apparent that sisterhood between black women is truly dead…and maybe people prefer it that way. *sigh*

Why They Say That Being LGBQIA is a Choice

I was on a website today and there was an article about how Herman Cain (one of the Republican wannabe Presidential nominees) is standing firm with his belief that being gay is a choice and is something that can "wash off". Someone on the thread said that they couldn't understand why this rhetoric works. He pointed out that these are the same folks who claim to revere the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence and these are documents that protect, defend, and celebrate the freedom to make choices. His question was: Therefore, even if being gay is a choice, shouldn't these folks also be supportive of people choosing to be gay?

Well, I'll tell you why I think that the "It's a choice" rally cry works. It's because they are just as against choice as they are against nature. When women say, "Yes, everyone should be entitled to make choices about their own body", these same clowns explain what comes after "It's a choice!". At that point, they make it quite clear that you must only choose what THEY think constitutes an acceptable option.

I don't think that the "ick" factor even has much to do with it. You know why? Because the majority of people who engage in behaviors that these fundamentalists go around calling "gay s*x", aren't gay at all. LGBQIA people aren't having nearly as much non-vanilla sex as hetero people are. Oh yeah, I know there are a few hetero folks out there who still only do it with their married spouse, missionary style, with the lights off, and their nightclothes still on. But most folks? Not even!

I grew up in a fundamentalist right-wing cult that is among the strictest of the strict and let me tell ya' something? What were most people kicked out of the church for? Sexual sins! It was folks who were simply doing the stuff that homo sapiens enjoy doing. The not-so-secret truth was, you didn't get kicked out for doing the buttsekks and other non-vanilla activities. You got kicked out for letting people find out that you were doing it. It was the appearance of disobedience that gets you in trouble with the clergy.

These fundamentalists are all about appearances. They'll do all the same stuff as everyone else, but they will persecute the hell out of us just to try to appear to be holier or more righteous and pure of heart than the rest of humanity.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Woman is NOT the Nigger of the World

Today, Latoya Peterson over at Racialicious posted a picture of a young, smiling white woman at the recent Slutwalk NYC event holding up a sign that quoted one of John Lennon's songs. It read, "Woman is the Nigger of the World".

Wow! That picture is...alarming. There are some people whose words tend to crop up in certain environments. A few days ago, some friends and I were laughing about how almost every event that occurs at a stadium in an HBCU starts with "Lift Every Voice". And we spent the next half hour or so listing songs by people of color that could also be perfect for use as a "Black National Anthem".

Lennon seems to be one of those folks that white activists seem to almost instinctively turn to for inspiration. It's cliché to use some of his quotes, but I'm practically a professional at the (over)use of cliché. Unfortunately, the problem with looking to Lennon to find inspiration is that it's really easy to wind up with a situation like the one in that Slutwalk NYC photo.

I can't feel a bit sympathetic toward that hateful person who carried the sign. However, I can see how easy it is for that to happen. White young adults grow up witnessing white self-proclaimed activists waxing nostalgically whenever Lennon is mentioned. He is someone that hipsters can glorify when they want to feel as if they're on the side of the oppressed.

He's one of them. He not someone they'll perceive as threatening or scary. He's a capitalist who sacrificed nothing while holding himself up as some kind of role model. He's a rich white man who went out and got himself an Asian wife and then proceeded to use his relationship with her as a buffer between him and anyone who would challenge his racism. "Woman is the Nigger of the World" is an excellent example of this. Even though he was the one who sang this song, he repeatedly made sure to note that he and Ono wrote the song together.

I just love the way the white interviewer describes criticism of Lennon's racism as "hassling" and how Lennon proudly ignores the people of color who pointed out why this song is disgustingly bigoted. What a class act!

Unfortunately (for people from marginalized communities), it is fairly safe to say that there are no whites among this group who are willing to have honest conversations with white young adults about why pushing Lennon on movements or actions that are supposed to be inclusive is aggressive and oppressive. When they hear and see so very many folks who call themselves "progressive" or "revolutionary-minded" or "feminist" glorifying this particular white man who did nothing for anyone other than himself, is it any wonder that they also follow in his footsteps by oppressing people of color?

If she had created a sign with one of his other quotes, we can be certain that none of the white people around her would have even given her a disapproving look. After all, even the use of this quote on a sign didn't motivate a single white white person in that crowd of hundreds to insist that she stop waving it around and taking pictures with it. Because white people keep acting like Lennon was some kind of friend to the disenfranchised, people of color wind up having to see stuff like this on a regular basis when they try to work with activist groups that are predominantly white.

I keep waiting to see if there will be any white people who claim to be allies of people of color who are willing to say that enough is enough and that whites need to stop pushing Lennon and his words on those who he aggressively oppressed and marginalized. So far, the best we get is the occasional white person who will say that some of Lennon's words are easy to misunderstand.