I’m A Make Up Loving Feminist

Now, I strive everyday to be an instersectional feminist, and I will work my hardest to make sure other women have a right to choose what they want to do with their bodies, feel how they want to feel about their bodies, and say what they feel that they need to say. However, I have a confession that brings up an important debate within the feminist community: I LOVE makeup.

As a young, college student, I am often told that I’m too pretty to need makeup, I shouldn’t worry about superficial things, and that I am attempting to act older than I really am. All of these statements are based solely on the speaker’s assumption of makeup, and it does not take into account the thoughts and feeling of the person who is wearing it: me.

I wear makeup for a few reasons, and as I go into depth, I hope that you understand that any choice made does not go without nuance.

  • I was the awkward girl in school. I was that nerdy black girl, the one who could ace Algebra in a second and spent hours going through Harry Potter and Percy Jackson and the Olympians books. My hair was long and relaxed, leaving me up to envy from other girls, which I mistook for hatred. My eyes were framed by glasses, and my teeth adorned with ugly metal braces and rubber bands that always left me uncomfortable. I was going through (and still going through) that awkward looking and feeling stage of my life. I went through a time where I had to navigate classwork, making friends and keeping them, and feeling good about myself. I felt too skinny, and then later on and now, too fat. I thought maybe it might be best if I didn’t speak up, and now I wish I had the confidence to speak up more. I never felt like there was a designated spot for me. The “weird” table didn’t have anyone like me at all, the group amongst my regular peers always made me feel far from normal, and being in the “popular” kids’ group always made me feel that I was superficial and overrated. Middle school and high school were definite times when people felt they had access to my thoughts and my views as if they were their own, and I often found myself having to defend myself from foolishness. Finding makeup was a blessing. It allowed me to be what I wanted to be, to feel the confidence I needed to push myself to getting thousands of dollars in scholarships and multiple acceptances. Makeup certainly wasn’t everything, but it did feel nice.
  • Makeup is actually something we need to navigate some spaces in our society. What I mean by that is, while makeup isn’t needed to live a decent life, at a place like Duke, makeup is what makes you. It’s what “puts you together.” It’s ridiculous, but being feminist and navigating a place are not the same thing. What people don’t understand is that Duke and other elite schools are like a game. You don’t have to like that game, but many people take the extra handicap that is in those games. I choose to, but I do hope to one day be able to choose not to. But as a black woman in our society, I don’t get to make these rules. They aren’t something that I as an individual has the power too. If I had it my way, I honestly wouldn’t give a damn if you wanted to walk around in pajamas and slippers all day. But I am not the one who makes the rules, and while I am working to change these idiotic rules, in order to function in a place like Duke, I have to play at least some of the rules to still be included. It’s twisted, but it works.
  • I love the creativity involved. Makeup is fun. There are brushes, blenders, foundations, shadows, pigments, lip colors, and more. It’s like your face is a canvas. Getting into makeup for me was originally solely for looking decent for a pageant, but I quickly realized how I could use makeup as an accessory. The ability to constantly change my face, enhance the features that I loved, wear the colors that I want to for the day, and end the end, be able to wash it off. My ability to diversify allows me to mix and match, and create a new version of myself everyday. It’s like a chance to reinvent yourself. And it’s time for solely you, which gives you time to relax and not have to think about everything else that is going on.

I wear makeup independently of whether a person I’m interested in likes it or not. They may be feeling it, and the next day I may come back with a bare face, no mascara or anything. Makeup for me is something I do for myself, and only when I feel like I want to engage in it. My face can be beat to the gods one moment, and then completely real, and I am perfectly fine. My choice to wear makeup is not about impressing people I want to date, and it isn’t about needing it to function. It’s about me feelin good about myself, and finding outlets that will easily let me feel good about myself.

-JW

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Racism and Mental Health in Black Women

Mental health will always be a big part of my life, and I cannot ignore the effects. I also cannot ignore the effects of being both a woman, and being black in our country, nor will I attempt to. Unfortunately, studies on effects of oppression towards black women are very few and far between, it’s hard to substantiate predictions with empirical evidence. Thankfully, as of late, more and more studies are being done, and as a black woman I feel as though I need to understand what we are going through in order to fight it. As a black woman, my voice has been silenced so much that now that I have the opportunity to say what I need to say, I will no longer be quiet about things that matter to me.

Mental health in the black community is something that has plagued us since the early 1600s when the first slaves arrived. Mental health has a stigma and history of its own in the black community, and understanding that alone is hard enough for many people due to lack of adequate resources and education. To understand that mental health intersects with women’s rights and racism, it becomes a very complex and confusing topic to discuss, so I thought that I would break it down with the help of a report I have found.

Everything I’m referencing today comes the brief report titled “Impact of Racial Macro- and Microaggressions in Black Women’s Lives: A Preliminary Analysis,” linked here: http://jbp.sagepub.com/content/early/2012/04/13/0095798412443259.full.pdf+html

According to the report, a study was done in which 187 undergraduates who self-identified as Black women were given three tests, the Racism and Life Experiences Scale- Daily Life Experiences subscale (DLE), the Depression Anxiety Stress Scale (DASS-21), and the Marlowe-Crowe Social Desirability Scale, Short Form (MCSD-SF).  They studied the effects of both PRMa- perceived racial macroaggressions, and PRMi- perceived racial microagressions. It was predicted that microaggressions would be more damaging to the mental health of black women, but actually, it was found that PRMi were more harmful to the mental health. Because of the lack of empirical studies done, we do not yet understand completely, but “intersectional theory and research suggest that embodying subordinate racial and gender social categories influence how Black women are perceived and treated, creating lived experiences that are different from those of Black men and White women.” The results of the studies found that 2 of the most common PRMa were being accused or suspected of doing something wrong because of race, and getting into an argument or fight about something racist done to you or someone else. 2 of the most common PRMi were being treated rudely or disrespectfully because of race, being ignored, overlooked, or not given service (in a restaurant, store, etc.) because of race. It was predict that macroaggressions were harder for black women to deal with than microaggressions because  they’re “blatant, egregious acts, [and] more difficult to cope with than microaggressions, which are subtler and might be perceived as less offensive.”

While the rate of black women committing suicide overall is low at 1.7 percent, that’s only the reported number, and the number is steadily increasing, especially in Black Americans of younger ages. The risk for attempted suicide in Black Americans is highest among 15 to 24 year olds. Among Black Americans in high school students, more females than males reported seriously considering suicide (17.1% vs 7%), making a suicide plan (13.5% vs 5.5%), and making a suicide attempt (9.8% vs 5.2%)

As a black woman, I am often looked at in terms of my passion and anger. To clarify, my passion is often mistaken for anger, and treated as such. My words and thoughts are invalidated due to the assumption of me simply being the angry black woman. I feel myself argued with all the time, by people of all races and genders. I have been told that I am afro-pessimistic or just plain negative amongst other things. At that time, though, no one takes into true consideration my experiences as a black woman and how it has shaped me. My thoughts are seen as irrelevant and my passion for trying to understand is given no room in our society. If we are progressive as we are, why should I have to speak a little louder, stand up straighter, and speak in a certain vernacular in order to be taken seriously. Imagine having to deal with that, and patriarchy, and lack of education and such. Do you think your mental health would be perfect. I was listening to the podcast The Read, and Kid Fury said something along the lines of  “if white people had to go through a tenth of the things we did, their minds would explode.” Put yourself in the shoes of a black woman; not quite fitting into the white women mold, nor the Black women mold. Always working hard to become educated by the Eurocentric methods, yet never getting enough recognition. Black women do not have super strength, and we have struggles of our own. My question is, are you going to continue to silence us, or stand by us?

-JW

Discussing Ableism

Ableism is very important to the way we view our society, especially since the majority of society thinks  and knows nothing of it. While we do aim to be “good people,” we are all inherently ignorant about something. That doesn’t mean that we should hate ourselves for it, but it does mean that we have certain privileges that others don’t, and that we unconsciously benefit from systems that put them down while building us up. I talk about privilege a lot, but I understand that I am one of the few, and in order to get past this privilege, we can help those who have been negatively affected by these systems.

Now, on to the more important question: What is ableism?

Ableism, also spelled ablism is defined as the discrimination in favor of able-bodied people. Ableism takes on many forms, and can be done accidently and on purpose. In fact, you and I have practiced ableism at some point, though by accident. Ableism is something that is rarely discussed, and so in realizing that we have been ableists, we need to not get defensive and go into denial, but instead take the time to learn about how ableism can be fought against, and how we can provide justice and equal rights without hurting them further.

What are some things that we do that are ableist?

Well, let’s take a look and dissect our actions

  • Addressing People who are visibly disabled through able-bodied people: This may seem very well meaning, but in fact, this is a rather rude practice that needs to be corrected. Often I’ve seen people address someone who is deaf or blind or in a wheel chair through the person accompanying them, and while you do mean to be respectful, you take away that person’s right to speak for themselves, and in a way, you infantilize them. Infantilizing someone is a very dehumanizing practice and has many negative repercussions to your mental health.
  • Seeing disabled people as inspirational: I cannot count the number of times someone has come to me or my siblings and told us that in spite of our disabilities that we are “an inspiration.” This is objectification at its worst, and while you mean well, it’s rather offensive. It tells us that disabled people don’t have the same right to live their lives like non-disabled people, and it’s something to look up to when we do. That is literally an insult on our intelligence, and I will not accept it
  • Using Ableist Language: This is something everyone has done, including myself. By now, you should understand why it’s unacceptable to use retard/retarded. But there are a few other words that also have damaging effect on us. “idiot,” “moron,” “lame,” and “stupid” are all forms of ableist language. Back in the early 20th century, these terms were seriously used when diagnosing people and it was used to justify discrimination in the workplace, among society and the sterilization of disabled people without their consent.

What are some other ways that our society is ableist?

  • Hard to access places: Throughout the country, and especially in bigger cities, buildings are built with cost efficiency designed and not for the availability of all people. While there are general rules put in place, not every building and restroom area is handicap accessible, making it hard for people with disabilities to interact with those places.
  • Lack of Closed Captioning and transcripts: With our society’s viewership moving quickly from television to online spots like YouTube, we find ourselves immersed in online media. We have reached the point where we have professional networks getting started online instead of attempting to do so through television. The issue is that when they provide this content, there are no good Closed Captioning services and transcripts provided for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. While there are automatic captions on videos, they are often very poor quality and makes it very hard to keep up.

As someone who is Hard of Hearing, my disability is thankfully something that doesn’t completely incapacitate me from working and living in society. It is however, hard to keep track of what people say, or hear my name when it’s called among the crowd, or hear people when they’re whispering. As difficult as things get sometimes, I would much rather people treat me with respect and not pity and judge my achievements based on my disability. Think about the things you say and do beforehand, it might give you a better perspective on the way we live.

-JW

Natural Hair Chronicles: Wait, That’s Yarn??!

Hi, everyone! Today is going to be a lighter post as I take the time to talk about my hair. This might seem overdone with the whole natural hair movement, but my hair is something I invest in, and I want to take the time to rant and rave about it.

Continue reading Natural Hair Chronicles: Wait, That’s Yarn??!

Being Liberal Doesn’t Mean You Can’t be Racist

This post is sure to offend some, but this post certainly needed to be written. In the midst of the 2016 presidential campaign, and as President Obama’s term winds down, we see many people working to push for their desired candidate, from Bernie Sanders to Donald Trump. I don’t share my political views on here, and I don’t see myself doing so in the immediate future, but I will take the time to share my views on something that terrifies me: progressive white liberals. No, I am not talking about all progressive white liberals, as I do understand completely the complications of generalizing. But I do hope to help you understand that not everything progressive is necessarily helping to better our country.

When I speak of my fears, I speak as a young, black woman, but take note that I do not speak for all black people, nor will I claim to speak for everyone. With this presidential campaign being the first one that I can legally vote for, I find myself immersed in casual talks of politics, on campus, online, with friends, family, and acquaintances. At this rate, I could probably get credit for an intro class to formal politics. I do try to stay aware, so I keep track of some news networks, but I do my best to distance myself emotionally from the idiocy of most of these candidates. That does not mean that I will refuse to listen to views that contradict my own. On the contrary, actually, I tend to listen to those who oppose my views a little bit more, mainly to laugh and pick apart what they are actually saying. So going to Duke, where most students are center-right or center-left, I find myself very concerned about the beliefs of some of my peers. These concerns I hold aren’t meant necessarily to primarily offend others, but I hope to provide my perspective on things.

When we talk of conservativism versus liberalism, many people in our society hold misconceptions about it. Usually, conservativism is inherently racist, and liberalism means anti-racist. Well, I hate to burst your bubble, but that isn’t necessarily true. While it makes it easier for our minds to categorize the people who fit into our labels, it doesn’t account for the various views within those groups, and assumes that there is no nuance to these terms. In actuality, despite the desire for our minds to put people into neat little boxes, it isn’t as easy as that. What I want to focus on is the progressive side of this situation, as we hear so much about the conservative side from the media, as they tend to lean more to the right.

Liberalism defined by Wikipedia (so you can take it or leave it), is “a political philosophy or worldview founded on ideas of liberty and equality.” There’s so much more information online if you want to go into the depths of that, but liberalism tends to represent the changing views to encompass more equality. There’s not just one type of liberalism; it is a spectrum and people fall on all parts of it. When people hear liberalism, they assume that they must be the saving grace of oppressed people, and to be a liberal means that you cannot practice any type of racism and are therefore exempt from having race conversations. This is far from correct. While the idea of liberalism is positive and geared toward inclusive change, in practice, it lends itself to a political party, which is inherently corrupt, and this causes some nuance. You cannot truly help an oppressed people when you support the oppressor, no matter how passive that support is. That saying “if you aren’t part of the solution, then you’re part of the problem?” That’s very applicable today.

Another part of this is the conditional allyship of this liberals, and the conscious passive aggressiveness of their behaviors. When discussing race, these people tend to lean toward creating a world in which we don’t see race. But when they say that, it’s never about the white race, because they have internalized that they are the norm, and that they benefit from being the norm. Instead, it’s about the people of color, and having to address their history, and the problems that lie within the histories. Many allies talk about being part of the movement and going to marches, but when it comes to micro-aggressions or calling out their white peers, they don’t want to, and then allows for the system to continue uninterrupted. You cannot be a true ally and say you’re there for someone while allowing others to continue spreading misinformation about that group without being held accountable. And going to some marches back in the day is nice, but there is always something you can do for someone and being a decent human being isn’t just something you do to put on your resume, but an everyday job, day in and out.

These white liberals are likely to shut down people who have deemed as “militant,” telling them to wait their turn. This is very toxic, and it shows that they have the privilege to put aside these issues with very little care.

I think one solution would be to provide better education in the classrooms, but we all know that school learning only gets you so far. A better solution would be to stop closing your mind to things you have yet to understand, and maybe you’ll learn something new, which will allow you to react with information backing you up.

-JW

Intersectionally Speaking: Reclaiming The Spade (Guest Column)

Hey y’all!

My name is Adriana and I, too am a student at Duke. You cane find my blog, Tactfully Controversial, here.

But I’d like to welcome you to my guest column: Intersectionally Speaking.

I’d like to take you all to a place that examines the many facets of my own intersectionality. In each series I seek to provide insight on some topic, which ultimately will be routed back to some form of intersectionality. This week, I’m going to start with two of the most basic things about myself: being black, being a woman, and the sort of responsibility that comes with those identities.

From the title, I’m sure you’re all wondering what does she mean by “reclaiming the spade?”.
First let me provide a literal definition of a spade as well as the word as slang in historical context AND in modern context.

Ace-of-Spades-ace-of-spades-32166793-400-507So, what is a spade? By literal definition, it is a tool used to cut the earth. It is a part of the four suits of cards alongside hearts, clubs, and diamonds. In a historical context, spade was used a derogatory term for people of African descent or those with slave ancestors. It was no different than jigga-boo, porch monkey, or the all-too-famous nigger. As a modern term, the spade has been used as a symbol for white women who prefer FETISHIZE black men, usually in a sexual context. These white women with an untreatable case of jungle fever frequently get tattoos of spades in places such as their thigh, bikini line, or ankle as an expression of that “preference.”

I have recently decided to have a spade designed and inked on my body. This decision is a statement of my love for my own blackness, my adoration for black men, and my role as a woman who happens to have a little more melanin in her skin. Much like black people have reclaimed nigger and sex-positive feminists have reclaimed whore/slut/etc, I am reclaiming the spade.

My decision to do such is well rooted in feminism, my own womanhood, and the rejection of the privilege white feminists possess.

Black women, far more than any other race, are raised to protect their black counterparts of the opposite sex. Branding the spade as a method for black men to be victimized is a practice I have naturally found myself wanting to combat. Dating back to the times of slavery, the hypersexualization and subsequental fetishization and objectification of black men was often used as a tactic to justify many disproved allegations of rape of white women. As a result, many of this men were killed or wrongfully imprisoned. In this regard, or any regard for that matter, fetishization is not a symbol of real adoration or love.

I am in no way denying that white women with genuine love and appreciation exist, but the notion of the spade in that use is problematic for those reasons. There is a fine line between fetishization and preference.
In example, many of my white female classmates swoon over the basketball players at my university, vastly black, but have no care for black men in other spaces or black issues. The lack of sympathy for their struggle as a race is what breeds fetishization.

White feminism in itself allows this sort of thing to happen. Black women are not allowed to “prefer” men of a specific race outside of their own without being seen as trying to upgrade, as if their own race is inherently lower.

As a black person, I have the ability to empathize for the black man in ways a white woman cannot.

My spade tattoo will scream I’m here for you.

It reinforces the love for my own blackness, my kind of feminism, and the way I was raised a black woman.

It is a culmination of the two most important parts of myself.

And as the literal function of the spade, I am sowing and reclaiming my roots.

~AMP

Getting through the Pipeline

Now that school in the US is officially underway for everyone, whether you’re in kindergarten or grad school, I wanted to take this time to highlight an issue that affects many students in the country. This issue has been going on for decades, and it has yet to be completely taken care of, so I thought it would be best to bring this issue to light in hopes that a meaningful dialogue will be opened.

The school to prison pipeline is in our schools, and it has very real repercussions.

Continue reading Getting through the Pipeline

Taking Care of Yourself: Self Care Check #1

So, I do realize now that I should have given you some type of warning before I disappear. I forget that people consistently read this, and for that, I am grateful. This won’t be the last time I take a break, especially as a Duke student, but I will try to keep things somewhat normal for people who are still expecting something new.

I decided that I was going to try to take a mental health week and just check out from writing. I love writing, but self-care is something that I value as well, and today I want to address what it is, how you can do it, tips, and why it is necessary today.

Continue reading Taking Care of Yourself: Self Care Check #1

The Plight of White America

I know that this post will land me in some hot water, but I have put up with things for far too long, and I can no longer sit here in silence. This is a public service announcement: White supremacy not only exist, it rules almost everything we do in this country and by perpetuating the system and benefitting without speaking up on it, you are responsible for the negative repercussions.

Continue reading The Plight of White America

Measuring Blackness

This is going to be a more personal post, but I know that I am not the only one to go through this, and I would love to make that connection with others.

I am going through a breakup. No, it wasn’t for cheating, and we ended on good terms. Well, kind of. We both still love each other, to be honest (though I still think that I won the “I love you more” argument). It was a good run, or so I thought, until I heard him tell me: “I think we should see other people.”

Continue reading Measuring Blackness