Plate Politics

Screenshot_2015-05-19-20-37-13-1I was scrolling though Instagram last night and the scenario to the left was posed. As I expected, there were varying responses, primarily from women, regarding how to handle a situation of a woman offering, then actually fixing, another woman’s boyfriend/husband a plate at a social function. The answers mostly stayed along the lines of 1) An ass whoopin’ for disrespectfully and shameslessly flirting with another woman’s man 2) Shame to the girlfriend/wife for not making her man a plate in the first place because clearly, this is what women are made to do 3) Asking the woman if she would be so kind as to prepare both a plate since she is feeling so damn helpful and 4) Expecting the man to simply say, “No, thank you” to the offer of another woman overstepping her boundaries with him in front of his woman. Truthfully, these were answers I expected and though they ran the gamut, none of them were quite the answer I had.

Why Is This Even A Question?

One issue for me with this scenario is the idea it might be a problem or fodder for such detailed discussion. In my mind, no man I’m with would accept that offer, but most importantly, no man I’d be with would announce his hunger then automatically look at me to take action to remedy his pronouncement. What about my existence as a woman makes folks think I’m predisposed to diaper changing, cake baking, and plate making? What is it MakingPlatesabout testosterone that enables some men to feel sitting in a chair waiting for food to magically arrive in front of them is all they have to do when they are hungry? And who the hell set the precedent for any of this? Who are the folks perpetuating these ideas simply based in gender? Now, don’t get me wrong – I’ve made a few plates in my day and I know plenty of folks who subscribe to traditional ideas of gender roles of their choosing. I think that’s just fine, providing it’s what both parties want and believe, but that isn’t how I believe and it isn’t what I want. Every kindness I extend to folks I like and love comes from a pure desire to do something nice. It’s an extension of my love, not an obligatory action based on my possession of ovaries. Sometimes, I might make a plate and other times, I might not. Sometimes, I might ask him to make me a plate, and that shouldn’t be a problem because putting food on plates is not, and won’t ever be, a gender specific action. I’ve met a lot of different people in my day and outside of literally missing limbs, I haven’t met any adult incapable of holding a serving utensil and using it to dish up food for a plate.

If You Don’t, Cousin Faith Will

In all the fussing and laughing, I was the only woman who wondered why his significant other making him a plate would be the automatic option. In the good old movie, Soul cousin-faithFood, the main characters’ cousin, Faith, seemed to step in and fill some sort of void one of the husbands felt his wife wasn’t filling. As a result, they had an affair. Several women spoke the perspective of it being the girlfriend’s/wife’s fault another woman made her mate a plate because she didn’t fix it herself, therefore creating the opportunity for “Cousin Faith” to step in and do it instead.

*Imagine me letting out a big ole’ sigh right here.*

Listen, I can’t speak for any other woman’s relationship or how she handles it, but I have absolutely no belief in existing within a relationship under constant fear of “losing” my significant other. My assumption is a man is with me because he thinks I’m awesome (I am pretty damn cool for real) and if my entire existence with him is spent worrying about him leaving me if I fail to cook dinner, don’t feel like making him a plate after I failed to cook dinner, gain a pound, get a pimple, or express my beliefs one too many times, then I need that man to go on ahead and leave me immediately. My actions within my relationship are always true to who I am and again, my shows of affection are at-will, not based on some crazy antiquated ideas about what I “better” do lest I be left. Besides, if Cousin Faith comes through and he leaves with her and her plate makin’ ass, it is not because of me but because of that man’s choice. We ALL makechoices.

I suppose I can file my feelings on this in the Why I’m Single folder, along with my disinterest in cooking everyday or most days, my mostly covert but sometimes overt ratchetness, my disinterest in backing down when I’m talking about something I really believe, and the idea I should actually enjoy the sex I’m having, and I’m ok with that. I make plates when the spirit of love moves me and if Cousin Faith wants to try to plate up some food for my man in front of me and he allows it, I’m just going to ask her bring me back an extra fork – to stab the man who doesn’t know when to tell a broad to exit stage left. Bon appetit.

 

SAY YES TO THE SUMMER DRESS

I spent the greater part of my morning fiddling with my skirt and trying to think of new ways to make my stomach disappear without control top panties, a corset, or some quick pre-workday surgery. Unfortunately, none of those options were really viable or appealing, so I had to come to a realization or two – I look good as I am, even as I’m working on my body, and I need  to stop comparing myself to someone else’s body reality and remember to love and live in my own. 2f07044280693a5140b08330507333d1

The whole concept of body image and feeling good about being in one’s skin is an ongoing effort for me. I hate to call it a struggle because something about viewing my body that way seems counterproductive, but figuring out how to love it as is while working to improve it is most certainly a stru…er…challenge.  On one hand, I think about what my body looked like light years ago, pun intended, and I feel like I somehow ruined everything, but on the other hand, I think about how much my body has experienced, how well I treat it, how healthy it is, even if it doesn’t look the way I want, and how it gives me a great return on my investment in it. My blood pressure, heart rate, and cholesterol have never been problems for me. I eat clean more often than not, and I exercise. I should pat myself on the back for that – even if the back I pat has an extra roll on it I don’t like.

As is the norm around the warm months of the year, memes about women, warm weather, and summer dresses permeate my Facebook feed. Today, I saw this one and was immediately annoyed. 11196248_823727781052664_5193530587267528661_n (1)As a woman, I deal with enough. What I don’t need are folks scoping me out to see if I have a spare tire so they can spend time judging it. Whose stomach is this anyway? I spend my days concerned about my professional progress, whether I write enough, whether I can do what I love and support myself, and  if I’m a good enough daughter, friend, sister, writer, and thinker. I obsess enough over my body and have no desire to deal with others who are more concerned about my stomach than I am.

So ladies, if this warm weather has you itching to put on a summer dress – do that shit. Don’t make apologies for your body to any other person because you don’t owe anyone any apologies for it. Just make sure you get the cutest one you can find and that your stomach feels right at home in it. ©

 

TALK THAT TALK

I weigh too much.  My body fat percentage is higher than it should be, I need to make some

Picture1serious improvements to my ab workout, and my devotion to procrastination sometimes interferes with my ability to tackle the first three issues. All these things about me are true, but they are far from a full definition of who I am, what I work to accomplish, or what I believe I represent as a person. Recently, I was talking to a friend who reminded me about the importance of avoiding negative self-talk in my fitness journey. Not long after, I considered how that relates to the way Black folks often discuss themselves and their “plight”.

As I peruse my various social networking sites, I come across the usual rhetoric – “If Black folks would spend half as much time investing our money as we do buying Jordans, we’d be better off,” or “I see this video of this baby dancing on Facebook, but I bet he doesn’t even know his alphabet yet. Black folks always focused on the wrong thing, that’s why our children are failing” or “That’s the problem with Black relationships, the women aren’t supportive and the men don’t know how to treat a queen.” The list goes on to a seemingly 11024692_10153042575565310_3668182119721558509_nendless location in space and time, and at a certain point, it appears all Black folks are is a bunch of people riddled with problems they can’t ever seem to solve because all they do is waste money on frivolities, make more babies who dance but can’t read, and embark on a series of unhealthy romantic relationships.

Of course, some of these behaviors apply to some Black folks. Just like I weigh too much and tend to procrastinate, some Black folks spend too much money on Jordans without investing in their educational or professional goals, but just as there is far more to me than what I weigh, Black folks far exceed the generalizations we spew about ourselves and I think a lot of what keeps many of us in a life holding pattern is the way we speak about ourselves and the way we absorb and believe the things others say about us. Black folks are brilliant, resilient, resourceful, creative, artistic, and advanced in all areas of professional life. We are inventors, investors, and innovators. We set trends folks chomp at the bit to follow and everything about us, down to the features with which we were born, is emulated. Sure, some of us definitely need to work on our parenting skills and ideas for our long term financial futures, but those shortcomings do not make us any less amazing and are but a small part of the truth of who we are. no-negative-self-talkI think if we started focusing on where we excel more than where we fail, we’d be in a better, more progressive place in general. If all I see in my mirror is a woman who weighs too much and procrastinates, I lose. When I look and see a woman who is smart, witty, hardworking, healthy, active, funny, and progressive, the shortcomings are much easier to master because I’ve acknowledged I have every last tool I need to overcome them. Maybe black folks should try this same thing. If we start talking ourselves up instead of down, we win. We discover ways to overcome the negativity that plagues us and we are more likely to find our brilliance – right under all that negative self-talk. ©

The Big Cover Up

nunThe talks started in third grade when I got boobs and went from the little undershirts with the flower on the chest to full-fledged bras and became more frequent with the appearance of more curves on my body. Most girls and women know about the talks. They’re the ones during which my mom told me I needed “something to go under, over, or with” my outfit because whatever I was wearing showed too much skin. I am sure I’m not the only one who knows about this. While getting dressed for school, church, an outing with friends, etc…, your mom notices what your body is becoming or has become and she starts the process of prepping you to hide all those assets for the hormonal benefit and relief of young boys and men everywhere. It isn’t totally our mom’s fault though. They simply perpetuate a school of thought passed down through generations.

It’s in office dress codes, campus handbooks, and even various church doctrines – women are fully expected to be modest in appearance and in some cases, they are to cover everything but their eyes because no self-respecting woman who loves herself, her man, or her god would a) want anyone other than her husband to see any part of her body and b) not want to distract boys and men from their daily lives with the tempting sights of her flesh. Whether it’s religious, cultural, or just a matter of manipulation and control, girls and women learn far too early they cannot be left to their own devices when it comes to clothing styles and body shapes because someone has to be around to look out for the boys and men. For most, it’s probably dismissed as general decency or religious observance, but I think there is far more to it than that.

It is partly a power play. Any time someone implores another to stifle herself in any way for the benefit of others, it’s usually an attempt to diminish her power and lessen the appearance of other’s vulnerability. How many times have you been told your skirt is too short, you need to wear longer sleeves, your neckline needs to be raised, or a cami needs to go under your shirt? Rarely is it simply a matter of dressing appropriately for a particular occasion. These admonishments usually happen because the one delivering the message thinks a girl or woman is a distraction to the boys and men around her.  I’ve heard it all my life and as a forty year old woman, I still get it from time to time. My main problem with this is the belief I’m guilty of something because of the way my body looks and the fact some men like it and that I should remedy what I haven’t done wrong by covering it up. So from early on in life, girls are being told their bodies are something that should generate shame.

I believe another issue is boy’s and men’s lack of interest to acknowledge and accept female sexuality. Their attraction to us is presented as tantamount in this society and our ability to smother it in the interest of making life easier for them is recommended and suggested to women as the only valid option.  To draw attention away from the weakness society fosters in boys and men by telling them the way they gawk, drool, cat call, and are driven to distraction for focus on girl’s and women’s bodies is natural, we are asked to hide ourselves instead of them being taught to learn to see without staring or to appreciate without aggravating. Apparently, it’s simpler to convince us we are doing something. ©

GETTING THERE

I am not a morning person and sometimes, I think I might not be an afternoon or evening one either. It takes all my “can” just to get out of bed in the wee hours to start my work day. For months, I’ve been telling myself and others I need to get in a morning workout in addition to my evening one, but it rarely happens. At six or seven o’clock in the evening, I’m sometimes ready to work out, but at six or seven o’clock in the morning, I’m not ready to anything that involves being outside my bed. For me and countless others, the struggle is often in just getting there. Every work day morning, I stumble out of bed, wait for my eyes to wake up, which usually happens about fifteen minutes AFTER I open them, shower, moisturize, dress, do something with my hair, maybe put on some makeup, then make the mad dash to the car to get to the train station. This morning, I got on the elevator and a coworker commented, “You look like you don’t want to be here today.” I had to tell her, it isn’t the “being here” that’s the problem; it’s the “getting here.” I had to acknowledge the way the latter is the crux of my ongoing battle with procrastination.

X11711Getting_There_Self_Inking_Reward_StampOleta Adams made is sound so simple when she sang, “Get Here” and was even kind enough to list all the various modes of transportation one could take to make the arrival a reality. Unfortunately, my body doesn’t seem to respond to her kind of cues. Most of the time, I’m excited about, or at least mildly interested in, my social plans. I look forward to linking up with folks I enjoy while listening to some good music, dining out, or having a few drinks, but for some reason, I have all the trouble in the world getting there. I want to go, I’m excited about going, and I know I am going for sure, but there is always some sort of inner glitch that makes the getting there feel like I’m walking through three feet of mud whilst carrying a hundred pound backpack full of bricks.

I can’t help but think most, if not all, of this issue is mental.  If I start prepping  two hours before I need to leave the house and during that time I am distracted by dishwashing, clothes folding, and tub scrubbing, it occurs to me I am purposely sabotaging myself,  leaving me late to arrive at my destination.  I never have the same fervor for cleaning as I do when I’m supposed to be doing something else.  Somehow, I doubt I’m alone in this.

Ultimately, I find with anything, the biggest challenge is getting to it. Whether it’s getting in a workout, going to the grocery store, or getting to dinner on time, being there is pretty straightforward, but the getting there is where the hard work is. I don’t want to spend the rest of my adult social life “on my way” or “running a little late,” so right now, I’m working on getting there more often. I don’t want to miss anything.©

 

AREA CODES

Tupac saw the same ones everywhere he went, Ludacris had them in every area code, and Snoop never loved them. Yes, people.  I’m talking about hoes – the word often used to describe women and girls from every walk of life. According to urban conversational and social norms, a woman can be a rotten, stank, dirty, useless, or crappy one. But take heart, because a woman can apparently also be a good, down ass, and loyal ho as well.  I mean, balance is important, right?

When I was a whole lot less informed and self-reflective, I subscribed to the existence of hoes. I didn’t see the word as a compliment and was of course careful to only apply it to the women who fit the description – women who gave up “the goods” to too many men, women who screwed too soon, women who were too liberal with blow jobs, women whose dresses and skirts were too tight and/or too short, women who wore too much makeup, women who couldn’t stay away from the club spotlight, etc… See, it was ok for me to think of those women as hoes because they weren’t anything like me – the well-behaved woman. I was close-legged, quiet in public, well-read, and had on clothes that showed just the right amount of skin. In retrospect, I am a little ashamed I bought into the man-dated tomfoolery of what a “real” woman versus a ho should do and be, but I’m glad I learned before it was too late.

The entire intention behind the word, “ho” and all its synonyms is to separate girls and women from one another, stifle their sexuality, and destroy their confidence in who they are and the power they hold. The older I get and the more in tune I become with myself as a multi-faceted woman, the easier it is for me to see the flaw in my young thinking and the 58999724disservice society, mostly at the hands of male and religious dominated thought processes, has done to folks as a result. I know now there are no hoes. Hoes and ho-dom are nothing more than constructs created to keep women in check and within the bounds set for them by men and reinforced by society as a whole. I know what some folks might be thinking while reading this – “What do you mean there are no hoes? Of course there are. I mean, what else are we supposed to call ‘those’ women?” My answer for that is they should simply be called women. Since I can remember, I was programmed to separate myself from other girls and women. I couldn’t hang with so and so because she was “fast,” I couldn’t go to certain places because that was where the “loose” girls hung, and I wasn’t allowed to wear certain clothes lest anyone mistake me for a tramp. The divide started early and I was convinced it must have been warranted. I didn’t want to be seen in a negative light and heaven forbid anyone should see me as any kind of ho. With introspection, information, and maturity, things changed.

One of the main problems with calling women hoes is the way it suggests a woman should downplay her sexuality and even apologize for it. A woman isn’t allowed to have sex when she wants with the partners she chooses without feeling guilty because it apparently gives her entirely too much control over her body and seemingly – a certain amount of control over her partners.  If that autonomy is stripped from her, she is left to define herself by someone else’s standards and must spend her time trying to reach for an unrealistic and unfair ideal to maintain her decent reputation. If a woman is completely true to herself and does as she sees fit, her full power is in her possession and no one else can convince her she is wrong.

When having this conversation with a friend, he asked how I categorize women who don’t have sex out of a sense of personal sexual liberation, but instead do it to somehow help/heal themselves because of low self-esteem. I told him those women aren’t hoes to me – they’re just hurt. Though most folks are likely having sex out of a sense of enjoyment, many are having sex trying to replace something they lost or compensate for what they may have never had. Those folks are simply damaged. They’ve been banged up by life and think their sexuality is the playing field where they can recoup. To me, women like this are victims who are hurting and misunderstood, not hoes. These are the women and girls who need someone to reach out instead of ridicule.

I realize it’s difficult for some women to look down from their good woman level and go against everything they’ve been taught about what it is to be respectable, but it’s necessary if they are to ever understand the position of women who seem to have broken all the “good girl” rules.  If more women subscribed to the belief that we aren’t all nearly as separated as we are think, the divide would start to close. This undertaking is probably even more difficult for men. They would have to throw out almost everything they’ve been indoctrinated with to make room for the idea that a woman who goes against the good girl grain is still a woman worthy of respect.

Ultimately, I think it simply comes down to girls and women defining themselves and being unapologetic about it. We are not hoes, tricks, and tramps. We are individuals who tank and triumph and who wear sexy dresses and business suits. Women sleep with whom they like, live a committed life of abstinence and everything in between and not a bit of it makes us hoes. Instead, we are human and for that, we should not have to ever feel ashamed.©

WOMEN – FTW

These days, it seems the best way to get through to a lot of women is to be a man who comes up with memes and mini-motivational messages that sound pretty but really don’t do anything but disparage women, blame them for failed relationships or lack of relationships, and remind them how they must bend themselves into pretzels physically, emotionally, and spiritually to “keep a man.” Though I realize I’m living a testosterone- free existence sans the alleged benefits of testicles and a penis, my hope is what I have to say will permeate the minds of the women who read this despite my lack of “maleness”. The ongoing attack on women and girls is real and its effectiveness is evident in face to shoeface conversations, books, film, articles, social networking, advertising, etc… From every direction, women and girls are bombarded with ill-conceived, sexist, and antiquated ideas about who they should be, how they should behave, what they should think, how they should dress, and what they can say without losing that ever important air of femininity all self-respecting girls and women should possess. If a child misbehaves, the first question folks ask is, “Where is his/her mother?” Because after all, a child engaging in humanistic behaviors such as tantrums is surely lacking in proper mothering, right?  If a woman is accosted by a man in public, be it verbally, physically, or both, the question is, “What did you do to provoke this?” Because after all, that woman knows how her “mouth” can be plus, she really shouldn’t have worn that outfit if she wasn’t looking for something to happen to her. If a once married woman is freshly divorced or separated, she is quickly labeled as yet another woman who, “just can’t keep a man.” Because after all, the positive and lasting status of a happy relationship solely falls on the shoulders of the woman and if that connection is somehow compromised, it must surely be because the woman didn’t cook enough, work out enough, listen enough, or blow her man enough. I mean, seriously, when are these women going to get it together? That seems to be the prevailing question when it really should be, “When is this society going to stop holding women responsible for all the tragedy while stripping them of their parts in all the triumphs?”

In this meme and social networking laden society, I see countless attacks on girls and women. Before there is even sufficient opportunity for a girl to develop into an independent minded, pragmatic, creative, self-assured individual, there are all these societal rules and standards applied to her that do nothing but stifle her personal growth. She must learn early on to suppress her intellect, her interests, her ambitions, and her sexuality lest she run off all the boys with her well-earned confidence. She can’t think too highly of herself and what she has to offer the world because what good is education and professional success if one has no man? I mean, all the personal achievements in the world won’t hold you at night and give you babies. So, before a woman can even effectively get started, she’s stunted by someone else’s boundaries for her life. If her clothes are too body conscious, she’s a ho. If she dresses too conservatively, she’s a stick in the mud. If she likes to have an unabashedly good time, she’s a party girl only good for one thing. If she prefers books and baking to bashes, she’s the ideal for a wife, who will likely be cheated on with the woman having the unabashedly good time. On the surface, all this makes it appear there is no winning. However, girls and women can walk away with the win – if they create their own definitions. When women opt to define womanhood for themselves, be it a homemaking, cookie baking, baby raising, homeschooling one or one of bachelor degrees, boardrooms, mixers, and contract negotiations (or even one in between), we WIN. When we understand “real” women are not just one way but are made up of every kind of woman conceivable from the video vixen to the nun, we WIN. When we stop defining ourselves based on the antiquated and damaging views of old wrapped up in a bow and made to look pretty, we WIN. I see memes regularly pitting one type of woman against the other. Recently, it was Amber Rose v. Michelle Obama waxing philosophical womenabout doing anything for attention versus demanding respect. It raised my dander without question. I don’t know Amber Rose or Michelle Obama, but I do look at them and see two women seemingly doing the work that makes them happy. One twerks and one touts the goodness of homegrown vegetables and regular exercise and to me, BOTH are women deserving of respect and patriarchy has no right to strip it from either of them.  When women become elitist and use what they see as their social status to down other women whose life choices are different, we LOSE. When we let the framework of patriarchy define womanhood for us causing division among us, we LOSE. I hate being a loser. It took a lot of introspection, reading, listening, inquiring, and rewiring for me to get past my upbringing and the affect societal ideals of what makes a woman worthwhile for me to understand the constructs of femininity and realize I get to define what it means to me without the influence of old adages, religious rhetoric, or sexist foolishness developed by men and sadly partly perpetuated by women.  Though it took me almost 40 years, the journey was worth it because – I WIN. Now I know without question, the prostitute on the corner is a woman just like I am in the corporate world. The 21 year old woman with two children by two different men trying to hold it down is a woman, just like the wife of the President of the United States. Different lives, different choices, but still women and deserving of better than a bunch of judgment and denigration.

Despite my lack of male parts, I know now what it is to be a woman. It is simply about being comfortable in one’s skin, being interested in constant self-improvement, and not feeling the need to make apologies for being witty, talented, flexible, sexual, or spiritual. It’s about standing firm in who one is and not letting it be a result of who someone else said one should be. That is how we WIN. When we teach these ideas to our daughters, nieces, and mentees, we allow them to visualize a world in which they create their own reality instead of one that picks the truth for them forcing them to acquiesce to an existence of mediocrity and glass ceilings. I need to see little girls WIN.

Memes and mini-motivations messages via cell phone videos have their place, I suppose. I generally think of these things as funny ways to pass time, but when they are used as tools to down women and convince them everything that ails humans is our fault, I have to take exception to them.  Changing the definitions is how women WIN

 

 

 

A Smattering of Mattering

Unarmed People of Color Killed by Police, 1999-2014
blacklivesmatterAfter far too many deaths of unarmed black men AND women at the hands of law enforcement, the motto of the movement to fight against this enduring injustice  is “BLACK LIVES MATTER.” Folks have seen this phrase on protest signs, t-shirts, hats, Facebook cover photos, as twitter hashtags, etc… Usually, there is some brown person iterating the phrase and trying to convince this disjointed society the sentiment is indeed true, despite all the bloody evidence showing too many folks in positions of authority do not believe it. Though I am saddened by the thought there is even a need for black folks to advise the world of their worthiness to live, I support the campaign wholeheartedly and often repeat the phrase for my benefit and the benefit of those with whom I come in contact. Despite the absolute truthiness in this phrase, there is now an effort to minimize the poignancy of the phrase by simply saying, “ALL LIVES MATTER.”

Look, the value of life has been touted by the majority since the beginning of time. Respect for human, animal, and plant life is always discussed through popular media, activism, and other information avenues. There are sit ins, shut ins, and die ins all focused Riceon informing the public and protesting against “the establishment” in the interest of protecting what matters. People are assaulted, arrested, and vilified in their efforts to protect the sanctity of that which is relevant for the greater good. In all this protest and activism, there is finally a phrase that embodies the sentiments of black and brown folks everywhere – that our lives have meaning, that we are people, not animals, that we live, breathe, and bleed, and that we, like every person, every plant, and every animal- MATTER. Now, there is an effort to detract from that movement by simply reminding the world that ALL lives matter.

First of all, of course they do. One would be hard pressed to find someone within the BLACK LIVES MATTER camp sans respect for life in general, but that isn’t the issue here. The problem is those opting to gloss over the terrorist-like actions of certain law enforcement entities snuffing out the lives of black folks because they do not believe BLACK LIVES MATTER. Those who murder us when our hands are up, when we are on our knees, when we sit in our cars, or when we dare to simply be existing on the street do not believe our lives matter. They look at black folks and see problems instead of people and therefore, it is imperative we remind them the black lives they so cavalierly take MATTER.

Secondly, the world already knows white lives matter. Let’s face it, when folks change BLACK to ALL, it’s really a whitewashing of the belief BLACK LIVES MATTER. It is a reminder of what anyone in this country was raised knowing – white life matters unequivocally. From TV shows to school history books, we all know white is relevant. What isn’t apparent is the equally relevant value of black life. A hundreds of years old history ofhawkins being treated as less than has a way of convincing others black life really isn’t that valuable. BLACK LIVES MATTER exists to chip away at that flawed thinking. Just as we’ve all been told repeatedly how much white life matters, we must ingrain that same thinking in the world when it comes to black lives.

Lastly, black folks do not have to explain why their lives matter. The fact we are humans is reason enough to know we matter. The fact our lives are often disregarded is evident when we are questioned about why we insist on reminding the world we matter. The very fact we need a campaign to spread this very basic and innate fact is evidence our Crawfordexistence is devalued regularly. If going out into the world and launching a campaign to let all people know what they should have always known is required, so be it. I will continue to write, text, tweet, and status update my way through to promote the relevance of black lives and I will do so without apology.

The harassment, assault, and murder of unarmed black folks, the lack of indictments for those murders, and the ensuing claims that we are thugs, criminals, and intimidating figures and therefore deserve to be murdered, armed or not, is indicative of the need to spread the message that BLACK LIVES MATTER and folks should shout this fact until their voices are hoarse and fingertips bloody from typing. No apologies and no take backs. ©

Dads Who Lunch

While sitting in a restaurant for lunch yesterday, I saw the older man sitting at the table next to me stand up to greet his approaching daughter. His face lit up when she arrived and he squeezed her like she was the most important person he knew. I tried not to be obvious with my staring, but sometimes in all my efforts to exude strength and fierceness, I see something that reminds me of my vulnerabilities.

Over my life, I’ve often lamented my lack of an active and interested father. My father’s indifference served to provide me with an emotional void, random insecurities, and in my young adult life, a need to have men like and validate me, or at least pretend to. As hard as my mother worked to be a great parent, she was limited by human nature. No one parent can be a mother and father to a child. That simply isn’t the way it works.  Unfortunately, the school of thought meant to bolster the confidence of single parents by telling them they can be both mother and father is misleading and serves to negate the relevance of dadlunchthe other parent at the peril of the child.

Now, I would be lying if I said I am not a well-adjusted, fully functioning, self sufficient, contributing to society 40 year old. Fortunately, I have turned out pretty well, but  a few poor life choices in my younger life gave me the kind of life lessons I probably would have avoided if had an interested father. It isn’t any fun, but it seems to be the common reality of those of us who go without one parent.

I have nothing but love for my mother who gave me everything she knew to give and loved me in a way that helped me feel relevant. Familiar with the issues I’d encounter, she tried her best to prepare me and keep me feeling whole and for that, I am grateful. However, despite excelling in her job as a super mom, there were still a few glitches in my deadbeat dad life matrix. I certainly acknowledged and overcame them with time, but the road was pretty bumpy. Sitting in that restaurant and looking at the man and his daughter made me wonder if some of my pitfalls could have been avoided with a few lunches. ©

Dying To Say NO

whistling

Woman Shot, Killed After Saying No To A Man’s Advances, Detroit Police Say

I wish it wasn’t the case, but I think it’s happened to most girls and women: while walking along minding one’s own business, one or more men scream out their approval of a woman or girl’s looks and a desire to possibly have sex with her by way of obscenities, crass gestures, and sometimes actually touching her without her permission. If she doesn’t seem interested or pleased with the attention, she is told to “smile” or to “lighten up”,  physically assaulted, or advised she probably just needs some dick, because really, isn’t this what all women need? Of course, every man who thinks this way has the power to cure all a woman’s ills with his penis.

Street harassment and cat calling are the most popular names for this behavior and it seems steeped in misogyny, chauvinism, and the lack of accountability this society applies to men regarding how they view, approach, and treat women. Recently, Mary Spears, a Detroit mother of three, was murdered because she dared to be disinterested in a man who approached her. He became agitated and started shooting, killing her and wounding five others. And though this man is somewhat of an outlier, he is an example of what it’s like for women who turn down the advances of a man who thinks like the ones on the street who cat call, bully, harass, disrespect, and insult the women in their paths.

I Was Just Saying Hello

I tire of this excuse. Most people know communication is not just verbal. Tone and non-verbal cues are methods of communicating as well. The way I say hello to my mother is definitely not the same way I say it to a man in whom I am interested. This consistent feigning of innocent gestures based in common courtesy needs to stop. A greeting accompanied by hungry stares and sexual innuendo is not a simple, “hello.” It is a sexual advance and in most cases, it is one that isn’t welcomed. Just stop it.

You Need To Smilenosmiling

STOP telling women they need to smile. They don’t need to do anything but mind their business as they travel from one place to another. Smiles are not required. There is no city, state, or countrywide ordinance requiring women to perform all their life tasks while grinning maniacally to appease strange men who might be interested in seeing what their smiles look like before attempting to have sex with them or for them to smile so men can feel better about cat calling and street harassing them. Just cut it out. If you want to see a woman smile, work on being a decent guy who treats his woman well. I guarantee you won’t be able to get a woman to stop smiling. In the meantime, leave us and our dispositions alone on the street.

That B*tch Is Rude

Listen, no woman has to greet a man back if he greets her first. This is not a life requirement. Frankly, in many street harassment scenarios, the scene feels so unsafe, trying to be polite to a street bully by speaking politely does nothing more than exacerbate an already dangerous situation. Really, even if a woman doesn’t speak because she just doesn’t want to, that’s ok too and the men who cat call need to know that. No woman owes a man any of her time, conversation, smiles, or words of gratitude.

Telling a woman you like her pants while staring at her ass is NOT a compliment. That is creepy behavior and a woman is not a bitch for ignoring that or for checking the man who says it. Letting a woman know you’d “hit that” is NOT a compliment to her level of attractiveness and a woman who ignores that is not a rude bitch. Ultimately, even if the greeting really is a simple hello sans sexual innuendo and a woman still doesn’t respond, that is her right too. No woman has to speak to men on the street. It’s all choice and should be respected as such. Besides, if a man is truly polite with his greeting and doesn’t receive one back, he should just chalk it up to avoiding interaction with a woman who doesn’t want him. Lucky you, sir.

harassmentHow Else Am I Supposed To Meet Women?

How men meet women is never a woman’s problem. Not ever. And men who think the way to “meet” women is by harassing her on the street while she tries to reach her destination safely and peacefully, don’t EVER need to meet women anyway.  Now, there are all sorts of social settings people attend to meet others – bars, restaurants, clubs, art galleries, museums, mixers, meet up groups, etc… There are a long list of places where women likely feel safe and amenable to a man respectfully approaching her. Perhaps the men bothering women on the street should mull this over instead of blaming women for not wanting to be harassed on the street.

As a woman who sometimes walks from A to B, I don’t ever want my safety to be at risk because some clown feels entitled to my time and attention and demands it by verbally or physically assaulting me. I am not anybody’s ho, baby, shorty, girl, or bitch and I don’t answer to those because none of them are my name. Men who know my name wouldn’t talk to me this way and those who don’t need another approach. ©