Thursday, January 30, 2014

Xojane, fails again and hard.

Oh XoJane y'all...
So Xojane published one of those it happened to me deals and basically it was full of Nice White Lady Tears.

Let us start with this quote...regarding a fat Black woman in this persons yoga class.

Because I was directly in front of her, I had no choice but to look straight at her every time my head was upside down (roughly once a minute). I’ve seen people freeze or give up in yoga classes many times, and it’s a sad thing, but as a student there’s nothing you can do about it. At that moment, though, I found it impossible to stop thinking about this woman. Even when I wasn’t positioned to stare directly at her, I knew she was still staring directly at me. Over the course of the next hour, I watched as her despair turned into resentment and then contempt. I felt it all directed toward me and my body-
Ahem.

Now this poor White Lady did not speak to the person in question. What she probably wasn't thinking about was how maybe her (I imagine horrified) staring might have made the person she was looking at uncomfortable and thus contemptuous.

Let me tell y'all a story.

Once upon a time I was the scary fat Black lady in a dance class full of Nice Thin White Ladies. Among them was one woman who did indeed stare at me the entire fucking class.

At one point she made some crack about ow "natural" it must be for me to be doing the movement.

Yes I turned my fuck you face on her. She backpedaled blablabla, I watched her struggle and then she blurted, "I just meant you're a good dancer because Black people are good dancers."

I magically transformed from a fat girl trying to get her fitness on to an angry Black Lady.

I told her to fuck off.

More politely but still.

Now for the next four weeks i had to hear almost on a daily basis from the instructor that I was making "some" people uncomfortable.

Why? Well I was aggressive, my dancing was suggestive, I was not shuck and jiving for the White ladies,. I honestly didn't speak to one person in that class. I went, I put away how uncomfortable I was with the staring and talking tos and I did my class.

I was good at it. I love to dance. I had been super excited to take the class and frankly Whiteness and White Lady Tears ruined it for me. I have not taken a class since.

My entire life whenever White people, white women especially have been uncomfortable with my presence the onus of creating the safety has been on me. Don't bring up race, don't do this, speak very softly or not at all. 

Now being that this piece of shit article was on XOjane I figured it was just more Xojane white nonsense.

Nope.


Um.

Okay here's what this reason doesn't say.

It does not say why this person felt it was okay and would further racal discource to approve an article that basically shits on women of color in order to what? Were we all supposed to rush and hold the author's hand? Pat her on the back and say it's okay to be so mired in racist stereotypes and objectification if you cried after?

Really?

Publishing that without a counterpoint?

Seriously?

Okay let me tell you how it feels to be the objectified person in situations like this.

It happens to me a lot.

I feel someone staring. 

Frequently this is a White lady.

I squirm. Don't make eye contact. Hope I don't have a booger. 

If I am on the bus I may pull out a book, squirm. Feel more uncomfortable.

Smetmes if I accidentally make eye contact shit happens. What kind of shit?

Let me share.

Strangers trying to touch my hair.
Once a White woman started swinging her hair and warbling I Whip my Hair at me and was angry I didn't sing or dance along.
I have had strange White people tell me in condescending bullshit tones how impressed they ar that I can read. 
People will say, "You're so well spoken"
I have had strangers try to hug me while proclaiming that the space/neighborhood/event I happened to be at, was "lacking in flavor".

Frankly, White people have made so many things uncomfortable for me I just don't do a lot of things anymore. It is emotionally exhausting to feel the need to be wary and so guarded. It is exhausting to dodge people trying to touch my hair or tell me about their Black friend. Or who want to cry on me because they are White and just found out they have privilege.

It is exhausting to be expected to be someone's walking talking anti racist dictionary.

So no, fuck the girl that wrote the article and fuck her tears. She doesn't get cookies because she was being a privileged asshole and making another person uncomfortable.

The fact that this was posted without comment until today and apparently in all seriousness to the cause of racial discourse shows me that frankly XOjane and the editor who approved of and solicited this don't actually give a shit.

The fact that most of the articles related to WOC are from another magazine is very telling to me. If a major publication cannot even in the spirit of wanting to feature and center varying points of view, even unpopular ones, cannot keep or originate more diverse content, that is a problem.

To come back to what the author of the original piece did, honestly people like her set back any quality racial discourse.

It is the height of White Privilege and White tears to put all of her discomfort onto the body of the Fat Black Woman in her class. It is racist as fuck to use another person's presence that way without their consent.

This from the end of the piece says it all doesn't it:


I got home from that class and promptly broke down crying. Yoga, a beloved safe space that has helped me through many dark moments in over six years of practice, suddenly felt deeply suspect. Knowing fully well that one hour of perhaps self-importantly believing myself to be the deserving target of a racially charged anger is nothing, is largely my own psychological projection, is a drop in the bucket, is the tip of the iceberg in American race relations, I was shaken by it all the same.

Her safe space was violated because it was no longer all White and she noticed.

Now what could she have done?

She could have said hello to this person, she could have smiled, she could have not fucking stared at this person until they were uncomfortable, she could have instead of wringing her hands over being seen in her white skinny body, wring her hands over the fact that the very practice of yoga has been colonized by White people.

But no.

What we are left with is:

<blockquote>
And while I recognize that there is an element of spectatorship to my experience in this instance, it is precisely this feeling of not being able to engage, not knowing how to engage, that mitigates the hope for change.


We get that this author is apparently helpless and senseless and without any common sense at all.

It is not being able to engage it is refusing to engage.

It is refusing to understand when one is being an asshole. It is refusing to see when one is dehumanizing people. Objectifying people. If this were an issue of sexism it would have not happened at Xojane.

It is putting the onus of fixing the situation on the person who is in the least powerful position and having absolutely no conscious of that.

Now go read Pia's response also on Xojane.

It is an excellent response and someone at XOjane should have asked for it to run concurrently with the other piece of crap. But no.

What is the lesson?

Xojane like so many other place (ahem the entire fucking world) prioritizes and centers White Lady Tears.

Women of Color are here to gently guide racist and racist leaning Nice White Ladies to the promised land of not being racists.

It is too hard for White people to be at all conscious of their behavior when it comes to people of color because it is all about them.

So thanks Xojane again for making sure us mean old WOC know our place.

Homo Out.

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

After the Bleach. On the fallout and trauma.

My last entry was about me trying to bleach my skin as a kidlet.

Now I want to talk about some of the fallout that has followed me to this day.

First I’d like to tell you that until I was about 30 years old I hated my face. When I say that I hated it, understand that my face became the focal point of every insecurity I had. It was not just about feeling ugly, it was about having the wrong fac,e the worst face, the face that explained to me why so many people turned me down for dates, why sometimes random men stop to tell me how ugly I am, why I spent years afraid to hug people because my make up might get on them.

And of course I was wearing make up to cover my shame. My filth. My unacceptable self.

My face was my enemy.

I did things to my skin because I believed if I just tried hard enough, spent enough money, bought the right products I could at least not make people ill to look at me.

I wish this was hyperbole.

At one time I endeavored to take pictures of my face. Most of them with me wearing make up. Outwardly I was showing off my changing make up application skills and personally I was trying to use exposure therapy on myself and make myself look at my own face directly as other people might see it.

Here you can see about 110 pictures of my face. Make upped and damn if I don’t miss how adventurous I was with it.

Sometimes during that process, each and every one of those pictures made me want to die. I wanted to delete them all so nobody would see my shame, my skin, my face, my big huge fucking flaw.

Part of those feelings came directly from Whiteness.

Whiteness tells me that my nose is too big, my face is too dark, I am not really ethnically ambiguous enough to be exotic. I might be cute but beauty is not in my reach.

My face holds secrets.

For years I didn't tell a soul I tried to bleach my skin. The depth and breadth of the shame I felt for drinking the koolaid still gives me a fluttery anxious feeling in my chest. I remember sitting and listening to a friend, a fellow woman of color go on a diatribe about women who bleached and how self hating they are and how they want to be white etc etc.

I remember I went home and looked at myself. I wrote in a diary how much I hated myself for buying into the lie. I told myself I was an evil sell out who was probably going to always be filth. I told myself I did not deserve to experience solidarity with other women of color ever in my life.

I fully understood that I deserved whatever I got.

For the simple act of being young with low self esteem and believing that something as simple as “fixing” my skin color would fix my self esteem and life, I decided I deserved an eternity of misery.

On one hand I wanted other Black people, Black women especially to find out and hate me. I wanted to be punished because I believed I deserved it for what I had done.

Years later, about two years ago I got a rash on my forehead and it resulted in a pitch black large mark on my forehead. I went straight out and bought lightening cream and only after a few weeks of use did I remember that I was allergic to one of the main ingredients and I got another rash.

Then I tried to ignore it.

Now after months and months of gentle skin care the mark is fading but it is a reminder to me of a time in my life when I bought the whiteness beauty, when I bought the idea that a matter of skin bleaching could only be down to one reason, that I would be-no my Blackness and my love of my Blackness would be forever tainted.

Right now I don’t loathe my face.

Sometimes I’m not thrilled with it but I am not ashamed anymore.

I feel that for me, it has taken me aging and my face taking a proverbial beating and going through that self hate and slow learning to accept my face to get me to the point where I can say with some confidence when I see woc being buried under the pressure of whiteness and white beauty ideals I get it.

From the Nigerian and South East Asian and other WOC making millions selling Whitening products to the women who flock to those products, I can’t hate them or be angry at them because I understand and as they say, there but for the grace of God(s) go I.

So really, be gentle my friends. When you see these stories and you are outraged please, be gentle because it is a thin line between self love and self hate.


Homo Out.

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Monday, January 20, 2014

I tried the bleach and failed.

I was just reading this bit from Xojane on skin bleaching.

So let me tell you a very sad story.

As a teenager I became violently self conscious about how dark my skin was.

Outside of the usual Whiteness, beauty ideals etc that played into it some other stuff was going on. I had some scarring from acne that turned into the deep brown to black marks I battle with to this day, I didn't know to use sunscreen (it was the 90s I believed Black skin was invincible), I couldn't find foundation or colored powder to use on my face and worst for me at the time I got rejected for a date because someone said I was just too dark.

In a perfect confluence of teenage mortification I had decided to go to some stores to look for foundation because obviously that would have fixed everything.

I remember going to three drug stores and nada. When I went to kmart with my parents I bought the one shade of Fashion Fair foundation they had and it was about four shades too light. I bought a stck foundation by Black Opal out of a discontinued bin and it was way the wrong color and dried out.

So I saved up about 20 or so dollars and went to the mall. I figured that if it was a fancy brand, of course I would be able to get make up.

Off I went to the mall. I went alone and y’all- I went to the fancy counters and maybe 10% (I’m being generous) of the time they had something close to my color but generally not my actual color.

At one counter the girl felt so bad she gave me this make over and I remember when I looked in the mirror I looked like an ashy faced Claire Huxtable in the worst kind of way. Frosty fuschia lips, frosty weird brown eye shadow, my face was weird and greasy and ashy. I went into the bathroom and cried my eyes out.

I very vividly remember trying to use the handsoap to wash the shit off of my face while pretending I wasn’t crying my eyes out and having people stare at me. One woman remarked to her friend that I must have gotten caught stealing.

I was fifteen or sixteen and I felt the weight of racism and racist beauty ideals weigh so heavily on me I thought I was wrong. I was made wrong and ugly and there was nothing I could do about it.

I fully believed that I was ugly because I was too Black. I did not have the bone straight silky locks I saw on Black women on TV, my face had dark marks, my knees and elbows were dark, I don’t have a small button nose and I was certain I was the fattest fat girl who ever fat girled in the world.

I knew it.

Cut to a few months later I was at the dirt mall beauty supply store and came upon a skin lightening product. The woman told me if I used it I could be “fairer” and my skin would look pretty.

I went for it.

Of course I did.

I bought and used it twice a day for months.

At first I only used it on my dark spots but when those faded I used it on more of my face.

You know what happened?

First my skin was kind of okay and then it just really wasn’t. I burned my cheeks, my little Ashanti style sideburns were burnt off, I got darker marks on my chin and a scar by my left ear that did not fade for almost a decade.

I was so ashamed of myself. And I wasn't ashamed because I had tried to bleach my face I was ashamed because I failed.

I wound up uglier than I was to begin with. I let my parents think it was just teenaged acne and to cover it I would cake on this “translucent” (read: still way too light for me) powder. When I was able to get that coveted Cover Girl OG Shade Soft Sable anything I would use it as much as I could. Unfortunately it was very hard to find even that where I lived.

I learned to pretend that I didn't care that I was ugly. I held my tongue when the White girls said disgusting things about Black girls. I never expected or was comfortable with anyone thinking I was at all attractive. I stopped caring and decided to do something about my body instead. I was yearning to be a “butterface”.

I tried to wear my hair so that it looked “nicer” which at the time meant to me anything but like Black hair.

I thought that if my body was good enough I could somehow transcend my ugly Blackness.

And then a few years later it all came crashing down on me when I realized that my Blackness was not the problem. This time after another attempt at bleaching my face, and more burns and scars someone finally had the sense to tell me I didn't have to do that.

A grown Black woman in Sally’s Beauty supply almost slapped a jar of skin lightener out of my hands and she read me to filth and then gave me a hug.

The fact is before it dawned on me that I did not have to participate in my own oppression I had no idea.

I wish I had known her name, I have her to thank for my years and years of social justice stuff. I have her to thank for that seed of rebellion that has led to me preaching the gospel of look how the fuck you want to look.

So the lesson today my darlings is that sometimes all it takes to get someone out of a destructive set of behaviors or pattern of beliefs is to tell them that there are other options.

So this is me telling you.

You don’t have to do it.

You don’t have to participate in your own subjugation, in your own oppression or in these destructive systems of belief. It is so hard to break away from them but if I, wee little scared baby Shannon could do it without the internet or any support you can do it right here, with the rest of the homies with you.

We can.

We can because we need to survive and we don’t want to be hurt anymore.


Homo Out.

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Sunday, January 19, 2014

No Chill 2K14.

Okay I think blogger is feeling better now.

And let’s talk about some things.

First let’s talk some real life shit.

As I get older a few things happen. I’ve noticed that unfortunately for me, when I am ass deep in an insomnia cycle or when I am stressed out I lose my appetite. As you might imagine this can be troubling because in an average day I walk a couple of miles in my day to day life and the body needs fuel.

I’m having to learn a new skill. I really do not want to lose any more weight so trying to keep the size of my ass stable along with making sure I eat enough is hard.

So what interests me the most about my ass and how it has changed is how other people treat me.

From unwanted and unnecessary congratulations to increased cat calls/street harassment, to my sudden absolute inability to reliably buy the right size things the fact is the only thing my weight loss has really changed is what size pants I wear.

What amazes me is that the people who have (both on the internets and in meat space) supposedly been ever so concerned about my health continue to not ask about my actual health.

For instance, someone I see time to time commented on my weight loss and prattled on about how “good I look now” and “how fantastic I will look by Summer” if I keep doing what I’m doing. This person didn’t ask how I am feeling, if I am okay, how my poops are lately just went on and on about my apparent near suitability to wear a bathing suit and how I must have some big secret.

This person prior to me losing weight was forever cautioning me against diabetes, high blood pressure etc without ever asking me not one damn time if I actually have any of those problems.

I’ve had other people coo about the size of my ass but out of probably 20 people I run into or see on a regular basis only 1 who is not my bestie has asked after my health.

One.

To my own eyes I don’t look all that different. I wear the same kind of clothes, I still have not a lot of ass, big boobs, etc. I am still shaped in a way that makes for Jrs size bottoms to be my jam and womens size tops.

To other people I have become acceptably fat. I am between the before and after picture. The presumption that I have been “working” to “do something” about my weight and that I am to be rewarded with praise is what is going on.

At this point, I will listen to the praise and correct it.

Here is the facts.

The actual health problems I have were not magically solved by however much weight I lost. Just as in the past when I have dropped weight for whatever reason, they remain the same. Some are worse.

That is the reality of my real actual health.

What interests me most at this point is how even after I have explained the circumstances of my weightloss, how is it that people will tell me how much “healthier” I am when what they really mean is that I am more aesthetically appealing to them. If I was in fact healthier I would say so, rather than be fairly worried that I am going to go another year of my life sinking into cycles of insomnia that leave me emotionally and physically spent.

That I am going to continue worrying about the state of my knee joints. I am frequently worried that the days when my knees are swelled up on both sides and things in them are grinding, that I won’t find relief because weight loss was supposed to have magically cured me.

So again if we are to believe that if only fat people would lose weight, magically our lives would be better is a fucking lie.

I can’t totally correlate the following but I do find it curious.

At my current weight I have been catcalled in more dangerous ways than I have been in years. I’ve been groped on the bus, a man tried to follow me home, I have been cornered by a group of drunk White men, followed from the neighborhood I work in to the bus I take home downtown, etc.

Being that it is fucking Winter and I have an actual almost knee length puffy winter coat you can hardly see my body let alone see how cute it may or may not be.

More people have felt entirely entitled to grilling me about what diet system I use, where and how I work out, what I do or don’t eat etc. Most of them don’t ask they tell me what they think I’m doing and don’t believe me or seem to care when I say, stress and insomnia have caused me to lose some weight. Along with a sprinkling of depression because I can’t fucking sleep.

Not one of these people gives a hot fuck about my health.

Not one has said, oh man Shannon I hope you get some sleep. I hope you feel better.

No 99% of the time they just kind of chirp and tell me to keep on going.

Keep going until when?

The fact is that being too much smaller would in fact fuck up my life and my sense of self and my self esteem. I do not care for my body when I am in my mind too thin. It causes me deep problems and I’d like to not do that again.

What I glean from this type of behavior is this.

People don’t give a shit about my health or the health of any other fat people.
They want to look at me and feel pleased. Sometimes they want to feel superior, sometimes they want to think they are being helpful but mostly they want to project their own ideas onto my body.
If I were to believe that weight loss could cure all of my ills it would be an easy step from trying to be healthy to pathological problems regarding eating.
If I were easier led, I would not make the effort to eat enough. I would soak up the praise and let myself just not eat as much. Lose more weight no matter what.
I would end up damaged and in worse health than I am right now.

And yet, it would be okay with people because I’d not be fat anymore.

This is 20 goddamn 14.

I am not going to play into that. It is beyond maddening and damaging to my psyche to play that game.

So my darlings, this is what I am doing.

I am trying very hard to take care of myself as best I can. That means I try to sleep, I try to not be too hard on my body. I know my body, I know my body will tell me when stuff is not okay and for my own survival I need to listen.

What else?

I am going to be here with y ou because we all need to work to reject these messages. Death fatties, average size fatties, small fatties, thin people, whatever gender you are, disabled people all of us need to stand on the line that no, mob rules does not apply to our health and happiness.

We need to stand firm that our health is our business not yours.

We need to remember that fat is not just physical. Fat is cultural, fat is contextual and fat is diverse. What a fat person experiences in one place might be totally different in another place. What is a fat experience to me, might not be your experience and that is okay.

We need to remember that FA and body politics aren’t really a haven for a lot of us who are oppressed on other axis.

We need to make sure we don’t collapse under the pressure of using Whiteness to be the face of our movements because it is easier to accept Whiteness.

So my darling darling dears.

Officially we are not fucking around.

We are not having it.

No Chill 2K14.

Shit is gonna be ruthless this year, some of you will not be okay with that and that is okay with me.

The rest of you, please remember sometimes I’m bitey and snarky and angry but only because I care. I care so much about the things I talk about, I get emotional. This is me. I am not going to let my doubts as to how appropriate I am etc.

Ready?

Let’s go.

Homo Out.

OH PS-
Countdown to me rereleasing my new and improved self care book.

And if you are interested in my other writing look here, my friend Dena interviewed me.


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Thursday, January 16, 2014

FYI

Hey y'all.

I am having major issues with blogger right now.

The last FOUR goddamn posts I tried to make have been eaten by Blogger's inability to save shit properly.

I may change platforms.

Or try more alternate means of posting.

I will wait until I'm not so angry.

My url isn't changing.

in the meantime.

Thanks Beatfreak so much.

You guys, Beatfreak is a really awesome fuckng person okay?

Thank you.

Okay watch her for a real post soon.
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