When Wendy Williams made a comment about Viola Davis’ natural hair not being “glamorous” or “formal” enough for the Academy Awards on her daytime talk show, I was horrified but not surprised. You’d hear countless Black women echo the same sentiments just about anywhere you go. These women are generally projecting the hurt they’ve internalized since childhood.
I hear those self-loathing words, and my initial instinct is not to attack. First, I simply want to ask, “Who taught you to hate yourself?” But, of course, I already know the answer.
There exist no completely safe spaces for Women of Color to escape the utter oppressiveness of patriarchy and white supremacy. Because we each carry it around with us every second of every day, the indoctrination seeps out of our consciousness unwittingly.
The education of men and non Women of Color about the difficulties of Black womanhood is not my responsibility, but for black women who get it utterly wrong, I have nearly interminable patience. Sisters need hugs and information, not verbal beatdowns and “draggings.”
Wendy’s words are problematic; however, I’m becoming more concerned by the attacks she’s received. It seems smart, thoughtful women are reveling in the low blows. Particularly sickening are the endless riffs on Williams’ hair, face and figure.
If I’m understanding this correctly. We are fighting the degradation and humiliation of a Black woman by degrading and attempting to humiliate another Black woman. It doesn’t add up.
A few months back, I tweeted that I would no longer comment on the physical appearances of women. With few exceptions, I’ve stayed true to that promise. I made the decision upon reflection on the ways I’ve internalized gauging a woman’s worth by her physical appearance, and because I wish for a world where “beautiful” is not the highest compliment a woman can be paid.
I take fictive kinship to the limits. I feel connected to most black women in all our contradictions and ignorance. Viola is my sister, but so is Wendy. You can look at Wendy’s self presentation and pathologize her, or you can see a woman dealing with familiar issues operating within the same sexist, white supremacist world we all live in.
If you managed to escape the matrix with your self-concept and esteem in tact, I applaud you. You’re doing a lot better than the rest of us. But heightened awareness gives no woman the right to shame another.
Many of us are still nursing open wounds. Have a little compassion for your sister.
I knew this was going to happen. As soon as I got word that Viola Davis, Goddess of the Universe, walked the Academy Awards red carpet without her signature wig, I was positive we would see article after article about the politics of her choice. And we have.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. The actress made a bold decision. A decision, that I couldn’t be prouder of because of what it means to so many Black women.
Viola’s appearance was an important moment for us. I missed the red carpet live, but I’ve taken several moments since Sunday to soak in the gorgeousness of it all: her chocolate brown afro, luminescent complexion and remarkable stature. I see myself in her, and I feel powerful.
Contrast that emotion with the hopelessness I experienced as a little girl navigating the world without similar models. I needed her then.
This has been a long, contentious awards season for black folks, but the unignorable presence of outspoken, brilliant Black women at these traditionally monochromatic awards shows has made the infighting worth it. Witnessing tremendous talents like Viola Davis and her co-star Octavia Spencer celebrated provided much needed respite from the usual barrage of attacks.
African American women must seize this moment. Embrace fearlessness by shedding unnecessary accoutrements if only for a day. I’ve just begun to regularly forego the heels and the makeup. It was just as difficult as I expected but more rewarding than I imagined.
Our personal guides for aesthetic liberation need not be famous women. Do you have a Viola Davis in your own life? Maybe you are someone’s Viola Davis.
Groups whose identities have been stigmatized partake in Coming Out Days to celebrate their true selves. The LGBT community has one; as do feminists. Pick your own Coming Out Day to leave the house without all the stuff—I’m talking external and internal—you think you need.
Perhaps we can prevent another woman’s self-loathing spiel like the one Wendy Williams gave on her show following the Oscars.
Viola’s hair belongs to her. She owes us nothing, but no doubt she paid it forward on Sunday. Let us follow her lead and do the same.
Let’s get this out of the way. I adore Viola Davis. I adore her gravitas, intellect and fearlessness, but above all, I adore her prodigious talent. For her merits, Davis deserves to be named alongside screen legends like Meryl Streep and Robert DeNiro. But alas the black, female body she inhabits prevents her from reaching the professional heights she so deserves. Ms. Davis as a radiant, 46 year-old woman, only came close to fully realizing her potential on film 3 years ago in her limited but remarkable role in Doubt. In a part so small it could nearly be called a cameo, Viola Davis wrought a compelling performance that earned her an Academy Award nomination.
Last year, Davis’ lauded work in the film adaptation of The Help propelled her back into the spotlight. The magnificence of her portrayal of Aibileen is unquestionable though the film itself has been poked, prodded, and picked apart particularly by concerned black audiences and academics.
Pushback against the film forced Viola to take the defense. In an interview, she told Tavis Smiley all the way off saying his disdain for the film was a mindset that’s “killing the black artist.” Davis was nothing if not beautifully eloquent in her assertion that “the black artist cannot live in a revisionist place.” You couldn’t help but nod along as this brilliant Black woman argued her case.
Davis, of course, fails to take into account that Aibileen occupies the most loathsome of revisionist locales. Historians have noted that the tale of Minnie and Aibleen are not even close to accurate depictions of life in the Jim Crow south.
The most intelligent criticism of the film is based not on the fact that the women play maids but that they play mammies. Maids, you see, are real women whose stories deserve to be told with dignity and without shame. Mammies are fictive martyrs whose love for their white employers eclipses the economic and often sexual exploitation domestic workers endure(d). The Black women of The Help are the latter. (Melissa Harris-Perry explores this in our book club pick, Sister Citizen) The critique is a rejection of the ways white filmmakers have manipulated our stories to assuage their guilt or to suit their interests.
The story of The Help is appalling; the acting is sublime. Both Black and white filmgoers loved it which makes criticizing the movie in any manner like navigating a minefield.
I wanted so much to side with Davis during her showdown with Smiley, but she sidestepped the primary point. There’s no doubt that film critics overwhelmingly celebrate the debasement and pathology of African Americans. While the more than 94% white and 77% male Oscar voters award the varied, complex performances of white actresses, it seems Black women are only visible when we are playing out our most damaging cultural mythologies. Smiley makes it clear that his frustration lies with the racist Hollywood system that dictates what makes it to theaters. Conflating that criticism with a dismissal of the actresses is misguided.
This is all none of Viola Davis’ or Octavia Spencer’s concern really. We place an unfair burden on black actors by asking them to constantly justify their professional choices. They are actors not activists. This is their craft, but it is also their job.
So when those of us who understand and appreciate the importance of media representation express our frustration at the film, its fabricated history, and the racist film industry it signifies, it is really, truly not personal. We want black actors to flourish and to explore the depths of humanity in new, untold stories. That is our tribute to great Black artists who spent their entire careers encaged, and that is the battle we all must continue to fight.
Only recently have I come to appreciate my quiet, suburban upbringing. My single mother worked tirelessly to provide her kids a safe, secure childhood unlike the one she’d known.
The choice to live in affluent, predominately white communities was mom’s attempt to help my sister and I overcome the trappings of life in black, female bodies. But of course she couldn’t shield us completely. We never feared for our safety, and we always attended great schools. But being one of only a handful of African American kids submersed in a sea of whiteness had its own pitfalls. The often overt bigotry I endured left a stain of insecurity and self doubt on my nascent consciousness. That is the reality of my early existence.
When people like Daisy Barringer of XOJane.com speak of an idyllic childhood in which they never had to encounter racism, I simply cannot relate.She writes:
“…it wasn’t until I went to college at NYU that I began to learn there were derogatory terms used to insult entire races, religions, and ethnicities.”Must be nice.
Fact of that matter is, as I’ve gotten older and somewhat wiser, I’ve made a conscious effort not to learn what these words mean. I can’t help but know they exist, but if I don’t ask what they mean or who they’re about when I do have the unfortunate chance of hearing them, I’m not inviting the ugly thoughts and stereotypes into my life.
Once I realized that everyone was, in fact, livid about the usage of the word “chink,” despite the fact that the phrase “chink in the armor” accurately described Lin’s first real sign of weakness, I couldn’t help but think that perhaps it was everyone else who was racist, not the writer.
There will always be debate about what defines a feminist. While conservative women like Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann attempt to misappropriate the term and negate its progressive origins, Black women struggle to embrace it and see our place within the movement.
Feminism (or Womanisn if you please) is a Black woman’s birthright. We had no choice but to question the racist, sexist power structures that define Western culture. Black feminism has enabled Black women to define ourselves for ourselves in a world that would have us reduced to caricature. For this reason—and many more— I embrace Feminism fully. Its messy history of exclusion has not deterred me from recognizing the importance of feminist ideals in the quest for the equality of all people.
A feminist life is supposed to be a liberated one. A transcendent existence free of the constraints foisted upon us but a society that cares not for our best interest. Yet sometimes I feel constricted in trying to live up to the expectations I set for “good feminists.” I often feel guilty for not living my life in complete accordance with feminist principles. (I’ve written about this before)
This tension is most acute in my personal life. My desire to dismantle the structures of oppression that limit the life chances and opportunities of marginalized groups often comes second to my longing to have a good time and enjoy my youth.
The entertainment I consume is particularly questionable by Black Feminist standards. It’s violent, it’s sexist, and often homophobic. I do not say this with pride, but I’m an avid listener of the most degrading type of rap music and loyal viewer of the most exploitative television. The irony (hypocrisy) of my media choices is not lost on me.
I worry often that partaking in the corrosive culture of hip hop in particular delegitimates my voice as an activist. Of course I could just give up my unhealthy habits, but it’s not that simple. (Joan Morgan explains the pull more eloquently than I ever could.) The desire to remain connected to cultural elements that actively oppress you is damn near a sickness, but I have not yet decide if this illness necessitates a cure.
Perhaps my mistake is not enjoying but doing so publicly. If I laughed at the absurdity of Atlanta’s Real Housewives in private, at the very least it would spare me the sanctimonious finger wagging of uber feminists. These are the womyn who wouldn’t dare use the b-word. The women who spend all their free time listening to neo-soul and reading bell hooks. I am not one of those women, nor do I desire to be. My life is layered. The contradictions evidence the fullness of my womanhood.
My journey with feminism mirrors my personal faith in that I struggle daily to figure out the right balance for my life. Feminist theory remains a useful guide in helping me to understand myself and the world around me, but it is just that: theory. (Word to Patricia Hill Collins.)
The Christianity comparison is not meant to blaspheme but to illustrate that navigating personal belief systems is arduous because life is complex. Being a perfect feminist is impossible. Even icons stumble. (Alice Walker and Gloria Steinem immediately come to mind.) And I don’t condemn them for their missteps because we’re doing the best with what we know.
Maya Angelou famously mused, “When you know better, you do better.” Those who seek to leave the world better than they found it must engage in self reflection. But spiritual survival requires that we make sure that self examination doesn’t devolve into self flagellation. I can no l longer beat myself up over my feminist shortcomings. My Black Feminist contradictions will have to do.
The past week has been an important one for digital advocacy. In a matter of days, two major organizations, Susan G. Komen for the Cure and CNN, were forced into decisive action by the feminist and LGBT communities respectively. Supporters used Twitter, Facebook, blogs and message boards to rally their proverbial troops. Proving, once again, that the power lies with the people, and when we choose to lift our voices, we can prevail.
They make it look easy. Under duress Komen reversed its decision to indefinitely defund Planned Parenthood, and CNN placed commentator Roland Martin on suspension for homophobic tweets. Each of these results were achieved within days of a concerted outcry.
It seems as though Black folks are the only interest group who can’t coordinate digitally to effect change. When black communities are attacked—which happens daily—why do we have so much difficulty spreading an effective, unified message? We rarely wield the power to force anyone’s hand.
These social media successes were not flukes, they were facilitated by existing structures embedded within the communities. Structures that African Americans simply do not have. Or perhaps we have them, but we have not yet figured out how to use them to our best advantage.
Much discussed has been the digital divide which explains disparate access to the internet’s wealth of resources in communities of color, but we have yet failed to address how men and women of African descent have not fully tapped into the power of digital spaces and social media to address malicious media misrepresentation and corrosive public policy.
Yes, there exist startups like ColorofChange.org, but Black communities lag behind in response to offensive onslaughts. We’re in a new age, where those who cannot make their voices heard quickly will be swept under the rug just as we’ve always been.
When Susan G. Komen for the Cure announced it would no longer provide over $600,000 in funding to Planned Parenthood for breast cancer screenings, the feminist blogosphere swooped down with its unmistakable fury. Pro-choice bloggers and tweeters quickly organized a well-coordinated assault, overwhelming the organization’s official social media pages with calls to action. All the while, top feminist blogs were continually updated with the mission’s progress.
These actions worked because top Komen officials did a terrible job of handling the controversy in the first day, and the furor shook the organization to the core, prompting the resignation of one of its conservative VP of Public Policy.
To be certain, this was a groundswell. The Planned Parenthood cohort crosscut many groups. There was no Feminist Boule gathered in a dark room plotting strategy. The amorphous feminist blogosphere occupies enough territory to disseminate the message quickly. Supporters know when to act and how to do so with speed and fervency because they had a single goal.
The Komen case should be a model for African American reaction to policy decisions that negatively impact our communities. The trouble, it seems, it that we are so diverse in opinion that we cannot decide on a single goal.
The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) spearheaded suspension of Roland Martin provides another example of coordinated, effectual digital activism. After Martin’s controversial tweets, the group responded to him from their official account almost immediately. In contrast to the previous case, this was a top down operation. When GLAAD strikes, a community follows.
With remarkable speed, they drafted a petition for Martin’s firing and a press release about the incident which resulted in several media hits and sparked discussion.
Unsurprisingly, many African Americans rushed to Martin’s defense insisting that he had been unfairly targeted. Whether you agree or not, at the end the day GLAAD did its job. I’m sure the next time a moderately successful social commentator gets the urge to spew homophobia, they’ll think twice.
Time is of the essence in the 24 hour news culture, and Black America’s national clearinghouses always seem to be a step behind. Though the bounds of Blackness are far too expansive for a single agenda, there are boundless opportunities for us to strike back because everyday there are policies passed that adversely affect the lives of Blacks in America and abroad.
Communities of color must use both grass roots and organizational responses to counter the constant attacks on our rights and persons. Instead of being critical of “gay mafia” or “feminazis” who can pull together a digital demonstration effectively, we need to be build our own organizations and networks that can do the same.
At what point does something you enjoy become a source of your own imprisonment? We classify many things as addictions, but not until recently did I ever consider I might be battling one of my own.
I am a daughter of consumerism. As a quintessential girly girl, I love clothes, makeup, and hair. (Yep, I buy my hair, and I whip it back and forth with pleasure.)
Hoarding these things has been a key component of my identity since I was a kid. As I grow into my feminism, however, I have begun to recognize the pitfalls of how closely I’m bound to my physical appearance.
I am a feminist. I consider myself an advocate for the basic right of women to exist with dignity in the world, but lately I question if my personal embrace of the Beauty Industrial Complex, that is the cultural systems and practices used to craft a singular, unattainable notion of beauty, seriously negates the messages I espouse. The personal is political, and I consistently feel twinges of guilt about the ways in which my choices contribute to the oppression of women.
I understand that I alone could never dismantle the oppression matrix that keeps women crawling back to makeup counters, nail shops, and clothing stores in order to look their “best.” After all, my addictions are yet another byproduct of our patriarchal culture. But by purposely tailoring my appearance to the most accessible beauty standards, I fear that I am further marginalizing the women who cannot or choose not to conform to these norms.
The notion struck me as I was playing with a group of 7 and 8 year old girls earlier this summer. One of them named Anna beamed up at me with a bright smile.
“You’re pretty,” she said. “How did you get so pretty?”
It was an innocent moment. One I’m sure most women would shrug off, but the little girl’s simple question brought back a flood of memories.
The women in my immediate family are connected by our humor and our vanity. As the youngest child, I grew up watching my mom and older sister fuss and fret over makeup application and outfit selection. Seeing the confidence ooze once they were all done up left a mark: worthy women were well dressed and well mannered. I followed suit, and by 6 or 7 had fully adopted their ways. But that turned into, what I will admit, is an unhealthy obsession with my looks. I started wearing lipgloss and press-on nails at 9, foundation and heels at 12, and by the time I entered high school, I had graduated to full drag. Nails done. Hair Done. Everything did.
And I’ve been that way ever since. I enjoy being ultra-femme, and I take pride in walking out the door knowing I will probably be the best dressed person in the room. I often consider slowly dialing it back: shorter weave, less makeup, flats maybe. But I’m still not ready to give up the lifestyle.
I know I’m overcompensating. From the time I was in school, I rarely felt physically attractive, but I regularly garnered praise for how I was perfectly put together. The boys ignored my existence except to point out the size of my behind while the girls fawned over my styles. That still sticks (as most of our childhood baggage does).
Now I’m wedded to the glam. My makeup is my war paint. Once I put it on, I am instantly empowered to step into the role of a cool, self-assured woman.
I will never be the pretty girl, and that’s ok. Thankfully I have other talents, but It feels good to be noticed. Would Anna have made that comment without my accoutrements? Probably not. For me that’s a scary thought.
Black women are no strangers to invisibility. We all want to be acknowledged, and constantly getting overlooked is hurtful and demoralizing. Pushing back against the forces that tell us we are unworthy with outlets like this is my life’s goal. But I’m still working on me.
I’ll be the first to jump on anyone who comes at the gorgeous natural hair sistas, but I always get confused stares after my rants. A single glance at my waist-length weave seems to betray my true allegiances. The fact is that in many ways my own idea of aesthetic perfection ignores Black beauty and my West African heritage. That is difficult to admit, but that is the space I currently occupy.
In my perfect world, no woman would feel tethered to the superficial. My biggest fear for my future daughters is that they will inherit their mother’s curse.
I am a young woman, and I continue to grow and learn. I have time to shed this skin, but right now I’m a willing prisoner.
Through the years it has been corporatized and commodified, but Black History Month is a time for self-reflection and meditation. A time to remember those men and women whose boldness and bravery left a mark on our collective consciousness. A time where individually each of us must take stock of our talents and think about what we will do to lift as we climb.
While we celebrate the trailblazers, the holiday exposes one of the most maddening contradictions of the Black female experience: African American women derive strength and pride from the fearlessness of our foremothers, but our own mothers and surrogates direct us to lead our lives with a spirit of caution.
From childhood, little black girls are taught to survive not to soar. A young black women who dares to dream in color should expect that the women closest to her will, without hesitation, douse her heart in a sensible beige.
Black mothers are no different from anyone else. They love completely, give unselfishly and fight relentlessly. They do so, however, with the looming specter of white supremacy. That legacy has left behind a trail of pain and frustration. We often forget the humanity of our mothers, but their eyes have seen what ours have not. They harbor sadness over missed opportunities and perpetual disappointments.
So when our spiritual guides tell us: think big but don’t overreach or keep your head down and follow the rules. They do so not out of malice but of necessity. They mean to insure we thrive financially and psychically.
Black Mothers kill dreams, but only because they care.
This is why I cannot fault my mom for her reluctance to accept my embrace of an atypical life. She is the one who taught me black women’s multiple oppressions make us more vulnerable in the wake of missteps. Her carefully constructed plans of action do not, however, provide an opportunity for freedom or fulfillment.
Melissa Harris- Perry’s latest book, Sister Citizen , explores the ways in which Black women attempt to “move forward in our authentic selves” in spite of the stereotype-laden muck we wade through daily.
We try to cleanse ourselves with overachievement and respectability, but we can never seem to erase the stain of misrecognition. And perhaps it’s time we stop trying. The dance is exhausting and prevents us from living fully.
Because if I had one wish for all of Black womanhood, it would be to loose the chains that tie us to notions of our inevitable defeat. Unfortunately, I don’t have a magic wand to heal the heartache that hundreds of years of maneuvering the confines of racist structures has caused.
The conservatism of our mothers, passed down through generations, causes us to look askance at the black woman who veers left. Whether it’s her behavior, aesthetic or career choice that causes discomfort, we would be better served to enshroud her in revolutionary love, a love that fortifies and inspires.
If our ultimate goal is to cultivate greatness in our sisters and our daughters, we must recognize that it comes in all forms. A point I hope we can remember as we continue to contemplate how to build on the foundations the women who came before us laid.
cross-posted on For Harriet
It’s been over a year since The Game returned to television, and the comeback has been rocky. The story arcs lack depth and the dialogue lacks wit. But those missteps might have been forgiven had the show preserved the integrity of the characters we grew to love so much that we, the viewers, petitioned for months to revive. Not only did that not happen, but since it’s return, The Game took a nasty misogynistic turn that has left many members of its Black, female viewership frustrated and confused.
A show that once centered around the fraught yet loving relationships of a trio of unlikely friends, has devolved into a replication of the same tired stereotypes Black women are fed at every turn. What spurred that creative decision? I doubt The Game’s audience has changed since its days on network TV, and the team behind-the-scenes has remained largely intact. But the BET production now lives up to the network’s reputation as a haven for Black woman bashing.
The women on the show are now merely plot devices. None of the characters are fully developed but the definition of the female characters seems malicious. Melanie’s bizarre transformation this season provides a prime example.
The show’s writers made some questionable choices with Mel in the past, but she was a woman whose eyebrow raising decisions were dictated by her complex and often messy circumstances. (Some of which she controlled, but many she did not.)That Melanie was relatable. This one is unredeemable. She’s shallow and materialistic. The woman who worked her way through medical school is now ceaselessly vapid.
The infertility story line, however, concerns me more than anything. The show took some jabs at name brand religion this week, but the framing of Mel’s struggle to conceive relies on the Gospel of slut-shaming taught by patriarchy and conservative religion. It is more than implied that her infertility is a punishment for past promiscuity. Despite the fact that one in three women will have an abortion in her lifetime, The Game’s writers seem intent to perpetuate the negative stigma associated with, what is, a common medical procedure.
The Chardonnay storyline, meant to evolve Jason Pitts, provides even more cringe-inducing moments. Chardonnay couldn’t simply be Jason Pitts’ love interest; she has to be the link to his forgotten heritage. She’s Chardonnay the Magic Negress ushering him to the Proud Black Man Promised Land. The character would be less maddening if heterosexual Black women were not expected to subvert personal work to become our fullest, freest selves in order to guide the maturation of our partners.
And then there’s Tasha Mack. Not even her immaculate head scarf could distract from the offensiveness of her lonely black woman spiel to Jason in which she calls Steve Harvey a prophet. A prophet? The man who made millions exploiting the real pain and imagined deficiency of Black women. Tasha’s grounded moments come in interactions with her son, but I deeply resent her overall coonification.
The frustration with which I watched last night’s episode of The Game makes me wonder why I bother. Then I remember television and I have a dysfunctional relationship that borders on the abusive. The more shows I once loved hurt me, the more invested I become in their success. The Game, once a light comedy, is now a heavy handed dramedy that halfheartedly attempts to tackle deep issues within black communities without an ounce of nuance.
This is an official plea to flesh out the The Game’s female characters. It’s time for show to explore the fullness of their womanhood. Let them be women not caricatures.
I am a foul-mouthed woman. Despite the fact that I did not grow up in a home where swearing was encouraged—or even tolerated—once I got to be about 13, my friends would be hard pressed to hear me in conversation without dropping the f-bomb or the s-word. (I say friends because I was diligent about refraining from the language in front of my elders lest my mom come down on me with her unmistakable fury. She didn’t play that. Ours was a Christian household.)
Now, a decade later, an encounter with me without a vulgarity is rare. For the moment, I’m off the sauce, drugs are bad, and I don’t fornicate with nearly enough regularity, so the questionable language provides my release. It’s good, not-so-clean fun.
I’ve contemplated giving it up. But why? Is my propensity for cuss words a poor reflection of my character? Fuck no.
According to some, women like me are a scourge on society. Our crude language and racy humor are corroding the moral fabric of America, a fabric which women are expected to mend.
Georgea Kovanis of the Detroit Free Press finds the rising acceptance of potty humor among the fairer sex offensive. She writes:
It’s not that women are new to swearing or telling off-color jokes or repeating brutal gossip or engaging in bad behavior…It’s just that now, many of us are loud and proud of it.
Natural biological functions and anatomy are apparently off limits too.
The piece opens with a series of recent scenarios meant to elucidate the depth of the problem. Joan Rivers mentions tampons on a morning show! Isn’t that disgusting? Tina Fey and Jane Lynch make a dick joke at the Globes! How dare they? Miley Cyrus takes a picture with a penis cake! What about the children?
Women did not, as Kovanis concedes, just discover swear words and dick jokes. We have delighted in them privately since the dawn of time, but only recently has popular culture reached a point wherein women can indulge publicly and avoid life or career ruining social stigma. That’s a good thing. With each generation, it gets better.
The dismantling of Victorian ideals provides cause for concern.
Being ladylike, it seems, is a thing of the past.
Oh, Georgea. How laughably anachronistic of you. The author and others of similar ilk conjure up an idyllic, imagined past where women provided the panacea for bad taste.
Yes, let’s go back to the good old days when the broads knew their place, and all was right in the world.*sigh* I blame The Help.
We can move beyond the desire to be “ladylike.” Hopefully, we’re approaching an age of female self-definition. In which women feel free to define their womanhood for themselves and not by antiquated dictates of acceptable behavior.
Comedians like Kristen Wiig, Margaret Cho, and Mo’Nique do not relinquish their rights to womanhood because they dare to be lewd. Asserting such is sexist and ridiculous.
In truth, I’m not a huge fan of that particular brand of humor, ( That’s why I’ve avoided watching Bridesmaids despite the effusive reviews. Watching someone move their bowels in the middle of the street is precisely what I don’t need in my life.) but I loathe shallow, restrictive gender norms even more.
Not simply because they’re largely nonsensical but because they’re so unevenly applied. Is it a coincidence Kovanis’ disappointment resides with the misdeeds of white women?
As a black woman, I could have surmised that screed wasn’t directed toward me. Women of color have not historically been expected to adhere to the same standards of decency as white women. (Though, for better or worse, the Age of Michelle Obama may be changing that.)
Handwringing over the declining morals of society reveals an indictment of the increasing agency of formerly oppressed classes. Women are stepping out of the culture of shame. Misogynists find this to be problematic.
The question isn’t why so many women are now comfortable using coarse language, but why are so many men and women intent to maintain the status quo that diminishes our liberty?
Women who express themselves in an “unbecoming” manner are not “following in the footsteps of men” as Kovanis writes. They are embracing their fullest, freest selves.
It’s time to stop perpetuating faux concern about the dissolution of feminine morals. Women are getting fouler because we are getting freer. Deal with it.
Note: I do not ever refer to myself, or other women, as females in everyday conversation, but in this case it alliterates *shrugs*