On the expendability of rape victims and irresponsible journalism.

Today in “WTF, White Feminists?!” News, Slate’s Amanda Marcotte jumps on another train to Wrongville, siding with a Washington State prosecutor’s decision to arrest an alleged rape victim for refusing to cooperate:

…it seems naive to believe that all you need to work with victims of domestic assault is more outreach. (The charges are against the second man, but the boyfriend is the one who instigated the kidnapping, suggesting that the domestic violence framework is in play here.) Victims have minds of their own, and sometimes no amount of victim outreach or counseling will change their minds.

The victim’s refusal to cooperate is a problem endemic to the prosecution of domestic violence, as I wrote in September. In Queens, N.Y., law enforcement reports that victims recant their testimony in 9 out of 10 cases. It’s not necessarily, as Rose suggests, simply because they are so traumatized by the violence itself that rehashing it with prosecutors feels too overwhelming. Research shows that a victim’s refusal to cooperate with a prosecution is more about her relationship to the abuser. In this particular case, the victim has a long-standing history with one of her attackers, which suggests that she probably doesn’t see this in the same way that someone kidnapped and assaulted by complete strangers would. While there are some interventions that can help reduce the problem of victims who recant out of these complex feelings, there’s no silver bullet of counseling that will get all victims to see things the way prosecutors want them to.

Clearly the only way these women are going to learn is if they’re victimized all over again? This is nonsense. Dangerous nonsense. Dangerous nonsense that will most likely result in fewer victims coming forward, and more rapists walking free.

It’s easy to get caught up in the facts and figures and forget that these are actual human beings, ones who have experienced a horrible trauma. Ones who have to figure out how to deal with that trauma and still attempt to be fully functioning people. What Marcotte and others fail to realize is that for some, the victimization doesn’t end with the rape. Or with pressing charges. Or with a conviction. Some perpetrators can and do continue to torment their victims, even after the final bang of the gavel. And, depending on how powerful said perps are, that torment can be life-threatening.

The sad, unavoidable truth is that we can’t be mad about victims changing their minds when our collective handling of sexual assault victims borders on obscene. Between bizarre laws and thousands of backlogged rape kits and oh!–our time-honored tradition of treating alleged victims like suspects, we should expect more of them to pass on turning to the legal system for help. We should also realize that greenlighting thoughtless clickbait like Marcotte’s only traumatizes people more. Always erring on the side of profit and pageviews means putting some really egregious shit into the world. If that’s a price worth paying, OK, but it’s also understandable that other people who identify as feminists will come for your fucking card.

 

 

Welcome to Intersectionality. Sometimes it’s hard.

Helen Lewis’s rebuttal of Julie Burchill’s ridiculous and horribly formatted Spectator essay on intersectionality (I won’t link it because I may contract something) left many of us doing this:

…because for all of their good intentions, white feminists still cannot get it right. Maybe they don’t want to get it right. For all of this talk about infighting and hurt feelings and waxing!–the things we really need to address keep getting ignored. When Piers Morgan went after Janet Mock–the first time–only two notable white feminists took to their sizable platforms to address it. Unfortunately, neither of them were very helpful, and seemed more sympathetic to Morgan. (Oh, how I miss the days when he was regulated to judging 80 year-old ballerinas on talent shows.)

“Intersectionality is really, really hard, guys!” Yes, it is. And no one expects white feminists to be perfect. We DO expect you to try, and not expect people to be nice to you or hold your hand when you fuck up. If Helen Lewis’s idea of handling criticism is to call out another white woman for referring to herself as a womanist? I just…I don’t know.

At some point you have to give up the ghost. In the case of us “marginalized people” (I hate that term) it might be time to stop getting angry over the latest mainstream feminist blunder and look at them the same way you would a puppy that pooped on your floor. Or an old Three Stooges episode. Because the best we can expect at this point is some really great slapstick comedy.

Anyway, enjoy this kickass piece from Bitch’s Tina Vasquez on the mainstream movement’s failure on transgender issues, if you haven’t already.

#DangerousBlackKids A Love Letter From Hood Feminists to Our Children

We were on the phone yesterday, still reeling from yet another bizarre court case where a murdered child was on trial for existing in public. My oldest son is 14, taller than me, with a man’s voice and the over-sized hands and feet that come with imminent, but not yet reached physical maturity. To me, he is the embodiment of a roaming piece of my heart. I carried him, nursed him, and taught him. He will always be my baby. He is his father’s buddy. They communicate in a language of comics, art, video games, and jokes that are so very them. My youngest son adores his big brother, and while he is also my baby, I can see that like his older brother some day he will be a giant in my house. I worry for all of them in that way that you do when society says that the people you love are worth less, and frames their very existence as a crime. Trayvon Martin’s death and Jordan Davis’ death are the most recent, but far from the only examples of this phenomenon that they called lynching until very recently.

They worry for me, because violence doesn’t observe gender lines and Rekia Boyd’s death wasn’t that long ago. Renisha McBride’s death is even more recent. And each time, the slain are on trial first, long before their killers have to worry about consequences. These stories have become so common that my friends and I have developed our own rituals around the outrage cycles required to force a trial, and around the results of the trials. We talk online and off, suggest self care tactics, and hug each other’s babies regularly. I am Tete Mikki to Jamie’s son, and while I fuss about his tiny size and random toddler outbursts, he is my baby as much as any of the others. Jamie knows my sons, has babysat them, nagged them, and demanded they stop teasing her about being so short. So, when we sat on the phone, we were half going through our normal rituals and half boiling over from outrage exhaustion. It does some thing awful to your spirit to constantly have to insist on your humanity, and the humanity of those you love. To be part of a community so frequently demonized, in refutation of documented history and current events, is to be forced to fight for your life and the lives of strangers constantly. We talked about a baby picture posted by @miss_hellion, the myth of black danger, and we started brainstorming hashtags.

#DangerousBlackKids is not about proving our worthiness to live to those who would handwave our murders. It is not about being respectable enough to deserve life. It is about being human in public, with each other, for each other. It is a reminder to ourselves that we will never be the monsters society would like us to be, that we are complex, complicated, and eminently worthy of life because we are here. We will always be here. We will fuss, feud, fight, and be a family regardless of what outsiders want to see. Our children are precious to us, to their friends, to the communities that we inhabit. And no matter how many times we have to fight for them, or for ourselves, we will keep fighting for as long as it takes to win. Because we are always worth it. We will never stand silent in the face of destructive forces. Just as we work within our communities to heal them, we will work outside our communities to stop the next generation of traumas from being inflicted.

The High Cost of Bravery TW: Child Abuse

By now, most of the internet has voiced their opinion on Dylan Farrow & Woody Allen. There are hashtags, articles, counter articles, & an obscene number of abusers & enablers showing the world not to trust them. Some of those people are feminists, renowned journalists, or just plain old enough to know better. This isn’t a step by step dissection of them, their motives, or their impact. I could do that. Again. But to be honest, I’m so tired of pointing out that the emperor has no clothes that I could just scream. I’m a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I’ve written that out a lot of the years. And I’m fortunate in that my primary abuser is dead. Unfortunately, he was a family friend & to this day some of my relatives speak of him with a certain amount of fondness. I…mostly don’t speak to them. It’s easier that way than it is to wade into the waters of not being believed, or worse yet being blamed for what I did or didn’t do as a child. Now, as the debates rage on and on, all I can think of is how Dylan must feel to have people who weren’t in that house, in that attic, debating whether or not she knows what happened to her. There were only two people present, and only one of them benefits from lying. But she doesn’t fit the popular narratives about victims of sexual abuse any more than Allen falls into the stereotypes so often depicted on cop shows and afterschool specials.

I wasn’t in an attic. I was in a basement, and in a room off a kitchen that always smelled like fishsticks. The basement smelled of mold, had severe vermin issues, and figures heavily in my nightmares to this day. I still hate unfinished basements. And no, there were no witnesses. There was very little in the way of physical evidence I imagine, since my abuser was my baby sitter and expected to bathe me if I got messy. I can’t prove anything. Probably never could to be honest. I was very young when it started, and as I got older (and I displayed some behavioral issues), there was little or no discussion of anything, but how I should be better behaved. Because that’s what happens to so many of us. So, for Dylan to be brave enough to tell, to be unable to keep telling (at 7 no less), and for her to still suffer emotionally to this day makes perfect sense to me.  I’ve had the therapy, the peace of knowing he can never touch me again, and I’m still not over it.  I pretend I am, because I need some space to try to be who I could have been in a different life.

We laud bravery, especially when it is displayed by folks who are laying it all on the line. We don’t talk about what that bravery costs. What happens when it is displayed and not honored, or worse yet, it is honored, but the trauma of telling isn’t going to lead to any real closure. Woody Allen has never spent a day in jail for the crimes that Dylan has detailed. That’s an incredibly common occurrence in these cases. Telling as a child is difficult, sometimes impossible, the process of telling over and over again as is required to report this crime to the police is incredibly damaging. So when the decisions are made to protect the kids (and conveniently allow alleged abusers to never face charges), it makes perfect sense. What doesn’t make sense is the way adults that report are treated. Just because a child couldn’t face telling, couldn’t withstand family and social pressures, the shame, the guilt, or sometimes the self loathing doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. It doesn’t mean the child isn’t brave. It means that bravery costs, and sometimes the price is too high.

I will always believe the kids. Because I was one of them. And I was never as brave as Dylan. I’m still not that brave. I’ve talked to the internet about what happened, to friends, my husband, even a few therapists. But most of my family doesn’t know, and the ones who probably suspect will never ask. I don’t fault them for that. I have no idea what I’d say. It’s easier to be the family black sheep, that wild child who no one really understands, than to be anything else. I could tell you about the damage done, and how it shaped me for good and for ill. But this isn’t that kind of post either. It’s just a statement of fact. Here at Hood Feminism we will not be making excuses, tolerating enabling, or apologists. And no, I will not deluge you with stats, but I will point out that after the bravery comes the consequences. The hard part of all of this isn’t just right now when the news cycle is so focused. The hard part is in a few months or a few years when this hasn’t gone away from Dylan’s life. Because it never ever goes away. That’s not obsession, that’s not sick, that’s not a failure to heal…it’s a wound that runs deep, and visible scars that folks may well trip over. We’re not easy people to understand, accept, or even love. But we’re here. It’s not just about being a kid that was molested, it’s about being an adult who has to live with what happened in a world that says your abuser was right. Most people won’t believe you, and even it they do, you’ll be blamed. Because bravery at any age costs more than most of us can stand to pay.

The road from here.

I was 24 when I buried my father; last weekend marked the 13th anniversary of his death. Nothing propels you into adulthood faster than planning a memorial service for a man you barely knew. But there I was, attempting to sift through the detritus of bittersweet memories to honor him. It’s hard to set aside the hurt, to swallow the anger and do the responsible thing, especially when you don’t want the task. In the end my father had disappointed so many people–his common-law wife and teen daughter among them–that no one wanted to be bothered. He died alone in a nursing home on Superbowl Sunday.

My relationship with my dad had always been contentious. All the missed birthdays and spelling bees and oratory contests and report card pickup days didn’t help matters. By the time he came clean about his drug addiction, I no longer cared; I was heading off to college, far away from him. Back then, I didn’t know how crippling addiction could be. I merely saw a man too lazy to kick heroin, and resented him for his weakness.

Some days I wish I had a TARDIS.

The clarity that comes once the hurt and anger subside usually arrives tardy for the party, too late to say what was necessary, what was needed. I’ve only recently made peace with everything that happened between my dad and I; I’d never told him how I felt. Never expressed anything but apathy and pity while he was alive. I didn’t realize being silent and stoic did me more harm than good.

Sometimes the people and things you love cannot love you back. In my case, it’s feminism.

Last week, when The Nation story ran, I was ready to rip out entrails and make party hats. I was quoting Liam Neeson and googling “best ways to throatchop people.” I wanted BLOOD, yo. I was hurt on behalf of my friends, who’d been painted as bitter and angry and obsessed. I saw a few people, ones I respected and admired greatly, praise it as a thought-provoking piece of journalism. (As a recovering journalist, THAT really made me angry.) I wanted to write an immediate response but something was holding me back. Perhaps I needed more time to calm down than I thought. It’s easy to get caught up in the outrage, especially when the transgressors have no problem with manipulating the truth. It’s also easy to say “fuck it” and walk away.

To be honest, I feel like that most of the time. Every time I’m hit with the latest episode of “Shit White Feminists Say” I’m ready to pack a hobo bag and do a sad David Banner walk along an empty highway. Then I think about the women in the writing workshop I teach, the son I’m raising, and the people from far-flung places who reach out to tell me how my words helped them, how Hood Feminism has created a space where they finally feel at home. I’m grateful. When you’re fighting to be included, fighting for your humanity to be recognized by people who claim to be allies, it’s important to remember those things.

So, I’m still here. Though it’s hard to set aside the hurt, to swallow the anger and do the responsible thing. Especially when you don’t want the task.

Anyway, go read this kick-ass post over at Prison Culture if you haven’t already.

The Politics of Respectability is not Revolutionary.

(Hi, everyone! Happy New Year! We return to our regularly scheduled programming with another guest post, this time from Loryn C. Wilson, a womanist and digital media professional living in Washington, DC. You can follow her on Twitter at @elledub_1920.)

TW: Violence, Misogyny, Fatphobia, Racism

Recently, I participated on a panel about leadership, movement building, and using social media to create change. I spoke to about 200 African-American student leaders; I was only one of two women on a panel of about 8 people, and the youngest speaker. One of the male panelists asserted that the politics of respectability was an act of resistance in a time when Black people were treated as less than human. He gave the example of a woman being able to keep a clean house.

Silly example aside, I was most concerned that a group of young people were once again being told that if they just act respectable enough, they will defy white people and somehow rise above oppression. There is plenty of evidence to the contrary.

Respectability politics, simply put, is a dangerous attack on Black people in general and Black women in particular. It is a way to make white people feel more comfortable with us, and not to make us feel more comfortable about ourselves. It is selfish, not selfless. And it is not something to aspire to.

Respectability politics is divisive. Point blank.

Everyone remembers that classic scene in School Daze where the Jiggaboos faced off against the Wannabes. That scene demonstrates one of the biggest problems with respectability politics – it’s divisive nature. It further divides Black people into the Bourgeoise versus “them n*ggas over there,” setting a stage where middle and upper class Black people can look at their low-income brethren–and somehow think they are better than them. If a way of thinking makes me treat one of my own with anything less than love and compassion, then I don’t want to subscribe to it. We need approaches that bring us closer together, that can lift us up as we climb. If it doesn’t unify us, we don’t need it.

Respectability politics dehumanizes Black people, especially women.

As it’s been noted before, if a white woman proudly and publicly embraces her sexuality, white people praise her as an example of sexual empowerment and body positivity. However, when a Black woman does the same, those people treat her as though she is less of a woman. People are quick to police our bodies and tell us that we are ugly, fat, unlovable bitches.

Saartjie Baartman is an early example of this. She was an African woman held in captivity like a circus animal, made to perform for white people on account of her voluptuous body. For a small fee, whites could watch her perform and even touch the “Hottentot Venus.” And this was simply because of the way her body is shaped – a characteristic that she had no control over. There are countless modern-day examples of this – from Beyonce getting her ass smacked by a fan during a performance to Nicki Minaj having the same thing done to her by Regis Philbin on national TV.

Respectability politics suggests that only certain Black people are even worthy of respect to begin with.

Implicit in telling black men to “pull up their pants” or a black women to “keep their legs closed” is the idea that if they do not do these things, then they can’t or shouldn’t be respected. Oftentimes on Facebook, I see the meme of young black men with sagging pants alongside a picture of young black men dressed in suits from the 1960s with the caption “Back then men were real men.” But here’s the problem with that: During the Civil Rights Movement (and even before), Black people wore suits, pressed their hair, and were still beaten and killed – so why even compare? The way one wears their hair or clothes, the way they express themselves, the choices they make—none of these things should be used as a litmus test for respect given or denied.

Respectability politics ignores the fact that Black people are not a monolith.

Blackness is so amazing because it is so varied. There are so many different ways to be black—and no way is more correct or acceptable than another. A black woman will quote bell hooks and dance to Beyonce and y’all will deal. Blackness is not a morality play. It is above the law. It is not meant to be contained or put in a box by anyone or anything—including respectability touting know-nothings.

On the criminalization of young black and brown boys.

Fifteen years ago, an 11 year-old girl, Ryan Harris, was found dead in a vacant lot on the city’s south side. She’d been raped and strangled. A detective–all too eager to close the case–collared two neighborhood boys. After being bullied for hours and kept from their parents (who had no clue that their sons were being held for murder) they confessed to sexually assaulting the girl, killing her, and stealing her bike. Mass media hysteria soon followed, as talking heads everywhere rushed to vilify the children. Some even called for the death penalty.

Romarr Gipson was seven years old. His accomplice, eight.

A month later the police found the man who would eventually serve a life sentence for the murder. According to authorities, Floyd Durr had left traces of semen on her underwear, something seven and eight year-olds are incapable of doing, as most people who have passed a seventh-grade health class would know. The families of the boys filed a civil suit and were finally awarded $2 mil in Fall 2005.

In Spring 2006, Romarr, then 15, was arrested for aggravated battery with a firearm. He and his older stepbrother accosted two people in a parked car at a Citgo gas station and opened fire. He turned around and looked at the camera with a gun in his hand, one investigator told the Sun-Times. He was tried as an adult and sentenced to 52 years in prison in June 2012.

In Fall 2006, Steve Bogira’s Chicago Reader investigative report picked apart what was thought to be an open and shut case; interviews with a number of people on both sides–including Durr, who maintained his innocence–show a case fraught with more missteps and holes than your standard-issue Michael Bay movie. He casts enough doubt to go around, concluding that we may never really know who killed the fifth-grader.

But we do know what happened to Romarr Gipson, and all evidence points to a sequence of events occurring in an interrogation room that changed his life forever.

America has a gift for characterizing troubled children–particularly children of color–as cold, feral monsters. And each day, as thousands enter a justice system filled with dispassionate correction officials, apathetic public defenders, and judges who just want to get to the next case–they quickly transform into the boogeymen they’ve been made out to be. According to a number of studies, children held in jails are twice as likely to be assaulted, five times as likely to be sexually assaulted, and eight times more likely to commit suicide than youth held in juvenile facilities. And if they do survive life on the inside, chances are they will return for more serious offenses. They’re also more likely to be black or brown.

Project Nia Founder/Director Mariame Kaba has spent years on the front lines fighting to change toxic policies plaguing the juvenile justice system. “I said at the time that this would have a lasting impact on the children involved,” recalls Kaba. “Anti-black racism plays a role in how kids are punished. It’s so ingrained that it makes it impossible to see our children as human.”

“There’s an unwillingness [on the part of administrators] to read these reports that show how any contact you have with law enforcement is bad for future outcome, and it impacts everything from cognitive skills to school participation,” Kaba continues. “Incarceration should be a last resort.”

But, as a report released last year by the US Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights illustrates, it’s often the first course of action for school officials and law enforcement. And with more schools employing police officers as disciplinary tools, things are only going to get worse.

Actually, we might already be there.

“We’ve got to start conceptualizing violence as structural,” says Kaba, whose Chicago Freedom School educates teens on social justice issues. “It’s out there, and it’s being used against us all the time. Wanting the government to intervene to make our lives livable is somehow pathologized, and then it trickles down to the community where the conversation turns to respectability.”

And we hear a lot about respectability. A. Lot.

But, Kaba maintains, it will take a collective effort to save our kids, a movement of love, compassion and respect. “I want more opportunities for people to talk about structural oppression so that it has somewhere to go. That’s how you understand yourself as an agent, how you begin to realize you’re not alone in this world, and you use that knowledge to change the system.”

Why We Can’t Have Black Feminist Pop Icons.

(Lesli-Ann Lewis is a small, queer and brown invader of homogeneous spaces. Fancying herself a burgeoning writer, this is her first piece for Hood Feminism. She can be found on Twitter, all too often: @lesellele.)

The "new faces of feminism" look a lot like the old ones.

The “new faces of feminism” look a lot like the old ones.

 

Remember several weeks ago when blogger and writer Jincey Lumpkin called Miley Cyrus a feminist icon? Outspoken Black feminists took her to task for ignoring Miley’s exploitation of Black women. The backlash was so fierce that Jincey apologized.

Fast forward to November 13th, an ordinary day made extraordinary by the declaration of Lily Allen’s “Hard Out Here” as a feminist anthem and her video as a “genius” satire of pop videos. The video swerves into Miley’s lane featuring a relatively covered pop singer surrounded by scantily clad Black women. It features close-ups of Black women twerking, a long-standing hip hop dance for which has bizarrely been given credit Miley Cyrus. Lily Allen herself claims it’s satire but, given her iffy take on the black female body during a spat with Azlia Banks and the lyric “I don’t need to shake my ass for you because I have a brain,” timed right as one of her Black dancers bends over, it’s unclear what she’s satirizing, exactly. What is clear is that Jincey should have never apologized. Miley Cyrus IS a feminist icon and now, so is Lily Allen. They are feminist icons, and that feminism is White, cis, well-to-do and disingenuous.

Black women have been fighting for space in feminism since Sojourner asked anti-abolitionist suffragists “Ain’t I a woman?” There is a long, sad, and complicated history of white women being active participants in the (ongoing) colonization and exploitation of Black and brown women the world over.  Funnily enough, Lily Allen sings in her slut-shaming “feminist” anthem “We’ve come a long way, and if you don’t see the sarcasm in that, you’re missing the point.”

We see this history come out to play when mainstream feminism shuns Black celebrities for the very things they laud their White peers for. So far, the list who gets the feminist badge looks very Caucasian and contradictory. Miley Cyrus is a feminist icon for getting naked. Lily Allen is a feminist for slut-shaming Miley Cyrus.
With this happening so frequently, it begs the question: what is the standard for mainstream feminism when it comes to claiming pop singers and celebrities?

It seems that any white celebrity who is both successful and female gets branded as some sort of feminist whether or not she has even called herself one. Looking at the low standard for who gets to be a feminist pop icon, I’m left wondering why Rihanna hasn’t gotten her badge yet. Rihanna has done more work in the field of feminism than any of the pop stars in her age group. She quite eloquently discussed rape and rape culture in her Man Down video. She chose to address domestic violence in her “We Found Love Video.” Most recently she centered the female gaze AND celebrated the athleticism of strippers in her Pour It Up video. Since the infamous domestic violence incident, Rihanna has made a commitment to live her life on her terms. It permeates her every choice, especially the ones we, the public, do not like. That alone is a powerful statement to other survivors of domestic violence, like myself.

All Miley had to do was sit on a wrecking ball, naked.

While almost every White pop star gets rewarded a feminist badge, the list of who mainstream feminism has declared “bad for the movement” looks quite uniform and Black. Beyonce suffers from internalized misogyny. Nicki Minaj is oversexed and suffers from internalized misogyny. Rihanna is a confused, oversexed victim…who suffers from internalized misogyny.

The fact is, Rihanna doesn’t get dubbed as a feminist icon for the very same reasons her white peers do: the black female body is deemed as overtly sexual. So much so Miley Cyrus can derive a sexual identity just by associating with Blackness and Lily Allen can make a critique of hyper sexuality on our backs. Rihanna being Black and female must work from proving she isn’t just a sex object. Miley gets to be naked and feminist because it is presumed that she is “innocent” and that enjoying sex—for White women like her—isn’t the norm, but a revolutionary act. This was the justification for the rape of Black women, the very reason Saartjie’s genitals were carved from her body, to prove our inherently sexual nature and to prove the White woman’s asexual (and therefore, pure) one.

When pop stars are declared to be shining examples of feminism while continuing a legacy of shaming and sexualizing black bodies, mainstream feminism is sending a clear message: we still ain’t women.

You’re only gettin’ half a bar.

One of my favorite Key & Peele sketches involves two buppie businessmen meeting up in a soul food restaurant in an old, forgotten neighborhood. (Yes, I know the show has issues. Just stay with me, ok?) The two fall into a game of one-upmanship to prove how down they are. Here, watch:

This, my friends, is what popped in my head upon reading this Ms. Magazine essay by Janell Hobson, and this piece by Salon/Crunk Feminist Collective writer Brittney Cooper. From the looks of it, these two brilliant, accomplished black women have–unwittingly, perhaps–fallen into the same sad game. With the Key and Peele sketch, we knew who the intended audience was: the buppies and the sweet, folksy owner/server. But in this case? We’re not exactly sure who the target audience is, and both essays read rather poorly. Cooper spends half of her piece blasting white feminists for attacking the First Lady, then politely finishes their job in the latter half. Hobson spends most of her piece agreeing that there is, indeed, a solidarity problem within feminist ranks and then…calls on “all of us” (read: angry feminists of color) to channel our anger and snark into more positive things.

A lot of people who claim to love black women (some, black women themselves) seem to only love them in the abstract. We can be counted on to provide page hits for the latest “oh no they didn’t” outrage or as fond remembrances in charming little essays we write when we want to regale readers with beautifully crafted tales of our humble beginnings, neatly wrapped in a Nikki Giovanni poem or an Audre Lorde quote. Depending on our usefulness and socioeconomic status, we rank somewhere between God and the nameless sista who bags your collection of Lean Cuisine entrees every week. But here’s the thing: demanding that people recognize our humanity only works if you recognize it, too.

I get that it’s a struggle. There are days when I have to check myself, days when I have to remember that the bathroom attendant I’m tipping isn’t a charity case in need of saving, days when I have to remember that the teenage girls cursing each other out on the train platform probably grew up in a better financial situation than I did. Days when I have to remember that the First Lady is a real flesh and blood human being, not a blank screen on which I can project my hopes and dreams. As others have said, the fact that we dare to exist is an act of defiance. I don’t need to make shit any harder.

There are enough people attacking black women for the lives we lead and the choices we make on the daily. We needn’t any more voices joining the fray. If we’re going to be about the business of improving the world around us, let’s do so without the performance art.

On Selfies and TDOR.

So Erin Gloria Ryan, the Jez writer responsible for this elitist schlock, writes a deliciously long tl;dr post about the evils of selfies in response to Rachel Simmons’ Slate piece. She writes:

Retaking a photo 12 times until your chin looks right is in no way analogous to asking your boss for a raise. Nor is it the sort of self-promotion that results in anything but a young woman reinforcing the socially-engrained notion that the most valuable thing she has to offer the world is her looks. If culture were encouraging women to be smart, the word of the year would be “diplomie” and the definition would be “a photo of an academic achievement posted to social media.” “Here’s my face!” is not an accomplishment. Feeling pretty is nice, but goddamn — “beauty” far from the most important thing about being a fully-actualized adult human person.

Where would we be without another mainstream feminist site telling us how we’re DOIN IT RONG? In a better place, I’m guessing. Luckily for us, Bad feminist @convergecollide had the awesome idea to start #feministselfie and the rest was hashtag history.

As others have pointed out, self love is a radical act, especially if you aren’t white (or close to it). Given recent conversations I’ve had with friends about self-esteem, daily women-bashing on #BlackTwitter and the huge response to #feministselfie (trending topic, yo), it’s clear just how necessary it is. It is a beautiful act of self-affirmation and if one chooses to draw power from it, more power to ’em. Check out Mommyish and xoJane for a more thoughtful take.

…and with that, we can now go back to debating Beyonce’s feminism.

Yesterday marked the 15th International Transgender Day of Remembrance. According to the TVT Project, 238 trans people have been murdered worldwide. The Advocate has a moving tribute to the trans women and men slain in the past year, and Janet Mock’s letter to Islan Nettles is still one of the most powerful pieces we’ve read this year. HuffPo offers a beautiful essay from JamieAnn Meyers. Over at Colorlines, Vonn Diaz writes about the barriers trans workers face in the workplace.