Monday, November 30, 2009

Genocide? Gratitude? Gravy? Yes, please.

I recently took a break from writing (yes, at the start of my new blog...d'oh!) due to several reasons: my twenty third birthday, an "extended family" (and not extended-family) vacation, and battling with some personal issues. However, I would like to take a moment to interrupt your tryptophan withdrawal and do a brief spot on Thanksgiving.

I don't really do "holidays". If not for my family, I would have no excuse to have Turkey on "Thanksgiving". I am not religious, and when I have kids onedaydowntheroad, I want them to receive an education that doesn't depict Columbus as a hero, and Thanksgiving as a day where white people and injuns all sat down together and had a wonderful harvest feast. I want my children to know the truth so that they don't have to battle with what they "know" versus what they need to know.

How did we evolve from a culture that embraced genocide at the advancement of the first settlers, to a culture that needs a day set aside to express genuine gratitude? Either way, it's ridiculous.

So..the real meaning of Thanksgiving? Read up:

My favorite poet, Khalil Gibran, once said that Thanksgiving was "to the honor of the murdered that they are not the murderers." It's difficult, though, when you tend to sympathize with the murdered; the original people of this land are among the poorest and often most forgotten about. I guess that's all I neat bow tied at the end of this post. I just want to encourage awareness.

Monday, November 16, 2009

MTV's Teen Mom Series

When all the baby shows began popping up, I thought it was strange but just thought it to be one of those things that I'd decide to ignore. There's that one that comes on one of those discovery channels, then "16 and Pregnant" on MTV, and now, all of a sudden, MTV has decided to make an continuation of the latter show, called "Teen Mom".

MTV To Premiere New Reality Show ‘Teen Mom’

September 5, 2009 10:46:43 by Britteny Elrick


MTV has announced a spinoff of it’s popular reality series 16 & Pregnant. Teen Mom will follow four mothers featured on 16 & Pregnant as they continue life during their first year after giving birth. Keep reading for more details…

According to the press release, each Teen Mom episode will combine stories of the four teenage girls featured in 16 & Pregnant’s first season as they navigate through various issues ranging from marriage and financial support to education and employment — all while facing the new responsibility of being a mother and trying to create their own family.

I'm sure that these girls are getting compensation, which is good. They need help, right? I was not a teen mother, thank goodness, but I have several family members who were; including a college dropout younger sister, who was a teen mother to the second power (she is actually still a teenager).

When I saw the commercial for it, I saw young white women.

I don't think teen or accidental single-parenthood is something to be praise. There is a stigma with Black women being single/teen mothers. Yet and still, young white teen mothers are pretty much being sympathized with? It is just interesting to me that the interest of reality tv and the stereotypes continually perpetuated are conflicting. How many shows are there with under-privileged/impoverished young women who are working against the odds to do positive things? Where are the shows that encourage young women against teenage motherhood?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Becky: A Love Story

I find myself in a love-hate relationship with rap music, often confused with hip-hop, pop, or "good" music. I often find myself conflicted; in my ripe age of nearly twenty three years, I some[not-very-often]times enjoy going to a bar or club. Though, unless I have had a lot to drink, I prefer going to the lounges and "adult" (and not adult) spots.

I also have issues with things said and done within our any aspect of any culture without thinking about the origins or potential consequences. It especially troubles me when these things are sayings that have sexual meanings and I'll tell you why: it sends the wrong message about what we should be getting out of sex. I don't have a problem with sex; not oral, not anal, not "dirty talk", not three-ways, not any weird thing that people consensually do together.

You know what? I laugh at some pretty fucked up things, and I even make the most inappropriate jokes when my funny gene is operable. I like inappropriate television shows, but I call bullshit for what it is. There are things that people say without thinking just because they are understood (or not) to be far removed from their original meanings. Examples?

Well, I can go on and on; from the "rule of thumb", which originates from the idea that a man could beat his wife with a stick no thicker than his thumb, to men naming their cars, boats, and other properties "feminine" names because it is as much his property as she. More extreme examples include the term "punishing" a woman's p..rivates, which only makes me question what exactly anyone has done to be "punished" in such a way, and "beating" the p..rivates up. Sexual violence anyone?

That said, I'd like to take this time to talk about "Becky". Yes, I'm going in..
"Becky", a name thought to be common among white folks, is a term for oral sex that is derived from the idea that white girls give the best oral sex, and easily. In my experiences as a member of the Black community, I've heard my share of prejudgments about white girls by Black men and women. "Becky", in my mind, promotes the idea that oral sex is associated with promiscuous white chicks who love Black men. You see, in my experiences, some concepts of white women are as extreme as the stigmatization of the Black brute - Black men waiting in the shadows to sexually victimize white women. White women lovvvve sucking Black p..rivates and they do it well.

I work part time as a shift leader at a market, and while most of my cashiers are high school kids, there are a few older-than-high-school-but-not-in-college folks. There is also a male cashier that the girls swoon over, who happens to be a college boy that tends to act like he belongs in high school with the other kids. He flirts with all the girls, myself included, and with all the salivation, you'd think he was much more than something nice to look at. At one point during our idle time tonight, he began singing the hook to the song "Becky" by Plies. Did I mention he was twenty five?

Now, I have my qualms with Plies and many, many other "artists", but you know, whenever I hear anyone mention or allude to "Becky", my stomach tightens, and not in a good way. Lyrics? Yes, please:

"I'm on this liquor oh so heavy
"Fo we fuck can you neck me
"A lil head and I am ready
"I want yo mouth give me that Becky"

Mr. Plies also says things like he can't engage in intercourse with certain women because her p..rivates have "too many miles" (jezebel stereotype, anyone?). Also, he wants to marry "Becky", and if a girl doesn't "do Becky" then she can get to steppin'. Besides the fact that the song maybekindamight be another means of putting Black women (and all women, undoubtedly) down, why is this even...popular? How do white girls feel, being associate with giving "neck"? What does this say about how we are culturally sexualized? Our misconceptions and prejudices? Is anyone even thinking about this?

When I spoke to my seventeen-year-old-acting-twenty-five-year-old coworker, I told him that it was inappropriate, to which he responded, "psssh, inappropriate? Girl, that's a part of growing up!"
Growing up? I don't have an anti-oral agenda. I know what I like to give and receive, and it doesn't really require explanation except to an involved party. If people want to talk about it, fine. I actually enjoy having sexual conversations, but not at the interest of coming up with names for my sexual activities. [Aside, one of my best friends is a white man, with whom I have never engaged in sexual activity, but can discuss anything with him. Apparently, there's a rumor going around that Black men don't participate in giving oral sex. I think that my previous partners missed the memo..]

Further, I wonder what people would think if women ran around saying "gimmie dat Rayshawn"?

But really, if I was dating a nice upstanding gentleman and he proclaimed "gimmie dat Becky!" while in the throws of passion, I wouldn't be concerned with anything other than getting him out and not off.
I'm just sayin'...

I'ma Let You Finish Coping, But ____ Is The Best Survivor of All Time!

My activism and advocacy against sexual and relationship violence is passion filled and I believe this particular fight (among others) is one of my purposes in life. While my passion may be intensified by the fact that I have been victimized, I do not believe that my victimization is the reason why I am so "good" at being outspoken on the topic. I don't see my experiences in other survivors because I am of the opinion that no two experiences or reactions to those experiences are identical; my strength on issues relating to sexual and relationship violence runs so deep because I've seen many sides of the issue. My pops is a detective, and worked for the Family Violence Intervention Unit. I studied several "special groups" (or the others: Black women, prison populations, children, non-heterosexual relationships), even though when people see me, the assumption is made that being a "Womanist", I only advocate for Black women. I have also worked with sex offenders, and personally knew a woman who had killed a man who attacked her. I am most willing to see all sides of the issues surrounding relationship and sexual violence...except the victim-blaming side.

In that, I am going to talk about Rihanna. Let's talk.
I was not in the car with Chris and Rihanna the night that the infamous fight heard 'round the world occured. As a matter of fact, I've never been in a car with either of them at all. I've never intentionally been within 50 feet of either of them, and as such, I do not know them personally. As such, I have avoided choosing a side because, well, that doesn't benefit me; I am on the side that advocates against relationship violence.

In looking at the reactions in the blogsphere, I am finding that many Black bloggers/commenters and even "real life" people are very willing to not support Rihanna, with or without any credible reason. I am a domestic violence/sexual assault counselor, and I had one of my Black interns even argue with me that the photo of Rihanna's injuries was fake (there was a fake photo leaked afterward, but the actual photo seen below became subject to an LAPD investigation).

Was Chris Brown victimized too? Is that a possibility? Yes. Absolutely possible. I am not defending his behavior, nor disputing that it could have gone both ways; but why do people only consider his possible victimization in the interest of disputing her obvious injuries? Why are people so willing to call her the crazy girl because of her darkened, hypersexualized image? Has anybody considered what type of affect this may have on her, especially at her age? Have we not seen the negative affects that the public's demands can have on the downward spiral of young celebrities who may not have even fallen victim to abuse?

In my state, if there is a domestic violence incident and the police are called, both people are arrested if they both have injuries; I have seen victims go to jail because an abuser cut his/her hand on a piece of glass they were using during their attack. I understand that celebrities are constantly in the public eye and, while it is very easy for "real life" people to make judgments about what may or may not have happened, I do not think that a celebrity victim is any less a victim than a "real life" victim.

Okay, I'm getting to the point. While brushing up on my entertainment "news" this morning, I clicked to, which I can only revere the "nigga news", to find a video with the headline: "IS THIS WHAT HAPPENED BETWEEN CHRIS BROWN AND RIHANNA???? VIDEO OF CARIBBEAN GIRL SPAZZING OUT ON HER BOYFRIEND!!!"
Is abuse now considered entertainment? Many of the commenters are all laughs, but many of the commenters say things similar to "Yes, Rihanna beat Chris the entire time and then wanted to run and cry when he retaliated against her." Aside, many of the comments also show how divided the Black community is in terms of ethnicity. Example: "typical island darkbutt", "especially Jamaican, Trinidadian broads."

Sigh and woosa.
Rihanna has spoken about the incident recently. I did not watch all of the interviews but I did see bits and pieces of one. I also noticed a wave of bloggers excitedly proclaiming that Rihanna has finally spoken. Finally, she has decided to tell everyone her feelings. Finally, after just a few ridicule filled months, she is deciding to speak. In knowing what I do about victims of violence in general (and not just relationship violence), it takes time. Why isn't she allowed to process and "heal"? Does celebridom exempt her from taking a break to understand how she feels? Is it a cultural issue then? Is the "strong Black woman" stigma still alive and well, and should she just get over her trauma?

In my opinion, it will be some time before Rihanna is viewed as more than a victim (and not survivor) of domestic violence but some groups of people and the problem lies within the mentality of these people, not in Rihanna. I also know from my own opinions that Chris Brown may not be seen as more than an abuser by some groups of people, though I do not believe that these people are the majority. Example? Their music.
Many people that I know, white and Black, advocate and just-plain-music-lover "Russian Roulette" comment: "...she's just crazy. I can't get down with that. She's taking it too far. Encouraging suicide?" from the commonfolk. But, also, I definitely have heard the opinions of my colleagues on "Transformer": "typical abuser speech, trying to change and control their victims."

I am not, nor will I ever be, of the opinion that abuse is a private matter. This reinforces the idea that the law should not interfere. As a matter of fact, before the law decided that domestic and relationship violence should be punishable, it was seen as a private matter and that is partially another victim blaming mechanism. Abuse is everyone's problem, whether people feel it necessary to personally interefere or not. The fact that the law did not decide that it should interefere with relationship violence until the late 80s/early 90s is problematic, and people saying that it should be a "private" matter reinforces the isolation of victims by society.

At any rate, after closing out in my disgust (and this generally happens on a daily basis), I read the "secrets" from this week on, and found one that inspired me to write out against victim-blaming:

Everyone is responsible for, both, the good and the bad. Please make a conscious decision on which side you are responsible for encouraging (and I'm speaking strictly of "good" versus "bad" -- NOT "Chris" and "Rihanna").

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Matters of the Heart

It's 10pm on a Saturday night, just days before my twenty-third birthday, and I am sitting in front of my computer with a bottle of Schmitt Sohne Riesling, a box of Triscuits, Rondele Pub Cheese, and a copy of Pablo Neruda's "100 Love Sonnets." It is written in Spanish with English translations, though being capable of near-perfect fluency in Spanish is one of my hidden talents, and the passion is so heavily present in Spanish that I usually wind up crying. Translation: pretty lame, si?

I toyed for quite some time with the idea of creating a new blog dedicated to my thoughts on social issues. I am not aiming for my personal emotions about my personal life to leak through to the blog world, especially when I am not the most willing to share emotions that I am experiencing. I'm passionate about human rights, and my writing will be undoubtedly filled with those feelings; when it comes to matters of my own heart, though, I am not so willing to share. I know I sound like a Vulcan, but I am not interested in my blog becoming comparable to a personal journal. Maybe this doesn't make much sense, but in my mind it is all quite logical.
At any rate, I do want my blog to maintain a certain structure, but I am human (so, maybe I'm only half-Vulcan).

In being (most times) happily single, nights like this make me ponder about why, exactly, I am. I'd like to point to a post that I guest blogged on "The Intersection of Madness and Reality" found here (and, sigh, sidenote: the image before the blog is not of me, teehee):

At any rate, I got to thinking earlier that today was going to be a great day; I generally work 7 days a week but for some unknown (and unrequested) reason, I was not scheduled to work at one of my jobs, and I thought that I would celebrate my birthday early instead of having an early quarter-life crisis. In part, I would like to thank my Grandfather for this particular emotion, as he decided to drop not-so-subtle hints about my need to work toward getting married.

I am in a transitional period and I am also extremely fortunate to be in my current predicament; I try to exercise my thankfulness whenever possible. Yet in all of my gratitude, I eventually would like to experience the love that Pablo Neruda writes of in these sonetos. For instance (in English):

"I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
"I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
"so I love you because I know no other way" (XVII)

It's funny that, overall, young singledom can be a bit existential if you allow it, and that is what I enjoy most about the experience. I am reluctant to allowing anyone close contact with my mind because I am eagerly working on re/discovering and re/defining myself. I believe that this process should not slow once you find another person with which your identity intertwines, but I know that it sometimes will. In the guest post, a commenter made the comment about women defining what makes a man a "man" -- I am willing to rebut this particular viewpoint until I am blue in the face, and I know it won't take long with my asthma (smile). Some women may chase after Lil Wayne, but who is responsible for telling women what is attractive? We all get messages about certain social definitions and it isn't entirely the media, or entirely our peers, or entirely our experiences. It is all of this and then some.

The hilarity in all of this is that while Steve Urkel was busy chasing Laura Winslow (who was busy chasing Stefan Ur-kell, a cooler version of Steve!), I was busy after the suspenders wearing, cheese loving Steve Urkel's heart. Sure, Eddie was foine(and had a cool, older guy's appeal), but my Steve had a big heart and a bright future, and wanted Laura, who was pretty intelligent and incredibly beautiful, but sometimes downright mean to him.

I have all the confidence in the world in myself. Even when I have doubts, they are only expressed among very few people and never spoken of again. I have a tendency to desire the wrong guys, even with their Urkel-ian characteristics; examples? He's intelligent, driven, down right philosophical, an activist for a good cause, and miles and miles away/dead/fictional/older than my father/taken/married (but sometimes, even, interested...which ultimately disqualifies him).

I don't believe in male-bashing and I'm not one of those "a good man is so hard to find" types. I'm just wondering if Steve is still at Laura's heels while I'm doing my McCauley Culkin ("Home Alone", Ithankyou) on a Saturday night.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Should I Introduce Myself?

...not that I am new to this blog thing, but this is a new blog; and in its newness, I suppose anyone who comes across it should know a little about who I am, what I expect, and my purpose for blogging.

So, who am I?

I hate definitions. I think that one main duty of the human experience is defining things for oneself; that said, I can say what I am, but not with 100% conviction. I know what you see me as, and I can only work in helping you with what you don't see.

I'm a Black woman BUT I certainly do not speak for all Black people, all women, or all Black women; instead, I try to speak to issues surrounding race, gender, together or separate; sexual orientation, activism, human rights.

I am a survivor of sexual assault, but I am not just that. I don't speak for every survivor because no one experience is the same. I do not speak for every Black woman that has been assaulted. Having been victimized, I believe that people make decisions afterward at their own discretion and I never believe that they are stupid, and I realize that in certain situations, some behaviors are rational at the time. Having advocated for other survivors (or "victims"), I definitely hold strong opinions to the point of emotion regarding domestic violence, rape/sexual assault, gender discrimination and all other forms of sexual violence. I am not just a survivor/advocate/counselor; yet, I am all of these things.

I am quite certainly not the poster child for human rights campaigns all around either; however, I do hold my own opinions, fight my own fights, and am never afraid of making that known. I might have some "extreme" viewpoints in the minds of some, but I never seek to offend or oppress anyone, and encourage dialogue. While I am very strong in my beliefs and opinions, I am firm enough in what I believe to be open to attempting to understand other people's opinions.
It's a part of the fight, right?

I am never afraid to say "I don't know". I often times teeter totter between atheism and agnosticism and I am just fine with that; having my own beliefs doesn't mean I hate other people's. I have a genuine admiration for religious people. I just can't...
A lot of my lessons, you'll learn, draw upon religious concepts. And that's cool because, to me, that's the purpose of religion. Remaining labeless works for me because I like to be free and define myself for myself. I certainly don't speak for the non-religious/agnosts/atheists/whatever-else-ists. I hate religious/ideological labels because my mission in life is to define myself for myself. When asked what my religion is, I generally just say "love".

I'm not perfect, and I don't pretend that I am. As a matter of fact, I enjoy knowing where I am lacking and acknowledging my flaws. Sometimes, I just like to shop. Sometimes, I'm just silly. Sometimes, I even go the "da club" and dance to music that is probably less than favorable (though I try to atleast remain in good taste). Sometimes, I just want to have a good time being young, because maybejustmaybe one day, I'll just be having fun trying to be young.

I am a bit of a loner, and have some pretty typical characteristics of my zodiac sign. I'm secure with myself, and have little time for life outside of work and the internet. Sometimes, I hate that characteristic about myself. But...sometimes, what's necessary just is.
Sometimes, my assertive/borderline aggressive personality is very well received; this, coupled with my mysterious nature, attracts people.
I try to be positive, and I believe in love...but people have limits. Remember what Ol' Dirty said...

Example? Hating people being "in my head", but deciding upon becoming reacquainted with the blog universe.

I guess that's a start.