The Sexualisation of Black Women in The Media: Isn’t It Time for a Change? by Ms. Cheryl Diane Parkinson

Women get a raw deal—I’ve always thought so. In this patriarchal society, we are treated as lesser and when you are treated as lesser, often with it comes ‘other’. I consider myself a feminist. How can I be a woman and not be a feminist? Being a black woman and a feminist isn’t about hating men, or hating white people—it’s about equality and freedom. It always has been.

In today’s world we have the likes of Rihanna, Beyonce and Nicki Minaj and others on our television screens, perpetuating what I can only see as the sexualisation of black women. Women are viewed through the ‘male gaze’ and are seemingly promoting this hypersexualized image themselves. This creates a revolving door for the black woman. These images that are portrayed in the media perpetuates the ideology of inferiority as well as fetishism and sexist objectification from which the black woman cannot escape. The young watch these portrayals of black women and emulate them, replicating them and the cycle continues. But are there two sides to the story? One would argue, more than two, there is a myriad of perceptions surrounding this controversial issue.

Women have long been used, exploited for financial gain. This contempt for women, it can be argued stems from biblical Eve. She is blamed for being tempted by the devil, tempting man with the forbidden fruit and has been accused of being a temptress of men ever since – there is a contempt for women regardless of colour differences, but black women have had others ideals on their bodies imposed on them for centuries. Sexualisation on black women is, it can be argued, a continuation of the slavery mindset.

Sexuality was placed upon their bodies first by the slave owners, then by the colonialists and now popular media. Whereas before there was a legalised ownership of black bodies through the system of slavery, now the very notion of exploitation and ownership of these bodies is explained away.

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Biblical Eve offering the forbidden fruit to Adam

Continue reading “The Sexualisation of Black Women in The Media: Isn’t It Time for a Change? by Ms. Cheryl Diane Parkinson”

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Speak Up: The Perks of Being a Bystander by Angel Cezanne

This fall, Fox will be presenting a live television performance of the Rocky Horror Picture show, starring the fabulous Laverne Cox as Dr. Frank-n-Furter. I personally have a long history with this cult-classic, from reading about Charlie and his friends’ going to the show in every awkard, queer teen’s favorite novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower and doing the Time Warp with other girls at band camp in middle school to eventually going to the show myself.

When I was 17 years old, there was a showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show every third Saturday of the month at Plaza Cinemas in Akron, Ohio. My friends and I went every month to see the feather boas and little gold Spanx. I would dress up in a little plaid skirt, a cliche ’80s get-up, or an actual gift bag, depending on the month’s theme to get a discounted ticket.

After the credits rolled and the crew packed up, I hung out with the cast. It was rounding 3 AM, Sunday morning still unrealized, and I was standing outside an Eat’n’Park with two men. I asked to bum a smoke. When one seemed bothered by my follow-up request for a light, I remarked, “A lady never lights her own cigarette.” I learned this quip from a transwoman’s Myspace photo caption.

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Laverne Cox as Dr. Frank-n-Furter

Continue reading “Speak Up: The Perks of Being a Bystander by Angel Cezanne”

Albums for a Second Adolescence by Anna Szilagyi

While culturally we agree that adolescence ends when our teenage years do, the feelings associated with that time dont leave us completely. Post-college graduation, the start of a new job, or the end of a significant relationship can make what we consider adulthoodfeel more like our awkward teenage years. We expect teens to feel things deeply, and the angsty slamming of doors is chalked up to puberty and raging hormones. But once you hit your early twenties, you feel pressured to at least appear that you have things figured out.

Those of us in the midst of this era know that having it together is just thatan appearance. In reality, the transition to adulthood does mirror the uncertainty of early teenage years. Mitski Miyawaki introduces the idea of a second adolescence with the title of her new album, Puberty 2,released June 17, 2016 on Dead Oceans. Through her precise, addictive melodies, Mitski explores the reality underneath this pressure to seem put together. Mitski, along with other young artists, offer their nuanced experiences of early adulthood through thoughtful arrangements, leaving listeners with anthems to lean on in the struggle of growing up.

The Internet, Ego Death

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The Internets vocalist, Sydney Bennettbetter known as Sydis in the midst of early adulthood at twenty-four. In Under Control,she sings directly to her band, as she mentions in their NPR Tiny Desk concert: “I woke up impatient and anxious/ chasing dreams in my sleep. Syd lives in the in-betweenshe mentions in Get Awaythat she still drives her old car and lives at home, but in the same track, she sings about a life of luxurywith the confidence of a full-blown adult with a swanky apartment.

In a 2012 interview with LA Weekly, Syd said she came out in the bands music video for Cocainepartly because of the lack of openly gay female artists in music. Four and a half years and a Grammy nomination later, the Internet remind us we can find our own versions of success without having it all figured out.

Continue reading “Albums for a Second Adolescence by Anna Szilagyi”

Playing Dead in Corpse Pose | Hannah Adkison

*Content warning: discusses sexual assault*

The yoga instructor dims the lights for shavasana, corpse pose. It’s my first time in her class and I already know that I will never take another class from her. I try to let go of my frustration and let my limbs sink into the mat, paying close attention to my breath, reminding myself that it’s almost over.

From the pattern of her footsteps, stopping at each mat down the line, and from the sudden citrus smell, I gather that she’s going to each person and rubbing something onto them. I’ve experienced this in yoga classes before. The instructor comes around to anoint each forehead with oil, or places her hands on our shoulders. Usually, I enjoy this. I find the touch of hands soothing; it gives the moment a holiness, a specialness. Continue reading “Playing Dead in Corpse Pose | Hannah Adkison”

Black Girl Down | Virgil Saunders

Families keep secrets, and the ones in mine follow the women. The men pass in and out of my grandma’s stories like ghosts, never quite touching the ground. My mother has buried the hard parts of her childhood, distorting the timeline of abandonment and death.

What’s more, my own secrets, and those of my blood’s past generations are colored by who we are.

Black, female; for these irreversible characteristics, we suffer silently the side effects of our hidden truths: depression, anxiety, etc. These maladies fester inside of us, as we tell ourselves that we must hide our suffering and stay strong.

I did not grow up in a segregated neighborhood as my aunts and grandmothers did. But when my parents moved us from a mostly black county to one where we were solidly a minority, my insecurities blossomed. From the white bodies around me, I found unique material for self-criticism. I was not just fat and weird. I had the wrong hair, the wrong proportions. Continue reading “Black Girl Down | Virgil Saunders”

What Our Editors Read This Week (6/17)

I Found A Home In Clubs Like Pulse In Cities Like Orlando in BuzzFeed by Rigoberto González

The club. Let me be clear about something I’ve learned as a gay Latino: No place is entirely safe, no building is a sanctuary. I have encountered violence and prejudice, or at the very least exclusion, in every social space. Like home, like school, the gay club was another complicated network of human interactions. It was not always pretty, it was far from perfect, but it felt necessary because my queerness was necessary, because my body hungered for attention, for the pleasures of movement on the dance floor where I was in close proximity to the other bodies I desired.

Pay Us Some Mind: On the “Tragic” Humanity of Black Trans Women by Raquel Willis in Autostraddle

When I was forced to stop looking at my identities as if they exist in a vacuum, I realized that being a black trans woman is a major risk and accepting myself would be just the first battle with a society obsessed with compartmentalization.

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No Postage Necessary | Margaret Young

I began submitting to literary magazines when I was in graduate school. I’d published a professional article or two, gotten some poems into college publications, but it didn’t occur to me to aim bigger until I went to a meeting that some of the second-year fiction writers got going.  My program’s fiction writers tended to be more worldly, more openly ambitious than the poets. They gathered in a lounge on campus, sat in a circle of couches and chairs, and one by one announced which pieces they were sending and where. Often they brought the actual envelopes—this was back when everything was print on paper—stiff manila packets holding their stories, cover letters, and return postage. Sometimes after each person took his or her turn we’d all head out together to the nearest mailbox, watch the writer slide it in and close the metal door, the sounds of hope that sequence of thump, creak, clank.

I was skeptical at first. Wasn’t it a little premature of them? Really, The New Yorker? But before long I got caught up in the spirit of things. It was a good habit to develop, to see your work as a potentially published thing. It was what writers were supposed to do. So I began, first with batches of poems, and then with portions of the essay collection I was writing for my thesis. I went to the library, bookstores, read and copied down addresses. The first ones rejected me, of course, but I kept trying. My first acceptance disappointed me because I didn’t care for the zine’s rough layout, the grainy photo they’d stuck on the page with my poem. Later I got excited when I made it into a hip political journal, even after they cut the last stanza to make my piece fit their cynical stance. But mostly I just felt grateful for the ones that made it anywhere, and unfazed by the corresponding mountain of rejections. For a while I’d tape the little slips onto my study wall to mark my progress, but eventually I tossed them out. Continue reading “No Postage Necessary | Margaret Young”

What Our Editors Read This Week (6/10)

An Open Letter to My Sister, Miss Angela Davis by James Baldin in The New York Review

The enormous revolution in black consciousness which has occurred in your generation, my dear sister, means the beginning or the end of America. Some of us, white and black, know how great a price has already been paid to bring into existence a new consciousness, a new people, an unprecedented nation. If we know, and do nothing, we are worse than the murderers hired in our name.

We Need A Decolonized, Not A “Diverse”, Education by Zoé Samudzi in Harlot

The inclusion of marginalized identities and experiences without decentering dominant narratives is an understanding of diversity that leaves oppressive structures intact, and in fact, insulates them from criticism.

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It’s Time to Stop Using “He or She” | Kim Kaletsky

Ninth grade honors English. That’s the first time I heard it—that I should use the phrase “he or she” instead of “you” or “they” to refer to a hypothetical person. I remember my teacher’s pronoun lesson: “Traditionally, people have paired ‘he’ with hypothetical people like ‘the reader,’” he said, “but then feminists argued that wasn’t inclusive of women. So now it’s convention to use ‘he or she.’”

It seemed like the best alternative, since “you” was so informal and “they” was plural. And it certainly seemed like the most inclusive option, since it took into account exactly the people who filled the classroom and my life—women and men. It challenged my heteronormative, white middle-class upbringing and taught me I didn’t have to accept everything that came along with the “F” on my birth certificate, like the pressure I felt and put on myself to wear makeup and dresses.

It took discovering what made “he or she” progressive, however, before I could see its flaws. That first pronoun lesson, after all, taught me that gender was something I could and should be conscious of. I owe my current non-binary gender identity and all my interest in feminism to it, which makes my relationship with the phrase all the more complicated. Not only do I disagree that English teachers should be pushing it on their students, but I owe everything I am and will be to one English teacher doing just that—marking up all my instances of “you” or “they” in essays as if they were blatant misspellings. I treasure and despise the phrase simultaneously. Continue reading “It’s Time to Stop Using “He or She” | Kim Kaletsky”

What Our Editors Read This Week (6/3)

An Open Letter To The Writers Speaking Out Against Trump by Daniel José Older in Electric Lit

Because this line, “American history, despite periods of nativism and bigotry, has from the first been a grand experiment in bringing people of different backgrounds together, not pitting them against one another,” from the Writers Against Trump statement is not only empirically false, it’s a continuation of the ongoing legacy of sanitized lies America has shoved down its own throat since its creation;

Let’s Talk: What is Easy and What is True? in Gay YA by Adriana L

It’s not necessarily a failure of imagination on the part of authors, but on the part of readers and reviewers. What is popular, what is recommended ten thousand times over, is just the tip of the iceberg. We can’t see queer rep as a quota to be met with one best-selling book here and there, but we must keep searching for the queer YA that bridges the gap between these two extremes, that occupies that middle ground of fluctuating emotions that so many experience on a daily basis. We cannot perpetuate the idea that a queer character’s validity boils down to whether their identity is a source of suffering or a source of adversity that can be easily overcome.

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