Monday, April 23, 2012

'Thinking Like A Man' Is Not My Bloomin' Job.

If You Don't Act Like A Boy, Maybe I Won't Have To 'Think Like A Man'.

Ha! In the face!

I wish I could go back and paste that reply on all the retarded posts I've seen where men detail what women have to do to trick them into committing. The irritation I've swallowed! The exclamation marks I've bottled! The expletives I've deleted!

Oh, yes. Typing that felt good. I would have to do some kind of jig to express adequately exactly how good. DAMNED good. Kicking-too-tight-shoes-off-at-the-end-of-an-extremely-long-day good. In fact, I'm going to type it again, just for the warm 'n' fuzzies. If You Don't Act Like A Boy,Maybe I Won't Have To 'Think Like A Man'. Yeah I said it. I ain't even read the book and I'm telling Steve Harvey to shut up an go shine his head. Yep.

Go shine your head with a rag.
A couple of nights ago I was talking to my friend on the phone(red, cordless and jammed between my ear and shoulder) when we hit one of those points of mutual clarity, and my face went hot as the dinner I was cooking. "What IS it with that way of thinking anyway?!" we screamed at each other, "CHOOPS!" (the sound of lucian irritation) and that's when the killer line (lovingly typed above) gushed forth. Sometimes from a rather mild temperament not unlike a British sky, a Caribbean storm rage-th. I had come to a boil, babies. My voice went up a full octave, I'm pretty sure.

Every so often, you feel like you need a mental colonic after all the crap you've been hearing. And there is a lot of crap flying around that one is not allowed to call 'crap' lest one be labelled bitter. Especially as a 'black' woman. If a 'black'woman is angry, it is always a problem with her and never a problem with the world. (Ironic, huh? Being on the thorny side of both race and gender, one is immediately pathologized instead of examined in a social context). The Black Lady Must Not Protest! But I am sweet not bitter. I am a joyful smiler, a romantic, and the type who cries when watching even a mildly emotional film. A secret dancer of the highest order. A handwriter of letters and love poems. The type of mum to go racing through the park on her boy's scooter. No. I am not saying this because whatever needs of mine have been frustrated and so on and whatever and all that and so forth. I am about to blog some rant right about now beCAUSE:

(about me)
I am 1) not retarded and 2) not deaf/dumb/blind and 3) will not act as such by failing to comment on a trend I find deeply upsetting and 4) I come from a long line of women with both moxie and self-worth in abundance and I am determined to act like it. Right.

(about the issue)
The film. Subject matter? Boo! Michael Ealy? Yum!
5) Feminine identity is regressing like a mofo (yes, that's the scientific term) and  7) male self-entitlement in all its toxic (to everyone) glory is going from strength to strength! Let's run the track:

"Chick you better learn to do stuff to keep your man!"

"Girl, you better learn how to compete! "

"You better know how to cook a steak naked while balancing three pints of beer on your head!"

"You better not have sex until three months into a relationship or until marriage/menopause/death so he knows you're not so whorish as to actually ENJOY it (perish the thought!) and then when you do have sex you better be a living porn movie or don't blame your dude for subsequent disappearing acts."

"Cheat, lie, wrangle, manipulate, hypnotise and finagle that ring out of that man by any means necessary and Who You Really Are and/or What You Really Feel Doesn't Matter."

"What's wrong with you? You want to be some worthless career girl artist or world-changer? Naaaaaaaaah. You ain't diddly jack squat without a man! And furthermore, a man is the prize to be won. YOU are a poor worthless beggar in high heels. Ya dig?"
Excuse me?

Wake up gentlemen. You are better than that!
Ladies, let us not be complicit in our own demise!
Let me make it clear. I LOVE love. Love is a powerful transformative force - a glue that cements families,mends wounds, provides incentive and inspiration for ever higher levels of achievement and self-actualisation. It is practically useful, allowing the pooling of resources and duties. It is how we learn to be vulnerable and compassionate. It's how we learn to share. It is an invaluable source of stomach flutters, smiles and laughter, great songs and even better-er orgasms.
Through the lens of this revolting paradigm, love is a game where a man expects a woman to be grateful for the merest attention, where he 'concedes' to settling down/marriage and - most chillingly! - where a man is expected to use, abuse and disrespect any woman who doesn't know 'the game' (without he himself having any accountability or responsibility for establishing a  moral code of conduct (as every grown up should!)). 

("He punched you in the face? Well bwoy, don't blame him. He was perfectly in his rights since you were standing there like that. You shouldn't have been standing there! Don't do that next time.")
This revolting paradigm says of men - they are immature, simple-minded beasts. And of women it says, your only power is that of manipulation and your only worth is the man on your arm and whether or not you 'convinced' him to 'put a ring on it'. ("Here comes the aeroplane....! Come on boy! Eeeaatup...!" (please)).
(No (wo)man is free while others are oppressed - if you're fighting for racial equality but don't take gender equality seriously, shame on you!)

I'm a lover not a fighter - but I WILL fight for love.
I expect a man to be able to look at a woman and know his own heart and know that - with the right woman - he will become better, deeper, stronger, more generous and more prosperous than he could ever be on his own. I expect him to know that. I expect him to respect women as having intrinsic value as human beings outside of their role as romantic or sexual objects.
I expect a man to Think Like A Man so I bloody well don't have to.
*drops the mic*
(smooches, innit?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Zen Exhaustion or Help! Idealism Is Making Me Hate People

One is in a very off-key mood today.
The official (not-really) scientific term for this particular brand of angst is Zen-exhaustion. One finds through serious study that liquorice allsorts do not help, and neither do macaroons. (what is my obsession with coconut, anyway?) One has the urge to send angry text messages, or make tearful, impassioned phone-call speeches that begin "Why are you being this way! All I ever try to do is be decent - *sniffle* - and fair and kind and decent and it's not fair because....!"
Ah, fairness! Why are we born with this expectation? Sigh. One can only ever reach real maturity when one realises that the world is Frequently Unfair but it is an uneasy admission. Where does one draw the line between calm and activism, between acceptance and the drive for transformation? Between holding ones peace and speaking up? Between biting your tongue and punching someone else in the gob?
And how far do we take the idea that we are creating everything in our lives?
Is it possible... gasp... just sometimes, that other people are being BastardAssholes?
I am of that unfortunate group who makes themselves accountable for every thought in their heads and tries to keep it spotless in that old noggin, sunny and sweet and clean and clear of all debris. By debris I mean: irritation, annoyance, loneliness, anger, boredom, frustration, envy... all the uglies. When I say 'unfortunate', I don't mean to say that such mental/emotional hygiene is a bad idea. When I say 'unfortunate', what I mean to say is that for such a person, Zen-Exhaustion comes along and makes one very, very uncomfortable. And when I say Zen-Exhaustion, I mean the point at which a relaxed, rumi-guzzling, hippie-type female Finally Gets Pissed Off.
It descends like a flood. The crap the landlord hasn't fixed yet. That Knob who won't return your calls. The book that won't get finished. The crappy weather. The chores that must be done. The chicken that must be seasoned. The forms that must be filled. The selfish family members. The crappy weather. Did I say 'the crappy weather' already? Let me say it again: The Crappy Weather. And Other People! Why are other people such bastards all the time?! Ok, some of the time? (another sypmptom of Zen-Exhaustion is chronic hyperbole) And beyond all of this the great ontological questions which are usually abstract and candy-floss-like that suddenly densify into something far more tooth-shattering - questions like: What the actual f**k is this all for? Why is everybody so weird (including me)? Why don't people all just say what they're thinking? Why are all the really evil people doing so well? Why are all the sweet-hearted and vulnerable people suffering so much? Why are so many horrid things allowed? And what Can I Do About It, anyway? Everyone has a theory on everything but - for goodness sake - which are the right ones and what is fixable and what should be fixed and what should be left alone?
And one is so used to being the person everyone can rely on for a smile that the least bit of angst makes one feel... well... so dirty inside. And then one feels guilty and annoyed that one must always be smiling, even though no one has explicitly asked for such a service. And the great irony of it all is that the times one most needs to talk to people are the times that one is least inclined to do so. Because one is Pissed Off, and has not much sweetness to share. Especially when God Knows if anyone is Really Interested in Listening. Yeah, I'm capitalizing a lot of words right now. So sue me! (no, actually, don't do that. I really don't have the extra).
Anyway, the big problem with trying to Be the Change You Want To See in the World and all that positive crap is that, invariably, one raises ones standards of behaviour and then - inevitably - begins to expect more of other people. And then it all become somewhat counterproductive when you start to think...
Help! Idealism is Making Me Hate People.
If any of you can figure out what I'm trying to say, please give me a shout!
Love you all! Please be nicer to people, you bastards.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Black self-worth? C'mon... I'll race you...!

Okay - so I've been doing a lot of thinking about race lately. Race and gender. Why now particularly? Well I guess I've always thought about it - after all, what first-generation Caribbean woman in the UK has the luxury of NOT thinking about these things? But now my awareness is sharpened by the experience of watching my son grow up in the world, watching his ideas and perceptions be formed right before my eyes. Layer by layer. In trying to figure out how to raise him, I'm being forced to figure out what I reallty think about everything from religion and music to economics and the tooth fairy. How can I best equip him for his life? How can I give him the least amount of baggage and the most mental agility, emotional strength and solid self-awareness? How do I improve upon myself? How do I give him the truth, rather than perpetuating in him the ugliest aspects of the society we live in? And more fundamentally - what is the bloody truth, anyway?

Today, I'm going to scribble about one of the big paradoxes that keeps me foaming at the brain which is - how do we transcend race without disregarding race? Meaning, how do we repair the horrific legacy of racial inequality without simultaneously perpetuating it? Race is a political construct - an ideology that holds in it's every fibre the key to it's survival, like the information contained in DNA. It is divisive, misleading and oversimple. Despite it's artifice however, the damage race continues to wreak on billions of humans is profound and very real. There can't be medicine without diagnosis. I must identify and acknowledge myself as 'black' before I can begin to challenge how that label has shaped my identity. But to do so is to identify myself as an 'other', to take on a narrow identity that in most instances obscures my human-ness, reduces me to a stereotype, a cause, an exotic, an 'issue', a collection of narrow behaviours, a role that ultimately affirms the status quo of white privilege and whiteness as 'default' (black literature is Black literature, white literature is just literature etc.) I don't like to talk about these subjects much. I keep waiting to know more, and holding my tongue - often because I don't want my desire to transcend race to be mistaken for the desire to ESCAPE race, which is very different. Transcending race means to have an understanding and pride in cultural origins without subscribing to the centuries-old system of divide-and-rule tactics. To escape race, on the other hand, is to try and pretend the system does not exist. To deny one's own personal beauty and and give it up for another's. To give up one's vision for another and thus, look upon oneself as an alien. Escaping race means to pretend that one has not sustained injuries and attempt to annihilate one's past, and one's pain by absorbing oneself in the dominant culture. In that route lies a much darker peril, because then, we carry poison without the hope of a cure...
But sometimes we try to cure this ailment with remedies that are dangerous in and of themselves. What set me off thinking about this is that I took little man to his first protest today for an unjustly murdered black teen and listened to some very inspiring, emotionally arousing speeches. However, during one of these, a community leader launched into a line of indignant vitriol I've heard over and over again - one that has always made me uneasy. Soon after I got home, I posted this on FB:

'Opinion: Black leaders need to stop trying to motivate the black community by saying things like 'black folks are ignorant' or 'the reason for the sorry state of our people is...' and such. It's not useful. It plays to the very same stereotypes we're trying to debunk. There are a lot of fantastically educated people and well-brought up kids in the black community and that should be highlighted. We don't need more negativity, no matter how well-meaning, directed at a group who's already been under such a sustained ideological/emotional/psychological/financial (etc.) attack in society. What's needed is persistent challenging of the systems that lock us in a dynamic of inequality. What's needed is emotional/spiritual support so that people understand their rights as HUMAN BEINGS. There is a great value in understanding black history, but our achievements as a 'race' are not what make us worthy of dignity and fair treatment. We don't need to do anything to deserve that except be ALIVE.'
I posted it because it seemed to me that for many, the solution to racial injustice is to entrench themselves even further in the ideology of race, to create a new 'blackness' in order to liberate 'blacks' from the old one. To create an identity that is more positive, but just as stifling - appealing to us with a narrow definition of what 'blackness' means; imploring all brothers and sisters to start acting like 'real' black people, like the 'kings and queens' we really are! But a) I hate to point out the obvious, but we can't ALL have been kings and queens, can we? And when exactly. And where? What country on the vast continent of Africa housed this Utopia? This is not very often made clear ( especially given the diversity of origin within the diaspora) b) Highlighting our contributions to world knowledge is a natural and understandable defence to being told we are worthless, but still a reactive rather than proactive means of creating identity. Sketchier still when the list starts getting reeled off highlighting all the ways that black people started everything, invented everything and are best at everything. That is an attitude that only minority consciousness can support (how unnattractive and downright vicious would it be in a dominant group?), and thus, ironically, an attitude that relies on a position of victimhood to thrive. Instead of screaming how much better we are than everybody else, we should fight to be recognised as equals who deserve fair treatment, fair portrayal, fair access to opportunity and fair representation in the media and history books (and the right NOT to have our hair squeezed by sweaty-palmed strangers. Sheesh!) That is our right. We also need to recognise the depth of injustice and inequality on all levels of society and fight all of it - most notably gender and class inequality as well as race. As I said earlier, human value is not something that needs to be defended. It is is intrinsic. I don't want my son to ever doubt that his worth is infinite or feel the need to hitch his worth to anybody elses accomplishments but his own. A child is a child is a child. A man is a man is a man. A woman is a woman is a woman.

If we feel the need to try and prove or defend our worth... then we don't truly grasp it in the first place.