Sound familiar? You don't have to be Nigerian to recognize the challenge of traditional gender roles—and women being pigeon-holed into caregiving. Some of us have these roles upheld through political systems or religious faiths. However, in my case, the gendered role (of caring for everyone else and sacrificing my needs, constantly, for the betterment of my family and community) happens to be dictated by my culture. Still, my Nigerian/African heritage is a very central part of my identity; our family values, community-centric approach to everything, and the strong sense of duty that comes with both of those things have guided me for as long as I can remember. Thus, even with the heightened awareness that perhaps an unusual amount of self-sacrifice came with my name, I was reluctant to deviate from this for a very long time.
As a tomboy bride, I BARELY wanted to wear a dress, let alone something that looked like to me like a cupcake.
The wedding industry, and pop culture in general, is so bossy about what everyone's experience of gender is. Hey, Wedding Crap Culture! Not everyone is a pile of princess fantasies! And stop telling all humans to lose weight! Stop counseling us all on up-dos!
"What will your wedding day hair be, Michael?" It will just be my hair. It's short and sits there on my head quite well.
I had felt unsafe in that space. The night had represented every micro aggression I'd ever experienced from straight people: cab drivers that kicked me out in the middle of the night because they wouldn't tolerate "that" at the back of their cabs, store managers who kept insisting I'd find better clothing in the women's section, every gay boy that looked me up and down with disdain because I wasn't conforming to their inherited fucked up view on what a woman should look like or wear to be "fabulous," straight women who blatantly ignored me because I didn't fit in the coop, and femme girls that ranted on and on about masculine privilege, but hardly ever acknowledged that their pretty privilege made their worlds so much bigger than mine. That my girl could mindlessly shimmy onto a dance floor even as a gay woman and enjoy the simple pleasure of a dance, go out with her straight friends to bars and not be stared at or called names, etc., while everything about the landscape, from the "Ladies free before 11PM" sign to the man-woman dance partner pairings made me so angry all of a sudden. And, I didn't know how to handle it.
Last week was Ida B. Wells' 150th birthday. To recognize the occasion, the Ida B. Wells Commemorative Art Committee hosted a reception in Bronzeville, IL to honor her and pitch for donations for a monument to be designed by Chicago sculptor Richard Hunt. A monument is a great idea, but here's the catch:
The 20-foot granite and bronze piece will be installed at 37th and Langley, the site of the old Ida B. Wells Homes, the public housing development erected a decade after her death.
So many people dream about having the kind of partner I have; the kind of person that will support you through thick and thin because they actually believe in you; the kind of woman who will deny herself the right to look and feel "pretty"—skip out on getting her hair cut, even when the ends are sleeping, and you're too much of a jackass to notice her non-answers when you tease her about it—just so she can support you. In the (many) moments when I doubted if I was choosing the right path/career for myself, and would talk about getting a "real" job, her assurance and unconditional support gave me so much gratitude; she was my rock, the pillar of our household, and our relationship. So, every single time some "boi" makes a sexist joke about bringing in the bacon for "my woman" or a straight dude presumes to know who "wears the pants" in the relationship, or a waiter assumes I'm the one that's paying the bill (even after she asks for it), I flip the f**k out.
Exciting news! The folks at Women, Action, and the Media (WAM!) launched a campaign today to build a grassroots direct-action network dedicated to creating gender justice in media at all levels, including ownership, employment, representation, and access. And they want to do it using movie nights, pitch-ins, social media, letter writing, and anything else we can think of to spread the word. Fun AND necessary—an excellent combo!
Now everyone just does that stuff for us, but because it comes from the bridal half of the tradition, weddings are still thought of as the bride's deal, not the groom's. Hence, the bride's family traditionally hosting (paying for) the wedding and the nasty Hollywood hetero-theme of the bridezilla who plans every aspect of the wedding as the groom sits idly by vaguely dreading marriage.
That's right! Traditional wedding invitations are another way in which the "under classes" have over time sought to emulate the 1%. Meaning that all of the big elements of weddings have their roots in social elitism, economic disparity, and/or the dehumanization of women.
If you've ever felt disturbed by how cheap the tank tops were at H&M—but bought one anyway—you're not alone. In her illuminating new book, Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, Elizabeth Cline writes that the average American buys 64 pieces of new clothing a year, or a little more than one item a week. Much of it comes from "fast fashion" chain stores, which produce cheap clothes in massive quantities for the purpose of creating new trends that cycle out every few weeks, then sell them for next to nothing. Even secondhand stores can't keep up with the clothing we discard anymore, Cline writes; she visited one Salvation Army in Brooklyn that processes a staggering five tons of used clothes a day.
So how did we get here? In a phone interview with Bitch, Cline explains what's happening with the U.S. garment industry—and what it means for our jobs, our shopping habits, and our sense of responsibility to the world around us.
My name is Spectra, and I'll be your resident Cupid for the summer. Kinda. I'm a Nigerian writer, women's rights and media activist, and editor at the afrofeminist blog Spectra Speaks, which publishes news, opinions, and personal stories that highlight issues pertaining to gender, media, diversity, Africa, and the Diaspora. For the past ten years, my work has focused on using media to facilitate conversations around important feminist issues: gender, sexism, racism, media, etc. So when the editors at Bitch invited me to guest blog this summer, I surprised even myself when I told them I wasn't interested in writing about any of those things; instead, I wanted to write about Love.