“Gabourey, how are you so confident?” It’s not easy. It’s hard to get dressed up for award shows and red carpets when I know I will be made fun of because of my weight. There’s always a big chance if I wear purple, I will be compared to Barney. If I wear white, a frozen turkey. And if I wear red, that pitcher of Kool-Aid that says, “Oh, yeah!” Twitter will blow up with nasty comments about how the recent earthquake was caused by me running to a hot dog cart or something. And “Diet or Die?” [She gives the finger to that] This is what I deal with every time I put on a dress. This is what I deal with every time someone takes a picture of me. Sometimes when I’m being interviewed by a fashion reporter, I can see it in her eyes, “How is she getting away with this? Why is she so confident? How does she deal with that body? Oh my God, I’m going to catch fat!”
What I would say, is my mom moved my brother and I to my aunt’s house. Her name is Dorothy Pitman Hughes, she is a feminist, an activist, and a lifelong friend of Gloria Steinem. Every day, I had to get up and go to school where everyone made fun of me, and I had to go home to where everyone made fun of me. Every day was hard to get going, no matter which direction I went. And on my way out of the house, I found strength. In the morning on the way out to the world, I passed by a portrait of my aunt and Gloria together. Side by side they stood, one with long beautiful hair and one with the most beautiful, round, Afro hair I had ever seen, both with their fists held high in the air. Powerful. Confident. And every day as I would leave the house… I would give that photo a fist right back. And I’d march off into battle. [She starts crying] I didn’t know that I was being inspired then. On my way home, I’d walk back up those stairs, I’d give that photo the fist again, and continue my march back in for more battle. [She pulls a tissue from her cleavage and dabs her eyes] That’s what boobs are for! I didn’t know I was being inspired then, but I was. If they could feel like that, maybe I could! I just wanted to look that cool. But it made me feel that strong.
— Full transcript available at Vulture
Rachel Jeantel is a teenager, a 19-year-old girl who told the world what she heard that fateful February night on the phone with her longtime friend Trayvon. From the news reports produced by the mainstream media, you got the impression that Jeantel was genuine and believable. Of course reporters from outlets like the New York Times, Miami Herald and the AP are not going to feel the need to describe Rachel’s attitude or overuse of black English vernacular, but they will feel compelled to describe the effectiveness of her testimony. And I saw them use words like “transfixed” to describe the all-female, nearly all-white jury’s reaction to what Jeantel was saying. Perhaps if the prosecutors had done too much coaching of their star witness, her genuineness would not have shone through.
I also saw incredibly mean things said about her looks on social media, even seeing her described as “Precious”—referring to the movie character brought to life by Gabby Sidibe, who was nominated for an Academy Award for her portrayal of the troubled overweight teen. Disturbingly, this has become the go-to moniker for overweight, dark-skinned girls—aided by rapper Kanye West, who leveled that scarily ignorant line in his song “Mercy.”
“Plus my b*tch / make your b*tch look like Precious”
Jeantel had to live through a close friend being murdered, watching his killer walk free for far too long, then sitting in front of the world and recounting the painful night with an intimidating older white man directing questions at her while she’s clearly scared out of her mind.
Now, on top of all that, she has to endure some assholes critiquing her looks?
Really, people? Grow the hell up.
–Nick Chiles, “In Attacking Trayvon Martin’s Friend Rachel Jeantel, Black Folks Are Taking It Too Far,” My Brown Baby 6/27/13
By Guest Contributor Sayantani DasGupta
This month, New York City launched a new campaign called “The True Cost of Teen Pregnancy.” The 4,000 bus and subway posters, which reportedly took two years of planning and cost the city $400,000, feature wailing toddlers and babies (mostly of color) next to captions such as Honestly, Mom, chances are he won’t stay with you… and I’m twice as likely not to graduate high school because you had me as a teen.
Yes, teen pregnancy is experienced disproportionately by girls of color and girls living in poverty. Yet data shows that national teen pregnancy rates across ethnicities are dropping not rising, including in New York City. So why this public health campaign? And why now?
by Joseph Lamour
*Warning: Strong Language*
We’re living in an age where almost everything a person shares with their friends can now be permanently filed away on a server somewhere (in a room, not unlike where Olivia and Fitz like to make out, but that’s for another post). For some people, this permanence proves especially problematic. Laura Beck over at Jezebel rightly filed this story under “WTF”, and seriously, WTF, Lisa Lampanelli?
Supporters of the “Black is Beautiful” campaign and several others similar to sought to redefine beauty in ways that both included and uplifted black women from what Princeton professor Imani Perry describes as the “generally degrading and unattractive, or hypersexual and less feminine” images of black women in society. The message was clear: as Bill Cosby famously put it, “It isn’t a matter of black is beautiful as much as it is white is not all that’s beautiful.” Could it be that black women ignore the dominant images of beauty and instead dance to their own tune, or have we simply flipped the coin and replaced one set of controlling images with another?
Being skinny was never a crime. Yet somewhere along the way, African American pop culture took over and a binary standard of beauty once more became dominant among black women. In a classic two-steps-forward-one-step-back scenario, the Washington Post announced what watching any rap music video will tell you: skinny is out, “thick is in,” and having some extra meat on your bones is a virtue (cue the parade of “fiercely real” women with curves, because “real” women obviously come with curves.)
One self-proclaimed “real” woman is the British TV and radio presenter Mica Paris, who, with her less-than-real hair, claims that black women are happier with their appearance. Paris wrote in the UK’s Daily Mail in 2012: “I don’t know any black women who aspire to be skeletal, and even if we did, nature decrees that we shouldn’t be. We’re made with breasts, bottoms and well-developed quads.” It doesn’t take a genius to know that aligning black women to the supposed naturalness of a fuller figure is not only incorrect but also horribly subjective.
– From “Binary Thinking About Body Image Hurts Us All,” by Vinjeru Mkandawire
By Guest Contributor Nisha H.
Pitch Perfect is a film that tells the underdog tale of a nearly-defunct a capella group, the Barden Bellas, rising through the collegiate ranks again and reclaiming former glory. It also features not one, but two East Asian female characters, providing writers with ample “Asians and music” stereotypes to riff off of, such as the piano-playing prodigy or Asians with perfect pitch (this movie is called Pitch Perfect; would this not have been the most perfect stereotype to use?).
But instead of the brilliant Asian musicians that I thought might grace the screen, I instead found myself looking not at two characters but two caricatures, with a world of missed opportunities to draw on positive stereotypes. This isn’t to say that the usage of positive racial stereotypes is much better than the negative ones; it’s just that if writers are going to insist on reducing ethnic characters to easily digestible, tired tropes, I’d rather have them draw on one of the “positive” stock stereotypes over the negative ones. With limited visibility of Asian Americans in the media, you want the few instances where you do get represented to be positive.
By Andrea Plaid
I have to admit it: as much as I loved seeing Octavia Spencer giving some serious 60s retro sexiness on the cover of Elle,
I would’ve loved to see Elle give more women of color some love for their “Women In Hollywood” issue.
But then, from what I gather, Spencer isn’t getting total cover girl respect: this gorgeous cover is only available to subscribers. If you pick up the November Elle from your local supermarket or newsstands, you’ll see Sarah Jessica Parker, not Spencer.
Quite a few Tumblizens aren’t even having it.
By Andrea Plaid
I finally figured out that I change my hairstyle every decade or so. In my fourth decade, I decided to forego the bald and grow out my hair without going to locs, like I did in my 30s. This little child is my seriously cute inspiration:
Quite a few of you Tunblizens were feeling the little one’s cuteness, too.