Tag Archives: Motherhood

Sharline Chiang on Smiling Selfies and Other Lies

Photo courtesy of Sharline Chiang

At Hyphen, writer Sharline Chiang tackles the stigma of post-partum depression and how her race influenced her experience with the condition.

Four years ago I had three miscarriages. “You’re not careful enough,” my mother said. “You’re too active.” While I was pregnant with Anza, I learned I had balanced translocation, a genetic condition. We needed to get lucky. Even after explaining this to her, my mother would insist: “Go on bed rest so it doesn’t fall out.”

I couldn’t risk hearing words that sounded like blame. I already felt it was my fault: I was too soft.

My grandmothers combined had birthed and raised 15 children while fleeing the Japanese, the Communists, and poverty. What right did I have to fall apart?

So I took selfies of me and Anza smiling and sent them to my parents every day.

I lied because even though depression is so common in Asian American communities, we rarely talked about it. The message I grew up with: your mental struggles are our own; it’s up to you to find the inner strength to “ren,” to endure.

The character for “ren” 忍 is the character for “knife” over the “heart.” Endure even when there’s a knife in your heart.

In my thirties I discovered talk therapy, tried to get my parents to go. Their response was basically: “That’s for white people.” “They hook you in,” my mother said. “You can never be cured.”

I wish mental illness didn’t come with stigmas. I wish I could have told my parents that my mind had broken just as easily as if I had to tell them my arm had broken.

Whenever my husband would say, “You really should tell them,” I felt that chasm again (he’s white, son of hippies). To him it was unimaginable to suffer the darkest period of your life and not tell your parents. Meanwhile, everyone in his immediate family knew. His mother and brother moved down from Canada to help take care of me.

The fact that I could get PPD never crossed my mind. I had no history of depression.

Two years ago while pregnant with Anza, I had spent thousands of hours reading about pregnancy and birth and exactly five minutes reading about postpartum depression.

On the cover of the brochure was a white woman with long brown hair. She was staring into space under the words: “Feeling Blue?” I took one look and said to myself: white woman, sad woman, that’s not me and that’s not going to be me.

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The Racialicious Links Roundup 3.28.13

It looks like the media found a new group to throw under the bus this week: single moms.

I really just want to say…keep our names out your mouth, yo…but I’m going to take a more diplomatic approach.

After The National Marriage Project released a report detailing the pros and cons of delayed marriage, a flood of articles emerged tackling the “crisis” of unwed mothers.

The Wall Street JournalThe AtlanticThink Progressand a slew of blogs published essays discussing the decline in marriage rates and the rise of single parent households and what it means for America. In case you’re wondering, we’re doomed.

I am recommending that we close 54 schools because I believe, and I know that the Mayor believes, that we should not invest in buildings; we should invest in our children’s education. This is not about numbers on a spreadsheet for me. This is far more personal and close to the heart. This is about our children. This is about ensuring that they have a chance to succeed.

While some have called my recommendations racist, the true crime would be to continue to allow our children to attend schools not equipped to help them reach their God-given potential.

For too long, children in certain parts of Chicago have been cheated. They have been denied the resources they need to succeed in the classroom. And in far too many cases, these children are black and brown. They are trapped in underutilized, under-resourced schools. They are stuck because no one took the decisive, responsible and progressive action necessary to better their education. We cannot, and I will not, bury my head in the sand and pretend that there is a level playing field for all our children.

If we are to decry inequality, if we are to teach our children tolerance and humanity; if we are to teach our children the principles of equity and democracy, how can we stand by while thousands of children are deprived of the resources they need to have a fighting chance?

As a former teacher and a principal, I have lived through school closings. I know that we have a difficult road ahead. I know that this is painful, but in my 40 years as an educator, I have never felt more certain that we need to take this action now.

The always-inquisitive Jada Pinkett-Smith recently posed a question that has many people scratching their heads and some folks outright upset. In short, she’s wondering if black women ask to be represented in mainstream media, on the covers of magazines like Vanity Fair, shouldn’t white women be represented on the covers of traditionally black magazines like EssenceEbony and JET?

The answer? Yes and no.

It’s not enough to have this discussion without a little bit of context. We didn’t come to this dilemma out of nowhere. There is a long, difficult history that informs our current dynamics around race that can’t and shouldn’t be overlooked. This country has a long history of exclusion and the many movements for equal rights and access including the women’s movement and the Civil Rights movement (both of which black women fought in) reminds us that every person is not considered deserving and some of us had to, and still have to, fight for representation.

Magazines like Ebony and Essence were created from a need for black people to see ourselves featured prominently and positively. Ebony, which was founded in 1945, aimed to focus on the achievements of blacks from “Harlem to Hollywood” and to “offer positive images of blacks in a world of negative images.” Back then it was rare for mainstream magazines like LIFE and LOOK to feature black people in a non-discriminatory way. During a time when blacks were fighting so diligently for equal rights, it must have been a devastating blow to morale to be disparaged in the folds of corporate media. We’ve seen other marginalized communities like the LGBT and fat communities create their own media for fair and just representation. This plight is not exclusive to black people.

Nearly half are isolated for 15 days or more, the point at which psychiatric experts say they are at risk for severe mental harm, with about 35 detainees kept for more than 75 days.

While the records do not indicate why immigrants were put in solitary, an adviser who helped the immigration agency review the numbers estimated that two-thirds of the cases involved disciplinary infractions like breaking rules, talking back to guards or getting into fights. Immigrants were also regularly isolated because they were viewed as a threat to other detainees or personnel or for protective purposes when the immigrant was gay or mentally ill.

The United States has come under sharp criticism at home and abroad for relying on solitary confinement in its prisons more than any other democratic nation in the world. While Immigration and Customs Enforcement places only about 1 percent of its jailed immigrants in solitary, this practice is nonetheless startling because those detainees are being held on civil, not criminal, charges. As such, they are not supposed to be punished; they are simply confined to ensure that they appear for administrative hearings.

In the weeks leading up to this 10-year anniversary of the 2003 war there has been precious little said about actual women’s rights in Iraq. Media venues and screens of all sorts instead are in full gear discussing feminist dilemmas in the US, from Sheryl Sandberg’s need for powerful women to lean in, to whether women – that fantasmatic unspecified category – can “have it all”, or “not”.

These are messy times we live in. Wars are said to end (and they really don’t) and the war/s on women across the globe – from Congo, to Egypt, to Afghanistan, to the US Republican party – are not counted amongst them anyway. There is much noise about Sandberg of Facebook fame telling women to lean in – meaning to stay at the table and persevere – to get top leadership roles, while most women here and elsewhere have no chance for the top rungs of power. Do not be confused by the fact that Secretary of States Madeleine Albright, Condoleezza Rice, and Hillary Clinton oversaw the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Hillary – who leans in readily – spoke on behalf of women’s rights while getting little in return.

It is problematic and troubling that Sandberg readily claims to be a feminist, without qualifying that her kind of feminism is corporatist and way too exclusionary. Her notion of “true equality” requires more women to be at the top – in leadership positions in government and the corporate structure. She supposedly believes that these women can change the world for the rest of women, and men. But, so far, they have not done so in meaningful ways. Shall I remind us of Madeleine Albright’s famous statement when asked about US sanctions against Iraq that endangered the lives of 100 of thousands children? She said: “We think the price is worth it.”

So what is a girl or woman to think? Hillary finishes up her stint as Secretary of State and is lauded as one of the best, ever. She is acclaimed for her “women’s rights” foreign policy agenda and the gratitude of women worldwide. Little is said about the imperial stance of her framing, or the gender violence that US policy has triggered and continues for women across the globe under her watch. Women in Iraq, and Afghanistan and Egypt are standing up, what Sandberg might term leaning in, but against patriarchal practices that US policy is implicated in.

Trigger Warning before the next selection

What’s so scary about Ross’ line is that this is something that a good number of men and boys actually do. Maybe a rap lyric won’t inspire an impressionable young dude to go and try to flip a couple keys, but normalizing this sort of rape? I see it. I see it and it scares me.

Because he’s tied to a major label and because the rape reference was so blatant, it’s likely that Ross will issue some sort of apology or come forward to say that it was just a joke—“Don’t really go out and do that now, y’all!” To that, I’d say…the title of his last studio album was God Forgives, I Don’t and, well, that’s one thing I have in common with the  ex-cop. Not unless he commits himself to actively working to change his tune, and if that happened, he probably wouldn’t be signed to anyone’s major label anymore. So while this sister is praying for him and urging him to be some positive person that I’ve never observed him to be during his rap career, I just hope he goes away and fast.

Racialicious Crush Of The Week: Elita Kalma

By Andrea Plaid

When it comes to motherhood, Black cisgender women are boxed into a variation of the Madonna/whore dichotomy: the sexless Mammy who loves and feeds, literally and figuratively, almost everyone else, and the Welfare Mother, whose “pathologically loose values” leaves her with children by different fathers and on the government dole. Even our nursing bosoms get caught in this public debate: we see images of Black women breastfeeding white infants, National Geographic-style exoticizing of African women breastfeeding their children, the public side-eyeing via questions of why Black women don’t use the milk Nature provides to give their children the best physical and mental advantages from the start.

Elita Kalma.

Thankfully, Black breastfeeding activists–or “lactivists”–like Elita Kalma step in on the regular and disrupt this dichotomy. I’ve been loving her tweets for a while, and I dig her excellent blog, Blacktating. And other folks dig what she says and does: according to the site, “Elita has been featured in the book, Does This Pregnancy Make Me Look Fat?”, works with Dr. Kathleen Arcaro on her groundbreaking breastmilk and breast cancer research, and has been a featured guest blogger on the South Florida Sun-Sentinel parenting blog, “Moms & Dads,” the Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog, and My Brown Baby.”

So, being the curiously crushing-out soul that I am, I just had to interview Kalma about her activism, those aforementioned images, racism and solidarity within lactivist communities, and Beyonce.

A bit about you: where you’re from and your profession. Also, when and how did you become a breastfeeding activist?

I’m a librarian who lives in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. I lived in NYC for a few years so I really feel like a Queens girl at heart. I became a breastfeeding activist (or lactivist, as we call ourselves) after the birth of my son in 2007. I found myself so fascinated with breastfeeding since I was always doing it. I was thinking about it and talking about so much I decided to start my blog because I was sure my husband, family and friends were sick of listening to me go on about breastfeeding all of the time.

What are the prevailing popular images when it comes to Black women and breastfeeding? Do you seeing the image(s) changing?

Well, even just a few years ago it was really hard to find photos of modern-looking black women breastfeeding. It was all African/tribal women or really dated photos from old WIC campaigns. That’s definitely changing. More and more companies are using black women as models to sell breastfeeding accessories. The United States Breastfeeding Committee received funding to produce images of breastfeeding to be put in the public domain, and one of the recipients of that funding was the Indiana Black Breastfeeding Coalition. They created this amazing gallery of over 200 photos of black women breastfeeding that is so diverse. There are photos of moms breastfeeding babies and toddlers, many out in public. I love that the photos include partners and grandmas and siblings, because breastfeeding really is a family affair. It’s just a beautiful collection and those images have ended up in several breastfeeding campaigns and blogs.

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Quotable: Ken Jeong, On A Mother’s Strength


In the middle of the most challenging time of our lives, Tran stood strong for our family and encouraged me to pursue my dream of leaving behind my career as a doctor to become a comedian. (I don’t know how many wives would encourage that kind of insanity. But I was lucky mine did.)

Three years ago, as my wife and I were eagerly adapting to parenthood with our then 1-year-old twin girls, Alexa and Zooey, we received the most devastating news. Tran was diagnosed with a highly aggressive form of breast cancer. We were both in shock, and I was angry. How could this be happening to her? How could this be happening to us now, at what should be the happiest time of our lives? But her grace and poise in how she faced her own diagnosis made me realize I’d have to stand up and be the man she needed me to be — the man who would match her strength and be her constant throughout her battle. We were in this together.

Throughout her grueling treatments — 16 chemotherapy sessions, a mastectomy, followed by radiation — I stood by her side in complete amazement as she drew from a strength I didn’t know she possessed, until she became a mother. She fought back against cancer with everything she had for our girls, so that they would grow up knowing a mother’s love, a mother’s instinct, a mother’s touch.

It was difficult to comprehend why this was happening to her at a time when she should be enjoying the first years of motherhood with her young children. I now believe there was a reason she was diagnosed when she was — she had a mother’s strength to draw from, and a stronger will to fight.
- From “For My Wife, In Celebration Of Mother’s Day,” as published in The Huffington Post
Image courtesy of Zimbio