The Silence of Black Women Writers

Black writers are a cursed lot.

By its virtue of its origin, suture and function, black writing is
mission conscious and is necessarily a hazardous undertaking.
In turn being a black writer is an enobiling, exigency and black
literature constitutes one of the supreme enrichment’s of black
culture and black life. This has been and is the burden as well
as the heritage and legacy of every black person who takes
up a pen in the United States. ~Calvin C. Hernton

In October and November I spent a lot of time reading looking
for connections between the misogyny in the civil rights movement
and in hip hop.

I hit the nail on the head while reading Calvin Hernton’s book
The Sexual Mountain and Black Women Writers.
Hernton spendsin time analyzing the swift effort to condemn
both Ntozoke after
For Colored Girls hit Broadway and
Michelle Wallace after Black
Macho came out.

Hernton sum’s it up when he says,

Although we keep looking for the men in The Color Purple to
be white, they are black men, our men, committing deeds
we cannot help but associate with slavery. The analogy
unbearable, the irony
is burning. Black men who are themselves
victims of oppression victimizing
black women in what looks
like the same oppression? A system of oppression
within
another system of oppression.
(Can Victims Be Perpetrators came
out of this reading.)

Which brings me to last night. I was at a function and a black man
asked me what
I wrote about. I said hip hop and feminism. He then
put up
the two fingers and said, “Are you an L?” and I looked at him,
unphased
, as I saw it as a teachable moment. Then I said, eye brows
furrowed, “Hunh?” He joked “There is nothing wrong with that as long
as I can watch.” I guess he THOUGHT he was going
to humiliate me.
All I could think was my ipod died two weeks ago,
my relationship
died three weeks ago and I took the GRE this morning,
nothing
really was going to f-ck with me.

I let him speak, he stuttered and stammered and then he noticed
that I was serious. I responded saying “It’s interesting that I say I am a feminist
and you joke about me being a lesbian, I am currently writing a piece
titled a A World Built on Black Pussy.” He raised his eyebrows this time.
It was clear that I was serious. I added, “The rappers talk about it all the
time, but if I do, I am being tacky.” We were then able to have a more
civil conversation that wasn’t based his lesbian fantasies.

In his comment, I was reminded about how normalized it is for men
to be so flip towards women, women who are strangers, about
sex. Yet, as a woman if we have the gall to say something back we risk getting
the Michelle Wallace, Ntozake Shange treatment. Silenced. Dismissed
and told you are being used by The Man against BLACK people.

I am happy I didn’t come at him hella sideways. I mean. What
good could have come of that? Besides I think god puts me
in those situations because I don’t look for victims, or opportunities
to humiliate people who have neanderthal-esque gender politics. I see
it as a chance to be like “eassssy star, lets think about what
you just said and the implications of it.”

Being an M.dot is hard.

The Blues and Transformation

Still from I’m Through with White Girls


There is something to be said for
The “Borderless Relationship”
post, as it was was a catalyst for
change in M.dots world.

Out of a desire to both write in a way that reflects what we
have come to be known for, and to also avoid being
outta pocket (see that interest balancing, wink nod wink)
I won’t go into the fine print.

Bear in mind that I wrote the above sentence a few times.
I was unsure as to which tone to strike. Anger? Thats
conceivable. Empathy? Of course. In trying to empathize,
at first it felt like, nah homie, I ain’t doing that. But then again,
its one thing to talk that personal transformation
talk, but a whole other to practice it when tested. Besides,
aren’t life’s tests
designed to show us what we hold most dear?

In many ways it reflects what many of us do when sorting through
something. We think. We talk. We think. One of the amazing things
about writing is that you do have the time to think, revise, and
rethink, which can drive you nuts, but it can show you things
about yourself that you were unaware of
.

However, writing it has proved to be interesting. On one level I am
glad I had the courage to write, glad I was able to see The Graduate
and not rage at his borderless tendencies, glad that I could make a
connection between my borderless relationships of the
past and how it is playing out with Filthy right now.

Still it is hard, because their is a level of uncertainty, tension,
and proverbial sh-t hitting the fan, emotion wise.

I have always contended that “you don’t want to bring me
around” if there are things that you want to keep from yourself,
because more than likley those issues will surface.

I think it comes from having seen the best and worse of my parents
at a young age. I survived by cultivating the ability to analyze intent,
capacity, anger and rage of adult human beings starting from the time
I was about 8. It was at that period that I realized that the people
that I knew my parents to be may or may not come back.
It has influenced that way that, perhaps in a way that I can’t imagine,
I read see an interact with people in general.

As a result, I have to be careful to not “tell people about
themselves”, simply because while it may feel like the right
thing to do at the time, it is, at the end of the day, it is none
of my business.

Blogging however gets me into that a gray area, because I am not just
writing about myself, but others as well, which may get me in that
sticky, icky, ooohhhh wee gray area.

When I write, I write to share, to make a contribution,
and many times simply to make a sense out of an experience
I may have recently had.

Many of you e-mail me to mention a post, to say thank you, or just to show
general appreciation for the fact that I shared something. It’s wonderful,
as I know that we are all busy so it shows me that their are folks feel
the contribution being made, which is validating in and of itself.

In the spirit of that sharing, I will say that, ultimately this past week
has shown me that you never really know what life holds and that it
is incredibly important for me to remember that I am powerless over
all people except for myself
.

How do you hold on when faced with uncertainty?

What coping mechanisms, if any, do you use to keep
your mind right, during uncertain times?

Attack of the Borderless Relationships

Borderless relationships are dangerous because there is
only a matter
of time before a border is crossed and the entire
spot gets blown.
This past weekend, I fell back from Filthy.
He decided to take the time
to deal with the impact of a
borderless relationship with a lady friend that preceded me.

When we take part of borderless relationships we do so out of a fear
of being rejected. Think about it, if you don’t have boundaries, you don’t
have to worry about losing the person, or about being accountable
to a relationship. The upside of Borderless Relationships is that
they operate in that zone of the mushy middle. The down side
is that when it goes all bad, it has a tendency to be nuclear.

On Thursday Filthy told me he wanted to limit contact this
weekend, so that he could, pray, fast, reflect and I responded
saying that I understood. We also decided to put some plans
to take a trip on hold. I did understand, but I also missed my
friend. The notion of putting the trip plans on pause lighweight
scared me, as he had been talking about it for a few weeks.
But I took the highroad and agreed to play it by ear.

On top of that my road dog is in Chicago networking at a conference,
so I took it upon myself to go to a cafe and work on sketching the
100 Visionaries website.

Last night, I walked into a cafe, set my stuff down and I hear a
man clear his throat, yet I say nothing, but my mind registers
that it sounds familiar. I proceed to pay for my tea, and as I
look for the honey, I felt eyes on me.

I turn and look and it is The Graduate, sitting there, with a pretty Black
lady. He is smiling and staring.

I return the gaze. I don’t blink.

I thought to myself, God has an amazing sense of humor.

I haven’t seen The Graduate since May ’07. All I could think was, man,
you can’t write better scenes than these. In many ways, my relationship
with The Graduate was a borderless relationship. While I have spoken
to him recently about grad school, I deaded having contact
with him as a realized last year that he was interested in me,
but he wasn’t
interested in doing the work to be with me.
This of course is the recipe for the Borderless Relationship Syndrome.

The chickens came home to roost, kick it and freestyle last night.

I grabbed my tea. I spoke to him and walk and set my stuff down. He
mentions something about not receiving a hug, and I call him an “ass”.
I give him a hug, speak and I introduce myself to his lady friend.

Then she says, “You must know him pretty well to call him an ass”.

I smiled.

He responds saying, “What, I didn’t hear her call me that”.

I responded playing it off- with, “Hey, Lisa, ladies gotta stick together,
moi, I said nothing of the sort “, and we all laughed.

Her statement was clever. She didn’t know who I was, and she was letting
me and him know that she didn’t know.

I spoke to young Filth about the run in and he responded, of course, saying,
“How you feel?” At the moment I was grateful that I was humble
enough to bring it up and for the fact that we have a friendship
where we can talk about ish like this. He responded saying, I been there
before, and it ain’t pretty. We laughed.

This was a lot to deal with in one night. It many ways it goes to show
you how God tests you and provides challenges when you least expect them.

Been in any borderless relationships recently?

How do you deal with them?

Did it blow up?

On Waiting Around for A Man

A few weeks back I was speaking with Tracey Rose about how as women,
we will drop what we are doing, a paper or a project,
to kick it with a man.
I understand that a distraction is a distraction,
and sometimes you desire
one because you just don’t want to
be working on what you have in front
of you at that moment.

However, there is something to be said how men can put work
first and companionship second, whereas we are willing to sacrifice
our work, for the opportunity for companionship.

I mentioned this to Filthy and he offered that as women,
we are socialized to make the love from a man our number one priority.

He and I than began to have a discussion about how one of the ways that
patriarchy measures manhood is by dollars so it makes sense
that heterosexual men are willing to put emphasis on work
over a desire to be with a woman. They do this because they have
been socialized to do so. This is a narrow cell to live in.
I sensed in him that it was a moment of realization for both of us.
It became clear that this may have a tendency to damage the quality of
life for both women. In that moment, I became empathetic towards
men about the fact that we may expect them to perform in ways that
they haven’t been taught or given the tools to carry out.

Capitalism is able to maintain its hold over the spirits of men by telling
them that they are what they take home after taxes
.

Furthermore, as Black people, who were originally brought to this
country to work for free, and to give birth to children to work
for free, I suggest that we be cautious with tying our humanity
to pay after taxes.

I also added that if men are encouraged to pursue work
over women, then implicit in that line of thought is
that women or a woman will always be around to be pursued.
This would indicate that we are expendable, replaceable
and in ample supply.

In addition, I heard him tell one of his friends in a conversation
about how women go about relationships differently and the
the implications that this may have for community organizing work.
He mentioned how women have a more astute understanding of
the fact that relationships need to be nurtured along in order to
thrive. I liken it to a church metaphor. If you attend Bible study
on Tuesday, and church on Sunday where you eat Ms. Johnson
cobbler or Ms. Jacksons greens, it is much easier to help Ms. Johnson
with her landlord problem
if you have been eating and praying with
her twice a week for the last
6 months.

Filthy and I went on to have a conversation about how, because
of our socialization, we tend to constantly evaluate
our careers against our relationships, trying to see how the fit, if they
are mismatched, how they are progressing into the future and
finally whether may be healthy or unhealthy. He remarked,
matter of factly that men tend not to do this because they are
not socialized to evalaute their careers against their families.

After that conversation I thought about the messages that
fairy-tales send us, I thought of my roommate in law school who
was working class Persian lady from Los Angeles who joined
a fancy and expensive art collectors group with the hopes of
meeting a rich man at an event, I thought of how some women
go to college with the hopes of meeting their husbands.

As for focusing on work or choosing companionship, I have done
both. On one have I have been too rigid in
insisting that my kicking it time is planned out ahead of time,
just so that I don’t, in my opinion let a dude know that he can
disrespect my time by calling me in the middle of a
afternoon Tuesday afternoon, (we were both students)
saying “What ‘chu doing? I am on break from class,
you don’t have class today, why don’t you come through?”
I remember look into the phone like, dude you don’t have it like that.
He then accused me of treating relationships like work product.

I have also shelved working on a project to hang out with a guy.
I knew that I was suppose to read for class, but I got a offer for
Sangria and see a new independent film. Next thing I knew I was in
the shower and out the door.

However, it became clear to me 2 years ago,
that there seemed to be something amiss in a mans
ability and perhaps more importantly the societal
expectation that he should focus on his work yet, I should
be flexible when he was free.

For instance,The Graduate stayed in the library. Sure, he liked
him some M.dot,
and would give lip service to wanting to hang
out, but whenever I would
catch him on the phone, he was
going to or coming from the library. In seeing how dedicated
he was to the library, and with my competitive nature,
I started going to library for five and six hour stints.

It was in observing him that I came to see how someone
placed reading and writing at the center of their schedule
and built everything else around it. I am sure he dated and
that were women on the scene, but his main priority was taking
care of his grad school work.

Thinking about this issue has reinforced, for me, how the
gender roles and
expectations that we are expected shape
our choices and actions.
For instance, even when my female friends
have mentioned to me that I should focus, or that men are a distraction
for me, or that I should not give out more than I am getting, I think to
myself that their
comment is about them, not about me. I also think
that perhaps they are not
taking care of the things that they need to
do hence the desire to tell me what to do. I have also wondered if they
would say the same
things to me if I were a man.

Thats not to say that they don’t mean well when they say
these things because more than likely they do.
However, I know that all personal transformation takes place
from the inside out, so someone inquiring about my essays,
about how my book is going, how grad school is going, how 100 V
is going, how Filthy is going and then proceeding to tell me
that I need to focus, is highly unlikely to inspire reflection
or transformation.

What I do know after reading think about this, is that being
a gender rebel is not for the faint of heart, feel me?

Any one tell you to focus recently?
Have you had any second thoughts about changing your
plans to hang out with someone
?

Adult Relationship Skills

Recently, I have experienced some emotional upheaval.

In the past, Filthy has had bad experiences with introducing his
female friends to the lady that he was dating at the time.

On two different occasions in the past, he did the introduction
and one of the women ended up being salty.

Apparently, it made life type unbearable.

So this week, I learned that, because of his past, he just decided to
NOT introduce one of his close homies to me.

All I could think was, “Dude, you ain’t think I was going to notice
that I have met almost everyone in your innercircle except for her?”

Apparently, he did so because they had history, and he didn’t know how
to tell me.

This is a violation. However in the grand scheme of things, if I were him
I could have done the same thing. The lessons I have learned from my past
are the only thing that have prevented me from making that kind of mistake.

However, he is a good dude, a lovely dude. Feel me?
So, I was just lightweight torn.

This situation brought up old stuff for me. A couple of years ago
I was dating another cat, *Mark and not getting along well with
two of the women in his life. Some stuff flared up between me
and the one of the women, and instead of neither of us, me, him
or the woman, dealing with it head on, we let it percolate and it
eventually had an impact on our breaking up.

I told myself never again.

Naturally, I was concerned that the past was happening again.

When I found out that Filthy chose to deal with it on some,
I will just keep them seperate I was heated. All this arose
last week. It wasn’t until Saturday that I learned that he kept us
apart because they had history.

I laughed. Because I knew about the history, as Filthy was my friend
first. We talked about everything and I remember him telling me about her
earlier this year. At the time, I just didn’t have a name attached
to the situation. Once I put the pieces together I went from amused
to angry. While I am rational and reasonable, his fear of me bouncing,
or of losing her friendship and subsequent denial about the fact
that this needed to be dealt with swiftly were powerful as well.

On one level he was trying to have his cake and eat it too. Violation.
On a another level, I have made similar mistakes before.

The more we spoke, the more I realized that it was just one of those
situations where he handled the situation in a way that could have
been done differently.

When we have been hurt by someone, there is a tension between
a desire to hold on to the pain, and a desire to forgive.

The pain is comfortable like an old friend, thats is why Mobb Deep
tastes so good to my ears, it waters my dysfunction.

I learned from this that you have to listen to what the person
is saying, that what your friends say may be useful but
it must be taken with a grain of salt, and ultimately God will
set forth what is suppose to take place.

The hardest thing to do, throughout all of this, was to sit with being
uncomfortable and not try and fix it myself.

Part of me, the old me, had an inclination to still rock with him,
just at arms length, and to keep my eyes open for other cats to
add to the bench.

This constitutes trying to fix it myself. I know that needed discipline.
The kind of discipline that Dr. Peck was talking when he was defining
love as the judicious giving of discipline, resources and affection.

Man, listen, it is one thing that to talk that discipline ‘ish, but
it is a whole other to practice it. People have said that I have
changed in the last year, but it was really going through this
that shows me that I have.

I got the chance to do it Friday.

I got a call from an old homie, one who I hadn’t seen, and I knew
that if I hung out, and saw him, I would feel immediately better.

I would be complimented and doted on.

But, I also knew that the quick fix was not what I needed at that
moment
. I knew that I needed to do something that I was incapable
of in the past, which is that I needed to sit there with being uncomfortable
with those feelings at that moment.

Deciding to handle it this way reminded me that one of the major
things
that we don’t teach our children is how to suffer.

I don’t mean suffer as in having a jacked up life and just not taking action
to change it. I mean suffering as in, learning to deal with the feelings,
the uncomfortable feelings as they arise, to acknowledge them, and
perhaps most importantly to not be controlled by them.

This experience has shown me that healthy adult relationship skills
are the key component to being a healthy human being.

* Pseudonym

How comfortable are you with the feelings that make you
uncomfortable?

Have you had to forgive anyone recently?

Have you had to do any special introductions lately?