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Archive of ‘Feminism’ category

On Being Mary Jane and Flawed Female Characters


There are many reasons I shouldn’t like BET’s Being Mary Jane, the hourlong scripted drama that follows trials and triumphs of cable news anchor Mary Jane Paul.

In the first season of the show Mary Jane (played by actress Gabrielle Union) has an affair with a married man, and this is just one of the MANY bad relationship choices Mary Jane makes again and again. One could argue that the show’s focus on Mary Jane’s struggle to find true love perpetuates the idea that successful black women can’t find a man or simply argue that I can’t relate to Mary Jane’s relationship woes because I’m married and got hitched when I was only 25.

But Being Mary Jane is one of my absolute favorite shows on television.

I love the thought-provoking quotes that open each episode (and even take pictures of my TV to save them). I love seeing Mary Jane’s battle to cover issues and current events relevant to women and people of color. I love that Being Mary Jane deals with race, family drama, friendships, sex and sexuality in a way that is raw, real (or as real as a TV show can be) and in-your-face. The show has even tackled tough topics like suicide, drug abuse, and abortion.

Yes, we see Mary Jane’s glamorous life as a well-paid TV personality, but we also see her sitting on the toilet and scratching her boobs when she gets home and takes off her bra (something I am convinced every woman in America does).

And I even love that Mary Jane makes really, really stupid mistakes because I, too, make really, really stupid mistakes — and so do you.

As a writer and as a feminist, I appreciate flawed female characters. We need flawed female characters. We need them in books, we need them in movies, and we certainly need them on TV. This is why I love Mary Jane Paul. This is why I love Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games franchise and this is why even as an adult I am still a huge fan of the cult TV classic My So-Called Life.

We need flawed female characters because we need complex female characters that don’t neatly fit into the box of the good girl or the vixen, the girl next door or the whimsical pixie, the angry black woman or the basic white girl.

We need female characters that are complex because real women are complex. Real women are generous and selfish, loving and hateful, kind and malicious, smart and foolish, confident and insecure. I have been all of these things just in the last week and, chances are, you have, too.

Being Mary Jane creator Mara Brock Akil was recently interviewed by the Lenny, Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner’s website and newsletter on feminism, style, health, politics, and more. When asked to spill about any bad choices she may have made when she was younger, Akil gave an answer that resonated with me as much as her show does. She said: “I no longer think of my life in bad or good choices. I think they’re just my choices. As a writer, they’re all blessings in my life.”

5 TED Talks Every Woman Needs to Watch


Today my husband and I volunteered at TEDxYouth@Birmingham teaching the basics of reporting to the students at the event.

reporting 101

TEDxYouth@Birmingham was one of more than 100 TEDxYouth events that took place today around the globe. At these events 7th through 12th graders gathered to watch live streams of TEDYouth2015.

A mock interview at our Reporting 101 booth

A mock interview at our Reporting 101 booth

I am addicted to TED. As a high school English teacher I’m constantly looking for ways to use TED in the classroom whether it’s to teach public speaking or persuasive writing skills or to spark conversations about representations of women in the media.

I also frequently watch TED Talks just for for personal inspiration and sometimes just for fun. I even have the TED app on my phone and if I’m in a long line at the pharmacy or DMV, I might pass the time by watching a TED Talk.

This is probably no surprise if you know me IRL, but most of my favorite TED Talks are by women speaking on women’s issues. Here are five TED Talks I believe every woman should watch.

Confessions of a bad feminist — Roxanne Gay

From When writer Roxane Gay dubbed herself a “bad feminist,” she was making a joke, acknowledging that she couldn’t possibly live up to the demands for perfection of the feminist movement. But she’s realized that the joke rang hollow. In a thoughtful and provocative talk, she asks us to embrace all flavors of feminism — and make the small choices that, en masse, might lead to actual change.

Gay’s talk has quickly become my favorite TED Talk of all time. If you’re a woman struggling to reconcile your feminist ideals with your love for ratchet hip hop (raises hand) this TED talk will make you laugh, cry, and shout AMEN! But this talk is about so much more. When I showed it to the girls of my Women and Media class, one student asked, “Can we watch that again? And again?” Another said, “This talk let me know I’m not alone.” And I knew exactly what she meant because that’s precisely how the talk makes me feel, too. This talk reminds you that being a feminist isn’t about following a set of rules, but about trying to make a difference and being intentional and thoughtful in all we do.

I got 99 problems… palsy is just one – Maysoon Zayid

From “I have cerebral palsy. I shake all the time,” Maysoon Zayid announces at the beginning of this exhilarating, hilarious talk. (Really, it’s hilarious.) “I’m like Shakira meets Muhammad Ali.” With grace and wit, the Arab-American comedian takes us on a whistle-stop tour of her adventures as an actress, stand-up comic, philanthropist and advocate for the disabled.

I’m a firm believer in intersectionality and intersectional feminism –the view that women experience oppression in varying configurations and in varying degrees of intensity; the belief that cultural patterns of oppression are not only interrelated, but are bound together and influenced by the intersectional systems of society such as race, gender, class, ability, and ethnicity. This TED Talk, however, made me realize that while I’m constantly thinking about the importance of also considering race, class, and ethnicity when discussing gender, I rarely consider ability. This TED Talk urged me to really practice what I preach when it comes to intersectionality.

We should all be feminists – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Thanks to Beyonce you’re probably already familiar with at least a portion this talk. But Adichie’s speech was one of my favorites long before Beyonce sampled it in her hit song “Flawless.” Adichie’s explanation of what feminism is and why it’s needed is, well, flawless!

Why we have too few women leaders – Sheryl Sandberg

From Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg looks at why a smaller percentage of women than men reach the top of their professions — and offers 3 powerful pieces of advice to women aiming for the C-suite.

If you’re a fan of Sandberg’s Lean In, you’ll certainly be a fan of this talk, too.

Gloria Steinem and Salamishah Tillet

In an interview from the stage of a TEDxWomen event, feminist icon Gloria Steinem talks with writer and feminist activist Salamishah Tillet about aging, writing, stereotypes and, of course, the feminist movement. This TED Talk will always be special to me because Steinem’s comments on aging helped me understand that sometimes growing up means looking back. Sometimes to become the woman we’re supposed to be, we have to remember the girl we used to be.

What are you favorite TED Talks?

5 Things That Made Me a Happy Feminist This Week

  1. Barbie finally gets it right.

I actually saw this for the first time last week, but it’s still making me a happy feminist. The new barbie ad is a refreshing change considering the Teen Talk Barbie once said, “Math class is tough,” and computer engineer Barbie asked her male friends for help in coding. I’m well aware that this is Mattel’s attempt to improve sagging sales (Mattel reported its third-quarter earnings dropped 33 percent to $223.8 million) but I’ll take girl power wherever I can get it.

2. The women of the Supreme Court now have the badass portrait they deserve.

A detail of Artist Nelson Shanks’ painting, “The Four Justices”, a 9-foot 6-inch by 7-foot 9-inch oil on canvas portrait of the first four female justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, top row, from left, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, bottom row, from left, Sandra Day O’Connor, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, is seen during a press preview at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, Monday, Oct. 28, 2013. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

A detail of Artist Nelson Shanks’ painting, “The Four Justices”, a 9-foot 6-inch by 7-foot 9-inch oil on canvas portrait of the first four female justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, top row, from left, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, bottom row, from left, Sandra Day O’Connor, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, is seen during a press preview at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, Monday, Oct. 28, 2013. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

The Huffington Post recently reported that the women of the Supreme Court are the subjects of a new painting unveiled at Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. last week.

The portrait features the SCOTUS’s current female justices, Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan, as well as Sandra Day O’Connor, who retired in 2005. (O’Connor made history in 1981 by becoming the first woman ever named to the Supreme Court.)

3. This photo series imagines four black women as a badass group of superheroes.

black girl superheroes

Lifestyle blogger Paola Mathé recently imagined a new group of strong and fashionable superheroes — a squad of powerful black women fighting injustice and crime against their sisters. Mathé describes the squad as “inspiring bad ass dream catchers.” Read the For Harriet piece on the series to learn more about the project and to see more photos.

4. We curly girls get our own emojis! 



Be Blogalicious, a network for multicultural bloggers, influencers and media mavens, has partnered with Dove to launch the first-ever curly girl emojis!

The launch of Dove Love Your Curls Emojis is an extension of Dove Hair’s Love Your Curls mission, which seeks to help women and girls embrace and love their curls by ensuring they see accurate reflections of their hair in their everyday lives.

The Dove Love Your Curls emojis can be downloaded from the Google Play and App Store for FREE! Learn more at Advertising Age

5. Birmingham’s T. Marie King has been recognized by Glamour magazine as a “Hometown Hero”


I am so proud to know T. Marie King, who cofounded Precious Pearls of Promise, a grassroots mentorship program in Birmingham that helps young women ages 14 to 25 become strong and successful. The group meets twice a month for classes that teach communication skills, how to deal with peer pressure, and more. They also take on community service projects together. And to prove I actually know her — since she’s about to be a celebrity and all — here’s a selfie we took last week at a party!

t marie selfie

What made you a happy feminist this week? 

An Evening of Empowerment

women who inspire

Check out the Over the Mountain Journal’s story on the upcoming event An Evening of Empowerment featuring me!


What would you do if you were not afraid to fail?

That’s the question that Girls on the Run Birmingham will explore on Thursday, October 8, Girls on the Run during its Evening of Empowerment. The event will celebrate local “Women Who Inspire” including yours truly!

I am so honored to be among the women who will be recognized at this event. (You can read my interview with Girls on the Run here.)

An Evening of Empowerment will be held at 5:30 p.m. on October 8 at Clubhouse on the Highlands. The evening will include wine, appetizers, and a meet and greet and Q&A with the “Women Who Inspire,” including Molly Baker, the founder of Girls on the Run International. There will also be a screening of The Empowerment Project, a one-hour documentary that celebrates positive female role models.

If you’d like to attend An Evening of Empowerment, you can purchase tickets here. Use the code GOJAVACIA for $10 off your ticket.

On Friday, October 9, the other “Women Who Inspire” and I will have the opportunity to view the film again with a group of middle school girls from across the Birmingham metro area. We’ll also have a Q&A with them after the screening about how we overcame fear to make our dreams come true.

So, what would you do if you weren’t afraid to fail?


UPDATED: Why do you call yourself a feminist?

Beyonce Femininst VMAs

I am a feminist.

But apparently TIME magazine has a problem with that, or at least a problem with the fact that Beyonce and other celebrities are boldly claiming this title, too.

Earlier today TIME announced its picks for the magazine’s annual worst words poll, which gives readers the chance to vote on what overused word should be banned in the coming year. Previous picks include “OMG,” “YOLO,” and “twerk.”

This year’s candidates include words like “bae,” “basic,” “sorry not sorry,” “I can’t even,” and “yaaasss.”

Also on the list is the word “feminist.”

Wait. What?

Why exactly would you want to ban a word that’s about promoting equality of the sexes?

Well, here’s why, according to TIME:

You have nothing against feminism itself, but when did it become a thing that every celebrity had to state their position on whether this word applies to them, like some politician declaring a party? Let’s stick to the issues and quit throwing this label around like ticker tape at a Susan B. Anthony parade.

Look, I get it. Plenty of folks are worried that feminism is becoming trendy and that celebrities, and as a result their fans, are taking on the title of “feminist” simply because they think it’s the fashionable thing to do right now and not because they’re actually concerned about gender inequality. But to write off the word as tired slang? Girl, bye! (Sorry. Has that been banned yet?)

I am a feminist and I called myself one long before Beyonce had the word emblazoned on a huge screen at her shows, but I can’t deny that seeing the word in lights on stage gave me chills.

I am a feminist because I believe in gender equality. I am a feminist because I believe in the power of sisterhood. And I think it’s important that I boast that label because it can spark conversations about important issues and because I can help dispel ridiculous stereotypes about feminists being man-hating monsters.

I think feminist writer Jill Filipovic best described why including “feminist” in this list is so problematic. First of all, “feminist” is hardly a label that everybody is “throwing around like ticker tape.” As Filipovic writes:

According to one recent poll, only 1 in 5 Americans identifies as a feminist. Perhaps if more women and men heard their favorite male and female celebrities owning the word “feminist,” they’d find the term less threatening and, by extension, think through some of the tougher social, cultural, political, and economic changes necessary to achieve gender equality. Because while TIME is suggesting we ban the word, American women still make just 78 cents to a man’s dollar, only 1 in 5 U.S. senators is female, 1 in 4 women experiences intimate partner violence in her life, and women still see their most basic rights to make their own decisions about their own bodies used as political wedge issues and litigated in court.

But never mind all that, because TIME finds it very annoying when celebrities are asked about feminism.

So if you’re wondering why I call myself a feminist, all that is exactly why. And if you’re tired of hearing me talk about it — sorry (not sorry).

UPDATE: Time managing editor Nancy Gibbs has added the following editor’s note to the poll: “TIME apologizes for the execution of this poll; the word ‘feminist’ should not have been included in a list of words to ban. While we meant to invite debate about some ways the word was used this year, that nuance was lost, and we regret that its inclusion has become a distraction from the important debate over equality and justice.”

Each day in November for #bloglikecrazy I’ll be publishing a blog post that answers your questions about blogging, social media, writing, wellness or women’s empowerment. Send your questions to

The Call to Be Bold

I should have known Friday would be a great day. 

During my personal Bible study time Proverbs 28:1 was brought to my attention: “The wicked flee though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.” And this was after a week of feeling God urging me to be bold in my prayers and to be more confident about my future. 

Marla and Marcia Pruitte
a.k.a. The Pruitte Twins

Then I went to Cupcakes and Conversations, a ladies empowerment night hosted by inspirational speakers Marla and Marcia Pruitte, better known as The Pruitte Twins.  

The night was full of motivational talks by local women who true are movers and shakers in our city. Women who spoke at the event included  radio and TV personality Eunice Elliott, Robin Ato, owner of Gracie Grove Venue where the event was held, Kimberly Davis and TaShara King of Davis and King Consulting, public relations pro Chanda Temple and Kanisha Shamburger of Created to Win Enterprises LLC. 

All throughout the night the message I heard over and over was to simply be bold. 

Be bold enough to dream. I knew I’d love the Pruitte Twins as soon as they started talking because they mentioned that they are fans of vision boards. A vision board is a visual representation of your dreams and goals. I make a new vision board every year or so because I believe that, as Proverbs 29:18 states, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”  (more…)

On Being a Woman of Power

The B-Metro Blog Team
We’re raising our glasses to the power of women!

Last week I had the opportunity to cover B-Metro magazine’s Women of Power party, which celebrated the release of the magazine’s annual Power of Women issue.

As part of the B-Metro blog team I shared highlights of the party via Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. 

The Power of Women issue is my favorite. Last year I had the honor of being one of the women featured. The profile See Javacia Lead focused on my work with See Jane Write

I was quite excited to see several ladies of See Jane Write at last week’s party, which was held at Vino in English Village. 

Abiola, Jane, and Shella came out and represented for See Jane Write!

The turnout was great and everyone seemed to have an excellent time. 

We enjoyed delicious free hors d’oeuvres from Vino and live music by Gabriel Tajeu. 

Along with Vino, the party was also sponsored by Alabama Power and Cadillac, who showed off some gorgeous new cars. 

At the party I had the chance to chat with Raquel Morgan, a top commercial account manager at Alabama Power, about what it means to be a woman of power. 

Raquel Morgan of Alabama Power

“Being a woman of power is about being willing to give back and being willing to uplift other women,” Morgan said.

When asked what advice she would give to young women graduating high school this month, Morgan’s response was simple yet wise: “Enjoy life, but make smart choices.” 

Morgan has worked for Alabama Power for 15 years and says it’s a great place to work for women and for anyone. 

“I’ve been given so many opportunities and resources to excel in my career path,” she said. 

Morgan said that one of the women of power she admires most is Bobbie Knight, who is the head of the Birmingham division of Alabama Power. “I admire her integrity, her strength, and her intelligence,” Morgan said. “And she has great fashion sense!”

How do you define a woman of power? What women of power do you admire most? 

Cross-posted at

Life Is But a Dream

There’s often chatter on some of my favorite blogs about whether superstar Beyonce is or isn’t a feminist. Her girl power anthems, all-female band and determination to be independent lead some to say that Bey is absolutely a feminist. But some look to her sexy persona and performances and say she’s a pawn to the male gaze. Some folks even complain about her decision to name her upcoming tour “The Mrs. Carter Show.”

Despite the fact that I’ve been waving the flag of feminism for years, I actually don’t care whether or not Beyonce has the label of “feminist.” She continues to inspire me regardless. 
I had no intentions of writing about her HBO documentary, Life Is But a Dream, that debuted tonight. But when I found myself scribbling down notes throughout the program, I knew a blog post was about to be born. 
Believe it or not, sometimes I do have reservations about calling myself a feminist, but not because of the negative connotations and terrible misconceptions people have about what being a feminist means. Sometimes I feel as if feminism doesn’t fully describe my politics, my life mission or my love for and devotion to women. Feminism is simply a belief in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes. But my desire to improve the lives of women and help them express themselves is about so much more than equality. It’s about sisterhood.
In the documentary Beyonce describes how much her love for women influences her work. She says, “I’m always thinking about women and what we need to hear.” And with those words she describes exactly why I blog and why I started See Jane Write. 
Beyonce goes on to talk about how important it is for women to have conversations with other women and how much she grows from those heartfelt discussions. I feel the same way, which is why I want to build community here on this blog and offline through See Jane Write networking events. 
Life Is But a Dream is a compelling documentary because it reminds viewers that Beyonce is human. Yes, her life is acutely different from ours, but she still has insecurities and heartache, hopes and dreams. She’s a woman of faith. And when she’s talking about her husband you see she’s still a girl in love with a boy, and suddenly the fact that she’s calling her new tour the Mrs. Carter Show makes you smile.
But obviously it’s when Beyonce talks about her concern for women that she makes my feminist heart flutter. In the documentary during a segment on her Billboard Music Awards performance of “Run the World (Girls)”  she says: 

It really pisses me off that women don’t get the same opportunities as men do or money for that matter because let’s face it: money gives men the power to run the show. It gives men the power to define our values and to define what’s sexy and what’s feminine. And that’s bullshit. At the end of the day it’s not about equal rights it’s about how we think. We have to reshape our own perception of how we view ourselves. We have to step up as women and take the lead and reach as high as humanly possible. That’s what I’m going to do, that’s my philosophy and that’s what “Girls” is all about. 

Yes. This. 
I love that she puts the ball in our court. If you see an injustice or disparity around you, do something about it! It’s time out for whining about men or “the Man” holding us down. It’s time that we take control of our careers and our creativity. 
It’s time to take control of your life so it can finally look just like the one you live in your dreams. 

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