Today as we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., many of us will read, listen to or share quotes from King’s famous I Have a Dream Speech — as well we should. I made listening to his speech part of my morning devotional.
But there are many powerful words of wisdom from King that we rarely hear. A few years ago BuzzFeed compiled 17 Martin Luther King Quotes You Never Hear. Yesterday, I read through them again and there was one in particular that struck me:
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” – Audre Lorde
Last year See Jane Write almost killed me.
I put so much time and effort into building See Jane Write into a business — while still teaching full time and taking care of family matters — that I often sacrificed sleeping, eating, and exercising for the sake of work.
And, of course, I got sick. Very sick. My body is still healing from all the damage done. But I’ve promised my body I will never hurt it that way again.
This year I promise to take care of myself and I’ve realized that to do so is a feminist act.
Every year in addition to my blogging, business, and writing goals, I set lofty fitness goals for myself, too. You can’t write the next great American novel if you’re dead, right? And I also believe that when you’re a solopreneur your business can only be as healthy as you are.
Some of my fitness goals I’ve conquered; others — not so much. In 2014 I set out to exercise for at least 30 minutes every single day for 365 days. And I did it! I was even invited to appear on Talk of Alabama to discuss this fantastic fitness feat. Last year, however, I tried to run 1200 miles and failed miserably. Because of my insanely busy schedule, I gave up about half-way through the year.
Regardless of the goal, however, I am quick to say things like “I don’t want to be skinny; I want to be strong” and “It’s not about how my body looks, it’s about how my body feels.” And all that is true — sort of.
I don’t want to be skinny. I do want to be strong. I do want to feel great and healthy. But I also want to be hot. This probably makes me a bad feminist, but I’d rather be a bad feminist than a dishonest one.
So today I’m sharing with you my bad feminist fitness goals for 2016, but will attempt to balance out each one with a goal that focuses on what my body can do and not just how it looks.
Amber Rose poses as feminist icons in a new photo shoot for Paper magazine.
In October Amber Rose hosted a “slut walk” in Los Angeles to protest the frequent slut-shaming that occurs in pop culture and society at large and this fall was featured in a hilarious parody video challenging the idea of “the walk of shame.”
In the Paper magazine photo shoot Amber Rose represents women like Gloria Steinem, Susan B. Anthony, Dorothy Pitman Hughes and Rosie the Riveter. Check out more photos on the Paper magazine Instagram feed.
During last week’s episode of Being Mary Jane (which is one of my favorite shows on television right now) Gabrielle Union’s character Mary Jane Paul, the cable news anchor who is the protagonist of the show, was accused of selling out.
Mary Jane was once at the helm of the show Talk Back with Mary Jane Paul, on which she covered minority issues and other topics often ignored by mainstream media. Recently, however, she was promoted to a highly coveted prime-time position with her station SNC, a move that meant more money and more celebrity, but less opportunities to cover issues of social justice. We’ve seen Mary Jane scoff at having to do stories on heroic puppies, but we’ve also seen her relishing in her new salary and spending allowance — buying a new wardrobe, a $30,000 handbag and even a new Tesla!
On last week’s episode Mary Jane spoke to a journalism class at a local HBCU and one student boldly said to her “You sold out!” and accused her of being more concerned with fame and fortune than reporting the news. Mary Jane quickly replied that she didn’t sell out, she “bought in.” The student’s words, however, haunted her long after she left campus.
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.”
Today my husband and I volunteered at TEDxYouth@Birmingham teaching the basics of reporting to the students at the event.
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
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 TED.com: 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 TED.com: “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 TED.com: 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.