Feminism

5 Things That Made Me a Happy Feminist This Week

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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.”

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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.

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Am I a Sellout?

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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.

They haunted me, too.

Am I a sellout?

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On Being Mary Jane and Flawed Female Characters

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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.”