Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Black Women Are Bitches

So, Nikki decided to give up on the online dating after yet another white guy didn't respond. In addition to everything else I wrote about Nikki and her standards, she's very impatient. With the online dating thing, if a guy hadn't written her back in 24 hours, she assumes that's that. She's also one of those typical females who thinks guys are supposed to make the move within, like, two weeks of her having a crush on them, or fall all over her and totally "get it" when she makes any suggestion that could easily be interpreted as platonic or subtle. If these things don't happen, she's finished and on to the next guy (which is one reason why she has had so many different crushes over the two years I've known her). I see so many reasons why she can't get a man, and, yet, she's completely clueless.

I know it sounds mean to say that one of my best friends has high standards, especially for her physical appearance, but it's just true. It's not meant as an insult, because I totally believe physical appearance is relative to the beholder. I find it perfect that I'm not physically attracted to any of my female friends. None of them are unattractive, but I would just never be physically attracted to any of them, except maybe one of them--one of my Asian Indian friends, since I think "brown" Asians are the hottest people. But with Nikki, just from observing what happens at school and knowing how men are, I don't think she's the kind of woman physically the average male would go for. In addition, she has these ridiculous rules and criteria. The guy has to be a certain height. Guys always have to pursue her. They have to be the hottest of the hot, and white. Perfect body. They always have to pay, even if they are just going out as friends or have just met. They have to be professional, but not a lawyer.

Did I mention she's never had a boyfriend, never been on a date? And, yes, she's in law school, so I think you have a clue what her age range is.

It's funny, because this is how black women are depicted in "black movies." They almost always look like bitches, at least until they get a man--which, basically, sends the message that all black bitches need is a man. Hmmm. Talk to just about any black male who is married to a black woman. He'll tell you that a black woman's getting married doesn't solve the bitchiness. And before any black women out there reading this get mad, what I'm really saying is men--white men because of work, glass ceilings, racism, etc, and black men because of social/romantic interactions--are a big part of why black women are bitches. They just don't get that. They think they're the cure when they're actually the problem. Honestly, that's kind of why I don't understand women who are dying for a man, and I've tried to talk to Nikki about that a little bit but it doesn't sink in.

But for those black women who insist on a man, they can't be like these women in the movies. By that, I mean--anybody seen that movie "Something New"? Towards the beginning, Sanaa Lathan and her friends were talking about men and being single. And Sanaa Lathan said something like, "I'm not asking for much..." and then proceeds to list the sun and the moon. That's Nikki, to me, and a lot of other black women. As someone who is not terribly interested in men and, so, is a little more objective, take it from me--that's not going to work. In fact, it reminds me of how men think of women, at least when they are younger (teens, 20s, maybe some of the 30s). Men have ridiculous criteria for women, but nobody ever says anything about that because men can actually have their criteria met a lot faster than a woman can.

"Bitch" has come under fire a bit in relation to the Imus situation. I wouldn't call black women's high standards "bitchiness." I think in the movies when black women are portrayed initially as bitches who need men, it's not their standards so much as the way they behave towards men who don't meet those standards...that's what presents her "bitch" image in regards to her standards. I don't know a black woman who acts as badly as those women in the movies do in real life. Nikki is certainly friendly with everyone, but I'm pretty sure she wouldn't date most black men...not only because she doesn't seem to like them in the first place, but because most of them are not going to be professional men. I think in everyday life, black women get the "bitch" image because of perceived attitude and being outspoken. But if a woman is treating men like black women in movies are depicted as treating men in lower stations, then she really is a bitch.

I don't object to "bitch." I think black women are justified. So I say, yes, we're bitches. But there's "good bitch" and then there's "bad bitch." The women in the movies tend to be bad bitches, i.e. scorning men for superficial reasons. Men mean one thing when they call us that, and those of us who kind of embrace "bitch" mean another. We don't take crap sitting down. Men assign a negative connotation to that and use different words to describe that quality in black women, i.e. "mean," "attitude," "talk too much." We assign a positive connotation to that and don't think of those words. To men, all bitches are bad. I do have a hard time including myself in "we" because I hardly ever "act" like a bitch in public, except the way I carry myself renders me unapproachable (I don't smile, I'm not social/outgoing, etc). But the way I carry myself has gotten me called "stuck-up" more than "bitch."

I've never been called a bitch by a man, actually. Prior to law school, I got along better with men than women, and the guys I dated treated me well. We got along and didn't really have arguments. I have more problems with women, so more of them probably think I'm a bitch than men. There are black females even in law school who let the "black girl attitude" thing come out when they talk, even in class. I never do that--I'm just not that "black." The way I speak to people is different from the way I write, which might be one reason why I offend people more in writing than when I say similar things in person. I sound like a psychologist when I talk (and if you don't know how that is, listen to a real psychologist speak sometime, not a TV one--watch "Celebrity Fit Club" on VH1 and listen to their psychologist), which is not so much because I have a psychology degree but more because that's just my nature.

I think there's a certain way you're supposed to speak to people. You have to be clear. You have to make other people feel validated. You have to make sure people understand when an opinion is coming from you and when you're simply trying to explain what someone else thinks. You have to speak with a certain tone. There are certain key words and phrases that help people react better to what you're saying that you have to use (which seem to work better vocally than written). You don't speak as if you know everything (which is what men do), attack people or go off (which is what women do).

There was this TV series called "Black Men Revealed" on TVone, in which a different group of black men would get together every week and discuss an issue about black men that black women are most interested in. Most of their episodes were good, but their episode about why black men like white women was the most interesting. There was very little in any episode that was any sort of big revelation, but, still, I thought one point made in the episode about white women was important. This guy called Ocean said that when black men approach black women, they already have an attitude. And I think that's probably true in a lot of cases, although I'm sure I understand various reasons why many black women seem to have an attitude already. He also mentioned that it's hard enough for a man to approach a woman, and I completely agree.

My thing is...I'm not mean to men who approach me. I'm cordial to anyone who approaches me. But. I hate being approached, especially by men. Instead of going off, whenever a guy has approached me that I didn't want approaching me, I would kind of...what's the word...analyze, examine...him, trying to figure out what this guy's about. Because a lot of us women already know. When a guy is coming up to us, many of us are like, "Okay, is this one full of shit, too?" And the way I think about men is all they care about is sex, so that's why they are approaching me. And the thought that someone is only talking to you, pretending to be interested in you, just because they want to have sex with you--you guessed it--kind of pisses some of us off. If it were a woman approaching me who was like that, it'd be the exact same thing.

Another thing about men approaching is many of them don't know how to take no for an answer. So, whenever a guy approaches, we can't always tell whether or not he is going to be that kind of guy. Some guys get mad and go off on you, and then your mood is ruined. Some won't stop asking. Many of us don't like being put in the situation to turn somebody down, regardless of how the guy is going to react. Some women just want to go out and not have anyone trying to hit on her. Some women get hit on all the time and are actually tired of it. One of my best friends, who is white, hates getting hit on. Guys hit on her all the time, and a lot of them do/say something really weird when they are around her. No one else on earth has more weird stories about men hitting on her than this woman. So, when men hit on her, she's the "black bitch."

As far as Ocean's point that it's hard for men to approach women...a lot of women aren't sympathetic about that, because they think it's supposed to somehow be different for men than it is for women. I don't think so. I have tried pointing this out to Nikki whenever she drops yet another guy because the two-week mark is up and he hasn't fallen all over her yet, and she's just like, "He needs to man up." Look, it's not different. Approaching people is hard for anyone who is not naturally outgoing, and even for many of them--especially when you really like someone. That's one of the reasons why I'm never mean to people who approach me. I think expecting men to do all the work is another thing women, especially black women, need to get over if they're going to get the relationships they want. You don't have to throw yourself at anyone or get naked, but many times the woman knows the guy is interested anyway and is just waiting around for him to make the move. Make it easier for him.

I know that some of qualities I'd like in a man, if I ever were to date another one, are quite impossible. Those qualities are found most often in gay men, which is probably the reason I tend to have crushes on gay men. Things like don't be a chauvinist or macho. Don't treat me like I'm stupid. Don't act like someone has just murdered your mother if a gay guy hits on you, if someone asks if you're gay or if anyone even mentions homosexuality (eh-hemblackmeneh-hem). As far as profession, don't be a cop (what can I say? I agree with "F*ck The Police." Plus, I don't want to date anyone who can beat me or kill me and completely get away with it) or work in any erotic/sexual career (porn, stripper, etc). Pretty much anything else is open. No criminal record, unless you seriously were falsely accused or it happened when you were really young and you've changed. Height is whatever--I'm short, so any guy my height and up is fine. I prefer people who are around my skin color, i.e. yellow and brown, but I'm open to any race. Absolutely no smoking.

He does need to be supporting himself, and this is why: women have the reputation of being gold diggers, but, where I come from, men are the gold diggers...especially black ones. I come from a family that has good money, at least for where we live, and I have a feeling I'm going to be rich someday (not because of my parents but because of me). My oldest sister has consistently been used by men who were only interested in her because she makes money and is stupid enough to spend it on them, and, when she was younger, she was used by men who were only interested in the fact that she came from a family with money. If she suddenly didn't have a dime today, her husband would leave her. The father of one of her children went on a talk show years ago talking about how he used her for money and to buy him things like a car and a house.

My other sister dropped out of graduate school, in which she had a 4.0 GPA and was pursuing her dreams of becoming a teacher, to help her husband go back to college--helped pay for it, helped him do his assignments, etc. And now he treats her like shit and is cheating on her. I've had guys who seemed interested in my family's money, even white guys. I'm fine with a guy who hasn't made it yet and is pursuing his dreams, but I'm not going to help him do it financially, nor am I giving up my goals. Similarly, he doesn't have to pay for anything for me, including dates or dinner.

Final thought--many of the reasons why black women are considered bitches don't truly make black women bitches. They are things to be proud of. And, of course, there are other races of women with individuals who have those same qualities. Any powerful or successful woman, essentially, is a bitch to men. Hillary Clinton is a bitch to a lot of people. So, I'm fine with "bitch." If you're going to call me a bitch for something worth being proud of, then I will take it as a compliment.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Response: What It Means To Be Bette

I went to AfterEllen today and saw this post about Bette's "blackness" and "The L Word." Since it seems posting comments isn't allowed and since I find some of the things the writer says interesting, I am very interested in discussing some of her issues and points raised.

I have written a bit, both in my blog and elsewhere, about problems I have with "The L Word." There are more problems with the show than just Bette's character, and a lot of people brush those problems off as it's TV. That's certainly true, but that doesn't mean we can't point out problems with it and hope for more progressive storylines. Race is one of my biggest problems with the show, and maybe if minorities weren't handled so poorly on the show many of us queer minority females wouldn't still feel the need for a show about queer minority females. Since I've said most of what I've wanted to say in other posts about my problems with the show, I'm going to stick more strictly to some thoughts I had upon reading the post on AE.

I'm not exactly sure what she's angry about or why she jumps to so many conclusions about what people who have a problem with the portrayal of Bette mean or would like to see. She talks about us ranting, but I've really only seen her ranting, not to mention being condescending. I don't see how the quote from blac(k)ademic is a rant. She's analyzing the character, and she's perfectly allowed to do that on her blog.
Have any of these ranters walked in bi-racial shoes?

Yes--me, actually.
From behind these hazel eyes being bi-racial isn't easy.

Well...neither is being "100% black." They're actually both pretty damn shitty, more or less so depending on what you're mixed with, how light you are, what kind of features you have and what race you're perceived to be.
I can see how the writers of the L Word would have a hard time finding a way to express both Bette's sides.

I can't...unless, of course, they are writers who have little to no real knowledge of what they're writing about, which I truly believe is the case here. One of my philosophies in life is, don't talk about things you don't know anything about. See, my being biracial and being a writer, I could write about the experience. I do that a little bit with my blog and when I comment on other blog topics related to that issue.
Being a black cuban, finding a place that you fit is often a tiring task. In America, you aren't really considered black because you are cuban, and you aren't considered hispanic because you are have African ancestry and your darker skin. Delving even deeper, when you look for a place in the white community, there is still something missing. It's hard enough without people making it even harder.

The one thing I absolutely don't want to do when I write about any experience of mine is make it sound like a sob story. These things that she has described above are facts of life for so many biracial people, not to say she's not stating them as simple facts as opposed to a sob story...even though I interpreted the fact that she prefaced that statement with "being bi-racial isn't easy" and her anger as making that statement more sob story-ish. But, like I said, other blacks have it difficult because of race, although I do think biracial blacks go through some entirely different issues on top of experiencing what "100% blacks" experience.
What would make these viewers happy? Should Bette attend a weekly "Sistah Talk" meeting to "identify" properly with her blackness? Would she have truly been a better love interest for Tasha simply because she is half-black?

All I really ask of the show is if they are going to have an explicitly biracial black character, they need to do something with that--otherwise, what's the point of her character being biracial? To show how biracial blacks flock straight to white people only and almost never think about the fact that they are part-black, too? I'm not sure I've ever known any biracial blacks who are that one-dimensional, even though many of us seem that way on the surface. And I think the feeling of not fitting in with one, the other or both races is one huge reason why so many biracial blacks seem like Bette on the surface, among many other issues. The thing about that is, there are so many "100% blacks" who are exactly the same--don't feel like they fit in racially and don't associate with/date blacks.

Since this is something that seems to be ignored time and time again on TV, I feel like this character--among many other characters, such as Moira/Max--could have so much more depth and much more interesting storylines if the writers knew what they were doing with various identities aside from the lesbian identity...but, unfortunately, they don't. They try to do way too much--depict blacks, latinas, butches, transgendereds, bisexuals, heterosexuals, etc, on top of more general storylines--and that contributes to their failing miserably, along with the fact that the show seems to be primarily run by white lesbians who don't really know anything about many of these identities other than what they shallowly observe in everyday life. When writers try to do too much, they can only develop shallow storylines and characters. They can't give everything the attention it really needs. And, let's face it, this show's writers are way more interested in lesbian romance and sex than issues and identities.

My issue is not wanting Bette to be "blacker." I simply want her character filled out more and for race to be dealt with on more than just a superficial level, thrown out there every now and then, then forgotten again. Absolutely not should Bette be with Tasha or speak ebonics. There are sophisticated, intelligent, professional, standard English-speaking black women, of which I am one. That's fine to show on TV. I do have a problem with Bette only having white friends (I don't really count a sister as a friend, and she wasn't really friends with Tasha) and mainly white love interests, though. She lives in LA. LA is multicultural, as is she. How does someone like that in that kind of environment find herself constantly surrounded by white people?

If she were white, I'd understand better--but she's not, and that's kind of the point some of us "ranters" would like to make. In real life...the only kind of blacks who are around that much diversity and still wind up with white person after white person are the blacks who try to wind up with white person after white person. And if that's Bette's case, show that issue, show her struggling with her racial identity, because a lot of blacks--biracial and "100%"--do try to stay away from blacks or choose white friends because they feel they have more in common with whites than blacks. Don't just act like race is not an issue at all, like it doesn't exist...because if there's one thing on TV I'm tired of seeing, it's that.

We all know race matters. I would be happy if just one TV show arrived on TV that actually acknowledged that. As a black person and as a biracial person, I would like to see myself and more of the issues I actually experience reflected in more storylines on TV. Going back to the writer's statement about trying to find a place to fit in as a black, Cuban, Hispanic or even with whites--I know all about that, save the Cuban/Hispanic part, because I don't really have problems fitting in with French people. I react to it very differently, though--it's not a sore spot for me. I think us biracial blacks have gotten a reputation as being people who are unstable, very unhappy because of our mixed backgrounds, don't know to handle it, etc.

Seriously--I think several things, including realizing that the majority of blacks contend with not fitting in with blacks and whites at various points throughout life, and having the right kind of parents, have helped me escape from completely being able to relate to a lot of mixed kids. I don't fit into various communities for so many reasons, and there's a big part of me that is glad most of the time that I don't, because they are too confining and too narrowminded. That's just not how I want to be. I think life would be easiest if I did fit in with white people, out of all my identities, but I definitely don't care enough about it to ignore or downplay being black because that's just reality for me.

And, frankly, I don't understand people of any race who worry about fitting in with blacks, Latinos, etc, because, realistically, being white or more like white people gets you farther in life...which is why I say I think my life would be easiest fitting in with them. So, for me, I have black, Asian and white friends, and I'm not going to be anything more or less for them in terms of racial identity just because I'd have something to gain or lose by being "whiter" or "blacker," just like I'm not going to stop expressing my "offensive" opinions to keep from pissing people off or come out of the closet to please gay people. Simply put, I'm going to be who I am and what makes me happy, and others should do the same. If you're not "black enough," don't worry about it. I just would like to see Bette's character deal with and/or reveal more of those kinds of issues because, in LA, I would guess she'd certainly be confronted with them.

Another thing I really understand that helps me is nobody ever really fits in. You're always different for some reason. There's always going to be someone who doesn't like you because of who you are. There are varying degrees of "blackness," so that's not my issue with Bette, Obama or any other black person. Black people don't all have to be the same way. But every black person has a take on being black, whether it's that it doesn't matter or that it matters more than anything else in the world. That's not depicted on TV, so, basically, my problem is too many racial issues are ignored on TV in general and "The L Word" is just one of many examples.

Honestly, I wish interracial dating were as easy as just seeing someone you like, hooking up and pretty much never noticing or discussing race because it's a non-issue. That just doesn't happen and it's not true that race is a non-issue, but the way TV tells it that's always how it happens. That's my honest complaint with "The L Word," "Grey's Anatomy" and other shows with interracial relationships. And, frankly, the popularity of interracial dating that leaves out black women in real life is slap-in-the-face enough without having to turn on the TV and see it on nearly that has black characters, whether it's a black woman who never dates black women or black men who never date black women. Key word is "never."

I'm not ranting, because I don't care enough about that show to rant about it. I'm simply making an observation and saying what I would like a TV show to do or not do. That's my insight.

Queer Icons...Or Are They?: Rosie & Ellen

Another topic I've been wanting to write about--well, two in one now: Rosie O'Donnell and "The View," and Ellen DeGeneres.

So, here's something very interesting I've noticed: when heterosexual people talk about Rosie O'Donnell, they talk about her personality. Queers, on the other hand, talk about what she can do, what she does, what she doesn't do, etc, for the "gay community." Hmmm. So, I've commented in a few places about this, such as AfterEllen and The Lesbian Lifestyle (TLL) blog, because what I think gay people do is essentialize other gays, i.e. make gay individuals nothing more than their sexual orientation. I think that's interesting because, in my observation, this is what gay people seem to think heterosexuals do to us.

In Rosie O'Donnell's case, I think this is an incredibly odd thing to do. As I wrote on TLL, one of the last things I think about when I think about O'Donnell is her sexual orientation just because her personality is so out there. To me, for anyone to zoom in on her sexual orientation when they talk about her, they have to be trying. There are so many more noteworthy things about her.

I also wrote that O'Donnell was someone I cared and heard little about prior to her joining "The View." The only reason I took note of her upon her joining that show was I couldn't figure out what the hell Barbara Walters was trying to do, short of trying to sabotage her show. And sure enough...First of all, I could never figure out what that whole thing with Star Jones was, nor could I figure out why so many white people decided they hated Jones and were happy she was gone from the show. What I could see was that Walters was going from "bad" to worse, at the very least.

On a show like "The View," or at least what that show was supposed to be when it first aired, O'Donnell stuck out like a sore thumb. I didn't feel she had enough sophistication to be there. I didn't figure she had enough of the kind of career background I imagined as necessary--at least when the show first started (journalists, a lawyer)--to be there. Frankly, I didn't feel she had enough brain cells or standard English to be there. And when Elisabeth Hasselbeck showed up, I wondered where the hell she came from, too. Honestly, she has never fit in, to me, either, although she does a better job than O'Donnell at fitting in. She was this mousey/wimpy little 20-something, boring as hell, oftentimes couldn't get a word in edgewise. All the other women were older, accomplished and had that fire. This was, of course, before O'Donnell showed up. Suddenly, Hasselbeck became interesting.

Before O'Donnell came, I never really thought that much about who was on the show. I have never been a regular viewer of the show, although I have probably watched it more since O'Donnell was on simply because I have had to wake up early enough to be able to catch it since going back to school. So then, upon giving the show more of my attention, it hit me--O'Donnell and Hasselbeck were the show's "affirmative action hires," so to speak. O'Donnell was there to give the "lesbian viewpoint" or to be the lesbian, since they got rid of all the racial minorities they'd ever had on the show (Lisa Ling, Star Jones), and Hasselbeck was there to be the lone Republican and give the "Republican viewpoint."

You know what has also hit me more and more? This show is not as sophisticated as it tries to put on, at least not anymore (and not just because they milked the showdown between O'Donnell & Hasselbeck by split-screening it). In fact, it's really just a reflection of our society and how ignorant white (liberal) people can be. You see, ever since Star Jones was booted out, their guest hosts have been noticeably brown. They don't seem to be anywhere near making a decision about who to give that "token racial minority" seat to, but it seems damn-certain that they are dead-set on it being a black person. Hmmm, so this is what they were trying to be: a black, a Republican, a white "liberal" and a lesbian. Geeeeee...and we're having weekly battles among the panel?!?! What a shock!!! I think having a diverse viewpoint is great, but two things:

First, sometimes you can have diversity of thought without having diversity of background and without trying so hard and being so...damn...obvious. Just because someone belongs to a different one of the major categories doesn't mean their viewpoint is different or that they "represent" that group. If that's clearly why you're trying to have someone around, that's offensive, to me. Second, a person who comes in who clearly doesn't fit in, as was the case with O'Donnell, is a sign that someone was simply chosen for their background and/or to drum up enough noise to raise ratings. However, in order for diverse situations to work and for this kind of show to stay on the air, the people have to be well-chosen and have different viewpoints but still fit together. They have to be able to work together, so, as all the shake-ups on that show indicate, the people they're throwing together are having a hard time working together.

Differences in background often make fitting in complicated, and normally in life what we do when "different" people are in our environment is ignore them. O'Donnell and Hasselbeck couldn't do this to each other, even though in any other situation aside from having to work together they would. Schools work hard to admit students from different backgrounds and, yet, the students who are most "alike" always seem to find each other to the exclusion of everyone else there. At least with schools, each student is admitted for a lot more than just their diversity. Needless to say, these two 'View' women were never really friends--they just had to tolerate each other. So, I couldn't figure out why O'Donnell was going on and on as if she seriously felt betrayed by Hasselbeck. If she really knew Hasselbeck, she had to know she wasn't going to "defend" her with the Iraqi civilians/US troops situation. Furthermore, I'm not sure we should demand that our friends take our side, especially if they're minding their own business and you bring them into the situation, soliciting their opinion, etc. And then there was the Alicia Silverstone snub towards Hasselbeck, which was funny but kind of confusing. What does Silverstone have to do with any of this? The fight was between O'Donnell and Hasselbeck.

And then we're right back to gays, lamenting the loss of a "lesbian viewpoint" on TV. How selfish. Besides, I never look at O'Donnell as a "lesbian viewpoint." I don't connect myself or other gays to her at all. When all that nonsense between her and Donald Trump broke out, I pretty much agreed with his opinion about her. Just because someone is gay doesn't mean I have to like them, act like they are my role model for coming out or anything else, or look to them to be some proxy-politician for me. I've learned in very painful ways firsthand that two people being gay doesn't mean they are anything to each other. Sometimes they can be enemies. O'Donnell is someone who means nothing to me, gay or straight.

I write about her and "The View" debacle because the way that gay people view her underscores something I've written about before when I've discussed why I don't want to come out. I don't think anyone should be regarded as primarily a gay or lesbian voice, or primarily a gay or lesbian being. That's something I don't want to happen to me but am certain that it would once I came out. Immediately, gay people would have expectations for me that I can't and don't want to meet. I don't want to be essentialized down to being gay, especially when there are so many more important things about me and other things that I focus on way more than my sexual orientation. Straight people would start looking for things in me that confirm that I fit what they think about gays, and the people who have known me for a long time will be kind of confused because I don't do XYZ "gay" thing. Yet, it's unavoidable. And it's something I'd expect more from straight people but would get more from gay people.

While there are gays who seem to want all of us to be a unit and to be the same, there are other gays who seem hell-bent on proving gays are no different than anybody else and fitting in with everyone. This is how I view Ellen DeGeneres. I don't like her or Rosie O'Donnell. And I almost feel bad saying I don't like DeGeneres. I believe she's a nice, good person. But she, to me, has become the white lesbian Oprah Winfrey...and that's not a compliment. Her, Winfrey and Obama all seem like the same kind of people, desperate to be accepted by the mainstream to the point of almost totally ignoring, respectively, their sexual orientation or race. It's almost as if she's trying to take back coming out.

DeGeneres hardly has gays on her show, and it seems like when she does it's a queer person from a show with a decidedly strong heterosexual following, such as TR Knight from "Grey's Anatomy." As someone from my coming-out group mentioned once, she never has had the cast of "The L Word" on her show, and a lot of heterosexuals watch that show. I understand perfectly that she and Oprah need to appeal to a certain kind of audience (apparently, straight white housewives) in order to keep their shows on the stations they're on and to be as famous as they are, but, apparently, doing so is more important to them than these parts of who they are. These are two people who absolutely don't need these shows, though, or could have their shows on other stations that would allow them to have more gay/black guests and more issues that appeal to these audiences.

When DeGeneres had her own TV sitcom, I thought she was funny. This was actually before she came out. And then when she came out, she went overkill on her sexual orientation (which is what got that show cancelled, I'd say). And now she's going overkill in the opposite direction. I mean, she actually sits on her show and talks about how hot and sexy various guys are, then says, "Am I right, ladies?" and/or flirts with male celebrities. Ummmm...ok. Everyone knows you're a lesbian, Ellen. It's fine to say a guy is good-looking, but she talks as if she wants these guys just as much as those bored housewives in her audience do. It's about as weird as a heterosexual male talk show host doing it. She probably points out how sexy a male celebrity is more than she mentions Portia de Rossi, her girlfriend, on the show, and I've only heard her mention Portia approximately two times.

There's a happy middle ground. She doesn't have to be all about being gay, but it'd be nice if she didn't ignore it 95% of the time just to be in with straight people. Her sense of humor has really suffered for it. She was lame when she hosted the Oscars or whatever it was she hosted earlier this year, and she's unbelievably lame on her show. She just stands there, babbles awkwardly and makes no sense, and talks about hot guys. Yet, this is someone gay people absolutely love and look up to--someone who wouldn't even have you on her show if you were a famous queer entertainer. She wasn't always this bad on her show, but now I can barely stand to watch it.

I have to mention one more thing about her show that drives me crazy--the dancing. It really just reminds me of one of those happy black slaves or servants entertaining "massa," which is essentially what she's doing, not to mention doing badly.

This is the part of the post where I almost find myself wishing I knew how to accept comments on just this post so that I can see what other gays think about Rosie, Ellen and the rest of 'em.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Reflections On Education

It looks like I'm actually going to get to writing about a couple things I've been thinking about for a while. I'm glad I waited to write this post about blacks and education because I just read some posts and articles that are going to help me.

A little more than a week ago, I stumbled upon some blogs I hadn't seen before. Among them was Tariq Nelson where I saw a post about "Black boy culture," which links to an article that basically seems to say blacks devalue education because of the breakdown of black families and the rise of hip hop culture.

So many thoughts...ok...

Blacks not caring about education comes up a lot, and I used to be simpleminded enough to agree that blacks don't value education. What I say now are the following:

1) America doesn't value education. It's not just black people. Our nation allows people to become rich and famous without even a high school degree, and many of us worship and want to be like those people. I firmly believe that you shouldn't be able to "make it" in this country without education...but you can, and that's the problem. I think it only makes sense that this message would affect blacks more than others. Understand that the majority of our celebrities are white, and the majority of those people don't have a college degree and probably don't care about college. I hear white people put down education. There are white kids who skip school and don't want to attend college and don't go to college.

But, because they are white, that's okay. They can still receive opportunities, so their academic performance--or lack thereof--is no big deal. If white people are poor or criminals, no one is saying that's because they didn't receive an education, because whites don't value education or because the US doesn't value education. If a white person is middle class, rich or famous, no one is questioning their credentials or their valuation of education there, either. But if you're black and you start to realize as you grow up that even getting an education might not get you as far as a white person can go without one, you kind of ask yourself why borrow all that money, why spend all that time, doing something that may very well end up not being worth it. I know because I have started asking myself those questions. The difference between me and the blacks these kinds of discussions seem to be about is that those blacks, realizing the odds are against them, just won't even try.

2) One of the main problems with blacks and discussing issues affecting blacks is too many discussions seem to focus on black males. Blacks devalue education...proof is that black boys are XYZ--not attending college, not performing well on standardized tests, not graduating high school, are becoming entertainers, commit more crimes, black families are broken down, etc. Hmmmm...okay. Explain why black females don't have these same problems. I mean, as a race, our standardized test performance might be lower than everyone else's--black women included--but this doesn't really seem to be stopping black women from attending college and even graduate/professional school, making more money than black men and getting better jobs than black men. And we're not all becoming singers or video girls. Are black women and black men not raised in the same families? Okay, so this, to me, should be a sign that "devaluing education" is not the only--or even biggest--reason for black underachievement in life and black underperformance in regards to school, and neither is black families allegedly not emphasizing education or suffering a breakdown. If those were the major issues, then black females should be doing just as badly as black males.

3) There's all this focus on underperformance, pointing to academic indicators that are made by white people, predominantly white males. I'm sorry, but people from different cultures think differently just as men and women think differently (and women also lag slightly behind on standardized tests vs men, although, if i remember correctly, women make better grades). You can't have white males give tests to everybody and call them "standardized," one size fits all, end-all be-all measures of who is smarter, who is more prepared, who is more fit for XYZ school, etc. And thinking differently doesn't equate to smarter, just different. And I'm certain there's a class differential there, as all of these things are not coincidences. So, big deal if black people are behind on standardized tests. It has been past time for educators to come up with fair measures, and various background information needs to be taken into account.

The easiest way I know how to get across other issues I want to point out is to talk about my family. Now, I don't know for sure, but I get the sense that the majority of black people don't believe in borrowing money to attend college, attending the best school one possibly can or that parents are obligated to pay for college. I think these, if true, are key cultural differences. There are several others, but these are three that have played the biggest roles in determining my path, as well as many other blacks I've known of.

I remember the first girl I dated--she was Asian and lower-middle class or so, very close to being poor--was really on me about college. We had similar levels of ambitiousness, but she definitely worked harder than I did. At one point, I think I had told her what schools I was applying to, and she responded something along the lines that I should be applying to better schools. Now, the schools I applied to were, for the most part, prestigious, but they were more prestigious in the South while the most prestigious schools overall tend to be in the Northeast with a couple in California. But I'm from the South and because of how overprotective my parents have always been, leaving the South at age 18 was really not going to be an option. That was first of all. Second, the college I was to attend really wasn't going to be my choice--and already wasn't because of the regional aspect--because my parents had to approve of it financially. Needless to say, then, my parents didn't want me attending schools like Harvard or Yale, nor good Southern schools like Duke or Vanderbilt, because of what they cost.

Essentially, I explained this to this girl and she didn't believe me. In fact, she was certain I was lying or making excuses. What ended up happening with her, in contrast--even though my parents probably made nearly triple what her parents made in terms of money--was she got accepted to Cornell and Dartmouth and, no question, she was going to one of those schools, no matter what. She thought that all parents were like this, I guess--regardless of how much money you have, if a parent has the opportunity to send their child to an Ivy League school, they will. Unfortunately, that's not true...and for more reasons than just finances.

But finances is a big reason. I'm not sure if I've ever mentioned this directly, but all of my ambitions really seemed to be a burden to my family, mainly because of money. My talking about schools like Yale wasn't a joy...more like an "Oh, Lord..." And, at this point, I think it's key to mention that both of my parents are educators...both have taught at colleges, and my father still does. This is another reason why people expect my family to really be into education or where people think I got my academic achievement from. But it's not true. I wouldn't say education isn't important to them, but their philosophy is more "get an education" than "get the best education" and "attend college" than "attend the best college." Anything else is too expensive.

So they complained when I signed up for AP classes in high school, because they had to pay $75 per class in order for me to take the AP exams at the end of the school year. One was bad enough, but with as many AP classes as I took, it definitely was expensive. And then we had fight after fight about college because I wanted to attend schools like Duke and they didn't want me to. I can't tell you how many times my mother has said to me, "We don't owe you an Ivy-League education," which just sounds so demented to me because I think more like I imagine some whites and many Asians thinking about education. So, long story short there, I'm in a lot of debt for both undergraduate school and law school because I did go ahead and borrow money, did attend the best schools I could and they did not pay for college. My mother is paying my undergraduate loans back right now, but, believe me, both of my parents complain about that, too, even though I didn't ask them to do that. As far as the law school loans, I am pretty terrified that I'm not going to be able to pay those back, because--despite my law school's prestige--I am not at all confident that I'm going to have a job offer upon graduation, let alone a six-figure job offer like all the white law students will. That kind of fear is one reason many blacks are unwilling to borrow money in the first place.

As I mentioned, I know of several other blacks whose parents didn't pay for college. Nikki's parents didn't, which resulted in her turning down admission to Duke to attend a college that most people have never heard of because they offered her a scholarship. My brother-in-law paid his way through school, which also resulted in his attending a college that most people don't know of. My parents wanted me to take a scholarship to a state school that is known as a "party school"...which I didn't feel would exactly appeal to Harvard Medical School (which is what I was set on when I entered college).

And, as fate would have it, I ended up watching a talk show I have never seen before and saw this black female who came on the show to tell her mother that she is dropping out of college less than a year before graduating...because she can't afford it. And, naturally, her mother went off, even calling her daughter names and threatening to beat her. And then the girl said some things that completely hit home. Two in particular--1) she pointed out that her parents will not help her pay her college expenses at all but will buy themselves a brand new car, and 2) they won't help her, but will buy her little brother who is in high school a new car and give him the sun and moon all because he's an athlete whom they think he's going to get drafted. That was incredible to me, because that is almost exactly my story.

When I was a senior in high school arguing with my parents about the college I wanted to attend, they bought themselves a new SUV. And then when I pointed this out, they were just like, "But we need a new car" and completely didn't see anything wrong with this. And then again in my sophomore year of college, they bought another SUV. And I don't have a brother, but I always wanted one...until I realized how bad my life would have been if I'd had one. See, black families exalt black boys, give them everything they want and let them get away with murder. He doesn't have to be an athlete, even. I have a male cousin who was given everything and treated so much better by my parents whenever he was around...and now he has been in jail twice and is currently on house arrest for three years. I actually think this kind of behavior and sexism in black families is one of the biggest reasons why black females are doing so much better than black males, but that's a separate post for another time.

I think either right up there with money or more so than money, my parents own self-esteem issues got in the way. Both of my parents grew up poor. My father is more intellectual than my mother, but nobody in my family is like me intellectually. I don't know how to put that a better way. Because of the time period in which my parents grew up in (civil rights era, segregation), where they are from, the social class in which they grew up and their own intelligence level...I think my parents simply did not foresee having any children like me. My parents didn't save for college and never thought they'd have kids interested in advanced courses or Harvard Medical School. With some parents, their growing up with few opportunities makes them push their kids...but in other parents, it does the opposite. Why?

I think one reason might be some people get an understanding of what it takes to make more of themselves and some don't. My parents are in the latter category. They wouldn't have had the first idea how to get their kid into Harvard or medical school, but I put a lot of effort into finding these things out for myself. In fact, I was pretty obsessed with it. At each stage, that's what I did. And now that I'm almost finished with law school, I am crystal clear on the fact that the majority of blacks just...don't...know how to achieve because there's no one there to tell them. It's really hard. The processes I've undertaken have been hard, intricate, detailed, complex, time-consuming and very expensive. We all know that more black people than not simply don't have the money to get as far as I've gotten, and the lack of faith that it will all be worth it eliminates the idea to borrow money to get this far.

Being upper-middle class, at least for where I grew up, was the only thing really operating in my favor, and I was lucky enough to grow up in the age of the internet...otherwise, I really don't think I would be where I am right now. I was able to go online and research everything I needed to know about getting into college because we could afford computers and the internet before they started becoming as popular as they are...and very fortunate enough to be able to go online to college and law school message boards so that I could learn all the ins-and-outs that well-off white kids already knew. Another advantage, though, is social class was the only thing that ever made me feel the sense of entitlement I feel. Normally, entitlement is viewed as a bad thing. But if I hadn't felt entitled to the best education, I wouldn't be getting it because no one else in my family felt entitled to it or felt I was entitled to it. I feel entitled to the best of everything.

People who have the requisite resources take those things for granted and tend to think everyone has those things. I remember being irritated in college one time over the fact that everyone in one of my classes seemed to believe that everybody has a computer, and this was in 2000. It's 2007 and not everyone has a computer--I know people who don't, and I actually think they're all black. That means these are people who can't just sit down and look up everything they need to know about getting into the best college and the best law school like I was able to do. Could they talk to someone who has done it? Yes, but not everyone knows someone who has done it, and there's no guarantee that the people they do know who have done it will be all that helpful--I know this from personal experience, particularly when I was applying to law school. Could they go to a bookstore? Yes, but the costs of books add up--I know this from personal experience, particularly with buying books to prepare for applying to law school--and not everyone has money to spare on that when they have bills to pay and are barely getting by.

When I was applying to law school, the way the white applicants on message boards seemed to take everything about the process for granted really pissed me off. Applying to law school is ridiculously expensive. Ridiculously expensive. And especially if you do all the things white kids tell you are necessary, such as taking a $1300 prep course, buying copies of just about all the old LSAT exams that have been given, buying various LSAT prep books, buying various books about applying to law school...and then the costs of taking the LSAT, applying to law school, reserving a seat at a law school that accepts you, paying to apply for financial aid (yes, at some schools, you do this...some require you to fill out this form called NeedAccess that costs $15 per school you fill it out for) and so on. And prep courses are another key point, because prep course classes are expensive and tend to be filled with mainly white kids...hmmm, and we still have an achievement gap?!?! And now that I'm in law school, every time anyone talks about taking the Bar exam, they say something like, "You must take BarBri" (a prep course). "You need a prep course." A subset of white kids getting into prep courses whenever they are preparing for an exam is their parents getting them tutors whenever they are having problems in school...another option that is not going to be available to many blacks and other poorer individuals.

Now, the lack of mindset many black parents seem to have, in my observation, as far as being willing to help pay for college or help their kid apply for student loans (which, I know black kids whose parents didn't want them applying for loans and/or refused to help fill out financial aid forms), attending the best schools and so on...let's take that and connect it to affirmative action for a second. Most whites and Asians, and even many blacks, seem to think that affirmative action should be a different story when it comes to middle class blacks and up. I think that much of what I've written should begin to speak to why it shouldn't be a different story for us. A black kid like me who has black parents like mine without affirmative action, minority scholarships, etc, is only going to take steps backwards in the world, because this is a black kid who is not going to be able to attend the best schools, which will affect admissions to graduate/professional schools and job opportunities, which will affect salary, housing and social class. I know that my parents truly didn't know any better about a lot of things, even though I'm not sure they ever would have been willing to pay for me to attend Yale or Duke. But they now know that the reputation of the school you attend can be very essential, for example, and I think they know that this is most true for blacks.

I mean, the fact that Barack Obama attended Columbia undergrad, and especially the fact that he attend Harvard Law, is one of the main reasons why whites are so impressed with him and why they are so willing to embrace him. I truly get sick of hearing "Harvard Law" in connection with him, but it's an example of how much coming from an impressive school matters for a black person. The fact that it's mentioned so much to validate him makes me think that most people are thinking about his attending that school as a black man as just incredibly out of the ordinary and/or it means he must really be "a smart black person" if no other kind of black but a Harvard-educated one can be a really smart black person. But this is the thinking in America.

Another thing about middle class black parents, especially if they are around my parents' age--these are likely people who grew up with a lot less than their kids have. So, again, these are people who don't know anywhere near as much as their white counterparts about attempting to ensure that their kids get into the right courses, the right high school, the best college and so on...because my parents didn't know anything about that or why those kinds of things are so important. My parents have college and masters degrees, but they have them from very unimpressive schools that getting accepted to is almost a matter of simply applying and/or being from that state. They are teachers, not doctors or lawyers or businesspeople, at unimpressive colleges.

As far as the SUV thing, my parents, particularly my mother, are materialistic. The thing I've noticed is people who grew up poor tend to be materialistic and/or more free with money when they finally do get something out of life because they now have the opportunity to have things they couldn't have as they were growing up. My best friend in law school is even more idealistic than I am about social issues, but she's going into corporate law--why? Because she grew up poor and her family is still poor, and so she wants to have the money to get her family out of that, buy them a house, car and all that kind of stuff. I've observed this in celebrities, as well, because many of them grew up poor or working class. Their excessive spending is the result of suddenly having more money than they know what to do with. This is certainly not all people who did without while growing up, but a lot of those people felt insecure about it--maybe still do--and try to make up for it.

My mother likes to have nice things, and she likes to appear to have more than she does. The last thing she's for is saving money, and I do think she has always had a tendency to sometimes put being able to have things she wants before things my sisters and I needed by rationalizing that we didn't need them. And they truly were necessities, like visits to the doctor, braces, treatment for my sister's scoliosis, etc, as well as a really good college. I think a lot of black families do this, and I know from listening to black comedians that my parents aren't the only ones who complain about expensive necessities for their kids or other things that would be extremely beneficial for their kids such as AP courses and college. And I do think parents of other races differ from blacks in this way, but I wouldn't say this is all about blacks not valuing education.

I don't want to talk about blacks and "hip hop culture" in this post. I'm tired of the discussions about hip hop. Undeniably, hip hop is influential, but black boys aren't the only people who listen to hip hop. Clearly, no one else turns out like black boys allegedly do because of hip hop, and I listened to hip hop some growing up, as well. What I do want to end with is this: I do believe parents are supposed to pay for college. Whatever college the kid chooses, that's what you pay for. If you can't pay for it, you get the loan or co-sign a loan. If you don't want to have to whine about your 30-yr old still living at home with you or borrowing money from you or not being able to keep a job, or your teenager running around getting pregnant/getting people pregnant and dumping the kids on you...send that kid to college! If after all that the kid can't get anywhere and has truly done everything he/she can, then you can really start blaming our racist society. I believe that parents are supposed to be putting money away for college from day one, or even when they first start anticipating that they will have kids. I understand why this is not a possibility for some parents, and I understand why this is not something parents who grew up with nothing would want to do. I understand wanting to treat yourself when you have the resources if you never had them before.

But in my theoretical opinion, since I will never have kids, I would be finding a way to set money aside and would anticipate that my kid would shoot for Harvard. If my kid decided that's not the kind of school he/she wants to attend, I'd be upset...but they'd at least have the money to attend any college since Harvard is among the most expensive colleges. Either way, I don't believe in throwing your kid, especially a black kid, out there to sink or swim. Enough decks are stacked against a black person as it is. So, I would treat all my kids as if college is a given, and I would be up on every step that needed to be taken along the way for that kid to get into the best school. Everyone in my family is excited about how intelligent my sister's kids are, but that's not going to mean anything in 10 years if my sister doesn't start figuring out how to pay for their college education...which she's not doing.

Unfortunately, middle class blacks are middle class because they spend so much time caught up with getting by day to day. It's not like they live in excess, can have one parent work and the other stay at home with the kids helping them with academics and learning all they can about college prep like so many white families do, and so on. They don't have the time--it's work, dinner and then bed for a lot of black parents with little time for anything more. So, why are we expected to be so advantaged and to know all the things white and Asian kids know? I know black parents simply don't have the time and money for the kinds of things white families do. As a teenager, I had the free time that my parents didn't, and I was unusually ambitious. So, I did the work that white and Asian parents normally do, the kind of work that is expected of black parents, as well. I did it, not my parents. They didn't help, and, in many ways, they couldn't help. I dragged myself to where I am...not my social class, not who I know, not my gender and certainly not my race. And I'm not going to be one of those "I did it; you can do it, too" kind of blacks who refuse to pass down "the secret" to others who need it, because, as hard as this all has been, it's enough to make someone give up.

I must say, though...given that race and other factors matter so much in our society or can result in success without education for some but education without success for others...I'm not sure blacks devalue or undervalue education any more than it deserves to be. Think about it. Either way, any discussion concerning the state of black America is far more complex than simply blaming black attitudes about education.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Various Updates

So, it's looking like I've finally got a place in Chicago, which is what I've been spending the past few days concentrating on. I have had a few blog topics in mind that I want to get to, although the longer I wait to write them the more they slip away from my memory. I'll get to them soon, hopefully. Anyway, I'm headed to Chicago approximately a week from now. I can, and can't, wait--can because of work, can't because of the fun I hope to have...although there are some aspects of work I'm looking forward to, such as the fact that they are actually having us visit Playboy Enterprises!

I know that might sound weird coming from me, but that is seriously the thing I'm most excited about. Yes, I think what those women (and men) do is degrading, but my excitement has little or nothing to do with them. I think I'm more excited because it is legendary, it's a break from boring legal work/seminars/forced schmoozing and...I'll just say it, a possibility to make some connections. Back when I was interested in entertainment law, an entertainment lawyer advised me that I look into working for them because they are great about hiring women for powerful positions and allow women to advance in the corporation, which, from what I've seen, is definitely true.

It seems I'm already getting the opportunity to make some important connections. I have no idea why, but the people who hired me decided to give me a special award that they only give to one person they hire each year. I get to meet with the lawyer whom the award is named after and whom it seems has done a lot of the kind of work I want to do. And I think there might be a ceremony, but I'm not sure. When I told Nikki about it, she was probably more excited than I was. I'm just bewildered. She thinks I'm being modest. No, I'm bewildered. Seriously, why me out of all the people hired by the organization this summer? It's incredible. But it's exciting. And it seems my resume is really shaping up to be impressive, although most of the impressive items on it, I have no idea why I've gotten those opportunities...things such as being published, my undergrad school, the law school I attend and the scholarship they gave me, and now this. Would actually asking the people who chose me for this (who, by the way, are mainly lawyers at pretty major law firms...and, nope, I'm not bragging, because these same law firms totally didn't want to hire me) why I was chosen be a bad idea? Because I seriously want to ask.

As far as classes, I did finally get into the class about queers of color. The hunt for a class about Asians and/or Latinos has not been going well. It seems I need two more classes, not one, which seems like too much to me. I've seen several interesting courses, but the times are not good or the classes are closed. In the meantime, AfterEllen writer Malinda Lo has been providing me with some education about Asian lesbians via her blog posts on the site (and I say "Asian" rather than "Asian American" because I hate "Anything American"--Asian American, black American, African American, Latino American--when we're all allegedly just, as I read from someone yesterday or so, nobody thinks "people of color" are American anyway...why add it to our racial/ethnic identification?). It has been fascinating, and I'm hoping that the queers of color class will do something similar, although one reason I was looking for another class about Asians and Latinos was because I am looking for more than just information about Asian and Latino gays.

Malinda Lo has listed several powerful Asian lesbians and Asian films involving queer storylines, and so now what I want to do is research these people some more and check out some of these films. What I find sad about the whole thing is, apparently, it almost always takes someone from a particular background to bring non-white issues/storylines/works/etc to the forefront, i.e. Asians gays bringing Asian gay people and works to everyone's attention. On one hand, she is giving me somewhere to begin with my interest in finding out about other races, as well as my interest in learning more about gays. On the other hand, there's no Latina on AE doing the same if I want to learn about that, I have to do the digging...which I'm not complaining about, nor do I think one person should have the burden of bringing up issues or bringing attention to a group of people. I should have to do some work, and more of us should do some work, to learn about others who are not like ourselves (at least not facially, because so many times when I read what an Asian has to say, that person expresses similar ideas/feelings as blacks do).

The good thing about it being summer is maybe now I will actually have some time to do this work. I already started looking up some of the people Lo wrote about on her top 5 Asian lesbians list, most of whom I'd never even heard of even though they've done major things...which I found ridiculous.

I think I had some other updates I wanted to mention...if I remember any, I will likely update this post, so check back.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Queer Maxim Top 100

So, apparently us queer women are sooo different from everyone else, although I'm pretty sure that every...year millions of people check out Maxim's top 100 and take a wild guess about how much crack the people who came up with the list smoked while compiling it. Even though this is what I've done for the past couple years as a person who cares next to nothing about these pointless lists, not to mention the magazine itself, and only knows about it because the "news" has essentially become what are Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, Angelina Jolie and the whole freaks-we-shouldn't-give-a-damn-about-but-somehow-do gang doing (hmmm, aren't we at war in Iraq? Whatever happened to that?)...I do have to say that this year's list must be the result of, like, a mix of a crack, marijuana, alcohol, heroin and painkillers fest. I don't even know who half of those women are...and I don't care what you think your justification is for putting Lindsay Lohan, someone who shouldn't even be on the list, as #1.

From CNN:

"There is no other star in the world (who) causes more of a stir in the public eye than Lindsay," said Maxim Editor in Chief Jimmy Jellinek in a statement. "Her every move is watched and reported on." I think you've got ole "Firecrotch" confused with Britney Spears, who also doesn't really belong on the list. Hey, at least they had sense enough to leave her and Paris off. But, really, Avril Lavigne? At #15?! Salma Hayek at 90?! And I totally get tired of Halle and Beyonce representing black women, but it makes no sense to put Rihanna as hot black girl du jour. And, perhaps, the biggest sign that a "hot" list is a joke--and by that, I don't just mean we shouldn't take the list seriously...I mean they seriously were trying to eff with our minds when they made it--is when they list one twin on it and not the other (the Olsen twins). And way to send a message to women out there, what, with naming someone who clearly has an eating disorder, drug addictions and all other kinds of nonsense going on in her life as #1.

So, the chicks at AfterEllen decided we needed to do our own thing. I said, I think these lists are pointless. I also find something offensive about them, but I can't really put my finger on it. I think somewhere on the post, someone might have made a comment about ranking/listing hot women being objectifying, which...yeah. But I also just hate popularity contests. When it comes to something like physical appearance, the most trite people tend to come up, which really bothers me. I also think we really get to see how sick our society is when we check these lists out and see what kind of women are on them. But I also just feel really bad for not only the other capable celebs who don't make the cut, but also I guess the, oh, 300 billion other women on earth who never will.

But I am always interested to see who gay women like. A lot of names seem to come up a lot. I'm pretty sure women like Sarah Shahi and Angelina Jolie will be near the top of the AE list...which, hooray for Shahi, barf at Jolie (I can't help it...I just think she's the hugest freak ever). Another name I saw a lot was Kate Walsh, which I thought was so cool because just seemingly out of nowhere I have started looking at her like, "Wow, she is so gorgeous! But I bet I'm the only person who thinks that since I never hear anything like that about her." And, of course, we have the rest of "The L Word" cast represented.

I made my contribution to the AE poll. I like commonplace hotties just as much as the next person sometimes, so they are on my list. But I also contributed the kind of women I appreciate, i.e. the hotties no one else talks about. The one consistent is I like feminine women.

So, here are some of my women:

Stacy Keibler ("Dancing With The Stars" Season 2, WWE, "What About Brian"--check her out on YouTube, especially the DWTS performances. She's essentially the reason I got hooked on/started watching that show.)

Sarah Shahi ("The L Word," best-looking chick ever to be on that show, in my opinion)

Portia de Rossi ("Nick Freno," "Arrested Development" or as I like to think of her...famous for being Ellen's girlfriend)

Kate Walsh ("Grey's Anatomy", just maybe my biggest white media crush right now...Portia was before)

Marcia Cross ("Melrose Place," "Desperate Housewives," has always been gorgeous but I have only recently begun to really appreciate it)

Tika Sumpter ("One Life To Live," "My Best Friend's Date," definitely my biggest black media crush)

Shandi Finnessy ("Dancing With The Stars" Season 4--yes, I watch that show way too much--Game Show Network hostess, former Miss USA. I find it kind of hilarious that she acts like such an airhead but is actually pretty intelligent, at least on paper)

Mischa Barton ("The OC," James Blunt video, and another one whose beauty it took a while to appreciate. Now that I do, I say she definitely kicks former co-star Rachel Bilson.)

Olivia Wilde ("The OC"--which I was so hooked to her storyline when she was on...she was the only "outside" character they ever brought on that I liked, and not because of the lesbian thing--"Skin," which was a good show)

Kristanna Loken ("The L Word" and I know some movies but, uh...I'm not a movie person, so...runner up for hottest chick ever on "The L Word")

Emily Procter ("CSI," another one I was surprised to see as many women name as they did)

Salma Hayek ("Ugly Betty" and, yeah, another one in movies I can't possibly name. My biggest Latina media crush...forget Jessica Alba and definitely J.No)

Mariska Hargitay ("Law & Order"? I hate all those damn forensic science/detective or whatever shows, but apparently they have good-looking women on them...)

Heidi Klum ("Project Runway," VS model...and apparently hot enough that even my hetero female friends want to get with her. Note to any hetero black men out there reading: this is how you pick a white woman! She's hot, you're ragly, i.e. Seal, not the other way around!)

Shakira (Pop/Latin singer. Now we get to the singers, even though her lyrics are a bit freakish and often seem to reveal some sort of inferiority complex when it comes to other women...and, incidentally, I think Shakira is hottest with dark hair)

Faith Hill (Country/pop singer, total package--beautiful, talented and nice! Un...precedented!)

Thandie Newton ("Crash," don't hear nearly enough about this one)

Ashley Judd (I only can name off the top of my head "Double Jeopardy" while I can name several of her mother and/or sister's songs, but she's the hottest of them all by far.)

Vanessa Williams ("Ugly Betty," "Soul Food" the movie, always gorgeous)

Mya (R&B/pop singer, used to have a crush on this one)

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Another One Bites The Dust

So, I mentioned that when my friend Nikki decided to try online dating, she attempted to pressure me into it, as well. Although I didn't give in, I did find an ad I liked by a lesbian seeking friends, not anything romantic or sexual. She indicated that she was interested in social issues and was looking for friends who are, as well. I wrote her, and things were cool for a while--better than cool, in fact. The only thing was I could tell she wasn't very internet-happy like I am, i.e. her e-mail responses took too long for impatient ole me.

So then after we got over the little introduction stuff, we got into writing about social issues a little more. I found out she was white, which...big surprise (sarcasm), but that was fine. Once again, I figured from what she had to say about race that she would at least be open to what I had to say about it. Once again, I was wrong. Or so it seems, but I think I was wrong because it's been about a week since I've heard from her, which she usually takes two or so days to get back to me, not a week. I've learned my lesson from last time, so I will not be apologizing, feeling bad about expressing my honest opinion or writing her again without her writing me. If she doesn't want to talk to me after what I wrote, that's fine. I will no longer let people make me feel bad for my social viewpoints and my willingness to say the tough stuff, things that some people don't want to hear.

What did I write? I basically said similar things as I did to LA Girl, only in a lot better fashion, I feel. I gave brief overviews of my views on blacks vs gays, competition among minority groups (including women), femmes, white guilt and prioritizing identities. Basically, I wrote to her very concisely the same things I write in this blog. I said that I believe black people's problem with homosexuality, though the same as white people's problem with it, has an added layer that makes their problem with homosexuality more about race. Why would blacks, including black GLBTQs, want to help/support people who treat them the same way as white heterosexuals do, people who don't want to help with or support racial issues but expect such help/support from blacks on gay issues? Why help put white gays back at nearly 100% white privilege while blacks remain America's whipping board?

And I asked, in response to her writing about feeling guilt when she started to understand racism better, why, and pointed out that white guilt is not usually enough for most white people to want to do work that will better the lives of blacks. Nor is just realizing you have privilege on any level vs another group whenever you think about the fact that helping them might very well hurt you or fail to benefit you, which is what made me tell my theory about blacks vs gays and competition among various non-white male groups.

She wrote some things about how she noticed gender inequities growing up, and I responded that I basically didn't. To me, blacks grow up in a sexist "culture" that results in us being more accepting of or finding normal certain manifestations of sexism. Sure, American culture is sexist. But we have cultures within cultures, and I firmly believe that the lower you go down the racial hierarchy the more sexist the cultures become...which, if you think about it, relates to my theory about competition among non-white males. Everyone's looking for someone to feel better than, and minority men more than white men probably miss the days in which, no matter what they experienced throughout the day and no matter how bad that white boss made them feel, at least they could always come home and feel better than their wife or girlfriend. If nowhere else, minority men reigned supreme at home. The thing about it is Jews could feel better than Asians, who could feel better than Latinos, who could feel better than blacks. Black men couldn't feel better than anyone but black women, which increased their dependency on the necessity of keeping black women beneath them via sexist behaviors and beliefs.

But I digress somewhat. In addition to mentioning that blacks grow up in a sexist culture, I pointed out that we are trained to focus on race, not gender, as black women. I could say so much about that, but that is probably best left for another post. Either way, I think a lot of us can't help but prioritize race above other identities, and I think I mentioned that, as well.

As far as femmes--and this is mainly what made me think she might be open to what I had to say--she said she realized that she could hide her sexual orientation because she is femme but minorities can't hide their race. This is a point that a lot of white gay people seem to take offense to, so I was kind of impressed when I read that from her. I think white gays take that as people trying to say gays don't experience discrimination because no one even knows they're gay, or it's their fault that they experience discrimination since they tell people their sexual orientation. In response, I mentioned that I've learned that femmes experience issues others are unaware of and maybe a couple other things.

What I find interesting about the people who keep having problems with these ideas I express is that they have all been white women thus far. My impression of white women is they are people who sometimes attempt to situate themselves as people who relate to the black plight because they are women, kind of like many gay people attempt to do. So with these people being women and gay, yet feeling so strongly about what I have to say that they lose interest in associating with me...frankly, I expected that more from white men, who, theoretically, are the farthest away from understanding anything a black woman has to say about the world or her life. With white lesbians, at least we essentially have two identities in common. And still, for all their self-defined liberal views, it seems like there's really only one identity they want to count. We're supposed to talk about how we're similar, not how we're different, and yet that's somehow supposed to lead to changes in society?

Which reminds me. She described herself as being one to confront racism, sexism, homophobia if she hears it. I basically responded I think that's a mistake. I mean, I understand why someone would do it. But it's why I speak/write with a negative connotation about political correctness, or, at least, how political correctness manifests itself, i.e. causing silence. I believe that if you respond to an -ism, you should respond not in a way that will rip someone a new one, but in a way that results in knowledge...building blocks, if you will. To me, the first step in solving -isms is knowing exactly what those -isms are. I think one of our major problems is we assume we know. But the assumption is always the big things and not the smaller things that are way more common, i.e. we think about "nigger," "faggot," rape, sexual harassment, glass ceilings, hanging people from trees or beating people to death for having a certain identity, but we ignore the way more common stuff that is, to me, way more problematic. If it's subtle or said behind closed doors, we have to foster an environment where we get people to admit these things so that we first of all know they exist.

So when I tell white people my theories about why white people support Barack Obama, why blacks seem more homophobic, why every gay person does not have to come out, why so many black women I know don't really get as passionate about gender issues, etc...what I'm trying to do is put problems on the table that we, as a society, ignore. And I'm fully aware that because we're used to taking the easy way out when problems are so intricate, complex and nearly impossible to answer, I'm fully aware that saying these things result in my being considered racist, a self-loathing closet case, a Benedict Arnold to women and whatever else these white women who end up ignoring me after I speak my mind consider me to be. I say it's their loss as "caring liberals." They're the ones out there wanting to solve problems that they don't completely understand. And as much as we hate what some people have to say, being able to understand their thinking and where they are coming from even if you don't agree with changing the world. Admitting that you are a bigot, like everyone else, and saying all the ways in which you priceless. For people who believe that we can end racism, sexism, homophobia, classism and every other -ism in America...there's no other way to do it other than knowing every single ignorance that goes into creating those hierarchies, so that you can figure out exactly what you have to combat and how. This I explained to this woman, as well.

I'm not much for providing solutions. I'm another one who likes to point out problems. But every now and then, I ask myself what I can do right now, even before becoming a civil rights attorney. I mentioned in another post that I don't know what Asians and Latinos experience in America. And it just so happens that I'm having serious difficulty coming up with a class schedule for the fall. As of right now, I only have two classes when I need about four or five. Of course, I'm still trying to get into the class about queers of color, and that's looking feasible. So one more class, and not one interesting in the law school. I can take at least two more classes outside the law school, so the task is to find a class that will help me learn something about Asian and/or Latino culture.

To be honest, the idea of taking an Asian class is uncomfortable. In college, I wanted to take Japanese. And then I got to thinking...hmmm, I'd probably be the only black person in that class. Heck, nearly everyone would likely be Asian. Same thoughts arising in this situation. And for some reason, that is scarier than the thought of being the only black person in a class full of whites. I am certain I wouldn't be the only black or non-Latino in a class about Latinos simply because our school doesn't have enough Latinos for that. Even so, that would be more tolerable than a class full of Asians or whites, to be perfectly honest, just because I feel as if I'd stand out less in that kind of class and possibly be more accepted in that kind of class. However, I feel I'd benefit more from a class about Asian Americans since I completely cannot imagine what they go through.

So, this will be the steps I take to ensure that I am not like these white lesbians I've written about. And to go back to my surprise at their reactions to me...I've only ever spoken to one white male--a gay white male--about my theories, and he gets them. I wouldn't say he agrees--only because much of what I say is absolutely the first time he's ever heard it, and I think he's someone like me who needs to go back and think about what is said before forming an opinion--but he finds what I have to say interesting and he listens. Best of all, we're still friends after I say what I have to say. That's really all I ask for. And the thought has crossed my mind that the difference could be that I've told him my theories in person vs e-mails as I did with LA Girl and the latest e-mail buddy disaster. There are some things that are easier to take if they are vocally expressed, depending on how they are said. Who knows--I just know that this time I'm moving on rather quickly. You win some, you lose some.