The Divided States of America

I sat on a bench that ran along the north side of Ohio State’s legendary oval while I sipped my coffee and stared out across the green. It was a beautiful morning which was sure to turn into an idyllic spring day. But then suddenly something caught my eye. It was a sign, and after further concentration I noticed that there were more. Big, with blaring reds and pinks. I strained my eyes to see what they were displaying and then it hit me. The antiabortion crusaders had found their way back to our cheery campus to spread their hellfire and blame. They come every year to swarm the paths we women use to walk to class. Glaring and staring they shove their brutally vicious signs in our faces. Signs which carry grotesque images of aborted fetuses, as if that’s anyway to respect the dead. I wanted to scream loud enough for them to hear me. I wanted to run over to them and kick down their signs and make them see that I was right there and they wouldn’t scare me away. But I didn’t, instead I just watched. I let the blood boil up inside me and the tears well up in my eyes, and I sat.

I fumed silently the whole way home. I pressed my face to the Cota Bus window and closed my eyes. What are they still protesting against? Aren’t they winning? My inbox is constantly flooded with news about the attack on women’s health. Email after email telling me that my rights are slipping from my grasp. They scream at me and I scream back in protest, furiously signing every petition I can then throwing it out to a community that doesn’t care.

I got home and threw my keys on the counter. Digging frantically through my cupboard I found my tea and put the kettle on the stove. My phone buzzed from within my jacket pocket, “God, now what?” I read the received message and my mouth fell open. The Ethnic Studies building, Hale hall, had been defaced. This morning had brought with it more than a cool spring chill, it brought the realization of racism on our campus. At some point early this morning it was discovered that someone had spray painted “Long Live Zimmerman” on the side of the building.

For those of you who are not familiar with the Trayvon Martin case, get familiar, because it is quickly dividing our nation. Martin was a 17 year old black male who was shot and killed on his return to a gated community in Sanford FL, by George Zimmerman. Zimmerman described Trayvon as being “suspicious” because he was wearing a hoodie. Well, and he was black. After all there are no black families living in gated communities in this country. It’s a tragic case of racial profiling, a case that in this day and age shouldn’t be tolerated.

All politics and arguments aside, there was wrongful death. A young boy died because of his race and unfortunately that’s the reality of the situation. His grieving family, friends, and community must carry on his name as they strive for justice. I do not believe that George Zimmerman is an evil man, nor do I believe that his rash decision was completely his fault. Our society is a racist institution that sets both parties up for failure. Zimmerman was conditioned by the media and perpetual racist notions to believe that all young black men are criminals. This has got to stop. This separation of human beings based on their gender, race, and class. We are all people deserving of a community which loves, connects, and protects us, and quite frankly The United States isn’t it.

These battles being fought against marginalized races and ethnic groups as well as the ones being fought against women are tearing this country apart. Everyone has a side, or an agenda. We’re all seeking the benefit of one, but what ever happened to one for all? In this constant uphill march for equality and social justice are we losing our footing? When I stared at the picture of the defaced Hale hall I found myself lost in fear and confusion. In the same way I would respond to an adult bullying another, I want to step away from America and ask “Aren’t we too old for this?”

I’m sick of my own government attacking my rights as a woman, and even sicker of my brothers not standing up with me. I am sick racism and profiling, and overall ignorant behavior. No one loses in a society that is built upon equality. This is my country and I want it to be a safe place for everyone in it. I refuse to let oppression run my life and rip my community apart, I am standing up and demanding justice. It’s time for the Divided States of America to once again become United.

Black is Beautiful.

In this country if you are a woman then you will undoubtedly experience sexism in your lifetime. You may find yourself faced with sexual abuse, struggle with getting your voice heard, and even have to fight for your freedom of choice. If you are a black woman in America you will feel all of this pressure as well as something separate but equally as debilitating, this being racism.

Racism is a sickness that has plagued the African American population since their forefather’s were brought to this country in chains. The idea that the black people of this country are inferior to the white dominant race, regardless of class, is one that is completely ingrained into American culture. The Civil rights movement brought about great change and granted justice to those who had been victims of discrimination. However, just because you write something on paper and stamp it with an official stamp, doesn’t mean that everyone will change their behavior. Racism is handed down from parent to child and passed around nonchalantly between friends. This is also how sexism works. Negative concepts and stereotypes about women maintain their existence through the individuals who mindlessly pass them on.

So there it is. Black women get hit twice, and possibly the hardest of any race in this country. There are age old stereotypes that are still very much alive today. Stereotypes that continue to affect our judgment and force black women into labeled boxes. among these labels there is Jezebel, which represents the idea that black women are overtly sexual and uninhibited. We can still see this today just by flipping on BET. Next time you watch a popular rap video notice the women who slide up and down the poles, the ones whom they refer to as “video hoes.” These are your modern day Jezebels. Rappers are using sexist images of money hungry scantily clad women which will then influence white society to assume, “Oh this is how all black women must be.” Does that seem fair? No, because it’s not. Often times sexism becomes the starting point for racist ideas. Then there’s Mammy, a woman that represents everyone’s aunt, grandmother, as well as economic depression. Her image can be seen stamped on Aunt Jemima advertisements. The plastic pancake syrup bottle has even been molded to match her full figured body. Today Mammy has become the “big ghetto momma” on the block that no one wants to mess with. Finally, there’s Sapphire. This cliche is portrayed countlessly on Mad TV and SNL skits. She is the woman who will rip out the weave of another and swing it around her head like some sort of battle prize. In other words, she’s a bitch.

These historical labels are ridiculous. By perpetuating any of these stereotypes we are doing a direct injustice to black women. Because these negative ideas have remained such a huge part of our culture for an immense amount of time they can become expectations that women have no choice but to fulfill. We, as women must do everything in our power to support one another. I know we can, because as a collective we are powerful. No one deserves to receive negativity from all sides, to be pushed around and beaten down. If you say that black women and girls are “hard” then why don’t you ask yourself why, or even if they actually are all this way. Black trulyis beautiful, but beyond that we are all beautiful. Regardless of our skin, eyes, size, or the texture of our hair. We have a duty to break our friends and sisters from these steely cages. We must uplift every woman in order to uplift ourselves. In the end, no matter what we look like or where we come from, we are all beautiful because we are women, and being a woman is a great thing.

I’m a Barbie Girl, In a Barbie World

If you’re a girl, and you grew up in a time before Brats dolls but after Cabbage Patch Kids then you probably played with barbies. If you didn’t, I’m sure there was still one left to lie alone at the bottom of your toy box along with glitter and broken crayons. As girls we are taught how to be a number of things like polite and punctual. We are told not to hit, or scream and fuss when we don’t get our way. Most of the things we learned as little girls were shown to us. Over the next few weeks I will be writing a series of posts devoted to race and ethnicity. As women we have collective struggles and stereotypes which we are constantly fighting. However, there are also battles that are specific to our racial identities. To start things off, I will be writing about what I know best, white girl problems.

When I was in the second grade I went to a Catholic elementary school in a suburb of Columbus, Ohio. It was the kind of place where moms drove suburbans and minivans and prided themselves on their home baked goods. I remember that these mothers were constantly at war with each other over school functions. They competed relentlessly for top positions in the PTA and scowled at each other’s cookies at school dances. Naturally, we followed in our mother’s footsteps and created groups of our own. White women are bread to compete with each other. We allow the ones who are like us “in” and spread nasty rumors about others in order to keep them out.

Besides the pressure to constantly compete with each other we also face demands concerning our image. I always played with barbies, not because they were being shoved down my throat by the media, but because I genuinely liked them. I actually played with my barbies until a rather unhealthy age but we won’t get into that. I was however, always a little disturbed by the concept of Barbie, with her pearly white smile forever stuck to her face. Mostly because she didn’t look like me. She had long blonde hair and bright blue eyes. She looked like my friends, she looked like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, but not me. These images were what was being defined as beauty and I looked nothing like them.

The pressure to be and look a certain way can be overwhelming for young girls especially when paired with our incessant need to compete. Although rates for eating disorders among women of color are on rise it has been reported that white women still occupy the majority of those who struggle with anorexia and bulimia.  Magazines that typically cater to young white women slap a thin, long haired actress on the cover along with text that reads, 101 Ways to Get Sleek Summer Abs! which is of course placed right above, 50 Sex Tips To Please Your Man! Which further perpetuates the link between thinness and sex appeal.

After the fifth grade I moved to the upper middle class suburb of Worthington. The pressure not only to be thin and desirable but to also be dressed from head to toe in expensive clothing was unfathomable. Every girl, regardless of her age, donned anAbercrombie  tee shirt and an overly flirtatious attitude. A characteristic that is not unique to white women is the idea that heterosexuality is a norm that cannot be questioned. Barbie dates Ken, just as the female Holister models can be seen gushing over shirtless boys in the posters that hang inside their stores. Transitioning from a private school where we all wore the same clothes, to a public one where what you were wearing meant the difference between which group would approach you first was difficult. In private school, my cousin and I would run off behind the gratto and pray to the “Virgin” Mary for boobs and boyfriends. In public school I was expected to have both of these and know how to kiss a boy. Pink and glitter had been replaced with thongs and lip gloss.

The pressure to be thin, to be blonde, to only kiss boys, and to wear expensive clothing effects women of all ethnicities and from all classes. The difference is that for white women these standards are especially directed at us. All of these images in the media are white, it’s no secret that we live in a racist society but from this racism and these colorless standards of beauty grow limitations which encourage sameness. A high competitive drive is the result of low self esteem. We are unable to love each other because we are jealous and afraid of the girls who possess what we want. White women in the United States are not taught to love themselves, they are taught to love Barbie or the image of a supermodel plastered to a billboard. Rather than being encouraged to love what we have, we are expected only to aspire to what we should be.

Let’s take this knowledge and grow from it. Let’s not allow the same mistakes to be made when raising daughters of our own. Instead of forcing them to wear pink frilly dresses and to only believe that love can only happen between a man and a woman, let’s show them that there are many different possibilities for them. It may sound wild to some, but introducing the idea that men can love men and women can love women to little girls is an important concept. Most importantly we must teach them to love their bodies and themselves and set good examples by doing the same. Let’s break the cycle by encouraging high self-esteem, love for the collective, and that there is beauty in difference and uniqueness.