Confessions of a Powerhouse: Monique John of Twerked

Monique John of Twerked Image

Monique and I crossed paths a few years ago, and she immediately stood out to me. She was a woman who spoke her mind, was not afraid to comment on posts and was clearly in the midst of a powerful creative journey. It has been exciting and incredible to watch Monique change, evolve and stand firm in her work over the past few years. Her blog Twerked explores sexual politics for the millennial hip hop generation. Here she discusses how what started as her senior thesis morphed (and is still morphing) into so much more. Meet Monique.

Tell us more about your creative journey. How did you get started and where are you now in the journey?

For one, I didn’t always consider myself a creative. My entry in to writing, branding and working on passion projects was rooted in my past as a ballet student and as a journalism student at Fordham. I became passionate about learning about black literary works, black art and analyzing the experiences of black people in general when I spent my adolescence studying ballet and other dance techniques at the Dance Theatre of Harlem. I was a mediocre dancer and I was horrible at following direction. I didn’t stand a chance at becoming a professional dancer as I had originally dreamed. Still, being involved with a company that had made history through giving black ballet dancers such a major platform made a tremendous impact on my understanding of what it means to leave a legacy, to be disciplined and to find different ways to express yourself—despite the ways in which the world can try to limit your mobility and visibility.

By the time I got to Fordham, it was all about fine-tuning my understanding of black history and being exposed to the academic jargon that articulated the things I’d always thought about or knew to be true. But I also think that my college years were a major period of sexual awakening. (The writer inside me is cringing at that last line but I’ll go with it, anyway.) It was the first time I was studying alongside young men that openly expressed their desire for me, instead of ignoring me or casting me aside as the goody-two shoes Caribbean chick. It took a lot of time and reflection to adjust to that, hence why I think I started flirting with a sex-positive feminist identity in my junior and senior years. It was that flirtation that set the groundwork for the writing that I do today.

Right now, I’m trying to capitalize on my creativity as best as I can to support myself. We all know that writers (especially those that couple their work with activism) tend to live relatively modest lifestyles. I say fuck that. I don’t want to live this binary of having a day job and a writing identity for the rest of my life. I’m shooting for a life where I can live off of my ideas—and the execution of those ideas—alone. If Zuckerberg and Jobs could do it, why can’t I?

You’ve reinvented yourself and your work a few times. What has that been like for you, both on and offline?

That has been a result of me growing up, navigating the real world, and having a more sophisticated understanding of branding and marketing after observing the heavyweights like Feminista Jones, Jamilah Lemieux, Demetria Lucas, Danielle Belton, Helena Andrews…Now I’ve come to a place where I’m really happy with how I present myself online and I don’t think I’ll be doing any more rebranding for a while. But that’s all up to where the world and where my writing takes me.

Offline, reinventing myself has meant creating the life I’ve wanted to live for so long. I knew I couldn’t build this fabulous identity as a sexuality blogger and still be living at my momma’s house. So a month after I redesigned my personal website, I spontaneously moved out of the burbs and into my first apartment—a beautiful, spacious home in Brooklyn on a lot just two blocks away from the gentrification line. I found myself thinking more critically about the quality of people I had surrounded myself with. I also found myself opening up to men for the relationship I knew I wanted and had waited for, but was too weak and hurt to fight for in the past. Many times I’ve seen how reinvention online has forced me to push through my comfort zones in the real world.

How did you conceive the idea for Twerked?

Twerked started out as my senior thesis in undergrad, a paper called “Poles, Power and the Everyday Woman.” Songs like “Pour it Up” and “I Luv Dem Strippers” were wildly popular at the time, and I was highly curious about women going to the strip club to socialize and compete with performers for men’s attention. There was something about the transactional construct of the strip club that I felt made for a great (or perhaps unfortunate) analogy for the often detached, transactional interactions we have with one another as millennials when pursuing sexual encounters. I also felt that women going to the strip club brought up an important and complex conversation. Why is it that we can express our disdain for patriarchy in certain contexts yet still engage in it and enjoy it in others?

Twerked-Logo-Twenties-Unscripted

Writing the paper and interviewing people for the project was a lot of fun, so I decided to build a blog for it where people could easily find and respond to the concept online. But ultimately, I needed a space to keep workshopping my ideas; blogging was the easiest way for me to keep going.

Twerked explores sexual politics for the millennial hip-hop generation. What do you see as the significance of our generation better understanding and absorbing sexual politics?

I think engaging in this work is important because it expands our understandings of ourselves and it helps us make more informed and satisfying decisions as sexual beings.

Our music industry annoys me sometimes because sexual references have become such a default topic in contemporary, mainstream hip hop. I enjoy music that talks about sex as much as the next chick. But I have a problem with it when it becomes so saturated that it comes off as tone deaf in relation to the vastness of the human experience. We as young people have a lot of music that projects us through pornographic images. I feel like (at least in mainstream hip hop) that sound tends to drown out the music talking about our erotic selves—who we are when we’re having genuine, meaningful and intimate connections with other people. I’ve found that immersing myself into feminist theories on sex helped me contextualize the ratchet music I’ve come to love while still tuning out the white noise and my finding my true erotic self.

I’d also say that understanding these politics, being articulate in the topic and respecting the complexities of it is important because it combats the way people are pathologized for expressing themselves and their needs as sexual beings. It is beyond me that a woman lobbying for access to birth control was called a “slut” and a “prostitute” by a powerful political commentator on a major media platform. It infuriates me that innocent people are being arrested for “manifesting prostitution” because of the way they dress, their gender expression, their sexual orientation and in some cases their affiliation with the sex-positive movement. We have to understand these things because pleasure—the way we perform it, the way we read it, the way we demonize it—is coded into our understandings of race, gender, class, orientation, motives and decision-making, relationship and friendship building, etc.

What 3-5 posts most represent the identity of Twerked?

This is like asking me to pick my favorite child. Imma say:

Who You Playin? Amber Rose and Hip Hop’s Mockery of Black Female Dignity

Who’s Afraid of Mary Jane?”

Sex Workers Need Support, Not Saviors

“There’s Fantasy. There’s Beyoncé. Then There’s Me.” #throwback

White Ignorance and Black Dance: My Response to the Uninformed Critic” – Twerked’s first post ever!

What are some common misconceptions about your work and your blog?

I think it’s easy to assume that as a hip hop feminist blog, Twerked is a place to bash black men in particular for their mistreatment of women. But that’s not what it’s about at all. Sure, I’ve called men out for the misogynistic behaviors on the blog before. But Twerked is more about how we read and respond to sexual representation in the media and less to do with vilifying people for their engagement in patriarchal and hypersexual constructs.

Dr. Areola Bandz
Dr. Areola Bandz

How did you come up with the pseudonym Areola Bandz? How do you distinguish that identity from Monique John?

The name “Areola Bandz” was conceived in a Fordham cafeteria while I was cracking jokes with my girlfriends as an itty bitty sophomore back in 2010—long before Twerked ever came about. Someone had asked me: “If you had a stripper name, what would it be?”

Areola is my muse. She pushes me to do things and to say things that I don’t always want to but that I know are good for me. She’s also much more beautiful, seductive, active and adventurous in how she wears her hair. She’s had a huge impact on me as I’ve grown into a woman and a writer, but I only consult with her when I’m writing for Twerked because that’s her soapbox. Arise TV and HelloBeautiful, not so much. Sexuality blogging is just one part of my life as a writer and intellectual, not the totality of it.

Mad libs round:

Women are…more capable than they give themselves credit for.

If women would more easily embrace intuition, their lives could be so much better.

Blogging is…how I stay sane.

3 things you can’t live without…my laptop (duh), my queen-size bed and my favorite family photo album.

What are you currently reading? Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More by Janet Mock and The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri.

Where do you see Twerked in the next five years? I don’t wanna say (mischievous grin).

Monique John is a writer specializing in feminism, racial politics, media representation and hip hop culture. Monique runs a blog entitled, Twerked, a blog on sex, hip hop and the strip club chic. She is now a contributing writer for HelloBeatuiful.com and has frequently appeared as a pundit for Arise TV, a 24-hour international news and entertainment channel. Monique’s writing has also appeared in The Root, For Harriet, Corset Magazine and The Feminist Wire. 

Learn more about Mo at moniquejohn.com and follow her on Twitter at @MoniqueEJohn. 

For Twerked, go to: twerkedblog.com

Twerked’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/twerked?ref=hl

Areola’s Twitter profile: https://twitter.com/AreolaBandzPhD

Twerked’s Tumblr: http://twerkedblog.tumblr.com/

Twerked’s Instagram: https://instagram.com/twerkedblog/

I’m Sick Of Trendy Feminism.

some of the original gangsters
some of the original gangsters

I take Twitter bios very seriously.

I do.

If someone has a stupid Audrey Hepburn quote or writes something like “Fuck bitches, get money,” I immediately deem them unfit to follow. The world moves fast, people. No one has time to dig through, maybe check out your website and then decide if you’re cool and not prone to Jeffrey Dahmer proclivities. So if and when someone follows me or pops up in my “Who to Follow” feed, all I do is look at their bio and either click or pass.

I say this because today I changed my Twitter bio, which is also a very serious matter. I’ve had a few Twitter bios in my lifetime. I believe the first one was an ode to Kanye’s verse in that Katy Perry song: “Welcome to the fantasy, you are not invited to the other side of sanity.” 2015 Tyece would not have followed new-to-Twitter Tyece.

At some point, I added the word “feminist” to my Twitter bio. Today I deleted it. I also made a few more updates (including a line that says “wine, not whine”, which doesn’t make a lick of sense and yet makes all the sense in the world.) I didn’t want the word “feminist” there anymore, less because I don’t identify with that title and more because I don’t want to be associated with the feminism that seems so on trend at the moment. And, let’s face it: saying you’re a feminist in your Twitter bio is sort of playing into the trend, as is buying feminist t-shirts (I own two so guilty as charged.)

But my approach to feminism this year is sort of like my approach to spirituality–a very independent and necessary journey I’m taking. As far as feminism goes, I want to get way smarter about the work of women like bell hooks and Betty Friedan. I want to explore beyond my personal experiences, as critical as they are to my beliefs. I want to write less and read more about the topic.

My annoyance with trendy feminism came to a head when I saw several headlines about the “top feminist moments at the Golden Globes.” Really? That’s a headline? Yes, I enjoyed Amy and Tina hosting. Yes, I lived for Maggie Gyllenhaal’s speech about complicated women. No, I didn’t find the Cosby quip funny and yes, I definitely want to check out Transparent now. But there was not any point while watching when I thought, “OMG SUCH A FEMINIST SHOW TONIGHT, LOVING IT.” No, it was just a decent show. It had things I liked and things I didn’t. The end.

I’m tired of the “Hey-look-at-me!” feminism. We love the trendy feminism so much we’ve plopped it into every hour of the news cycle. Beyoncé waking up is feminism. Lena Dunham taking a shit is feminism. Meryl Streep aging is feminism. Is it really? I can’t completely denounce trendy feminism because I probably wouldn’t have ever written about the topic in 2012. It wasn’t on my radar enough nor did I have a strong sense of conviction as a feminist. So, there. Life is full of contradictions.

But, now I’m pooped from the party. I want to go all Cheryl Strayed-in-Wild and retreat for my own voyage through this thing.

Women sharing their stories, speaking their truth and standing firm in the lives they choose to live is powerful and gorgeous and sexy and revolutionary. I would never, ever deny that. I just wish we didn’t always have to call attention to it nor brand that as the only facet of feminism. I just wish we would focus less on the fact that someone shared a story and more on the complexity and beauty of the narrative itself. I just wish we would speak our truth and stand firm in our lives without having to then tell people, “You saw I did that, right? You heard I said that, right?” Just fucking do it. Just fucking say it. Just fucking be it and stop waiting for Amy Poehler to pat you on the ass and say it’s OK. Feminism is beautiful because you don’t need permission. Feminism is solid because it transcends this time, it is necessary for all time and it has evolved from previous times. It doesn’t need a t-shirt (again, I have two, so no judgment) or a controversial Lena Dunham book or even Beyoncé.

But, let’s be serious: a little Beyoncé does always help.

Xoxo,
Tyece

‘Not That Kind of Girl’: Lena Dunham Offends and Delights

Guest Post by Dana Sukontarak

After reading ‘Not That Kind of Girl,’ the collection of personal essays she released in September, I was more or less in the same space regarding my feelings toward Lena Dunham. The book was essentially the literary counterpart to her hit HBO series GIRLS, which explores the tremulous experiences of twenty-somethings trying to reconcile the comforts and ease of their childhood with the pains and brutality of growing up and trying to find some slice of success. In NTKOG, Dunham takes a less general approach, and directly divulges her personal tales of everything from bad diets and body image to self-destructive relationships and gray-area sexual encounters. It should come as no surprise that Dunham is an open book. Much like her GIRLS character, Hannah Horvath, Dunham is arguably spoiled, misguided, self-centered, and aggressively annoying. She is not a child molester, as one severe reach-a-saurus put it in a recent article—one that not only decimates the principles of journalism but also taints the way someone who hasn’t read the book will digest the material, if they even decide that they want to read it at all.

In the book, Dunham describes looking into her one-year-old sister’s vagina, her curiosity about the female anatomy overpowering her. Dunham herself is seven (which the article originally, and erroneously, stated as seventeen), and immediately runs to her mom. It turns out her little sister had stuffed a handful of pebbles into her vagina—it’s an unconventional story, but don’t we all have a couple of those in our arsenal? The article also misuses quotes from Dunham’s book to paint a very grim picture: “…anything a sexual predator might do to woo a small suburban girl I was trying.” This is what we call a metaphor.

NTKOGIn reality, Dunham is obviously very troubled. But she seems to have a pretty solid grasp on the extent of that trouble. She is clearly intelligent and witty, though she tends to opt for paunchy puns over political correctness. That said, it is damn near impossible to form a valid opinion about Dunham—whether about her molester status, or her creative influence, or the Venn diagram of her reality and her artistic repertoire—without first reading her book in its entirety. Because this twisted exposition of one of Dunham’s childhood memories has cast a shadow over other discussions she prompts with this book, I think it’s only fair to provide a holistic interpretation of what really can be found in these 262 pages.

Reading Dunham’s memoirs confirmed one thing for me—if you’re looking for a sweet, healthy, levelheaded female role model, Dunham’s not that kind of girl. Rather, she’s the kind of girl who treats herself like a science experiment, fucking all the unsavory losers she can and eating baby spoonfuls of cottage cheese for dinner so that you don’t have to. You can simply read about her experiences of being used and abused by misogynist, artsy types (hello, Adam), and about her horribly awkward childhood recollections (telling an adult at a party that when she misbehaves, her father “sticks a fork in [her] vagina”), and about all the weird, unsettling things she did while at Oberlin (apparently the ideal college experience for someone raised by a couple of sexual, open-minded semi-beatniks living in Brooklyn).

NTKOG pulls the reader into the existence of a privileged, prosciutto-eating kid who was raised to speak her mind (sometimes beyond social norms) and was once, according to her, obsessed with her own beauty. It’s strange, yet completely understandable, how this translated into the woman Dunham is today—ambitious, often self-deprecating (under the guise of good old-fashioned humor and the virtues of not taking one’s self so seriously), and absolutely fine with being nude on TV (despite critics who have viciously chastised her Baby Cupid-esque body, as well as her directorial decisions to often display it completely exposed on her show). She definitely delights the reader in small ways—describing her little sister’s style as that of a “Hawaiian criminal,” for example.

Although flippant about some very grave issues, Dunham does provide some very poignant moments of clarity and advice, including this segment about self-worth: “When someone shows you how little you mean to them and you keep coming back for more, before you know it you start to mean less to yourself. You are not made up of compartments! You are one whole person! What gets said gets said to all of you, ditto what gets done. Being treated like shit is not an amusing game or a transgressive intellectual experiment. It’s something you accept, condone, and learn to believe you deserve. This is so simple. But I tried so hard to make it complicated.”

For me, the most powerful—and awkward—chapter of the book comes in the first section (of five total), ‘Love and Sex.’ It is simply titled “Barry,” and recounts a drunken college experience in which she is kinda raped (getting fucked in a half-conscious stupor while egging him on as sort of a way to “own” a situation she didn’t want to admit she had no control over), and laughs off friends who vocally identify this as rape. Dunham appears to have a shifting understanding of this situation over time, though she doesn’t quite spell it out. She leaves a lot of space for readers to create conjectures—sometimes that means people will label her as a child molester, but mostly it means people will see that Dunham is still learning and growing (and even failing) despite reaching this level of success in her life and her career.

If read as a “how-to” book, NTKOG is a bomb waiting to detonate all over your life. However, if taken simply as a collection of perhaps-embellished stories from the warped mind of a quirky egoist, designed to prevent you from the same downfalls, the book is something like a gem. If nothing else, Dunham will make you feel good about not being “that” girl—the pristine, poised one, the one that’s got it all together. She knows that, mostly, girls her age are (sorta) just like her: looking to live, love, learn, and feel.

Dana

 

Dana is 25 and living just outside of the nation’s capital in Hyattsville, Md. She is a Journalism graduate of the University of Maryland College Park. Some of her favorite things include snail mail, vacations, and great literature.

Well, How Much of a Feminist Are You? (With A Little Help From Roxane Gay)

bad feministI’ve been trying to decide how best to write about how much Roxane Gay’s “Bad Feminist” blew my motherfucking mind. I haven’t figure it out yet. But, I decided to sprinkle some of the quotes from the book throughout this post.

“Well, how much of a feminist are you?”

That was the question up for discussion a few weeks ago while I was talking to a friend. The circumstances of this conversation as well as the anonymous friend I’m referencing aren’t too important. And, by “aren’t too important,” I mean I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you. I’m not sure how we landed on a discussion asking me to qualify my feminism, but it caught me a bit off guard. I paused and stumbled my way through a response that I’m sure didn’t make any sense. Then, the conversation transitioned to something less daunting, probably the infamous Kanye West/Sway rant–something we could both agree was unquestionably awesome.

“I’m not the only outspoken woman who shies away from the feminist label, who fears the consequences of accepting the label.”–Roxane Gay

But, that question stuck with me, as did my shaky reply. In the few years that I’ve identified as a feminist, it hasn’t taken long to realize that my beliefs will be questioned, investigated and challenged. It has taken much time to realize that introducing feminism into a conversation can be like cocking a loaded gun. I am adjusting to being the annoying and overly-opinionated friend at any gathering, the one who has to brace herself for a few eye rolls or exasperated sighs when I ask someone not to call women “hoes” casually.

“It’s hard to be told to lighten up because if you lighten up any more, you’re going to float the fuck away.” –Roxane Gay

But, feminism is a truth I have yet to learn to stand in. I sit in it. Sitting in it is pretty comfortable. But, I have yet to plant my feet on the solid ground of it all, which means I tense up when people test me. Which is often. And, too often I get caught up in what I can only refer to as the fuckery of feminism when everyone has a pissing contest over whose feminism is superior or right (cue the recent bell hooks panel.) The fuckery of feminism distracts me. Throws me off. Makes me doubt myself and stammer even more when asked to “defend” my beliefs. I find myself having to separate beliefs from people, opinions from judgment, someone else’s truth from my own.

“I feel I am not as committed as I need to be, that I am not living up to feminist ideals because of who and how I choose to be.” –Roxane Gay

As I write this, I’m listening to B.o.B’s “Throwback”, a song that proudly proclaims, “Two hands when she on, like a scooter/she told me she wish she knew me sooner.” I love this song. I’ve played it on repeated many nights while tipsily twerking in my apartment. And, yet, I consider myself a feminist.

“I would rather be a bad feminist than no feminist at all.” –Roxane Gay

I don’t come from the school of thought that you must toss around words like “patriarchy” or phrases like “male gaze” to qualify your feminism. Yes, those words are part of the rhetoric, but that isn’t how I got here. I didn’t get here because I really loved my introductory women’s studies course, nor because I am well-versed in the traditional feminist canon. I am trying to educate myself as my views evolve. I’m trying to read and smarten up on the many women who made it possible for me to even wear a “Feminism is the radical notion that women are people” t-shirt. But, I also recognize I got here because of my own experiences. The wrongs done against me and how I chose to reconcile them. The way I started to see the world after that same world started to rear its ugly head.

“The past is always with you. Some people want to be protected from this truth.” –Roxane Gay

So, when someone asks me, “How much of a feminist are you?”, it’s difficult not spill my life’s history, not to explain the tangled thorns of my feminist roots. Most times, I just smile and say it is a more recent development–which answers the “When did you become a feminist?” question, but does nothing to qualify my feminism. Maybe next time, I will say on a scale of barely-there to my-bra-has-been-burning-in-ashes-for-awhile, all of the above. I’ll say either you are or you aren’t. I’ll say that I am not going to be another feminist trying to police other feminists or prescribe some narrow definition to the word. I’ll say that I am a feminist, and that is where the sentence deserves to end. Direct all other questions to my attorney.

“We don’t all have to believe in the same feminism. Feminism can be pluralistic so long as we respect the different feminisms we carry with us, so long as we give enough of a damn to try to minimize the fractures among us.”–Roxane Gay

Xoxo,
Tyece

Ray Rice and Why The World Must Stop Endorsing Abusive Men

Floyd Mayweather, Jr. Chris Brown. Darren Sharper. Sean Penn. Charlie Sheen. Chad Johnson. Rasheed Wallace.

Ray Rice.

I should have been happy when I learned that the Ravens terminated Ray Rice after the video of him knocking his then-fiancé Janay Palmer unconscious surfaced. I should have been satisfied because the NFL suspended him indefinitely. These things were all supposed to mean something. They were all supposed to send some sort of message of punishment and intolerance for domestic violence. But, I want more. Call me greedy, but I want more. I demand more. Because, these actions only scratched the surface, a mere dent in America’s history of slapping abusive men on the wrist and carrying on with business as usual.

I struggled with today’s piece because so many of my pieces about the tough subjects come from a deeply personal place that guides me. This piece does not, at least not in a way I am comfortable sharing. So, I worried I would be a fraud or that I would not do this justice. I worried that I might say something that would offend someone who has experienced domestic violence, that I might not hold this very fragile topic carefully enough. But, in these critical moments, we are called to do the revolutionary writing. These are the moments when we do the real work. These are the moments when we better lift every voice and sing. These are the moments when we are required to move beyond the listicles, beyond the whims of that day, beyond the inconsequential bits we have imbibed, in favor of writing the posts that matter. I have been called to seize that moment.

I could tell you the numbers. I could tell you that 1 in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. I could you tell an estimated 1.3 million women are victims of a physical assault by an intimate partner every year. I could tell you sexual assault occurs in 40-45% of battering relationships. I could spit off statistic after statistic and yet, as relevant as they are, there will be another Ray Rice. There will be another Floyd Mayweather, Jr. There will be another Joe Asshole Schmoe. There will be more. Despite a Baltimore Sun blogger writing, “Ray could get blackballed. We may have seen the last of him. He’s essentially radioactive at this point,” our society has shown it has selective memory when it comes to abusive men.

Every man whose name contributed to my opening paragraph is a man who has been able to have a lucrative and successful career in spite of his transgressions. You may ask me if I believe in second chances and the answer is that I do. But, I do not believe in rewarding shit and scum with success. I do not attend that church and I do not pray at that altar.

Because society may fire these men from jobs and release them from contracts, but it fails to see those forms of discipline as palliative at best. It fails to see that the root of this problem is tangled. It is deep. It is so buried beneath the surface of our psyches and paradigms, so entrenched in the ways of our society, that we have to do more. We have to demand more. We have to rule with an iron fist. We can’t equate forgiveness and second chances with holding these men high on pedestals that are constructed by the bricks of misogyny and put together by the cement of senseless, shameless and spine-chilling violence. But, chances are, we still will. Come take a look at this new American dream, born from the nightmares of so many women.

When current events like the one I’m discussing surface, social media begins moving at a kinetic and unnerving sort of pace. You hold your breath knowing that someone you know will eventually say something that stings you or someone you know will eventually retweet a stranger who triggers you. On days like these, someone is bound to fuck it up. Yesterday wasn’t different. Take this tweet I saw: “Some [women] deserve to be in abusive relationships.” According to the name and photo on the account, a woman wrote that. About another woman. This is our world.

But, even if you move beyond social media, traditional media is spewing insanity. Take a Fox & Friends anchor who made light of the incident by first saying how “Rihanna went back to Chris Brown and people thought that was a terrible message”, then referencing the greatest non-sequitur of all time by bringing up the Beyoncé/Solange/Jay-Z elevator incident and closing his crock of shit by saying, “The message here is to take the stairs.” Does he get fired? Does he get terminated? Oh, wait, I forgot. It’s Fox. This is our world.

The venom in the aforementioned comments is a byproduct of the world we live in–a world that blames its victims instead of punishing its victimizers. A world of hegemonic masculinity (a term my friend educated me on–y’all know I don’t throw around that vernacular every day) where men hold dominant positions of social power and relationships are not horizontal. A world that puts power in the hands of men figuratively and a world where some of those men seize that power literally. A world where hashtags like #WhyIStayed are born because of how much we wrongly assume and mischaracterize the women on the receiving end of the abuse.

I am not worried about Ray Rice. The world has shown me time and time again, Ray Rice will be more than fine. The world has shown me it may rip the contracts away, but it will still subtly endorse the behavior. Ray Rice is not radioactive; he will reappear. Of this I am sure. So, instead, I am worried about Janay Palmer, about the irreparable damage that has been done to her insides, about the ruins in which her world has been left. I am worried about her core that has been shaken, her heart that has been broken, her roots that have been torn apart. I am worried about Janay Palmer coming out on the other side. I am worried about her life, an existence that could hang in the balance if a breakthrough is not near. I am worried about Janay Palmer, my fellow woman, my fellow sister.

Until the world stops endorsing abusive men, I will always, always, always stand for those who are abused. I did not always say that. I did not always think that. I, too, was previously quick to make a lot of assumptions about the mental capacity, intelligence and strength of women who were abused. But, life has humbled me enough to know it is easy to say what you could or would or should do. But, then you are there. Then you are brought to your deepest pits, to your lowest valleys, to the corners of your life you wouldn’t dare let others see. Once you are there, then tell me what you would do. Once you are on your knees praying to a God you worry doesn’t exist, tell me what you would do. Once you are that 1 in every four women, tell me what you should do. Maybe then your could, your would, your should does not look quite the same.

Xoxo,
Tyece