Notes and Comment Blog

Is it an iconoclast? Or just a pain in the ass?

Jul 29th, 2015 9:41 am | By

Another good comment by John Horstman on how we think about gender, this time on Heina’s post distancing herself from me.

The fact that cis women are women is not disputed by anyone, not trans women nor non-binary trans folk nor men nor trans men. Even on the very fringes of radical non-cis thought, spaces where I often find myself, I’ve yet to see anyone questioning the legitimacy of cis women’s status as women. On the other hand, some people, including some women, think that trans women’s status as women is up for debate.

This is simply incorrect. There is a massive amount of scholarship questioning the validity of gendering organizational schemata at all, for cis, trans, genderqueer, and any other sort of people.

Butler’s Gender Trouble is a widely-known example, and it is decried as transphobic by the same crowd that’s going after Ophelia for pointing out that gender is a social construct and that our individual understandings of it are socially mediated. This despite the fact that the book spends most of its time deconstructing gender as a normative category for cisgendered people. I dispute the categorical assertion that cis women “are” women (or cis men “are” men) as any sort of essential aspect of existence. So does Kate Bornstein: go read Gender Outlaw, which contains an essay questioning how anyone could ever legitimately claim to feel “like a man” or “like a woman” divorced from a social context that determines what those categories mean in the first place. Or read David Valentine’s Imagining Transgender: An Ethnography of a Category, which explores how unstable gender categorizations are in practice, with many of his interview subjects describing themselves using what would normatively be considered mutually-exclusively categorizations, to the point that any claim of essential meaning for any gendered identity categories becomes absurd.

And this is an incredibly important point because every single time I get dragged into this debate with gender-essentialist trans activists, what’s actually at issue has exactly zero to do with trans rights or marginalization and everything to do with a few people insisting that a discredited model of gender as a social system be adopted by everybody. You don’t get to hijack an entire discipline of study becasue you internalized a descriptive categorization as an essential aspect of your own identity (and this applies to cisgendered people as well as transgendered people – you simply can’t extrapolate to everyone or the total functioning of a social system from your own experience). Being trans doesn’t somehow make someone never wrong about how social systems (including gender) operate or not an asshole; the social-identity essentialists are just as wrong as the biological essentialists who insist that trans people are delusional, and their imperious demands are just as unacceptable.

Heina says yes but most people do believe in gender as a category, and that it’s self-absorbed to suggest we do away with something so important to most people.

I don’t think that’s right. I think it’s fine to suggest we do away even with things that are important to most people. It’s the “to suggest” part that’s crucial here – suggesting is a very non-violent thing to do. (Granted, by the same token, it can be a very passive-aggressive thing to do. Ain’t that just like life.) Suggesting that we do away with some unquestioned custom or category has always been the job of the world’s rebels and iconoclasts and pains in the ass. Most of the suggestions are worthless, but not all.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

The clouds on the horizon

Jul 28th, 2015 3:33 pm | By

One from last Saturday, that I missed because there’s a lot. I’m missing most of it, I promise you. I hear reports, but I don’t see most of it.

It’s on Melby’s blog. Melby is one of the worst. The post is by H J Hornbeck. It starts on a friendly note, to soften you up.

It was about a year ago, I think, that I walked up to Ophelia Benson and said she was my favorite blogger on FtB. I adore her writing style, which feels like a conversation between old friends, and her frequent posts on international news were a breath of fresh air.

Even as those words were escaping my lips, though, I could see clouds on the horizon. I got burned by a TERF comic she once posted, which led me to do some research into Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminism. The glib summary is “lesbians freaking out over potential penis,” which is surprisingly accurate.

Bam! the trap snaps shut on your paw.

It wasn’t a “TERF comic.” It was a comic done by someone who is (I’m told, and I take their word for it, which judging by the last few weeks may be a mistake) a TERF. Not a TERF comic but a comic posted by a TERF. In other words I did not knowingly post a TERF comic – the content wasn’t about trans issues.

So right at the outset he’s poisoned the well – he’s been dishonest. I did not post a TERF comic.

More worrying to me was what Benson didn’t do: learn from the situation. I saw no evidence she took a step back and reconsidered, on the contrary she went stony silent and refused to be pigeonholed. I brushed this off, but pinned a mental note in case it happened again.

Oh my god, I refused to be pigeonholed! Can you imagine?!

Take a step back and reconsider what? I didn’t do anything wrong. It’s easy to post good stuff by people who also do crappy things. It’s not something worth dragging people over the coals for. It’s not an issue. It’s an accident. Move on.

It did.

There’s a tension between the idea that gender is socially constructed and we get to shape it any way we want to, and the idea that it’s firmly binary and we are one or the other with no overlap or shaping allowed. This whole thing is just riddled with tensions, and it’s not transphobic to try to think about them.

It’s only in hindsight that can I explicity see the TERF influence.

Ahhhhhh now that’s a telling phrase. Maybe in “hindsight” he’s not seeing it, but constructing it or imagining it or projecting it. Maybe he’s reasoning backward from all these frantic claims by frothingly rabid Watchers, and deciding there is “TERF influence” simply because he’s been told it so many times. Point and hiss.

We also do not get to shape our constructs arbitrarily if we hope to use them as explanations. The tension is not from the interplay of constructs and reality, it’s from the misunderstanding of constructs in order to hide your bigotry.

That’s nice. That’s charming. That’s pleasant. Based on nothing so far, he’s decided I’m a bigot.

There’s a lot more ugly shit but that’s a good enough sample.

This will end at some point. I’ll talk about other things as soon as people let me.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Guest post: Has the world been made safer and more welcoming for trans people by this clusterfuck?

Jul 28th, 2015 3:11 pm | By

Originally a comment by sambarge on Acrimonious divorce.

M.A. Melby: Thanks. I see that now and I recall it in the thread on the drag performers being banned from the Glasgow Pride.

It didn’t sit well with me then but the response has been disproportionate and unhelpful. I like the description “clusterfuck” and I’m going to stick with it.

Demanding that Ophelia answer a question that she sees more nuanced than others, castigating and slandering her on other blogs and social media, and encouraging other bloggers and commenters to join in is pathetic. All of these acts are typical of why I could never feel quite comfortable on FtB. This sort of bullshit happens all the time. Pharyngula is the worst, of course, but it looks like PZ has put an end to the social threads and those folks are making plans to start their own thread of clusterfuck elsewhere.

And to what end? Has the world been made safer and more welcoming for trans people by this clusterfuck? I submit that the threat to the life and happiness of trans people isn’t feminists having nuanced discussions on what gender means. The sort of people that would hurt, isolate, and condemn trans people aren’t asking themselves: “What does ‘being a woman/man’ even mean? Is it constructed or innate? If it’s innate what aspects are and which are social? What affect does race, class or sexual orientation have on constructions of gender?” That was not the internal dialogue of Michelle Duggar as she recorded a message that warned parents that men would dress as women to get into public restrooms and rape their daughters. That is not the internal dialogue of a man beating a trans sex worker to death because he just got sucked off by a “she-male” and what if his friends find out and call him gay.

I’ll tell you what the end has been: a whole lot of clusterfucking and no improvement in the understanding of gender or the lives of trans people, with a side of fetishizing the continued, disproportionate victimization of trans people.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Acrimonious divorce

Jul 28th, 2015 11:42 am | By

This is what it’s like being me and having blog colleagues right now:

There’s Heina’s nasty, insinuating, having it both ways post about me yesterday. It had 98 likes on Facebook last time I looked.

I haven’t kept up with every specific thing that has gone on with regard to the recent particular matter of my colleague Ophelia Benson. I don’t want to misspeak or misstep; furthermore, others on every side of this have direct evidence of what was said and done by the many involved, whereas I do not.

To make my own stance on the matter at hand clear:

    • Trans women are women. Period.

  • It is antithetical to basic logic to take my last stance to mean that I think that cis women aren’t women, or that cis women’s status as women is at all in question. Where A = trans women, B = women, and C = cis women, “All C are not B” does not necessarily or obligatorily follow “All A are B”.
  • The fact that cis women are women is not disputed by anyone, not trans women nor non-binary trans folk nor men nor trans men. Even on the very fringes of radical non-cis thought, spaces where I often find myself, I’ve yet to see anyone questioning the legitimacy of cis women’s status as women. On the other hand, some people, including some women, think that trans women’s status as women is up for debate.
  • The mere existence of women who think that trans women’s status as women is up for debate is damaging and harmful to trans women. That the illegitimate debate about trans women’s status of women often goes beyond “debate” makes it all the worse and deadly. There is no valid defense for self-described “radical feminists” who are more accurately described as TERFs.
  • Violating anyone’s privacy is wrong, no matter what wrong they have done. Violating a trans woman’s privacy is even worse because they live under the real and brutal dangers associated with transmisogyny in addition to those associated with overall misogyny.

She doesn’t know much about it – “the recent particular matter of my colleague Ophelia Benson” – but that doesn’t stop her insinuating all that above and more.

There’s Jason’s post from last Saturday, with 146 comments so far, most of them packed with falsehoods and wild conclusions derived from nothing.

There’s this piece of garbage from today, by Heather McNamara, someone I don’t know from Adam who is posting on the network I’m on. The post completely misrepresents what I’ve said – flat out gets it backward. Check out the last paragraph:

But because I’m feeling nice, I’m going to help Ophelia out a little. Ophelia, somebody posed the question “is a trans woman a woman? Yes or no.” They weren’t asking you what gender is. They didn’t care what you think gender is. What they were asking was: shouldn’t trans people be allowed the same degree of self-determination as cis people? And in spite of your oblivious insistence otherwise, you answered with a loud and resounding “No.”

No, that’s exactly wrong. What they were asking was NOT: shouldn’t trans people be allowed the same degree of self-determination as cis people? You know how I know that? Because of the “yes or no.” Yes or no means DO NOT RE-WORD. Yet here is Heather McNamara re-wording the post and berating me for not answering the question that way…

But I did answer the question that way a few days later. Heather McNamara doesn’t mention that.

And that’s how this is going. They’ve all decided I’m an Evil Transphobe, regardless of the lack of any real evidence of that, so they’re just going to keep repeating it from now until fucking doomsday.

Friendly working environment, yeh?


With “colleagues” like these, who needs enemies?

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

How we live now

Jul 28th, 2015 11:20 am | By

A snapshot from the Freethought blogs page on Facebook right now:


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Guest post: That erases the existence of people like us

Jul 28th, 2015 10:43 am | By

Originally a comment by John Horstman on We’re not trying to draw bright line boundaries at all.

I identify as gender indifferent (as a subset of genderqueer) for exactly the reasons outlined in the post, and in my experience – both personally and academically – I’ve come to realize that a LOT of supposedly-cisgendered people are actually more like me, what I would call gender indifferent. And when I say “indifferent”, I mean insofar as it relates to identity; much like AJ Milne, I’m outright hostile to the concept and normative construction of gender at certain times/in certain contexts.

I should also note that trans people fall into the same two categories, though the overwhelming majority of people who decide to transition fall into the first group. The likely reason is that given the social – and often financial – cost of transitioning, someone who doesn’t care much one way or the other will find it easiest to go with the normative default (at least in terms of name/pronouns, legal identification, social identity category, etc.), even if the normative gender category overall doesn’t really fit that well either. Kate Bornstein is perhaps one of the better-known trans people who falls into the second category (she’s addressed this directly in several books and in the lecture she gave at my university, and quite possibly others), and she is frequently assailed with the same charges of (internalized) transphobia from a small, vocal contingent of gender-essentialist trans activists as a result. Someone like RuPaul may also qualify – the question of whether drag performers qualify as trans, perhaps contextually when in their drag personae, runs headlong into this very issue (in my experience, gender-essentialist trans people usually do not consider the drag personae of drag performers “legitimate” in the same way as their own gender identities – the Glasgow Free Pride ban on drag performers is an excellent recent example).

I think that the reason that gender-essentialist trans activists get so much pushback from otherwise-friendly/-allied people, some of whom identify and live as genderqueer and even trans people who are ourselves marginalized by many of the same social structures that marginalize trans people generally in cases like this ongoing kerfuffle, has to do with the tendency of people to exaggerate for effect. Instead of sticking to specific, personal cases, if one starts insisting on making universal assertions about gender being essential, like, say, demanding a one-word answer to the question “Are trans women women?” (that is a demand for a universal proclamation about all trans women and the nature of gender), that erases the existence of people like us, like Jenora Feuer and all of the commenters in this thread who are saying we feel the same way.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)


Jul 28th, 2015 7:01 am | By

6:50 in the morning.

The second thing I see after logging on.




Rosalie McMillian

Ophelia Benson: Making you question why you still call yourself a human one blog post and comment at a time.

7 people like this.

Ophelia Benson: She who smelt it dealt it.

5 people like this.

Ophelia Benson is the reason Tinkerbell was poisoned by Hook.

7 people like this.

Blade Stevens: yes.

Blade Stevens: yes more of these

Ophelia Benson: There will never be enough Zoloft to make me less sad that she exists.

7 people like this.

I’ve never heard of this person.

My life has become so random.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Seriously unskilled impersonation

Jul 27th, 2015 1:23 pm | By


People said the impersonator is imitating my style, but no – this doesn’t sound like me at all:

Embedded image permalink

I don’t think I tell people to “ponder” things.

I hate “he or she” and don’t use it.

I wouldn’t say “in what capacity” are you Xian because that’s meaningless.

I would never say “believing in christ.”

I would never say “Others would proclaim.”

I would never, ever belittle someone by calling her “miss.” Yuck.

I don’t use a hyphen, I say trans woman, because I understand it’s the preferred way of saying that.

I would never say “may meet the requirements set by certain people” – that’s ugly and clumsy and gross, and I don’t write like that.

I wouldn’t say the substantive part the troll ends with.

That doesn’t sound like me at all.

And, of course, it isn’t.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Make Facebook authorities aware

Jul 27th, 2015 10:47 am | By

Arifur Rahman tells us that Facebook is letting Islamists shut down bloggers and activists.

Few days ago, I came across an article being shared by Atheist Republic, discussing how they are under attack after publishing the Rainbow Kaaba. I got interested and read the whole article where the author described how their Facebook page, their Admins are getting abuse from Islamists, threats and how their Facebook accounts are getting suspended for no good reason.

To my surprise, I wasn’t surprised, at all!

Because, we, the Bangladeshi bloggers, have suffered this kind of attack all too often. This kind of mindless attack, which I call Facebook terrorism, was thrown at us since the dawn of blogging history. But until now, I used to think attacks such as this were only limited to Bengali speaking blog-sphere. We are the most attacked blog community, and have to deal with the worst kind of Islamic infestation. four of our bloggers / authors were killed earlier this year due to Atheistic / Science blogging / writing.

After reading the Atheist Republic article, it now looks like, this problem is not confined within Bangladesh anymore. The Global Islamic digital terrorism has now acquired enough resource and network to expand its attack anywhere in the internet. Atheist Republic, its Facebook page and its Admins are also now targets of digital violence.

I will explain below, for the unsuspecting bloggers, how Facebook terrorism is leveraging the ‘numbers matter’ strategy, and how the weak moderation policy of Facebook is harming freedom of speech and thought.

As you may know there’s 1.6 billion Muslims around the world. A great number of them have access to the internet and own a Facebook account. We potentially have millions of Muslims primed for protest against defamation of their religion (prophet).

Islamic authoritarian system works on a top-down approach. Social and psychological structure of pious muslims rely heavily on ‘scholarly’ person(s) who announces strategy and ‘to do’ actions. These actionable commands are then obeyed by average Muslims without thinking and thereby creating waves of action within a very short time span. However, for this kind of instruction sets to work, the average Muslim must be able to understand and excute without too much hassle and disruption.

Read the whole thing. It has screengrabs and artwork and different colors – it’s an aesthetic treat as well as a call to action and primer on what’s happening.

At the end –

What can we do? I think there’s little we can do as individuals.


But as a collective… We can…

1. Have our Facebook accounts secured with dual authentication.

2. Inform Facebook authorities to enable ‘captcha’ for reporting, so that direct link abuse can be reduced.

3. Make Facebook authorities aware that this sort of abuse is happening and make a policy level change so that groups congregating for such violence can be reported and with enough evidence Facebook should remove these groups and / or take precautionary actions against perpetrators.

end of the day, we must awake our selves that something dark is engulfing us. If we don’t know how to make ourselves aware, we will soon have nowhere to go.


Thanks for Reading. Please don’t forget to Share and let others know.


Arif Rahman

London, UK.


[I am a Bangladeshi Blogger living in the UK. I am lucky (so far) that I’m in the UK. My friends have been killed and my name is in the ‘List’ as Arifur Rahman]

He has since been suspended from Facebook.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

A star is born

Jul 26th, 2015 6:08 pm | By

But now, a treat –

Meet the owlet who is my new avatar.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)


Jul 26th, 2015 5:57 pm | By

One more fun thing before the sun sets over the mountains –

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Guest post: Good wishes

Jul 26th, 2015 5:33 pm | By

Originally two comments by Julia S on The destroyer of worlds.

I also saw a comment under your name in a blogpost. I was a bit surprised as it was blatantly anti-trans but it seemed reasonable (as in, calm and non-slurry) and used similar language as you so I wasn’t incredulous about its authenticity. I was thinking about writing about or replying to it but decided against it. It’s uncool for someone to impersonate you, if that’s true and you didn’t just change your mind about a distasteful comment. Good wishes, Ophelia.

[I replied: Could you tell me where, please, so that I can do something about it?]

I would tell you if you weren’t such a transphobe (based on what you’ve said here, on this very blog).

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

The destroyer of worlds

Jul 26th, 2015 11:30 am | By

I have developed superpowers.

I’m not friends with this person and have had zero interactions with her recently – I would estimate at least a year.

#tookmymeds + beta-blockers and double melatonin-> some hope of a) not bursting a vessle and b) sleep. Thanks a fucking heap, Ophelia Benson.

I make people suffer misery in their struggle to explain to the world how horrible I am.


Improbable Joe said:  

I’m trying not to wade too much into this, it has caused me some significant stress and pain. All I know is that trans women are dying, and relatively privileged women are treating their lives and experiences as an intellectual exercise AT BEST. And whether or not OB is actively transphobic or merely sympathetic/friendly towards TERFs, she’s been a real jerk about the whole thing.

Oh the pain, it must be awful.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

The latest ploy

Jul 26th, 2015 9:27 am | By

Someone is impersonating me to leave terrible transphobic comments on blogs.

If you have a blog and you get a comment from “” that’s not from me, it’s an impersonator.

Please share that information.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

And now for something completely different

Jul 25th, 2015 11:24 am | By

From Twitter.

Gautam Trivedi‏@Gotham3
Breaking News: A police officer in Netherlands found a baby owl roaming on the streets today.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

The land of ambiguity

Jul 25th, 2015 11:12 am | By

Ok. It’s too late for this (but then it probably always was), because there are a lot of people just hell-bent on spotting a TERF in the bushes and not changing their view no matter what; the well is thoroughly poisoned and is going to stay that way. The poisoner oolon, who went to Pharyngula to work up the troops against me yesterday, is one such; that dude wants scalps, period.

But there are, I’m told, people who are just plain hurt and upset, especially trans people, and I don’t to hurt people. Therefore I’ll try to clarify what I meant by refusing to answer yes or no.

(It’s like Bill Clinton and “is” – that was treated as a joke, but there actually is more than one meaning to “is.” Rumsfeld and his unknown unknowns were also treated as a joke, but he too was quite right – it’s only a pity he didn’t take the unknown unknowns a lot more seriously.)

There’s a difference, for instance, between an ontological is and a political is.

The more I think about the ontology of gender, the less I think I understand it. It’s slippery. That makes it impossible to answer yes/no questions about it.

But politically? Do you mean, will I take trans people’s word for it? Will I use their right names and pronouns? Of course I will. Do I want to make them jump through hoops to prove something to me? Of course not.

Do I get that trans people are severely marginalized, and have to jump through kinds of hoops I have no idea of? Hell yes.

I have thoughts and questions about gender, broadly speaking; gender as if affects all of us, and women in particular. I don’t think those thoughts are transphobic.

Jenora Feuer’s new guest post on the subject is illuminating, I think. Read it in tandem with this.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Guest post: We’re not trying to draw bright line boundaries at all

Jul 25th, 2015 10:51 am | By

Originally a comment by Jenora Feuer on We’re going to end up putting feminist intellectual history through its own extinction event.

I can’t comprehend what it means to “know that you are male/female,” because I don’t particularly “feel” my gender.

Me either.

There was a comment at We Hunted the Mammoth a few weeks back (I commented on it here before) where someone said that they had found two different groups of people who really didn’t ‘get’ trans issues intuitively. One was the group of people who strongly identified with their gender, assumed everybody else was like that, and therefore that anybody who didn’t identify with their gender was wrong in some way. The other was the group of people who don’t strongly identify with any gender at all, and don’t really understand what it’s like to have a strong identity, particularly one that doesn’t match your physical body. Both of these groups have the same apparent problem on the outside, but completely different ways of getting there, and need different approaches. Especially since the first group is often personally invested in the concept of a gender binary, while the second group will consider the binary to be a default assumption if they haven’t thought about it, but they don’t really care about it to the same extent.

I get the impression most of the original TERF types were in the first group, or at least certainly acting like it: they were being explicit gatekeepers to the concept of ‘being a woman’, drawing boundaries, and in general acting like a mirror image of the problem they were ostensibly fighting against. But a lot of the people here I’ve seen here (including myself) are in the second group; we may make mistakes, but we’re not trying to draw bright line boundaries at all and don’t really intuitively grasp why other people are. Which often puts us on the wrong side of a lot of different lines that other people DO insist on, just because we don’t necessarily see them.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Guest post: We’re going to end up putting feminist intellectual history through its own extinction event

Jul 24th, 2015 6:27 pm | By

Originally a comment by A surprise to many on The art of the question.

What the hell is so difficult about a yes-and-no answer to the “trans women are women” question? For some, perhaps even most, purposes, yes, absolutely. For other purposes (women’s reproductive health, family policy, FGM), no.

This is no different from any other socially constructed group identity. Is Barack Obama African American? Yes. And no. Is the Nigerian immigrant who runs the pizza place near my job? Yes. And no. Is someone with a Jewish father a Jew? Yes. And no. Are messianic Jews Jewish? Yes. And no.

Am I a woman? Yes. And no. Even though I was identified female at birth and have gestated and lactated, there are ways in which I do not feel particularly comfortable being labeled “woman” and in which some people would classify me as not-a-woman. Being a woman is a social identity grounded in part, but only in part, on physical characteristics. It’s not a you-are-or-you-aren’t category.

(Disclosure: I too am a member of the frightening gender discussion group. Anyone who’s spent more than 5 minutes reading the group will note that there are many different opinions on gender and trans gender issues held by members of the group. I’ve learned a lot and been challenged to think of better arguments as a result of participating in the group. I’ve found myself agreeing and arguing with Hungerford in different threads on different topics. Gender is not an easy thing to define or analyze, and if we’re going to discard every single writer or forum with whom we don’t completely agree, we’re going to end up putting feminist intellectual history through its own extinction event.)

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

In some photos there is a shackle on one of her limbs

Jul 24th, 2015 5:31 pm | By

Ashley Ford interviewed Nona Faustine for Elle.

Nona Faustine’s photographs are blowing up on Facebook and no one is more surprised than her. Born and raised in Brooklyn, with a distinct city accent, her tone is as light as her work is somber. In the “White Shoes” photo series, Faustine appears in the places where African slaves were bought, sold, and traded in 1620’s New York City. Her expression is solemn, in some photos there is a shackle on one of her limbs, and aside from her shoes, she is completely naked.

Go to the article to see some of the pictures. I saw the first one on Twitter a few days ago; it’s very powerful.

I like to think that every piece of art has an inciting incident, some happening or realization that plants the seed of its own creation. What would you say was the inciting incident for your “White Shoes” series?

I always wanted to make a really powerful piece of work, and there are things you carry with you throughout your life: ideas, incidents, and history. The story of my life is a family impacted by the fact that I had a great-grandmother who was an enslaved African, and my mother grew up with her. She told [my mother] all the stories of her life. Then there was me, being a born and bred New Yorker, discovering the African Burial Ground and realizing there was slavery here in this city.

For some people, your photos have been a revelation. They didn’t realize slave trading ever happened in New York City. Why do you think people remain unaware of this city’s history with slavery?

I don’t know because it is not a secret. It’s like anything. You just pick up a book on whatever topic you’re interested in and you’ll find a lot of information.​

I wish we were a lot better at knowing our history though.

What kinds of reactions has “White Shoes” elicited from people around you?

My Facebook page exploded, friend requests exploded, my Instagram exploded. I’m not really great at Instagram, but I have an account, so when those numbers went up I knew something happened here. Lots of black women have embraced the art. It’s talking about pain and it’s talking about celebration, and they want desperately to see themselves in the larger media. It’s not often we see someone who looks like me out there, and they embrace that. People have reached out to me from Tasmania, Paris, Germany, some guy told me all of Africa was behind me, and I thought Really? All of Africa? [laughs] You sure about that?​

Wellll people exaggerate. They don’t read history, and they exaggerate.

ny negative reactions?

You expect that from white men because they always want to try to talk about black women’s bodies, and they stay lusting after black women and secretly fetishizing black women. Yet, they’ll publicly get on an article that’s talking about me and make a derogatory comment about my body. But when you see people who go out of their way to come to my Facebook page and leave a message under whatever article, “No one wants to see your big ass.” I laugh because at this point, I’ve accepted my body and who I am, whether I lose weight or not. I have self-love. I have walked the walk, I have paid the price, and I accept myself with love. So, I laugh because those people have a problem that has no relation to me.

Do you know what it takes—knowing how the world looks at fat people, imperfect bodies, or old women—to actually say I’m going to strip my clothes off and I’m going to put myself out there? I’m not putting myself on a pedestal, but I’m saying know how the world looks at that action. Know how the world feels when I defy that and say, “I don’t give a shit.”

I do know. I gasped at her courage when I first saw that photo.

Any advice for a young woman of color who dreams of being a photographer?

Go for it. We need more artists of color out there. And we need artists of color who are going to go the distance. Don’t them stop you. There are so many roadblocks, ones they put out there for you, and ones you put out there yourself. I did that. I put roadblocks up for myself, and it took family support to encourage me to go back to it. It took me maturing a bit.

My life changed when I had a baby. I had to think about what was really important, what was the message I wanted to hand down to my daughter. You’re talking about legacy? I wanted my daughter to be proud of me. I didn’t want to have to tell her I gave up on my dreams.

Photography, and being an artist is not a career, it’s a calling.

Go for it. Always go for it.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Comment-liking crime

Jul 24th, 2015 4:57 pm | By

Ew. Now they’re monitoring what comments I like on Facebook, and blabbing about them on Twitter. It’s exactly like the slimers – they too obsessively monitor every word of mine that they can get access to. It’s creepy and disgusting and loathsome.


Where’s the brain bleach.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)