All Articles Tagged "black women"

Is Your Self-Esteem Tied To Your Accomplishments?

June 27th, 2016 - By Erica R. Williams
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“So what are you doing now?”

It’s the question I hear quite often these days from inquisitive folks wanting to know about my latest accomplishments. “I always have something going on,” they’d say after I coyly mentioned my latest endeavors and successes. I’ve always been an achievement-oriented type of person, like many other people; but until recently I saw nothing wrong with it. In fact, I thought it was an admirable trait. I was a busy girl. I hustled, always striving for success. That is until I realized that I was allowing my accomplishments and what other people deemed as successful to define who I was. My longing to say “Mama I made it!” was making me a nervous wreck. My happiness was tied to what I did and not who I was. It didn’t take an Iyanla: Fix My Life intervention for me to make this revelation. And after talking to other women, I made another not-so-shocking discovery: I wasn’t alone.

Black women are progressing in leaps and bounds when it comes to education and career. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, Black women are the most educated group in the United States. Black women enroll in college more than any other race, and to make that good news even better, most of us graduate, too. Often times, we get even more ambitious and pursue master’s degrees and Ph.D.’s.

Here’s another fact to toot our own horns: Black women are also the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs. According to a 2015 State of Women-Owned Business Report, businesses owned by black women have grown by a whopping 322 percent since 1997. Now that’s the epitome of progression.

So why am I running down these number in comparison to my self-worth issues? Not because our achievements don’t deserve recognition and accolades. But rather, because it’s an issue when we depend on the praises of others to increase our self-worth. I realized how I became so consumed with becoming one of these positive statistics. My ego needed a success story to fulfill me. While some people unfortunately tie their self-esteem to their physical appearance, for years, mine had been based on what I’d done and how far up the status ladder I was climbing. It was exhausting, not to mention damn near depressing.

After coming to a career crossroad, having to decide on a glamorous but personally unfulfilling career versus one that was less glamorous but more enriching, I decided to focus on my own definition of success. My happiness was now at the forefront, and my accomplish-driven ego had to take a back seat.

To be clear, setting goals and crushing them is still my motto, but it isn’t at the expense of my happiness. I’m not chasing dreams so that I can update social media accounts to appear successful (let’s not pretend that this isn’t a prevalent activity even among grown-ups). Instead, I’m chasing them to fulfill a purpose. My purpose. No longer do I feel compelled to live up to what others expect me to do or to achieve. My goals are rooted in my purpose and my definition of success. That definition can be explained best in the words of Dr. Maya Angelou who said that success is liking myself, what I do, and how I do it. That has now become my greatest accomplishment.

This Campaign Is On A Mission To Celebrate The Beauty Of Black Women

June 26th, 2016 - By Ashley Monaé
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Photo Credit: Joey Rosado/ @islandboiphotography

Photo Credit: Joey Rosado/ @islandboiphotography

The beauty of blackness is both powerful and infinite. However, throughout history, blackness has been devalued, especially when it comes to women. Whether it be our full noses, kinky, coily texture of our hair, curvaceous build of our bodies, or the melanin that enriches our complexions, we’re always made known just how different we are. And with societal pressures to denounce everything that makes of beautiful and unique, there’s come psychological effects like the divide between light and dark-skinned women.

Slowly but surely, we’ve seen various efforts to do away with conventional beauty standards, reminding us that everyone no matter their skin color is beautiful. The “Colored Girl” campaign (TCG), is one that we’ve recently had or eyes on. With an aim of celebrating black women of every size, shape, and skin tone, the campaign just launched with a beautifully striking photo series shot by Joey Rosado featuring 10 gorgeous ladies, each with their own unique look.

Thank you all for making The “Colored” Girl campaign come to life. #TCG Tag a Queen!!

A photo posted by The “C” Girl (@thecgirlinc) on

“I started the ‘The Colored Girl’ Project because I wanted to show the different aspects of beauty as it pertains to Black women,” said TCG founder Tori Elizabeth in an interview with Essence. “I wanted to highlight and celebrate our unique beauty: our eyes, our lips, our cheekbones. I wanted women from different social and cultural backgrounds. I wanted women with angular eyes, women with freckles and fair skin, and women with really rich, ebony skin. It’s so important to be proud of who we are and showcase the beauty of blackness.”

We’re excited to see what other great initiatives come to life from the birth of TCG.

Angela Bassett Has A Skincare Line For Black Women Coming Soon

June 23rd, 2016 - By Ashley Monaé
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Photo Credit: WENN.com

Photo Credit: WENN.com

There are a few celebrities that come to mind when we think of agelessness, mostly in hopes of one day finding out what water or secret elixir they can credit their flawlessness too.

Well, actress Angela Bassett  is about to help us all out with a major key. Skincare!  As we all know, the 57-year-old, who currently stars on The American Horror Story, is known not just for her superb acting chops but her radiant, youthful glow.

Bassett has tapped her longtime doctor and aesthetic specialist Dr. Barbara Sturm to launch a skincare line for women of color. Called “Darker Skin Tones by Dr. Barbara Sturm,” the line focuses on issues that black women commonly face, ranging from inflammation, unevenness, pore size and hyperpigmentation. Ladies can look forward to five various products from the line. There’s a foam cleanser, an enzyme cleanser, face cream and accompanying creme, and a hyaluronic serum, all of which feature purslane, which is said to be the key ingredient that will make a world of difference in black women’s skin.

Bassett can vouch for such a claim as she’s used it over the years with Sturm own original skincare line. It “works against natural programmed cell death,” Sturm told WWD. “Not only do we [address] anti-inflammation and the evening out of skin tone but also a big thing for anti-aging.”

With the official release of Darker Skin Tones by Dr. Barbara Sturm set for an exclusive launch in July at Harrods (online and in-store), Bassett is hopeful that the line will aid people in learning “what is good for [their skin] and ingredients that are helpful — not invasive or irritating,” she told WWD.

No word on if there will be a separate American launch, but thankfully Harrods offers international shipping.

#FlashbackFriday: Monique Foreshadowed Reality TV’s Detrimental Effect On Black Women 9 Years Ago

June 10th, 2016 - By Brande Victorian
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VH1

VH1

This morning, the editors and I took a trip down reality TV memory lane and landed on an episode of one of the first shows to solidify the sustainability of the genre, Flavor of Love‘s little sister, Charm School. Don’t ask how we got there, just know that we did, starting with the time Mo’Nique gave Larissa, aka Boots, a read before we even called it a read.

That heated interaction was only one of many between the ladies, and it came to ahead during the Charm School reunion which aired July 8, 2007, and gave an eerie foreshadowing of the tumultuous relationship Black women and reality TV would have for years to come and which we’re currently still living through.

Continuing to feel singled out (even after Mo’Nique told her she wasn’t special enough for her to care about that much), Boots again questioned the “Headmistress” for picking on her throughout the show, which even caused Boots’ mother to step out of the audience during the reunion and tell Mo’Nique “you don’t run up on a young lady like that.” It was at that point that Mo’Nique asked, “Well when were you gonna walk up on her?” And then the real gems came:

“The reason I wanted you here today was not so you and I could have a confrontation because, from Black woman to Black woman, I’ve got nothing but love for you sister and I got nothing but love for that one,” Mo’Nique stated.

“As I’ve said from the beginning, be careful what you do and be careful what you say because the camera’s picking up every single thing and you don’t have to keep putting yourself out there like that. And then you have to ask the question: When that airs to America, how do we hold our head up with dignity? How do we put our heads back up? How do we walk down the street when a little girl of 10 says to Larissa, ‘you told that b-tch something!’ What do we say to her? What do we say to her? What do we do about that sista? That’s my point.

“I love [Larissa] so much. I stepped up on you because I love you just that much that I’m willing to put my sh-t on the line to say if you wanna swing, if you wanna fight, I’ll give you all of that. But when we’re done, I’ma (sic) stand you up and love on you. That’s what I’m trying to tell you Larissa, you’re letting life beat you up in such a way and ain’t nobody stepping to her and saying come here, let me put my arms around you. Let me love on you baby. ‘Cuz see I’m 40 years old, that baby ain’t even 25 yet and the way she’s going right now sista, one day she’s gonna run into somebody that’s just like her, that’s just like her, and they ain’t gone back down from her and then you’re gonna get a phone call and it ain’t gone be nice.

“Sis, I’m fighting for your baby sista. We gotta regain our respect sista. We gotta regain it. We gotta get it back…”

After Larissa questioned Mo’Nique’s authenticity, saying she only appeared on the show for a check, a strong sense of déjà vu came over me.

“Let me tell you why this show was number one in Black America,” Mo’Nique started. “I heard the response, it was coming from nothing but Black women and they all said, including me before I got to the show, ‘Oh my God is this who we are? Is this what we represent?’ Telling somebody to kiss it, lick it, suck it, stick it, eff you, you’re a monkey. I said you deserve more, you deserve better; c’mon baby, put your best foot forward.”

And here we are in 2016 having the exact same conversation, just with different players.

I’ll be honest, I lived for episodes of Charm School. Watching the show with my roommates was an event, and as a senior in college I didn’t see the connection between the image of Black women on TV and the perception people would have of me when they saw me on the street as a result. I also didn’t recognize the behavior of the cast members as the antics of broken women. I was entertained and would continue to be for some years after, until I was flipping through channels on a TV in the gym a few years ago and a white woman suggested I stop on the Real Housewives of Atlanta. “I just love those ladies,” she giddily told me and I couldn’t help but question why.

Aside from Nene Leakes, reality TV has rarely done Black women any favors. And I don’t mean that in the sense that now I have to wonder if white people assume when I leave work I meet up with women I don’t like just to throw drinks at them because of how we’re portrayed on TV. I can combat that nonsensical stereotyping on my own. The ones who really deserve compassion and concern are the women who don’t realize they’re being exploited and need someone to love on them, as Mo’Nique would say, not manipulate the entire trajectory of their lives (and those of their children in some cases) for the promise of a few thousand followers on Instagram and a liquor, weave, or waist trainer line of their choice.

When I look at the paths Amina Butterfly and Tara Wallace are on, when I see how post-sex tape Mimi Faust has turned out, when I recognize Evelyn Lozada as that angry girl Mo’Nique alluded to who one day met her match that didn’t back down, and when I realize Shay didn’t learn a damn thing from Charm School and continued to be played by VH1 years later on Love & Hip-Hop Atlanta, I’m not entertained; I’m sad. But unlike previous commentaries from the elitist camp only concerned about how the actions of these women affect them, I want these women to do better, not for my sake, but for themselves. To realize the residual damage of 15 minutes of ill-gotten fame is rarely worth it because when producers move on to warping the next victim’s reality, they’re the ones stuck with the permanence of the choices they made when the cameras were rolling temporarily.

If you know how to play the game, like a Nene Leakes or a Kandi Burruss, by all means play ball. But if you’re looking to reality TV to fill a void, it’s not going to work out sis. Like any relationship, you have to know and love yourself before you get into bed with the entertainment industry. If more women did, we likely wouldn’t see the images we do anyhow.

The Things You Find Beautiful Reveal Something About Yourself

May 31st, 2016 - By Veronica Wells
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The Things You Find Beautiful Reveal Something About Yourself

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I love going to the Brooklyn Art Museum’s annual Dance Africa festival. Not only are there tons of artists and Black entrepreneurs selling their wares, there are Black people dancing, eating, laughing, talking and socializing in peace. It’s an incredible scene.

So incredible that I often find myself looking at hair styles and fashion choices for inspiration. My sister, who was with me, does the same thing. As we were walking out of the festival, heading back to the Subway, she noticed a woman who had insanely long locs. But they weren’t hanging down her back. Instead, they were braided into large plaits and then pinned into a massive updo. Some would call it a bun. But it was so big, I’m not surely exactly how to classify it. She had a scarf wrapped around the perimeter, holding it up.

The style was so impressive that my sister complimented the woman.

“Your hair is so beautiful!”

Instead of the traditional thank you, the woman said, “Ooo sista, I’m only reflecting your beauty.”

I immediately laughed.

That’s another thing about these street festivals, they had a tendency to attract the super deep, nuts and berries, crystals-used-as-deodorant type of Black folks. And, just so you know, with locs of my own, I’ve been called the nuts and berries type before. With my locs also in a wrap, there might have been a few people who lumped me in that category this past weekend. You know how stereotypes go.

But as we were walking away, laughing. I thought about the statement for a second. And when I actually considered it, it did make sense.

Follow me.

We all know that it’s our own perceptions, experiences and attitudes that influence the world we see. When you’re in a funk, the world seems to be dark and gloomy. When we’re up, the sun seems to shine brighter, music is sweeter etc. The world is always what it is. It is we who frame it with our different lenses.

Surely, the same can be said with beauty.

We all know that beauty standards vary from culture to culture, from person to person. That very same day my sister, one of the vendors and I disagreed about whether or not it would be fly to put these two different prints together. They couldn’t see how it worked. I could. For whatever reason, there was something about those prints, together, that spoke to me and not them.

And the same could be said for that woman and my sister’s response to her. You’ve heard this concept before, articulated in a variety of ways. “Like attracts like.” “You are what you attract.” “Test the spirit by the spirit.” And my personal favorite, “Game recognize game.”

Earlier this year, Brande wrote about the thrill of being complimented by Black women, knowing that when a sista goes out of her way to compliment you, you’ve done something right. And that’s certainly true. But to take it a step further, the compliment is more than one directional, it’s a circle, simultaneously celebrating the one giving and receiving.

That loc-ed lady taught me a couple of things yesterday. One, a thing about beauty, both outside and within. And she also taught me to weigh the words before I laugh them off.

Why We Need More Black Girl Anthems

May 20th, 2016 - By Erica R. Williams
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Young black girl/woman in college listening to headphones/music, Shutterstock

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Nearly a month after dropping a surprise album, people of all races, backgrounds, and socioeconomic classes are still asking for more Lemonade. Why? Well, because it’s probably Beyoncé’s best work. But aside from the infectious hooks, jaw-dropping visuals, and FU given to cheating men, there is a deeper message in Beyoncé’s aesthetic album. This message affects one group in particular: Black women. Beyoncé reminded us (by way of Malcolm X) that “The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected person in America is the Black woman.” And though the civil rights leader said this more than 50 years ago, we needed someone, in the present day, of Beyoncé’s status and stature, to reiterate this sentiment, which still holds true today. We need anthems like “Formation” to remind us that yes, being a Black girl isn’t easy, but there is a power, also known as Black girl magic, in who we are.

Some may argue that songs won’t change the way Black women are treated or perceived in society, but music is a powerful weapon. And while it may not directly revamp the way everyone feels about us, it can help alter the way we feel about ourselves and other Black women. This, in turn, can indirectly initiate change.

It’s a fact that music affects moods, and according to researchers, it even affects the way people perceive the world. Black women have more than enough songs (most times delivered by Black men) that present us in a negative light. Either we’re bitter b—hes who are only good for pleasing a man sexually or we’re not good enough because we don’t fit a certain look or way of being. There aren’t enough songs reminding us of our beauty and ‘badass-ness’; and the ones that are out there, unfortunately, don’t make it to the mainstream airwaves. So when a star of Beyoncé’s caliber makes a visual album that highlights the strength and beauty of Black women, I can only be excited, and you should be too.

Nonetheless, not everyone is buying into Beyoncé’s delivery. Author and feminist bell hooks penned an essay on her website that accuses the pop singer of doing exactly what we are trying to do away with. Though she praises the album for creativity and “multidimensional images of Black female life,” she also says, “much of the album stays within a conventional stereotypical framework where the Black woman is always a victim.”

While Hooks is a respected feminist in her own right, we cannot pretend that Black women don’t usually end up with the short end of the stick. Acknowledging this doesn’t make us victims, but rather, we can relish in the fact that we usually overcome. And look good doing it. This is why songs like the ones Beyoncé is creating now are what we need more of. And while there are plenty of other Black artists who have been offering similar messages far longer than Bey (think Ledisi, Queen Latifah, Alicia Keys, India Arie, etc.), we still need those with the most power and influence as mainstream artists to make a concentrated effort to speak up for Black women.

#TravelTuesday: Lush Images Of Black Women Traveling Around The Globe

May 17th, 2016 - By Victoria Uwumarogie
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Do you love to travel? Do you want to travel but don’t know where to go? The great thing about social media nowadays is that you can gain so much inspiration and so many ideas from other people. And at a time where there are travel sites and social media pages like Travel Noire and The Nomadness Travel Tribe, you can finally see more people who look like you globetrotting to places folks probably never would have touched down in a decade or two ago. Dubai, Greece, the Maldives, Peru, Guatemala–Black folks, Black women especially, are on the move. With that being said, and since #TravelTuesday often trends on Twitter, here are a few lush images of Black women just like you traveling far and wide. Check out where they touched down at in their pictures and start setting your own travel goals for this summer!

Greece

Can You Be Spiritually Connected Without Church?

May 9th, 2016 - By Patia Braithwaite
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When I was 15, my older cousin took me to a Methodist church in Queens, New York. This cousin, Cousin Kiki, was my Beyoncé: a Biology student in college, she was (and still is) one of the prettiest women I’ve ever seen up close. Beyond that, she was my perpetual ride to the mall, my companion for trashy movies, my sounding board for tweenaged angst, and my chaperone for R&B concerts my parents wouldn’t let me attend alone. Cousin Kiki had all the responsibility of a guardian, yet I was too enamored with her to realize it.

I would’ve gone anywhere she asked, so when she proposed that we go to her church one Sunday afternoon, I was game. I think I was actually excited.

I’m not sure what it was. Maybe it was the music that seemed to come from somewhere beyond vocal chords, or maybe it was the word (long gone from my memory), but I remember being moved to tears. I’d sobbed as the pastor invited those who felt moved to head to the altar. One of the ushers put an arm around me and helped me down the aisle where the pastor prayed over me and some other congregants who felt called. When service was over, I was counseled briefly, asked to put my name on a mailing list, and sent on my way.

I never went back.

Though it felt like a moment of deep connection, I didn’t feel a pull to explore the faith. Cousin Kiki never pushed it. She trusted me when I told her that place wasn’t meant to be my spiritual home. More than 15 years later, I’m still homeless.

According to Pew Research from 2009, 83 percent of African-Americans identify as Protestants/Christians, and one percent as Muslim. I’m among the 17 percent who fit elsewhere. Over the years, as my faith has changed and shifted, I’ve tried to find a traditional church community that felt right. I’ve also explored Buddhist temples and Universalist churches. While the teachings speak to me and the work happening within each congregation is often powerful and transformative, the buildings and people never feel like ‘home.’ The introvert in me doesn’t want to stay for the chat and chew. When volunteer forms float around, I sign up but never attend. Though, to the untrained eye, I must seem like a millennial cherry picker, I am deeply committed to cultivating a spiritual connection with the divine, and being an embodiment of goodness in the world. I’m a person who has done 10-day silent meditations and spends much of her contemplative time in solitude. I have spiritual mentors across many denominations who I can call on for guidance and further study, yet I want to find solace in a single place. I crave the ritual and the connection that comes from having a spiritual home. I am hungry for a physical location and a group of people with whom I can nourish my faith over a lifetime.

Those who are like me often tout the idea that many of the individuals in a church community are NOT overwhelmingly Godly. Though that may be true, it’s also a cop-out. Just as you wouldn’t disown your family because sometimes they aren’t familial, it seems unfair to use the “church people can be messy” argument to disavow the importance of a spiritual home. In a church family you can find intergenerational conversations and community action. You can find in-depth study of ancient texts–and good friends to hit brunch with after service. Mostly, however, I imagine that when one finds a spiritual home, they commit to a sustained and concentrated understanding of their faith.

Maybe that’s what scares me the most. There’s no path that I agree with completely.

While I understand the value of spiritual community and traditional religious paths, I also wish that those who follow traditional paths had more respect for my wandering ways. I wish they understood that spiritual homelessness doesn’t mean soul depravity. Spiritual homelessness does not mean spiritual inferiority. It doesn’t mean that I’m living (too far) against the tenants of the Bible. It simply means the walk in faith is often a lonely journey.

My hope is that, until I find my home, we all meet on this winding road with open hearts.

 

Patia Braithwaite is a God-loving writer in New York City. To learn more about her journey in love, life and spirituality visit: www.menmyselfandgod.com. She also tweets and instagrams when she feels like it: @pdotbrathw8

Six Steps To Help A Ratchet, Or How To Deal With A Friend Who Loves Drama

May 4th, 2016 - By Patia Braithwaite
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Image Source: Shutterstock

Image Source: Shutterstock

Chances are, if you’re reading this, you have a ratchet friend in your life. Don’t feel bad, we all do. I bet you can think of that friend right now: the one who finds new and exciting ways to make his or her life as stressful as possible. The one who says she (or he) should be on a reality show, and you know they mean Love and Hip Hop: Atlanta. In my mind, ‘ratchetness’ has less to do with implications of etiquette/appropriateness, and more to do with the ability one has to relish in needlessly stressful situations. Whether it’s work-related drama or relationship problems, we all have that friend who seems addicted to drama.  In fact, most of us have been that friend at least once or twice in our lives.

What’s that you say? Not you? Just me? It’s cool. I’ll own it.

Whether you define ‘ratchetness’ as a set of isolated practices or a consistent state of mind, we can all use some tips for communicating with our strong-willed friends. These steps can help us:

Stop calling your ratchet friend a ratchet (remove judgement):  NYC relationship coach, Trenia Parham, encourages us to “…focus on the other person’s humanity, instead of reducing them to a flaw or mistake they’ve made. People are whole, flawed, complex beings. Both saint and sinner.”  While you may not call your friend a ratchet to her face, if you’re already judging your friend, then real communication is impossible. Just like we can tell when someone is silently undermining us, you can’t support someone you don’t respect.

Check yourself (assess your intentions): “I think the way we communicate with friends that are full of drama is more about [us] than about them,” Parham said. To that end, we have to ask ourselves how WE are gratified by constantly being the go-to friend. Does it make us feel needed? Smart? Loved? Important? Parham goes on to say that our friends don’t need our advice as much as we think they do. “[Your friend] has as much agency to be as  ‘ratchet’ as she wants to be, but now you have to decide if that’s something you want to be around, and that makes you responsible for your part.”

Talk less; listen better (listen actively): Active listening is defined as a way of communication that promotes mutual understanding.  What does that mean in real time? Parham offers us grounded examples. “Stop formulating responses in your head while the other person is talking. Put down your phone or thoughts about what you have to do when the conversation is over, and focus on the person sitting across from you. Does your friend need a friend to listen to or a therapist? As a friend, stop trying to fix it, that’s not your place.” It’s when we open our hearts and practice listening WHILE being empathetic,  and sometimes all a person needs is space to vent. I truly believe everyone has wisdom and knows what’s right for them. And when a person has a safe space to talk things through, they can generally find the answers they’ve been looking for.

Step 4. Keep it real (practice compassionate honesty):  One of the biggest pieces of advice Parham gives is to refrain from offering unsolicited advice. At the beginning of the conversation (or at the end of the rant), ask if they’re open to hearing your take on the matter. “If they want your opinion, offer it with honesty, but don’t wield the truth like a weapon,” Parham said. “Hearing something you may not want to hear is hard enough without someone delivering the truth without tact. Make the decision to be supportive regardless of if they want to do things your way.” At every turn, we have to let go of our own agenda for our friends. There is a chance that you will give an epic pep talk full of great advice, and most of it will go unfollowed. As friends, we have to learn to be supportive without being attached to the outcome.

Know when to end the conversation (set boundaries): Many folks (ratchet or otherwise) live their lives in circles. They keep dating the same guy; they keep having the same fight with their boss, and while they pretend to want your advice they really just want to keep venting. Though we think that being a good friend means we have to listen every single time, Parham believes that having healthy relationships means setting our own boundaries. “Be honest. If they keep getting cheated on by the same dude and aren’t willing to leave the relationship, tell them you don’t want to talk about it anymore if she’s not ready to do something about it.”  I know, from personal experience, when I listen against my will, I’m more likely to gossip out of frustration. That’s not helpful to anyone involved.

University educator and creator of the brilliant #lemonadesyllabus, Candace Marie Benbow recently Instragramed herself wearing a shirt that said, “Ratchetness as praxis.”  I love the shirt because, though the word has different meanings in different circles/contexts, it hints at a truth: There isn’t ONE acceptable and credible way of existing in the world. ‘Ratchetness,’ for all its negative implications, is beautifully unapologetic. To that end, the only real advice one needs, when thinking about how to support our headstrong homies, is to take five giant steps back and trust that they have it under control. We can call this minding our own business, or we can, as Parham encourages, call it an attempt to “stop looking at people like they’re broken. When you see your friend going through a hard time, think about how you would want someone to treat you in your messiest moments.”

And that, in a nutshell, is how we can help a ratchet (and ourselves).

Patia Braithwaite is a New York City-based writer who is probably somewhere being ratchet right now (whatever that means). You can find out more about her relationship and travel exploits at www.menmyselfandgod.com. She also tweets and Instagrams when the mood strikes her: @pdotbrathw8

About The Time My Personal Trainer Sexually Harassed Me

April 26th, 2016 - By Patia Braithwaite
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Source: Shutterstock

Source: Shutterstock

Deciding to go back to the gym wasn’t an easy decision for me. I’d damaged a tendon in my knee during the Philadelphia half-marathon, and the pain sent me to the couch (where I decided to stay for about three years).

To get back on track, I needed help. I loved my hardcore lady trainer, and we’d become friends over the years, but I grew up with a brother and have always thrived in competition with guys. I decided, this time around, I’d work with a man.  I’d been through this with my friends: scouring Instagram to find beautiful male personal trainers who looked like they could crush me with their arms, but they weren’t for me. I didn’t want to be distracted by a good-looking personal trainer. I didn’t want to worry about sweating too much or feel embarrassed if I farted during my ab workout (it happens).

This was a gift I was giving to myself. I wanted to focus on me.

With all of these thoughts, I went to my local gym and picked the trainer with credentials that seemed perfect. We’ll call him Frank, a former football player who specialized in rehabilitating runners with knee injuries. He was significantly older than I and looked it. The front desk woman told me everyone loved his Southern hospitality, and a quick Google search uncovered that he was also an off-Broadway actor who’d been happily married for over 20 years.

He felt right, but I discovered I was wrong…

Almost every woman I know is subjected to some form of harassment daily. Whether she’s being cat-called on the street or stared down in the supermarket, we often have to ignore the unwelcome advances of men. As a result, the hairs on our neck are attuned to the subtle (and not-so-subtle) advances of strangers.

When Frank’s texts became one too many smiley-face emojis before our first session, I grew uneasy. When he complimented my body and told me I didn’t need to lose any weight, I tried to convince myself that he was just attempting to be encouraging. When he tried to help me lift the weights, I became irritated because that’s just not beneficial (and also because I was struggling to lift 30 pounds by myself). When he slid his hand a bit too low while helping me into a stretch, I became confused.

By our third session, which he closed with a hug, I was weirded out.

“My trainer is a bit too touchy,” I told a friend. “You know I don’t like to be touched.”

“You should say something,” she said in response.

“Nah, I’m probably tripping. You know how I just hate being touched.”

It wasn’t until the phone calls, and text messages started, that I understood what my gut already knew.

“I try to keep it professional,” he said in a text message, “but if I wasn’t married, I think we’d be together.”

I searched my mind: Was I too friendly? Did I send the wrong message? The truth is, I should be able to joke and laugh with my personal trainer. So, at that moment, while he was waiting for a response, I owned the fact that there was nothing I could’ve done to avoid the situation. If I’d worn sweats instead of leggings, if I’d smiled less and been a little colder, the result would’ve been the same.  I’m also not stupid enough to think I am special. I’m sure he’s done something like this to all his female clients.

I waited a few days before responding:

“Hey, just wanna give you a heads up. I’m terminating our training.”

He apologized, and I informed him that I wouldn’t accept.  Instead, I told him that during the five block walk that it takes to get from my apartment to the gym, I’m propositioned by men between almost daily. I informed him that while men will accost me everywhere, I won’t bite my tongue in the presence of someone in my employ.

“Is there anything I can do?” he asked.

“We’re done here,” I texted back.

He had proven what I sensed from his first text: He was a creeper who exploits the trust of his clients.

Ultimately, it was enough for me to terminate my relationship with my trainer without coming for his job.  Trust me; I thought about it several times. Maybe I’m a punk, but in the end, I felt that if I lodged a formal complaint, I’d have to switch gyms. I didn’t want that. I like my gym. Maybe this was an inherently selfish choice, but I felt like it was enough for me to remove myself from that situation. I felt like karma would do the rest of the work. And in the end, that proved to true. He was only in the gym for a few more weeks before he up and disappeared from it.

There’s no moral to this story. I’m not entirely sure I even did the best I could do in this situation, but I wanted to tell my story because I want anyone who has dealt with this to know that it’s not okay. Whatever course of action feels right for you, take it. And know this: If your trainer tries it, you don’t have to let it slide.  Of all the quietly destructive things we do on a daily basis, getting your health together is such a positive step. You deserve to feel safe as you work toward inner and outer transformation.