All Articles Tagged "new york times"

Can A Man Be Forced Into Fatherhood?

June 17th, 2013 - By Charing Ball
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Shutterstock

Happy Post Father’s Day to all the dudes out there who are actively involved in the lives of young people – whether they are biological fathers or not – because apparently, being a stand-up dude is purely optional.

At least that is the message I got from this New York Times editorial in which writer Laurie Shrage, who is also a professor of gender studies, argues that just because a man “accidentally” gets a woman pregnant, shouldn’t mean that he should be forced to bear the legal responsibilities of the child. As Shrage, explains it, this phenomenon is called forced fatherhood, as she labels it, and it is akin to punishing men for sexual promiscuity. According to her, there needs to be a more expansive definition of fatherhood, particularly in the court systems, to better accommodate men who are not the biological father of a child but still decide to raise them, as well to include men whose only connection to a child is being a sp*rm donor. From Shrage’s editorial:

Court-ordered child support does make sense, say, in the case of a divorce, when a man who is already raising a child separates from the child’s mother, and when the child’s mother retains custody of the child. In such cases, expectations of continued financial support recognize and stabilize a parent’s continued caregiving role in a child’s life.  However, just as court-ordered child support does not make sense when a woman goes to a sp*rm bank and obtains sp*rm from a donor who has not agreed to father the resulting child, it does not make sense when a woman is impregnated (accidentally or possibly by her choice) from sex with a partner who has not agreed to father a child with her. In consenting to sex, neither a man nor a woman gives consent to become a parent, just as in consenting to any activity, one does not consent to yield to all the accidental outcomes that might flow from that activity. ”

To Shrage’s larger point, the child support system needs to be overhauled as well. There are few folks, who I would think would argue that the system in its current state is of benefit to mother, father, or child involved. And with anywhere between 14 to 24 of fathers in the system below the poverty line, slapping an order of support, which he is unlikely to be able to pay, does not seem beneficial. I also agree with her point about a new expansive definition to include the men, who have voluntarily stepped up and taken on the role as father in a child’s life. However, as bad as this current system is, having a system where a man can pick and choose which of his off-spring he deems worthy of his last name doesn’t seem very progressive – in fact, it sounds very regressive to the times of old when men did that very same thing and were well within their legal right to do so.

Likewise, I personally find it hard to imagine there being an epidemic of men being forced into parenthood against their objection. Even providing anecdotal stories about women hijacking sp*rm from a condom some poor schmuck left behind likely pales in comparison to the stories of men, who were willing participants in sexual intercourse, which ultimately led to conception. And to be clear, short of stealing a man’s sp*rm, the claim of forced fatherhood is really a dubious, and slightly offensive one, particularly to people who have had forced sexual relationships put upon them.

Sure, we can argue that men have little say-so in determining the progression of an unplanned pregnancy, however, that is because the job of impregnating and giving actual birth is not equal. And I think that this is a point that needs to further be emphasized as folks of all genders do take pregnancy for granted. This is in part due to modern technology, which has greatly decreased most of the risk that used to be associated with pregnancy and labor. However, folks should understand that pregnancy is still a pretty dangerous job and women really do put their lives on the line in order to birth the next generation of human beings. Despite the fact that the number of maternal deaths worldwide dropped from more than 543,000 to 287,000, some 800 women still die daily from even the most preventable complications due to pregnancy and labor.

Put aside the mostly non-life threatening side effects of pregnancy including nausea and vomiting, constipation, heartburn, swelling and bloating, hemorrhoids, hair loss, and a whole host of other unpleasant ailments, and let’s talk about the more serious complications: high blood pressure and hypertension; gestational diabetes; eclampsia; blood clots; broken bones; infection; hemorrhaging, and even death. Not to mention the complications, which can come from having to have a non-v*ginal birth (c-section) and all the after-birth side effects like postpartum depression.

Since men are physically incapable of bearing these life-altering and threatening burdens of pregnancy, it doesn’t make sense – legal or otherwise – that they should have a say in a decision, which has a profound affect on one’s body. And if any man has a problem with that, tell him to take it up with Mother Nature.

Although the final decision about the progression of a pregnancy and labor belongs to the woman, men are not totally without choice to prevent unplanned fatherhood. I think what is most interesting about these decisions, which come up around the idea of men being allowed to legally terminate parental rights, is that we tend to skip over the same same sort of personal responsibility ethos, which has been shoved down the throats of women. Sort of how there is a movement now to teach men not to rape, as opposed to just telling women how to prevent rape, we need to start drilling in the minds of men the importance of taking their reproductive choices seriously. And if they don’t, there will be serious and life-altering consequences, including being stuck legally and financially to a child you might not be ready for.

We should reinforce to men that once they let that seed separate from their body, and into another’s body, you basically give consent to use said seed for whatever purpose one see’s fit, including biological. We should tell guys that not only is abstinence an acceptable and reasonable option, but just in case they can’t wait, at least try to be more selective in their sexual relationships. Likewise, if they can’t count on the success rate of condoms, perhaps they should explore other birth control options, including a vasectomy, which again, thanks to modern technology, is now reversible. Some guys I know don’t even like to think about that option because it is “too invasive.” Go figure.

Kanye West And Why You Have To Sometimes Believe Your Own Hype

June 14th, 2013 - By Charing Ball
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WENN.com

WENN.com

Love him, hate him, there is a lot that we all can learn from Kanye West, particularly the benefits of believing one’s own hype:

New York Times: “Even though you had always wanted to be out in front, was there ever a point where you valued your anonymity?”
Kanye West: “Yeah, I held on to the last moments of it. I knew when I wrote the line “light-skinned friend look like Michael Jackson” [from the song “Slow Jamz"] I was going to be a big star…”

For Real Kanye? It was that line right there that was going to propel you into stardom? What cued you in to this revelation Kanye? Were you sitting in your room one day, scribbling down lines in a black and white composition notebook when – all of a sudden – the skies opened up, thunder clapped, and the voice of hundreds of tiny cherub-faced angels with harps descended upon you with a chorus of “Ave Maria”? Was there a blinding light and a deep voice, which harkened; “Go forth and share with the world, ‘Got a light-skinned friend looks like Michael Jackson/Got a dark-skinned friend looks like Michael Jackson…’ I am your father. This I command you?” If so, pass that to the left hand side…

He was right though. About the fame I mean. And I guess to some extent the line too because damn if it isn’t one of my favorite Kanye-isms. If you haven’t read the entire New York Times piece, do yourself a favor and go right now or you will miss other self-promoting gems like: “I think what Kanye West is going to mean is something similar to what Steve Jobs means. I am undoubtedly, you know, Steve of Internet, downtown, fashion, culture. Period. By a long jump.”

Way to speak about yourself in the third person. Nevertheless, West has a long and prominent history of inflating his own virtues. After the New York Times piece went viral, Vulture decided it would also compile a list of all the other wonderful thoughts West has had about himself, including this one:

“I’m a pop enigma. I live and breathe every element in life. I rock a bespoke suit and I go to Harold’s for fried chicken. It’s all these things at once, because, as a taste maker, I find the best of everything. There’s certain things that black people are the best at and certain things that white people are the best at. Whatever we as black people are the best at, I’ma go get that. Like, on Christmas I don’t want any food that tastes white. And when I go to purchase a house, I don’t want my credit to look black.” — Spin, December, 2007”

And this one:

“There’s nothing more to be said about music. I’m the end-all, be-all of music. I know what I’m doing. I did 808s in three weeks. I got it. It’s on cruise control … Man, we talked about music for God knows how long! Now let’s talk about how my sweater didn’t come back right from Korea. That’s what’s interesting me.” — Details, February, 2009”

And this one too:

[In regard to a life-size poster of himself] “I put me on the wall because I was the only person that had me on the wall at that time. And now that a lot of people have me on their wall, I don’t really need to do that anymore.” — Rolling Stone, April, 2004”

West is the prime example of ‘ain’t nobody gonna get hype about you until you learn to hype yourself up first’. Yet folks generally have a hard time with being their own cheerleader and advocate. Many people go through life with such poor self-images of themselves, and the world in general, that the very idea that they might be deserving of a little praise renders them paralyzed. Instead, it’s much more comfortable to self-criticize and beat one’s self up because it means living without the burden of expectation. No one expects a person who doesn’t feel they are talented or having anything worth sharing with the world, to actually achieve anything. Therefore, they hang out in the shadows, feeling sorry for themselves and being cogs in the systems of someone else’s dream and ambition while the world pretty much passes them by. It is that endless wall-flowering, which keeps folks from going out into the world and commanding the respect that they deserve – whether it be a raise at work,  from your significant other, or even with something you want to buy for yourself.

But having an almost narcissist view of one’s greatness is a perfect shield from the negative messages we tell ourselves as well and are bombarded with daily. People will tell you – out of concern, fear and flat out hateration – why what you are doing is a waste of time. Sometimes they will have legitimate points. However (and take my word for it), indulging in too many cautionary tales and giving weight to other people’s doubt – no matter how pragmatic they are – will only slow you down. If you sincerely feel like you have talent, you have to be arrogant enough to say, ‘despite everyone’s objections and my own fears, I do believe my s**t is hot, therefore this is where I’m going to put my faith.’ And by faith I mean the actual task of dedicating time and energy into something in addition to the unwavering belief that your craft has value.

I do realize that humbleness is a virtue. I also realize that there are too many people, faux-profiling, posing and gushing over social media sites without having done the work to warrant such self-flagellation. But I also understand that a little arrogance is needed when at times true confidence is hard to find. You know, faking it until you make it? Odds are, it was probably West’s inflated ego, which gave him the gumption to fund his very first music video at a time when his label wanted to put his project on the back burner for easier and more marketable hip-hop artists. And there is no doubt that it is West’s continued stroking of his own ego, which compels him to step out the box and test the limit of his artistry. You have to be a pretty vain mothersucker to sing on an album knowing damn well you are nowhere near close to being a singer. And yet, it totally worked (off-key and all), because he was going to make sure it worked.

“I’m Forever the 35-year-old 5-year-old.” Kanye Talks Music, Kim & Fatherhood With The New York Times

June 12th, 2013 - By Veronica Wells
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Source: NYT

Source: NYT

If you know anything about Kanye, you know that it’s not everyday that he sits down to talk to the media. It’s quite rare. And after reading his interview with the New York Times, I can easily see why West would be concerned that his words might be misinterpreted. He thinks and speaks in ways that can easily be manipulated. So it makes sense, for clarity’s sake that Jon Caramanica, the journalist who interviewed West, would stick to a simple question and answer format to avoid any confusion.

In the interview Caramanica and West discuss everything from the Grammy snubs, the infamous Taylor Swift incident, his love for Kim, his thoughts on fatherhood and his concept of family now that his mother’s passed.

Essentially, the interview covers everything you always wanted to know…even if the answers may leave you wanting. Check out some of the highlights below.

On fighting for what’s right in music

When your debut album, “The College Dropout” came out, the thing that people began to associate with you besides music was: Here’s someone who’s going to argue for his place in history; like, “Why am I not getting five stars?”

I think you got to make your case. Seventh grade, I wanted to be on the basketball team. I didn’t get on the team, so that summer I practiced. I was on the summer league. My team won the championship; I was the point guard. And then when I went for eighth grade, I practiced and I hit every free throw, every layup, and the next day I looked on this chart, and my name wasn’t on it. I asked the coach what’s up, and they were like, “You’re just not on it.” I was like, “But I hit every shot.” The next year — I was on the junior team when I was a freshman, that’s how good I was. But I wasn’t on my eighth-grade team, because some coach — some Grammy, some reviewer, some fashion person, some blah blah blah — they’re all the same as that coach. Where I didn’t feel that I had a position in eighth grade to scream and say, “Because I hit every one of my shots, I deserve to be on this team!” I’m letting it out on everybody who doesn’t want to give me my credit.

You want the historical record to be right.

Yeah, I don’t want them to rewrite history right in front of us. At least, not on my clock. I really appreciate the moments that I was able to win rap album of the year or whatever. But after a while, it’s like: “Wait a second; this isn’t fair. This is a setup.” I remember when both Gnarls Barkley and Justin [Timberlake] lost for Album of the Year, and I looked at Justin, and I was like: “Do you want me to go onstage for you? You know, do you want me to fight” —

The Taylor Swift incident 

But has that instinct led you astray? Like the Taylor Swift interruption at the MTV Video Music Awards, things like that.

It’s only led me to complete awesomeness at all times. It’s only led me to awesome truth and awesomeness. Beauty, truth, awesomeness. That’s all it is.

So no regrets?

I don’t have one regret.

Do you believe in the concept of regret?

If anyone’s reading this waiting for some type of full-on, flat apology for anything, they should just stop reading right now.

But that is something that you apologized for.

Yeah, I think that I have like, faltered, you know, as a human. My message isn’t perfectly defined. I have, as a human being, fallen to peer pressure.

So that was a situation in which you gave in to peer pressure to apologize?

Yeah.

So if you had a choice between taking back the original action or taking back the apology, you’d take back the apology?

You know what? I can answer that, but I’m — I’m just — not afraid, but I know that would be such a distraction. It’s such a strong thing, and people have such a strong feeling about it. “Dark Fantasy” was my long, backhanded apology. You know how people give a backhanded compliment? It was a backhanded apology. It was like, all these raps, all these sonic acrobatics. I was like: “Let me show you guys what I can do, and please accept me back. You want to have me on your shelves.”

Just Call Him Little O: Steve Harvey Enjoying Crossover Success

March 26th, 2013 - By Ann Brown
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Joe Seer / Shutterstock.com

Joe Seer / Shutterstock.com

Whatever Steve Harvey touches goes gold. And now his new talk show is considered a “solid win” by NBC, reports the The New York Times.

Since debuting in September, Steve Harvey has been a daytime TV success, averaging a rating of 0.9 among women ages 25 to 54. And, according to the newspaper, the show just keeps attracting more and more viewers.

In February, the show posted a 1.0 rating, tying with Katie Couric’s syndicated talk show for the first time. His show is even already posting a slight profit, according to Endemol. Endemol produces it for NBC, which then sells it to stations across the country.

Harvey still also works on his national morning radio show, the game show Family Feud (which he started hosting in 2010) and various other ventures, such as the hit feature film, Think Like a Man, that made $100 million last year.

“While many of his older fans are, like him, African-American, Mr. Harvey has demonstrated that he has significant crossover appeal” reports the Times.

TV stations seem to love Harvey as well. Harvey’s show costs a lot less to produce than Couric’s does meaning stations pay less to carry it.

Due to his recent crossover success, Harvey was recently dubbed the “next Oprah” by the Hollywood Reporter.

 “I won’t be Oprah, but maybe baby Oprah,” Harvey said to the newspaper with a laugh after he’d let his guard down a bit about that scary moniker. “Just call me little O!”

Success isn’t new to Harvey who had the hit TV comedy series, The Steve Harvey Show, which ran from 1996 to 2002.

Is Courtship Dead? And If It Is, Is That Really Such A Bad Thing?

January 22nd, 2013 - By Charing Ball
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bad-date

According to the New York Times, dating is now dead. R.I.P dinner and a movie:

Instead of dinner-and-a-movie, which seems as obsolete as a rotary phone, they rendezvous over phone texts, Facebook posts, instant messages and other “non-dates” that are leaving a generation confused about how to land a boyfriend or girlfriend.”

The Times piece then goes on to say that non-committal activities like ‘hanging out,” have replaced actual dates and courtship. According to the article, dodgy economic prospects, which makes it impossible to afford dates; changing economic dynamics between the genders; online dating including texting, emailing and social networking and the rise of the “hookup culture” are to blame for the disappearance of dating. To illustrate the demise, the Times article uses the anecdotal story of a Shani Silver, a young woman from Philadelphia, who was supposed to go on a date with a guy she met on OkCupid, but turned him down when, on the night of the date, he sent her a text message, suggesting that they met up at a local Pub where he was already having drinks with his friends.

Turned off, she fired back a text message, politely declining. But in retrospect, she might have adjusted her expectations. “The word ‘date’ should almost be stricken from the dictionary,” Ms. Silver said. “Dating culture has evolved to a cycle of text messages, each one requiring the code-breaking skills of a cold war spy to interpret.”

I think that Silver was right to reevaluate her expectations from this “date.” There is no doubt that dating has changed over the time. But so what? Flowers, a classy dinner of poorly seasoned crab legs and cheddar bay biscuits at Red Lobster, the latest action movie you had no desire see but your date really wants to see it so whatever – while traditional of courtship – wasn’t all that fantastic as The New York Times has waxed nostalgic it to be. Personally, I’ve hated dating in the traditional sense of the word. For me, it always felt like being on job interview where the lady with the navy blue suit and a notepad, sits behind the faux-wood finish desk and in her polite, yet almost deceptive tone asks you probing questions like: where do you see yourself in ten years? and describe your strengths and weakness and can you explain this gap in employment?

And then you, in your equally uncomfortable outfit, which you would wear outside of this interview, have to somehow come up with answers that are some version of the truth but also paint you in what you think is a favorable light. I have done that many of times – in both interviews and on dates. The older I get, the more life gets hectic, the harder the hustle gets and I am more filled with “things to do.” This means that my time is extremely valuable. Therefore, when I go out, I’m going out to have a good time – not to determine if a good time is to be had. So yeah, I like having my “friends.”

And that brings me to a larger point about this fear of change, even when the traditional wasn’t necessarily great to begin with. Back in the day, it was socially frowned upon for a woman to date multiple suitors at one time or even have a sexual relationship outside of marriage. Today, women are encouraged not to settle, to sample what’s out there and cultivate relationships around their likes and desires before jumping into a relationship. And that’s not  even mentioning the power imbalance, which used to accompany traditional courtship. Do you know how incredibility and advisably unsafe some of the courtship rules of old were? While it may be proper for a man to abide by the old fashion way and pick you up for a date, it certainly isn’t advisable in this day and age. So, in that sense, modern dating has become more empowering and meaningful for women than ever before.

Also there is something to be said for the way in which technology has made our traditional dating rituals more inclusive. While it may seem unlikely for lots of folks to think of finding love and connecting with people behind a the keypads on a computer or smartphone, some people, who might be shy or awkward socially, will often use technology to engage potential partners comfortably in ways they could not physically do publicly. Of course, there is always a chance of running into a few catfishes in the virtual world however it sure beats running into a few turds in real life.

Get The Digits: Is Asking For His Credit Score The New “What’s Your Phone Number?”

December 28th, 2012 - By Charing Ball
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Source: Shutterstock

Source: Shutterstock

From the New York Times:

“The credit score, once a little-known metric derived from a complex formula that incorporates outstanding debt and payment histories, has become an increasingly important number used to bestow credit, determine housing and even distinguish between job candidates.

It’s so widely used that it has also become a bigger factor in dating decisions, sometimes eclipsing more traditional priorities like a good job, shared interests and physical chemistry. That’s according to interviews with more than 50 daters across the country, all under the age of 40.”

According to the article, a number of enterprising websites have sprouted out, catering to this growing interest in credit background checking of potential partners. A couple such sites, Creditscoredating.com and Datemycreditscore.com, allow its members to exchange and view credit scores of potential dates. The article also included an interesting anecdotal story about a flight attendant named Jessica Lashawn, whose dream guy fizzled before her eyes after Mr. Rico Sauve broached the credit question on their first date.

From to the article:

“It was as if the music stopped,” Ms. LaShawn, 31, said, recalling how the date this year went so wrong so quickly after she tried to answer his question honestly. “It was really awkward because he kept telling me that I was the perfect girl for him, but that a low credit score was his deal-breaker.”

I don’t know how the rest of you feel but that just seems like an abitrary reason to dismiss your “perfect girl” on the first date. I mean, at the very least, advise her on some credit counseling and see how that pans out before writing her off. But everyone has their own standards. And quite honestly adding, “what’s your credit score” to the list of questions we already use to gauge the worthiness of a potential partner is not a bad idea.

The credit rating of a potential partner could have determining impacts on what kind of dates you have, who pays and even transportation to and from your date.  And if the relationship gets more serious, his or her bad credit could impact more important financial decisions such as the ability to buy a house. Likewise, credit can also be a indictator of how sound a decision maker a person is outside of the financial realm. For instance, a guy with pretty decent credit might be a sign that he is responsible and honest person in love. However, a guy with a couple of liens and delinquent marks on his credit report, could suggest that he might not be a little flippant with not only his wallet but with your heart too. It might sound like pseudo-science but more and more employers are turning to the credit scores of job candidates to help determine good hirees.

Some folks may have fallen on hard times due to lost of job or even a personal or family sickness.  Some folks may have not been so fiscally wise in their younger years but might be working to clean up their credit. And some folks just have more student loan debt than actual income. While I don’t see anything wrong with asking a potential partner about their overall financial solvency, I think it might be a dangerously short-sighted to rely solely on someone’s score, especially based on a metric you had no hand in creating.

But what do you guys think? Should our FICO score be the new “What’s your digits?”

Even The New York Times Knows Something Is Odd About Zoe Saldana In The Nina Simone Biopic

September 14th, 2012 - By Brande Victorian
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Source: Blackfilmisbeautiful.com and IMDB

The blackosphere has been pining over the choice of Zoe Saldana for a movie based on the life of Nina Simone for some time now, but the New York Times is attempting to get to the bottom of all the backlash — and the casting choice — in a new report.

The article notes that the angst over the placement of a lighter-skinned Afro-latina woman who doesn’t sing in a film about the life of a dark-skinned jazz artist from the south isn’t limited to mere discussions over the Internet. A petition has been started to replace Zoe with an actress who actually looks like Nina.  Cynthia Mort, the writer and director of the film, isn’t looking to oblige. As the Times reports:

According to Ms. Mort, who is white, the film was not intended to be a biography in the strict sense, but instead “a love story about an artist’s journey unto herself,” she said.

“There’s a difference,” she added, “between telling a story that includes and involves emotion and experiences and doing a biopic — she was born here, she did this, she did that. That is also a great story, but that’s not what we’re telling in that kind of linear fashion.”

Ms. Mort said that she was still in the process of confirming whether Ms. Saldana would play Simone. David Oyelowo will play Simone’s companion and love interest, a composite character based on Simone’s manager and caretaker, Clifton Henderson.

The singer Mary J. Blige was first cast to play Simone until she had to bow out for what Ms. Mort described as “scheduling issues,” though Ms. Blige said publicly she had spent years preparing for the role. The rumors of Ms. Saldana’s casting prompted Simone’s daughter, Simone Kelly, to write a note to her mother’s fans on the official Nina Simone Facebook page. Ms. Kelly, who was born Lisa Celeste Stroud, said that the project was unauthorized, and that Simone’s estate had not been asked permission or been asked to participate in the film.

“My mother was raised at a time when she was told her nose was too wide, her skin was too dark,” Ms. Kelly said in an interview. “Appearance-wise this is not the best choice,” she added, referring to Ms. Saldana.

Ms. Kelly, who described herself as a fan of Ms. Saldana’s work, said she would have preferred to see actresses like Viola Davis or Kimberly Elise. She added that her mother’s own choice to play her was Whoopi Goldberg.

Ms. Kelly also took issue with the creative license taken by Ms. Mort’s script, particularly the story line that Simone had a romantic relationship with Mr. Henderson. In the Facebook post Ms. Kelly wrote: “Clifton Henderson was gay. He was not attracted to women. So, the truth is … Nina Simone and Clifton Henderson NEVER had a relationship other than a business one.”

Ms. Mort described Mr. Henderson’s character as “a composite of many different loves and aspects of love in Nina’s life.”

It appears Ms. Mort is taking a number of creative licenses with the making of “Nina,” none of which scholar yaba Blay approves of. She told the Times:

“The power of her aesthetics was part of [Nina Simone's] power. This was a woman who prevailed and triumphed despite her aesthetic.” Dark-skinned actresses are “already erased from the media, especially in the role of the ‘it girl’ or the love interest.”

What do you think about the director’s explanation for Zoe Saldana’s casting?

More on Madame Noire!

 

Lolo Jones and Her Pretty Girl Problem

August 8th, 2012 - By Brande Victorian
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This hasn’t been Olympic Hurdler Lolo Jones’ week and ironically it has less to do with her not bringing home a medal after placing fourth in her 100-meter race last night, and more to do with what happens when the pretty girl doesn’t live up to the pedestal society placed her on simply because of her looks.

Let me explain that a bit. Lolo is a stellar athlete. The 30-year-old’s sheer participation in this year’s games tells you that, as do the Indoor world champion medals and records she holds. Is she the best hurdler on the American team? I’m not qualified to judge that, but I do know she’s received more mainstream attention than any other woman on the American track team. New York Times writer Jere Longman would say that’s because of a carefully calculated effort on Lolo and her PR team’s part. I think American bias plays a bigger role in that coverage than the columnist acknowledges.

In his piece, “For Lolo Jones, Everything Is Image,” the author wrote:

“Jones has received far greater publicity than any other American track and field athlete competing in the London Games. This was based not on achievement but on her exotic beauty and on a sad and cynical marketing campaign. Essentially, Jones has decided she will be whatever anyone wants her to be — vixen, virgin, victim — to draw attention to herself and the many products she endorses.”

“Women have struggled for decades to be appreciated as athletes. For the first time at these Games, every competing nation has sent a female participant. But Jones is not assured enough with her hurdling or her compelling story of perseverance. So she has played into the persistent, demeaning notion that women are worthy as athletes only if they have sex appeal. And, too often, the news media have played right along with her.”

If you recall, Lolo has spoken quite openly about her virginity over the years—a choice I mentioned before I didn’t think was wise because it invites the very type of backlash exhibited here. Longman wasn’t writing this piece as an op-ed on sexism in sports coverage, he wrote it because he was disappointed that he expected Lolo to lose her race yesterday, which she did. For him, that confirmed his assumption that she thinks she’s too swexy for her sports bra. I say that because he opened the article with, “judging from this year’s performances, Lolo Jones seems to have only a slim chance of winning an Olympic medal in the 100-meter hurdles and almost no possibility of winning gold.” He then outlines the so-called scandalous endeavors she’s been involved in off the track, like posing nude for ESPN and being nearly naked on the cover of Outside magazine, then follows it up with, “If there is a box to check off, Jones has checked it. Except for the small part about actually achieving Olympic success as a hurdler.”

The crux of Longman’s article is Lolo had no right to make us interested in her if she wasn’t going to deliver the goods, better yet the gold. I think this backlash is proof of one simple thing: when you’re hot (because of your looks and your skill) everyone loves you, and when you’re not, the praise and the recognition fades as though it was never there. Longman would have no problem with Lolo’s image if she actually won. Yet his argument still isn’t that Lolo should have spent more time training than taking pics and that’s because he can’t argue that. Lolo did train—for four years—to participate in the Olympics this year. Unfortunately, that still hasn’t stopped the athlete from being called the Anna Kournikova of track, a slight that brought the hurdler to tears on the “Today Show” as she relayed her feelings on the backlash, saying:

“I think it was crazy just because it was two days before I competed, and then the fact that it was from a U.S. media…They should be supporting our U.S. Olympic athletes and instead they just ripped me to shreds. I just thought that that was crazy because I worked six days a week, every day, for four years for a 12-second race and the fact that they just tore me apart, which is heartbreaking.”

“I have the American record. I am the American record holder indoors, I have two world indoor titles. Just because I don’t boast about these things, I don’t think I should be ripped apart by media. I laid it out there, fought hard for my country and it’s just a shame that I have to deal with so much backlash when I’m already so brokenhearted as it is.”

 

Overworked & Overscheduled? What Are You Trying To Prove By Being “Busy” 24/7?

July 10th, 2012 - By Mame Kwayie
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Busy Black Woman

BlackLoveandMarriage.com

I’m a woman who used to wear her busyness like a badge. It was as if I earned a couple of “she’s-a-productive-member-of-society” points every time I tapped into my smartphone as I walked down the street (See, I even work when I walk!), informed friends that I’d pencil them in for happy hour dates (Because I’m so busy, I need a calendar to have cocktails and calamari), or showed a co-worker my written to-do list at the first sign that they wanted my help with a new project (See all of this? It needs to be finished today. I’ll remind you of such when I’m eating a cheese sandwich at my desk this afternoon and then tomorrow when I inform you that I didn’t see sunlight since, you know, I came in early and left after the cleaning crew did.)

It’s in the latter situation that I hated being asked this question: “Are you busy?” For co-workers, it’s an icebreaker. A means to ask for help with a project, and I’m often glad to offer my assistance. So glad in fact, that I’ll overschedule and overwork myself to do it. But for you to ask me if I’m busy? How dare you? Who am I if I’m not busy? Of course I’m needed every second of the day and to remind you of such, I’ll tweet at 4:00 a.m. how hard I’m grinding while the rest of you sleep.

I’m busy and that means something, right?

Not so, says writer Tim Kreider, whose recent piece for the New York Times’ Opinionator blog questioned the concept of “the busy trap.” “Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day,”  Kreider writes, smacking at what I think this busy trap and the “they sleep, we grind” method of ladder climbing is really about: Our busyness is a manifestation of our fears that we human beings are not enough if we are not bustling, productive doers. Being busy, it seems, is not a function of productivity and dream chasing, but of stroking our egos.

This “busy” dialogue comes on the heels of Anne Marie Slaughter’s essay  for The Atlantic on whether working women can have it all, reigniting an age-old conversation about work/life balance for professionals with families and the guilt that comes with choosing one side over the other. That article and the firestorm it created tapped into a bigger discussion for working people at large: the nature of the American work culture. Because men can’t have it all, either, nor can young, single professionals or individuals whose jobs and meager paychecks make the concept of having it all a class consideration. Having what all? As Hanna Rosin notes in her essay for Slate, “None of us can have it all.”

I’ll save my feminist musings, and I (single and childless) won’t begin to suggest how parents who double as professionals can make it all work. But as a young nine-to-fiver who has a side hustle and dreams and 10,000 hours to log and 20 pounds to lose, working hard is a necessity.

But so is time to breathe. Kreider writes:

The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from  life and seeing it as whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration. It is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.

We often ascribe the concept of “discipline” solely to the idea of work. But we need to be disciplined about living full, mentally and physically healthy lives— working when it’s time to work (I’m now a purveyor of the “work smarter, not harder” concept of dream chasing and corporate life), resting when it is time to rest, and playing when it is time to play.

When my social life began to unravel, when I had aches in my muscles and was sicker than ever, I knew that my sun-up to sun-down days of getting cheese sandwich crumbs caught in my keyboard had to stop. Sometimes, it’s as simple as stepping away from the computer and walking outside for 15 minutes. Sometimes, it’s hopping on an airplane and disconnecting from social media for a weekend, unplugging as a means to recharge and live in the moment. Sometimes, it’s lying in bed and watching the blades on my ceiling fan rotate.

The discipline of living a full life is also about absolving the guilt we feel for doing so. (This is where I insert the oft-told adage of no one on her deathbed has ever wished she’d worked harder.)

Who am I if I’m not doing? I’m loving, I’m breathing, I’m living, I’m watching the blades on my ceiling fan spin and not feeling bad about it. I’m realizing that I am more than what I do. Sometimes being is enough.

And, seriously, get off Twitter. It’s 4:00 a.m. Go to sleep.

Readers, do you find yourselves caught in a busy trap? In which ways do you lead full, well-rounded lives?

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Why I Think Natural Hair is Indeed a Political Statement

June 5th, 2012 - By Charing Ball
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If you haven’t seen it yet, which I’m pretty sure you have because it has been featured on every black blog and online publication, The New York Times recently ran an editorial, along with a short video, about the black women who are transitioning to natural beauty.

Zina Saro-Wiwa, a Nigerian, by way of the UK, documentary filmmaker and video artist, began documenting the American black women natural hair movement after her own transition from chemical straightening to a short bush left her both enamored and questioning her own insecurities about how she really felt about her own hair.  In the video, she speaks to a number of black women about their natural hair and inquires about what inspired them to take the journey.

While I loved both the post and the video, (seriously, it is very well done), I kind of raised an eyebrow at the assertion made both in the video and the post that folks shy away from the “black power” reference associated with black hair. Nor do they view their hair as a political statement.  More specifically;

“As Anu Prestonia, the owner of Khamit Kinks, a natural hair salon in Brooklyn, told me, “There’s been an evolutionary process that has turned into a revolution.” It is not an angry movement. Women aren’t saying their motivation is to combat Eurocentric ideals of beauty. Rather, this is a movement characterized by self-discovery and health. “

No doubt that some women do resist the implication that their natural hair has dual meaning. I have heard many times from women with natural hair reject flat out and inclination that they are revolutionary because of their chosen hairstyle. In the past, I might have agreed with them. In the past, I had agreed with them and wrote about the often problematic social undertones that exist with being “natural.” However I have come to learn that even if we do or do not accept our place in the movement, natural hair is indeed political.

How so? Well consider the story of 13-year old Brea Persley of Inglewood California. One day in class, her teacher at the Century Academy for Excellence got so frustrated with her that she allegedly told her to “sit her nappy-headed self down.” This statement may sound funny, and possibly benign to some, however the term “nappy-headed” historically has always had a negative connation used to belittle or disregard a person of African descent. And when those remarks were made in front of the entire class, this little girl felt humiliated. “When the kids started laughing, it brought back the memories of when I was in 4th grade and kids used to laugh at me and tease me,” said Persley said.

As a whole, the black experience in America is politicized, which was recently demonstrated by  researchers from Brown University, who discovered that race, for both black and white voters, has more to do with their shifting support for President Obama than actual policy. Meaning that if President Obama, the first black (or biracial as some insist on calling him) president, supports gay marriage then black folks, who previously might have denounced gay marriage, shift their positions to align with the President while race conscious whites shift their position to be in opposition of the President.  Of course, the suggestion here is that it is not the issue of gay marriage itself, but the issue of being for or against the black president.

When the first generation of African slaves landed in America, the ability to maintain their elaborate and often spiritual hairstyles was robbed from them along with their freedom. Their kinks were deemed unruly and ugly and eventually became a source of shame. Not much has changed since then; as today, the kinks and the 4B types are still considered a less desirable hair texture than bone straight hair. This is confirmed for us daily as we flip through the pages of magazines, both mainstream and black, and see women of African descent with long weaves and silky perms. And it’s there again when we hear stories about black women being barred from planes or employment opportunities because of their natural coils.

As the always poignant comedian Paul Mooney once said, “If your hair is relaxed, white people are relaxed. If your hair is nappy, then they’re not happy.”  The age-old efforts to subjugate us by devaluing our beauty, including our hair, have always been a political tactic to establish more European features, including long silky straight hair, as both mainstream and the status quo. Therefore the more you try to a heed to the mainstream image, the more you align and condone politically and socially the status quo. Each time one of us takes the plunge and cast off the shackles of shame, which suggest that our hair and beauty is inferior, the more we strike a blow to those political forces. And as more and more resist the notion that straight hair is the only type of hair to be considered both beautiful and professional, the more we shift the collective conscious of all folks to make mainstream more reflective and inclusive of you. That’s the essence of any great political movement – whether it is for civil rights or uncivilized hair.

This is not to discount women, who want to straighten their hair or wear weaves. I still hold on to the contention that there is nothing wrong, or less black, with that. But this is largely about the message of those, who don’t, those women who never felt comfortable frying, dying and extending. Those women, who wanted to be free enough to go out into public with some knotty dreads or a teeny weenie afro without being labeled as uncouth, unkempt or some other derogatory term. Those, who were and still are routinely excluded from some certain workplaces and social circles. These folks, who in the past, may not have been able to choose the option of natural styles like Bantu Knots, twists and yes even dreadlocks.

The more that black women embrace the natural hair movement, if only temporary, the more women who felt boxed in to abiding by societal standards just in order to get along, can feel free.  Within this movement, they are free to choose natural and have comfort in knowing that there are legions of others like them.  It’s about the freedom of choice to come out of the proverbial hair closet and say to the world that I am here. I am nappy. Get used to it.

Charing Ball is the author of the blog People, Places & Things.

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