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allow yourself to love him

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#LoveWins is THE hashtag celebrating #SCOTUS’ decision Friday for #MarriageEquality.

I posted on Facebook:

candi's lovewins facebook post

I read friends’ celebratory words and viewed their pictures, including profile pics awash in rainbow colors.

Then I began to see other friends’ subtle and not-so-subtle rejections of SCOTUS’ ruling – proclaiming that the end is near, that G~d’s word is the same though times may change and even some posts that intend to support our LGBTQ community by saying that we all sin and fall short of G~d’s glory. All of these posts are equally irritating to me.

The affirmation of love, the call to love elicits very close-minded, bigoted and discriminatory replies from those who self-identify with a faith tradition that, on paper more so than in action, professes the world will know us by our love. They claim to still love the other while condemning the other for anything and all things from who they are to what they do – loving with very unlovable words and tones of voice.

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Until now, I’ve not responded much online – after all, I am on vacation. Besides, rarely do these kinds of conversations over what the Bible does and does not say lead to any sort of fruitful dialogue. Rather, my response has been to think about it all and to refuse to linger in irritation or allow my irritation to transform into anger.

#POTUS has been reflecting on #grace. I’ve been reflecting on #love.

tranquil love smaller

My reflections began as personal ones, not even considering that they may intersect with national events unfolding this weekend, as I continue to seek resolution within myself, to seek a settling of the matter of how best to be in romantic relationships – as I continue to seek how to love. My quest returns me again and again to myself, to the places of lack in my soul – whether I call them empty places or unhealed places or half-filled places. Being close to another shines lights, rattles foundations and rips open closures. That’s what true love is, a call to oneself – whatever kind of love it is, it always requires inner self-work. It actually becomes more about me than the other person, a reality that is the antithesis of what our culture touts as true love.

“I am on the hunt for myself in everybody else. I’m looking for myself in you. And perhaps I can’t find myself until I find it in you. … Just as to love oneself means to deal with oneself beyond all of the limitations, all of the things, the not-good things in oneself that one knows, to look beyond all of that to a center, which if I can ever become aware of it in myself. Then it is out of that center that I move towards all of the other relationships by which my life may be surrounded. And because I am unwilling, despite all of things I know about myself, I am unwilling to give myself up. I cling to myself with a kind of abiding enthusiasm.” ~Howard Thurman

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“There is scarcely anything more difficult than to love one another. … [W]hoever loves must try to act as if he had a great work: he must be much alone and go into himself and collect himself and hold fast to himself; he must work; he must become something! For believe me, the more one is, the richer is all that one experiences. And whoever wants to have a deep love in his life must collect and save for it and gather honey.” ~Rainer Maria Rilke

And so as we call on the world to celebrate love, to wave rainbow flags and shout that love wins, we must remember that we are actually calling for a deep love. We must remember that most of the world has not collected or saved anything to this end. They have not done the work, the grueling inner self-work to be able to regard another’s triumph over discrimination without thinking that their victory somehow defeats the world’s senses of salvation, holiness and righteousness. Most in opposition will not change. They will continue to default to conservative, traditional and dying biblical interpretation and theology as their responses to progress rather than confront the lack and the pain inside of themselves. After all, black churches continue to be burned in 2015 and southerners are publicly protesting the removal of the Confederate flag in 2015. African Americans know that changed laws do not change hearts.

Only each person doing her/his own work within can change one heart … and one mind. Only becoming self-actualized individuals grants us the capacity, the bandwidth to open up broadly enough to even approach truly and fully loving the other. Perhaps we can begin with our personal relationships and grow to extend love beyond our inner circles. That hasn’t exactly been my path; yet, my path to personal love is requiring me to reevaluate what I mean when I declare my love for my neighbor.

Am I truly allowing myself to love “him”?

(Read more, if you like, to see what I mean, a bit of back-story on this quest for personal best-love, regarding a past romantic relationship.):

I recall my counselor’s words to me one rainy afternoon. I was exasperated and drained from all of the unfulfilled desires and unresolved emotions I had been carrying around within me since my then-lover severed our connection. Sharing my angst with my counselor, I expected him to encourage me to be strong, persevere, focus on myself, re-route my thoughts to thanksgiving for all that I had in my life rather than all I considered to be a loss, etc. But I didn’t get that.

Instead, he said, “Allow yourself to love him.”

“What?”

“Yes. Are you in any danger? Does he hurt you physically or abuse you emotionally?”

“No.”

“Then allow yourself to love him.”

Well, that meant also, allowing him to continue to hurt me via my love for him. That also meant allowing myself to feel the vast land beyond the keyhole smallergreat void of his absence. What I’ve come to know, that I suppose my counselor intended for me to learn and from which to grow, is that somehow this allowance of simultaneous love and pain facilitates a maturity of being that we never obtain by avoiding it, by wallowing in anger, hurt, resentment, betrayal, etc. – all of the, ummm …, more acceptable emotions when we end ties with someone that means so much to us.

What I know is that after all the emotions subside around the cause of the breakup, we’re left with the love that was present all along. During the angry rants, it never left. During the weeping, it never left. During the miscommunication and realization that it’s over, it never left. And somehow we can feel it deeper later than we ever did before relationship ended.

As I continue to feel love, the question then becomes, “Do I keep moving forward without him or do I let him know that I still care?” Because, right?, we have this need to communicate our feelings. Not communicating passionate feelings like love for another is heavy thang. But to what end? Am I sharing because I want to get back together? What if he ain’t even thinkin’ ’bout me? What, then, do I do with the counsel of allowing myself to love another – no matter where the other is?

We realize that our loving others has way more to do with ourselves than with the object of our affection. (Revisit Thurman and Rilke.) And so what we do is we decide to discard tradition’s ineffective, shallow notions of love. We decide instead to embrace the deeper thing. We return to self, to solitude. We grow taller, stronger so that we can indeed love the other with a love so great, so strong that we can abide with each other in true harmony and peace amid all of our differences and disagreements.
Then, love truly wins.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” ~Yeshua (Matthew 22:37-40)
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(c) 2015 candi dugas, llc

your thoughts: feminine sexuality & spirituality

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the women of black history month 2014

the women of black history month 2014

At sexNspirit you may always share your thoughts regarding feminine sexuality and spirituality. Yet, today you may share them with a chance to win a $25 gift card to the retailer of your choice*!  Visit here to complete a brief survey and enter the drawing.  (NOTE: The survey is for adults only – 18+ years old.)

You may also want to check out our latest newsletter that features a collage of all the women highlighted on our SoulSpace blog during February’s Black History Month.

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts!

best,
candi

*The gift card must be available to purchase in Atlanta, GA or online.

(c) 2014 candi dugas, llc

when love goes wrong

image: wallsave.com

image: wallsave.com

On Valentine’s Day, for those of us who don’t participate in the traditional lover’s gift exchange,
we may see plenty of self-love articles.
(I’ve written a few myself.)
This year I believe perhaps there is space, today, for sadness and grief –
without any suggestion or requirement to transform it into something more pleasant.
Not today, just because it’s V-Day.

she Cried,
Feeling the Loss of a Love
that Promised to be Destined

she Mourned,
Realizing the Hope of what was to be
will Never

she Grieved,
Understanding that the Woman she was
Before she met him –
She’ll never Know Her again

If she can Think rather than feel,
Maybe she could Celebrate
the Incredible Strength Unfolding
from all the Pain
disappointmentsorrowtemptationtoregret

But Not So

Not right Now

these Moments
are for Tears
and Anger
and Insulting Epithets

Perhaps tomorrow
or
Another Day she’ll think again,
laugh again … soften
– forgive –
and move on

“A fool for love is a fool for pain
But I refuse to love you again”
~Lisa Fischer, Lisa Melonie, Narada Michael Walden

When love begins, the possibilities are endless of what can be and how. Then the true invitation comes. G~d asks lovers to strip and grow and too many of us decline – for a host of reasons: fear, cowardice, this-isn’t-what-I-signed-up-for, etc. But love is about stripping and growing – always. There is no way around it – no matter how it lives – between parent and child, between friends or between lovers. As I’ve written before, love (especially romantic love) is designed precisely to be the one vehicle that will pierce and penetrate to the depths of our souls and wreak incredible amounts of havoc on the familiar, protected places there.

My problem with Valentine’s Day is built upon a host of mythical, romantic fantasies that belie the essence of what it means truly to love another and the vulnerability, the utter nakedness, involved in that authentic exchange. Perhaps this explanation is at the heart of why I so dislike this holiday. If V-Day was about reality, about the grittiness of love, I would have a different opinion. (To be fair, I’m adverse to most holidays which I deem to be “made-up excuses to spend money.”) Perhaps intended as days to force us to remember each other to be with each other in love – most become days in which we are forced to be, to feel and to act in ways that we wouldn’t if it weren’t for the facades we don to live up to certain expectations. Pretense is always where I get off the bus.

“[N]ot all of our loves are good, though they are loves. There are wise loves and foolish, good loves and bad, true loves and mistaken loves. The question ultimately is, what is a right love, a good, just, and true love?” ~Margaret Farley in Who Told You That You Were Naked? Black Women Reclaiming Sexual & Spiritual Goodness

Sometimes love disappoints. And it sucks. And it’s all worth it because love is not the ultimate goal or benefit of our exchanges with the other. Becoming our best selves always is. And that destination is worth everything it will ever cost us.

This Valentine’s Day I invite you not to pretend to be OK if you’re not. Be fucked up if that’s where you find yourself – BUT DO NOT be there alone. Ideally, get good, faith-based clinical help. If that’s out of reach, lean on the shoulder of a trusted friend or mentor. If you allow yourself the luxury of this pain and move through it, this time next year, your next V-Day will be a whole different story. If you do not allow it to be what it is in this moment, the chances increase greatly that 2015 will be a repeat of now.

These are my flowers and chocolate treats to you –
the reminder that roses come with thorns and candy can be bitter as well as sweet.

Love yourself. Treat yourself. Absolutely – do that. But ALWAYS be real and true!

Simply, sometimes V-Days suck.

(c) 2014 candi dugas, llc

the spirit of thanksgiving . . .

family at thanksgiving

Image: madamenoire.com

Gratitude and its expression make all the difference in the world!

However, the holidays – even the one centered around gratitude – can be an odd time of year with any of our relationships. Since too many of us are inclined not to handle well difficulties or issues during the rest of the year, attending/hosting social gatherings tend to trigger emotions that we seem to be able to ignore or suppress better during less stressful times of the year.

Perhaps this is the greatest gift of the holidays – an opportunity to address that which we’ve been ignoring/suppressing. Psychology Today has fabulous advice on reducing anxiety during the holidays in a brief article published this week, “Healing the 3 Hidden Sources of Holiday Stress.”

You may also want to check out our other electronic publications for Thanksgiving:

I hope that the pure essence of Thanksgiving is at the center of this year’s holiday for you and yours.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

best,

candi

(c) 2013 candi dugas, llc. All Rights Reserved.

being in love . . .

Posted on
being in love . . .

Now comes the hard part, being in love.

This phase is where the rubber meets the road and in this heated friction, too many of us leave the process – either emotionally or physically or both – ’cause ya know, it gets messy. It hurts. We think, “I don’t need this!” Right? Well, more and more I believe that the core purpose of our relationships, in whatever form (i.e., romantic, familial, that of friendship, etc.), is to help us to become better people. We are supposed to be challenged and uncomfortable in the midst of our cozy and ego-boosting feelings. (The important thing to remember in this phase of our relationships is that our experiences with each other ought to be balanced over periods of time – just enough challenge and just enough coziness.) [featured image: “couple struggling by liviu mihai at liviumihai.com]

Romantic relationships are particularly suited for this role. We know that love causes the release of dopamine in our brains mimicking the effect of drugs and alcohol, essentially impairing our senses, lowering our defenses. We can become forgetful, unaware of our surroundings – become completely engrossed in the other person and our mutual connection. Testosterone is present in women and men, raising both sex drives. Norepinephrine may be the cause of those awkward feelings when our lover walks in the room. Oxytocin brings with it a sense of peace and connection with our partners. In this kind of space we’re rather vulnerable – exposed and feeling quite lovely – but also wide open to pain. When fear of pain presents itself, our instinctual response, right, is to protect ourselves as much as possible, even though pain is an inevitable part of life. (Read more: “Love Changes Your Body Chemistry.”)

the challenge

Right there, right there we begin to impede love’s process. We withdraw from rather than lean into the premise that our lovers are supposed to be able to bypass all the walls and armor and go straight to the heart of the matter within us to touch what needs to be (re)born, healed, matured and yes, “killed.” We spend too much time and energy avoiding true intimacy in romance because we’re avoiding vulnerability. We’re then sabotaging the very holistic progress in life most of us desire.

In our previous post, “falling in love …,” I shared my personal breakthrough via Harville Hendrix’s work, Getting the Love You Want. There is a worthy practicality to being in love. We should only BE in love with someone with whom it’s healthy to be so. See, after all the ish is exposed, we have to deal with it. Hendrix writes that our romantic partners, first, must be curious about themselves, wonder how they can become better people. Then they must be willing to support us in our fragile places. Of course, this is a mutual endeavor. So, I append to Hendrix’s list that our lovers, in addition to their willingness, must have the capacity to support us in our fragile places.

more of candi’s personal breakthrough

Then today, each day in fact, is a fresh opportunity to BE in love, to allow myself to be vulnerable with my beloved, to allow what is sometimes his mere presence to stir up meaningful discomfort within me. Alongside the discomfort he stirs up within me is the better me I can become because there’s something unique about him and our chemistry that invites me to a better place, a stronger place. While the journey to that place isn’t always pleasant, arrival is and always worth any struggle ;-)! (NOTE: Arrival is only temporary; for, as soon as we do, we realize that we’ve already embarked upon another path.)

My beloved is also my friend. As such, he brings a level of care, compassion and particular patience into my space that I need to accompany the energy that we generate together. And that’s really good stuff for which I’m incredibly grateful. ;-)

couple struggling

“couple struggling” image: liviu mihai at liviumihai.com

Particularly challenging for me is loving him in my spaces of insecurity. I’m discovering that being love with and for him requires constant living in vulnerability. That’s very, very difficult for me because of my history of looking for romantic relationships to validate me, for my love interest (whoever that may be at the time) to create security for me. Anything external from me can never create inward security for me; even my beloved cannot do so in the dynamic and beauty of our romantic love. Only I can do that.

revelation & change

Talk about a paradigm shift! In romantic love, my elders tended to teach and condition us younger ones to make sure that love doesn’t hurt, that no one ever takes advantage of us. This really is an effort in futility and actually sabotages all our efforts to experience a loving and satisfying intimate relationship. The reality is that all humans are fallible. We make mistakes. We execute poor judgment. We screw up! And when we do, those closest to us get hurt too. That’s just the way it is. We can never have true relationship with another without intimacy, without being close to her/him, without risking the infliction of pain upon one another.

So, if I’m in an intimate relationship (romantic, familial or one of friendship) and I’m doing so without being …

vulnerable – exposed – available to be hurt …

then I’m not exhibiting love. Rather I’m exhibiting …

self-protection – hiding – avoidance.

In these contexts, not only do we prevent intimacy, such an exhibition does not progress us in the production of growth or the unfolding/evolution of our truest selves – which is the ultimate goal of these kinds of relationships, no? When we self-protect and seek external validation, etc., our goal is actually something else. Our goal is … selfish, a kind of gluttony, a hoarding of life’s goodness that only serves to oppose the love we say we want. It’s also like actually planting weeds where we say we want flowers to grow and bloom.

When the goal does not match tactics for achieving it, we will always fail. Always.

moving toward fulfillment

Perceiving and understanding BEing in love this way helps us grasp the age-old advice about loving being a selfless endeavor. Today I think of BEing in love in terms of living wholeheartedly and finding a way to do so successfully.

wholehearted living

“Honoring Brene Brown and Her Movement for Wholehearted Living” image: at motherwhisperers.com

I am determined to be wholehearted. Brené Brown describes wholeheartedness as “the capacity to engage in our lives with authenticity, cultivate courage and compassion, and fully embrace … the imperfections of who we really are.” (~Maria Popova, “Brené Brown on Wholeheartedness” ) Living wholeheartedly means that everything – beautiful and unpleasant- is out front and center all the time. When I show up in life’s arena, my frailties and my strengths show up as well. “We” all stand poised for battle and whether we win or lose, we all show up again the next time. Living wholeheartedly means that it’s all okay and it’s perfectly acceptable for the world to see all of me. It means also, and probably most importantly, that I give thanks in each and every situation. Thanksgiving always supersedes fear, disappointment, guilt, shame … all that which tempts us to cover ourselves and/or not show up in the arena in the first place.

I am determined to find a way to experience the fullness of love that I seek. For a time I am adopting Diana Nyad’s

diana nyad

diana nyad – image: vickster12.blogspot.com

mantra as my own, “Find a way.” It doesn’t matter the obstacle; there’s a way to overcome it. Find it. If there’s any role model for persevering through varied and multiple difficulties to experience triumph, it is Ms. Nyad. Her eyes display both an ability to see beyond what most others can perceive as possible and the knowledge that it’s entirely achievable to accomplish what she sees. As I write this, I recall another role model-hero who found a way, many times over – Harriet Tubman. She insisted, “If you hear the dogs, keep going. If you see the torches in the woods, keep going. If there’s shouting after you, keep going. Don’t ever stop. Keep going. If you want a taste of freedom, keep going.”

harriet tubman

harriet tubman – image: wikipedia.org

These warrior-women and I understand that wholeheartedness, finding a way and living in just “a taste of freedom” necessitate vulnerability. They necessitate risk in the face of very real danger on every side. Simply, we cannot fear or avoid pain, suffering or anything unpleasant. Stand naked in the arena. Find a way to that which we seek.

NOTE: Vulnerability does not mean allowance for or acceptance of misuse or abuse. Never does it mean that. My advocacy of vulnerability in any intimate relationship presupposes a basic, secure foundation of personal safety for everyone involved. Such a foundation includes respect for the personhood of each individual, intentions only to do good and never harm, exhibitions of integrity that include consistent honesty, full presence, genuine care, etc.

living & loving well

Possibly BEing in love in its fullest sense allows us to fall in love over and over as lovers unfold and evolve together. When this happens we get to participate with awareness that the person I was yesterday is not quite the person I am today. When we live in this space we’re less likely to take each other for granted and we allow the awe and wonder of life to engage within and between our beings.

I look forward to experiencing this beautiful process one day with my beloved, when all that is needed for this to happen for both of us converges, and I get to live in a mutual space of BEing in love for a complete season, when the hard part won’t seem so hard at all. That’s gonna be just the best!

(c) 2013 candi dugas, llc

falling in love . . .

falling in love . . .

As I recently struggled with the status of my relationship and the repetition of romantic patterns that don’t lead me to my desired result, a friend suggested, “Maybe you just like falling in love.” (featured image from pinkparis1233.deviantart.com.)

“The use of the term ‘fall’ implies that the process [of falling in love] is in some way inevitable, uncontrollable, risky, irreversible, and that it puts the lover in a state of vulnerability, . . . .” ~Wikipedia

Hmmm . . . I’ve never thought of myself as “that girl.” Well, I allowed myself to consider his suggestion because in seeking an elusive answer we have to be open to every possibility. First, I understood how my friend could think that his suggestion would fit my situation. After all, my romances lately have been limited to the falling-in-love stage. Second, I “tried on” the concept. It didn’t feel like me, though. It felt awkward, like a dress that we think might be the answer to the needed outfit for an upcoming event, but once we put it on, the fabric and the feel aren’t quite right. Third, I adjusted myself a bit in the mirror, ya know, like picking at the dress here and there to see if I altered it, would it fit better. Then I considered adding a belt or a scarf? What if I put a slip under it or wore a different bra? Nawww. Nothing worked. The dress – his suggestion – wasn’t for me. So, I took it off and handed it to the sales associate to return to the sales floor for the next woman for whom it may be a perfect fit.

Now, I’m still without a solution, without an understanding of what’s going on in this area of my life. Like my friend asked, “How is it that you’re a beast in all the other areas of your life and struggle so here?” His question made me feel like Olivia Pope. Ha! Yet if I’m true to my spiritual practices of being present, aware, conscious, mindful, assured, in the flow, etc. – then there’s actually no press to figure it all out, right? All things work together and everything happens in its time. I will know the answers I seek at just the right moment. In the meantime, I decided to be at peace in this space of perplexity (so hard for me). Lao Tzu refers to spaces like these as times when we need to “let the mud settle.” I realized that the more I sloshed around seeking answers, the murkier everything became.

lao tzu mud settling quote

image from oriah mountain dreamer’s facebook page.

Then. It. Appeared.

The mud was settling.

A few weeks ago, OWN rebroadcast a throwback episode of the The Oprah Winfrey show during its “Super Soul Sunday” series. (I’m sure I saw it back then as I was a certified Oprah-Show Junkie – but it didn’t connect with me. It wasn’t time. ;-)) Oprah’s guest was Dr. Harville Hendrix, author of Getting the Love You Want. Honestly, I started not to watch, almost changed the channel. I usually find such books and their advice to be hokey, warmed over steps that the public buys into like good-luck charms or pixie dust which never truly address the root causes of our issues. Nevertheless I continued to watch as Hendrix revealed my answer right before my eyes. He explained that our unconscious selves are determined to become healed and whole. Therefore until this happens, we continually attract the same person (different body) romantically. The goal is to resolve open issues from our childhoods. The people we attract will either be like our parents or they will evoke behavior in us like what we experienced from our parents.

BOO-YAH!

Just like that, the puzzle pieces fell into place. I began to understand that although I seemed to be stuck in falling-in-love mode, I was actually making progress. I realized that the men I was dating were increasingly more of what I want and need in my romantic person (a la Grey’s Anatomy). More than that, I realized that these improvements were more about my progress in healing my childhood ish than getting closer to finding the “ideal man.” (Another book that was immensely helpful which I initially resisted is If the Buddha Dated: A Handbook for Finding Love on a Spiritual Path by Charlotte Kasl.) Essentially, “I attract that which I am.” (~Deepak Chopra)

i attract what i am

image from oprah & deepak’s 21-day relationship meditation challenge

For me, the determination of my unconscious self to be healed and whole explains the inevitability, risk and vulnerability in the Wikipedia definition of falling in love. I think of one of my most favorite Michael Jackson songs, “It’s the Falling in Love.” (~David W. Foster)

“now we’re just a web of mystery
a possibility of more to come
i’d rather leave the fantasy of what might be
but here i go falling again”

And so MJ brings me back to my original quandary – after I fall in love, what’s next? How do I get to and through the next stage that will eventually lead me to my desired result? How do I resolve the struggle of constantly going around the same mountain in a seemingly endless circle? Well, that answer is about being in love – the part that makes Mr. Jackson and the rest of us “cry, cry, cry.” And that will be the subject of my next post. Until then, I continue to celebrate this revelation. Yea! Thank you, G~d!

I hope you’ll celebrate with me, but along with all that I’ve written above, I leave you with one more consideration until the next post:

“Where I am impatient I lack trust. When we have trust that the unfolding will be in alignment with life & that the impulse for right action will arise from the centre of our being, we are not impatient. Learning to let our mud settle is learning to trust the sacred life force within to prompt us when action that will make a difference can be taken. Of course, most of us can appear still & be churning up the inner mud continuously.” ~Oriah Mountain Dreamer

(c) 2013, candi dugas, llc

the right to be sexy

Posted on
the right to be sexy

I wonder how many women who marched for jobs and freedom 50 years ago and how many women who commemorated that march last weekend consciously marched for the right to be sexy.

While we may not connect the dots between civil rights and “sexy rights,” Melissa Harris-Perry connects them well in her book, Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes and Black Women in America. To be sexy is to be sexually attractive or exciting. The right to be sexy is the entitlement to be simply so, without any biased and injurious judgments attached to this physical aspect of being. Perry frames the politics of being black and female in America with deeply moving creative works by some of our most prolific writers. Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God is perhaps the most apt piece for this conversation. “[H]urston reveals how the politics of race and gender intersect the challenges of self-exploration,” Perry writes.

 Yes. Everything is political.

women marching for jobs and freedom

women marching for jobs and freedom in 1963. {image from fem2pt0.com.}

Even my coming of age is political. (Just ask Miley Cyrus.) Especially when I mature and express in a brown body, how and when I do so seems to affect a whole lot of people. It is far from a personal matter. “[B]lack womanhood makes her vulnerable to people and systems that seek to transform her into a beast of burden,” Perry interprets of Janie, Hurston’s protagonist. While most of us as African American women may have progressed from that early 20th Century pigeon-hole, our feminine bodies still cause us to be susceptible to people and institutions that strive to morph us into what they need us to be rather than ally with us to help us develop into what we were created to be. And let’s be clear that the people and systems are not just our white sisters and brothers, African Americans detrimentally police our bodies and their expressions as well. (Just ask Meagan Good.)

miley cyrus and meagan good

miley cyrus twerking (a popular urban dance performed primarily by african american women) with robin thicke at mtv’s video music awards 2013. {image from vanityfair.com.} meagan good in the controversial dress she wore while presenting a gospel award at the bet awards 2013. {image from huffingtonpost.com}

Perry argues that “Janie’s journey is political . . . because it is motivated by her refusal to accept this role.” I assert that her life-journey became political the minute that someone else was heavily invested in her personal journey, whether she accepted the role(s) they preferred/mandated for her or not. Janie, indeed, protested with a rather quiet determination to be the woman she knew inside rather than the caricatures that others drew of her, possibly so that they wouldn’t have to deal with the complexities of who she actually was.

Ladies, when we march for freedom, are we marching for the right to be sexy?

If not, we need to add this right to our agenda. Typically society brands African American women as one of three stereotypes – Jezebel (sexually loose), Mammy (asexual) or Sapphire (angry black woman). All of these labels derive from some expression of black womanhood. I don’t have much of a problem with stereotypes; I find a nugget of truthful reality in many of them. The problem is when we believe that stereotypical behavior encompasses the entire being of a person and we treat her according to this very limited understanding. Yet most of us cringe when a sistah exhibits one of these societal brands in public, knowing that her actions only serve to perpetuate a comprehensive myth. Perry nudges us toward compassion, however. “To understand why a black woman’s public actions and political strategies sometimes seem tilted in ways that accommodate the degrading stereotypes about them, it is important to appreciate the structural constraints that influence their behavior. It can be hard to stand up straight in a crooked room.”

today's jezebel, angry black woman and mammy

karrine steffans (“jezebel”), author of video vixen series {image from dimewars.com}; tasha smith portraying angela (“sapphire”) in the why did i get married series {image from imcdb.org}; viola davis portraying aibileen (“mammy”) in the help {image from zanade.com}.

Ahhh, the crooked room – one of the most fascinating correlation of “cognitive psychology research on field dependence” to a social construct that I’ve ever read. The study demonstrated “how individuals locate the upright in a space.” So, Perry explains that when black women “confront race and gender stereotypes, [we] are standing in a crooked room.” We are standing in a distorted environment that can cause us to view ourselves in an inaccurate fashion. Not all of us are capable of overcoming the distortion in order to distinguish straight from crooked. Therefore, we must judge each other with great hesitance, if we judge at all. “[W]e can better understand sisters as citizens when we appreciate the crooked room in which they struggle to stand upright.” (Cued at 12:46 in the video below, Perry explains the Crooked Room Theory.)

And as full citizens, we must march for the right to be sexy . . .

Our freedom includes the right to be physically appealing in sexually attractive ways – simply to be so without any biased – crooked – judgments attached to our brown bodies and their expressions.

© 2013 candi dugas, llc

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