Love You, Love Them, Love Me

love, paradise, visual story February 14, 2021

After all this, what can be said of love?

C’est simple. C’est tout. It’s everywhere, in everything…and so, I’m in love with it all.

From daily visits with the neighbor’s grey cat, the sight of ducks’ webbed feet, paddling along, the man who feeds the birds from Parc de la Villette à Porte de la Pantin, walks along Canal de l’Ourcq when it rains, feeling a soft body of heat waft around my snow-covered apartment, to finding new soul connections.

J’aime tout.

We’re taught to fear loving everything, yet, we are love’s greatest embodiment, as beings who can fully feel and express love as they wish. Other beings envy this ability, and yet, we run from it in ourselves. 

We run because we vehemently believe that we mistake control, co-dependency, and/or abuse for love. And so, our associations to love hurts us more than heartbreak itself. If co-dependency is a drug we abuse, but love is a cure all.

Love is freedom–from fear, attachment and predestined outcomes. Meanwhile, our attachment to co-dependency leads us to confuse love as something we can consume instead of experience.

Love is our true nature.

Let us not consume the love we offer one another; let us allow love to shepherd one another to new heights. Love you, love them, love me–even when it rains.

Is Manifesting a Capitalist Act?

capitalism, know, society, thinkpiece January 27, 2021

Part of my anti-capitalist journey involves questioning everything I believe and everything I do.

I routinely ask myself, “is there a genuine wanting behind that thing, going to that place, or forming that relationship? …Or, has our capitalist culture ascribed a value to that person, place, or thing that makes me feel a need to associate myself with it?

As of late, that line of questioning has involved my use of manifestation, (or, my connection to my intuition), a means to create the life I want. Mind you, I have manifested everything I’ve truly wanted in this life, and at a baseline, I feel that that ability is a privilege in itself…

But, does that make manifestation a capitalist act?

First, we need to understand capitalism, which the International Monetary Fund defines as, “an economic system in which private actors own and control property in accord with their interests, and demand and supply freely set prices in markets in a way that can serve the best interests of society.”

“As Adam Smith, the 18th century philosopher and father of modern economics, said: it is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.” Both parties to a voluntary exchange transaction have their own interest in the outcome, but neither can obtain what he or she wants without addressing what the other wants. It is this rational self-interest that can lead to economic prosperity.” Which, sounds good and well until we consider that the IMF’s definition recognizes that capitalism, by definition, ascribes higher value to profit than it does social good.

Their definition also completely fails to explore the ills of capitalism, including, but not limited to: economic instability, due to “financial markets’ tendency to cause booms and busts; wealth disparity, thanks to “inherited wealth, interest from assets, and [the fact that] wealth grows faster than economic output,” which was explored by Thomas Piketty, an economist, and author of Capital in the Twenty-First Century; environmental damage, due to “overproduction and overconsumption, causing pollution, global warming, acid rain, loss of rare species, and other external costs that damage future generations”; immobilities of the free market, including limitations due to geographical location, a lack of education, and/or access to training in order to perform certain jobs; monopolies, or, “market dominance in an industry, allowing companies to charge higher prices to consumers,” which can lead to consumers being priced out by no fault of their own, other than not being able to afford the only product on the market; monopsony, or “market power in employing factors of production, enabling firms to be more profitable while most workers don’t share from the same level of proceeds as the owners of capital”; and, most importantly, greed, as “the capitalist system can create incentives for managers to pursue profit over decisions which would maximize social welfare.”

From these definitions and considerations, manifestation is 1000% a capitalist act.

But, when we consider if everyone who has the privilege to manifest actually uses that privilege, things start to get really muddy. In conversation with one of my dearest friends about the state of my love life, they said to me: “you’ve been so lucky to find your passion in life and to live your dreams that if you found the love of your life now too, it would just be be too much. It might be greedy to want all of that at once.”

I didn’t pushback immediately because it always takes three to five business days for me to fully process these kinds of conversations, but after some reflection, I let them know that I disagreed with them on this–with every fiber of my being. I also know her well enough to know that she didn’t say those things because she doesn’t believe in me, or my support my desires (quite the contrary, actually), but, because she feels that she cannot have those things concurrently–and she’s not alone in that.

Even in the presence of financial stability, people can operate from a lack mindset (the antithesis of manifestation). This often looks like: pursuing a career in a field that you’re not truly passionate about, but feel sure you can easily get a job in–which is such an illusion given capitalism’s instability; being in a romantic relationship for any reason other than a deep love and wanting for that person; and, especially, maintaining a connection (business, platonic, familial etc.) for the sake of its ROI, instead of a genuine desire to maintain the connection. At different times in my life, I have ascribed to any of those–sometimes all at once, but as I started to break that mold more and more, I found myself connecting with the people and opportunities that actually make me feel good.

This is what I know to be true: the universe is so abundant, and has shown me that when I truly believe I can have whatever I desire, I attain them–as long as I know why I’d like to. As a person who believes in doing as little harm as possible in making my dreams a reality, I have an obligation to constantly question what’s at the root of those dreams. I often ask myself: “why do I want to make a living through storytelling that centers and uplifts marginalized identities? Or, always be provided for by the universe? Or, [redacted]? Or, live on a farm with the loml and our (currently unborn) children?! Only through questioning why do I arrive at the root of my desires, the things that determine is my manifestations are capitalist or not. And, I often take it one step further by asking, “what effect does this manifestation have on my ecosystem? And, on the state of the world, in general?”

Thankfully, unlike a trip to Tulum (especially during a pandemic), a car that emits a ridiculous amount of energy, or purse made of an exotic animal’s skin–possessions and experiences that further destroy our planet, love is not something we (should) consume, so it is always safe to manifest; however, even in our love connections we can ask ourselves, “does the relationship I desire maintain patriarchy or white supremacy?” Perhaps on date five that person told you they ‘don’t see color,’ or ‘wouldn’t want a daughter, because, to them, that comes with a need to monitor and police their romantic connections’; anything than swiftly bidding them goodbye, or setting them straight, and then bidding them goodbye, upholds both of those systems.

Essentially, like anything else, manifestation comes with a lot of questioning–not in the universe’s ability to deliver because it always does, depending on what you focus on–but, of yourself. Only through questioning can we fully appreciate the immense privilege we have in being able to manifest, understand wherein our desire stems from, and, finally, determine if those desires are rooted in capitalism, a system that relies on privilege. Only then can we truly manifest our version of happily ever after.

Changing Seasons

art, lifestyle, parisian, visual story December 9, 2020

I compiled the pictures of the last few months, and felt uncertainty fill me…

What do I write? What do I say?

…That, I got to live my dream, but it doesn’t always fill me with joy?

That, I’m struggling to feel good about living day after day indoors, despite the privileges of doing so?

That, I’m tired of monotony, but not sick, and feeling very grateful for that? But that, despite the constant fatigue, I still dare to utter some truths;

Is that not the point of being alive?

And, despite that celebration, I’m still tired, and constantly losing inspiration.

Would you hate to know that there’s less laughter and planning, and more agitation with waiting for new dreams to come to fruition?

And, I still wake up to things that make me sad, despite how grateful I am to just be alive? And, that there’s so much pain in my reflections on the world I live in, wherein I constantly question, ‘what would make me less threatening?’

No matter what you put me in, I’ll always wear my Black skin, even in death

Sure, seasonal changes have never been easy, but putain, cette saison est trop difficile.

Our Fatphobia Is Showing…

identity, society, thinkpiece November 15, 2020

My morning routine is quite simple:

  1. Wipe away bulbs of dried mucus from my eyes, gently wiggle my phalanges in all directions before planting my extremities on the ground.
  2. Waltz on tip-toe to the large reflective device fitted to the wall in front of my bed, and take a deep inhale.
  3. Sharply plug the air from escaping my diaphragm.
  4. Marvel at how ‘skinny’ I look.
And just like that, another day has begun.

Recently, I began questioning my obsession with this routine, before it dawned on me, that I, in my size-8/10-US body, still struggle to fight against internalized fatphobia and body dysmorphia. The absence of my body in media (until very recently) created within me a belief that I should be other than I am: skinnier. This belief has been with me for some time–probably as long as it has been fed to me, through media and peers.

Is it not depressing as fuck that society tells us, at a default, that we’re better when we’re thin? That, we’re better when we literally hold less? I look back on photos from my girlhood to my early adulthood knowing that the person I’m looking at truly believed that they needed to lose weight (to be more desirable, and likable in general):

Today, I look at this person wishing she knew that that was so far from the truth.

When I look at myself today, I truly feel at home in my body 95% of the time, but I’m still stuck in that stupid cycle, doing that damn mirror routine most mornings. I’ve grown far from the girl who sometimes took “showers” after nights out in college so that she could purge in peace, but that growth doesn’t help me better cope with the realization that deep, deep down, that person may still be in there somewhere.

At the end of these realizations, when I usually begin to come-to, I seamlessly enter the primary stage of admittance–right in-step with recovery; I almost feel the impetus of self-liberation, but then, I re-enter the world, rife with advertising that doesn’t give a damn about what (little) progress I had made. The next step of recovery, understanding that there’s a greater power at play that lead me to be this fatphobic, was fairly easy considering the normalization of skinny via messaging that revolves around the idea of “watching your figure,” “getting a summer body,” and even, the seemingly harmless idea of dieting after the holidays.

Unfortunately, this messaging can be traced back to advertising in the early 1900s:

Since then, we’ve only picked up speed, and funneled these narratives into media deemed health-centric:

Of course, the messaging within the ads differentiate based on gender, with that for men promoting being muscular, instead of being skinny, as do women-centric ads. Nonetheless, the message is well-received:

there is something to gain in changing your body.

And for those who lose weight, there is much to gain, especially in the realm of celebrity:

But, even Hollywood shows us how the normalization of fatphobia translates to real-life consequences, such as the skinniest (and whitest) people being viewed more favorably; leading to the skinniest (and whitest) people having more opportunities in work, love, and many life-altering avenues.

In the real world, people who fit the standard of beauty receive higher quality medical care, meanwhile people in larger bodies are constantly told to lose weight before any attention valid concern is addressed. Society’s treatment of fat bodies doubles down on the idea that they are not worthy of the same treatment as they’re constantly made the butt of the joke, the ‘before picture’ in every makeover show, and now, on our most-used apps:

In the virtual and real world, fat bodies are policed in a way that skinny bodies simply are not:

So, when do we, as a collective, arrive at the place of letting larger bodies just be? Without critique, or unsolicited advice? When will the medical community treat fatness as a state of being for many, instead of an imminent threat to wellness, let alone, a death sentence? When we as a society begin to demand it; when we as a collective begin to root out the fatphobia within us; when we begin to see larger bodies as worthy, too.

It will be a long journey for most, given the barrage of fatphobic advertising that we don’t consent to seeing, yet see regardless; and, a life-long journey for people like me with histories of disordered eating, or body dysmorphia; but, together, our efforts may shorten the long walk to freedom.

How Media Perpetuates Racism (My Experience on TV)

blackness, media, racism, society October 11, 2020

This one is for anyone who seeks to understand more about how media works, and especially for the folks naive enough to believe the things they heard in a certain TV appearance I did around this time last year.

Being made into a caricature for a corporations gain is one of the nastiest experiences I’ve ever had, but I’m still here. it’s been hard reading the comments, peeping tweets, and knowing that even the people who you’ve been open with can so easily believe things they see on TV. so now, I’m having the final word, showing receipts, and using research to discuss how media has historically aimed to paint Black people and POC in a damaging light.

I’ve wanted to make this video for some time but honestly, the things that I’ve learned as of late, and some relationships had to end in or can go on and on about how racist society is and always has been, but that means nothing without identifying the structures in place and how they’re used by different entities, starting and ending with: media

I want to talk about my portrayal by a TV network who I won’t name, but if you need a hint, they’re most recent award show failed to garner more views than Brandy and Monica’s Verzuz battle.

I am saddened that it is still the norm for media to depict Black people–especially Black women, in ways that are detrimental to their public reception; and so I’m offering some analysis on the research behind that, in addition to my own experience.

I want to start this off by saying that the emotional labor I did to be part of this experience was beyond anything I’ve ever done for content, but I am never a victim, just a person with a lot of stories to tell. This is my truth, and some insider information, and since I’ll still be questioned for it, I, again, have done research on top of having lived experiences I can reference.

Let’s jump in by figuring out how media’s influence affects the way people of other races view and interact with each other:

How Racial Stereotypes in Popular Media Affect People — and What Hollywood Can Do to Become More Inclusive | Scholars Strategy Network

  • Nancy Yang Wuen’s report, HOW RACIAL STEREOTYPES IN POPULAR MEDIA AFFECT PEOPLE — AND WHAT HOLLYWOOD CAN DO TO BECOME MORE INCLUSIVE, found that “beyond specific effects on particular groups of viewers, racial images packaged as entertainment can skew the way all viewers understand and categorize people.”
  • And, “the media’s tendency to fuel racial misperceptions can contribute to public support for harsher punishments for people of color.”
  • My experience:
    • Imagine just trying to de stress and seeing the character who looks like you always being disrespected and shat on the way Hilary Duff was by her stepmother in A Cinderella Story. IMAGINE! That’s my life as a BW, and it’s constant because of how much media I consume.
    • It’s not surprising that, “prolonged television exposure predicts a decrease in self-esteem for all girls and for black boys, but an increase in self-esteem for white boys. These differences correlate with the racial and gender practices in Hollywood, which predominantly casts white men as heroes, while erasing or subordinating other groups as villains, sidekicks, and sexual objects.”

My own experience on TV consisted of being villainized, and made into a welfare queen, who somehow, someway, asked to borrow $100k to pay for a grad program that costs €13,800 or approximately $16,169.53. 

So…how did we get there? Where? When? Why that portrayal? Racism.

  • Other things that I saw, in hindsight, was that they sought to use used for white character’s development
    • Being asked to “teach my friend why it was wrong of her to vote for this dangerously, incompetent president.” I, the person who experiences racism in their everyday life in some form or fashion, needs to make myself available to do more emotional labor??
      • How about this person looks in the mirror? How about this person considers why it’s wrong to vote for an overt racist? How is helping her do either of those thing my burden?
    • I’m unsure if the producers also positioned one of the hosts, another Black woman, to criticize me for not doing more emotional labor for a white woman, or if she put herself up to that, but either way, it was disgusting. Nonetheless, she still stepped into that role to “do her job,” so there’s still accountability to be had here. 
    • Now that I think of it, this experience consisted of not one, but two Black women criticizing me for not “teaching my friend wrong from right,” more or less. You can figure out the other one, she was a news anchor, I really respected her then, but now…that’s another story.
    • It’s not uncommon to see Black women playing this role: which invites the white gaze to share in that criticism, then reinforcing the idea that it’s ok for white people to not just form these opinions, but to rely them. It also serves to absolve white people of white guilt…“Yeah…I voted for T*um* too, why is it so bad to sTaRt A cOnVeRsAtIoN about it instead of cutting me out of your life? I voted for someone who was open about their hatred for you during their campaign, and now has cemented that hate into various harmful policies, but, like, aren’t we friends? Don’t friends talk??”
      • There are so many examples of this in the mainstream: Oprah, unfortunately, has done this to many Black women, namely, Toni Braxton:
      • This feels way too familiar. The gaslighting. The cruelty. It’s upsetting to watch.

But, let’s back up and talk about how these trends have been used in media from its very inception:

A report by NARISSRA M. PUNYANUNT-CARTER shows that historically, “media often portrays African Americans in occupational roles, such as servants, a crooks, cooks, an entertainer, a musician, a sad non-White person, an exhibitionist, an athlete, or a corrupt individual.”

“Black females were typically perceived as low achievers and white females were typically perceived as less dominant than Black female counterparts. She also discovered that the viewers’ perception of a white character on a Black program, such as The Jeffersons was not positive. Reid argued that such perceptions regarding Black and white females are due to the stereotypic images that are portrayed on television.”

“Performing a content analysis of 139 television series, Donagher et al. (1975) found that… white people were more likely to be victims than Black people.”

“Cultivation theory states that our perceptions of reality are ‘‘cultivated’’ or developed by what we view in the media (Gerbner, Gross, Morgan, & Signorelli, 1986); it offers an explanation for the way individuals organize social reality and make social judgments of the world (Perse, 1986). 

Punyunant-Carter also states that “cultivation theory is also the basis for the expectation that media exposure is linked to perceptions of African Americans; it also shows that there is no linear relationship between television and its viewers; rather, it is a continuous process among messages and contexts.”

…Meaning that “watching television is unique to the individual because of certain lifestyles and cultural norms. In other words, one television program may make a person cry, but the same program can encourage a person to kill. At the same time, cultivation is based on individuals’ perceptions of realism of television portrayals.”

Ask yourself…do I believe that what I see on TV is indicative of real life? Or, can I not believe everything on TV because it is not indicative of real life? That will help you determine your perception of realism of TV portrayals.

A report titled “The Role of the Media in the Construction of Public Belief and Social Change,” study by Catherine Happer and Greg Philo found, “media also severely limit the information with which audiences understand [social] issues and that alternative solutions to political problems are effectively removed from public debate. We found other evidence of the way in which media coverage can operate to limit understanding of possibilities of social change.”

“In summary, many programs do not display Black people in very positive roles (Greenberg & Brand, 1994). Instead, African American portrayals on tele- vision often focus more on reaffirming negative stereotypes (Rada, 2000). Yet, the media shape and influence public perceptions of African Americans.”

Takeaway: everything we see on TV is formulated to fit an agenda that is rarely rooted in truth, but to get ratings.

If you’ve watched Paris Hilton’s documentary, you see her openly admit to playing a caricature of herself on “reality TV,” and that’s exactly what that enter landscape is: a bunch of different caricatures operating in settings meant to dupe viewers into believing.

Why? Ratings! When you have high ratings you can sell people stuff on a large scale, and even if it’s complete crap, they’ll buy it. That’s the point of going on reality TV to sell people tangible items or ideas.

And outside of reality TV, we naively think that things get better when realistically, even your local news channels operate on a formula, let alone your mainstream news: they prioritize coverage on natural disasters or scandals, any crime that can be sensationalized, and the obscure are prioritized. No where on that list is the aim to inform, so I’ll let you decide what priority that takes. All I can say is, don’t fall for the bait.