To be a person of some “other” identity, means being acutely aware that, at a default, you are perceived (and likely, treated) as “different.”
Instead of merely being ‘human’ like everyone else, your humanity tends to conjure several questions (and people probe earnestly): “does your skin get darker in the sun? Is that your real hair? Do you feel the same level of pain? How do you have sex? When did you know you weren’t like everyone else?
For me, accepting that I will be perceived differently as a Black woman is both a blessing and a curse. I learned early on to expect the worst from most people in terms of how they perceive me, so I don’t make myself a sponge to people’s discriminations and abhorrent sentiments. It’s a lonely space to be in, even when amongst other “like you,” but it also gives you an unwavering comfort that you will be ok no matter what. The world could give you the worst, and so be it–you’ll still be you. Your life could be cut short but, you still lived it (and hopefully, to the fullest). You may lose a lot externally, but what you gain internally can never be taken from you. Nonetheless, having to program yourself to believe this makes life’s difficulties a little easier to swallow, yet still a bit heartbreaking, as so many people simply don’t know what it’s like to be in your shoes.
That’s why it’s especially refreshing to hear stories like your own that reassure you that it’s not all in your head–it’s real and hurtful; the unwelcoming energy, glares, microaggressions, and bold insults. All of it makes overcoming the adversity, let alone rising above it, an enormous feat. I celebrate the people who garner the will to do this despite being treated as “other,” especially those who are women. People like Kristina and Lise, two Black women breaking all kinds of barriers in the white-washed world of luxury fashion by their mere daring to exist within that space. I chatted with them both to encourage more people who aren’t from marginalized identities to advocate for those who are, whether it be in business or in life, there’s no limit to how we can uplift and empower one another, and especially, people striving every single day to be accepted.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Wipe away bulbs of dried mucus from my eyes, gently wiggle my phalanges in all directions before planting my extremities on the ground.
Waltz on tip-toe to the large reflective device fitted to the wall in front of my bed, and take a deep inhale.
Sharply plug the air from escaping my diaphragm.
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:
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.