Friday, March 22, 2013

Being Prejudiced and Hostile Hurts You The Most

Cross posted at Beyond Black & White

Let's see how this one goes over...

Here is a definition of prejudice from an online dictionary:
A (1) : preconceived judgment or opinion (2) : an adverse opinion or leaning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge.  B : an instance of such judgment or opinion. C : an irrational attitude of hostility directed against an individual, a group, a race, or their supposed characteristics. (emphasis added)
I think that some Black people can be very prejudiced. I thought that I would highlight the word hostility in that definition because I believe that this hostility is seriously harmful to Black people. I'll go out on a limb and state that people don't like hostile people. When someone acts or looks hostile that spells 'danger' to most people and they want to avoid hostile people. Here is a definition for hostile:
A : of or relating to an enemy <hostile fire>. B : marked by malevolence : having or showing unfriendly feelings <a hostile act>. C : openly opposed or resisting <a hostile critic> <hostile to new ideas>. D (1) : not hospitable <plants growing in a hostile environment> (2) : having an intimidating, antagonistic, or offensive nature <a hostile workplace>.
That doesn't sound good does it? You wouldn't want to be friends with someone who appears hostile. In fact you might not want to approach someone who even has a reputation for being hostile. This would not be the type of person you would want to strike up a conversation with, ask for directions, or hire for a job. No one likes hostile sales people or waiters. No one likes hostile teachers or bosses. No one likes to be around someone who is openly unfriendly, opposed, intimidating, antagonistic, or offensive. So, if this is the case then why in the world do some Black people act so hostile? Isn't it in their best interest to not appear hostile so that they can get along in society without being treated like a threatening enemy?

Now I know some people will immediately launch into the usual excuses. For example, "It dates back to slavery. Black people should be angry and hostile because of all the racist things that happened back then and even today". Or, "It's a defense mechanism because many of us live in hostile environments and this keeps others from bothering us". Or, "We aren't hostile, ever since slavery White people have thought of us as hostile and nothing we can do will change that". Or even, "What do you suggest, we should start shuckin' and jivin' so we don't upset the White folks"?  The most common one I hear is, "Well people are hostile to me so I'll be hostile right back. I won't let people walk all over me and do nothing". Well in the words of Dr. Phil, I have to ask, "How's that working for you?" (see I don't even like Dr. Phil but I still learned something from him).

I remember a time a few years ago when I was pretty hostile towards White people. I was reading a lot of African American history and I was really angry. I stopped listening to White music, stopped watching White shows, and I was always talking about racism and injustice. I was also being hostile towards White people and everyone I worked with and went to school with was White! So, what ended up happening? Well other students and coworkers developed stronger friendships. When I needed help with things I usually didn't ask because I feared I would be rejected. I didn't hear about important opportunities because I wasn't hanging out with the other students/coworkers. People thought I was aloof and didn't care. I was the angry Black woman always talking about racism, activism, how she didn't fit in, and how she was different. Surprised??? Fortunately I came to my senses and realized I was angry about things that had not happened to me personally and I was taking it out on people who had done nothing to harm me. I was being hostile to people who I needed and I was lonely because I saw the people around me as enemies instead of allies. Thank goodness I wasn't too horrible and this behavior did not harm my career! I think that things would have been much better though if I had had people looking out for me and if I had their support along the way. The hostility I had did nothing but keep me in a negative mood, keep me from making friends and having fun, and keep me from making important career connections. It was not beneficial to me AT ALL. It wasn't working for me so I stopped. I hope you can stop too.

The actual reason why I wrote this post is because the hostility I see in Black women towards non-Black women is really making us look bad! It comes off as jealousy, petty bitterness, or just meanness and unnecessary hostility. For example, a post was done about lessons we can learn from Elin Nordegren (Tiger Wood's ex). The post said she was a European beauty and made a point to show a beautiful Black woman as well. But one comment stood out to me. The gist of the comment was, "She's not all that, she just looks like a plain White woman" (it reminds me of this previous post). I just wonder why do some women/people feel the need to be negative and hostile like that. Why bother to say that at all? It just sounds like you feel obligated to bring the other person down. I've noticed this a lot and it bothers me. When someone says something positive about a non-Black person, some Black people just go out of their way to say something negative and dismissive.

Unfortunately, this inter-racial hostility is even applied intra-racially. For instance, people love to comment on how bad it is to be dark-skin shamed or fat-shamed but being prejudiced and hostile towards light-skinned and skinny women is condoned. One of the excuses is that light-skinned women get White privilege because their skin color is closer to White. The hostility I see towards light-skinned women is just horrible! The same thing goes for skinny women, they are ridiculed for having a body shape that is attractive according to Eurocentric standards (or Hollywood standards). Don't even get me started with the strange phenomenon of Black people complaining that every highly attractive Black woman has "White features" and doesn't represent "real Black beauty", so Black people should reject her (e.g., Beyonce). It's as though because light-skinned, allegedly Eurocentric looking, and skinny women are lauded in the mainstream media and by White people then it's the duty of Black people to be hostile towards them to even things out! In my opinion, the hostility doesn't even things out at all, it just makes the hostile people look even worse because they are picking on people who are well liked. It totally backfires.

Let me put it this way, think back to childhood about the most beautiful and popular girl at school. Now was it better for your status to be a friend to that girl or her enemy? Was it beneficial to be mean to that girl or would it backfire when people came to her defense and rejected you for hurting their darling? No, it was always better to be in her friend, learn her methods for getting people to like her, and to be in her circle of the best people at school and benefit from the association. By just associating with or enhancing your similarities with the most popular, attractive, influential people you become that by association. By being hostile to those people you just make yourself look bad and ruin any chance that they will help you to achieve your desired status or goals. Black people do accept some non-Black people who they think are "down" and have earned their "Black card". Well they earned that by being open and accepting of Black people. How do you expect non-Black people to be open and accepting of you if you are so consistently hostile towards them?

So the point I am trying to make is that it's not in Black women's (or Black men's) benefit to be seen as hostile, difficult, angry, or mean. We won't be seen as the "nice girls" (or guys). We will seem like bullies that no one wants to support, help, or protect.  Instead, we should be open to learning from other people, regardless or race, if they have achieved what we desire. We might actually have common interests and that is the basis of many friendships. Instead of automatically acting hostile and rejecting non-Black people we have to be more open to learning and making useful relationships. These people can help you to improve your life (even by just observing them). Now this doesn't mean you have to put all of your trust into them, tell them all your secrets, worship them, let them mistreat you, or be their mammy! I'm not saying  let these women be mean to you and just grin and bear it so you don't end up on their bad side. I'm ONLY saying, don't be prejudiced and hostile to people just because they aren't Black. I'm also saying don't be prejudiced and hostile to Black or biracial people just because they don't look "as Black" as you think they should. Your life will probably take a turn for the better if you are more open to new experiences and new people!

Warning: Just as a Black person can end up being a bad influence, jealous, a backstabber, a frenemy, or someone who betrays your trust and hurts you, the same thing can happen with relationships with non-Black people. Relationships are relationships. Some people will like you and want to be your friend while others will not. There are some people you shouldn't try to be friends with so use your common sense and judgement about that. Black friends can get on your nerves, be insensitive, and hurt your feelings too. Just as you could have a long, positive, and life-changing relationship with at Black person, the same could happen with a non-Black person. Inter-racial friendships/acquaintances may be no better or worse than inter-racial friendships/relationships, just try to get as many of them as you need, want, or can handle. Considering that this blog is supportive of interracial romantic relationships, if you date interracially you will obviously come in contact with non-Black people. If you are hostile and prejudiced towards them then your dating relationships might not last and you will never fit in with your partner's family and friends.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

DIY and Inexpensive Ways to Feminize Your Wardrobe

We all have unique fashion styles, preferences, and shopping habits. This post is for women who want easy and inexpensive ways to makeover their clothing items or outfits so that they are more feminine or interesting. Some will buy a plain t-shirt and wear it as is. Others won't even buy that t-shirt or they will add flowers, lace, bows, or a print to the shirt because it is just too plain or not feminine enough for them. They feel that plain clothes are not flattering or interesting or they look too much like men's clothes (my rule is if a man could wear something similar then it's not for me). In the same way that some women feel that a bare face is too plain and they want makeup, some women think plain and unfitted clothes are boring and their clothes need some "makeup" too.

I personally LOVE Do it Yourself (DIY) fashion, refashioning, or upcycling but of course some people are totally opposed to it, only want new things, will only wear something someone else has made, and only want the "real thing". That's fine, but this post might not be useful for you. Maybe open your mind and try something new, especially if you are struggling financially. If you want to stretch your dollar, buy items that can be worn in many different ways and are appropriate for different situations (e.g., buy clothes that are appropriate for work but can be made casual). Consult fashion blogs about how to make many different outfits from the same items (e.g., 7 basic pieces 14 different looks). Below are some things you can do to improve your wardrobe and bring out your inner feminine fashionista on a budget (well these things will cost more time rather than money... it can become a time consuming but useful and fun hobby).

New Ways to Improve Your Wardrobe

1) Buy a sewing machine and start sewing: Altering your own clothes will help you to look better, save you money from tailors, and allow you to wear more of the clothes you already have. It can also help you to look great in thrifted items even if they are outdated or ill-fitting. You can refashion your old clothes/thrifted clothes into entirely new items and join the green upcycling movement. Lastly, if you make your own clothes sometimes then you can always get exactly what you want instead of spending a lot of time and money to find something someone else made.

I am planning to buy a sewing machine next week. I will start off practicing with scrap fabric and then start making alterations to the clothes I already have. I have already watched many sewing tutorials on YouTube so I'm ready (e.g., sewing materials tutorial). Later on I will start making over thrift store items and eventually refashioning clothing into entirely new items (e.g., turn a t-shirt into a pencil skirt, use t-shirts to make banded skirt, make a lace tank top). When I feel confident I will use sewing patterns (e.g., from Vogue, Butterick, McCall'sBurdastyle etc.) to make items from scratch but that can be expensive so I will have to limit how often I do that. PDF sewing patterns can be downloaded, printed, and used instantly so I'm excited!

2) Thrifting: Buying clothes from a thrift store is an easy and inexpensive way to add feminine items to your wardrobe. You can save so much money that you may lose all interest in buying retail (I have. Almost everything I wear is from a thrift store, I get compliments, and people can't tell). You can find modern items from popular stores (sometimes unworn with the tags still on) or vintage items that are one of a kind. Or you can sometimes purchase fabric or clothing items to refashion into new items (cheaper than buying from a fabric store). It's just fabric...think outside of the box and make it into whatever you want. There are many tutorials about how to thrift and women showing what they found at thrift stores (e.g., video1, video2video3). Some people look down on thrifting but if you've been on Pinterest or YouTube you will see that all sorts of women are doing it and many are very fashionable (just wash before wearing items). I think that it's way more important to spend money on education, housing, investments, healthy food, transportation, and necessities rather than on clothing.

3) Pinterest, Polyvore, and YouTube: Pinterest, Polyvore and the Internet can give you many ideas about how to add femininity to your wardrobe. I recently started some Pinterest pages to keep track of DIY fashion ideas and sewing patterns I would like to use. Choosing sewing patterns is like shopping for new clothes except most patterns are under $6 and you will be making the clothes yourself. The benefit of using Pinterest instead of just bookmarking items you like is that you can see what you pinned, like making an online scrapbook, instead of just a list of links. You can also save video tutorials on YouTube and many are posted on Pinterest as well. Polyvore can be used to put outfits or clothing collections together so there is no need to cut up magazines (reminds me of Cher's computer program from Clueless). 

Simple Feminine Items to Add to your Wardrobe (many can be found in thrift stores. In DIY projects the way your items turn out will depend on your skill and artistic ability)

Peter pan or lace collars: Add some adorable to your plain shirts and dresses by adding a collar. These are all the rage and can instantly add cuteness to any outfit. They are super feminine, vintage, and maybe even hipster. I especially like the one's with pearls. There are many tutorials about how to make them yourself (pearl collars, Peter Pan collar)

Scarves: Tie them around your neck in various ways as demonstrated in this 25 ways to tie a scarf video. Or you can tie a chiffon or silk scarf into a bow and pin it to a blouse.

Spats: Spats are a vintage shoe accessory that have made a comeback thanks to the steampunk trend. I think they are adorable! You can transform any pair of shoes or boots into a unique vintage style or tall boot (tutorial Part 1 & Part 2).

Pearls: Pearls are always classy and elegant. I heard it was bad luck to buy your own pearls but who believes in superstition anyway? You can buy imitation pearls for low prices and wear them in different ways (9 ways to wear a pearl necklace).

Cute belts: My favorites are belts with bows. They are usually inexpensive and add a touch of femininity to any outfit. Here are tutorials for makingbow belts, elastic belts, and peplum belt 1peplum belt 2.

Shoe accessories: I prefer the ones with bows (I love bows on everything lol!) or the ones that look like jewelry. If you have a pair of plain boring shoes then accessories may be exactly what you need. Here are some tutorials: add bows to shoes Part 1 & Part 2, pinup Valentine's Day bow shoesadd ruffles

Tights and Nylons: I really like wearing tights. I prefer them to nylons because they don't run but nylons are great too. Thick tights will allow you to wear skirts/dresses even in the winter. I like tights with cute patterns and nylons with vintage styles. Fishnets are also awesome in the bedroom lol ;)

Feminine tops

Feminine accents: Peter Pan collars, scarves, flowers, bows, sequins, studs, pearls, ruffles, lace, sheer fabric, satin, chiffon, stenciled/painted accents, appliques, polka dots, cropped sleves, peplums, blazers with feminine collars, pastel colours, jewel tones.

Alterations you can Make to your Clothing 

You can buy items and wear them as is. Or you can add feminine details to the clothing. If you can sew you can also alter your clothing to fit you in a more flattering manner. Once you see how easy it is to add feminine touches to items you won't feel the need to pay $30 for a tank top with flowers or a blouse with a studded collar since it is so easy and inexpensive to add these details yourself. Some of the alterations can be done without sewing (e.g., no sew hemming tape), with simple hand sewing, or using fabric glue if necessary (tutorial). Save money by looking for fashion inspiration online instead of buying magazines.

All of the looks below will depend on your skill and imagination. A designer or artist could make awesome alterations that you can not, at least not without practice. I strongly advise looking at retail/designer items for inspiration or else your project may not look very good. There are MANY ways to alter clothes, these are just some examples. Good Luck!:

1) Hem your clothes, shorten sleeves and hems, and bring in the sides of items that are too large (how to hem and fit a thrifted skirt)

2) Add fabric flowers, bows, or ruffles to your t-shirts, tank tops, and blouses (flowers, large ruffleruffles1ruffles2tulle floweradd frills)

3) Add lace/fabric inserts/add-ons to clothing (DIY lace sleeveslace cap sleeveflutter sleevesadd laceruffle sleevebow sleeve)

4) Add beads, pearls, or studs (embellished sweater, studded blazer)

5) Add an iron on or stenciled detail (use templates to paint clotheslace pattern tutorial)

6) Use fabric paint to change the look of your clothes (sweater DIYpuff paint beads)

7) Add pre-made or homemade appliques (DIY applique collar)

8) Change the buttons on your shirt or jacket (self-explanatory)

9) Cut up a t-shirt and use a no-sew method to embellish it (tutorial)

10) Dye your clothes (tutorial)

11) Paint your shoes or add decorations (tutorial-don't like the style but you can do whatever your want, add shoe bling)  

Feminine Belts, Skirts, tights, shoes, and spats

Feminine accents: frills, lace, peplums, flowers, bows, ruffles, polka dots.

Dresses For Work and After Work

Feminine accents: frills, ruffles, flowers, lace, bows, peplums, accentuating curves. These dresses are appropriate for work especially if paired with cardigans and blazers and if they are knee length.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Black Women Who are Acceptable in Film and TV

Don't ask me why, but recently I was thinking about Black women who star in action movies. I could only think of two in recent years. Zoe Saldana (yes she is Black, Latina is not a race) who starred in Avatar, The Losers, Columbiana, and Star Trek, and Naomie Harris who starred in 28 Days Later, Miami Vice, After the Sunset, Ninja Assassin, Pirates of the Caribbean films, and the new Jame Bond film, Skyfall (Naomie has played a lot of cops!). I also realized that other than Naomie's role in Miami Vice, in all the other films the women had interracial relationships! I am also familiar with many of Zoe's other roles where she has been paired with White men (e.g., Guess Who, Haven, Death at a Funeral, and The Words). To me, this is A LOT and there may be other roles I don't know about.

Why are movie producers okay with pairing Naomie and Zoe again and again with White men (and an Asian in Ninja Assassin) in blockbuster mainstream films? It makes you wonder why these producers are willing to face the protests of racists by employing Black women in these roles. Do they think that the actresses are attractive enough that audiences won't mind? I wonder if they wrote the roles for Black women or if the auditions were so good they did not care about race (e.g., Halle Berry has gotten many roles that were written for White women, yes we all know she is biracial).

I think the media is telling us something that has gone unnoticed. The media is telling us they think these Black women are acceptable and equal to non-Black women who they could have employed instead. The media is saying they find these women attractive, they think their mainstream audiences will find them attractive, and they think it's believable they could and would date non-Black men. The media thinks these Black women are desirable to the mainstream!

So what do these women have in common? I think that Zoe and Naomi are pretty, they have similar thin body types (yes they are very thin, let's move on),  they are both quite feminine despite playing tough action stars, they speak well, and they often smile and don't look angry. Even if they have to be hard at times (e.g., when fighting off rage infected zombies or using a rocket launcher), they are still often shown as vulnerable, feminine, and worthy of male affection and concern. Kerry Washington has also done several roles where she was paired with White men including Scandal of course, Lakeview Terrace, Last King of Scotland, and Fantastic Four. In all of these roles she played someone vulnerable and males tried to protect her. I think she is similar to Zoe and Naomi in terms of the traits I previously mentioned. It's rare to see women who are very different from Zoe, Naomi, and Kerry paired with non-Black men. However there are rare cases where a hard or stereotypical Black women has been paired with non-Black men for comic relief (e.g., Beyonce in Goldmember, Queen Latifah in Bringing Down the House, Halle Berry in Baps) or because they are both "from the hood". Hey, don't get mad at me, these are just things I have noticed, I don't make the rules! Another unusual pairing was making Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Monique, yes Monique, are a couple in the film Shadow Boxer (he kisses her!). Other strange pairings include anything starring Whoopi Goldberg but that's another story... But these parings are rare and unlike Zoe, Naomi, and Kerry, the actresses are not repeatedly paired with non-black men in romantic roles (except Halle of course).

It may actually be surprising to some that many popular, feminine, and yes medium to dark skinned Black actresses have been paired with non-Black men in many TV and movie roles. There is a great list of movies on the Black Women, White Men: Interracial Romance in the Movies site that you can consult to get your interracial romance fix (you can also tell them any films that aren't on the list)!

Here is a list of some Black and biracial women who have also done interracial roles:

Tyra Banks, Angela Bassett, Naomi Campbell, Angel Coulby, Dorothy Dandridge, Robin Givens, Lena Horne, Whitney Houston, Beverly Johnson, Saana Lathan, Nia Long, Audra McDonald, Thandie Newton, Paula Patton, Diana Ross, Gina Torres, Gabrielle Union, Lark Voorhees, Rutina Wesley, and Vanessa Williams. You can see many more on Black Women, White Men: Interracial Romance in the Movies.

Here is another list of some television shows that have had Black woman (and many biracial women) with non-Black man couples at some point. If the relationships are long/significant they are marked with an asterisk and biracial roles are underlined:

Eureka*, Battlestar Galactica*, Being Human, Boy Meets World*, Castle, Deception*, Firefly*, Flash Forward*, Franklin and Bash, Friends, GirlfriendsGrey's Anatomy, Haven, Hawthorne*, Jane By Design, Lost*, Misfits*, Missing*, Night Stalker*, Nikita*, Nip/Tuck, Parenthood*, Private Practice*, RegenesisRevengeRookie Blue*, Scandal*, Show Me Yours*,  Student Bodies*Suits*The 4400*The Adventures of Merlin*The Secret Circle*, True Blood*, Ugly Betty*Vampire Diaries, Wonderfalls

Use the internet to watch these films whenever you crave seeing non-stereotypical Black women because there is a LONG list to satisfy you. Personally, due to my Internet use, I never feel like I'm not seeing enough Black women on TV, I just select shows and movies and I watch them whenever I want. Happy watching!