If hoes can’t become housewives then you shouldn’t become a husband.

kim kanye interacial

 

“Can’t turn a hoe into a housewife”, is a well known phrase. Essentially it encapsulates the idea that once a woman has a past of being sexually promiscuous, she can never become ‘respectable’ enough to become a good wife. The cumulative effect of her past sexual experiences have forever tainted her and rendered her value at zilch in the marriage economy. I’ve made a couple of posts about sexual double standards before and I hate to to beat on the same drum with a similar rhythm, but unfortunately, this message just hasn’t travelled through to the all the intended villages yet  -so I’m going to keep playing.

Funnily enough, men who are well on their way to being able to run their own brothel with themselves as the primary service giver, are the same men who tend to use this phrase without any sense of coyness.  Yes, you’ve read correctly – JimBob who has slept with a different woman every month for the past 5 years, wishes to marry Felicity Neverkissed. It doesn’t strike them as ironic that they’ve treated women as  mere semen receptacles since puberty but still claim that the many women they’ve slept with aren’t worthy of their hand in marriage. This should be side splittingly hilarious to the majority of sensible people, but it always strikes me as strange how so many otherwise intelligent and emotionally sensitive men have for some reason still not rejected the idea that women’s sexual expression has far more moral consequences than theirs. Practically, I would agree it does – we can get pregnant. Morally I’m not sure why my past promiscuity would make me completely ineligible to get pregnant, use a spatula and be a source of emotional support to someone, but a man’s promiscuity has absolutely no bearing on his ability to function as my life partner.

I’m not arguing that your sexual past has no consequences for future relationships. I personally believe in abstinence and I believe that part of the reason my faith promotes not just abstinence but purity is because our past experiences DO inform our future ones. We can’t run away from that. It’s up to each of us to make decisions about our own moral choices, and choose to believe what we believe, but our past behaviour may well impact our future relationships. If you choose to have many sexual experiences with many different people then that’s entirely your prerogative and your choice.

What I am arguing against is the offensive, stupid, and sexist idea that women can’t change their sexual behaviour but men can. Men, especially Christian men, feel that they can sow their wild oats for as long as they want and suddenly, when they feel that they have seen enough of ‘the world’,  they will be able to turn off that behaviour, find a ‘good woman’ ( one who is less sexually experienced than them) and live happily ever after in a 4 bedroom house in the suburbs with a dog made Bingo, eating home cooked meals and having fabulously passionate married sex for the rest of their lives. Unfortunately Tiffany, who was twerking alongside him in the club a mere 15 hours before he locked eyes with his future wifey, just lacks the innate ability to turn off the tap in the same way he does – by virtue of the fact that she bleeds on a monthly basis. Don’t even get me started on the extra double standard that allows white women to release sex tapes and start whole careers off the back of it, but black women who do the same thing will be forever blackballed (pun intended).

I hate to break it to you, but there’s a strong possibility that your sowing of wild oats will reap, as one writer puts it, ‘a bitter crop’. Don’t you dare look down your nose at the women you sowed your wild oats with. And even if you have been one of those men who has chosen to be very selective about their sexual partners or the number of sexual partners, if you believe that only men but not women can change, you don’t really respect women.

If I decide that I don’t want to be with a man who has a list of woman he’s slept with the length of my arm then people see that as unrealistic or picky, but a man who wants a woman with a lower number than him is just being a man? How is this still a thing in 2016?

Personally, I’m grateful that every day I get the chance to make choices that are better than I did the day before. If men who used to be selfish, or spendthrifts, or drama queens (yes, men can be drama queens), or couldn’t fry a baked bean without assistance can become husbands then a woman who used to be promiscuous can become a housewife too.

People can change. That change can’t and won’t happen overnight because consequences are real, habits are hard to break, and it can be a difficult and sometimes discouraging road. But if someone wants to change, they can change. Stop playing God and telling them they can’t.

Telling women how to potentially avoid being raped is not ‘victim blaming’.

rape culture

 

I’m sure the phrase victim blaming has been around for a fairly long time, but it certainly became extremely popular shortly after 2014. Twitter feminism (which I feel has now qualified as its own wave of feminism) is particularly fond of using the phrase “victim blaming”. They’re not wrong for using it – there is plenty of victim blaming slithering across both the cyber and non-cyber universe, even in 2016. I’ve heard it with my own ears, seen it with my own eyes, and continue to be disgusted by it.

However, as much as the phrase is correctly targeted at men (and women) who suggest to victims of rape or sexual abuse that it is somehow their fault, of recent, it’s being chucked at anyone who would dare to suggest basic safety measures to women .

Someone: Try not to walk around unaccompanied in secluded areas at late hours of night or early hours of morning.

Feminist: WHY ARE YOU VICTIM BLAMING?????!!! What about the women who come home from work at 3 am, do they deserve to be raped? What about women who have no friends or family to accompany them? Most women are raped by people they know!!!!RAPE HAPPENS BECAUSE OF RAPISTS!!!! KEEP YOUR ADVICE TO YOURSELF!

This is all a complete overreaction to the proposal of a basic, sensible safety measure. In no way did the person suggest that women who are raped alone or in secluded areas are responsible for the rape, in the same way that no one suggests that people who are mugged coming home fron the club are responsible for being mugged or that children who take sweets from a stranger are responsible for the paedophile’s behaviour. It’s actually a very simple and sensible thought process:

1)There are men who are rapists.

2) Most men who rape, rape people they know and it’s extremely difficult to do much to avoid this except by not ever being alone in a room with a man.

3) There are a minority of rapes that are committed by perfect strangers.

4)These strangers may be more likely to target you if you’re by yourself or somewhere secluded where you can’t get help because in Western society, men don’t generally rape women  in crowds.

5)Therefore, avoid secluded areas if possible and try where possible to be accompanied at tiems when there aren’t many people around.

6)If this is not possible due to a variety of circumstances, it’s still not your FAULT if you get raped, but where possible, it’s probably best to be as safe as you can while living your life with a semblance of normality.

I literally cannot fathom how a large number of otherwise very sensible people can miscontrue this thought process as victim blaming. Now, granted there are men and women who say inane and offensive things like “if you walk alone at night in a short skirt and you get raped, that’s your fault..why are you walking through alleyways in crop tops and minisskirts, that’s like walking through a crowd of hungry lions with an open box of KFC ..”. 

There is a clear difference bewteen the two lines of thinking, and if we conflate the two we’re in danger of confusing a commitment to equality with a type of hypersensitivity that only comes across as stupid.

I completely agree and understand the idea that rape SHOULD not be women’s problem  and that the focus should be on targeting men and changing the misogyny and rape culture that it is at the root of the problem. The same could be said of child molestation – the onus shouldn’t be on children or even parents to avoid paedophiles. We should be attempting to create measures to allow people with paedophilic tendencies to get the help they need before they commit a crime and by making sure that known paedophiles (who have commited or intend to commit a crime)  are kept far away from the rest of socety. But the honest truth is that there will always be rapists and there will always be paedophiles. There will always be creepy Pete down the road, or the seemingly upstanding politician who abuses his power to abuse unsuspecting children. There will always be the outwardly kind and gentlemanly man who date rapes, as well as the rapist who follows women in the early hours of the morning.  We live in an evil world, and in my personal opinion, it’s only getting worse.

No parent is going to refuse to warn their children about how to potentially avoid being molested because they might be ‘victim blaming’. Growing up, my Mum used to read to my brother and I a great book called ‘You can say no!’. It told the story of these two kids and the different adults they interacted with on a daily basis. There was the next door neighbour who invited them round for tea but told them not to tel Mum, their family friend who was safe and who always told their Mum exactly what they were doing and where they were going, the stranger who tried to get Tom to get into the car,and obviously Mum and Dad. I remember sitting on the edge of the bath and Mum asking me what I did if someone tried to touch me in away that I didn’t like .”I would kick him, scream and say “I DON’T KNOW HIM!”, and then run and find an adult I knew was safe”, I replied. She smiled at me. “Good girl”.

2 years later, it happened. An older man from church sat me on his lap and began touching my legs in a way I didn’t like. I told him I didn’t like it. He continued. And so I did what my Mum had taught me. I kicked him hard on the shins, screamed “I DON’T KNOW YOU!” (although obviously I did) and found my parents. It’s probable that nothing too bad would have happened. But its impossible to know. And I’m glad that my parents taught me how to assert myself  – it might have saved me from the unthinkable.

There were a recent string of sexual assaults in south Londoin. The police released information about the attacks and advised that the attacker was targeting women who were alone in the early hours of the morning, and that women should avoid walking alone in the early hours of the morning of possible. Were they victim blaming?

As a woman, I believe that regardless of the length of the skirt a woman wears, the alleyway she decides to hang out in alone, or the level of druken stupor she might drink  herself into, she is not responsible for the act of rape, the rapist is. And even though I don’t wear miniskirts, drink or hang out in alleyways  I don’t believe I am less deserving of rape. No one deserves to be raped. Nevertheless, as a woman, if there is any possible way, no matter how small, that I can do something that will increase my safety and decrease my chances of getting raped, I want to know about it. And I’m going to tell my friends. And that is not victim blaming, it’s basic common sense.

And that’s when my trousers fell down.

pregnant

Yesterday, or more precisely around 2:30 am this morning, I had another one of my many awkward moments. This one involved me, a male nurse, a full bladder, and a disabled door toilet that I thought I’d locked but I hadn’t.

It was the end of a long but productive shift. I’m a lot faster than I was in the beginning, when I would take about 2 and a half hours trying to decipher what exactly was wrong with the sweet little elderly lady with dementia who had a carer with her who had only just come on shift and consequently, knew as little as the elderly lady about what happened that evening.

I strolled out of the bay, tired but satisfied. All my prescription charts were written, I had handed over safely to one of my colleagues and none of my patients had made it to resus. I ended the shift with a well deserved loo break.

I breathed a sigh of happiness as I looked around at the vastness of the loo. Nothing like a a hospital toilet. As I proceeded to do the dreaded deed, I was startled as the door began to swing open . “No!No!!No! No!” I shouted as my favourite nurse Adam* materialised,  mouth open and eyes quickly shut. “Sorry! Sorry! Sorry!” he exclaimed as he stood there eyes closed and face red, and quickly slammed the door.

I hung my head and sat there, on the loo, at 2:30 in the morning. And instead of feeling embarrassment, a giggle started in the my pit of belly and quickly came out as a fit of laughter.

This was an all too familiar situation for me. I am clumsy and socially awkward. It used to bother me – I would feel frustrated when I watched others apparently seamlessly work a room, or float through life perfectly coordinated and refined. I’m just not like that. Life happens to me. And it often happens in ways that make me look like a complete idiot and make everyone else uncomfortable.

Lavatory-gate is the last in a list of many awkward moments. There was the time my wig fell off before a paediatric handover as I tried to take my jumper off behind a filing cabinet, and left a consultant terrified at my magical moving hair. There was the other time my other wig fell off onto my shoulder and I only noticed because my left shoulder felt slightly heavier than it did a few moments before. There was the time someone noticed a beetle had got stuck in my afro (It was summer, there were low lying tree branches, that’s my only explanation). There was the time I got startled coming out of a shower and completely dropped my towel onto the floor. We both screamed. There was that other time in medical school when my scrubs fell down as I walked into my first operation.  (Are you noticing awkward hair moments and various states of accidental undress are a running theme?)

At first, I used to wonder, why do these things happen to me? Am I being punished? Is there just an essential part of human existence that I haven’t grasped yet? Does this stuff to happen to everybody and I just don’t know about it? Why don’t other people’s scrub bottoms fall down? Didn’t I tie them tight enough?

I’m slowly beginning to believe that there was a period during my childhood I failed to meet my appropriate developmental stage in regards to planning basic tasks. I also have no sense of direction. It has taken me 2 months to find my way around my department. That’s 8 separate weeks. It’s not whole hospital – it’s a department within a hospital.

But I don’t care anymore.

I’ve just come to accept that once every few months, these things will happen to me. And I can write a blog post about them.

No biggie.

Anyone else as awkward as I am?

*names have been changed for confidentiality. LOL

 

 

On being ‘ghetto’ and breaking stereotypes.

white dance

I can’t remember the exact day when I decided that it wasn’t my job to ‘break stereotypes’, but it should be marked as a day of rejoicing. It might have been somewhere between the time one of my consultants in medical school emailed me back to say of course I could have a day off to speak to the girls at my old secondary school because she understood why I would want to inspire those from less privileged backgrounds (I went to a private school), or the time my work colleague tried to fist bump me when I offered to check some blood results for him, but either way, the day came when I refused to participate in the lunacy any longer.

Growing up black and middle class, you’ll often experience that many  white people will treat you like a unicorn or at the very least, a mongoose. Something rare and unfamiliar. They are curious. What school did you go to? How are you so well spoken? Is the rest of your family like you? How have you managed to arise from the ashes of your inevitable council estate experience to the glorious present?

They and many from your own community will (not necessarily openly, but tacitly) pat you on the back for ‘breaking stereotypes’.

Well done successful black person, every day you – with your hushed tones, Herbal Essences scented weave, pan seared sauteed jerk salmon and certificate that yes, you have reached the ripe old age of 25 and not fathered a child, are proving them wrong. We’re not the loud laughing, batty riding, rabbit like breeding, grime artists they thought. No. We too can read books. We too can chop kale. We too can ballet. We too can add and subtract past A level standard.

What a load of rubbish.

It’s not my job or anyone else’s job to break stereotypes.

Quite heavily insinuated in the idea of ‘breaking’ stereotypes is the idea that whiteness (specifically middle class whiteness) is aspirational. We shouldn’t be too loud, we shouldn’t be rappers, we shouldn’t wear blue weaves, we shouldn’t talk ‘ghetto’, we shouldn’t eat our jellof rice or fried dumpling on the bus. We should visit museums and art galleries (which often deny and exclude all African contribution, or pretend that Egyptians weren’t black) to become cultured, we should eat ‘gourmet’ food, we should send our little girls to ballet classes and learn Latin.  And I’ve done ballet and learnt Latin and I love museums and I don’t wear blue weave. That’s not the point.

Some things are stereotypes – i.e. the majority of black people don’t act in these ways but a minority is typecast as the majority. Some things though, are just parts of some black cultures – because my blackness is not the same as someone else’s blackness. In certain black cultures in London,  maybe we do gesticulate more when we talk, maybe some of the women like green hair. Maybe we laugh louder. So what? I’m not going to laugh more quietly in public and restrain my hand gestures just so people don’t think I’m ‘ghetto’. Why am I performing for white people so that they don’t think I’m like ‘one of those blacks’?  What do I have to prove to them and what will it achieve? Even if they meet 5 black female doctors in one day who are all well spoken and don’t have a babyfather, it’s not likely to change the fact that they will see them as the exception  – and even if it did, the onus is never on me to stop racists from stereotyping. What’s wrong with being ‘one of those blacks’ anyway? Why is working class black culture maligned and yet co-opted at the same time?

Even more subtly damaging is the idea that the reason black people people don’t deserve to be treated as equals or with respect due to those stereotypes and that we can earn this equality by ‘breaking’ them. “Maybe if black men pulled up their trousers…”. “Maybe if they listened to less hip hop…”” Maybe if they learnt to speak properly..” are all used as irrelevant excuses in discussions about police brutality, or employment inequality, or even romantic relationships. Never mind the fact that discrimination in employment happens to the most well educated, sushi eating blacks right down to the girl working in Primark, or that 12 year old children playing with toy guns can get shot by police as easily as hardened criminals. That’s because the idea that we can earn equality by behaving better is a complete and utter lie, and has proven to be completely and utterly ineffective. Martin Luther King was shot with his phD and three piece suit intact. Our treatment has everything to with white supremacy and hatred of blackness and little to do with how well spoken, educated, or ‘cultured’ we are.

It is extremely liberating as a black person who moves in predominately white middle class environments to free yourself from the idea that you are burdened with the task of proving to white people that you are as capable as they are, that your culture is worthy and noteworthy, and that you are not a stereotype. It’s refreshing to relax into simply being yourself, because not being yourself will not save you from racism. So you might as well be yourself.

I don’t use slang words at work because it’s not a language everyone understands and it would be the same as dropping random words in Urdu to non Urdu speaking colleagues. And I don’t tend to kiss my teeth either – because it’s rude. But I’ve let go of the idea that I exist to be a shining example of the talented tenth – the black people who have managed to slip through the cracks of poverty and poor education and the overwhelming desire to twerk at any given moment, to achieve some semblance of success. I do not exist to prove to ignorant middle class white people that blackness can exist outside the confines of their limited and poorly informed imagination. Our blackness is glorious in its diversity and we don’t need validation from outside of us.

So relax and bring your tupperware container of egusi soup  to work if you want to. Pat your weave (white girls flick and undo their hair all the time). Laugh loudly. Call your first born son Tyrone and your last daughter Shanice.

It will make no difference to the treatment of the black community. I promise.

Being a stay at home Mum is not more ‘noble’.

michelle o

As far back as I can remember, my dream life has included an old Edwardian house with a massive back garden, 2 very cute children, and a very tall husband with kind eyes. The recurring image is generally of us, in the garden, him making mud pies with the kids and me pouring glasses of homemade lemonade into tiny plastic cups for them. It’s all very idyllic and archaic. Nowhere in this image is me hurriedly pouring the lemonade with a pair of A and E scrubs on, kissing my husband on the cheek and grabbing a child in each arm to hug them as I rush out the house to work.

The probability is that my future life is far more likely to be similar  to the second image, than the first.

The working mum isn’t a really a ‘thing’ anymore, is it?
Not many people raise their eyebrows  at the idea of a working woman having a couple of little ones at home. In a lot of circles, it’s assumed that you will go back to work after pregnancy, possibly take a year or two at the most.
All except conservative Christian (or other religious) circles.

Recently my denomination voted against women being ordained as ministers. It was a controversial vote mostly split along cultural lines. Many of  those in the West tended to be more in favour, and non- Western countries tended to be opposed to it. I haven’t studied it enough to make any informed commentary and so maintained a fairly neutral position although my natural tendencies lean towards being pro-ordination.

Aside from discussions about ordination, I was interested in the conversations about the different roles of women and men in the home and society. I’ve found Christian men have much more of a tendency to be in favour of my 1950’s daydream than other men. In fact, one of the women who spoke against women’s ordination stated that despite her current leadership position in a church organisation, that (loosely quoting from our denomination’s most important female leader) ‘her highest calling will be when she is a wife or mother’. Although I agree with the quote she used in it’s correct context –  I found it firstly, dismissive of those women who will never be called to be a wife or mother, and secondly, rooted less in sound theology and more in Victorian idealism.

The idea that your most important life work is to love and influence your immediate family is one that I subscribe to – but this is equally true of men and women. Interestingly enough, this argument is never used to prevent married men from occupying positions of leadership or demanding jobs even though the Biblical imperative to take care of your home first is actually directed at men and not women.

The concept of men going out to work and women staying at home is fairly modern concept. In times past, especially the time period  in which the Bible was written, men, women and children often worked alongside each other in the family business, women sold their wares at the market, and the concept of a ‘stay at home mum’ vs ‘working mum’ was non-existent. Women often worked from home, or took their children with them as they worked outside the home. Everyone pitched in to make enough money or produce for the family to survive – the family was a working unit.

My Mum worked in a demanding and fairly high powered job  for most of my childhood and I don’t feel like I missed out because she wasn’t “there” as much as she would have been if she had stayed at home. Like most Mums she’d managed the art of being ever present even in her absences. Sometimes she would bring me into work with her during school holidays and seeing her as a black woman in a senior management position was extremely empowering for me. I would sit at her desk in her office, spin around in her big chair and pretend that I was the boss.  I have no doubt that a major part of my confidence and success came from seeing my Mum at work. Also, I was fortunate enough to have great nannies who looked after me and my brother and my experience of the world was enriched by my time with them – I consider them to be part my family.

If I’m honest, if  I ever do have children  I do want to be at home, at least when my children are young. I’m even warming to the idea of home schooling. I’m uncomfortable with the idea of a stranger spending more time with my children at a young age than me, even if my own childhood experience of that was great. But if I am called to work outside of the home, that does not make me less ‘virtuous’ than if I stay at home.

I refuse to believe that God wanted me to get a medical degree simply to pass time while I wait for the right man to whisk me off my feet and provide me with an expensive set of cooking utensils to facilitate his fabulous career. I’m also very confused as to why women who are significantly more intelligent, innovative and able than some men shouldn’t share this with the world but instead should feel some sort of moral burden to stay at home, concocted from a hodgepodge mixture of Victorian ethics and misused Bible texts, instead of discovering the cure for sickle cell. Lastly, the idea that being a stay at home Mum isn’t a job in itself, is insulting. If a woman stays at home both parents are working – one is working inside the home and one is working outside. Both are equally viable choices that families should make for themselves – without being made to feel guilty for either.

What do you guys think?

Black men continue to deny their colourism.

dave chapelle meme

I am so completely and utterly bored with discussions about colourism in the black community, and I’m sure many of you are. #teamlightskin, #teamdarkskin, #teamyawn.

But here we are again. Why? Because it hasn’t gone away  and unfortunately the biggest barrier to dealing with colorism in the community is that most black men are either in denial about their colourism, or in denial about how negative the impact of colourism is.The proverbial hamster wheel keeps on spinning because the hamster will not get off the wheel and admit that it’s not going anywhere. Black men keep spinning their wheel, and in 2015, in the year of Lupita, we are still having this conversation.

I was chatting with my Mum yesterday on the phone and telling her that while I was examining  one of my patients that evening, she stopped me and said,”You really are so beautiful”. Looks aren’t everything but they’re something, and it really touched me that although this lady was sick she took the time out to compliment me in the middle of a stressful shift. When I thought about it, what struck me is that most of the compliments I’ve had about my appearance have been from white people. I regularly get complimented on my looks by patients and colleagues and at first I found it rather unsettling. Mainly because I don’t really think of myself as particularly more beautiful than the average woman with good concealer, but also because up until the age of 18, I genuinely thought I was ugly.

On further reflection, I can remember that most of the negative comments I’ve had about my appearance have been from black men. From being called downright ugly to being told I was “just average”. I don’t have an agenda to make black men look bad – my Dad is a black man, my brother is, the majority of my male friends are, and my preference is that my future life partner will be too. But if I truthfully relay my experience , although I have faced numerous instances of racism and discrimination from white people, the majority of the instances where someone has said the words ‘you are beautiful’ to me, that person has been white, and if they have been black it has been other black women.

I have no doubt that at least part of the reason for this is that I am a self identified dark skinned, milk chocolate woman. (Ironically, also the lightest person in my immediate family, to who my Dad once sniffed his nose at and said “well, you’re not realllly properly dark skinned so you wouldn’t understand”. I look back and laugh only because it exemplifies the often complex and ridiculous obsession black people have with the various wonderful hues we come in.)

As a dark skinned woman I already know that in my community I am not at the top of the totem pole when it comes to desirability. I’m not suggesting that the majority of black men don’t find dark skinned women attractive at all. My Dad is married to my Mum, who is also a dark skinned woman, and my brother has also dated dark skinned women. Unfortunately though, for some men, a light skinned woman who looks like Shrek (who is someone’s beautiful treasured Queen – so no shade to her) is more eligible than an average looking dark skinned woman.

The most ridiculous thing about this is that a lot of black men will either stay denying the colourism that is so prevalent amongst their counterparts with throwaway phrases like “a pretty woman is a pretty woman innit“, or “if you have self esteem then men will be attracted to you” (which is manifest nonsense – Precious can have all the self esteem in the world, but many men will still find her unattractive), or suggest that it’s not that big a deal – ‘it’s just their preference’. Ironically, many of these dark skinned men have a good chance of having a dark skinned daughter even if her mother is light.. I often wonder if, when their dark skinned teenage daughter is upset by her constant erasure in mainstream AND black media or being overlooked by teenage boys her age for her light skinned friend they will use the same redundant phrases to console her as they do for the dark skinned women their age? Will they tell her she needs more self esteem? Will they tell her that in terms of the problems facing the community, colourism is the least of our worries? Will they tell her to suck it up because it’s just their preference? If they have a light skinned daughter, will they appreciate her being treated as a trophy and objectified by younger men with the same attitude they had?

On Twitter, it’s sometimes horrifying to see how colourism and the objectifying of light skinned women spreads even to babies and young children. Grown black men will post pictures of lighter skinned babies with very disturbing statements about how they want their daughter to look. It’s never their sons they want to be light, it’s only their daughters – which effectively suggests that they want to create daughters that appeal to their own sexual preference. It’s just weird, and it shows how deeply rooted it is in some segments of our community.

What I don’t want to suggest is that every man who dates light skinned women does so because he is colourist. I applaud equal opportunity daters – men who date light, dark and in between, because they really do believe that a attractive woman (inside and out) is an attractive woman. And I know men like that. There are also men who simply will have light skin as an honest preference (although I do think it’s extremely difficult  to separate honest preference from the constant onslaught of colourism in society).

So what can be done?

Maybe controversially I think black women actually have a bigger part to play in this. Sadly, more black men are brought up by single black mothers  than in two parent households. If we want to deal with this cancer in our community, we cannot leave the formation of our children’s mindset on colour to chance. A healthy view of colour in a white supremacist society is the result of deliberate effort on the part of the parent. Yes, ideally black men should be equally involved in this but realistically they probably won’t be as much as women. So as black women (or white women with black/bi-racial sons) , we can make conscious efforts to promote positive images to our sons from an early age. It isn’t just a male problem – if we are the main parents for these men, the clearly we are also promoting colourism even if it impacts more directly in a negative way against us.

Secondly, I’ve begun to realise that on a personal level when a black man admits that he is colourist it’s probably far more useful to approach the conversation with understanding rather than instantly berating him for his preference. Colourism is something that most of us have to unlearn, but some of us do that work earlier than others. If someone admits that they are colourist and knows that it’s problematic, it’s much more progressive than the majority of men who are in complete denial and it’s the basis for some healthy conversation and growth.

Black women, does my experience ring true for you or not? Black men, is my analysis unfair? Everyone else, feel free to chime in also!

Let’s kill this ‘strong black woman’ nonsense.

rosaparksnah

Now I don’t advocate it, but watch any Tyler Perry movie and at least once, the “strong black woman” will pop up.

Typically the strong black woman has been through the fire, the flood and the broke black man. And the absent baby daddy. And the son who is a drug dealer who gets shot and gives his life to Jesus at the end of the film as he limps down the aisle while the strong black woman (who on top of her many responsibilities, also leads the church choir), sings her heart out.

You’ll often find this phrase circulating in memes round the internet. Black woman are STRONG. We are the originators of human life. The incubators of resilience. Black men ‘need’ a ‘strong black woman’ to lean on. White men who make videos about how much they love black women make various allusions to their ‘strength’.  This is seen as a positive thing. After everything we’ve been through, the double oppressions of racism and sexism, the constant invalidation and erasure, still like the phoenix, we manage to rise from the (strong) dark ashes.

Can I be honest? I think the ‘strong black woman’ stereotype/archetype is actually emotionally, spiritually and physically dangerous for black woman.

I’m reading a great book at the moment called ‘Too Heavy a Yoke’ by Chanequa Walker -Barnes. It talks about the history of the StrongBlackWoman archetype and how it is rooted in the desire to discount white stereotypes of inadequacy by erasing vulnerability, but also the historical components that led to black women being stereotyped as less feminine and ‘delicate’ than white women. Black femininity in modern history has always being juxtaposed against an idealistic white femininity (a sexist idealism that confined white women to domesticity) and one of the justifications given during the slavery period for the brutal treatment of black women was that the black woman was more masculine, hypersexual and less emotionally vulnerable than white women.

The truth is that black women are no more strong than anyone else, but that historically we have been forced to develop ‘coping’ mechanisms (and I use the word coping loosely) in order to maintain some semblance of normality.

From a very young age I watched the black women around me busy themselves with a stoicism that almost gave them the facade of superhumanity – until the cracks began to show. (The pressure to be a strong black woman is especially present in the black church). Their ‘strength’ led to emotional trauma, damaged their relationships with men and with each other, and burdened their children.

Black women are the women most likely  to have to raise children in a single parent household – which even when the father is present and active as many black men are, is still much more difficult than raising a child in a well functioning two parent household. Black women, especially dark skinned women,  are constantly erased from media representation and are both overtly and unconsciously fed the message that we are romantically less appealing than others. Black women enter the workforce butting their heads with the unique combination of racism and sexism that targets  black femininity. It is taking a toll on us both mentally and physically. Rates of mental illness and obesity are higher among black women than other groups. We suffer more from high blood pressure and other illnesses that have been shown to have stress as a contributor.

Part of being a ‘strong black woman’, is constantly caring for others whilst denying yourself. It’s minimising symptoms of illness. It’s brushing aside depression and anxiety by telling the church that you prayed about it, and so, it will be fine. It’s pretending that you’re functioning well when in reality, you have learnt to suppress your emotions so much that you lack the ability to cry. It’s noticing that some men treat you with less care than they do your white counterparts because you are ‘strong’, when in fact, you desire to lean on someone else strength sometimes. It’s developing an ‘attitude’ as a mask to pave over the cracks of deep hurt.

I refuse to be a strong black woman. I don’t want to carry the burden of maintaining an illusion of strength that I don’t actually have. I reject the notion that white femininity is delicate, vulnerable and deserves to be treated with care while I snap my neck, click my fingers and brush the abuses of the world off my shoulder because of some inherent kernel of masculinity conferred to me by my melanin. I want a relationship with a man where I am interdependent, not independent. And I love Jesus, but He doesn’t ask me to mask my insecurities, vulnerabilities and desire to be loved with prayer, while continuing neglect to care for myself.

I am not a strong black woman, and you don’t need to be either.

 

 

 

Forgiveness doesn’t happen once.

forgive

 

I was chatting to a friend yesterday about forgiveness. We were talking about people who we felt had wronged us and as we both laughed, kissed our teeth and occasionally admitted to still feeling hurt, I thought about the process of forgiveness.

You will never really know how unforgiving you are until someone does something to you that makes you feel morally superior. It’s a lot easier to forgive the things that we could see ourselves doing.

For example, I’m chronically late. As in, I’ve actually googled whether my lateness, general forgetfulness and my complete lack of any sense of geographical direction is a genuine psychiatric condition and not just another one of my many flaws. (I have self diagnosed with a combination of low level dyspraxia and adult ADHD, but my Mum just thinks I’m scatty, despite the fact that dyspraxia and adult ADHD are vastly underdiagnosed.) Needless to say I’m VERY sympathetic to other people who are late, forgetful and easily get lost. Keep me waiting for 30 minutes and I’ll likely be extremely forgiving and warmly accept your apology, if by some freak chance I’m not 30 minutes late myself.

But what about but when someone you care about says unthinkable things about you behind your back? You’d never do that. Or your best friend goes out on a date with the guy you’ve had a crush on since 1973 (and you weren’t even born then)?  Or THAT woman at work who also happens to be your boss, promotes the other team member who does half the work, half as well as you do? What about when he breaks your heart into so many little pieces you feel like Frodo from Lord of The Rings, journeying to all four corners of the earth to pick up the pieces? What then? What about the Father who walked out on you and your Mum without looking back? You would never dream of doing that – how do you forgive?

There will be some people that tell you you must forgive in order to move on. They make forgiveness sound like a life changing event that will, at that moment, birth you into a state of enlightenment. But I don’t believe forgiveness is a single act – “You must forgive this person”. No, you must be a forgiving person.

Because sometimes, you forgive and then weeks, months, years down the line,  you are reminded of the hurt. And another seed of bitterness crops up. Or the person hurts you again. Or you find out another piece of the puzzle that only adds to the sense of pain and betrayal.

Then you must forgive again. Then the garden must be cultivated and the new crops of bitterness uprooted and daily, we are reaching  a state where forgiveness is as natural as taking a second breath. Where the recognition of our own failure and flaws lends us a continual atmosphere of humility that recognises that at our worst, in our most unforgivable state, the love of God surrounds us and calls us back into relationship with Him. And that love and light can give us the power to extend grace to others.

So today, I am allowing myself the honesty that my process of forgiveness is not over. The honesty that this day, I am at peace with others, but tomorrow that peace may become unsettled.I am learning to dig into the source of forgiveness each time I become unsteady, and grounding myself in the knowledge that I will always be a student in the school of forgiveness. And I am slowly getting better at it.

“We are not forgiven because we forgive, but as we forgive. The ground of all forgiveness is found in the unmerited love of God, but by our attitude toward others we show whether we have made that love our own.” – Ellen White

Who do you need to forgive?

Paris, Poppies and feeling British.

 

miniskirthijab

 

I don’t really check the news on Friday evening so I found out about the Paris attacks via social media (which is another thing I want to cut out of my Friday evenings). My first thoughts were for my family in Paris. I had a moment of panicky Facebooking until I got a reply. Everybody was safe. In fact, they didn’t even know about the attacks till I asked. In our language barrier muddle she had thought “Are you ok? The attacks?”, was some kind of strange way of asking about her post-pregnancy symptoms.

My next thoughts were of the victim’s families. I remembered when the 7/7 bombs struck London -I was in the car on the way back from the dentist. We had a school trip that day and my class of blue clad teenage girls would have got on a tube on the same line just a little later than when those bombs went off. I remember sitting in the back of the car, my Mum’s hand reached out to mine as I went into a panic attack. I sat there listening to the news reader  slowly, carefully relaying the events of that morning, and I gasped for air. I don’t know why. No one I knew had been on those tubes or that bus, but for some reason the mere thought of it so close to me, the randomness and luck (or in my thinking, divine mercy) of my not being there sent me into a wave of panic.

And on Friday I couldn’t imagine the intensity of emotion of the families of the victims of the Paris attacks. Panic and utter grief and anger and despair, all amplified amidst the noise of shock and confusion. And I prayed for them that night. I prayed for Paris, for Baghdad, for Beirut.

Paris is close to home. I understand why Paris felt more troubling to me than the attacks in Beirut. I understand the solidarity British people feel with Paris. They are after all, their allies.

I say ‘they’ because I don’t feel British.

A few days ago was remembrance day. It happened to be my day off and I was glad for that. I didn’t want any questions about why I don’t wear a poppy, insinuations I have no sympathy for those who are injured in current wars (I do). The ordinary soldiers on either side who fought in both world wars were working men who often, without choice, sacrificed their life for a cause that perhaps they didn’t fully understand. I am saddened by the loss of life and I respect their descendants desire to honour them.

I can’t though, subscribe to an ahistorical rendering of the story that suggests that I, a young Black British woman of Jamaican heritage has any particular connection either World War.  Or that many of those who fought in both wars fought ‘for my freedom’ despite them and their families being the same people who threw rubbish and rocks at my grandparent’s heads when they first came to this country. (And even at the heads of Caribbean, Asian and African soldiers who had fought for a country that disregarded and cared little for them). Or that the poppy hasn’t been co-opted by far right groups and those with imperialist leanings to promote an agenda of racism and neo-colonialism. Or that the majority of white British people in this country actually see me as British. So although I respect the minute of silence when in public I don’t feel a particular connection to it as a British person – only sympathy as a fellow human that human life was lost.

I am a definitely Londoner, and I’m beginning to think that being a Black-British Londoner (or black -British in any of the big cities) is itself a unique culture. But living outside of London has made me realise that that unique culture does not make me British. If I think about emigrating to, say America and the community that I would become a part of there, undoubtedly I would much more likely be absorbed into the African or Caribbean American community, not any kind of white British ‘ex-pat’ group.

We know that white Western bodies are valued by white Westerners  more than non-western and non-white bodies. It only takes another tragedy to remind us of that. I question though whether it is not, in fact, normal and human to feel solidarity with things that are closer, not only in terms of geographical, but cultural proximity.

What is interesting and perhaps saddening, is that this perhaps normal human sentiment is not  present for many non-white Westerners. We are also taught to value white Western life above our own. The solidarity that Europeans had in the wake of the Paris attacks is normalised, whereas non white-Western solidarity in the face of continual attack is treated with suspicion.

Let’s not beat around the bush – the sentiment in France  that we’re currently seeing on the news in a country where in recent years 15% of the vote has gone to the National Front, stinks of racism and xenophobia. Non-white french people have stated very clearly that many of them feel merely tolerated in France. This will only worsen after these attacks.  Not only that, but French foreign policy especially in regards to its former colonies has been nothing short of despicable. We cannot ignore this.

I mourn for the victims of the Paris attacks because they are people like me. They had families they loved, who loved them. They had aspirations and dreams. So did those in Beirut. So did those in Nigeria. So did those in Baghdad. I do not mourn because the French are my allies or share my ‘values’. I mourn because all human life is precious. And I mourn that in the wake of these attacks, some of us are forgetting that.

 

“It’s called SELF esteem because YOU need to esteem YOUR self”. Erm. No. No.

fat woman

So I’m on annual leave at the moment and despite all my grand plans to be super productive, this blog post is probably the most productive thing that has materialised in my life since Sunday. I plan to change all that tomorrow.  She says.

Anyway, because today was also hair washing day aka spend 4 hours or so detangling, washing, deep treating and generally luxuriating in my afro, I passed my detangling time watching Youtube. What started out as a fairly high brow sojourn through a nature documentary on wild hogs in Texas (they’re really big and their tusks are razor sharp, and they’re kinda speedy for pigs, and they’re apparently descended from some bigger hogs that existed a while back), ended up watching a show called Big Women, Big Love.  I’m generally opposed to trash reality shows but I’m also a sucker for anything that give a bit of insight into the human condition. (Throw me a bone, at least I tried to make it sound deep).

Big Women, Big Love as you can probably gather from the cringe worthy title, is about a group of plus size women and their travels in the world of romance. The show follows the women as they try to find love and overcome their insecurities, and it makes for an interesting journey.

What struck me from watching the first episode, was the horrible attitude and reactions of some of the men to the plus size women. One of the women approached a man (mistake number one, in my opinion) at a restaurant, and his response was less than favourable. That’s fair enough – everyone has the right to turn someone down they aren’t attracted to and women do it to men all the time. What I noticed though, was the dismissiveness and overwhelming sense that the man just didn’t feel like this woman was in any way worthy of his attention. He struggled to make eye contact with her, and at first I thought that it was because he was just shy. But a few seconds later either him or one of his friends went on to ask the plus size woman  the name of the blonde, slim friend she had come with. I think we can all agree that this was a little cold hearted but hopefully not typical of most men.

Unfortunately, throughout the show some of the women recounted tales of men who only ever invited them for Netflix and Chill because they were ashamed to be seen with them in public (or so the women presumed), or men who were content to sleep with them but not date them, or men who made nasty comments about their weight while on dates with them.

Interestingly enough, there were stark differences between the women in terms of their apparent confidence levels  when it came to their weight and dating. The two Black and one Latina women seemed more confident, which lines up with the research that suggests black women in America (not sure about the UK)  despite having higher levels of obesity, are the group of women who report the highest levels of body satisfaction. This could also be to do with the fact that curvier body types are the ideal in these communities.

One might easily tell the other women on the show that they need to ‘get some self esteem’.

Erm. No.

The title for this post actually came from reading the comments on another internet article about colourism in the black community. I’m actually quite bored of discussions about colourism, but it’s like the black communities hamster wheel- it just keeps on spinning. So predictably, a black man who stated that his preference was light skinned women also stated that dark skinned women need some.. ‘SELF esteem, YOU need to esteem YOUR self, nobody else can do that for you’.

I find statements like that when it comes to conversations about skin tone, weight, height, and attractiveness in general, insensitive, redundant and asinine.

Where is a teenage girl who has been relentless bullied from age 5 for being bigger than all of her peers supposed to magically create this self esteem from? From the foul breath of the last boy who told her she needed to lose a few?

The intent behind telling groups of people to ‘get self esteem’, from those who either do the marginalising or have the privilege of not being part of the group marginalised is generally to avoid taking ownership for their part in perpetuating the negativity.

Of  course I  maintain that something like weight which can be changed is somewhat different from skin tone, which can’t be (aside from unhealthy methods). Of course I advocate self worth. Of course I believe that ultimately your value rests in being a beautiful child of God with something unique to offer the world and that you need to discover that for yourself.

There are barriers to some people finding that out as quickly as others – the societal standards that exclude and erase them from popular culture. Instead of simply telling them to get some self esteem, we can all do our own work of examining  our prejudices and preferences and practicing a little more kindness and empathy in our dealings with one another.

Thoughts?

Slutshaming and Sex tapes. On promiscuity equality.

“Good morning…say, it looks to me like you had sex last night?”

“Sure did!”

“Looks like you’re living your best life!”.

This is an excerpt from a video that has gone viral recently featuring entertainer Amber Rose. Titled “Walk of No Shame”, the sketch shows Rose leaving a man’s house after the ‘morning after’, and the positive response from people she meets on her way home. Dressed in a form fitting, cleavage enhancing dress, she skips merrily along unashamed of the fact that she has had sex with a man who we find later on in the video, she has no intention of contacting again (he runs after her stating that she forgot to leave her humber, she coolly  replies that she didn’t forget).

Comments on the video ranged from the predictable (She just a nasty slut…that’s why Kanye don’t wantchu Ambeeerr!) to the very predictable (omg this is so empowering, like, I totally am like, HERE for this  intersectional discourse of post feminist non-body shaming ambulatory experience.. go Amber!).

My feelings on the video are mixed.  I agree with the basic sentiment of the video that some of the comments seemed to not understand – women should not be shamed for sexual behaviour that men are either applauded or at least not chastised for.

I don’t think anyone sensible can disagree with this. If something is morally reprehensible, then it is not more morally reprehensible because the person engaging in the behaviour has to buy sanitary products once a month. My ability or non ability to menstruate cannot be the determinant of whether sleeping with 10 people on 10 consecutive days is a-ok, and unfortunately the comments on this video demonstrated that many still think this way. If we replace Amber Rose with a man, would we have comments stating that “this culture has become degenerate“? Or “I can’t believe he is a father“? Or “this is why my dream of marrying a good man in this generation is just a dream“?

The modern pop-feminist response to counteract this all too common response is more Slutwalks, more viral videos, and more articles about how women should feel ’empowered’ enough in their sexuality to satisfy their sexual desires in a similar way to men with no shame.

I question, however, the desire for ‘promiscuity equality’.

Let’s switch focus from gender to race. When I speak of white supremacy, the way it functions in society and the impact it has on me and people who look like me, the equality that I desire is not a desire to model white supremacy and replace white people with black people in that hierarchy. In fact, I wholeheartedly believe that the way European/white culture has been formed in recent history (the past 500 years or so) in relation to race is destructive, ugly and not to be emulated. The goal is not to replace our oppression with the oppression of white people or to perpetuate and maintain the same structures they have created.

In a similar way, perhaps the way male sexuality has been formed is destructive also? Perhaps, the idea of having sexual intercourse and leaving the morning after with no desire to build any type of emotional commitment with that person, is not something that as women we want to emulate or something that  is even natural? Male sexuality as dictated by macho culture has so long being at the forefront of what is seen as ‘ideal’,  that I question whether in our quest for equality, some of us have sought to deny the emotions that are natural to us not only as women, but as humans.

How many men are hurt by the idea that they SHOULD be able to have one night stands and not feel a strong bond to the person they sleep with? How many teenage boys feel pressured in a pornography saturated, hyper-sexualised culture, to numb the softness that makes them able to feel deeply connected to the teenage girls they mess around with?

There are jokes between men about how sleeping with a virgin will lead to her being permanently emotionally attached to you, a leech in a dress. This ‘feminine’ tendency is mocked by some men – meanwhile the ‘masculine’ ability to attach and detach at random is something pop-feminism appears to be aspiring to.

I happen to believe that we are made to form deep commitments to the people we choose to engage sexually with , but that our modern culture militates against our natural instinct, leaving many of us confused and with a sense of  discomfort about our sexual choices. ( Although I also acknowledge though, that there are men and women who have casual sex and don’t feel any negative emotions at all). Regardless of my opinion, our sexual choices should not be ridiculed based on our gender although as with any choice, both genders may have their sexual behaviour subject to moral scrutiny.

It is the right of every woman to sleep with a man and not be judged any differently from the man she slept with. It is the right of a teenage mother to be chastised no less for her choice than the teenager who fathered her child. It is the right of Amber Rose to walk with her head held high after a night of casual sex if the man in question can be applauded for the same behaviour.

But while both men and women deserve that right, we must ask ourselves what the cost of exercising it is.

“I don’t do girls with weave”. On changing your appearance for a man.

I didn’t grow up being the ‘pretty girl’. My awkward phase lasted quite well into my late/teens early 20’s, and when I did finally throw off the shackles of thick rimmed glasses and badly done natural hair, and stepped into the glorious freedom of decent skin, contacts and natural hair youtube, it took me a while to get used to the compliments. I still don’t think of ‘pretty’ as one of my primary identifiers, even when I get random people approaching me at to compliment me. I’m actually quite thankful that I didn’t think of myself as attractive as a teenager –  it meant that I always relied on my wit, smarts and generally trying to be a good person as my main selling point.

In fact, as I’ve grown into my looks, I’ve actually developed a weirder complex – I’m scared that being pretty and well dressed will mean that people will assume I’m not as intelligent. At work, I get uncomfortable when  my consultant calls me the ‘pretty junior doctor’ – not because I don’t want to be seen as pretty, but because I’m worried that if I don’t work hard enough it will translate as ‘ditzy and superficial’.

Despite now being very comfortable with the way I look, it took me a while to shed the insecurities of my younger days.

One of the most negative things that growing up thinking of yourself as unattractive can lead to as a young women, is an unhealthy investment in men’s opinions on your appearance. Before I saw myself as attractive I would almost be surprised when men took an interest in me – I knew it wasn’t my looks that attracted him, so it had to be my personality. I would make sure to be as funny and sweet and smart as possible, how else would he still like me?  I was very aware of what men found attractive in the opposite sex, and I knew I wasn’t it. Bushy afros and baggy jeans weren’t really the biggest 14 year old boy magnet in the early 2000’s.   My rebellious streak meant that I had long determined that I would dress however I wanted to, but I was torn between what I knew in my head to be right – that I should dress and behave in a way that was true to myself and my beliefs – and the lurking desire to be what men wanted.  There was always the temptation to don straight hair and a  much shorter skirt, but God, my parents, and my natural independent streak usually won out in the end.

Fast forward a few years, and though my natural hair is more in fashion now, and 28 year old men are slightly more sensible than my 14 year old friends, I still sometimes feel a temptation to dress in a way that is uncomfortable to me, to attract men.

The belief that most women dress for the approval of men is not completely true. Of course women are aware of what men like, and mass media definitely promotes the idea that the way women present themselves should be ‘male approved’. On the other hand, most men would argue that a lot of female fashion is completely over their heads, let alone attractive. I doubt women are wearing ombre hair or 70’s style gypsy dresses because men like them. It’s a more complex situation – women dress for themselves, for other women and for men depending on a variety of circumstances, and all three can happen at the same time for the same woman.

Essentially, there’s nothing wrong with being aware of what the opposite sex likes and dressing in a way that they will find attractive. In fact, I think it would be strange if  heterosexual women didn’t want any kind of male approval of their appearance.

Additionally, I’m not one to believe that in a relationship, your partner’s opinion shouldn’t have any bearing on how you dress, style your hair, or shine your shoes.  I think there are two extremes – allowing someone else to completely dictate what you do with your body, and being inconsiderate of your partners desires. For example, if you’ve worn a short back and sides Afro for 10 years and suddenly decide that it’s time for your Beyonce alter ego to emerge in all her be-weaved glory, I would advise at least giving your dude a heads up, if not a 10 minute consultation. Likewise if you’re a man who has decided he wants to grow a head full of locs. It’s only fair. And it’s only normal to want your partner to find you attractive.

What worries me is the part of me that 10 years older than 14,  is still tempted to wear something a little tighter, a little shorter, hair a little straighter, to be more attractive to ‘men’. Never mind that the type of men who I’m attracted to wouldn’t be attracted to that anyway. The cognitive dissonance is obvious, but nonetheless still there.

It’s something I’m still working on.

Have you ever been tempted to change your appearance in a way that made you feel uncomfortable to attract the opposite sex?

I

How much should schools teach kids about sex?

sex ed

I read an article earlier today by Peter Tatchell with a blueprint for sex education in schools. It’s what you would expect from Peter Tatchell i.e. , an extremely liberal approach.  While I agree with him that sex education should be taught in schools and that it is extremely important in safeguarding young people against abuse, as I read the article I became very uncomfortable with some of his proposals.

I should start off by saying that personally, I will teach my children about sex (in an age appropriate way) as early as possible. I want my kids to grow up understanding that sex is good, normal, natural and safe in the right context at the right time. I want them to be comfortable with their bodies and their right to say no to anyone – be that relative, friend or potential partner who approaches their bodies in a way they don’t feel comfortable with. I want them to grow up to be confident in their own moral choices, but to also be respectful of other people who don’t share their belief system and make different moral choices than they do. I want them to be able to respectfully articulate the choices they have made in regards to their sexual behaviour.

That’s how I will choose to raise MY children. That’s not how everyone will want to raise their children though.

The article suggested a number of things that sex ed should teach young people in school. Tatchell states:

 “Sex education ought to tell the whole truth about every kind of sex and relationship, including sexual practices that some people find distasteful, such as anal intercourse and sadomasochism. The purpose of such frankness is not to encourage these practices, but to help pupils deal with them if they encounter them in later life.”

He also mentioned making oral sex and mutual masturbation sound ‘sexy’ to encourage it as a safer alternative to intercourse, teaching 16 + pupils how to stimulate erogenous zones and give satisfying orgasms, and ensuring that all sexual orientations are taught as equally morally viable alternatives.

This wouldn’t necessarily be problematic if he didn’t finish off by suggesting that parents should not be able to opt their children out of sex educations as they aren’t allowed to opt out of maths.

Now, I don’t expect that most school sex education follows Peter Tatchell’s blueprint currently, but I do suspect that society is moving closer and closer in that direction.

Whether I or others agree with the overwhelming moral opinion of larger society in regard to sexuality is, in my opinion, irrelevant. What is relevant is to question what is within the remit of the school in regards to sex education, and what should be left to the parent.

I’m not of the opinion at all that schools should not be teaching any sexual education. Sex is a part of biological functioning and as such, it is entirely appropriate to teach children from a biological standpoint about reproduction in the same way that we teach about pollination in flowers or how chicken lay eggs. What’s not the same as pollination, is the social, moral, and emotional implications of sex and sexuality. What’s not the same is the vastness of moral opinion on chicken egg laying in comparison with sexual bondage. The use of handcuffs is not necessary to produce life. Lots people of regardless of sexual orientation, will go through their whole life without being chained and tied to a bed post as part of their sexual ritual. Is it really necessary for a 16 year old to know what that is? Is it up to their teacher at school to decide that it is appropriate for them to know what that is? Likewise, is it in the remit of the school to give information on how to provide good orgasms and stimulate erogenous zones? While it may be appropriate to teach 16 year olds what erogenous zones are from a biological standpoint, I’m not sure that it’s necessary to teach how to stimulate them.

I’m also wary that what the school might decide is age appropriate for a child may be completely different to what a parent feels is age appropriate. How do we maintain the fine balance between allowing children to know enough to keep themselves safe from abuse while allowing the parent to exercise the right to teach the moral values they deem best to their children? While a school might decide that at 6 my child should know what oral sex is, I might deem that it is perfectly enough to teach them that no one should touch or ‘kiss’ their genital area and that if they do they should shout/scream and find a safe adult to tell, and that that is the extent of what they should know about oral sex. Schools might think that because most 14 year olds have stumbled across porn by then, that teaching them about BDSM is ok. I may not be comfortable with that. Schools might promote mutual masturbation and oral sex as a ‘safe’ alternative to intercourse, a Muslim parent might teach their child that all sex outside of marriage is (albeit on a emotional/spiritual level) unsafe.

The problem is that sex is not simply a biological function. Despite the beliefs of many that any type of sex as long as it is consensual is perfectly safe, that we even have an age of consent is a testament to the fact that even the most liberal of societies realises there is at least some psychological implications to sexual behaviour, if not moral. Where we sit on that moral spectrum varies from individual to individual, and because of that I think it’s extremely important that the sex education we teach in schools is as morally neutral as possible and leaves as much reign for parents to decide what to teach their children,while teaching enough to safeguard children from abuse. With that said, I don’t believe schools should be teaching abstinence only any more than they should be extolling the virtues of mutual masturbation.

Sex education is important and opting out of sex education leaves children open to ridicule from their peers and denies them an opportunity to learn about information that is basic to understanding of biology and human behaviour, as well as keeping them safe.  Parents should endeavour to not opt out, but schools should play a part in understanding that the diversity of society means that something as complex human sexuality cannot and should not be their responsibility to teach beyond the basics. Where the line should be drawn exactly is something I’m still not sure of and probably warrants more than a short blog post. It also raises the question of how much ‘power’ a parent should have over a young persons decisions about their sexuality. Again, another post.

What do you guys think?

Things they might not tell you about being an adult.

side eye

1)It’s more expensive than you ever imagined.

If I knew being an adult was going to be this expensive I would have married a rich Nigerian man before my 18th birthday. If that failed I would have take my 21st birthday trip to Dubai, sat in a hotel foyer, and nursed a non-alcoholic cocktail in a fabulous weave until a rich Arab businessman was so enamoured with my silent splendour, that he would offer to fund me for the rest of my life with no obligation on my part. Seeing as none of this is attainable right now, I must be content to sit in a cold flat somewhere in the Midlands and plot a better escape plan.

2)You might never ‘feel’ like a grown up.

There are times that I panic in situations, searching for the nearest adult, only for it to dawn on me that I AM the nearest responsible adult. This especially happens around children.

Me: “Where’s your Mum?”

Child: “She said you were looking after me”.

Me: “Go find your Mum”.

The positive side is that this quickly brings all my *life is not fair everyone is getting married and having babies* thoughts  into perspective fairly quickly.

2) Having responsibility can be scary but fun at the same time.

Sometimes people act like being a responsible adult is the worst thing that can ever happen to you. Responsibility can be fun! Yes, looking after a gaggle of 5 year olds might be petrifying, or renting a flat on your own with no parental input might make you suddenly feel the urge to get out a colouring book, squirm on the floor and wail until your mother arrives, but when you actually end up doing something by yourself (with marginal success) – it feels great!

3) People at work are NOT your friends.

I just wish I could tell this to every young person, because working with other humans has changed my worldview. Especially every young black professional – this is even more important for you. There are nice people at work. There are good people at work. There are people at work who will become your friends. BUT. They are your colleagues first. Treat them accordingly and you won’t have to worry about the person who thought was your ‘friend’ spreading your business to the receptionist on floor 3.

4) Your relationships become even more meaningful.

My ‘adult’ friendships are maybe even deeper  than the friendships I made as a kid because the stakes are so much higher now. I really value the great people in my life who have been there with me through break ups, family members being ill, and crying after on call shifts. You’ll also find that despite the fact that you’re more broke, you’re now all entitled to an overdraft so you can have expensive meals together while acquiring more debt, woohoo! (I don’t advise this)

5) Many adults are childish.

When I was younger, I used to think that people over the age of 25 had a certain degree of wisdom. Your parents would say stuff  like “if you don’t know, ask a grown up!”.

Now I realise that my eleven year old self was just as mature as some 25 year olds. I think that some people crack under the responsibility of adulthood. You’ll find that all the friendship drama you thought would stop at at the age of 18 just doesn’t stop, you just play with real money instead of Monopoly money. Age 16, it’s a withdrawn invitation to a a sleepover. Age 28, it’s a withdrawn invitation to a wedding. Best solution is to trade your Ribena for some grown up juice, sip on it, and spread blessings to the haters.

6) Being an adult doesn’t mean you should stop taking risks.

We encourage teenagers and young people to take risks, do amazing things, and live life to the full. Around the age of 40, we expect them to stay in jobs they hate, stop exploring the world, and resign themselves to a life of predictable boredom. There’s a difference between irresponsible risk taking (which is bad at any age) and a little bit of spontaneity. If you hate your job, start researching your options and build up a nest egg  before branching out to find what you love. If you’re stuck living in a sleepy town and your itchy feet need to tap dance outta there, do it! If you’ve got a big idea that could change the world, act on it!

The best thing about being an adult is that your decisions are up to you, so don’t be scared- close your eyes, say a little prayer, and put on your big girl boots.

What do you wish people had told you about being an adult?