“That’s why I don’t watch the news,” #notallmen and the global protection of rape culture

He was for real the sweetest guy I’ve ever met. I had opened up my home to a couple of people coming to Oakland for a conference for activists. We totally bonded over finding a space to create our own identities rather than the identities the world tried to impose on us. He told me about driving across country giving hugs and raising people’s vibrations, and I’ve lived in California long enough I did not roll my eyes once, not even when he wasn’t looking.

He talked about how he lived in a progressive White community because he felt less constrained by their expectations of him to be a particular thing than when he functioned within the Black community. This, as you can imagine, made my brain hurt, but I’m getting better at honoring individuals’ life experiences and self-understandings. I did, however, mention that it can be meaningful to be connected to one’s cultural heritage as a way of staying grounded and connected with one’s people.

“I don’t want to be connected to my people,” he said. His parents were from Haiti and there were things about Haitian culture he held in deep contempt–the way people worked systems and expected things from family members just because they were family and what he saw as a lack of hustle, and lack of respect for him creating his own identity instead of being who they wanted him to be.

“Why would I want to be connected to that culture?” he asked.

“Listen, all culture’s got its unhealthy aspects,” I said, meaning to arc back around to the idea that his embrace of progressive White culture also had incredibly unhealthy aspects as well as it not actually being his. Instead I added, probably unhelpfully, “I mean, the culture that I root myself in let a girl get gang raped on the back of a bus.”

“See,” he said, feeling he had proven his point, “this is why I don’t watch the news.”


To the guy who told me to “loose weight” before he would “make out on the porch swing” with me

Dear “Nice Guy” (Your name choice; I’m glad irony is not dead on craigslist):

I received your response to my craigslist ad last night (posted below), responding to my ad, in which I sought a “nerdy radical with great race analysis.” I assumed this title would draw people who had an interest in politics and also good grammar and spelling, although the latter two are just a bonus. I recognize that, adorable as my selfie in the ad is, I did announce that I’m plus sized so that guys who aren’t attracted to full-figured women wouldn’t have to waste time responding.

What I did not realize is that there would be a man out there who is such a catch that, while he gave me no evidence that he had anything in common with me, he would let me know he would make out with me on a porch swing in six months if I lost 25 pounds (spelled “loose” rather than “lose”—-almost evoking TD Jakes, which a pastor can appreciate: “fat, thou art loosed!”). (more…)

“Many men have loved Ella.” The silence-shame binary; can clergy move past it?

This new year I got to hang out with one of my best friends. He’s known to be a wee bit judgmental (said the pot of the kettle). I mentioned a friend of mine/acquaintance of his in passing, a friend who is active in the church and not particularly quiet about her active sexual history.

“Ella who we knew in Chicago?”

“Yup,” I responded.

“Crazy Ella?”

“I love Ella,” I said warningly.

“Many men have loved Ella,” he riffed back, masking how pleased he was with his joke. (more…)

Dancing in my panties—a girl pastor’s commitment to helping the next generation see themselves better than she did

I danced around the kitchen in my underwear the other day. The blinds were up and I bet the cars driving by my apartment on the 980 had a fabulous view of me in my underwear as the music blared over the sound of my dishwasher (I wasn’t inviting voyeurism; it was a long overdue laundry day, too). Partly I danced to distract myself from the fact that I was cleaning. Partly I danced because I was playing the soundtrack from Fela. (I dare you to listen to “Zombie” without doing a few salsa moves.)

But the main reasons I danced with abandon, choosing not to care if anyone saw my ample self two-stepping as I wiped down counters was this: a month ago I went to Off the Grid, the Friday night food truck festival next to the Oakland Museum, with my clergy bestie and her 11-year-old daughter “M.” I love that girl like a pain. We were eating grilled cheese and Filipino nachos and sat down to hear the live band killing some soul music. There were little girls and a few slightly older girls dancing around with abandon, as little kids do. “You should go up there, M,” her mother said. M shook her head and looked down a little abashed.

“A year ago we wouldn’t even have needed to suggest it,” my friend whispered to me. “She would have been down there while our backs were turned paying for the food.” But in a year M has learned that what other people think matters. She’s also learned that her size matters to people, despite her mom working really hard to help M think in terms of eating healthy to feel good, not to LOOK the way other people define “good.”

So, although I am equally mortified to be seen dancing, and that mortification set in at just about the same time as M’s, when they started up on a Stevie Wonder number, I said, “M! This is like my FAVORITE song! Come look stupid with me!” We twirled and spun and shimmied and twisted like idiots til the song was over and we were out of breath. She got to do something she actually WANTED to do but couldn’t admit she wanted to, and she looked like it was because she was humoring her insane aunt, so she hadn’t made a major withdrawal from the cool bank. (more…)

Systemic Fat Bias—is that a thing? (The complicated layers of race and gender that make it MAYBE a thing but also not)

(editorial addition: I forgot–part of what inspired this post was a spoken word that in four very blunt minutes captures what this blog fumblingly approaches addressing:

I remember the first online dating profile I ever posted, in 2004, while I was in seminary. It was on Nerve (don’t judge—it was “for the thinking hedonist,” if I remember the tagline correctly, and it was more importantly networked to and Onion readers—my demographic if ever there was one). My friend Jason helped me set it up, and as we filled in the various pieces of information, we got to “weight.” I looked at Jason nervously and said “I could just type in 200 pounds.”

“Nah,” he said wisely. “Then all you’ll draw are the fetishists.” I don’t remember the number we made up, or if we left it blank (which also raises red flags for “non-fetishists,” I now know). What I do remember is that I was lying by a good 40 pounds when I “confessed” to Jason that I was 200 pounds, and that was still a fetishist weight for a woman who’s only 5’10”. Don’t get me wrong–he was being both helpful and correct. It’s just that I haven’t found fat fetishists to be all bad. Or all that prevalent. (more…)

Chris Brown, celebrity relationships and Domestic Violence Awareness Month

editor’s note: additions in italics

“Do YOU like Chris Brown?” my then 10-year-old niece asked two years ago as she and her mom were driving somewhere. I should have noticed the inflection in her tone, but I was being hip and cool aunt Sandhya, so I said, “Yeah,” forgetting who he was and what a political answer I had just given. The glare I got from Tami at the same time her daughter whined “See?” plaintively at her reminded me of my mistake. Tami did a great job of saying, “do you really listen to him, when you care so much about how women are treated?” (more…)

On earbuds, harassment and not wanting to block out the world. (And on Mrs. Hall and “Seeing a Woman.”)

I use earbuds now. I use them reluctantly but at full volume, ever since a woman shouted out the passenger window of a passing car at me, “eat more salads!” And when I pulled out my earbuds (softly playing This American Life), thinking it might be someone I knew, she hollered, “you heard me!” and laughed maniacally as the light changed and her friend pulled off. A congregant said loud music in her ears all the time was how she drowned out the harassment–and to her, anyone she didn’t know talking to her constituted harassment.

Extrovert and optimist and deeply connective person that I am, I wanted to keep the world buzzing in my ears but eventually decided I get less bruised when I drown it out periodically. So, when it’s daylight and I’m walking in a safe neighborhood, in go the earbuds.

But sometimes the world slips in through the earbuds. That happened today. (more…)