Category Archives: Feminism

Confronting Flaws One Facebook Message at a Time

By: Marie Cantor

In today’s media, we have seen many realistic women enter our screens. Film and television production companies are finally seeing the value of creating three dimensional, complex female characters. Now, the flaws of these female characters are central to their behavior, which is quite different from the past where women were either seen as perfect or as victims. In this new era of media and female representation, we are beginning to accept women for their flaws. Women, just like everyone else, are humans, and are therefore flawed as well.  

On December 19th, 2018, I confronted my middle school bully. And when I say “confront,” I mean I wrote a lengthy message on

Me in elementary. Done for an art project in the 8th grade
Me in elementary. Done for an art project in the 8th grade

Facebook. When I say “bully,” I mean a girl that loudly insulted me in my 8th grade English class. It’s not the most conventional bully story, but nonetheless, it affected me in more ways than just one. 

Let me set the scene for you. I am 13 years old, wearing an ill-fitting t-shirt and low-rise jeans. My English class smells as if every adolescent drowned themselves in expired Axe body spray. When I stood up from my seat, “Susan” shouted an insult at me pertaining to my appearance. Looking back, I can almost justify the remark since I did take fashion advice from the early 2000s, despite the fact that it was 2012.

The class grew quiet. All eyes were on me. I felt like a street performing monkey who had just failed the magic trick. From what I remember, I laughed awkwardly in order to appear as if I were in on the joke.

Even though this might seem insignificant, this moment stuck with me. As the years passed, I grew more curious as to why Susan did this. We were never enemies, friends, or even frenemies. We barely knew each other. Of course, I can now attribute her anger to the awkward years of middle school, or maybe to the fact that she needed an outlet for that anger. But I wanted an answer.

So, I found her on Facebook and decided to send a message. I attempted to write the best message a person could write in this situation—unaccusatory and understanding. I had immediate senders regret, but there was no turning back.

A couple days pass and I get a response:

Hey love, even though I may not remember I still want to apologize. That was very rude of me and I can only imagine how bad my comment made you feel I am very sorry. I hope you know that you were beautiful and talented and all that you do always believe in yourself and strive for your full potential.

That wasn’t the response I had wanted.

To be frank, I expected too much from the situation. I can’t deny that her message was kind, but it was also safe. And safe in the way of disingenuousness. I realized that the message was in response to drama from 8 years prior, and that I shouldn’t have been surprised that I didn’t receive as satisfying of an answer as I had hoped for.

I may never get a why from Susan, and that’s perfectly fine. She doesn’t owe me any explanation for something that was trivial middle school angst.

I think what struck me was the overwhelming positive support I received by others on Facebook. No one questioned my morals. There were just blind compliments. The positive reinforcement, however nice it was, felt strange.

It felt strange because I am not a perfect individual. I am flawed. I am not the airbrushed and groomed femme-fatal of cinema’s past. I am not a victim. I, the bullied, was also a bully. I have been confronted by someone who I had bullied 10 years ago. Fortunately, we were able to talk, move past it, and build a strong friendship.

One slogan used by many feminists is “Babes Supporting Babes.” To many people, it is used to support other women. And while I am wholeheartedly for female empowerment, this phrase is support at a surface level. Support should not mean blind reassurance of ourPicture1 beauty and our talent, as Susan had told me. Support is accepting the flaws that are found within us and grabbing them by the throat. We must embrace our flaws through moments of self-conflict and self-reflection–– like the urge to message a bully at 3am. A babe supports another babe by challenging her to overcome the obstacles that society brings.

Women are taken advantage of when they are seen as perfect. Women should be seen as flawed individuals who have to prove themselves just as much as the next person. For decades, the image of the “flawless women” was an excuse to see her as inferior–– “The flawless must be dumb.” I want to be challenged as a whole being, even by my flaws. I find that empowering. We get enough of the superficial from the posters in corny teenage magazines. It’s time for true support.

#FeministFriday: An Interview with Lul Mohamud (Pt.1)

By: Maria Ordoñez

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This semester, HoochieACTIVE launched a new social media campaign called #FeministFriday. For those unfamiliar with HoochieACTIVE, it is The Hoochie Media Project’s sister group, which focuses on intersectional feminist activism and outreach. Of course, if you already follow HoochieACTIVE on social media, you probably know that every day is a feminist day, but there’s something special about Fridays.  

#FeministFriday was launched in an effort to connect with people outside of HoochieACTIVE that identify as feminists and have a passion for diversity, inclusivity and, most of all, intersectionality. And so, every week, a new feminist is showcased, whether it’s a public figure, a professor, a student, anybody.

This week, it’s Lul Mohamud, a senior at Boston University (BU). Born in Maryland, the daughter of Somali immigrants, Lul grew up surrounded by a strength and diversity that has shaped the way she moves through the world. Today she is an active member of the BU community and is involved in Student Government, 16,000 Strong, Residence Life, and the Minority Connection Initiative (MCI).

I met with her this past week to discuss, well, feminism.


 On what intersectionality means to her…

Lul: (Sigh) That’s a great [question]. Intersectionality means I get to exist, because when people see me, they’re like, “Ok, what are you?” And, if you look at me, the first thing you can say is I’m a woman. Someone can also say the first thing that they see is “black”. Then, someone else can look at me and say the first thing they see is that “she’s a Muslim.” These three worlds are not separate from one another, they influence one another at all times. It’s a tapestry, it’s interwoven. They depend on one another. [If] you pull one string, what happens? The rest fall apart. We can’t be defined as a part of who we are, we have to look at the whole, but unfortunately, we live in a society that focuses on a single part… especially if it’s different from theirs.”

Me: The easiest one to swallow.

Lul: That’s exactly what it is! And so, intersectionality – that term in itself is empowering for those of us that who have layered identities, layered existences. We work on multiple planes. We move through multiple dimensions at all times. And to be pin-holding [us] to one singular lane, is limiting and, in some ways, it’s also disrespectful, because it’s putting a greater value on one over another, and I value all of them equally because that’s what makes me phenomenal.

Me: You are!

Lul: I try my best. I still struggle with it to this day, every day, but, you know, you got to –

Me: Fake it till you make it?

Lul: Exactly, that’s what they do! My dad always says, “We just trynna beat the white man at his game.” (Laughs) I made a label of that [and] I put on my laptop. I love watching people get uncomfortable when they read it. Like, “Huh? Excuse me? What?”

On her feminist icon…

Lul: Ah jeez… Ooh, I have a long list. Umm… Honestly, I would have to say my father. My father is my feminist icon, and I’ll tell you why: Because, my father has 4 girls, right? And he also comes from a family where he has, I think in total, ten brothers and one sister. Unfortunately, my aunt passed 2 weeks ago, but my father –.

In Somali culture, which is actually very common in other cultures, the male is [usually] more important than the woman. And I say male, specifically, not man. I say male, because it’s literally just that biological distinction that makes them greater than us, nothing else. Womanhood in itself is something that’s invaluable because, it’s priceless. It’s something that anybody can hold if they have that capability, that inner greatness that comes with womanhood…

When my oldest sister was born, and when I was born right after her, and my other sister, and my other sister – when we were born, uncles would come over to the house and kind of give their condolences to my father for having a daughter, and my father’s instinct, immediately, was: “You can leave my house.” He’s like, “You may not see the worth of what God has given me, but I do, and I want you out of my house before you realize it.”

Even in Islam, it teaches us that when a man has a daughter, she gives him a path to heaven. A daughter, specifically. Even in Somali proverbs and stories, you realize that when a man has a daughter, he has a second family for life, because she is the only one capable –. A woman, someone who embodies womanhood, not just biologically – has the ability to care for generations. For humanity. And so, when you don’t see that worth, you are ignorant of one of the greatest gifts that exists and is known to human kind.

And my father was the first person to teach me that, and to this day, my father is so proud of every single one of his daughters. Since the day we walked, since the day we started talking, everything we did, to him, was exceptional. Because it was his daughters, the people that will continue his legacy. To this day, my father will be the first to tell any man who says in any way [that] he is greater than any woman, my father is the first to object him. And he will have the last word, he refuses [not to]. And so, my father really embodies [this]. He’s the one that tells us at all times, you women– he usually calls us “Women of God” or “Women of greatness” – you are going to be the ones that change the world and you are going to be the ones that make me proud.

We have a younger brother (Laughs), but my father is the first to always remind him of the wealth that sits around him. At all times. My father is like, “You have five mothers… I wasn’t lucky enough to have that many mothers around.” But his sister was everything to him, she still is, even though she’s passed. She’s everything to him. Anything that she says goes. He listens, because he says, “A woman has a connection, a special connection to see things in a way a man never will, so I trust her 100 percent.” Any decision my father makes, it’s my mother’s decision: “She’s not only my equal, but her word is invaluable.”

He’s a feminist icon to me, because he does everything he can to make sure that he is actively working to reverse any forces that try, in any way, to stifle a woman’s greatness.

Me: I think your dad is also my feminist icon.

Lul: (Laughs) And he’s not extra! It’s the way he lives, he embodies that notion…. If he hears any uncle of mine say [anything] to his wife or his child, he tells them: “There’s a special kind of ignorance that lives in your soul.” And he leaves. Just like that. Mad chill. He just floats out the room.

When he’s in our house, he likes to just be around us, he likes to just listen to us… Most times, it’s difficult to get a man to listen to a woman, [but] my father is one of the greatest listeners. He doesn’t listen to men [though], that’s just a waste of time. He says, “Ninety percent of the words they say are useless.” (Laughs) He’s such a man basher sometimes, but he, like, owns up to it.


A special thank you to Lul for taking the time to do this interview, as well as HoochieACTIVE’s President, Johannah Coichy, and Social Media Coordinator, Daniela Tellechea. Without them, we wouldn’t have the safe spaces that allow us to have these kinds of conversations.

If you want to read more, keep an eye out for “An Interview with Lul Mohamud (Pt.2),” and in the meantime, stay connected with HoochieACTIVE for more #FeministFriday content:

Instagram: @hoochie.active

Facebook: HoochieActive

Twitter: @hoochie.active

WMN EMPWRMNT: PHANESIA LAURE PHEREL

By: Melissa Hurtado

Q: What does woman empowerment mean to you?

A: Women empowerment for me includes the liberation of the various intersections of gender from trans gender and nonbinary individuals to the roles of that race and financial strains placed on us.

Q: What does being a woman mean to you?

A: Being a woman is holding all the power in the world but not being sure how to use it.

Q: What do you bring to the table when it comes to women empowerment?

A: I bring to the table a passion to see the world be a better place.

WMN EMPWRMNT: MARINA GATINHO

By: Melissa Hurtado

Q: What does woman empowerment mean to you?

A: Women supporting other women. Encouraging each other. Lifting each other up. Pure kindness and positivity. It should never be about rising above men. Nor should it be about demeaning those who think differently. Anybody can partake in this movement for as long as they respect those principles.

 

Q: What does being a woman mean to you?

A: Being a woman… being a woman is… I could only think of my mom. She is a woman. My mom did it all on her own with four children; not to prove that she didn’t need a man in her life to help her become as successful as she is today, but to prove to herself that she is capable of getting shit done despite being a single mom. And I guess what I’m trying to say is that… it’s okay for women to be sensitive, empathetic, nurturing, etc…those are all beautiful qualities that should always be embraced (this applies to men as well)—we can still be CEO’s or Presidents because we are just THAT worthy…what, like it’s hard? (Yes, she quoted Elle Woods).

 

Q: What do you bring to the table when it comes to women empowerment?

A: I bring compassion. Compassion, period. We’re all going through the same shit and just trying to be the best versions of ourselves. I think it’s so important for both women and men to understand that concept…and, yeah, like… have some compassion. man, and all else will flow.

Congress: A Frat ‘House’ of White Men and White Male Interns

By: Sam Johnson

It was my first day interning on Capitol Hill, and I could not – for the life of me – stop mixing up the names of the male staffers in my office. They read off like roll call at an upper class private high school: Dan, Jake, John, Alex, Tim, the works.  

There was one female staffer in the office, and although disappointed, I was happy to know I at least wouldn’t be the only person with a vagina. I later found out that she was leaving the office in a couple of weeks.

The lack of women in the office came as a shock to me. I’m well aware of the mixed gender ratio of representatives in general, but I (naively) expected better from a small Democratic office.

Two former Capitol Hill staffers, Sara Lonardo and Elizabeth Whitney, apparently also saw the same issue. In July of 2018, they launched the Women’s Congressional Staff Foundation, which awards scholarships to women who might not otherwise be able to intern on the Hill. Both women started as interns and are hoping to get diverse women into offices.

“We’re hoping to open up that world to a broader class, a broader demographic who might take themselves out of the running for a career in public policy,” Whitney said.“As I’ve gotten further along in my career, I have just always shared this passion for helping young women through that very vulnerable time in your life, which is finishing college and starting out in your career,” Whitney said. “We’re really going to be looking for those women who are at that critical path, where this is a make or break opportunity … and they are poised for success if they have that helping hand at that moment.”

Their goal is to fund about 50 young women’s internships each year.

As you might have guessed, the average “hilltern” is not only male – he is a white male.

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Statistically, those who can afford to work for free for an extended internship tend to be white students able to lean on family finances for a few months.

Congressional interns can expect to spend an estimated $6,000 of their own money for housing, travel and food during an internship in the nation’s capital. Interns on Capitol Hill have shared horror stories on how they made it by, including skipping meals and walking miles in the rain.

The issue of diversity (or lack thereof) in DC interns – or unpaid interns in general – has been drawing criticism nationwide, specifically by those pushing for paid congressional internships. Among supporters is newcomer and democratic icon Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has recently drawn attention for vowing to pay her interns $15 an hour.

According to Pay Our Interns, 90 percent of House offices do not currently pay their interns at all. In the Senate, about half of Republican offices pay their interns at least a stipend, while Democrats drag behind at 31 percent of offices offering some kind of compensation.

The House and Senate both recently passed spending packages appropriating money specifically for intern pay. For each member’s office, it averages to about $20,000 per year in the House and $50,000 per year in the Senate. However, most members are waiting for new guidelines on using the funds before advertising paid internships.

“I’ll eat your pussy like shrimp fried rice” – how @thefleshlightchronicles navigates fetishism in online dating

By: Hannah Xue

Image via abc.net.au
Image via abc.net.au

As a woman in a monogamous relationship, it’s been some time since I’ve found myself in the online dating scene. But even when I reflect on my short lived days a self-proclaimed Tinder queen, I can fondly recall some of the charming one liners that I used to receive:

“Ni hao ma”

“Hey ling ling”

And my personal favorite, 

“You look like my favorite kpop star before her 2nd nose job”

 Aside from being blatantly unoriginal, these pick up lines all share the quality of using my racial identity as a tool of courtship. It’s grossly offensive, and yet, an experience that many women of color can relate to.

 Fetishism in online dating isn’t a new phenomenon, but Instagram user @thefleshlightchronicles AKA Lillian has been using her unsavory encounters on Tinder to create memes, art, and reclaim WOC sexuality. She juxtaposes the racist, lewd, or just downright distasteful messages she receives from men with captions that contain some of the most incredible clapbacks I’ve ever seen on the internet. But her photos aren’t simply meant to provoke some laughs – she is serious about deconstructing the fetishized dating experiences women face.

Lillian defines fetishization as a combination of sexual prejudice and power, where individuals with greater social and bodily mobility enact fantasies of power over those with less agency. “As dominant figures in our society, White men have the power to dictate the narrative of how our lives go – what our worth is in society.” Historical traumas of war, conquest, slavery and incarceration among non-white peoples form the foundation of racism in our current society, and fetishization replicates those dynamics, albeit on a smaller scale, onto the bodies of WOC today. Sadly, the popularity and accessibility of online dating makes it easier than ever for people to assert their fetishes. The added protection of typing from behind a screen emboldens some offenders and makes them think there can be no physical consequences to their actions.

 But @thefleshlightchronicles proves that no one should assume they are safe from being held accountable for their misogyny. The series of “Ego Death” story highlights on her page publicize reactions to a post she wrote about a man named Ivan, who was well known around his college campus for exclusively dating WOC as a means of gaining faux-woke social capital and then unceremoniously ghosting them.

Images via @thefleshlightchronicles
Images via @thefleshlightchronicles

Many of the replies to the post were from other women who Ivan had used. They shared information about how he lied to and manipulated them, and they thanked Lillian for validating their experiences. And in the end, that’s all @thefleshlightchronicles was originally intended to do – create a safe space for WOC to address racial traumas and reclaim their online space.

“You:” The Flip Side of the Rom-Com

By: Maria Ordoñez

Warning: The following article contains multiple spoilers. Read at your own risk.

Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley) is a charming bookstore manager who reads to kids, saves old books, and keeps his young neighbor out of trouble. He’s practically the perfect guy, except he’s still recovering from his latest heartbreak. Just when he’s about to give up on love for good, a beautiful, young poet named Guinevere Beck (Elizabeth Lail) walks into his life. From the moment she picks out his favorite Paula Fox novel, he knows it’s meant to be. And so, embarking on a series of crazy antics, Joe will stop at nothing to get the girl of his dreams. 

And when I say nothing, I mean nothing.

See, what sounds like a synopsis for the perfect rom-com, is in fact the plot of Lifetime’s latest psychological-thriller series,“You.” The series, which was recently renewed for a second season, has seen a dramatic increase in popularity since being picked up by Netflix in December. With over 15,000 total posts in the last month, one thing is clear – viewers everywhere are hooked on this addictive new drama, and more importantly, they’re hooked on Joe.

Why wouldn’t they be? After all, I did say he’s “practically” the perfect guy. Except for the part where I forgot to mention that he’s an obsessive stalker, and that his “crazy antics” include everything from breaking and entering to the occasional murder. And yet, the template of this story feels oddly familiar…

That’s because “You” is everything we’ve seen in every rom-com ever. The only difference is that it depicts what would happen if instead of on a movie screen, these scenarios were playing out in real life. It’s what would happen if the barista from Starbucks actually showed up at your house in the middle of the night to profess his love for you based on a handful of conversations about the weather. “You” portrays this flip side of rom-coms that we need to start talking about.

In its subversive exposé on the dark side of these movies, “You” has multiple moments of self-awareness where the characters reflect on rom-coms as they make morally questionable decisions. And by characters, I’m referring to Joe.

Take, for example, Episode 1 where he spends his first day “with” Beck. After following her everywhere from yoga class to work, he ends up breaking into her apartment, where he hacks into her computer and steals a few personal items. Then, when Beck comes home earlier than expected, Joe finds himself hiding in her shower, thinking to himself:

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This is problematic, mostly because it’s true. I mean, we’ve all seen movies like There’s Something About Mary. The plot of that story involves, not 1, but 6 different guys stalking the same girl. The worst part is that they actually succeed in winning her over. The normalization of this type of behavior onscreen unintentionally sets an example for day-to-day relationships. It makes guys like Joe think, “Well, if it worked for Ben Stiller, then it can work for me.”

That brings us to the scene in Episode 6, where Joe, having followed Beck up to Peach Salinger’s (Shay Mitchell) estate, finds himself in a similar predicament. This time, though, he isn’t trapped in a shower, but rather under a bed, bearing witness to Peach’s latest sexual encounter. Here, he makes a reference to the classic movie When Harry Met Sally, saying:

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Although Harry never does this per se, some would argue that he and Joe have some similar issues with boundaries. I’m not saying that Harry is a murderer, but he doesshow up to Sally’s party uninvited, he doesn’tleave when she asks him to, and he doesn’ttake her “I hate you” as the explicit rejection that it is. It’s like Joe is taking pages straight out of Harry’s playbook, and just taking them one step further.

To top it all off, in the surprising season finale, there’s no doubt that Joe is all about going big or going home. I mean, when Beck finds out what a creep he really is, he literally keeps her prisoner in a glass cage. As if this wasn’t concerning enough, Joe goes on to justify his behavior as an act of true love. He claims:

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You got me again, Joe. It ithe stuff of a million love songs. The Police told us “Every breath you take, I’ll be watching you;” Lady Gaga sang “I’ll follow you until you love me;” and even The Beatles said “I’d rather see you dead, than to be with another man.” Everywhere we look, the media is telling us that if love isn’t obsessive, then it isn’t true love.

Of course, most love songs and rom-coms are meant to be entertaining, not to be taken literally. However, the reality is that all media, whether fictional or not, can have an influence on the way people behave in the real world. I’ve met my fair share of “nice” guys who lurk outside the workplace, show up to places uninvited, and think “no” simply means try harder.  

In the era of the #MeToo movement, “You” shows up at the right time to shed some light on the issues of boundaries and the abuse of power. Most of all, though, it leaves us with a lesson for all people of all genders:

Forget what the rom-coms have taught you, you don’t want to end up like Joe.

WMN EMPWRMNT: ASTRID DIANET ARROYO

By: Melissa Hurtado

 

Q: Que significa para ti empoderamiento de las mujeres?

A: Para mi el empoderamiento en las mujeres significa unión, fuerza y renacimiento. Unión porque cuando dos mujeres o mas están unidas nos defendemos aun sin tener algún tipo de relación y sin importar su raza, también demostramos al mundo que nosotras las mujeres somos capaces de realizar cualquier cosa que nos propongamos, siempre demostrando esa fuerza especial que nos distingue como mujeres. Renacimiento porque  somos ese vivo ejemplo de “Renacer”, que es reencontrarse con uno misma, seguir viviendo experiencias con nueva entrega y vivir la vida sin miedo a vivirla.

 

Q: En tus palabras, Que significa ser mujer para ti?

A: Para mi ser mujer significa dar vida y sentido a la vida, ser hermana y ser hija. Es ese género que da ejemplo del dicho que dice “Si te caes, levántate con mas fuerzas”. Es vivir en una lucha constante. Para mi el ser mujer es una bendición.

 

Q: Que traes a la mesa cuando se habla de empoderamiento de las mujeres?

A: Siempre que se habla del empoderamiento en las mujeres pongo de ejemplo a todas esas mujeres que nos representan dignamente, refiriéndome a mujeres con empoderamiento que actualmente ejercen labores que siempre se han dicho son para “hombres”, demostrando así la igualdad de genero, dando a demostrar que somos capaces de hacer y ejercer cualquier cosa que nos pongamos como meta.

 

Surviving R Kelly: Black Girls’ Lives Matter

By: Moriah Mikhail

The Play-book of a master manipulator:

Lure, charm, ensnare, lie, coerce, abuse, lie some more, compliment, abuse again, threaten, control, cover up, and then lie again. repeat.

After watching the Surviving R Kelly Lifetime documentary, it seems Kelly has not only mastered this play-book but may have written it himself. The disturbing reports of pedophilia, sexual and physical abuse, as well as manipulation the girls recounted from their experience with the R&B pied piper were enough to make any viewer physically ill. And yet the most disturbing component of Kelly’s systematic manipulation is how he specifically chooses the girls he preys on. This once idolized Black artist utilizes the oppression experienced by Black women and girls to his advantage, successfully (until now), silencing his victims. One Survivor featured in the Lifetime series, Asante McGee, alleges that the singer preys on super fans specifically, employing his power as an R&B superstar to sexually manipulate vulnerable fans. McGee became involved with R Kelly at the age of 32, but she describes that regardless of age; “if you are vulnerable and he knows he can control you, that’s who he’s gonna go for.” The significance of that tendency is this—the R&B molester’s main goal with these girls is to seek control and exploit them with little threat of repercussions. He preys on the very community that has helped him achieve stardom, and worse, many young girls from that community. Because of this, survivors have been hushed by their own community and their reports against him have evoked little outrage. As Chance The Rapper described, and an opinion many unfortunately hold: “I didn’t value the accusers’ stories because they were black women.”Kelly is utilizing a racist societal ill to his advantage, and it cannot be stressed enough how problematic that is, especially for a black artist idolized by the black community.

For those that have not been able to tune into the series, I will summarize a few critical points. Disclaimer: some of the stories mentioned below may be triggering for certain viewers that have experienced sexual or domestic abuse; please use discretion as you read and prioritize your mental health.

1994 marks the start of R Kelly’s apparent trail of pedophilia with his illegal marriage to the then 15 year old, Aaliyah, considered the princess of R&B. As described in the docuseries, those in his inner circle considered his relationship with Aaliyah to be an anomaly in Kelly’s sexual history. They believed he loved her and that he thought she was “different,” “mature,” and “beyond her years.” I use quotes not to say she could not have exhibited those characteristics but that coming from Rob it sounds more like a cover-up to convince his peers that their relationship was an exception and not an obvious red flag that he was (and still is) a pedophile. Recently, Kelly’s lawyers have come to his defense claiming Aaliyah lied about her age saying she was 18 but recently a video clip resurfaced, proving R Kelly was in fact aware she was 15 at the time of their marriage. He was 27.

Sparkle (Stephanie Edwards)describes a different side of a familiar scandal in Surviving R Kelly. The trending upcoming singer introduced her niece to R Kelly when the young girl was just 12 years old. Her hopes were that Rob could do for her niece what he did for her—help her achieve stardom, as the girl (whose identity has been kept confidential), was an aspiring young female rapper. This same girl that Sparkle clearly holds a sister-like protective love for is more widely known as “the girl R Kelly peed on.” Yes, a girl introduced to Rob at the mere and vulnerable age of 12 is the same girl from the “sex tape” (filmed rape) that Kelly faced child pornagraphy charges for in 2002. When the tape was taken Sparkle confirmed her niece had to be 14 years old because she recalls her hairstyle in the tape was the same she wore when she was around that age. Kelly was 35. The girl and her family, paid off and embarrassed, did not testify against the girl’s rapist. Sparkle, even after overwhelming discouragement from people in the music industry, spoke out against R Kelly and all that came from the trial was the ruin of Sparkle’s music career and charting songs for R Kelly. The Jury found him not guilty.

During the course of the 2002 trial, R Kelly’s superfans display their support from outside the courtroom. One young female supporter catches his eye—an underage Jerhonda Pace. He exchanges numbers with her outside the very courtroom he is entering to face child pornography charges. The two begin communicating via text and phone call immediately. The young girl is swept into Kelly’s house where he harbors his cult of underage sex slaves. We watch the once star-struck superfan walk off the set, crying, as she recalls the abuse she experienced from him. Lisette Martinez meets Kelly in the mall at the age of 17 and is pulled into his cycle of manipulation and abuse. Dominique Gardner connects with R Kelly through her fellow superfan friend, Jheronda, and remains a prisoner to the house for 9 years after. Countless women describe eerily similar experiences of being star struck, flattered, charmed, built up, tore down, coerced, threatened, controlled, abused, and emotionally drained in their abuser’s sick cycle of manipulation. The survivors that ended up in “the house” describe his harsh control of degrading rules where the women would have to knock or stomp to ask permission to enter parts of the house, perform sex acts he requested for himself or on others, call him ‘Daddy’ and relieve themselves in buckets in their rooms. Some names mentioned like Jocelyn Savage and Azriel Clary are still prisoners under his control, along with countless other women and girls.

Surprisingly, there is even more disturbing accounts that the documentary covers but in summary Kelly displays a 20 year long track record of pedophilia, abuse and manipulation. Not to mention he hints at admitting to these accusations in his songs and even released a 19 minute song titled “I admit” where he mentions his cult, sex slaves, and having sex with “the younger ladies.”

The #MuteRKelly movement is stronger than ever with the emergence of this unveiling docuseries, and I stand behind this movement 100%. We cannot conveniently “separate the art from the artist” as the money this man makes from music royalties on the radio and streaming platforms, and ticket sales from concerts go directly towards his cause of covering up his trail of pedophilia, molestation, and abuse. Predator Kelly is not an “artist;” he is a professional serial rapist and abuser, R&B is simply his means to support his true demented career. When you Mute R Kelly, you contribute to the cause of supporting these survivors, freeing his current victims, and achieving some sort of justice for every life broken by this man. Stop playing his music at your BBQ’s for the ‘nostalgia’ and wake up—stand for these survivors that have been neglected for too long by their own community.

Is Heterosexual Black Love Attainable?

By Rachel Harmon

Marriage is one of the oldest traditions that many people still follow and strive towards. The images of this beautiful day make it something that people long for, even as our values today change in terms of what it means for two people to be married. And, from social media and word of mouth, it is clear that it is still the most important status when in a relationship. However, as I get older, I wonder how realistic this is for everyone. In particular, for heterosexual black women, it is not as realistic as for other races and genders.

Many black Americans want black love. Black love is a special kind of love that means something different for the individuals involved. It is one of the reasons why many black Americans strive to marry someone of the same race. However, after reading Is Marriage for White People? by Ralph Richard Banks, it was clear that there are many obstacles and struggles for heterosexual black women if they want black love with a black man. I will discuss one finding that stuck with me; this finding is the most prevalent in my life now.

I will now state that I am analyzing this book from the perspective of a heterosexual black woman. In addition to this, Banks is not the only source of this information, but it is the one that I have read. For a further and deeper analysis of his book, the New York Times wrote an article that can be found in this link. Additionally, this information presented by Banks assumes that the ideal world is a one-to-one ratio for a heterosexual black woman to black man. This is not what society looks like, and is one of my critiques of this book, but I believe that his findings are important to discuss.

One of Banks’s main arguments in his book is that “in college and elsewhere, appealing black men are in short supply, and desirable black women are abundant. That’s the central fact shaping interactions in the relationship market…What this means is that for a black man and black woman negotiating a relationship, the man will have more options and more opportunities outside the relationship than the woman.”

Banks’s finding is not surprising, but reading it makes it real. The fact that there are not enough black men intrigues me. As a college student, I can see this ratio not just from black men but all men in general. On a larger scale, like Banks discusses, this is a commonality for black women who are searching for a black man. Banks found that black women not only outmarry less frequently than black men, but they also outmarry less than any other minority group. In other words, it is most likely for a black woman to be seeking a partner of the same race.

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Banks utilizes simple economics in terms of supply and demand. Clearly, there is a greater demand for black men by heterosexual black women but a lower supply of heterosexual black men. With this, there are simply less options for black women and more for black men. Banks attributes this lack of supply to the fact that the “ranks of black men have been decimated by incarceration, educational failure, and economic disadvantage.” Numerically, two black women have graduated college for every one black man and there are more than 1,400,000 black women in college and fewer than 900,000 black men in college.

As a result of this ratio, black men do possess a greater power in relationship dynamics. This means that men have more options. So why would they stick with one black woman? With this in mind, it can partly explain why many black men are not looking for a relationship, or have several black women in their rotation. This lack of supply has given men the ability to remove themselves from relationships easily, instead of fighting for the particular relationship they are in.

In contrast, black women do not have this same luxury. Instead, they are limited to their selection. This leaves room for either settling with something less than we deserve, or alone if we cannot find someone to our standards. This is an unfair situation that many black women are in. We are stuck with the narrative of the strong independent black woman who is invested in her career, but that is not all that is important to us. We may be accomplished and successful, but that does not mean many of us do not want love. We deserve the same amount of love as everyone else in the relationship market. It is just frustrating to believe that many people see black women as desirable and strong figures, but not deserving of the emotional connection that many of us seek.

Although we may desire this, I feel that there is not much that can be done because the numbers are there. It is just a fact that there are more black women than black men in most spaces. This makes it challenging to find hope in this situation if black love, with a black man, is something that a black woman wants in her life. Even if a black woman does find herself a black man, she is mainly viewed as “one of the lucky ones.” This sentiment is just as bad as not being able to find a black man. Why? Because it makes it seem that you are lucky to have that man, when maybe he should be lucky to have you.

When thinking about my future and marriage, I know that I will still pursue black love, and it has worked out for me. I hope that this can be a reality for more black women who desire to be with a black man, but right now it is not as attainable as it should be. Until the macroeconomic issues and structurally racist institutions that have led us to the inequality within the relationship market between heterosexual black women and black men, perhaps we can hope for any difference in the relationship dynamics we have today.