This bitch right here.

I’m losing my softness.

Unfortunately, not physically! Anyone who I’ve roped into a hug can attest to that. But the inner core of who I am—quiet, demure—has been changing. The world isn’t a safe one for soft black women.

America prefers its black women angry, aggressive, and entertaining. And if a woman is not all three, mainstream American culture will do its level best to provoke and ridicule her until the desired result manifests. And then sit back and enjoy the spectacle.

For hardness and aggression in black women is beloved, so long as no ire is pointed in the particular audience’s direction. Black men look on in amusement as black women clap back at white feminists who dismiss their contributions and curtail their advancement. And those same white women will dry their eyes days later and clap for joy as those same black women hold black men accountable for sexist behavior that denies black women agency. Watching Mammy read someone for filth is fun as long as one is safely tucked within her enveloping skirt—blameless, cherished, protected, and deferred to.

The world of DeConnick’s and De Landro’s Bitch Planet is an exaggeration of our own, where women are told that they must fit within extremely rigid boundaries or face severe punishment. But in our world, and I suspect in DeConnick’s and De Landro’s as well, race impacts those boundaries. And what is demanded of one group of women is often frowned upon in another. Bitch Planet examines the need to be compliant—to be docile, to be demure. But what of those for whom being demure is deemed noncompliant? For black women, softness and stereotypical femininity is unexpected—and seems to elicit vicious anger and displeasure in others. When we are labeled as that which is desirable, that which is to be cherished, that which is to be protected, a pushback—cloaked in the lie that black women are inherently unacceptable, brusque, masculine, animalistic—is immediately enacted.

A black woman who is soft, carefree, hyperfeminine, reserved, and demure is radically noncompliant.

It is interesting to note how acceptability plays out according to the two most notable members of Bitch Planet’s ensemble—Kamau Kogo and Penny Rolle.

Kamau is a fighter. She is tough, smart, athletic and more than willing to put herself on the line to protect weaker individuals around her. She adheres to the importance of the truth even in the face of punishment. One would think that feistiness, the refusal to back down, is what results in her incarceration and engenders mistreatment. No. The powers that be see her—those traits—as potential entertainment. And yet in a white woman in that same world an inkling of those traits results in expulsion and death. But Kamau? Well, we are not even certain Kamau is a prisoner and not the lone volunteer mentioned by guards in issue one.

Though the last of Penny Rolle’s crimes is “wanton obesity,” her weight only seems to be an issue when she refuses to accept ridicule or hate herself for it, when she refuses to “prioritize how others see” her. The mockery of women of size has been a longstanding source of amusement in the States. It seems to bring joy to the men of Bitch Planet as well. We see from the jovial (and bigoted) conversations of men Penny has served in the past. Her weight draws derision and laughter from white men, but her presence as a caretaker is accepted and her body considered a joke or a delight reserved for a group of men referred to as skins.

“Skins. They like ’em big like that. It’s in their animal nature—big asses, big lips.”

It is when Penny finally lashes out, refuses to accept her role as a state-sponsored servant and source of amusement, that the law comes down upon her. As a black woman it is not her weight, but her rejection of her weight as wrong that is inexcusable.

The Fathers will love you as long as you hate yourself.


Maps.

It has been a decidedly long time since my last post. Since then, my life has changed dramatically. This certainly isn’t an excuse for the absence of posts. I’ve been active on Twitter, discussing topics such as Remender’s comments regarding his work on Uncanny Avengers, the role of the “strong black woman” in American fiction, Rick Ross’ departure from Reebok, and how African American Vernacular English has changed dramatically depending on region and proximity to other racial and ethnic groups. So, I’ve been talkative—just not publicly.

My grandmother, my family’s matriarch, passed recently, devastating everyone who was lucky enough to be blessed by her presence. I took two very important lessons from her death: share one’s creations with the world; do not be afraid to accept what the world offers in return.

Live life.

I’ve chosen to do so, but it is extremely difficult not to retreat and indulge in overly cautious behavior. I like lists, detailed strategies, patterns, carefully reasoned hypotheticals—but it is dangerous to simply plan and never act. One steals one’s life away preparing for it.

I’ve prepared enough. I’ve given notice at my current place of employment and plan to pursue a career—one that allows for greater diversity and creativity—in the field of publishing or advertising. I am moving at the end of the month and will to use my nest egg to purchase a home in an area where said career can flourish. Plane tickets have been purchased. Possessions have been sold. Contingency plans have been made.

Kelly Sue DeConnick (an amazing woman—if you don’t know her, get familiar) posted about the importance of having a biannual review to assess one’s accomplishments, goals, and strategies to achieve said goals. At the close of my first quarter, the first day of April, I went back and looked at the goals I had set for myself the first day of 2013. Three months later, I had met every single financial goal, one of my fitness goals, and none of my career goals.

Problem.

I am at the start of my second quarter and the problem has since been rectified. I was able to meet all of my financial goals because I wrote detailed plans as to what tasks I needed to complete to reach them and when I needed to complete those tasks. I relied on habit to achieve my fitness goals; the result was minimal success. I was at a loss in regards to attaining career goals; I felt achievement of one’s goals were dependent upon the whims of others. Working harder afforded me no career movement. I have decided to establish clear-cut career-oriented tasks to be accomplished and place myself in an arena where those accomplishments will be rewarded. Will it work? Ask me the last day of June.

This post is a turning of the key. The engine will start next—emails will be sent, questions will be answered, stories will be written—and I will embark upon that long, winding path to the destination waiting for all of us.

The trip should be fun though. Feel free to come along for the ride.