Social media reminds us that not all that glitters is gold
Recently saw a twitter post the other day by a guy who wanted to proclaim his distaste for ‘afro lion bushy hair’. Posts like these are… annoying and discriminatory. How many times must Black and brown womxn have our bodies censored in favor of Eurocentric beauty ideals?
This got me thinking about my own response, and, as I scrolled through the 100k+ responses, I thought about the opportunity to use this ugly comment and turn it into something beautiful. So I posted this:
I try to practice non-complementary behaviour, especially in the face of social media tomfoolery. The practice, in many ways, stems from the non-violent civil rights methods of not fighting fire with fire or water, but with earth and by continuing to step forward (or stay seated) regardless of what was occurring in a given situation. It’s called: resilience and resolve.
On redirecting the ‘angry’ Black woman trope
I used to be the opposite. I used to spend a lot of my time giving away pieces of myself by going ‘toe-to-toe’ with dumbassness. I would get up in people’s faces and bark back as quickly as I could. It felt exciting at the time, but it was also very exhausting. On the surface that anger made me feel strong, but underneath I was drained. This caught up with me over time, and fed into deeper feelings of inadequacy. Why was I angry all the time? Was I angry all the time? I don’t want to be angry all-the-time. I realised, too, that that’s how people saw me, and I validated their assumptions about myself and about other Black women.
In my soul searching in my late 20s, I realised that I wasn’t alone in my feelings and my exhaustion. I was lucky to find an intimate group of Black women I could share these feelings with in solidarity. I was also lucky to find Black women mentors who told me to relish my anger and harness it into my creative practice: “Use it to learn and develop and adapt, you have those feelings for a reason, explore them.” So I stopped shuttering them away, and I started writing poetry to explore the deeper meanings behind what I considered to be myself as a Black woman and what society was placing upon me to be their desirable Black woman.
On challenging convention as a Black woman
Since a young age people (fellow kids and adults alike) would tell me I was too bossy, too pushy, too abrasive. And I internalised a lot of it. I was too aggressive. I was mean. I was unmanageable. None of this is true, and I had to learn to turn those statements around: I am assertive and confident, I am direct, and I am a leader. I think too often Black women, especially young Black women and teenagers, learn to censor ourselves based on the fears of other people who don’t understand how to cultivate our power.
To challenge these conventions, I created BossiRainbow. I mentioned before how BossiRainbow derives her name from the word bossy. This is very intentional because bossy is one of the first ways young women and girls (especially Black women) learn that they are ‘too much’ in many spaces. We learn that being a bossy Black woman is synonymous with being loud and angry. But I am changing that stereotype. I love it when people call me bossy, because it means I’m doing something interesting, taking the lead, and changing old and stale conventions.
I am bossy; and I am the boss. I’m a bossy boss. Now, that feels redundant! Of course a boss is bossy, right?
I was blessed to grow up in a matriarchal family, where the boss of our family unit was my mom (and before her: my grandma, and before her: my big momma, and so on). My mom is also the boss in the job she created for herself, and she also runs her own business. So she’s a triple boss. I grew up in a family where Black womanhood was celebrated by sharing our talents, knowledge, and accomplishments. So, choosing to embrace this strand of ‘bossy’ and relish in it and cultivate it for others to share and experience, means I’m in good, ancestral company. I am powered by my own boss-y roots and groundings. And for me, this is a strong power I see in the many facets of Black womanhood.
Peace and Rainbows ✌🏾 Jaleesa, Founder + CEO