Queen of the Pack

I last discussed the paradoxical relationship between the Female and the Body.  It was very hard to stay focussed on just “the body” however.  The same could arguably be said for hair texture, skin colour, etc.  Women are constantly adjusting and squeezing themselves into a cookie-cutter mold of “the” Woman.  We do so with a far greater sense of urgency than men do, because of this noxious level of competition we instigate with our counterparts.

You hear it in various aphorisms: a woman’s greatest enemy is another woman.  The Times recently wrote an article branching out to a plethora of links regarding why women leave other women out in the cold.

And for the sake of argument, let’s say all this started in a fight to be chosen for procreation, for survival — that no longer needs to happen!  The majority of us are perfectly self-sufficient, and capable of survival – nay, comfort – in the dynamics of modern living.  The other common excuse of “if a woman had to struggle and do it all on her own, she has no sympathy for women after her in need of a helping hand.” Bullshit.  You of all people know how much more productive you could have been with that help.

CUT IT OUT LADIES.

I’ve always compared this phenomenon to similarities in race-rivalry in Trinidad & Tobago.  Colonialists cleverly pitted African descendants against Indian,  knowing that if we keep chasing each other, we would never collectively realize that through cooperation, we pose a greater threat to the established enforcer.

Women are so busy clawing each other’s eyes out in a male-dominated society, but we’re still baffled as to why we can’t achieve gender equity.

Why should we get this from the Patriarchy, when we can’t seem to give it to ourselves?

Colourful Woman Wednesday: Lindsay Hall

This is the second in our “Colourful Woman Wednesday” series, which will feature stories of colourful women surviving and thriving. If you’d like to share your story, or nominate a colourful woman for this feature, email us or get in touch via Tumblr,Twitter or Facebook.

Lindsay HallLindsay Hall is a brilliant, young dancer who recently finished a series of performances with the J CHEN PROJECT in NY. She is currently working with a new company called Liberation Dance Theater.

Born in Canada but raised in Tobago, Lindsay’s style of dance is an elegant but seductive mash-up of influences. Trained in Ballet and Modern from the age of 5, Lindsay grew up in Tobago where she was surrounded by Caribbean rhythms, Folk dances, and Dancehall. In May 2011 she became the first Tobagonian to graduate from The Ailey School’s Certificate Program in New York. While in New York Lindsay has been honoured with full scholarships to attend both the Ballet Hispanico Summer Intensive and the Earl Mosley’s Institute of the Arts. She has had the great fortune of working with some amazing choreographers, including Darrell Grand Moultrie, Earl Mosley, Robin Dunn, Andrea Miller, Peter London, Francesca Harper, Bradley Shelver and Kevin Wynn.

When asked why she is a Colourful Woman, Lindsay said this;

Lindsay Hall I am mixed in every sense of the word. I am of different races and different countries (Black/white and Trinidadian/Canadian) and my influences and interests are just as varied. When I was younger and I met other people who were one race and from one place, I thought their lives must be so much simpler, not having to constantly explain where they are from and why they look the way they do, or (like in my case) why they have a Canadian accent but say they grew up in Tobago. But now that I am older (and I would like to think wiser as well!) and I am delving more and more into the dance world, I realize how unique my story is, and that I can use my background and my story in my dancing. I can embrace my story and not feel so bothered if I have to explain why my hair is the way it is or why I have freckles but my skin is brown.

I am colourful because I have embraced ME. Performing has given me the confidence to express myself in a way that we generally do not do in every day life. While I dance, I face people and I am not afraid to show them who I am: honestly and whole heartedly. Who I am is someone who may be compliacted (which I have learned is ok), full of surprises and not easily figured out in one glance, and I kind of like that idea!’

Check out Lindsay’s Youtube channel to see her in motion!

Kobayashi Maru

“Puffy-faced” Ashley Judd laid the proverbial smack down on critics recently, to which I responded from the other end of the cyberverse with a hearty punch to the air and a resounding “in yo face bitchez!”

From this, was a haunting reminder of a similar issue I have tangoed with all my life.

The female body.

Growing up in the Caribbean, the “coca-cola bottle shape” reigned with sensuous superiority.  As with Latin America, parts of Europe, and other splashes on the global design, curves are synonymous with fertility, vitality, passion and lure. All the things that make a woman womanly right?  Wrong.  All the things that make a woman more of a thing, or a ting and less of the influential woman that she is, atop those sturdy legs of hers.  But it took me a while to learn this.

Cursed with the blessing of a high metabolism, lanky limbs and ectomorphic genes, I have spent the majority of my life being a twig.  Scrawny, “magga”, flat and toothpicky, and generally deemed unattractive by my male counterparts.  Compounded by very short hair, I spent most of my early teen years being mistaken for a boy.  In a society that drilled into me that I just wasn’t “womanly” enough, I ate the fattiest of foods in hopes that I would somehow develop the curves that would ascend me into this private club of bombshells stupifying men with the faintest twist of a hip.

In these years, I migrated to Canada. Now in North American territory, I was surrounded by girls who starved themselves in order to become “sexy.” WHAT? But I– What the hell was going on.  I spent all these years trying to get “thick” and now you tell me I should be thin??  And not just thin! Meatless. Buttless. Thighless.  You show a smidgeon of curvature and you are FAT!

Swimming through the murky waters of the physical female identity, I spent years learning that the checklist of qualities a woman must have changed faster than a stripper working double duty.  Hair this length, this colour. Serum to make eyelashes that much longer.  Boobs big, waist small, the ideal form being presented to us by a Mattel factory belt.  36-18-33.  Do they know that Barbie can’t stand up on her own?  Oh wait, of course they do.  It seems that this is what they want.  Docile, attractive arm candy, that needs support to keep her upright.

In my own quest for Adonis status, I have discovered strength.  Muscle mass, toned physique, abs, hamstrings, biceps.  My relationship with the Body, and the female form, has led me to decide I want to represent myself physically, the way I feel mentally. Which is what we of the fairer sex tend to do anyway, with fashion, with grooming, a first impression is all that much more important for us, than it is them.  I have found a harmonious relationship with fitness, where I can develop curves of a different nature.

Until I hear, “Oh my god, she looks so manly.” More criticism, yay. There are many women who tote the motto that Strong is the new Skinny.  And without fail the critics come running in to bash women with visible muscle definition, calling them “unfeminine” and “manly”.  I didn’t realize men were the only ones with muscles.

If you’re curvy, they’ll find something wrong with you.  If you’re skinny, they’ll find something wrong with you.  If you’re muscular, they’ll find something wrong with you.  We just cannot seem to catch a break.

I have come to realize the only way to win at a game specifically rigged to see you lose, is to walk off the field.  Removing oneself from the equation. I’m going to keep lifting these weights. I will finally feel just as strong outside as I do inside.  And if they have a problem with me, I welcome them to come say something to my face.

I doubt they will.

‘You mad, bro?’

tweeted once that there was no upside to being a non-white female under 40. Put another way, white men over 40 are unlikely to have had to deal with any of the following situations:

– “Of course they hired you! You’re a poster-child for diversity!
– “Excuse me, when is the tea being served?”
– “I hear you on this, but…”
– “So when next are you going back to [insert name of Caribbean island that is not actually person’s country of birth or domicile here; if in doubt, default to Jamaica]”
– “You should be grateful that…”

Etc.

Yet the most frustrating/soul-destroying part of the non-white female under 40 triumvirate is contending with the angryblackwoman stereotype. A stereotype that means any opinion, any dissenting viewpoint, any suggestion, any email, any comment, any expression at all – no matter how innocuous – by members of this cadre risks being interpreted as “disrespectful”, “rude”, “cold”, “combative”, “non-cooperative” or the ever-popular, “hostile”.

This in addition to the adjectives commonly applied to women who lead or manage – all of which may be summed up in another word: “bitch”.

And in addition to bodies of research that show, definitively, that women are penalized for speaking up or appearing to be ambitious, for asking for salary increases.

(Then, of course, there’s the other end of the gaslighting spectrum: “You’re so sensitive. You’re so emotional. You’re defensive.” Further excellent reading, featuring the oft-forgotten observation that ‘privilege is revealed more clearly to those who don’t have it’ from Hugo Schwyzer, here)

To quote a  commenter at the Atlantic (in the context of a particularly infuriating piece on Michelle Obama):

Imagine if every time you said anything, someone said “you mad, bro?” I imagine being a powerful black woman involves pretty continuous trolling of that sort.

Because, yes, exactly.


A version of this piece first appeared in the Galavant Times.