Liberty, justice, and toilet freedom for all


While I was studying for my Masters degree, I worked part time as a janitor.

It was extremely glamorous.

The last school where I worked, Tong High School in Bradford, England, had unisex toilets. I don’t know how common this is, but I’d never seen it in any of the schools I’d been in before (and I’ve been in a lot of schools, as I’m sure many people have).

It’s a given that men and women have to do their private business in separate areas, isn’t it? After all, we are so different from each other that there’s no way we could ever do that in the same place.

I don’t know if it was gender consciousness on the part of the architect who built the school, but I do think that not seeing boys and girls as being creatures so alien to one another that they have to pee in separate facilities has the potential to go a long way towards achieving gender equality.

In the United States, trans children are legally able to use the toilet that fits the gender that they identify as at school. Hopefully someday, gendered toilet usage won’t even be a conversation, the same way different races using the same toilets is no longer a discussion. People will be able to identify with whatever gender suits them, or not identify with any gender at all, and use the appropriate water closet. (I’m really uncomfortable with the number of times I’m having to type “toilet”.) This idea isn’t all that implausible- there are some cultures that have a third gender, and older cultures in which the current, pervasive definition of gender wasn’t a forgone conclusion until colonialism mandated rigid, “God”-assigned roles. Until then, it absolutely has to be a conversation, because in some parts of the world, being gender-nonconforming is a risk that can end your life.

For trans people in particular- although anyone not fitting obviously into their assigned gender category can feel this way- deciding which toilet to use can be a real source of anxiety. some have been attacked for using the “wrong” bathrooms. People think they are justified in violently assaulting people simply for existing (Media Matters explains how the media is partially responsible). It happens too often to just be a coincidence, or just be the work of a handful of sociopathic individuals. Traditional beliefs about gender, although arbitrary, mean that people believe that violence is justifiable to defend them.

If all toilets were unisex, maybe that would just be one step further in eradicating antiquated gender roles. Maybe it would be safer for people who identify with a gender different from the one that they were assigned at birth to inhabit public spaces, and they wouldn’t be attacked for using the wrong toilet because it wouldn’t make any difference.

This is not only a trans issue, although it most likely has the most obvious impact on trans people. The issue is much larger than toilet-usage. Although things like this might seem inconsequential, I believe taking these things for granted can have less than ideal consequences.

If teenagers in Northern England can use the same toilet facilities without incident, is there any reason the rest of us can’t do the same?



Shake it Off is not appropriation

Taylor Swift’s Shake it Off caused a lot of controversy when it came out a few weeks ago.

Admittedly, I know almost nothing about Swift. I know that despite her job title, she’s not a great singer (and is basically just a less nasal Rihanna), and that Kanye West ruined her acceptance speech at the Video Music Awards five years ago.

There has been plenty of criticism directed toward Swift for having (mostly black) women twerk behind her in this video. I think this criticism is completely unfounded. If pictures or gifs women twerking behind her were taken out of context, then I can see how that (along with her in her “hip-hop” outfit) would seem offensive in the Iggy AzaleaLily AllenMiley Cyrus style of cultural appropriation. Out of context, it looks like Swift has reduced women of color to body types and props.

If you watch the entire video, it becomes clear that that’s not what she’s doing. The video features several types of dance: ballet, rhythmic gymnastics, breaking, finger tutting, locking, contemporary, and twerking. Unlike these other women who are displaying racist entitlement, Swift is treating twerking as a legitimate dance style. She also has diverse dancers in each of the different styles (not all the twerking girls are black, not all the hip-hop dancers are black, not all the contemporary dancers are white, etc.)

In this video, Swift is saying “I can’t pretend to be anything I’m not.” She’s just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, if you will.

Even though I’m not at all a Swift fan, the song is catchy, and the video is cute. (My favorite part is at the end where all the professional dancers are goofing off.)

I do have an issue with the way we never see any of the twerkers’ faces, except for a split second where we see one of the white girls’ faces; and the moment where she crawls through their legs is cringe-inducing. But this isn’t a criticism of her appropriating a dance style; it’s a criticism of reducing the dancers of this style to disembodied posteriors. And it’s relatively non-egregious in light of what other singers have been doing, and how much thought Swift or the directors apparently put into making the video (I’m inclined to believe that they had a diversity expert on hand).

Cultural appropriation is not good, to put it extremely simply. Cyrus and Allen’s tone deaf responses to the criticism of their videos shows that they have no interest in taking responsibility for having done something offensive. Cyrus seems to be saying “Hahahaha look at black people hahaha look I’m putting on my black costume!!” Allen decided to pull out the color-blind defense for what she  claims is satire:

If anyone thinks for a second that I requested specific ethnicities for the video, they’re wrong.

If anyone thinks that after asking the girls to audition, I was going to send any of them away because of the color of their skin, they’re wrong…

It has nothing to do with race, at all…

If I could dance like the ladies can, it would have been my arse on your screens…

I’m not going to apologize…

This is a pretty disappointing response for someone who claims to be a socially conscious artist. She also seems unable to comprehend that you’re not satirizing something if you do the thing that you say you’re criticizing. You’re just… doing it.

I agree with criticizing cultural appropriation when it happens. I agree with criticizing sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, and all forms of bigotry, provided that they’ve happened. In fact, it’s crucial to any kind of progressive social change. However, I think it makes the aims of social justice seem less credible when we sound the racism klaxon without paying attention to what’s actually going on. It’s like people just saw girls twerking behind Swift and decided it was racist after what Miley Cyrus, Lily Allen, and Iggy Azealea, among others, have put us through. Swift doesn’t deserve the criticism that was thrown her way. Shake It Off is just a fun misfit anthem.

Being childfree is not an “interesting debate”

A little while ago, I was talking to my cousin when he said something to me about “When you have children.” I said “I’m not having children.” He was shocked, and said “Because you can’t, or because you don’t want to?” I honestly don’t understand why he was so shocked, because I had told him five years before this conversation that I was never going to have children, and I reminded him of that. He said “I didn’t think you were serious.” I asked him why he thought I wasn’t serious (because that wouldn’t be a very funny joke. There’s not even a punchline.) He said “Because it’s not just your decision.”


It is absolutely just my decision, because it’s just MY BODY. He then asked me “What if you meet someone and he really wants kids?”

This is disgusting and misogynistic. If a woman who doesn’t want children is in a relationship with a man, she’s expected to sacrifice her body and the rest of her life for something she doesn’t want? A man is entitled to force her to go through forty weeks of pregnancy, childbirth, and then 18 years of being the primary caregiver for a child that doesn’t even get her name? (While I understand that for most people this isn’t an issue because most people want to breed, and most women don’t seem to have a problem with the patriarchal tradition of men automatically passing their name onto children, for someone who has no desire or intention to use her body that way, it can turn into a violent form of torture.)

In fact, in the past two days, I’ve had two more people ask me a) why I don’t want children, and b) what I would do if I met a man who wanted children. Interestingly, both of the people who asked me this were men. I don’t understand why people ask this question as though it’s thought-provoking, or like it would somehow change my answer. I don’t know to make myself any clearer. “I’m not having kids” doesn’t mean “If I meet a man and he really wants kids then I will have them,” it means “I’m not having kids.”

My cousin said that it was an “interesting debate.” This isn’t interesting, nor is it a debate. I am an adult human being. I have the right to decide what happens to my body. My human rights are not up for debate, and my humanity is not “interesting.”

The Michael Brown Problem

Unless you’ve been living in a cave in Siberia for the past few weeks, you know that unarmed, black, 18-year old Michael Brown was shot to death by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri on August 9th. The police officer’s name was not released until a week after the incident, during which time it seems that the Ferguson police had been trying to concoct a ridiculous story that they still weren’t even able to get straight, including a version of events in which Brown physically attacked the officer, something that every single eye witness has refuted.

The police officer, Darren Wilson, has still not been charged with anything. The murder, and the subsequent lack of legal action, has led to unrest in Ferguson, with the National Guard being sent in and pointing guns at unarmed, peaceful civilians. (The National Guard left after being completely incompetent in doing their jobs.)

The shooting of Michael Brown, and the ensuing media circus, show the painful reality that black people in the United States are not human beings. (John Stewart has done a wonderful job of explaining this.)

The New York Times called Michael Brown “no angel.” Sean McElwee at Demos compared this to the way the humanizing, generous way that the same paper described convicted, white serial killers.

I’ve written before about how men of color are victims of gendered, racialized violence because of how they are perceived. The perception affects every aspect of the lives of people of color. It’s why when I complain about people touching and making comments about my hair, I’m not talking just about having “unfair” beauty standards placed on me, I’m talking about people seeing my existence as being less than human. It’s why when Richard Sherman talked loudly after a football game, white people started screaming about what a thug he was, as though no white athlete has ever screamed trash talk. It’s because he’s not seen as human. It’s why unarmed black people can be killed by the people who are charged with protecting them, over and over and over again in the “greatest country in the world”, and will most likely never see justice. In the past month, Michael Brown, John Crawford, and Eric Garner, were all murdered by law enforcement.

What kind of justice is there really for Michael Brown and his family? Even if Wilson is charged, prosecuted, and convicted, this boy still lost his life for having the audacity to exist in a black body. What justice is there for anyone who is murdered senselessly because of what s/he looks like?

Black people are not seen as human beings in America.

Suck my chick lit

I am a big fan of chick lit. I’ve always been an avid reader and and I have a soft spot for fiction. I discovered chick lit seven years ago, and have enjoyed it ever since.

According to Wikipedia, chick lit is

“Genre fiction which addresses issues of modern womanhood, often humorously and lightheartedly… Although it sometimes includes romantic elements, chick lit is generally not considered a direct subcategory of the romance novel genre, because the heroine’s relationship with her family or friends is often just as important as her romantic relationships. Chick lit typically features a female protagonist whose womanhood is heavily thematized in the plot. Though most often set in a contemporary world, such as in Waiting to Exhale, there is also historical chick lit. The issues dealt with are often more serious than consumerism. Marian Keyes’s Watermelon, for instance, features a protagonist who wrestles with how to be a mother in a modern world. There is a growing market for religious chick lit. As with other types of genre fiction, authors and publishers target many niche markets. Protagonists vary widely in ethnicity, age, social status, marital status, career, and religion.”

So… basically chick lit is just fiction with a female protagonist and set in modern times (and for some reason, usually in either London or New York.)

A few years ago, I was talking to a friend about how I like chick lit and I said some of it covers some deep themes. This woman, a self-professed Pan-African feminist, laughed in my face and said “Which of them explore deep themes?” There’s something wrong when a self-identified feminist finds it hilarious that a book written by a woman, about a woman, and set in modern times, can have deep themes. You have to think not very much of women to think the idea that contemporary fiction by and about women, by definition, can’t explore deep themes.

When I was staying with a family in Ghana, the oldest son saw Song of Solomon in my room. He said he was surprised that I read books like that because “most books that are written by women are romance novels.”

One of the greatest American novelists, known for addressing complex issues of race, gender, and institutional discrimination having her entire body of work dismissed because she is a woman. (Shouldn’t the title alone have been a giveaway that it wasn’t going to be a romance story?) Song of Solomon doesn’t even fit into the (admittedly loose) definition of chick lit, but if it did, would that suddenly mean that it couldn’t be an important piece of literature? Would that fact alone make it worthy of derision?

Chick lit isn’t super easy to identify, if that Wikipedia definition is anything to go on. Chimamanda Adichie’s books are written by a woman and take place in metropolitan cities, in modern times, feature female protagonists, and often feature romantic relationships. Her work fits the description of chick lit, but is more commonly called “African literature” (another problematic designation. Have you ever heard of something called “North American literature” or “European literature”?). Authors like Marian Keyes, Anna Maxted, and Jennifer Weiner, and Dorothy Koomson are defined strictly as chick lit authors, but is there really a difference between the types of books that these authors are writing? These authors write about domestic violence, sexual assault, pregnancy, grief, human relationships, race, gender, class, and discrimination. But one of these is an author of “African literature” and the rest are authors of “chick lit.”

Madhulika Sikka, writer and executive editor of NPR, says “Men write novels, women write chick lit. This reductionist approach to the world of fiction has been so dominant in the last few years one could be forgiven for thinking that it is true, so often has it been repeated.” She has a point, although there is a corresponding men’s genre which some refer to as “dude lit”. Unfortunately, the authors of this type of fiction are given far more respect than their female counterparts- no doubt in part because of the common assumption that there are people, and then there are women.

Why are people so quick to dismiss this entire genre? My sister said she doesn’t read chick lit because she’s read some and found it to be lacking. She does read sci-fi and fantasy, and I asked her if she didn’t think there was bad sci-fi or fantasy. Her answer: “A lot of it is really bad.” And yet, that hasn’t put her off the genres entirely.

The sweeping dismissal of chick lit is just another form of sexism- if it’s by a woman, features a woman, and written with women in mind, then it must be frivolous and useless- just like women.

Waiting on my emperor

I’m not a relationship person. I’m 30 years old, and have been in one relationship.

I’ve dated, or at least attempted to date outside of that one relationship, but most of those situations have been unmitigated disasters, the most recent of which was my then housemate and her boyfriend setting me up with his housemate who turned out to be a disgusting, misogynistic creep. It was an awful experience. So, I’ve removed myself from the dating scene for now. Frankly, aside from emotionally, I’m also not geographically in the right place to find the type of person I would like to date.

Something that I keep hearing from African men is say that “a woman is supposed to cook.” A woman is unmarriageable if she doesn’t cook. And to be fair, it’s not only the men that say it- women perpetuate these gender roles. I was with the a couple of diplomats this week, and they said that “no Ghanaian man would marry me” and that “as a woman, I have certain gifts that enable me to cook” and that my husband “pays the bills, so I have to cook.”

Obviously, I did not react well. Aside from the assumption that my greatest ambition is to have a Ghanaian husband (WTF?), men also have hands, and if a man has managed to make it to the age of 25 or 30 or 35 without me cooking for him, why on earth would I suddenly be responsible for his nourishment? I have a Masters degree, and I work- and I… don’t pay bills? Is my money not good enough for bill paying because I’m a woman?

I’m sure this will come as a surprise to no one, but I’m not interested in being in a relationship where my partner doesn’t view me as a human being. I’m certainly not interested in being in a relationship where a partner expects things from me- cooking, cleaning, making less money than him, shaving my legs, being a SAHM, wearing makeup, an engagement ring, or skirts, changing my last name- that he wouldn’t even consider doing himself. I do not believe in “letting the man lead.” And I’m certainly not about to have a man “teach” me that I’m should be submissive to him, because why on earth would I listen to the oppressor telling me that I’m meant to be oppressed by him? I’m aware that I’m limiting my choices in partners by doing that, but I’m damn sure not about to limit my choices in life to please some man’s sexist preferences.

I am interested in a relationship where someone’s expectations of me aren’t based on stereotypes and restrictive roles- one where he would expect me to treat him with respect and compassion, and he would do the same for me.

There was an episode of Sex and the City where Jack Berger was hanging out with Carrie and Charlotte, and said “So basically, guys are just fucked?” when Charlotte said she hated carnations, and Carrie said she loved them- and that Carrie would dump a guy for wearing boat shoes, but Charlotte thought they were cute. A guy is only screwed if he views women the same way humans view dogs- as creatures that universally love having their genitals scratched and eating their own feces, rather than people with distinct preferences, flaws, and strengths.

This metaphor is getting away from me.

My point is that men and women should view each other as equals.

There aren’t a whole lot of models of feminist relationships out there- so when I look at who I would like my ideal relationship to be modeled after, I look to the most egalitarian society that I know of: The emperor penguins.

Admittedly, I am no relationship expert. But I do know what I want in a relationship- and that is a partner, not a master or a dependent. The emperor penguin is the most non-sexist animal species I know of. (There are some matriarchal animal species as well, but I’m more interested in the idea of sharing lives than one sex being subordinate to another.)

Emperor penguins

I think these arctic birds are a pretty inspirational model for how to treat one another. Before sex, the male bows to the female and she bows back. When she lays the egg, the male incubates it for the winter while she goes off to feed herself- laying an egg takes a lot out of you. He takes care of it for over two months! If the penguin hatches before the mother returns, the papa takes care of it, feeding it with a liquid produced in his esophagus (the penguin equivalent of breast milk) and keeping it warm.

When the mama comes back, she takes over the childcare responsibilities, while the male penguin goes to sea to regain his strength (childcare is exhausting stuff).

I get that penguins are not humans, and that there are physiological differences between us that make certain things impossible- we’re mammals after all, and women gestate fetuses until birth, and men don’t produce breast milk. Still, I don’t see why we can’t take a cue from our tuxedoed cousins and split things more equally– both men and women putting in the work (even the not so fun stuff) to make their lives run smoothly, instead of arbitrarily gendering responsibilities and calling it a day.

So unlike Monique, I’m not looking for a king to whom to submit. And I’m not looking to be treated like a queen. (What does that mean, anyway?) In all honesty, I’m not looking for anything right now, but when someone the time does come, I will be ready for my emperor.

Ungendering language

In 2015, hen will officially enter Sweden’s lexicon as a gender-neutral pronoun.

While some complain that this is “taking it too far” (a concept I addressed here and here), it’s really a step in the right direction. Sure, it may make for some occasionally confusing conversations, but the overwhelming majority of the time, knowing someone’s sex or gender identity isn’t really, or shouldn’t be a factor in one’s interaction with them.

Besides, gender-neutral pronouns are nothing new. The thing is, I’m not sure they make any difference. In Ghana, which is hands down the most gendered society I’ve ever lived in, the lingua franca, Twi, uses a gender-neutral pronoun. It doesn’t make anything even remotely egalitarian.

The world actually goes too far in the gendering of things. In many languages, inanimate objects are gendered. As far as I can tell, the only reason for this is to reinforce imagined differences between men and women by using language. There is nothing bad about removing artificial barriers that are held in place only by blind adherence.

John McWhorter argues that such a thing would be impossible in English, although teens already proving that idea wrong.

Why not embrace gender-neutral language? Although it’s not going to fix everything, maybe it will make us less quick to make assumptions about things based on supposed traits. Maybe I won’t be asked why I don’t wear nail polish or told by someone I’m dating that I need to wear dresses or he won’t be attracted to me anymore if I’m thought of primarily as a person rather than a woman first. Maybe men like Sissy Goodwin won’t be physically and verbally attacked for wearing clothes that they like if we just think of people as being people.


You take it too far, Part II

Have you ever heard people say that “feminism takes it too far” or that “some feminists take it too far”? Non-feminist men and women tell me that I’m taking it too far, and I’ve even had women who call themselves feminists tell me that they think I take it too far.

The only thing I believe in is full equality between the sexes, where people’s responsibilities, preferences, and actions are not arbitrarily dictated by the genitalia they were born with.* Basically I think gender roles are garbage.

Apparently this is extreme.

This is taking it too far.

And, apparently the following isn’t:

What’s not taking it too far is the unrealistic standards put on women as to how we are meant to dress and alter our appearance into something completely unnatural.

What’s not taking it too far is the number of women who are victims of intimate partner violence.

What’s not taking it too far is thinking that men need to allow women to go ahead of them in line/sit down on public transport because our female legs are too weak to just wait in line like a person.

What’s not taking it too far is the number of women and girls who are victims of sexual assault.

What’s not taking it too far is telling women they “unprofessional” and going as far as to fire them for not wearing makeup (or high heels).

What’s not taking it too far is saying that it’s a woman’s responsibility to cook. (Seriously, are we supposed to put vaginal secretions in what we cook? For what other reason does that make it the woman’s responsibility?)*

What’s not taking it too far is the almost universal expectation (and practice) that a woman will become a man’s property and produce more property for him with her body when she marries. (I put my name on my lunchbox because it was mine. Same principle.)

What’s not taking it too far is denying women the right to make decisions about their own bodies.

What’s not taking it too far is women still making less money than men for doing the same thing and being punished for asking for more.

What’s not taking it too far is assertions that women only read and write romance novels.

No, I’m the one who is taking it too far.

What’s taking it too far is objecting to someone rushing in front of me to open a door I was just about to open. (Men often argue that it’s about being nice. Look, if you’re doing it for me, and you would never do it for another man, and then you get offended when I don’t appreciate it, you are absolutely not being nice.) What’s taking it too far is not wearing makeup or shaving my legs. What’s taking it too far would be for a woman and a man to marry each other, and neither of these people putting their names on the other person. What’s taking it too far would be a woman giving her name to the children that she gestated and pushed out of her vagina. What’s taking it too far is not believing in stupid, patriarchal ideals about what makes a man (or a woman) desirable.

I had a friend a few years ago with whom I got into an argument about leg shaving. Her argument was that it’s not attractive for women not shave their legs, and I was disgusting for wearing short things without shaving mine. I pointed out that men don’t shave their legs, and she didn’t consider that disgusting. She said “That’s different, because they’re men.” She kept insisting that it was unattractive for women not to shave their legs, but it was fine for men. She also said (seriously) that it was “natural” for women to wear makeup, because makeup was invented for women.

I am no longer friends with her.

Men have legs. Women have legs. Men grow hair on their legs. Women grow hair on their legs. Legs perform the same function for both men and women. But somehow… only the people with vaginas* are disgusting if they leave the hair on their legs? Even though 90% of the people commenting on this post would agree, I think they’re taking it too far.

You have a right to your preferences and your opinion. That doesn’t make them not sexist.

I do not maintain relationships with people who don’t think I’m a human being.

Maybe that is just taking too far.

*I realize how cis-centric this sounds, but I do this to highlight the absurdity and arbitrariness of these norms. If someone transitions from M2F, does that mean that their legs must suddenly be shaved even if the previous week they didn’t need to be? They must suddenly cook when they’ve never needed to before?

Detroit citizens transported back to Stone Age

The United States of America. The self-professed “greatest country in the world”; the “land of the free.”

Anyone who knows me knows that I would beg to differ. And perhaps, so would the people of Detroit, Michigan.

Detroit used to be a bustling metropolis. In the early 20th century, it established itself as the world’s automotive capital, and during the 1950’s to 70’s, it was a prosperous city thanks to the thriving auto industry. It’s also the home of Motown, Berry Gordy’s record company (which is now a nickname for Detroit, as well as the musical genre), which was played a large role in racially integrating music and entertainment.

Despite all of the commercialism and creativity that the city was known for, there was also volatile racial tension, not to mention a Klu Klux Klan presence that surfaced in the 1920’s. The city’s decline has resulted in urban decay and abandoned buildings, and Detroit recently filed for bankruptcy.

Last week, Detroit has been in the news for reasons a far cry from its Motown and automotive heyday. Thousands of residents no longer have access to running water. In the “greatest country in the world,” in one of its biggest cities, there are people living in houses who don’t have access to running water. Thanks to the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department 17,000 people have had their water turned off because of late payments in 2014 so far.

The United Nations has condemned the state’s actions. According to UN Special Rapporteur on the right to safe drinking water and sanitation Catarina de Albuquerque, “Disconnections due to non-payment are only permissible if it can be shown that the resident is able to pay but is not paying.”

Is it a coincidence that such dramatic hikes in water tariffs and shut offs are taking place in a city that is over 80% black? Maureen Taylor doesn’t seem to think so, and frankly, neither do I. There were, after all, corporations who also owed on their water bills, and their access was not revoked as a result.

People living in the world’s most developed nations should not be dealing with water shortages. (In fact, no one should be dealing without access to water, but it seems especially egregious given the fact that the USA has the world’s largest economy.) Protesters have been arrested. This is how power and privilege work to continue to disenfranchise those already living in poverty. It’s appalling, and it’s no way for the people of Detroit, for people in the United States, or people anywhere in the world to live.

“You take it too far”

It’s not uncommon for people who have never experienced systemic, institutionalized oppression of a certain type to accuse those who have, and identify it, as being “too sensitive” or “taking it too far.”

For people who have never been on the receiving end of systematic discrimination, or for people who are, but for some reason, prefer it that way, it may not be that obvious. If it’s not something overt, like hanging a human being from a tree, or bombing their home or place of worship, or physically assaulting someone while yelling racial slurs, then clearly it’s not systemic racism, it’s because of something else.

Studies have shown that those who are on the receiving end of racism are the best able to identify it. And why wouldn’t they? While I understand that there are all kinds of discrimination that take place against people based on religion, race, size, ability, gender identity, I certainly can’t pick out anti-Semitism as easily as a Jewish person can, or transphobia as easily as a trans person can. I’m going to defer to the people who are on the receiving end of it to tell me.

Microaggressions, which are all too familiar to people with subaltern identities, are difficult to prove. It is possible for people to behave in a way that’s racist, even if it’s not a conscious decision for them to behave that way, thanks to several hundred years of white supremacy conditioning some people to be seen as smarter, more capable, or more attractive or more “refined” than others based on nothing but an arbitrarily defined set of physical characteristics.

It’s when a white Canadian says that of course white men in China go after local women in a way they don’t in Ghana because “That’s different, because they’re Asian, and they’re hot!”

It’s a “friend” telling saying that it’s not good not to cook because you’re “a girl.” (Two in one-infantilizing and gender policing simultaneously!)

It’s describing East Africans (any people of color with physical characteristics usually associated with whiteness) has having “more refined” features than the rest of Africa.

It’s your cousins and their friends laughing at you and saying “I hope I’m not being sexism” when you point out real, problematic, misogynistic behavior.

It’s me saying something in Japanese (to a table of people who don’t understand Japanese), explaining what it means, and then having them argue with absolute certainty about it- because by definition, as a black woman, it’s impossible that I could possibly know what I’m talking about, right?

It’s having all these types of incidences dismissed with a “You’re taking it too far” by someone who does not understand what it is to live life on the receiving end of this.

The thing is, it’s impossible to prove that (some of) these incidents came from a place of maliciousness, or even prejudice. I can’t prove when a white person sticks their hands into my hair without my permission that they have done it because of my race, because it’s not like I have a recording of them admitting to it. But I know that that’s what they are doing, because I have grown up on the receiving end of racism and sexism my entire life.

So no, it’s not me that’s taking it too far. It’s not the countless other people who are far more educated than I am on issues of discrimination and power dynamics who are taking it too far.


Further reading:

How to Tell if a White Person is Racist

“People are Nicer to Daddy Because He’s White”