You Should Love Your Faces

Since the rise of the Smartphone and almost the invention of Social Media, people have been concern trolling the absolute fuck out of the use of either. There was a point between 2011 and 2015 where it seemed like almost weekly there was an article from some newspaper or magazine lamenting about how young people, Millennials, The Youths or whatever they called us, were spending too much time with our noses in our phones. They chided us for tweets and selfies and said that we knew nothing of the real world, only of the carefully curated digital ones we made for ourselves, yet didn’t see the irony of expressing these thoughts on their blogs.

Within the past few years (at least) there has been a pushback against this idea that Smartphones and Social Media are the End of Humanity. Many marginalized people have been able to use outlets like Twitter and Facebook to get the word out on Social (whodathunk?) issues that impact them. They’ve also been able to use it to build a broader community with people around the world and create a space where the intersections of race, gender identity, ability, sexuality, class et al can be heard. And the dreaded selfie? Has become a tool to highlight the beauty outside of the same Eurocentric standard.

And holy shit do I love the selfies.

I thirst follow people on Instagram constantly, because I genuinely love looking at people’s pictures of what they think is their best self. Instagram tends to be a very crafted photo space, where people get dressed up to look good in front of the camera. For me though, it doesn’t work that well. I’m a goofball who likes to take goofy pictures, so I would tend to take 100 photos intended for Instagram then delete them in short order because I thought they were awful. My selfies weren’t really meant for the Instagram world. At least not until I re-downloaded Snapchat.

For a long time I didn’t understand Snapchat. I’d downloaded it when it first came out, and used it to send pictures I’d doodled over my selfies to a few friends. Then they were hacked and  to be safe rather than sorry I deleted my old account. Then, a few months ago one of my friends was sharing posts on Instagram of herself with a puppy face. About a week later all of my friends were sharing posts on Instagram with puppy faces.

When it finally dawned on me that people were using Snapchat I wrestled back and forth with the idea of downloading it again and when I finally gave in, I was amazed at all the new things Snapchat had added, and quickly fell in love with everyone’s My Story, specifically the videos people post when they’re just playing around with the filters and their faces. It’s like watching a baby learn something new, the way people look at themselves from one angle, then shift to another then another trying to find out what looks good to them as opposed to what looks good to someone else.

People talk a lot about how Social Media is exhibitionism in a negative way, and while yes some people and places on the internet are downright terrible, I like the fact with all of the perfectly curated accounts that exist, there are also people who are being candid. Eyes are the windows to the soul, a picture is worth a thousand words, so why isn’t a Snapchat potentially the greatest movie ever made? Why isn’t a twitter account the best novel ever written?

If nobody else will tell you this I will, keep taking pictures of yourself. Keep taking video of yourself looking adorable in Snapchat pictures. Keep using social media to make yourself feel beautiful because you are!

Erasure: My Feelings on Proving POC Exist

There is a lot going through my head right now. After a fantastic weekend at WisCon 39, I’m trying to get back into the swing of writing regularly and have gathered a surprising amount of ideas over the past few days. However with all of the new ideas that have been floating around in my head there are also new doubts and worries, some of which are minor and some of which are slightly existential.

I think I should back up for a moment and let you know where all this begins. At WisCon I got the opportunity to once again interview Daniel Jose Older about his upcoming novels. During the interview, in a conversation about how realistic his novels were because of the diversity, I’d jokingly asked how he felt knowing that in 1000 years, his novels would be used as the proof that there were People of Color in the year 2015. He expressed not just hope, but certainty that it wouldn’t be the case, and that it seemed as if with campaigns like #WeNeedDiverseBooks, #INeedDiverseGames and many others, media was going towards a more accurate portrayal of race, gender and sexuality in the world.

I agree, but it feels like we have a long way to go, as evident (at least to me) by the fawning over the feminism of Mad Max: Fury Road. It’d been suggested to me by several people that I should watch it, and for a few weeks I felt apprehension about my concerns about not being as excited to see it as others. The film takes place in a post-apocalyptic Australia but has no Australian Aboriginal Women in the main cast. To me, it seems empty to say that a movie is Feminist when it ignores and almost erases the stories of the women native to the setting.

If you ever wonder why twitter campaigns calling for diversity in media are important this is why. We shouldn’t have to prove a thousand years from now that we existed. We shouldn’t have to re-discover our histories because they were drowned out by the stories of those with power. The erasure of People of Color, especially Women of Color, being treated as the standard is why things like the K Tempest Challenge, #INeedDiverseGames, #WeNeedDiverseBooks, #DiversifyAgentCarter and so many other hash tags and calls for diversity are important. So going forward, as a Midyear’s Resolution to myself I’ve decided to not be afraid to speak up when I feel trepidation about dishonest representations. So….. wish me luck?

The Wrong Conversations Are Being Had About Azealia Banks

I’ve had my issues with Azealia Banks over the years. I used to be an avid fan of hers but lost interest a couple of years ago after several instances of her popping off at the mouth on Twitter. If it had been the normal shit-talking that I’ll even admit to participating in, it wouldn’t have bothered me as much. Sadly Azealia’s shit-talking on several occasions delved deeply into trans phobia. It was a really disappointing, because I really enjoyed getting to see a dark-skinned black girl be both talented and outspoken in an industry that likes to pretend we don’t even exist anymore. But even the most outspoken #problackgirl can quickly lose my interest when she reveals herself to be trans phobic and unapologetic about it.
Over the past few months the idea of being a fan of Azealia has rocked back and forth in my head a few times. The release of ‘Broke With Expensive Taste’ reminded me of why I liked her in the first place. Azealia is a talented rapper lyricist with a style that is influenced by Hip-Hop, Caribbean music and NY Ball culture. In the prism of Black Cool, Azealia has found her niche and is good at what she does. Her presence on twitter however, will have moments of genius awareness before sliding back down to being seriously offensive.
Last week during an interview with Hot 97, Azealia broke into tears at least two times when asked about her feelings on the cultural appropriation of hip-hop music. During the interview Azealia breaks down in her own words how appropriation is slowly erasing blackfolks out of hip-hop, specifically black women. Those with less fluency in issues like this were quick to paint the interview as Azealia being jealous of Iggy, including the pop artist herself who called Azealia a bigot on twitter.
It’s hard to explain to those who aren’t familiar with or fluent in the lives of black women that Azealia Banks is trying to express her frustration with a world that wants her creativity but doesn’t want her. She’s fighting an uphill battle, and every time she speaks up about it she gets backlash that is highly racialized, especially when it comes to her “feud” with Iggy Azalea. In the interview she points out the Forbes article from earlier this year that claims that Hip-Hop is becoming a white dominated genre of music as an example of how the media is trying to erase black people from it. Forbes also claimed that Iggy was running Hip-Hop this year, and proceeded to say that Nicki Minaj deciding to stop making Pop/Top 40 centered music left “a void to be filled by none other than Iggy.” That statement alone derides Hip-Hop as a genre of music and places it’s value only in what could be sold on Pop charts. Even now in 2014 in order for black artists to be legitimate they need to cross over into the white dominated pop charts and in order for black music to be appreciated it needs to be performed by white musicians. It’s a larger problem that will be ignored in order to paint Azealia Banks as an aggressive, angry black woman and belittle her talent.
That isn’t to say that Azealia doesn’t have anything that needs to be critiqued. Her above mentioned trans phobia as well as her recent tweets about Bill Cosby are beyond problematic, they’re just plain wrong. People do have a right to be upset and not listen to her because of it. If she is going to be critiqued she should be critiqued for that and not for page clicks.

Storm Is Dark Skinned and Other Controversial Ideas Shared On Twitter (Actually Just That One)

Sometimes I forget that sharing your thoughts on twitter make other people think your tweets are an invitation for a counter argument. I’m not going to lie, in my earlier Twitter days I’ve made that mistake myself, but have since learned to generally keep my opinions out of other people’s mentions. Unless the tweeter is my friend or if something really offensive has been said and needs to be addressed. This is a personal rule for me, but sometimes I get a little irritated when I open my Tweetdeck and see what seems like an aggressive counter argument that I didn’t ask for in the first place.

“I <3 Kate Graham but Storm is dark skinned. I know sommayall think Ororo was Hall[e] Berry shade but that’s a lie Fox told you.”

I made the mistake of putting that on twitter after reading about a casting rumor. I just typed it out and hit ctrl + Enter. I wasn’t really expecting much of it until I got a a few responses that ranged from “It’s no big deal!” to “Who cares?” Which really got under my skin because obviously, I care.

Growing up, one of the things that I searched for constantly in anything I consumed, whether it was books, tv or movies, was for characters that looked like me. Being that I’m both black and female, those representations were hard to come by. Even at a very young age I noticed that there was a particular shade of black that was acceptable when you went in movies and tv. Storm was a character that I, like many other young black girls, treasured because in both the comic and that cartoon series she was a medium brown to dark skin tone.

Now I know people will write this off as nerd rage, or try and convince me that the fact that Kat Graham is black should be enough; that may be ok for you, it’s not for me. Black people come in several different shades, and I think it’s lazy casting to ignore that. There are so many talented actresses out there that are mid-tone to dark skinned, it makes no sense not to cast her as such.

Representation is important for a myriad of reasons, but media shouldn’t take shortcuts and just represent one aspect of an entire people. Until it stops taking shortcuts, I’m going to continue speaking out when I feel like it’s failing. Why? Because I care, that’s why.

Pre-Blocking for Personal Health

I’m on Twitter a lot. Like it or not, Twitter is one of the best sources of breaking news. If used properly, you can find first hand information as it happens instead of waiting for news outlets, which though they say they aren’t, tend to be biased in some of their interpretations of events. Twitter can be educational, fun and also help friends who live far away from one another keep in touch. Unfortunately, despite all of the good Twitter can do, it can also be used for evil.

You may or may not know it (let’s be real here, you know), but Twitter has issues with harassment. Anyone who’s participated in a trending topic knows about the Egg Icon’d accounts that pop up to say all manner of mean things, but sometimes there’s a picture, or a full profile and identifiable person behind those threats and abuse. When you’re bothered by these trolls, they could be at it for hours and it can range from mildly annoying to extremely triggering and scary. Just ask anyone who participated in the #GamerGate hashtag in the past few months.

I’ve dealt with enough trolls in my time on the internet, and am constantly trying to figure out how to make the places I frequent safe spaces for me without having to go entirely private. Luckily a friend told me about his method of keeping trolls away. He pre-blocks. Pre-blocking is easy. Normally when  friend on twitter gets into an argument with an obvious troll I just open the trolls profile and block them (or mark them as spam, depend on how fake it looks or how offensive they are). Then I just wipe my hands and walk away. That’s it. It keeps those trolls away from my profile long before they have a chance to bother me.

That’s not the only method of pre-blocking people, there are many apps on the internet that will do the work for or with you. Another method I use is The Block Bot, which has been a tremendous help because it has tiers you can subscribe to and the lists are compiled by people and if necessary, subscribers can request a troll be added.

These are just two of the methods you can use to make Twitter comfortable for you, and hopefully they’ve been helpful. If you know of any other methods or apps to use, share them below!