Tuesday, June 23, 2009

You Shouldn't Give a Damn About Your Reputation!

Tonight I was driving around on the coast and listening to the radio. The following song by Joan Jett came on, which I had totally forgotten about, and needless to say I am having flashbacks of the good old days when MTV actually, uh, played videos all day and night. Imagine that! 

Joan Jett and the Blackhearts: Bad Reputation

You shouldn't give a damn about your reputation either! I've always had a bad reputation, and if I listened to every rumor out there about me then I wouldn't be the bad ass bitch that I am today. Fuck what everyone says about you! 

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Who Are You Calling a Witch, Bitch?!

I have been obsessed with all things "Wicked" for years. I read the book "Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West" a couple of years ago and I just absolutely loved it! I love women who are wicked, as well as those women who have been framed as being wicked. Let me tell you a little about the book:

Elphaba (who you know as the "Wicked Witch of the West") is wrongfully accused of being a witch-she was nothing more than basically a bad-ass little girl who happened to be born green (for reasons that you will just have to learn about later). People mistreated her throughout her entire life and wrongfully labeled her as being wicked because she was a little kick ass girl.

The Wizard in the land of Oz is basically a tyrant, who enforces segregation and more or less genocide towards the animals in the kingdom (stratifying animals into Animals with a capital a, and animals with a lower case a). At one point the animals became educated, and he is once again making them work back in the fields again. He forces the munchkins to labor, breaks labor unions, rapes the Earth for rubies, etc. Elphaba finally decides that she has had enough and she goes underground in order to do him in. No wonder they labeled her as a witch--Oz's very own revolutionary domestic terrorist!

Here is an excerpt from the first chapter that I really loved. Dorothy and the others are resting under a tree and the "witch" is on top of the tree listening:

"Of course, to hear them tell it, it is the surviving sister who is the crazy one," said the Lion.

"What a Witch. Psychologically warped; possessed by demons. Insane. Not a pretty picture."

"She was castrated at birth," replied the Tin Woodman calmly. "She was born hermaphroditic, or maybe entirely male."

"Oh, you see castration everywhere you look", said the Lion.

"I'm only repeating what folks say," said the Tin Wooodman.

"Everyone is entitled to an opinion," said the Lion airily. "She was deprived of a mother's love, is how I've heard it. She was an abused child. She was addicted to medicine for her skin condition."

"She has been unlucky in love," said the Tin Woodman, "like the rest of us." The Tin Woodman paused and placed his hand on the center of his chest, as if in grief.

"She's a woman who prefers the company of other women," said the Scarecrow, sitting up.

"She's the spurned lover of a married man."

"She is a married man."

The Witch was so stunned that she nearly lost her grip on the branch. The last thing she ever cared for was gossip. Yet she had been out of touch for so long that she was astonished at the vigorous opinions of these random nobodies.

"She's a despot. A dangerous tyrant,"said the Lion with conviction.

When I first read this over a year ago, I instantly identified with the Witch and fell in love with the story. Any woman in power has probably heard similar gossip about herself. This excerpt brings to mind something that happened to me about six months ago. I was coordinating a training for a couple of hundred teachers, and as I walked down the hall I heard two teachers standing in one of the rooms, talking about none other than yours truly. I swear that the excerpt is more or less what I heard these two teachers talking about. What really pissed me off was that these two teachers have asked for favors in the past.

I stood outside the room for almost fifteen minutes with the main reason that I would be there when they exited the room. I listed to them talk about what a bitch I was, how I was self-interested, only making them go to the training in order to justify my "over-inflated salary, how I date married men, slept My way to the top, was a lesbian (um, I thought I date married men?), control everyone, and the list goes on and on.

Long ago I used to let this type of gossip bother me because I used to actually want other people to recognize my hard work and dedication. Over the years as a manager, I have come to the conclusion that no matter how hard I work and how much I bend over backwards, some people are so miserable that they will do anything in their power to try to bring other people down to their level. The incident that I mentioned wasn't the first nor the last time that I have overheard people talking crap about me behind my back. I could give a rat's ass what anyone says about me now--I figure that if people are gossiping about you, then that pretty much signifies that you are pretty special.

Last Halloween, I went to see the musical "Wicked". I didn't care much for the musical, particularly because I thought that there was too much of an overemphasis on the "good witch". One song in the musical though resonated with me and it's pretty much along the same lines of not letting anyone bring you down. The song is called "Defying Gravity" and I just LOVE the lyrics because they are so powerful:

Isn't she a bad-ass? I really like these lyrics that she sings at the end:

So if you care to find me

Look to the western sky

As someone told me lately -

Ev'ryone deserves the chance to fly

And if I'm flying solo

At least I'm flying free

To those who'd ground me

Take a message back from me -

Tell them how I

Am defying gravity!

I'm flying high

Defying gravity!

And soon I'll match them in renown

And nobody in all of Oz

No wizard that there is or was

Is ever gonna bring me down!

I really love that message-I couldn't have said it any better! Tell it, Sista!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Unleash Your Inner Freak

I really LOVE the lyrics to the song "Still Dirty" by Cristina Aguilera. Here's a video of her singing the song in concert, as well as another song that I'm not familiar with.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Tales of a Wee Little Badass

Ever since I was a little girl I always had an obsession with women who were different than the "average woman".  When I was a wee little girl I was smacked on the knuckles by the nuns far too many times for asking why everyone always blamed Eve for everything. When I was nine years old, I was given a spanking at school because I wrote a paper in class that I thought that Adam was the weak one because he ate the apple and that Eve was merely curious. I was sent to confess my sins to the priest and was sent home for the day.

Growing up as a little feminist bad-ass in a Catholic school was very difficult until they finally ended up kicking me out, thank Goddess. From a very young age, I can remember asking my mother why the man was the one who led the services and not the nuns. I would constantly get in trouble when I asked questions as to why females were portrayed somewhat negatively in the bible. They tried to brainwash me, but I've been known to have an extremely strong character and thumbed my nose at all that they taught me about being a good little girl.

As a young Latina growing up in Los Angeles, I rarely had role models of women who rejected conventional gender roles. Most of the women in my immigrant neighborhood catered to their husbands and sons, my young friends catered to the boys in the neighborhood while practically doing backflips to get pregnant, and my teachers pretty much expected me to grow up and wipe a man's ass. Frustrating and depressing, to say the least.

The only refuge I had were my books and occasional shows on television. The first book that made my heart jump for joy about being a bad-ass little girl was The Paper Bag Princess. I've blogged about the book before, and the first time I read it as a child it was like a little light bulb went off in my head that I was not the only girl who was different than the others. It was the first time that I had ever seen a girl or woman who was portrayed in a powerful light. 

I later graduated to reading all of the Nancy Drew books, which I can't currently recall, but I remember loving as a child. I also fell in love with Anne Frank and Wonderwoman. I didn't have many other examples of strong, independent women and girls until I was in high school. After reading The Scarlet Letter in high school,  I made a pact to myself that I would never let anyone make me feel ashamed for my sexuality. The book The Awakening was the first time that I had ever heard about a woman who was not happy with being a wife or mother and would rather commit suicide than live a constricted life. 

These small little glimpses of unconventional women that I read growing up were life savers for me. Young girls who don't fit the typical mold can be prone to depression and might internalize that there is something wrong with them because they are different than other girls. 

I've been running in search of strong, unconventional, and diverse women for years. I look for them everywhere-in books, on television, in music, in real life and make believe. It's something that I need to nourish my soul on those days when I walk around and am reminded that I am different than the average woman in society. It's my own personal brand of therapy and sometimes the only thing I can do to maintain my sanity in a world of fools. 

Am I the only woman who was in this predicament as a child??

Friday, June 5, 2009

Nikki Giovanni-The Fire in My Soul

Today our guest blogger is Pinksugacupcake from twitter! I asked her to write about the biggest, baddest woman who has ever influenced her as a woman and she choose Nikki Giovanni. I would have to agree because she's also one of my favorite, favorite women! Read what Pinksugacupcake has to say: 

When I was asked to write this guest blog, I was humbled as well as delighted. Being the Feminist/Womanist that I am, it is always a pleasure to write about stars which shine brightly in my galaxy. 

I can remember the first time I read a poem by Nikki Giovanni. I was meandering through an old musty bookstore in Georgia uttering the mantra of all morose teenagers, “Moooooom I’m bored”. My Mother is Southern and does NOT play. She told me in that special tone to find a book, sit down, and be quiet. In my haste to stay out of trouble, I grabbed a book of poetry and quickly claimed a musty velvet chair in the dimly lit corner of the store. 

Uninterested, I thumbed through the seemly ancient pages until a title procured my attention. The title of the poem was “Ego Tripping”.  As I read the words, I felt something change inside of me. It felt as if I was being scorched by the sun from the inside out. When the poem concluded, I felt a profound sense of loss, similar to the feeling when your favorite movie concludes. I wanted to reclaim the sense of being consumed by her words. 

“Ego Tripping” is full of life, emotion, wisdom. I couldn’t get enough. Lines like “I am so perfect, So divine, So ethereal, So surreal, I cannot be comprehended except by MY permission” or “I’m so hip even my errors are correct” resonated into my soul.

After that experience, I couldn't get enough of Nikki Giovanni. I researched her as if I were her biographer. Anything remotely connected to Nikki Giovanni, I consumed voraciously and was still ravenous for more. I spent the majority of the summer trying to convince my family we were related to her, especially since our families are from the same state. Unfortunately, we are of no relation.

Nikki Giovanni has lived an amazing life which is eloquently chronicled through her poetry. She was an activist when activism was dangerous. Nikki was a feminist when feminism was unpopular. A womanist before the term was even conceived. Her poems are full of strength and never vacillating. She wrote about the black experience without watering it down for the masses, yet presented it in a manner in which it could be digested by all eager for enlightenment. Nikki Giovanni is courageous, fierce, bold, and most of all secure in her womanhood. That is why she will always be the fire in my soul.

Check out some of Nikki Giovanni's books of poems here, and some of the children's books that she's written here. She's a bad-ass.

You can follow our guest blogger Pinksugacupcake on twitter, or read more about her on her blog Absentminded Oracle

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A Male's Perspective: Clarice-Part I

Today we're featuring our second guest blogger....Inkognegro! I asked him to post about the biggest, baddest bitch who has ever influenced his life and I hope you enjoy part one of his story: 

I am often asked how it is my understanding of women is so progressive.   My usual wink-and-a-nod response is “Good Home Training” but the reality is much more complex.  While my mother did represent a valuable role model for me to see the power of a strong woman, she isn’t the one that opened my eyes.   That “lead by example” mode was easily counteracted by a patriarchal day-to-day life that dominated my formative years.   My moment of clarity wasn’t courtesy of a teacher, family member, or church member.  Ironically enough, my moment of clarity was courtesy of a woman who was supposed to be my subordinate. 

The year was 1989, and I had just arrived in Hartford, CT for the first year of my college internship at a major insurance company.  As a person who was completely new to any sense of Corporate America, who had never known a male family member to put on a suit and tie to go to work five days a week, I was a virgin in more ways than one.  I had at least gone to a few workshops on how to dress for success and had been to church so much that wearing a suit and tie didn’t make me uncomfortable.  But I was a boy who knew school and church.  Occupying a lead cubicle (what the hell is a cubicle?)  in a pod (What am I a pea now?) and having an administrative assistant (that I shared with my mentor, but still….WOW) was a culture shock that totally neutered any of the usual ego driven bravado I usually carried around with me.  On that fateful May afternoon, I was a sheep being led to some kind of exotic slaughter.  And there I sat in the conference room with all the other sheep waiting for our respective shepherds.

Clarice was a woman of uncommon grace.  Some women are well schooled and trained in all the scholastic, cultural, and physical rigors of learning the savoir-faire that goes into being a woman of the ages.  It was plain to see from the second Clarice called my name out of orientation that she was a natural in every sense.  I looked up from my orientation handbook and locked eyes with a set of dark brown eyes that defied the glasses that aided them to diminish the degree to which they sparkled.  I knew enough about Black women to know that if they looked 25 they could be almost forty so I didn’t even bother to guesstimate her age.  I settled on the fact that she might be old enough to be my mother and was probably my boss and defaulted to the manner in which I treat elders.

I stood and humbly acknowledged her smooth southern twanged alto with a snap to attention and a strong but deferential “Yes ma’am”.   The fact that I had no idea where I was going allowed me to walk a half step behind her and behold her walk, a walk that was equal parts Military General, Runway Model, and Gangster; a walk that evoked leadership in every possible facet.  I had known Clarice for 3 minutes and I had already decided I would do whatever she said.  And for the next 12 weeks, I did.

Stay tuned for Inkognegro's sequel. You can find him on twitter here, or read his blog here