Christians Doing the Most

I say this as part of the community, as a member of the tribe.

Christians can be hypocritical, judgmental, cruel, tin-eared, venal, and all the other adjectives for the base things humans do.

We can also be loving, sacrificial, compassionnate noble, kind and all the other adjectives for the inspired things humans do.

Then there’s this:

Whiskey.

Tango.

Foxtrot.

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Insecure

screen-shot-2016-09-09-at-8-10-52-am-www-imagesplitter-netI have long been a fan of Issa Rae and her particular brand of wry humour. I loved Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl and I’ve just finished watching her new show, Insecure.

I can’t recommend it enough. It’s funny but painfully real. The secondary characters are well-developed and I love how complex the lead character is. It’s the sort of complexity that’s usually reserved for male characters, who are never under pressure to be likeable. Issa is flawed, human, hilarious. Real.

But for me personally, her best friend Molly really resonates. Her series of dating dramas just speak to me powerfully and I know I’m not alone. There are so many great characters in the show and her portrayal of that interconnected web of relationships, colleagues and friends is just pitch perfect.

At the moment, watching this, Atlanta and Crazyhead, I feel like I’ve been spoiled for good TV with Black leads. Susan Wokoma (Crazyhead) played my favourite character in Chewing Gum and in Crazyhead she tears up every scene she is in, giving it attitude, pathos, reserve and humour as appropriate and with ease, switching gears with a quiet self-assurance. I hope to see more of her and that we don’t lose her to the States when Crazyhead lands there this month*

 

*I wish her well of course. But if we want to keep talent like hers on this side of the pond, the roles need to be there. I hope the industry takes note!

 

 

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How Language Betrays Our Thoughts on Equality

I am having a nerdy week. So to kick it off, here’s a fascinating TED talk on how language betrays our thoughts on equality.

Language matters to me a great deal. I believe that one of the scariest things about this “post-truth, post-facts” age is that the language we use is slipping. It’s not the vintage racial slurs that are back in fashion; what’s sending my bat senses mad is the framing of issues around equality – be it racial, gender etc.

These are being framed as an “elite” concern and it’s not just the right, it’s liberals too, who are talking down “identity politics” like it’s a merry game we’ve all been playing in the last few years for our own amusement, and now it’s time to get back to the serious business of dealing with class and economics. (and Whiteness as the default. It’s not said, but the erasure of other groups is a whitewashing.)

It’s frightening though how that then informs what is “authentic” and worthy of political action. So, working class people of colour are erased in favour of dealing with white working class grievances. Which are just presented as neutral working class.  This authenticity dovetails into the discussion on nationalism which is only celebrated for its imperialism; any efforts to colour in the picture with the contributions of people of colour and indeed the effects of this imperialism on other people’s globally is seen as somehow inauthentic and invalid. Identity politics again.

Who we consider authentic has a bearing on citizenship. As we expand the hostile environment and move the endless border to encroach ever more on the lives of citizens – the rental market, at the doctor, where you are asked to perform citizenship again and again it throws into stark relief who is more likely to be considered “foreign” and therefore singled out. Every time you’re singled out it’s a reminder that you don’t belong, regardless of what your papers may say.

So, language matters. Framing matters too, because it shapes how we discuss the matters at hand. The right’s biggest victory has been in reframing the discussion on immigration, citizenship, belonging, Europe etc and liberalism’s failure is in trying to win on that turf.

We need to mind our words. They betray what we’re really thinking.

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Poor Imitation

I am an avid fan of the Eloquent Woman blog, which I’ve mentioned here before. And in a thoughtful post, the speech trainer Denise Graveline reflects on Melania Trump’s disastrous speech in which she plagiarised Michelle Obama:

“No matter how you vote, I think it’s a shame that this happened to a woman speaker on only her second speech of the campaign. The Republican National Convention had just 34% female speakers on the stage, with this speech the most prominent by a woman. I’m ending the week feeling as if Melania Trump was not, at a minimum, well supported for this now-famous speech, in both the speech preparation and the spokesmanship about the controversy. In the end, this major stumble at what might have been the start of a high-profile speaking career is going to dog her steps going forward. Should she become First Lady, she might well want to avoid speaking publicly, which would be a big step backward for that role. This will frame her media coverage and her credibility. Her unfavorable rating was high going into the convention, and it will only increase now. And it should. In the end, the responsibility for a speech begins and ends with the speaker, no matter how many speechwriters you throw under the bus.” – Denise Graveline

In a subsequent post, Denise looks at the Melania memes. I like this post because although I’m no fan of the Trumps and I think Melania pales in comparison to Michelle Obama, she makes some good points about women in public life and how some of the mocking of Melania tips into slut-shaming and misogyny. Even if we disagree with her, she should be heard (and vociferously disagreed with).

“Even if we don’t agree with what she might say, we shouldn’t be about silencing her… I still plan to hold her to account for her words or her delivery, if those become a problem at a policy level or provide a poor example.” – Denise Graveline.

I think her post is a good reminder that as we go into the next eight years (I guess) of Trump, we should not shy away from challenging him and his policies, but we should be mindful of not letting that tip over into something more nasty. And while Melania married a dangerous bigot and is unelected, she will still be part of the Trump infrastructure in the White House so we should not discourage her from speaking. As the proverb goes, we should let them hang themselves by their own petard.

As the unparalleled current FLOTUS said, “When they go low, we go high”.

 

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Top Trumps

So, that happened.

As I’m writing about it in other capacities, which I will post here later, all I’ll say for now is this:

  1. It’s the done thing to say that not everyone who voted for a racist (misgoynist, fascist…) is racist (misogynist, fascist..) themselves. Ok. But these attributes were clearly not a deal breaker, which means you are….racist-adjacent? I think that nuance has been lost on the KKK, who are now loud and proud, alongside your garden-variety casual bigot. It would be great if less time was spent trying to carefully whittle out the nuances of the Trump voters and coddle their feelings and more time spent looking out for the minorities who feel thrown under the bus – or, perhaps even challenging racism as emphatically NOT the response to any grievance, real or perceived. NB: Loss of privilege is not persecution.
  2. It wasn’t a working class revolution. Nor was it about the “left behind”. The one thing that trumped every identity (Christian, women) was whiteness. But apparently, this isn’t white supremacy. So… is this white supremacist-adjacent? That nuance has been lost on minorities, who overwhelmingly voted for decency (and yes, email scandal or no, I’ll take average politician over cinnamon Hitler).
  3. We need playwrights, artists, poets and comedians more than ever to tell us the truths we need to hear. The New Yorker’s 16 essays on Trump’s America is a good start.
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Voice-Overs

Watching Luke Cage earlier I realised with pleasure that Sonja Sohn was in the show. I know her on sight obviously as a huge fan of hers from the Wire, but her voice is one of my absolute favourites. That got me thinking about other actors whose voices (and work) I admire:

  • Gina Torres
  • Angela Bassett
  • Mahershala Ali (also from Luke Cage and House of Cards)
  • Reg E Cathey (Also from House of Cards)

These are just a few and I’m steering clear of the obvious (James Earl Jones et al) but I have to say, there’s something about a sonorous, mellifluous, voice. I think deeper voices tend to resonate more with me, especially on women.

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Grey Ambition

anthea.pngThis is going to seem really shallow, but I’m going grey and it has really unsettled me.

Getting older is a funny process. It’s only when you mention something in passing to your friends that you think is only happening to you that you realise everyone is figuring out what to do with wrinkles, the odd errant chin hair and skin that might go from oily to dry or even from flawless to teenage-style oily.

But the real issues are below the surface. For women especially, the ageing process is reveals so much about your conceptions of femininity and what expectations you have for yourself in terms of family and career.

It’s rare to see women with grey hair in the workplace, particularly in more corporate environments. It’s not perceived as distinguished and dashing as it is on men. Dyeing your hair to mask grey is not dissimilar to wearing makeup – For some, it’s an imperative to subscribe to the cult of youth, to others it’s just fun or they like how it looks. I don’t judge. But I was struck that whereas some of my friends may or may not wear makeup, or shave their legs, or pluck their eyebrows, the friends who have told me they are going grey all dye their hair or have weaves, wigs or braids that cover it, even my friends who wear their hair natural.

There’s something about hair. Perhaps because woman’s hair is almost emblematic and traditionally there has always been pressure for women to have long hair that conforms to the “feminine ideal”. Less so now; but still: everyone remembers the apex of Britney Spear’s troubled year in 2007 as the point when she shaved off her hair. The natural hair/weave/relaxed hair debate continues to roil in black communities. Shaving your head or growing a huge afro is seen a bold political statement.

Hair is tied up in our notions of femininity in a way that wrinkles are not. I have found myself unsettled, I’ve realised, not because I’m upset about ageing but because I expected to be in a different place in my life when this process became most visible.

This is stupid – I’ve had friends who went grey at 15 – but having interrogated my emotions, I feel like I did turning 30. It’s not the date that bothered me, just the disappointment of unmet expectations – expectations that I didn’t know I had. (to be clear: that I would be married, further along in my career, that I would have a career, children).

And that’s why the grey hair has thrown me for a loop this year. I didn’t really know that I had any thoughts about it until it happened and I feel strangely vulnerable still being “on the market” dating-wise as a visibly older woman. (I know, even as I type this I’m thinking, REALLY? But yes, this is an honest post).

I don’t want to dye it because I actually like my hair and all its colours (black and brown in different lights, now silver too) and I am loathe to change it. So I won’t. But it took me a little while to summon the courage to decide this, even though when it comes to other matters of hair removal or makeup or body image I am totally comfortable drawing my own line and walking it.

I’m disappointed in myself; I’ve clearly still got some way to go in terms of growing into my confidence as a 34 year-old. I’ve put a picture of the academic Anthea Butler here because I’ve always loved her look and thought that I’d try it perhaps when I got older.

Well, the first silvery threads are here and they brought friends, gathering into what appear to be two streaks at the front. They catch the light and keep surprising me. But I’m not going to dye them. I am learning to lean in and show up as that creature that society is alternately fascinated and repelled by – the (visibly) older woman.

 

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The Briefing Room

On Thursday I was on the BBC’s Briefing Room programme talking about Black Lives Matter UK. For those that listen, my intake of breath towards the end wasn’t deliberate and sounds more dramatic than it was meant to be!

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Trump, His Critics and Women

I wrote my first article (in my personal capacity) for Christian Today about Trump, his critics and how their condemnations of his comments on women are revealing. It’s a different audience than I’m used to, and I’m still learning how to bring all of me more explicitly to the proverbial table – my faith,  my feminism and of course my preoccupation with politics.

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Ms Jessica Pearson

jessicaSo, the best thing about TV show Suits is now gone. Jessica Pearson, as played by Gina Torres (my ideal Wonder Woman)* bowed out at the end of Season 6. I will miss her.

Jessica is fierce, feminine, wily and more ruthless than any of the men – but compassionnate, too, she just takes care of business. Quite frankly, I don’t know who will step up now that she’s gone. Everyone else is usually off crying (Rachel), whining (Rachel and Mike), faffing (Lewis), plotting (Lewis and Harvey), plotting and messing it up (all of them) and sooner or later they all wind up at Jessica’s door.

And Jessica takes care of business. I love the camaraderie and respect between her and Mr Zane, (Rachel’s dad), himself a shark in the industry. Jessica does it all on her own terms and goes toe to toe with all the men.

And then there is the fashion. Everyone in Suits looks sharp but Jessica took work wear to another level: stylish but daring, sexy, powerful, avant-garde and always, always on point. I am pretty sure most of her scenes were of her walking around because the office was her runway and she looked so damn good.

She had a powerful last few episodes, rediscovering her idealistic side in defending a man on death row, at great cost to herself as she prioritised him over the high-rollers she usually works for. She continued mentoring Rachel, my least favourite character and permanent wet blanket – hopefully she’ll step up a bit with such a strong female character leaving. She got her happy ending with Mike-on her terms. She sold her stake in the firm and decided on a new direction for herself, and one that included the possibility of love.

Her scenes with Mike were among my favourite. He loved her just as she was: ambitious, flawed, beautiful, terrible. He wasn’t intimidated and he didn’t want her to fold down into a smaller version of herself. His issue was her emotional unavailability and to an extent, her lying. But of course, they worked it out. They had a beautiful scene though where he told her that he didn’t want her to change herself, but that they had to have a certain level of trust to make the relationship work. He put his cards on the table. She went all in.

Gina Torres slays in this role. But what I love about Jessica is that she’s allowed to be complicated and morally ambiguous in a way that women still aren’t often permitted to be on TV and in film.

A brilliant role for a brilliant actress. She will be sorely missed.

 

*yes, I keep saying it. I’m hoping someone will make this happen one day if I keep speaking it into the void.

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