There’s healing in the water [Healing in Bikram Yoga]

And by water, I mean the sweat dripping from the tip of my nose, down to my thigh as I lock one leg, suck in my stomach, arch my back, hold the other leg perpendicular to the

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FYI I tried to find a picture of a black woman doing Bikram and couldn’t. #Visibility

ground. I curve my back and touch my head to my knee. I marvel at the wonder and strength of my body. This is Bikram Yoga.

It is difficult to formulate the words to explain the healing I’ve been able to cultivate through consistently practicing Bikram yoga. But here’s my valiant attempt:

 
1. Bikram reminds me of my power. Its something about seeing how powerful my body is, seeing my mind persevere through the 107 degrees, the burning muscles, and fatigue. In that mirror,sweating and ready to give up,I realize that I am damn strong. Not just physically, but mentally. I turn, twist, and move my body into shapes and positions I could have never imaged. I am learning, growing, being vulnerable. That all takes power.

2. Be consistent with your self-care. The discipline it takes to get to class, stay in class, and push myself is unparallel. I learned through yoga that in healing/ self-care, I have to be proactive rather than reactive. I don’t only go to yoga when I’m feeling down. I go on days I’m happy. Days I’m tired. I go because I know my body,mind, and spirit will thank me later. I set myself up success. I’m making conscious decisions to be happy and healthy.

Continue reading “There’s healing in the water [Healing in Bikram Yoga]”

Has Reality T.V Re-defined the Archetypes of Black Women?

598477_10152033375699182_1917601437_n_zpsab087d0eThis past Sunday, my roommate and I attended a Blood, Sweat, and Heels viewing event, hosted by one of the cast members of the show: Demetria Lucas. This event got me thinking about the impact of reality t.v shows. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this particular reality t.v show, its really like every other reality t.v show out there: a bunch of beautiful women being petty, throwing shade & shopping, etc. Initially, before the show aired, my roommate and I hoped that this show would be more well-rounded than most reality t.v shows since the cast is full of  young, successful,  beautiful, black women who all seem to be doing quite well professionally. But it wouldn’t be Bravo or reality television, if the depiction of these women stopped here.

Instead of bashing Bravo and other networks like it, for constructing, producing, and airing countless reality t.v shows that perpetuate stereotypes of all races and genders, I’m simply interested in the fact that huge networks like Bravo have re-configured the Black Woman Archetype.There has been a shift in how black women are portrayed in popular culture and that is partly due to the fact that:  A.) Popular Culture/ Media has changed tremendously  B.) The networks have  re-defined new archetypes through the domination of reality t.v shows. Reality shows have changed the landscape of  television and exposed society to more Black women on television, which would be great if the scope of depiction wasn’t so limited.

Historically speaking, popular culture has perpetuated 5 major Black Women Archetypes (The Mammy, The Matriarch, The Jezebel, The  Angry Black Woman, and The Welfare Queen.)  Of course there are outliers, but most depictions of black women in popular culture have fallen under one of these categories. These  Archetypes are of course still prevalent, but on a much smaller scale.

The archetypes now at the forefront in popular culture, as I see it, are: The Hood Rat, The Bitch, The Jezebel, The Desperate Single,  The Bible- Thumper, and The Drunk. “The Hood Rat” is the black woman constantly shown screaming/ cussing in public and instigating fights. She is often depicted as crazy and irrational (i.e Momma Dee on Love and Hip- Hop Atlanta) . “The Bitch” is the black woman who often emasculates men and often speaks to/about people with little to no tact or regard to people’s feelings. She is often portrayed as angry and aggressive (i.e Mimi Faust on Love and Hip-Hop Atlanta.) “The Jezebel” is the black woman who is depicted as promiscuous (i.e Melissa from Blood, Sweat, and Heels.) “The Desperate Single” is the black woman who is depicted as unlovable, the one who feels she “needs” a man, and who often settles for mediocre men to compensate for her loneliness( i.e not a reality t.v star, but Mary Jane from Being Mary Jane.) “The Bible-Thumper” is the black woman who constantly quotes the Bible, is “married to Jesus,” and often hypocritically judges people for their “ungodly” behavior (i.e  Daisy from Blood Sweet, and Heels, and Phaedra from Real Housewives of Atlanta.) “The Drunk” is the black woman  often deemed emotional-unstable, the woman constantly drinking too much, and often shown in  embarrassing situations due to her inebriation (i.e Mica from Blood, Sweet, and Heels.) 

There is a difference between these women’s reality t.v personas and who they are in their everyday lives. In other words, regardless of who these women are, reality television forces them into the nearest archetypal box. Some of them go willingly, because these Archetypes mean major dollars for networks and cast members. And while they’re all getting paid, black women are left to combat the stereotypes and typecasting that is perpetuated by these reality t.v shows. 

I made the bold assumption that ALL adults were aware of the fictitiousness of  reality t.v shows. And I think the majority of people are consciously aware of this fact, but somewhere subconsciously, we get caught up/sucked in and forget that reality t.v shows are simply re-packaged sitcoms. Black women are the stars of numerous reality t.v shows, so what does that mean when networks like Bravo are predominantly viewed by white women? It means that instead of viewing an authentic depiction of black women, they are simply given the Archetype(s) deemed most entertaining and realistic by the writers, producers, directors,etc. Simply put, society gets a very limited depiction of black womanhood. Society then takes these unauthentic depictions of black woman and accepts it not only as reality, but tries to force all black women into these Archetypes.

In a perfect world, we would be represented on television  in a way that is authentic, consistently positive, and inclusive of various depictions of black women. But at the end of the day, we can not depend on nor expect popular culture, reality t.v, and anything in between, to have our backs. To begin with,  we must  stop supporting these sub-par reality television shows. Many black women watch reality t.v shows not only because they are entertaining, but because  to some extent we can relate, but  we are more than these few depictions. We must also engage in dialogue with our fellow sisters and others about ways in which reality t.v shows are problematic and enforce negative/harmful stereotypes.  Lastly and possibly most importantly, we must to talk to our youth: black girls and black boys about the difference between reality and reality television; they need to know and see that there are black women who do not fit the Archetypal mold.  They have to see that there is more. We have to prove that there is more.

Why “Being Mary Jane” leaves me feeling less than Merry

I usually don’t keep up with t.v sitcoms/series, but because I’m an avid Gabrielle Union fan, I’ve been keeping up with her relatively new series, Being Mary Jane. And although I enjoy the plot, characters,etc, at the end of every episode, I am left feeling disheartened and disappointed at the realities that Mary Jane faces. I’m left feeling saddened at the fact that I know so many Mary Janes. Don’t get me wrong, Mary Jane is strong, beautiful, self-sufficient, and has a great career, but so many of the themes touched on in the series reflect problems I see daily in the lives of woman I know and love.

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I’m pleased to see a depiction of a black woman that is not over-sexualized and somewhat steps outside the narrow depiction of African-American women on television. I love that she has successful women of color in her inner circle. I love that her parents are still married and seem to have a healthy relationship. I like that she has a successful career and seems to be doing well financially. She’s strong, yet vulnerable, and as a woman of color, its nice to have that difficult juxtapose included in the show, especially since many women of color struggle with that balance, myself included.

Even with all of things I like about the show, there is a reoccurring theme that spoils it all for me. As harsh as it may sound, I am extremely bothered by how desperate Mary Jane appears to be. Its hard for me to watch  Mary Jane struggle with her yearnings for love and attention. It would be so powerful for the writers to allow Mary Jane to discover and acknowledge that it is her own love and affection she is so desperately seeking. She is willing to settle for less when it comes to love, rather than being alone.So often, I have seen this theme played out in the lives of women I love dearly.  I once wrote, “I’ve watched the strongest of women be broken down by the weakest of men.”

I can’t help but question the messages shows like this send our young girls of color.

This show teaches that as black women, we must do whatever it takes to obtain the love we think we deserve from a man, even if that man is already in a relationship or married and/or not capable of giving us the love we deserve. But even on a deeper level, is it implying that we are so undesirable and unlovable that we must do whatever it takes to attain even the slightest inkling of love? Does it teach us that we must settle for mediocre love, because mediocre love is better than the no “love” at all? This show dedicates so much time to Mary Jane maintaining the love of a man, but neglects to put any emphasis on her finding some much needed  self-love.

As I watch this show,  this particular theme continues to  re-surface in my thoughts and haunt me after the show is over. Why is this such a common theme in the African- American female community? How does this mindset reflect relationships in the African-American community? Rates of Marriages?  Teenage pregnancy, etc? I’m not making the bold assumption that a lack of self love is directly correlated to these topics and/or statistics. I am simply wondering how this theme reflects the stark realities women of color face on a daily basis.

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