Friday, December 16, 2011

If I Were a Poor Black Woman: If I Were a Poor Black Kid Response

Most of you have probably heard or read about the Forbes editorial called "If I Were a Poor Black Kid" written by Gene Marks, a middle-aged White man. It was about his list of things he would do to get out of poverty, including buying an inexpensive computer, using internet resources, making good grades your number one priority, trying to get a private school scholarship etc. Okay, please don't send me death threats...but when I first read it I thought it was a good article with great advice! I thought to myself, if I had those resources growing up I would have done even better in school! Well, there has been TONS of negative feedback about the article. It seemed almost unanimous that people thought the guy was out of touch. I guess that means I'm out of touch too. The feedback made me realize that I can't relate to African Americans in many ways, especially poor African Americans. The first step is admitting it right?

My parents grew up poor in the Caribbean (worse than American poor in some ways) and then came to Canada. They both obtained university degrees (my mother has 2). They were middle class. They always pressured me to do well in school and acted like anything less than an A wasn't good enough (that hurt my feelings at the time but I guess it was for the best). So I worked as hard as I could in school, got an undergraduate degree, master's, and now I'm almost finished my doctorate. So when I read Mr. Marks' editorial I thought about all the ways his advice fits with what I was told in the past what I think would have helped me. A few years ago I actually tried to gather online resources that would be useful for the Black community, so even then I thought using the internet and technology was a great idea that could help us.

I am middle class and I like middle class people and their values. I think Black people make up only 2% of Canada's population, most of us are from the Caribbean (some from Africa), none of our ancestors were enslaved here, and there was no Jim Crow. All the people I know, went to school with, and will work with in the future probably think like Marks too. I think I might get along better with him than many of the people commenting on his post. So what does that mean? Well I think that negative stereotypes about Black women affect all Black women, no matter where they are from, or what class they are in. Because we are a minority group outside of the Caribbean and Africa, we will be categorized as an "other" and the majority will think we are all the same (i.e., they will expect most Black women to be loud, obnoxious, promiscuous, obese, etc. before they even meet us). So that means all Black women need to work on the image of Black women. But it also means that I am giving advice from my personal experience that may be quite different from African American women or women who are poor. Yes, I've read several books about African American history, but that's not the same thing now is it? Also, I'm not planning on joining any community groups or trying to change the system either because I have to focus on my own life right now (just like most people).

Reading the negative feedback made me really notice how much anger and defensiveness there is in some African American people! When I was reading AA history I became angry too and blogs and videos maintained the fire. I became angry about racism and discrimination that holds Black people back even though (despite a struggle) I have succeed at my educational and career goals. I was mad about slavery and blamed all White people even though no one alive today participated in slavery, especially the people in Canada. Online there was so much anger, self-defeating talk, competitiveness, sexism, and extreme negativity! So for a while I stopped reading, commenting, or thinking about Black issues to get away from the negativity. I went back to dating interracially and not limiting my entertainment to Black culture. I just like what I like now and try to look for the good in things rather than rejecting things entirely. I stopped being an angry Black women who didn't have much to personally be angry about. I finally came back to start this blog after seeing that YouTube video by that Ethiopian woman that assaulted the image of Black women. Her negativity made me want to do something positive, in my own way, with my limited student budget, that might help on an individual level (just as Mark's thought his editorial could help on an individual level).

So, am I much different from him? I read things and blog about it. I find things that I like and incorporate them into my life and I share that with everyone. I give suggestions. But I know and acknowledge that many women won't have access to the internet or this blog, and won't have the means to buy new clothes or make-up. But I do provide online resources that they obviously have access to if they are reading this blog (the same thing Marks was probably assuming). People complained that little kids would never read Forbes...but other adults obviously have and have spread it all around the internet. Maybe they could give the article to their kids and see if they are actually overwhelmed by it or it they want to try some of his suggestions. At least maybe they will visit the websites he suggested. If you are not a poor Black kid, how do you know they would reject everything he said? If not a poor Black kid, maybe a middle or working class kid of any ethnicity might like it. In the end though, it was just an editorial, one page of suggestions from one it really such a big deal? What advice would you give to a poor Black kid?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Assertiveness Training Will Save Black Women!!!

Yes, the post title is full of hyperbole but it is sort of true :) As those of you familiar with this blog can tell, I have been struggling to figure out why people keep criticizing Black women for being unfeminine. I've explored some areas where we can change to improve our feminine appearance and mannerisms:
  • clothing and fashion
  • make-up
  • hair
  • smiling
  • manners and etiquette
  • embracing feminine qualities
  • body weight
  • independence (boasting too much about it)
  • listening to masculine music
  • traditional hobbies (e.g., cooking, sewing both very practical skills)
  • reducing overt sexuality
Some people even say that because of our dark skin tone people will automatically judge us to be masculine. I don't believe in that though. A woman can be very dark and highly feminine (like many African models) or very light and highly masculine (e.g., Rosie O-Donnell anyone?). It's so outdated especially considering how many light-skinned women tan today. I don't think it's only dark skinned Black women who are being called masculine so that defeats the argument. Being feminine is a combination of many traits.

I think I there was one very important trait that I was missing! The problem is that many people expect and prefer women to be passive and equate that with being feminine! The stereotype for Asian women is that they are very passive (I've learned this isn't really true). People tend to call that submissive and some men say that's what they prefer about Asian women. Passive is defined as: Accepting or allowing what happens or what others do, without active response or resistance. Very scary when you think about it that some men seek a woman who will do whatever they want like that! Men who need this have problems and we should all avoid them! Yes, it's very feminine to be quiet, speak softly, not cause a scene, or argue, but being passive all the time will only lead others to take advantage of you and you will not get your needs met. There is a difference between being easy-going and laid-back and being a door mat or push-over for everyone else.

On the other hand, Black women are criticized for being too aggressive. Aggressive is defined as: 1) Ready or likely to attack or confront; characterized or resulting from aggression. 2. Pursuing one's aims and interests forcefully, sometimes unduly so. It is necessary for people to defend themselves and pursue what they want but do you don't have to argue about everything and always get your way? I've heard Black women say they won't put up with the things other women do so they speak up or break up. These Black women are aggressive while other women are passive. Plus, given that some of us are constantly harassed and criticized, being passive and accepting it all would lead to victimization and depression. So what is the best way to be feminine, not be a door mat, get your needs met, and stand up for yourself? Is it even possible to do all of that?

Yes it is possible if you learn how to be assertive!!! Early when I began this blog I posted links to some articles about assertiveness but I never specifically wrote about it. I have done assertiveness training and learned about conflict resolution, but many people have not. This may be the most important thing I ever post on this blog!
Assertiveness is the ability to express one’s feelings and assert one’s rights while respecting the feelings and rights of others. Assertive communication is appropriately direct, open and honest, and clarifies one’s needs to the other person. Assertiveness comes naturally to some, but is a skill that can be learned. People who have mastered the skill of assertiveness are able to greatly reduce the level of interpersonal conflict in their lives, thereby reducing a major source of stress. (source)

When I started this blog I posted many areas where I needed to improve, but I tend to be too passive instead of aggressive and I can be assertive when I need to be. This is what I think Black women need to start doing. Passive and assertive need to be our default instead of aggressive most of the time. Assertiveness training is too much to go into here but I have a list of great online resources for you to read so that you can learn how to be assertive instead of aggressive. I strongly recommend doing this! This will help you to get what you want out of life but not leave you vulnerable to the abuse of others. This will improve our communication with everyone and greatly improve the way we appear to the rest of the world. An EBW must learn how to be assertive! Yes, men should do their part and learn this too!

Improve Your Assertiveness (excellent quality online workbook)
How to Be More Assertive (great lessons)
Setting Boundaries Appropriately: Assertiveness Training (even better lessons)
Assertiveness Skills Training Tips (very good)
Reduce Stress with Increased Assertiveness
Learn Assertive Communication in Five Simple Steps
10 Top Tips to Being Assertive Without Being Aggressive
Six Steps to becoming Assertive
How to be Assertive with Friends or Family
Assertiveness Training

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Elegant African Women

I found a few videos of African model photo shoots. I think the clothing is so beautiful and feminine. They have the same skin as Western Black women. Of course these are models so they are unusually tall and thin and there are African women who are overweight. I don't think these models are as emaciated as Western high fashion models though (which is good because curves are feminine) Do you think people would treat us better if we looked like this?

Is a lot of the criticism thrown at Black women because of our weight? We definitely don't want to develop eating disorders, go on unhealthy yo-yo diets, or take dangerous pills but we should not purposefully try to look 'thick' either. We need to be healthier and physically active and find a balance while avoiding the extremes. I think EBWs really need to embrace healthy lifestyles, focus less on getting pleasure from fatty or sugary foods, and stop worrying about ruining our hair if we get sweaty. I exercise regularly and try to eat healthy as much as possible. I'm not perfect but it's always a priority for a healthy lifestyle a priority for you? Would you want to look like one of these models or do you think that would be impossible? Is it dangerous to even look at models when discussing healthy lifestyles?

This also made me think about who Black women look up to as role models. My parents are from the Caribbean, but I don't pay much attention to that culture. Would Western Black women and EBWs be better off looking at African and Caribbean women as models of femininity? They are Black after all. There is a whole film industry in Nigeria with plenty of Black actresses but I have no idea if the women portrayed would be good role models or not. Does it matter if the women live in a different culture or is it good enough that they look like us? I'm going to look more into the feminine mannerisms of African and Caribbean women and I'll write about what I find :)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Retro Femininity: Mowtown Singing Groups

Remember all of the ultra-feminine, elegant, beautiful singing groups of Motown? These women always looked classy and they were so talented. Those were the days!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Should Black Women Wear Their Natural Hair?

My answer to that question is YES! One of the most frequent criticisms I hear about Black women is that we wear too much fake hair. Let me tell you my (long) hair story. When I was a little girl my mother would put my hair in plaits and a lot of kids made fun of me and called me Medusa. Sometimes for special occasions she would use a hot comb. The hot comb was always terrifying but I liked the straight hair after. Since my hair was always in plaits or blow dried I did not know what my natural texture looked like. My hair would always be covered in Blue Magic or another grease.

It may have been fifth grade when my mother first relaxed my hair and I was made responsible for my hair care. My hair got shorter and shorter because of breakage. I used a curling iron on my bangs every day and I used drying gels and hairsprays. In eight grade my mother said my hair was breaking off and she had a hairdresser come to the house and give me a leisure curl (pretty much a Jheri curl). She didn't warn me beforehand that she was going to cut off all my relaxed hair! My hair was short and bushy, the closest to natural I had ever been. I had to spray my hair with greasy products every day. The kids at school made fun of me and treated me horribly. It was the worst year of my youth.

After two years of the leisure curl (and barely any hair growth) I went back to the relaxer. My mother also started getting braid-in hair weaves that I liked. She learned how to do them and gave me weaves for two years. Kids at school were so impressed by how much my hair grew over the summer! A couple of years later, I stopped wearing weaves, and started experimenting with hair colour in red and golden brown and my hair was constantly breaking and short. Then I saw an ad for clip in hair extensions that I quickly purchased and wore for for my last year of high school and two years of university.

During university I found a new hairdresser who gave me a "natural relaxer". I don't think it was natural, it was a sodium hydroxide relaxer. It made my hair swell and it actually grew down to my mid back. I never went back to no-lye relaxers. I continued with the relaxer into graduate school. That was when I started reading Black history. It changed me forever and changed the way I thought about being Black and the way I looked. I started seeing natural hair videos on YouTube and learned how to style and take care of natural hair. I stopped getting relaxers and transitioned for nine months by wearing a curly fro hairstyle.

One day I decided to just cut off the relaxed hair and end the process. I was shocked because my hair coiled up way shorter than I had expected! I had to experiment with products for three years and deal with having hair that I thought was too short to look good on me. Finally after three years my hair is the same length it was when I started transitioning (but it looks shoulder length due to shrinkage). I love my coily hair! It is full and actually has some shine. It moves when I talk and bounces when I walk. I get so many compliments on it, mostly from men! They love my hair! Some Black men like it but I get the most compliments from White men! When I had relaxed or weaved hair I never got any compliments! I will never relax or lighten my hair colour (and risk breakage) again!

My Current Hair Regimen: I use a modified Tightly Curly Technique

  1. Wash day once a week. 
    1. Plait hair into seven braids. Wash with a non-sulfate shampoo while leaving braids in. Put in some Cholesterol hair conditioner and don't wash out. Exit shower.
    2. Unbraid and detangle each braid with a Tangle Teezer adding more Cholesterol if needed. Spray hair with mixture of water and vegetable glycerin to keep moist. 
    3. Once detangled squeeze out the excess conditioner. Add Ecostyler gel and smooth small sections of hair with fingers. 
    4. Braid hair again (to minimize shrinkage) and use a chamois to soak up the excess water and product that will come out of the braid. 
    5. Repeat the process for all braids. Let hair air dry or sit under hooded dryer. It will take at least 24 hours to dry so I only do this on the weekend.
  2. Before going out unbraid the hair and gently separate the coils. DO NOT ADD ANY PRODUCT or else the hair will shrink up again. It might take 20 minutes to do this in the morning.
  3. At night add more cholesterol and gel if necessary and braid the hair again. If the hair is moisturized and tidy enough I just do a pineapple (pile hair on top of head and tie scarf around head).
As you can see from my regimen I don't use many products at all. Cholesterol is very moisturizing and cheap and it is the only wash-out conditioner I have found that can mix with gel (don't use any other conditioner). Once in a while I might do a protein conditioning treatment overnight. Everything I learned about taking care of my hair I learned online for free! There was a lot of trial and error but now I have no problem managing my hair. So if your hair is breaking or you have traction alopecia that makes it necessary to wear weaves and wigs (not just because you like them) then it's time to go natural. Natural hair can be so beautiful and different from the hair of any other women on earth! The most criticism you will get about your natural hair will probably be from other Black people who can't see the beauty of their natural state. You can learn to care for and love your natural hair and actually grow your hair long.

Natural Hair Inspiration (so beautiful!!!):

Natural Hair Websites:
Video (this video and description has plenty of links to popular sites) (where I got my regimen)

New Etiquette and Instructional Videos

I found some great, modern etiquette videos on Videojug. They are actually informative and entertaining. I love videos like this because they are quick and easy to remember :)

How to Talk to People: Better Communication
How to be More Feminine
How Can I Make a Good First Impression
How Can I Look More Approachable (excellent)
Getting Men to Approach Me
How to Look Like a Beauty Queen
Looking Good for Less
How to get out of a car without showing your underwear
How to be Assertive (funny)
How to Lose Friends and Alienate People (funny)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Are Black Women Really That Bad?

I came across a blog last night called I went through all 86 pages of bad hair photos! I recognized some of the photos because men on YoutTube used them in videos to show the world how unattractive they think (and want the world to think) Black women are. First of all I have to provide some constructive criticism for these ladies who do not not represent all Black women. I remember some women wearing coloured weaves when I was in high school and during my undergrad. Some wore blonde or red, or black with the ends coloured pink or purple. No one was wearing wigs especially lace front wigs. I will admit, the lace front wigs in the photos look horrible! Why not wear a regular wig that doesn't have to be glued on? Maybe a wig that has a bang to cover your hairline? Maybe I'm missing something and they actually want to look like dolls with doll hair. If you have traction alopecia or you are balding, then a weave is inappropriate and you need a wig instead that will give your hair a chance to grow back. I have gone through the relaxers, sew in weaves, clip on weaves, and hair breakage due to relaxers and hair colour. But if your hair is being so damaged by these things isn't it time to stop?

Photobucket I am an advocate for natural hair. I have transitioned for nine months and have been natural for three years. There is no way I am going back. It is a scary thing to go natural if you have no memory of what your unprocessed hair looks like. I don't recommend a big chop or going bald unless you're sure you will look good that way. I would recommend transitioning as long as possible but you must stop using braid-in weaves and lace fronts immediately. There are plenty of online resources and even books about how to go natural so it might not be as difficult as you think. I spent a lot of money at first buying new products, but now that I know what works for me, I don't spend much on my hair at all. Plus, I never go to a hairdresser!

I think that some people just don't like looking natural in terms of colour and they don't want a hairstyle that doesn't stand out. I think this is something young people go through, but after a while other people grow out of it. I kept wondering where these women worked and if that was even possible with hair like that. What is this need to have such unnatural looking hair? Is everyone around you saying you look good?

The next thing I have to discuss is the clothing. We've gone through fashion on the blog already so I won't have to repeat it here. Yes, a lot of the women were overweight or obese. Exercise has to become an important part of your life and should be more important than keeping your hairstyle, but that is a post for another time. In the meantime, plus sized women still need to wear clothes, go out, and feel attractive. But I have to ask these women, do you shop for items that YOU FIND attractive or do you shop for items that MAKE YOU look attractive? There are plenty of cute clothes that may come in your size, but if it doesn't make you look good DON'T BUY IT! Yes, it's not fair that thinner girls can wear almost anything and look great, but you won't become thin overnight (I don't advise trying to do so either, lose weight the healthy way) so what will you wear in the meantime?

I recommend spending your money on quality clothing that fit you properly, nothing skimpy or flimsy, and nothing so tight people can see your rolls. If you must wear something tight then you must invest in bodyshaping underwear. You may even need a tailor to alter your clothes. This may mean you can't afford to buy as much clothing or the newest things from stores. But in my opinion it would be better to go out and wear the same items over and over, in different combinations, than wear a new unflattering outfit every time. Once you have the basics you can buy accessories that are on trend instead of fad outfits. You don't have to dress like your thin friends (the thin women didn't look great either) and you can look like an EBW with class.

The last thing I want to mention is that Black women are not the only one's who sometimes dress horribly. Take a look at Turbo White Trash, Poorly Dressed, and these Google searches for Goth Fashion and Punk Fashion. The women on these sites look just as ridiculous or abnormal. To anyone reading this just remember, these websites do not represent all Black or White people. To the men who post these photos on YouTube lamenting the way Black women are dishonest and very narrow minded!

Cute Make-up and Hairstyles

I like the gyaru style of Japanese make-up. I have been doing something similar for a couple of years before I even heard of this stuff. I'll describe my daily look that takes me 15 minutes maximum:
  • After my face cream I use concealer under my eyes and a mineral powder on my entire face. I also use a primer on my eyelids, forehead, and nose.
  • I ALWAYS fill in my brows with a dark brown brow pencil. Ladies, please do this, it just polishes the look.
  • I line the inner corner and inner half of my lower lid with a silver eyeliner (no sparkles). I line the rest of the eye with black eyeliner.
  • I wear two to three coats of mascara.
  • I may wear a bronze eye shadow on my lids with a bluish gray in the crease (it actually looks pretty natural). I only wear that at night. During the day I may go without eye shadow or just wear a dark brown.
  • I line my lips with a plum lipliner, fill in the lips with a bronze/brown lipstick, and then add a pink or bronze lip gloss over top. It gives me a pinkish bronze lip that matches my skin.
  • I wear a lot of pink blush. I add it to the front cheek area, and even a bit on the bridge of my nose. I don't use it under my cheekbones because I think that makes you look old.
The photo below is an exaggerated version of what I do. I use silver liner instead of white (more subtle), no false lashes, no green contacts (I think her eyes are natural though). I wear more blush and less white eye shadow. The Barbie tutorial will give you a similar look.


I think big, long lashes are very feminine so I really recommend wearing mascara. I also recommend RapidLash because it really does grow your lashes. I'm not a fan of the false lashes because I prefer the natural look (enhanced by make-up). If you tend to lower or furrow your brows, try this exercise to raise them again. I found it helpful because once I began to notice the different feeling when my brows were up versus down I was able to correct myself. You will have to do it twice a day for a while.
Make-up Tutorials:
I chose these tutorials because I think they look nice on Black women. Many of the tutorials for Black women use really bright, unnatural colours that I think EBWs should avoid.
Gyaru Make-up Video 1 (final look is very nice but I think it can be done with fewer steps)
Gyaru Make-up Video 2 (cute, but forgot the brows)
Kelly Rowland Tutorial
Kim Kardashian Inspired Make-up (on a Black woman. I know, I know, but KK does know how to look good)
Gyaru Make-up Video 3 (she used a lot of make-up and steps to get a natural look so I think it was excessive). 
Black Gyarus (excessive at times, unflattering piercings)

Great hair will really improve your appearance. I have been natural for over three years and my hair is finally long enough for me to feel comfortable. I did not like it when it was short and it is so much better now. I think natural hair is very feminine. I have lots of little coils with lots of movement and volume. If you wear wigs or weaves please choose something that looks natural or relaxed instead of an unusual colour or super straight and shiny texture. 

Ways to Look Cute and Feminine

I've been searching the Internet for ways to look cute that would be suitable for adult women who don't want to pretend they are little girls. I love kawaii fashion but I would only wear little bits of it myself otherwise I'd end up looking like Nikki Minaj. We have to abandon the hard, ghettofabulous, hip hop look and go for something softer and more innocent. It's okay to look like and be a girly girl! These tend to be things other women wear, but why can't we? So here are some ways to add cute to your look.

  1. Cute accessories. You can wear cute ear muffs, gloves, scarves, hats, belts,  leg warmers, and arm warmers.
  2. Cute outerwear. Choose a cute coat that only a woman would wear.
  3. Cute dresses, skirts, and tops. Try to find dresses that are flattering for your figure in feminine colours and patterns. Nothing too tight or revealing. You will also get more out of your money if you buy dresses that are appropriate for work or after work (e.g., pair the dress with a cardigan or blazer at work). I avoided dresses for many years, but now I find them more comfortable than pants. They are more forgiving if your weight fluctuates and they accentuate your curves while hiding oversized hips and thighs.
  4. Cute shoes. Anything with a bow, curved toe, and pretty colour is great.
  5. Cute purses. These can be as adorable as you want with bows, hearts, flowers, and even cartoon characters if you dare.
  6. Cute makeup. There are many videos on YouTube that can give you tips about cute make-up. Many of the one's done by Black women are too colourful and unnatural, but I did find a few.
  7. Cute hair. In my opinion, cute hair looks natural not artificial. It looks soft to the touch and doesn't look like you spent all day working on it. Don't go overboard with the hair accessories.
I'll do a post on cute make-up and hair next ;)




    Cute Fashion:
    Kawaii Couture (great examples of cute and feminine clothing)
    Kawaii Craving

    Winter Fashion Tips: Dress Warm, Look Cute
    15 Dresses, Which One is Your Favorite (you can watch the entire playlist to pick out styles that would look good on you

    Black Girls and Women Who Embrace Cuteness (interesting post here)
    Choco Barbie Girls (I wish they didn't get piercings)
    Usagii's Blog
    No Beauty Limits