Writing Truth to Power: How Blogging Helps Me Help Others
In elementary school, my behavior was often labeled “Unsatisfactory.” My mother would be called into conferences each marking period, and a very stern teacher would tell my mother that I basically needed to learn how to sit down, shut up, and learn. From a young age, I made it my business to be seen and heard because I had something important to say, even if the timing and setting were not always the most appropriate.
I questioned everything. I challenged everything. I learned to do so first from my mother, and later from teachers, who often seemed impressed that I didn’t settle for whatever was handed to me as “truth.” I wanted to know more, and if something didn’t sound or feel right, I dug deeper until I gained a deeper understanding, and it made sense.
Now, I write. I commit these ideas to “paper” (though I rely more on my computer than my pad and pen), and share them with those willing to read. I average 15,000 hits a month on my blog, I have over 26,000 followers on Twitter, and every day, I receive feedback, engage in discourse, and accept expressions of gratitude for writing what I’m thinking. At least a couple of times each week, I get emails thanking me for my openness and honesty, and for being courageous. Interestingly enough, I don’t see myself as particularly brave, but I do understand that when women, especially women of color, raise their voices, it is often received as defiant rabble-rousing.
Call it whatever you want. I’m not shutting up.
I’m Black and I’m Proud
I was raised to be proud of my Blackness. I was taught about the trials and tribulations Black people have experienced—not only in America, but around the globe. I was raised with stories about the indomitable spirit so many Black people have had no choice but to develop over time, just to survive. I’ve often been asked, “Why are you proud to be something you had no choice in being?” I answer in various ways, usually reflecting on themes of strength, perseverance, ingenuity, creativity, and beauty. I am perpetually impressed by all that we have been able to accomplish, despite the nearly insurmountable odds stacked against us.
When situations arise that make me believe we are being slighted—if one of us is slighted, we all are, to some degree—then I feel it my business to speak up, engage in the discourse surrounding the issue, and get involved in bringing awareness however I can. I feel it is my duty, my obligation to my silenced ancestors, to use my voice and my reach to advocate for change so no one else has to suffer racism and brutality because they were born Black.
I Am (Sexual) Woman, Hear Me Roar
I am a survivor of multiple sexual assaults, from adolescence through adulthood. When I felt my spirit fading and my will to go on evaporating, I needed to cling to something to reclaim myself and feel alive again. My first introduction to feminism was via hip-hop group Salt-N-Pepa, who rapped about owning their bodies, doing what they wanted to do, and rejecting other people’s impositions upon their sexual agency as women. Then came along Queen Latifah who, through a more direct, no-holds-barred approach, implanted ideas about the strength of womanhood, the power of autonomy, and my right to be respected and held in the highest regard as a woman. These early introductions to notions of women’s liberation and empowerment would lead to my lifelong study of some of the greatest feminist theorists and building relationships with other passionate, activist women.
My experiences with sexual harassment and assault are actually why I take the rather blunt approach to discussing sex and sexuality; I’m minimizing stigma by bringing frank discussions out of the shadows. Rather than live in silent shame, I speak up and speak out. When I speak with such, uh, cavalier language, people often laugh and become more comfortable—which then makes them more likely to express themselves. It is in that expression that people discover more about their sexual selves and feel more empowered to embrace their sexual desires and nuances, even if their experiences have not always been good. I share my trials and triumphs, and as long as there are women feeling repressed, I’m going to keep at it.
We all want the same thing—freedom. While we may have different approaches, we love ourselves as women, and we speak up when women are mistreated and denied opportunities afforded to men. I am torn apart by stories of sexual assault against girls and women, I am enraged by blatant sexist discrimination. I am intolerant of the erasure of marginalized voices.
For more than a decade, bloggers like me have been giving voice to the voiceless. We’re telling those struggling in silence that they are not alone. We’re creating safe, open spaces for solidarity-building—and our work, by way of our writing, is important. It matters for those who have stories to share. In some ways, it's how the blogosphere started, and through the sea changes in blogging over the past 10 years, we’re still here, telling our stories.
We take a lot of heat, believe me. It isn’t always easy. People push back when their power and privileges are challenged, sometimes in really ugly ways. I take breaks, practice self-care, and gear up for the next time.
Until then, we celebrate ourselves, each other, and work on being the best people (role models, teachers, friends, lovers) we can be.