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Spring Resolutions

spring Well pals, we’ve made it. Today is the first official day of spring. If I stand in the sun, avoid the still-frozen patches of snow and ice, and have my jacket firmly zipped up to my neck, it even feels like it.

While we’re still a few more weeks away from constant sunshine, my ride to work felt hopeful in a way I always associate with the springtime. For me, spring feels more like a rebirth and renewal than January and New Year’s ever has. Which is why, this morning I decided to do something a little different. I’ve made a list of my spring "resolutions", if you will. I’ve come up with five small things that will hopefully make me more productive in both my professional and personal lives. Here goes:

  • Write more. Pitch more.  I have a terrible habit: I avoid and pass up too many writing opportunities because I don’t feel confident enough in my ability. I constantly and consistently second guess myself. I plan to spend this season making an active attempt to stop this self-sabotage and take more professional risks. 
  • Cook more meals at home. It’s obviously both cheaper and healthier. But more importantly, I find the act of cooking extremely soothing and it works wonders at quelling my anxiety.
  • Watch more films on Netflix. Not to sound like the pretentious dude at the back of your Dramatic Writing uni lecture but, indie films are awesome. When I go on a Netflix-bender, I tend to watch or re-watch the more obvious stuff. Parks and Rec, The Office, It’s Always Sunny….etc. I always forget that Netflix is kind of a landmine for the more quirky and off-beat stuff.
  • Visit my family more. Okay it’s massively cliche, but I honestly don’t think you appreciate stuff like this until you’re older. One of my favorite warm-weather activities is sitting out on my grandma’s deck, drinking rum cocktails, and gossiping with my aunts and cousins while my dad insists on blasting dancehall through his Bluetooth speakers. I am absolutely itching for a night like that.
  • Save money more aggressively. It always easier to do this when I have in a specific goal in mind. London is my favorite place on the planet, and while I was able to make a trip in October 2016, I’m already getting that ball of longing at the pit of my stomach whenever I think about it. I’m hoping to return sooner rather later.

Dancehall As Self-Care

dancehall-2 As both an August baby and a second generation Caribbean, I find myself operating at prime levels during the spring and summer months. My ideal weather is 75-80 degrees and sunny. Part of the reason I enjoy warm weather so much is because it reminds me of the family parties of my youth. I come from a very colorful Jamaican family who loves any reason to eat, drink, and party together. And the most important aspect of any Jamaican party, of course, is the music. Some of my earliest memories include little-Shanicka getting lulled to sleep by muffled bass-lines as the bashment continued in another part of the house.

During the cold and bleak winter months, I've relized that the easiest way to capture the spirit and energy of the summertime is to fill my Spotify playlists with dancehall and soca music. As soon as the riddim comes thundering through my speakers I can almost see my dad and uncles sitting around the domino table while their icy Heineken bottles get cloudy and wet with condensation.  And my aunt with an apron tied around her dress so that the curry goat and brown stew chicken don't stain her outfit. And my cousins with their paper plates piled high even though none of them helped with the cooking. And my grandma on the make-shift dancefloor, because at these parties age is no excuse for not dancing.

We're still a few more weeks away from the first day of spring and consistent warm weather. Until then I'll keep both the heat and volume on full blast while I whine up mi waist to the following tunes (and I encourage you to go the same):

  1. "Fever" by Vybz Kartel
  2. "So Mi Like It" by Spice
  3. "Calling in Sick" by King Bubba
  4. "Dip & Ride" by Destra Garcia
  5. "All Day In" by Konshens
  6. "Whine & Kotch" by Charly Black and J Capri
  7. "Remedy (Refix)" by Machel Montana and Shaggy
  8. "Only U" by PARTYNEXTDOOR
  9.  "Love Yuh Bad" by Popcaan
  10. "I Know There's Gonna Be Good Times (Dre Skull Remix)" by Jamie xx, Popcaan, Assassin, Konshens, and Kranium

 

 

defend teen girls (or 'how one direction saved my life').

I love One Direction.

After a quick browse through any of my social media accounts one will find that in between my angry feminists posts are just as many (or more, depending on who you ask) posts about how much I want to bang Harry Styles.

In January of 2012 I was going through my lowest low to date. I was in the middle of my year abroad in London and it was everything I had wanted for as long as I can remember. But, depression is a crafty beast. Even if your life is going swimmingly, your brain has way of making you feel like it is not. For over a month I was too sad to leave my room. Too sad to sleep. Too sad to eat. And far too sad to talk to anyone about it.

But then I discovered One Direction…and instead of pondering the state of my miserable existence at four in the morning, I was awake watching their old X-Factor performances on youtube. And instead of spending hours talking to my manipulative ex-boyfriend, I spent hours talking to my new 20-something fandom friends about the ever-changing state of Zayn Malik’s quiff.

Those boys and all their pop glory pulled me out of my hole and for that I am eternally grateful.

The thing with One Direction, besides the fact that they are all gorgeous and talented(this isn’t up for debate) is, their existence alone challenges the rigid structure of hegemonic masculinity. Their open unguarded affection for one another is primarily what attracted me. They dole out hugs, kisses, and cheeky nipple tweaks like chocolate chip cookies at a bake sale. Seeing such unapologetic behavior between heterosexual-presenting males (without a need to affirm “no homo” every moment) was refreshing.

But on an even larger scale, boy bands are generally important because they provide teen girls with a safe outlet to explore their sexualities. And for young girls who are just growing into themselves and their bodies, healthy exploration is better than being shamed and silenced.

Teen girls get a bad rap.

Not only are they bombarded with images that implore them to strive for unattainable perfection, but any piece of media they actively enjoy is automatically deemed “less than” and loses credibility (i.e. One Direction).

Many (ahem…douchey, male, music elitists) conveniently forget that if it weren’t for a passionate group of teen girls, The Beatles wouldn’t have achieved even half of their success. And in the present day, teen girls have managed to propel one direction into the realm of super stardom. Teen girls have made them into the first billion dollar boy band (and yes, if you’re keeping track, even bigger than The Beatles).

So the next time you want to scoff and turn your nose up at One Direction (or the next IT pop star of the moment) remember this: Teen girls are beautiful, strong, and ultimately, they are a goddamn force to be reckoned with.

in defense of lorde.

One of my fave albums of the year has been Lorde’s Pure Heroine.

It felt like once I “discovered” her on a tumblr audio post, she was suddenly everywhere. She was all over the radio (both on the urban and top 40 stations), all over youtube, and all over the music television channels. Initially, I was excited for her. She was so young and so talented. I wanted everyone to love her as much as I quickly starting to.

But along with her popularity, came a lot of bad press.

Magazine and blog headlines labelled her a “hater.” And even after reading her quotes in interviews, I couldn’t understand why everyone was so eager to aim their targets at her for simply for speaking her mind.

When I was 17, I was awkward, miserable, and completely uncomfortable in my body. I didn’t talk to many people and I could count my circle of friends on one hand. Back at age 17, I had no knowledge of social justice and “feminism” was still a dirty word to me. If my present day self met my teenage self, I would have been horrified and offended by my own moral compass (or lack thereof)

This is why when Lorde claims her feminist title proudly and I watch people (especially older women) roll their eyes and brush her off, I get extremely angry.

Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand why it’s more important for an artist like Rihanna to get her feminist credit where it’s due, or why it’s more important for Zendaya (who is also 17 but an artist of color) to get the support, time, and attention she deserves.

But, I also desperately long for people to acknowledge the good in Lorde and why her existence in the media is notable.

She is incredibly self-possessed and isn’t afraid to speak her mind (though, it is important to note that some might say that this is because of her white privilege. [She is able to speak more freely without fear of consequence]). But, this does not erase the fact that she is still being placed unnecessarily on a frenzied media chopping block.

When I brought Lorde up over drinks with a few friends, they told me they didn’t like her because she was “trying too hard to sound intelligent. ” This frustrated me because I am sick of witnessing teen girls being brushed off and silenced. They are dismissed too quickly and too often. Even if she isn’t the most eloquent (and is this even a valid criticism? How eloquent were you at 17?), at least she is thinking critically.

Thinking critically about pop culture and finding confidence within her own thought process and conclusions, is a revolutionary act for a teenage girl within our society. For me, that alone is 100% more important than every misquote and biased interview that I have read about Lorde.

– s.

seventeen magazine and teenie bop feminism.

I’ve always been addicted to pop culture. Even before I started analyzing it critically, I was always an active participant. When I was younger I begged my mom for magazine subscriptions; I had them all. M, J-14, Word Up!, Popstar…. you name it and it probably arrived in my mailbox monthly.

The subscription that lasted the longest and made the most impact on me was forSeventeen. Seventeen magazine was a cut above all the rest. It gave you the inside scoop on your fave celebs, and it showed you how to style your hair, how to dress, and how to talk to boys.

It taught you how to be a teen girl.

The problem with that is, not all teen girls are the same. Some teen girls reading through were bound to feel ostracized and left seeking visibility.

I remember being one of those young girls. All of the models they used were white (or white-passing), thin, and had straight hair. None of them looked like ME. And that was a huge problem.

Fast foward a few years and here I am again. This time in my twenties and with aSeventeen subscription that I didn’t need (but came as a free prize for an online contest).Seventeen has come a long way. A couple issues back I was pleasantly surprised to see a relaxed hair care segment, plus-size (and actual plus-size, not just tall girls with “curvy” figures) fashion tips, a makeup guide for dark skin tones, and a multi-page article for quinceañera-planning. Us brown girls are finally being represented and it feels great!

I was more than willing to take these developments as progress. I didn’t think the writers and editors could impress me anymore. And then I received the April 2014 issue.

Beyond all of the hair and clothing articles was one entitled “So…are you a feminist”? That alone was enough to get me perked up and interested. Granted, I was fully expecting to leave the magazine annoyed and offended.

I’ve never been more glad to be wrong.

The article lays out the feminism debate in a great way.

It highlights the celebs who claim their feminist titles and wear them as a “bad-ass badge of honor,” and it shows a few naysayers (Kelly Clarkson, Katy Perry, and Carrie Underwood). But mostly, the article attempts to break down “feminism” that is accessible to most young girls. And that is so important. With subheadings within the piece like “You do you,” which affirms that all girls are not the same, “Forget the haters,” which urges girls to exercise their autonomy, and lastly “Be a girl superfan,” in which the author encourages readers to do away with girl hate.

Seventeen magazine isn’t perfect (there are still pages dedicated to booty-sculpting workouts, diets, and tips to get “that guy to notice you”). And some may argue that another cutesy brand of non-intersectional girl power feminism is the last thing we need. While, I agree to a certain extent (intersectionality will always be the most important aspect of my feminism) this is better than nothing. When I was growing up there was no brown girl visibility between the covers of pop magazines and there definitely was no feminist visibility. Seeing both within pages of this month’s issue was refreshing and a long time coming.