The Brownest Eye

Browneyes

It’s funny because as soon as you’re someone who is not blonde and skinny and you decide to write about beauty, people will usually put you in two categories:

  1. Jealous as fuck.
  2. Self-hating as fuck.

But, whatever. Today I want to write about brown eyes.

I really like brown eyes.

Especially the dark, almost-black brown eyes. 

A couple of years ago, my friend Cathy told me in that her culture, deep dark eyes were seen as absolutely gorgeous, the more the iris of your eyes contrasted with whiteness of your sclera, the more beautiful your eyes were.

If you search “black people” and “eyes” you will immediately be taken to an Images column rife with pictures of blue eyed black people.

I didn’t even specify color when consulting with Mr. Google and this is where he sends me. This is what he thinks I must want to see.

I am not on some black beauty superiority tip.

(That’s reserved for Wednesdays at 2 pm. )

I just really like brown eyes.

And no one really talks about them.

Especially if you are a brown or black person.

Growing up, I remember the only times I heard people lavish a brown or black kid with praise over their eyes was when they were:

grey. or. blue. or. hazel. or green. maybe a light honey.

Never brown.

And never, ever dark, almost-black brown.

In hip hop, the refrain of honey, with the light eyes… is standard musical fare.

I think most of us have been around the block enough to know that white supremacy is to blame for this.

But, I think instead of spending time rifling through that old can of garbage, I’d like to just admire you, my brown eyed people.

Someone once raised the argument with me, when I brought up how annoying it is that brown eyed people don’t get props:

Well, blue eyes are just rare, especially on people who aren’t white.

And I was like, true. It is kinda rare.

But, c’mon, there are a lot of rare traits that are unexpected because of someone’s phenotype, that we don’t laud with ooh-and-ahs and thatoneisgonnabealittleheartbreaker one day. That we don’t dedicate hash-tags for on social media.

Browneyes2

Besides, I recently had a student of mine share something with me that was super interesting: he told me depending on the culture, there are certain colors that are just not seen because the people of that culture have no words for these colors.

So, there are blues and reds and purples that we see here in the USA that others cannot.

And vice versa:

There are greens and yellows and oranges that people in Bolivia or Namibia may see that we cannot.

We just don’t have the words.

(There’s even a study on it.)

So, maybe we don’t even have words really for the degrees and nuances of brown and black.

Maybe we are actually kinda speechless when it comes to those deep, almost-black brown eyes.

What I really want to say is:

Your eyes are beautiful. They deserve compliments and comparisons to night skies, the richness of soil, barely moonlit oceans, and unknown galaxies.

They deserve mention in clever hip hop odes and long descriptions in romance novels and camera close ups on Instagram.

When you hear, “She had such pretty eyes,” you deserve to wonder if the eyes in question are brown.

Just like yours.

You deserve to wax on and on about celebrities with bright, winking, sultry, innocent, ridiculously stunning brown eyes.

(Famous eyes I love:

Diana Ross, Lakeith Stanfield, Tyson Beckford, Regina Hall, Freddie Prinze Jr. Hasan Minhaj, Philomena Kwao…)

There are so many beautiful people we are privy to nowadays in our image saturated world. It used to be that we had to at least wait until we turned on the TV, opened up the magazine.

Now, they appear in our hands, smiling or pouting at us from the rectangular screen in our palms whether you asked them to be there or not.

Thanks Instagram.

Still, there was one day when I was just dumbstruck by this young beauty as I was lazily scrolling through my feed.

I can’t post the photo here, since I don’t like being sued, but you can see it on my IG.

It wasn’t the smooth, dark black skin or the full, wide mouth, the head full of digitally perfected black-girl-curls.

It was her eyes.

Deep, almost-black brown eyes that were piercing and smart and deep. They looked like eyes that have seen some magic or know how to pretend very well they may just find it yet.

They were the kind of eyes I think poetry should be written for.

If no one has told you today (or ever):

I love your brown eyes. 

I’m not saying this in one of those reactive blue-eyes-are-the-devil type ways either.

I just think you have pretty eyes.

And I hope you can remember that too and tell yourself over and over if you don’t believe it.

But, you totally should.

Onward,

Hannah

 

 

 

 

 

Redefining Sexy

sesy

It kinda all started when Blake Shelton was named Sexiest Man Alive 2017 by the authority of authorities on sexiness, People Magazine.

So me and a friend started talking about what has been universally accepted as sexy these days: What images proliferate in our media. Think pieces on how Beyoncé, Kim K, or Rihanna have “changed” the way women experience their sexuality and sensuality. Does personality count? The ways in which strip club culture has altered the conversation on Sexy.

Lately, I have been paying closer attention to my body in the world. When it expands. When it contracts. When I feel that anxious tightening in my chest or clamping down over my ribcage. When butterflies start. And stop.

During our text conversation, I felt my body constrict, like a dozen thin ropes were wrapped around my mid-section. In the past, I would have ignored this tell-tale signal and blustered forward in intellectual conversation. But, yesterday, I stayed with my body.

I started to think about what I had been told was sexy, the images and attitudes that came into sharper focus once I got to junior high. I thought of Beyoncé in the Baby Boy video. I thought about rappers comments about their love for “honeys with the light eyes” and the current hyper-fascination with big asses. I thought about duck faced selfies and hour-glass silhouettes. I thought about how American-made porn dictates much of what the world is supposed to find sexy.

Sometimes, I think about how I should “already know this”.  Shouldn’t I already have accepted that what I believe doesn’t always jive with what the culture sees as sexy? Haven’t I read enough feminist theory, books about sexuality, blog posts by sensuality coaches? Haven’t I browsed Babeland and She-Bop enough in my lifetime? Shouldn’t I already have an expanded view of sex and sexuality and how I fit into it?

Earlier this week, I read this quote from Bethany Webster:

“Cognitive understanding is very important but it isn’t enough to transform us and create lasting, meaningful change…Concepts are like seeds of transformation, that when dropped into the body can take root and begin to transform us on the deepest levels. When we gobble concepts it is a superficial action. What creates lasting transformation is fully digesting the concepts and allowing them to sink deeply into our bodies, where the alchemy takes place.

Transformation has its own organic timeline that is out of our hands. It cannot be rushed. We cannot control or predict it. This truth can be hard to swallow, especially because our culture sends the message that success is equivalent to control and timely “results”.”

I had been “eating” up the truth about what sexy was for a long time, but the deeper understanding of it was not connected in any real way to my body. So while I was espousing a belief that sexy was more than gyrations and “acceptable” hip-to-waist ratios and long hair, etc. etc., the truth was that deeper in my body, I didn’t really believe it.

The truth is that my views are very much aligned with what the culture has declared as Sexy.

Even now.

This can be traced to living in a culture that devalues women and their experiences. If we are taught that men are superior to women, then it follows that male opinion is more important than what women opine. It is therefore imperative to focus on what men, especially the most powerful men, define as desirable and good and oh-so-sexy. Women must take their cues from their desires and fall in line.

And so, if the idea of Sexy is Kim K and women who look similarly and a handful of Victoria Secret Models and the “hot” yogi or what have you, then this is sexy. End of story.

The rest of us are just there.

I do know that sexuality and sensuality and attraction to who we name as the Sexiest People in our society isn’t a neatly drawn line between women and men. I know that “not all men” find the same women sexy.

However, I also know that there is still a very narrow definition of what constitutes sexy: it is young and immaculate and usually white-or-near-white looking. It is often performative. It is frequently divorced from how women actually experience their bodies. It is sterile and open mouthed and always eager to please.

Part of my journey in revising my relationship to my body, untying myself from the patriarchy is really digging deep in the most common assumptions I make about the world. This includes what I have define as Sexy.

Taking a moment to center.
Taking a moment to center.

The largest leap I made when entering the world of burlesque was not physical. It was not the tassel twirling or the hip shimmies, the bump-or-grinds or the standing split (which my ass can’t do without killing myself anyways.)

It was learning to see myself as a sexy woman.

More importantly, it was feeling sexy.

For so long, despite my reading of Audre Lorde’s Uses of the Erotic, I had pretty much accepted that only certain types of bodies and women could be seen as sexy. I was more comfortable being funny and theatrical, because that was where I saw myself. Girls and women like me, weren’t seen as inherently sexy and feminine.

Intellectually, I knew this was bullshit, but I would literally find myself unable to do certain movements or flirtations in burlesque class due to these mental formations. And when I did, I felt stupid and silly. I was afraid people might laugh at me, that they would smell my awkward display of sensuality a mile away.

I felt like some kind of impersonator, that I was behaving like what Sexy “should” be. A kind of sexy that had no real connection to my living, breathing body.

But, I kept going. The first time I took a burlesque class through Brown Girls Burlesque, I stood in awe of these women of varying shapes and shades who so proudly flaunted their erotic personas on stage. I went to a ton of burlesque shows. I let myself feel awkward as I winked and circled my hips and was fully alive on stage. I danced alone in front of mirrors at home. I journaled about the hard truths about how I had defined sexy before. I expanded my media intake. I asked myself tons of questions:

Where did I first learn about what sexy was? How would my views on sexuality be different if I had never seen music videos or porn in my life? Why am I so tied up to mainstream’s definitions of sexy? When do I feel the sexiest? Who’s the sexiest person I know in real life? Which celebrities do I actually find sexy and which ones have I just been told that they are and reluctantly agree?

I’m still asking myself these questions, but the answers are taking on a deeper level of cognition because they are not just located within my grey matter. I realize that I can’t just “gobble” up these redefinitions. They will take time. The journey is not about what everyone else is doing or how others experience me or even their own sensuality, it is about my own truth.

So.

 I am sexy. I know that Perle Noire is my sensual hero. I know that mainstream attitudes about what constitutes sexy will probably not change much in my lifetime. I know that it is my experience and definition of sexy that matters more than People Magazine’s. I think that sexuality can be spiritual. I know that there is true power in the erotic.

I don’t know if Beyoncé or Kim K or Rihanna have really changed the conversation on women and their sexuality. Perhaps for some women, they have. Still, I think our experience of sensuality and sex is still too firmly tied to the most superficial of attributes. I want more.

I would like to see women talking more about their sexual journeys toward wholeness after experiencing trauma, I would like to hear about how women who aren’t the mainstream definition of sexy still experience themselves as very sexual beings, I would like to see a diversity of bodies of varying ages and abilities and sizes full embodied in their erotic power (but not just in a social media campaign), I would like to hear how black women have redefined sexy amidst racist and sexist expectations. I would like to hear how women came to love and enjoy their natural rhythms and love the most disparaged parts of their bodies; their periods, their menopause, their pussies.

These stories ARE happening, don’t get me wrong. I read about them. I listen to podcasts about them. New paradigms are being created. I think the journey towards redefinition starts when just one woman hears a common patriarchal “law”, tilts her head and names her own experience as valid.

Kudos to People Magazine for prodding me along.

Questions for further reflection: What do you define as sexy? When do you feel the sexiest? What struggles have you encountered in defining yourself as an erotic being? Who would you pick to coach you around feeling sexy if you could pick anyone in the world? What gets in the way of redefining your world?

Onward,

Hannah

 

57 Awesome Quotes by Black Women on Owning Your Weird, Dreaming Big, and Creating Art

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Weirdos, dreamers, and artists have been my saving grace. They have made me feel less alone and misfit-y. They have buoyed me with their words, especially in the form of quotes.

Quirky/weirdo/alt/goth girls of color are having a moment right now. At least they are on my Instagram feed. But, weird isn’t just an aesthetic, constrained to dying ones hair teal or thrifting at Goodwill.

Weird to me is being true to yourself no matter who is watching. It is playing with creative expression. It is giving voice to the stubbornly unnamed. I have been a weird black “girl” when I was wearing a Navy khaki uniform. I know dreamers who serve in the military and artists who swear they are not creative. It is all about the spirit of what we embrace—not necessarily how we appear.

If you are ever looking for inspiration on owning your weird, dreamy, artist self, look no further:

  1. “Don’t wait around for other people to be happy for you. Any happiness you get you’ve got to make for yourself.”

-Alice Walker, Writer

2. “I do have–and I am unafraid to say it–a very distinctive, clear vision of how I want to present myself and my body and my voice and my perspective. And who better to really tell that story than yourself?”

-Solange, Vocal/Performing Artist

3. “People have to start respecting the vagina. Until every man is fighting for our rights, we should consider stopping having sex. I love men. But evil men? I will not tolerate that. You don’t deserve to be in my presence. If you’re going to own this world and this is how you’re going to rule this world, I am not going to contribute anymore until you change it. We have to realize our power and our magic.”

-Janelle Monae, Vocal Artist/Actress

4. “I am not going to die, I’m going home like a shooting star.”

-Sojourner Truth, Activist

5. “If you are living a life that feels right to you, if you’re willing to take creative chances or a creative path that feels like it’s mostly in keeping with your sensibilities, you know, aesthetic and artistic, then that’s what matters.”

-Tracy Chapman, Vocal Artist

6. “For some people it’s never enough. You are never going to be enough, you are never going do enough, so fuck ’em.”

-Samantha Irby, Writer

7.”I was never interested in the bit where {fairy tales} became amazing, and everyone was like, “you’re so amazing.” It was the falling and getting up, and the falling and getting up, and what changed between each fall and each rise … that was the real story for me.”

-Helen Oyeyemi, Writer

8. “If you copy, it means you’re working without any real feeling. No two people on earth are alike, and it’s got to be that way in music or it isn’t music.”

-Billie Holliday

9. “I believe that telling our stories, first to ourselves and then to one another and the world, is a revolutionary act. It is an act that can be met with hostility, exclusion, and violence. It can also lead to love, understanding, transcendence, and community. I hope that my being real with you will help empower you to step into who you are and encourage you to share yourself with those around you.”

-Janet Mock, Writer/Activist

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10. “The thing that makes you exceptional, if you are at all, is inevitably that which must also make you lonely.”

-Lorraine Hansberry, Playwright

11. “For a long time, I wanted to be a different person. I wanted to have my shit together, I wanted to have perpetually clear skin, fucking remember to moisturize. I wanted to not talk too much, slow down and not stutter. I didn’t want to have ADHD. I wanted to be a normal person. And I think that craving and the editing of myself hindered me, so I just stopped editing. And that was all. The embarrassment of being me still stands and exists all the time, every moment, but it’s also learning the acceptance part and also being down to see where me takes me is the part that set me free.”

-SZA

12. “Art hurts. Art urges voyages – and it is easier to stay at home.”

-Gwendolyn Brooks, Writer

13. “I had something I was trying to say and sometimes the message is an easy transmission and sometimes it’s a difficult one but I love the power of saying it so I’m gonna do it whether it’s hard or easy.”

-Faith Ringgold, Visual Artist

14. “Sometimes you’ve got to let everything go – purge yourself. If you are unhappy with anything… whatever is bringing you down, get rid of it. Because you’ll find that when you’re free, your true creativity, your true self comes out.”

-Tina Turner, Vocal Artist

15. “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”

-Maya Angelou, Multi-hyphenate

16. “I embrace the label of bad feminist because I am human. I am messy. I’m not trying to be an example. I am not trying to be perfect. I am not trying to say I have all the answers. I am not trying to say I’m right. I am just trying–trying to support what I believe in, trying to do some good in this world, trying to make some noise with my writing while also being myself.”

-Roxane Gay, Writer/Critic

17. “I wanted to be a superstar. They thought I was the class clown. But I was like, ‘I’m going to be a superstar.’ So when I would get in my room, it was like, if y’all don’t see it, I’m going to create it myself.”

-Missy Elliott, Vocal Artist/Producer

18. “I’m always rebelling. I don’t think I’ll ever stop.”

-Grace Jones, Everything

19. “Should” has so much shame in it. There’s nothing good. ‘You know what you should do?!’ It’s awful! As I get older, I’m having fun being me for the first time. My ability to be present has gotten better.”

-Traci Ellis Ross, Actress

20. “The function of art is to do more than tell it like it is—its to imagine what is possible.”

-bell hooks, Scholar/Writer

21. “I found God in myself and I loved her . . .
I loved her fiercely.”

-ntozake shange, Playwright

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22. “There’s an idea that you need to be a perfect feminist, you need to be a perfect womanist, you need to just not say this or that, and I think it really is kind of honoring yourself and what your internal compass is.”

-Jessica Williams, Actress

23. “When I dare to be powerful—to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”

-Audre Lorde, Writer

24. “I’m free. I just do what I want, say what I want, say how I feel, and I don’t try to hurt nobody. I just try to make sure that I don’t compromise my art in any kind of way, and I think people respect that.”

-Erykah Badu, Vocal/Performing Artist

25. “You could either go the traditional way or the other way. I went the other way.”

-Macy Gray, Vocal Artist/Actress

26. “I’m just a loud-mouthed middle-aged colored lady with a fused spine and three feet of intestines missing and a lot of people think I’m crazy. Maybe you do too, but I never stop to wonder why I’m not like other people. The mystery to me is why more people aren’t like me.”

-Flo Kennedy, Activist/Lawyer

27. “The more I wonder…the more I love.”

-Alice Walker, Writer

28. “I used to be afraid of that practice, of constantly trying different things and being all over the place. But I think that, as a young artist, it helped me, so I don’t mind oscillating between all of these different forms now.”

-Mickalene Thomas, Visual Artist

29. “I don’t think life is about the I-could-have-beens. Life is only about the I-tried-to-do. I don’t mind the failure but I can’t imagine that I’d forgive myself if I didn’t try.”

-Nikki Giovanni, Poet

30. “People ask me a lot, Do you have any regrets? Heeeck naw. If I hadn’t done all the things I’d done, I wouldn’t be the amazing human being I am today.”

-Chaka Khan, Vocal Artist

31. “You can’t have relationships with other people until you give birth to yourself.”

-Sonia Sanchez, Poet

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32. “Create the highest, grandest vision possible for your life, because you become what you believe.”

-Oprah Winfrey, Oprah

33. “Feminism is freedom. It’s the freedom to be who you are and not who someone else wants you to be…And science fiction? People ask me–Why have you stuck with science fiction? First of all I say I’m not sure I have–I go wherever my imagination leads me. But second, science fiction is wide open. You can go anywhere your imagination can go.”

-Octavia Butler, Writer

34. “I thrive on obstacles. If I’m told that it can’t be told, then I push harder.”

-Issa Rae, Producer/Actress/Director

35. “I’m a black woman who is from Central Falls, Rhode Island. I’m dark skinned. I’m quirky. I’m shy. I’m strong. I’m guarded. I’m weak at times. I’m sensual. I’m not overtly sexual. I am so many things in so many ways and I will never see myself on screen. And the reason I will never see myself up on screen is because that does not translate with being black.”

-Viola Davis, Actress

36. “This is the world you have made yourself, now you have to live in it.”

-Nina Simone, Vocal Artist

37. “Someone yelled at me once, ‘You never write about yourself.’ People used to get so mad at me for that. But my definition of myself is completely up for grabs. I’m everywhere, just like we all are.”

-Suzan-Lori Parks, Playwright

38. “My purpose is to inspire people to get to know themselves, and then they can get to know the world in a different way. When I see art that I love, I get this tingly feeling, almost like you’re in love. The flutter in your chest. That spark is what changes a person. It’s the whole point of existence. I would love it if my music could make anybody feel like that.”

-Santigold, Vocal Artist

39. “I will not have my life narrowed down. I will not bow down to somebody else’s whim or to someone else’s ignorance.”

-bell hooks, Scholar/Writer

40. “We danced too wild, and we sang too long, and we hugged too hard, and we kissed too sweet, and howled just as loud as we wanted to howl, because by now we were all old enough to know that what looks like crazy on an ordinary day looks a lot like love if you catch it in the moonlight.”

-Pearl Cleage, Poet

41. “I ain’t good-lookin’, but I’m somebody’s angel child.”

-Bessie Smith

42. “I feel very connected at a fundamental level to every other person I’ve ever met. I know that it sounds really hokey and strange, but it’s a familial relationship to the true sense of that. The ‘human family’ to me really is a concept that I live with every day.”

-Sarah Jones, Playwright

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43. “I do not feel inhibited or bound by what I am. That does not mean that I have never had bad scenes relating to being Black and/or a woman, it means that other people’s craziness has not managed to make me crazy.”

-Lucille Clifton, Writer

44. “I’m not going to give you one story, because I’m more than one thing. Whatever I feel like painting, I just paint it. For me, nothing is off-limits.”

Nina Chanel Abney, Painter

45. “At certain times I have no race, I am me. When I set my hat at a certain angle and saunter down Seventh Avenue, Harlem City, feeling as snooty as the lions in front of the Forty-Second Street Library, for instance. So far as my feelings are concerned, Peggy Hopkins Joyce on the Boule Mich with her gorgeous raiment, stately carriage, knees knocking together in a most aristocratic manner, has nothing on me. The cosmic Zora emerges. I belong to no race nor time. I am the eternal feminine with its string of beads.”

-Zora Neale Hurston, Writer

46. “I always thought of my mother as a warrior woman, and I became interested in pursuing stories of women who invent lives in order to survive.”

-Lynn Nottage, Playwright

47. “A violinist has his violin, a painter his palette. All I had was myself. I was the instrument I must care for.”

-Josephine Baker, Dancer

48. “I cannot tell the truth about anything unless I confess being a student, growing and learning something new every day. The more I learn, the clearer my view of the world becomes.”

-Sonia Sanchez, Poet

49. “We must reject not only the stereotypes that others have of us but also those that we have of ourselves.”

-Shirley Chisolm, Congresswoman

50. “It is important to redefine what sexy is. To redefine style . . . It is important for women to be [in control], especially when gender norms and conformity are pushed upon us. Women automatically are told that this is how you should look. This is how you should get a man. This is how you should get a woman. You need to fit into all these boxes to be accepted. I don’t subscribe to that way of thinking. I don’t think we all have to take the same coordinates to reach the same destination. I believe in embracing what makes you unique even if it makes others uncomfortable. I have learned there is power in saying no. I have agency. I get to decide.”

-Janelle Monae, Vocal Artist/Actress

51. “I have fallen in love with the imagination. And if you fall in love with the imagination, you understand that it is a free spirit. It will go anywhere, and it can do anything.”

-Alice Walker, Writer

52. “I want to say, one of the things that drives me is the fear of failing. But the good thing about being the kind of artist that I know I am, is that even if the ground fell out from under me, I would still make art.”

-Mickalene Thomas, Visual Artist

53. “Do not live someone else’s life and someone else’s idea of what womanhood is. Womanhood is you. Womanhood is everything that’s inside of you.”

-Viola Davis, Actress

54. “I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood.”

-Audre Lorde, Writer/Activist

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55. “To write for PC reasons, because you think you ought to be dealing with this subject, is never going to yield anything that is really going to matter to anyone else. It has to matter to you.”

-Rita Dove, Poet/Essayist

56. “Young folks will call you names and grown folks will call you names. It’s ok. one day you will name yourself, and that name will belong to you. It will not be the ones they ordained: crazy, ugly, attention-seeking, weirdo. I really hate to tell you this, but sometimes you will still get called these things as an adult, except you will actually embrace some of them. You will learn that these are just words. Words that only have power if you choose to give them power. Every once in awhile they will hurt, but you will choose to turn those words into a symbol of beauty.”

-Solange, Vocal/Performing Artist

57. “The function, the very serious function of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being. Somebody says you have no language and you spend twenty years proving that you do. Somebody says your head isn’t shaped properly so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. Somebody says you have no art, so you dredge that up. Somebody says you have no kingdoms, so you dredge that up. None of this is necessary. There will always be one more thing.”

-Toni Morrison, Writer

I know there are many weirdos, dreamers, and artists NOT on this list. So, please, share away! I’d love to add some more quotes to my vault :)

Onward,

Hannah

Art:

Nyanza D

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 Ways to Find the Goddess That Don’t Involve Instagram Hashtags

“An uneasy reaction to the word Goddess is common among women. Thousands of years of repression, hostility, and conditioning against a Divine Mother have made a deep impression on us. We’ve been conditioned to shrink back from the Sacred Feminine, to fear it, to think of it as sinful, even to revile it. And it would take a while for me to deprogram that reaction, to unpack the word and realize that in the end, Goddess is just a word. It simply means the divine in female form.”

-Sue Monk Kidd, Dance of the Dissident Daughter

Oya inspired art I made
Oya inspired art I made

I used to think the only way one could incorporate the goddess into your life was to don clothes of the white toga variety, be a woman who wore flower crowns in the dead of winter and frolic around in green pastures a la Julie Andrews.

I have written about how I had to face some difficult truths about how I shallowly tried to embrace the Divine Feminine (here, here, and here) in what I called my Divine Feminine Fallacy.

But, how does one incorporate more Sacred Feminine energy into their lives beyond a t-shirt screen-printed with the word Goddess Is Me in Helvetica Bold or creative hashtags on Instagram? How do we go far beyond pure commercialism, “buying” our goddess energy as it were, instead of being in it? Learning about it?

How we start to unwind from the conditioning we have all faced in terms of this word and its associations?

There are times I fear the we are having a reoccurring “girl power” moment, one where we shallowly praise women and barely graze the deep-seated misogyny that undergirds most of our society. We make peace signs and yell GURL POWA and call it a day.

I want more. I want this damn world to be transformed by this energy. And part of that change starts with us.

This is by no means an exhaustive or total list, but I hope it can be a guide for you, Goddess. I really do.

  1. Explore and Accept What You Truly Feel When You Hear the Word Goddess

Do you cringe? Sideways laugh? I remember having to stifle a major orb shifting eye roll when I would first hear the word goddess. Granted, I was living in Portland, Oregon AKA Land of the Rainy Earth Mother. I was working with a holistic health counselor who was based in NYC and when she started incorporating goddess stories into her telephone work with me, I was like Et tu, Brute?

I was a girl who played basketball, went to military school, a black woman who was often expected to be tougher than who I was. I heard the word “goddess” used to describe beautiful women, but could not see how this word actually related to my day to day existence.

Now, I see that my inner discomfort at hearing this word was revealing some deep seated stuff. The ways I felt estranged from fully inhabiting my femininity. The ways in which I was raised to see God purely in masculine terms. The ways in which I equated anything associated with the Feminine with a certain brand of weakness and silliness despite my feminist leanings.

Yemoja inspired art by moi
Yemoja inspired art by moi, those boobs are shells

So, be honest about how the word makes you feel. Write it out. Talk with your friends about. Dig deep. Does it feel gimmicky? Do you worry your priest will find you in your new neighborhood and dole out 500 Hail Marys (how ironic) if you were to use it? Sit with your feelings. Notice what emerges. Live the answers.

2. Explore Your Own Cultural Path of the Goddess and read some books 

Part of the reason I was a little disenchanted with the Rainy Earth Mother Goddesses of Portland, OR was how some of these women seemed to be picking out goddesses to “invoke” like they were putting together a celestial grab-bag: A little Kali over here. A dash of Brigid here. A smattering of Athena and Hera over there. And when I heard there was a small group of uninitiated women who were worshipping the deities Oya an Osun, I was even more annoyed.

This is not to say one cannot study or learn from goddesses that do not necessarily “belong” to your culture. I will forever have a crush on Greek mythology, I love the stories of Amateratsu and Guanyin and Isis.

As a second-generation Yoruba woman, I know that my lineage contains stories of Oba, Osun, Oya, and Yemoja to name a few. They are not necessarily goddesses, but they are divine and they are female. Not every black woman in the diaspora has the gift of knowing where she came from, but there are many goddesses to  know (Abiola Abrams has an awesome starter pack of Goddess Cards only featuring those of black/African descent!)

Still, I am clear that I do not worship any of these deities. I do not invoke them or make altars in ways that are solely for the initiated. Perhaps one day this may change, but as of now, I am okay with being a student of the goddess.

What’s your lineage and what are the stories of feminine deities that are located in your own history? How do those stories make you feel today?

And if you like reading, well….

A Couple Books All About the Goddess/Sacred Feminine : Finding Soul on the Path of the Orisa by Tobe Melora Correal,  The Chalice and the Blade by Riane Elser, Pussy by Regena Thomashauer, Woman Who Run with the Wolves by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, When God was a Woman by Merlin Stone and Divining the Self: A Study of Yoruba Myth and Human Consciousness by Velma Love.  (Just to name a few!)

Osun inspired art by Hannah Eko
Osun inspired art by Hannah Eko

3. Find a Your Own Goddess Journey and Walk It

When I first started reading about the goddess, I wanted to ape the journeys of women like Sue Monk Kidd or Meggan Watterson or Clarissa Pinkola Estes. I didn’t think my journey was all that interesting. I needed to travel to an ashram, become some sort of priestess, have the same exact synchronous mystical experiences as these women did.

I could not be a tall blerd* reading Dance of the Dissident Daughter on the R train and journaling in 54 cent composition books.

No, that was not intense enough.

But, really, the Goddess is wherever we are. Some find a closer relation to her by examining the demographics of their churches. Some find her by getting in touch with their bodies though a Wednesday gentle yoga class. Some find her when they are walking home from a party and take care to notice their breath and the ways they are connected to all that is life. Some find her by exploring their sexuality or reading female empowerment stories to their grandchildren of any gender.

There is no special certification or pre-requisite for exploring the Goddess. No timeline or six-week course. You don’t have to wear a toga or change religions. You can be who you are, committing to explore the Goddess in a way that works for you. You can be any gender and any age.

You can be you.

In my gradual acceptance of who I am, I have been able to host goddess groups with willing (yay!) friends, performed goddess ceremonies twice this summer, and last year I went to Nigeria FOR FREE to study (but what else?) the goddess in the form of Oya, Osun, and Yemoja. I have talked to strangers about the assumed gender of God and about once a month, some person I barely know calls me a goddess.

That girl on the R train who was aching for a deeper connection to the Sacred Feminine would be so proud. But, I didn’t know HOW any of this would occur. I just wanted it.

And here it is. Right on time.

I wonder what your goddess journey will look like for you. :)

Onward,

Hannah

 

*black nerd. (And proud.)

 

 

 

 

Divine Feminine Fallacy Part II – In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens

“In search of my mother’s garden, I found my own.”
-Alice Walker
multi-colored plastic bouquets of flowers all crammed prettily together
Just searching…

 

“Enlightenment is a destructive process. It has nothing to do with becoming better or being happier. Enlightenment is the crumbling away of untruth. It’s seeing through the facade of pretense. It’s the complete eradication of everything we imagined to be true.”
Adyashanti

“Spiritual bypass” is a term often used in circles where people are seeking a higher truth. Be they New Age spiritualists, pagans, mystical Christians or an interesting amalgamation of all these spiritualities or none, the term describes a certain type of seeker who is utilizing spirituality to ignore the real-life issues of their existence.

We’ve all witnessed these people. They’re the chorus of “WE JUST NEED LOOOOVE!!!!” in the face of economic disparity and misogyny and Donald Trump. They are the “friend” who replies to your grief over a recent loss with pleas to “just be positive”.

meme of shaquille oneal heads illustrating chakra colors
Chakras are groovy.

Sometimes we are even “those people”, dishing out feel-good quotes and pat advice like we are human Hallmark cards.

It’s easy to see that this shit does not work in hindsight, but not always simple to catch spiritual bypass as it is occurring in real-time.

One of the stickiest places that we often wish to bypass are the stories that live inside our families of origin–the painful patterns, the hypocrisy, the let’s-just-take-the-Sears-portrait-and-ignore-our-growing-dysfunction-ness, the weirdness, and just the day-to-day realities of familial existence.

As a seeker eager to dive into all things Divine Feminine, I was all about reading about the “Great Mother” archetype and the goddess worshiping cultures of old but I was consistently passing a blind eye to what actually was occurring within my own matrilineal line.

Without even realizing it, I was jumping over my life and seeking external opinions about what the culture had taught me about being a woman.

stained glass window of multicolored egg surrounded by blue tendrils

But, where do we learn most about what it means to be woman than within the lives and stories of our mothers, aunts, sisters, and grandmothers?

It is these women who have taught me what is possible, what to believe about sex, my body, money, men, female friendships, relationships, self-care, food, parenting, femininity/masculinity, expression, success, God and all that I call Life.

They were my first teachers.

No matter what I profess to believe now, it is their opinions that are more often than not running the show. And until I sat down to examine what they taught me, no “Divine Mother” was going to redirect and “fix” my current life.

Of course, these women have taught me all kinds of life-affirming lessons, it is not just a barrage of negativity. And they teach not only with words and deep conversations–but within the tiniest details of how they live.

Lately, I have been sifting through these lessons and asking myself some deep questions:

What were the actual lessons passed down implicitly and explicitly in my mother-line?

What are the lessons I wish to live? What are the beliefs I need to let go of? And what are the beliefs I am actually living each day?

When does “living differently” from these lessons feel like I am abandoning my mother-line?

painting by fernand leger of three grey cubism style women overlapping each other
Fernand Leger, Composition with the three figures, 1932, CMOA.

The work I am completing here is constant and requires a dedication to life-long learning and shedding–these early beliefs are oftentimes not easy to discard.

They are literally in our blood.

But, I’ve started to notice something in my search.

I used to think the sifting through these stories required me to make a particular family member wrong or to assign blame.

Now I see that this search is all about integrity and awareness. It’s about truly realizing what is mine and what is not. It’s about facing reality as it is and not utilizing spirituality as yet another fogged up mirror, a clever way to obscure truth.

I continue this search, this investigation. I see the patterns–both gracious and limiting. I keep asking questions and sticking around for the answers. In doing so, my Divine Feminine life has a more grounded texture to it, for it is now weaved into my actual life.

My eyes open more and more each day.

What do you think you would find in sifting through your mother’s garden? Is it scary to think that you may just locate who you really are?

Onward,

Hannah

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Divine Feminine Fallacy – The Intro

hand drawing of black woman with blue hair surrounded by green plants, red flowers, and yellow bubbles

There are sore places, places around the chest cavity that carry wounds invisible to the human eye. They are the areas we experience what feels like a tender squeezing that never lets up, a constant dull ache.

I have many of those places and when I was first longing to be “reunited with the Divine Feminine”, these are areas I tried my best to wish away and ignore.

I love that there is so much talk these days decorated with words like goddess, sisterhood, feminist, sacred feminine, intuition, Earth…I love that yoni eggs and vaginal steaming are de rigeur experiences in the quirky woman of color experience.  There are even t-shirts. :)

It’s kinda like the 1960s but devoid of a lot of that special brand of hippy-dude sexism.

When I was first introduced to the world of the divine feminine, cutting my feminine baby-teeth on books like Dance of the Dissident Daughter, The Chalice and the Blade, and In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens, I was eager to explore this new world where the female and feminine experience was placed as paramount.

I went a little crazy.

One day it’d be learning all about moon cycles and women in leadership. The next week it would be “reclaiming the wisdom of my pussy” and reproductive rights, a month later and I’d be studying feminine Jungian archetypes with a side of feminist blogs.

I was thirsty for this knowledge (five years in military school with a majority male population has a plethora of effects) and felt like I didn’t have time enough in the day to catch up on the ways that patriarchal culture ignored the experience of women.

And the ways I was not taught this in all my years of formal education for more than a nanosecond.

hand drawing of orange and yellow flowers with blue background and brown dirt

But, alas, I wanted more. While, I am still learning and seeking and now know the names and backstories of a dozen or so demi-goddesses, I still hadn’t felt a true, soulful connection to this idea of the “divine Feminine” in my own life. Intellectually, I understood that society’s dismissal of the feminine had wide-reaching negative effects: perpetuating misogyny, reinforcing patriarchal hierarchies, fracturing our earth’s ecological balance, assigning feminine qualities under the “weak as fuck” umbrella (just to name a few…)

However, at the heart level, I wasn’t feeling a true integration of all the knowledge I was gaining. After being gracefully led to transformational coach Bethany Webster’s work, I started to ponder my own Divine Feminine stumbling blocks even more deeply. Why was I still living life in ways that were obviously at odds with this new goddess knowledge?

Hard questions sometimes beget answers we’d rather not see.

And I had to come face to face with the ways I was hurt by the Feminine in my own life, the ways in which I felt estranged and was simultaneously estranging myself from this energy.

It was much easier to read books about the Divine Feminine than to deal with the ways my life spells out a deep-seated suspicion and disavowal of the feminine.

Easier to love women in the abstract than it was to really deal with the ways I still saw women as competitors.

Simple to exalt burlesque and express libertine views than deal with how I had issues with certain expressions of female sexuality.

Easier (okay, not really easy…) to dismiss my anger than really be honest about how much “white feminism” makes my blood boil.

And SO, SO much more undemanding to write about The Goddess or The Great Mother than it was to deal with my own matrilineal line, the stories I have inherited as a daughter and a sister.

My word for 2017 is Balance, therefore, while I still consider myself a student eager to learn more about the Feminine in a multitude of ways, I also want to do the deeper work of uncovering the ways I still am estranged from the feminine in my personal life.

I know I am not alone in this. This strong want to go deeper, this need to keep asking why, and this desire to be fully integrated with feminine energies in real time.

I am not a surface person.

Of course, the work in going deeper extends beyond a blog post (or even several hundred posts), it is a constant re-working and re-integrating that I seek.

black women with violet hair emerges from pink flower, multi-colored flowers and yellow bubbles surround her

Everyone’s story around the Feminine will be the different.

I have always considered myself a feminist, even before I knew the word. But, I cannot ignore the ways in which I am hurting and hurt around the Feminine. To do so would be to pay mere lip service to a force that needs to be resurrected in a huge way and wouldn’t be in line with what I envision a true heroine’s journey to be.

Avoiding the hurt places is easy until it’s not. And I’m at the place where I no longer desire easy and where I know that integration starts wherever I am at.

Here’s to truly meeting the Goddess, messy as it may sometimes look and sound.

Here’s to uncovering and healing the divine feminine fallacies of our own lives.

Onward,

Hannah

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love

I think my eyes are lazy. They are often kinda shocked by pictures on screen.

Have you ever been watching a TV show or movie and found yourself surprised at seeing someone larger than a size 2 as a lead? Your surprise (I hope) wasn’t colored by some sizeist ridiculousness but a genuine reaction to how many times extremely thin or fit bodies are presented as normal.

Seeing how much body ideals have changed for men and women (mainly white men and women) just from a casual look at cinema is pretty amazing. What was called manly and handsome forty years ago would be equivalent to “dad bods” today.

hitch

Years ago, I read a post on Gradient Lair about the preponderance of light woman-dark man black couples. The colorism inherent in this constant choice of couples was evident to me before this article, but it was great seeing someone intelligently outline this phenomenon out.

Sometimes it’s easy to think you’re the only one who notices something. Or that you are crazy for noticing.

Maybe that is the secondary job of writers: to convince themselves and readers that someone else notices what you do.

I wonder if this whole focus on dark men and light-skinned women is really a nod to the blonde woman-brunette men archetype, an idea that itself is steeped in reductive ideas of light as feminine and darkness as everything masculine.

Or maybe people really don’t like blonde men. It’s not to say that these pairings don’t happen (haven’t forgot about you Ariel and Eric, Ryan Gosling, or Jason’s Lyric). But, they don’t occur very often.

I’m not sure, but I do know that whenever I see a dark-skinned woman paired with a light-skinned dude on-screen, I’m surprised. Still. And it makes me wonder what other things we are all so used to seeing again and again, the things we forget to question. Like my friend who was aghast when Zac Efron fell for Nikki Glaser in Hairspray.

“That would never happen in real life,” she said.

Of course, this is a lie, but it speaks so loudly to what our expectations are. Why we cannot tell black stories without including brutality. Why we seem unable to imagine queer romances that are sweet and whimsical.

Our eyes are lazy.

What I want to know is, which came first, the pre-conceived notions of what was supposed to be or some supposed “evolutionary” based attraction?

I’m thinking it has more to do what our eyes have been trained to see than we think. I want to be a creator in a world who imagines differently.

Onward,

Hannah