My Holiday Wishlist – Gifts Under $100

As adults, the holidays are more about spending time with family, friends, and loved ones than receiving gifts. In fact, in my family, we do a Secret Santa gift-exchange so that the focus isn’t on fighting through the massive crowds at the mall and stressing out, trying to find the perfect present for each and every family member. So, because of this, I usually don’t spend a lot of time thinking about what I want for the holidays.

But this year, I decided to go old-school, if even just for myself, and make a holiday wishlist just like when I was a kid. All but one item is under $100 and there’s a good mix of practical and fun stuff too. So if you’re still stuck trying to find the perfect gift for your impossible-to-buy-for loved one or if you’re looking for a holiday gift for yourself, check out my list!

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#MillennialGirlMagic

As far as I’m concerned, people in my generation are the only true millennials. I mean, I graduated from high school in the year 2000, the beginning of the new millennium (by popular opinion, if not the actual beginning). They said that those in my class represented the future. It was an honor, yes, but it also came with very high expectations. Apparently, now there are two decades of people, most of whom are younger than us, who have been dubbed millennials and for whatever their reasons, older generations look down on millennials as a whole today. I guess things have changed.

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Freedom: The Fight isn’t Over

I have been avoiding writing about this topic ever since November 9th. But in a few days, our nightmarish fate will be sealed. People say not to have a defeatist attitude but it’s hard not to.

After the election results surfaced I was devastated, as many of us were. I couldn’t express my feelings in full sentences but the one word that did come to mind was, “Angry.” I tried so hard to make some sense of what had happened by writing. All I could think of to write were these words, “An open wound, salt, never been more woke, beaten and beaten, we are being tested.” I couldn’t get any farther than that incoherent string of words. As I bring my mind back to that day and weed through the foliage of my thoughts, I think this is what I was trying to say:

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My Feminine Experience

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My Feminine Experience, for She Cult

My feminine experience is characterized by my pride in being a woman. As a woman I can express myself and my femininity however I want, no matter what anyone else thinks. I express my femininity in little things like changing my hairstyle at random and trying to enhance my novice make-up skills. I express my femininity in the broader sense by being multi-dimensional and representing brown, queer, womanhood.

I represent the fight and the struggle and the magic and the glory that is being a woman. My mother, my grandmother, and even my little sister taught me how these important ingredients work together to make women so unique and powerful. Feminine of center people all share these characteristics because presenting as feminine has always been seen as a weakness and we have always had to defy the odds – both actual and presumed. I take pride in defying the stereotype of being unable to withstand or survive. When I am loud, when I am opinionated, and when I am a fighter I am proudly embracing my femininity. When I cry, when I am quiet, and when I am vulnerable I am proudly embracing my femininity. I proudly embrace my femininity while I am actively taking a stand against gender norms because I know that gender is a spectrum and therefore so is femininity. Anyone who falls anywhere on the panorama of the feminine identity should be respected for who they are and not judged on who they are assumed to be.

My queer feminine identity is what some people would call a “femme” identity. I do present physically as a femme but I reject the stereotypes that come with it. Being petite and an introvert, I have always had to surprise people with myself. My identity has been no different. Having once identified as bisexual, I’ve had to reject all the categorizations that coincide with sexual orientation too. I’ve been stuffed into the boxes of passive, delicate, confused, and unsure of myself when, in fact, I have always known who I am. I just never knew the person others thought I was. And although I tried to get to know this person, she has remained a stranger to me. I only know the woman who appreciates women and all things feminine; the softness, the strength, the beauty, and the courage – the things I see in myself and the things I love in others.

I may like to dress up, cover my eyes at the scary parts of movies, and am pretty bad at most sports but I am not afraid to work hard or get dirty, I am more than capable of standing up for myself, fighting for what’s right, and having fortitude in the face of adversity. Every day I become more and more comfortable with having the unpopular opinion, the unexpected identity, and standing on my own two feet when people tell me I am not who I know that I am. I may be reserved and quiet at first glance but I know what I want and I am not afraid to say it. I am 100% feminine and, despite popular opinion, this femininity is evidence that I am capable to withstand anything the world throws my way because without this capacity, people like me with a feminine experience wouldn’t even exist. Our survival is what makes us unique and also what gives us our infinite power. I am proud that as a brown, queer, feminine woman, I have inherited and earned this strength and can share my unique experience with others of the femme persuasion.

This essay was written for She Cult’s Fall 2016 E-zine. She Cult is a collective for feminine-of-center queer people based out of Emerson College.

 

Carol's Daughter

OMG, I’m Gay!

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When did you realize you were gay? That’s the question that many people who identify as queer have probably heard at least once in their lives. It’s an odd question because no one asks straight people when they realized they were straight. Nonetheless, many of us rack our brains trying to figure out the exact moment that we realized that we were attracted to the same sex. For some people it’s easy. For others, not so much. For everyone, it is a crucial tidbit of information because without this informational badge of honor, can you really consider yourself gay? People, gay and straight, are just now getting the memo that sexuality and gender are both on a spectrum and can change for each individual person throughout their lives, although it may not necessarily. Until this idea really hits home though, many of us queer people struggle to pinpoint exactly when the “gay revelation” happened to us.

To try to figure out when you knew you were gay is to assume there was a time that you didn’t know you were gay. But how can that be when people are born gay and there are some people who say that they knew they were gay from the day they were born? The reason is that this knowledge is subjective and extremely susceptible to societal norms. For example, if we don’t grow up with a context for being gay or, what’s worse, we don’t have an accurate representation of what makes a person queer, then coming to a place of realization can seem tricky. Continue reading

Mickalene Thomas: Layers of Black Womanhood through an Artist’s Eyes

 

La leçon d’amour, 2008

La leçon d’amour, 2008

I first came across Mickalene Thomas’ work on – where else? Pinterest. Because I’m obsessed. Anyway, besides her work being gorgeous and the fact that it focuses on black female identity and sexuality, I was drawn to find out more about her when I discovered that not only is she an openly gay black artist, but she is also from Camden, NJ, where I was born. To top it off, she is now based out of Brooklyn, NY, just as I am.

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Solange – True (limited edition EP art)

Thomas’ work is a cross between that of Romare Bearden, Henri Matisse’s fauvism, and pop art. She often uses mixed-media, a technique in which she incorporates acrylic paint along with glitter, rhinestones, and other materials. She also utilizes photography and multi-textured collages filled with patterns and bright colors. On her use of patterns, Thomas says in a 2011 interview with PMC Mag that, “Pattern has been an important part of my work for a very long time–I use it to create rhythm and dissonance in the work as well as to reference an array of influences and sources.”

Thomas also creates amazing installations, which are works of three-dimensional creation, often used to transform a space into a representation of a certain concept or theme. Below is Thomas’ “Better Days” installation, which depicts a childhood memory of when her mother hosted parties and other events to raise money to fight causes that affect the Black community.

Mickalene Thomas’s “Better Days” installation

“Better Days” Installation, 2013

Remarkably, Thomas introduces the Black woman into classical art in a beautiful and poignant way. This is especially apparent in her 2012 exhibition, “The Origin of the Universe,” where, as Huffington Post puts it, she “…trad[es] in Romantic renditions of milky skin and auburn curls for glamorous black women, their nude forms replaced with bold, printed ensembles, playful wigs, and electric makeup…Thomas does far more than insert black women into an artistic narrative from which they were, for so long, excluded.” With each new exhibit, Thomas challenges societal norms of beauty and forces the viewer to come face to face with how she perceives it.

Even as her work evolves, Thomas continues to put the Black woman at the forefront as she does with the many-layered tapestries and landscapes that surround them. She is able to achieve the fine balance between a Black woman’s sexuality, strength, and femininity and by doing so she allows her work to exude a certain truth and sincerity that is often lacking in the one-dimensional portrayal of the Black woman.

In a 2016 Women in the World, New York Times interview, when asked how her work is affected by how the black woman’s experience is often erased in the feminist dialogue, Thomas says, “By selecting women of color [as my subjects], I am quite literally raising their visibility and inserting their presence into the conversation. I like to think of the portraits as mirrors… We are not validated until we see ourselves, and the mirror is a tangible object that works as an evidence to external appearance. Not only are we present, we demand that we be seen, be heard, and be acknowledged.”

In an Interview Magazine feature, Thomas specifically speaks about the importance of representing the Black woman when it comes to ideals of beauty. She says, “Out of necessity, black women have always had to consider others’ perceptions of a certain beauty ideal, just starting with the skin color.” This is where her art comes in; it not only validates the Black woman’s existence, it seeks to educate the rest of the world on just how beautiful and precious a Black woman’s skin, hair, and body are and that these are not to be devalued by any outsider who may not understand their worth.

I Thought You Said You Were Leaving, 2006

I Thought You Said You Were Leaving, 2006

In total recognition of her intersectionality, Thomas’ art also conveys powerful messages about the female body and women’s sexuality. Thomas’ “Origin of the Universe” is an invocation of Gustave Courbet’s “Origin of the World” (1866), where Courbet painted a headless torso of a woman with her legs spread, leaving everything for full view. With her rendition, Thomas strips the power away from such a male-centered, controversial work and turns it into something much more empowering. She uses herself as the model, spread legs and all, and in her signature style, she incorporates glitter into the portrait. Thomas makes it her own in such a way that seems to exclaim, ‘It is my body and I will allow you to view it when and how I please!’

Thomas is also adept at seamlessly featuring intimacy between Black women in her artwork. Another piece in her exhibition, “Origin of the Universe”,  called “Sleep: Deux Femmes Noires” (also an invocation of Courbet’s work), depicts two Black women with limbs intertwined, taking a nap in the midst of a garden full of disjointed colors and shapes.

Sleep: Deux Femmes Noires, 2012

Sleep: Deux Femmes Noires, 2012

Keeping in theme with intimacy between Black women, Thomas is known for using subjects that she has good relationships with, both working and personal. Her most recent work, “Muse”, is based on a book of the same name and is dedicated to her photography of many of the women she works with. The exhibit and book feature several of Thomas’ personal friends and acquaintances with whom she became closer with as she continued to use them as subjects in her pieces. Continue reading