Illustration by Hanna Barczyk
*DISCLAIMER: THIS IS A RANT*
“Here’s How Sex & The City Inspired Me To Start Wearing Yoga Pants”. I kid you not, this was literally the title of a feature I read in a magazine last week. A whole feature in a very popular magazine was dedicated to the white woman editor talking about how a television show from almost 20 years ago inspired her to start wearing yoga pants. The sickening thing was the editor continued to explain that she had never seen Sex & The City up until a couple weeks ago when her friend forced her to watch the show. The fact that this pointless feature had been commissioned in this magazine blew my mind. With all the pressing issues the world is currently facing this white woman’s story about yoga pants and Sex & The City was clearly just too important to miss.
When I started writing, I never thought that I would be where I am right now. I had to work twice as hard to be half as good as the average bear in the journalism world and yet I still don’t feel like I’ve achieved enough to even be taken seriously as a writer or a journalist and in all honesty seeing stupid articles like that only helped push that negative mindset that my brain holds on this matter further. At the beginning of this year, I finally decided to start walking in my truth. I always wanted to be a writer but I never believed in myself to even give it a go but something came over me when that clock struck 12:00am and we entered 2018. I wanted to allow myself the chance to grow and so I set my eyes on being the writer I always wanted to be. I did internships after internships both paid and unpaid, I pitched to national publications day after day, I even wrote for free sometimes because I was so passionate about writing that I wanted to build up my portfolio in any way, shape or form.
Four months down the line, I started noticing that I was only being commissioned to write about one thing. My race. If it wasn’t about me as a black womxn and the lack of diversity on this, then it was about how being a black womxn made me feel like this or about how other black womxn are viewed in the media. Every pitch was becoming a curveball and I had to stop and asked myself ‘why am I always being asked to write about race, race-related topics or how something is unfair to me because I’m a black womxn?‘. Am I not valued enough as a writer simply because I am a black womxn? Is the only thing editors and publications will commission from me is pieces about ‘race’? Why do I not get the privileges of writing about Sex & The City and yoga pants like Susan?
I remember the day one publication in particular replied to a pitch I sent about visualising female superheroes with realistic body types and the editor of this publication replied to my pitch asking me “Can you write about what it’s like being a black women in 2018 speaking on how celebrities like Rihanna and Nicki Minaj make you feel as your role models instead?”. I was shocked. My jaw literally hit the ground. The nerve, the fricking audacity. See here’s the thing, getting feedback on your pitch from an editor is major because that feedback helps your reshape your piece, it helps you find a new aim and even sometimes helps you rewrite the whole thing to make it better but this wasn’t it. This was blatant disrespect. My pitch had nothing to do with my race or my place as a black womxn in 2018 and yet here I was being asked to change it and speak about my race instead. And let me not even get started on his insertion of Rihanna and Nicki Minaj. Not once in that email did I mention either of them or inform him that they were my role models so I have no idea why he believed that these two black womxn meant that much to me.
Don’t get me wrong, as much as I enjoy discussing race, I AM TIRED of it being the only content I am asked to provide from these publications. It’s insulting and exhausting. Our voices have more depth and intricacies than ever before. It feels sometimes that these publications want to remind you of your history and your struggle as a person of colour and make you feel enslaved. They put you in a box and sideline you because of your skin. It’s hard being a black womxn and a creative at the same time. I am thankful that I have a place at publications like Gal-Dem, Black Ballad and AZ Magazine that allows to me freely speak on which topic I choose because 95% of the time this is not the case with other publications.
I. AM. TIRED.
I want to end this rant by speaking directly to black womxn creatives and writers out there. It’s one thing to know your worth but it’s another thing to understand your worth. I’ve come to understand my worth as a black womxn and a writer. If we are only getting booked or hired to speak/write about race, it becomes the only thing we have to show and it keeps us boxed in. We should have the same advantages as the average white womxn because we are just as good as them if not even better. This rant is no way aimed at bashing white women or publications in any way, shape or form. This is simply me saying enough is enough. I want to share the same experiences and share the same equality as others who work in the same field as me but that will never be the case. I have a voice, we all have a voice and I am choosing to rant because I generally want to see myself & my sisters win. To quote Monique “I love us for real”.