black girl sabbaticals: amina’s story

it felt as though i’d been tired for days, for months…maybe i’d been tired all year, maybe even longer.

i remember waking up one morning in the middle of june, in a flood of tears. the migraine i had struggled with the night before still raging like a storm in my head, and my chest still skipping off-beat from the panic attack i’d fought with the week before. as i rolled over in bed, sobbing uncontrollably at the thought of having to face another day, another dozen or more emails, hundreds of texts and several other “urgent” demands on my time, i realized that i needed to make some very *urgent* and intentional energetic shifts in order to regain a sense of balance in my life. i knew then that for the sake of my own well-being – and life – i needed to slow down, stop and catch my breath.  i needed to do things differently.

Amina4as an activist and someone that’s been involved in social-justice-community organizing for many years, it’s hard to explain what it means to suffer from “systematic exhaustion.” though my body and mind felt weak and drained almost daily, i often felt shrouded by feelings of guilt for my tiredness. the moment i would start admitting the need to rest, i would hear myself saying really quite, destructive things like – “there are so many other people out there who have things a whole lot worse than you do,” “just keep going” and “you can do it.”  being relatively young made it even more complicated – because who the hell was i to be feeling so tired at 30?

…and that’s when i decided to take a moment to pause.

i needed to be with myself alone in the cool, dark, quiet of dawn, outside among the trees and flowers, in the ocean, in my kitchen boiling ginger and lemongrass and chopping garlic. i needed to be in all of these places in order to release myself of all of the guilt, pain and anguish that i was feeling – and the ridiculous need to compare myself to others.

…and it was in those moments of revolutionary quiet that i found myself making decisions such as taking time off from work (and being unavailable and offline), shifting to part-time work to give my creative self the time and space that it needed, learning to say things like “no” (thank you) and being able to respond with “yes, but i will need some time for that.” i found myself reaching out to my various communities of care and sister circles saying– “i need your support” and “i need to be held.”

there is no shame in creating the space, and making time in order to allow yourself to heal. admitting the need for rest and prioritizing wellness does not make you any less of a “great” human being (or an activist). in fact, it speaks to the heart of self-preservation and revolutionary love, something that black women like toni cade bambara and audre lorde wrote so fiercely about.

taking the time out to heal and be well is one of the greatest gifts we could ever give ourselves and our communities. truth be told, i’m still figuring out what true balance looks and feels like – but these days i’ve been waking up feeling lighter, and with more of the sun in my eyes.

photo (iphone) credit: sabriya simon and amina doherty | graphic credit: politics & fashion


amina doherty is a nigerian feminist artivist whose work focuses on feminist philanthropy and creative arts for advocacy. she is passionate about art, travel, photography, fashion and writing. she lives and works from kingston, jamaica. you can tweet her at @sheroxlox.

why i stan for amber rose

Amber Rose VMAsi stan for amber rose. while she’s witty, genuine and has an epic personal style, watching her feminism evolve is what has me doing a perpetual praise dance.

we all know double standards exist, but for women like amber, they’re a way of life. just take a peek into her mentions and the sexist vitriol will leave you reeling. hoe, slut and gold digger are the mildest insults she’s called daily by complete strangers. why? because the way patriarchy is setup, women aren’t allowed to embrace their sexy, have fun with their friends, post twerk videos and be wives and mothers worthy of respect.


tales from the nice girl’s crypt

stop_smiling_022613-600x450 i can’t count the number of times i’ve been told to “smile” by a random man as i walked down the street minding my own damn business. even better, i’ve been told, “you’re too pretty not to smile.” as if my attractiveness warrants smiling (at a man) even when i’m not in a smiling mood. i’m clear that women don’t owe a man perpetrating street harassment anything, but what about those individuals with whom we might share a brief connection? even when i’m in a smiling mood, i’m faced with a more insidious form of boundary crossing that is just as inappropriate.

so the story goes like this, i showed up to a recent optometry appointment in a really good mood; it was friday, the weather was beautiful, i was wearing my favorite dress and i’d finally found time to get new glasses. the sales associate was a young dude who reminded me of my little brother, and we quickly exchanged black people pleasantries — where you’re from, what you got planned for memorial day weekend, etc. he helped me chose my new frames, and i left without categorizing our interaction as anything special or out of the ordinary.

when i returned to pick up my glasses, the same associate helped me, and we briefly chatted it up. less than 10 minutes later, i was out the door, and again didn’t note anything remarkable about our interaction.  with this is mind, i was shocked when i came home to find he’d sent me a friend request via facebook. nevermind the fact that i’d met this man in a professional medical setting (insert hippaa violation), i’m shocked that someone i don’t know would feel it was acceptable to reach out to me using a very personal online platform, in my opinion akin to sending a text message, simply because i was…nice to him?

whether it’s cat calling, unwanted touching or lowkey social media stalking, i’m often left feeling that i’ve done something to warrant an unwelcomed male gaze. it’s not surprising that i have this emotion since women are conditioned through rape culture and patriarchy to blame ourselves for the results of “tempting” a man, failing to hold them responsible for their actions.  intellectually, i know that engaging in a friendly conversation shouldn’t be construed as tempting — it’s basic human decency.  however, the stakes are simply too high to be nice, and i feel an urge to bury the nice girl just to navigate the world safely. it’s exhausting to suffer the unwanted attention that a simple smile can bring.

*image via thefrisky.com

there are no real sluts

slutlast week’s atlantic article about slut shaming was eye opening.  the article written by olga khazan explores a study by two researchers who interviewed 54 women between their freshman year to their first year out of college. their findings about financial security and inequality are captured in their book paying for the party. however, the results of their research project didn’t stop there. what the women learned about how the college students labeled, shamed and marginalized each other based on real (but most often perceived) sexual promiscuity is fascinating.

“all but five or six of the women practiced “slut-shaming,” or denigrating the other women for their loose sexual mores. but they conflated their accusations of “sluttiness” with other, unrelated personality traits, like meanness or unattractiveness. it seems there was no better way to smear a dorm-mate than to suggest she was sexually impure.”

in a patriarchal society the fact that women are held to unattainable standards of sexual purity isn’t new — hell, the fact that we hold ourselves and each other to these standards is the most damaging.  however, there are two things interesting about this study: 1.) while the term was commonly used among these women, there was no strict definition of a slut, and 2.) the concept was used to enforce class hierarchies, with the wealthier girls being allowed to have “loosier” sexual mores (think kim khardashian and paris hilton versus love and hip hop star mimi faust). so what’s the purpose of having a word in the english language that has no strict definition, but forces women to live under amorphous constraints? the article breaks the answer to this question down perfectly:

“… “slut” is simply a misogynistic catch-all, a verbal utility knife that young people use to control women and create hierarchies. there may be no real sluts, in other words, but there are real and devastating consequences to slut-shaming.”

happy international women’s day

what would international women’s day be without a reminder of our flawlessness from queen b? check out the video below of women giving their definition of feminism and thoughts on equal rights — all set to the tune of beyonce’s “flawless.”

goodbye 2013

2013 was amazing. cliche, i know, but i can’t think of a time in my life when i’ve been happier.  between a new job, living in a great city, an amazing family and friends and falling in (and out) of love, i’ve grown more during the past 12 months than the past few years combined.  thank you to my readers, especially those who have followed since 2011 — your support keeps me motivated to share my random thoughts on life. here’s a review of 2013 captured by politics and fashion:

1. thanks to michael idiokitas for his bomb photography skills and asking me to pose for his forthcoming streetstyle book.


feminist elitism vs beyonceism

beyoncepeople have been claiming beyonce as a feminist icon for some time, pointing to songs like “single ladies” and “girls run the world” as proof.  i’ve been much more skeptical, hesitant to impute my own sensibilities on celebrities and their ideology. in fact, in an interview for british vogue about the topic, beyonce stated “that word [feminist] can be very extreme…” and reminded the interviewer that she’s “happily married.” possibly proving that she, like many,erroneously sees the “f” word as being anti-male.

but then beyonce dropped her self-titled secret album, and the game changed forever.