Throughout my life, I have been called crazy, angry, insane, sensitive and all forms of dismissive words by strangers and people who are close to me. Women and people of color are often told that they should relax or not take things too seriously when someone who believes they're higher on the social hierarchy does something to piss them off. Essentially, they punch us in the arm and say "that didn't hurt."
Moreover, I have heard countless black women explain away their lack of assertiveness with the moniker that they "don't want to be perceived as the angry black woman," to the point of smiling when someone violates their person or touches their hair or clothing without permission.
I started making subversive art in 2007 while in graduate school. Until then, I had been receiving the typical diminutive gaslighting (see this explanation of gaslighting written by a man, so it's gotta be true, right?) that any young woman of color would receive in this culture. Every original thought I had was disregarded. I dated men who, though way less intelligent than I (and I knew it) had somehow found their way on my list of people I had to prove my value to. I edited and re-edited everything I thought before I said it to keep the people around me from feeling uncomfortable by their lack of experience with information, as compared to my abundance. I found a haven among local poets because, well, they were reading, writing, thinking people. Furthermore, they allowed others to speak their peace without judgment. Untethered and on stage in front of a microphone listening to my own words while others listened as well, I discovered that my original thoughts were not only worthy, but were transformational. I had a guitar, so I started playing music to my original thoughts and people started paying money for them. Once I paid my rent from the money I collected delivering my original thoughts to people, nobody could tell me shit!
But that doesn't mean the gaslighting stopped. In fact, it got out of control! The more notorious my voice became and the more people knew who I was when I walked into a room, the more people would pop out of corners to try to remind me of how crazy I was. Or disrespectful. Or radical. Or untalented. Or fake. Or unaccepted. Or stupid. Or not quite pretty enough for the attention I'm getting. Or can't sing good enough to think I should be able to sell albums. Or that my music is offensive. Or that I should wear some piece of clothing that accentuates certain body parts. Or that I shouldn't dress so provocatively because it sends the wrong message. Or that I'm sending the wrong message! Or that I should get my eyebrows waxed. Or that I should wear my hair in a bun. Or I should wear my hair down. Or I should sing this song like this. Or I should sing that song like that. Or I shouldn't sing that song at all!
There was a breaking point that made me realize that gaslighters are really just cowards. Not much unlike the hecklers at a comedy show. They are too afraid to shine, so they stand in the path of another's shine and try to convince the world that they created the light. I get all that, but being on the receiving end of the bullshit, it wore on me. The breaking point was gradual, then sudden. The breaking point occurred when I realized that I wasn't even enjoying making music anymore because I was too busy feeling some kind of way about gaslighting cowards. Had the cowards won? Had they finally intimidated me into silence?
My shit giving to production ratio skyrocketed in favor of production when I stepped back for a minute and looked at what was really going on: People were loving my music and buying it. Though I could spend a lifetime arguing with naysayers, it was a little harder to argue with the numbers. The numbers told me that I was good enough to make music for a living. When a family member told me I couldn't sing, it didn't affect the numbers. Not one bit.
As a human who has melanin and a vagina, I still experience many people who seem to believe it's their job to put me in my "place". I have no idea where that place is and I don't think they do either. However, I'd love to find out. I imagine that my place would be full of chocolate, malt liquor, and kittens...but I digress...The proverbial "yap yap yap" is so frequent and so loud that it has become gross and overwhelming. It's like what happens when a child is served a plate with too much nasty food on it. They'll play in it. Might even throw it on the wall or smear it on the table, but they ain't eatin' that shit no matter how much you threaten to beat them.
Then, I realized it was time to grow up: time to cook my own food and make my own plate. Then, I could sit down and eat it in peace. And if somebody looks at my plate and goes "ewwww!" I can put them out of my house and never invite them back. Yet, if someone looks at my plate and goes "oooh. That looks good," I can't wait to make them a plate too and even poor them a glass of my most expensive malt liquor! Then, I can invite them back for dinner on another night and encourage them to bring friends. Before I know it, I'll be hosting dinner parties full of appreciative people who like the food I serve...and they'll bring their own culinary creations to share...straight potluck style.
Well, I'm growing up. I am more determined to continue to love music and writing than I am to impress anyone. I don't know exactly what my life story will be, but I know for damn sure that I wasn't put on this planet to make anutha muthafucka comfortable. So as far as calling me crazy goes, I encourage all reporters and media people to do so. It'll make it easier for the other crazies to find me and then, we can have fun potlucks with malt liquor! For those who don't like my food, no worries. You're not invited to the party.
Masigi: "You're a very strange woman!"
Blue: "Fuck yeah I am. Now the question is, what you got on my 40 homie?"