By L. Ardor | Lamoi
On any given day, if you were to scroll down a social media platform feed, you will no doubt see the plethora of video uploads exposing people in the throes of their humanity. Thanks to the advancement of smartphones and social sites, along with the general disinterest of the welfare of human beings, a startling normalcy towards cyber-bullying, and a functioning grey area to what exactly forms consent, no one is safe from being captured, uploaded, and reduced to this afternoon’s hashtag or meme.
At the height of my mean girl phase in High School, I was quick witted with a quick tongue. I was prompt to judge, ridicule, and shame others based on their choice of clothing, hairstyles, or general disposition. Now that I am older, and conscious of my place in the world as a Black Woman, I have grown to appreciate the need to celebrate our choices, whether I agree with them or not, because they are our choices. We cannot deny that there is a fight. Black men, women, and children are fighting for that which they should never have to fight; the right to exist on our own terms, individually and as a community, local and international. And if we are fighting for the right to disengage from respectable politics, the policing of our bodies, the rights of our existence, and systemic racism and its culture, then let us fight every subheading attached to the cause.
I remember when the private nude pictures of many actresses were leaked via the hacking of Apple’s Cloud last fall, social media erupted in a frenzy, with many people clamoring not to their aid, nor protesting the violation of their safe spaces, rather they became the gawkers, sharing links and posting comments on these actresses’ bodies. Gabrielle Union, a [Black] actress well-known for the lead role in “Being Mary Jane”, whose nude pictures sent to her now husband Dwayne Wade were leaked, was right when she stated to Abigail Pesta for Cosmopolitan, “No one deserves to have a private moment stolen, whether it’s a photo, text, or email. Everyone has intimate parts of their life they don’t want the public to see.” She added, “It’s a new form of sexual abuse.”
As a human experiencing the world with 3 identifiable strikes against her—Black, Woman, single mother—and as a part of the Black community finding its voice, and [re]building its foundation in this heightened place of race, culture, and existence, I have one heartfelt request: Can we please stop participating in the shaming of (our) people? Our fight does not stop at the encouragement of body positivity, sex positivity, the understanding that we are not immutable, that we are allowed our contradictions, that we are free to be, love, dress, and act as we want to, it also extends to not aiding in the shaming of those choices we are supposed to be allowed to make.
Although video and photo sharing platforms like WorldStarHipHop, Instagram, Vine, YouTube, Facebook, and Tumblr is no respecter of race, economic background, or gender when it comes to humiliating people, the wound bleeds just a little bit more for Black people. Since the history of power, and the desire to dominate others, people of colour have had the agency over their own bodies unceremoniously taken from them, and at the height of that violence have been women and children. Our bodies, the right to our well being and our inherent freedom continue to be available for public consumption, and invasion, and like the evolution of racism, the routes of our degradation, and dismissal continue to evolve as well.
The struggle over our displacement does not end, therefore our fight does not end; it does not take breaks, nor does it play favourites. Case in point: The 57th Grammy Awards Show allowed social media to do what it does best, shade, criticize, degrade, and dismiss those we have collectively put into the spotlight. It became a night where the world’s online activists took time off, to engage in the slander of those for whom we claim to be fighting. I thought we were here for Black Women, and Black Men doing whatever they wanted, wearing whatever they wanted, and middle fingering those that want to police everything, from our existence to our fashion choices. Does that right to be free from scrutiny and shaming only apply to the scrutiny from non-people of colour? Does that mean that we have the right to dismiss our own, because we have the shared commonality of the struggle?
All of our choices stem from our stories, they make up who we are, they are the culmination of our lived and remembered experiences, they are our healing, they are our fears, they are our boldness, and our revolution. Coupled with our choices, is our consent—our right to say yes, and our right to say no. We have the right to live, and be, and make mistakes, and we have the right to bounce back from them. We have the right to not be reduced to a worldwide catch phrase, meme, or hashtag. We have the right to not be the focus of someone’s hidden camera, or uploaded without our knowledge or consent. We have the right to experience life in all of our freedoms. We have the right to expect the Golden Rule in its theory and in its application.
This does not speak to those that are engaging in behaviours that cause others harm, because I am in support of throwing murderers, rapists, child abusers, pedophiles, and those that cause deliberate harm, and pose a danger to society individually and collectively into the fire. This speaks to the humans that are living life, just as we are living life.
In speaking of choice, the question, “Don’t I have the choice to laugh, enjoy, and share that which amuses me?” is valid, and the answer is simple: Yes, of course you do! And to that I will pose the question: “But where is the consent?” Does your enjoyment stem from the borderline cyber bullying of others? How far does your fight for safety of spaces, boundaries, and the inherent exercise of one’s freedom extend? Is it easier to dismiss those that you do not know, and stand in solidarity with those with whom you most identify?
I had the blessing of seeing my little girl turn two-years-old a few weeks ago, and as I reflect on her place in the world, I want her to have the safe space to be as assertive, loud, bold, and as clumsily human as she wants to be. In my protection of her, I have reverted to not posting any pictures of her on social media, as my two year old cannot provide me with her consent, and I fear the day someone captures and uploads a video of her in the throes of her humanity to a social media page without her consent.
Ardor is a writer who believes that everything in life stems from love. Her mission is to spread her philosophy to all brave enough to embrace. You can find Ms. Ardor on twitter: @LaLaArdor.