POPSUGAR’s Folly: A tale of casual racism and marketing

On July 3, POPSUGAR posted a piece about natural hair that completely removed Black people from a movement that was for and about them. Although there are cries of appropriation surrounding this article, what is actually happening here is the causal racism of marketing and an obvious lack of diversity in media.

There are a few things to note here. One, this is a sponsored post to advertise hair care products. This means that the post was more or less just an advertisement. That being said, it’s important to note that the particular line that was being sold, OGX, is one that is used quite often by Black people who have natural hair.

Two, they used only staffers from their office to review and share their experience with the brand. This happened to be all white people. Now, I don’t know if that is because they did not think to ask their Black staffers to participate or if it was because they do not have any Black people on staff. It doesn’t really matter though because both of those are problems.

Three, in reading the original article, they obviously don’t apply any weight or meaning to the words they’ve chosen to use. Likely because they were suggested by the company who paid for the ad. The use of “natural” and “texture” do not appear to hold the same weight for these women. What they mean is “My hair without a flat iron” not “Accepting my hair in its natural state as an act of rebellion and rejection of colonial beauty standards that wants to force me to internalize anti-Black beliefs and sees any and all proof of my Blackness as something that must be subjugated, hidden, and destroyed.”

If they had asked a Black person, they probably would have been tipped off about that slight difference. They also likely would have known many Black people use these products as an alternative to Shea because they are bit less expensive.

Which takes us back up to point one. This was an advertisement.

If you follow it back to the company you will see a page that has many white women but if you scroll down, you’ll see Black women using it on their hair because this is a moisturizing product and our hair tends to be very dry.

POPSUGAR likely had no idea about the demographics of this product, it was clear that the staffers had never used these products before. Which means they’ve certainly never entered a hair shop and purchased them. But the company knew what they were getting when they asked for this ad: White women.

They’re intentionally marketing this product to appeal to white women in order to make more money. White women don’t have a concept of natural hair, not in the way that Black people do, to white people it’s just hair. They may do other things to it, like color or process it, but that doesn’t change how it’s “natural” state is described. It’s just hair.

For Black people, our hair’s natural state is the one that must be identified. This is my natural hair means I don’t have chemicals in it to make it straight. It has a very specific meaning in the Black community and it is that definition that spawned a movement.

When these sorts of articles are written and this sort of marketing is done by a company, it is to open up the language to include white people so that they will feel more comfortable in using these products. However, it also serves to erase the reality of the Black people who use the same products because our experiences are very different.

This isn’t to say that white people shouldn’t use this shampoo and the various lines of products. It is only to say that when engaging in discussions about the products they should not co-opt the language of Black people to discuss it.

Write about how it reduced your frizz and increased your volume. White hair care has a dictionary full of words and phrases they use to sell hair products. Use those to expand your market base. Avoid the ones associated with the natural hair movement which is one that is centered on Black people.

Although I think that the people most strongly at fault was the brand, this doesn’t absolve POPSUGAR for their huge oversight. They obviously need to work on their diversity and if they have Black people on staff, to run these sorts of articles past them first or at least do some reading “natural hair” before you publish and article. A quick Google would have shown you that the women featured in the article are not the demographic that most commonly uses the phrase.

On Cheap Glasses and the Myth of Affordable

Glasses are expensive and if you have less than perfect vision, you need them. Whenever anyone talks about needing glasses in an online space, they are met by a chorus of “Oh go to this *insert online dealer*! I got mine there and they were just *insert seemingly nominal amount*!” The thing is though, that what seems nominal to one person may be a cost too high for another.

Story time. My glasses broke in half last summer. I went to put them on my face when I woke up and they fell into two pieces. I’ve been wearing glasses since I was three years old, my prescription is quite high. When I talked about my glasses breaking, immediately I was flooded with recommendations for various online sellers.

The thing is, because my prescription is so high, the glasses that were costing my friends $30 were more in the $75-100 range for me. Which is a big difference! In fact, what was a nominal cost for them became a choice between being sighted and paying a bill for that month for me.

And this is a reality for many people.

There is room in this discussion for the intersections between class and ableism to be examined. After all, it is only those with low prescriptions that can access the low-cost options with using these online dealers. It also ignores the fact that people need to be able to be seen for a prescription which, without insurance especially, can be a hefty cost. What I’m bringing this up for today is to discuss the ever-changing goal post of “affordability”.

Not everyone operates from the same financial level and we really need to stop speaking as though “cheap” is the same level for everyone. Not everyone can access the same opportunities due to their unique circumstances (like my high prescription vs my friend’s low one) and not everyone is working with the same amount of capital.

This isn’t to say that we should never suggest things to others looking for help and guidance, it is only to say that we need to be aware of the difference between people that will change their experience. Instead of “go here it’s so cheap!” try “I had a good experience with this company under these circumstances”. Be aware of the fact that a cost that may seem low to you may be a budget breaker to someone else. After all, even $30 may be a tough choice to a family that is stretched thin financially.

It’s good to try and help but don’t forget that you are not an authority on anyone’s life but your own and even though something may work really well for you it may not be so great for someone else. The idea of affordability across the board is a myth. The only thing that is affordable for everyone regardless of life needs is free. Anything above that and it cheap really depends on what you consider expensive and that’s different for everyone.

“Those Guys Hate Me”

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I enjoy hearing someone say “Fuck you” to Milo as much as the next person so I watched the recent clip from the Bill Mahler show with a certain amount of glee because, seriously, fuck that guy. And before you come all up in my comments, yes I still think the ACLU is correct in their stance. Just because I don’t want to hear what someone has to say doesn’t mean they don’t have the right to say it. That, however, is besides the point because Milo said something that I think everyone by and large missed.

When the discussion turned to his ties with far Nazi right which is different and separate from the “not Nazi” Alt-Right (it isn’t) he said that those guys hate him. And this gave me pause, not because it’s not true (it probably is) but because this is the SAME thing Richard Spencer said before he got sucker punched on camera a few weeks ago.

“Those guys hate me.”

This is an important thing that both of these people have said and we need to pay attention because this is how they’re sliding their views to the masses and gaining legitimacy and followers.

“Those guys hate me,” which translates handily into “I am not those guys.”

Those guys are clearly reprehensible. Everyone understands being a skin head, Nazi, white supremacist is a problem unless you are straight up those things. People like Milo and Spencer give would be racists a third option. A way to excuse them from being the racist villian. An alternative to the right. An alt-right if you will.

It’s a way for them to say, “Whoa, I’m not like those guys! Those guys are BAD GUYS! I’m this other thing that those people hate!”

The people who identify with these movements are doing so because they think the rebranding of their hatred and ignorance makes it into something else. That just because the original brand hates the new packaging somehow it makes the contents of it different.

It doesn’t. The enemy of your enemy is not your friend, as much as they would like you believe. They are exactly the same bullshit as the far right. They’re just more ok with gay people and have better taste in clothing.

“Those guys hate me.”

Yeah ok, that’s nice. You’re still awful.

Milo Sucks But He Still Has Rights

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The ACLU was having the best week ever after their efforts to help immigrants caught up in the President’s hasty and poorly thought out executive order were detained at airports across the country. People rushed to support them but this week isn’t so good as they’re tied to Milo Yiannopoulos and many of their new supporters are speaking of ending their support. Here’s the thing, don’t.

The ACLU is an organization with the goal of defending everyone’s civil liberties even those liberties that we disagree with or that they disagree with on a personal level. But their personal feelings don’t matter because they’re there to defend the Constitution and that’s exactly what we want and need in a free society.

Did the ACLU defend Nazis one time? They sure did when their civil rights were violated. But they were also the guys sitting on the floor in airports fighting against unjust orders that were keeping people from their homes. They are ALSO the guys taking on Facebook and the rest of social media for their bias against people of color.

The Blue Team is far from perfect but one of our biggest issues is our moral absolution. There are matters where this is the way to go because there are some issues that have no middle ground. This isn’t one of them. The ACLU is an organization that defends peoples’ Constitutional rights. It does not defend only the rights of people they agree with nor does it defend or support anything outside of those rights.

So, the ACLU isn’t defending Milo’s right to be an asshole and spew hate speech. What they are defending is his protected right not to be censured by the government for his bullshit beliefs. They are defending his legal right to say them.

They are defending his rights the same way they defended the rights of the people trapped by the travel EO. And the thing is, sometimes they’re going to side with things we disagree with but a lot of the time, they’re going support people who are being unfairly targeted and having their rights violated, and all of the time this will be based on the Constitution and what the law says.

We need that. Don’t play into the Red Team’s hand. They are COUNTING on us to jump ship the SAME exact way they counted on us to do so during the election with “crooked/warmonger/defended a rapist that one time Hillary”. This thing with Milo is a way to weaken the left’s resistance.

We know that the judicial branch is one of the best weapons we have. By pulling our support over this, we’ll be cutting off our own noses to spite our face. There’s going to be a lot of bullshit that’s coming down the line over the next few years and in order to keep groups like the ACLU primed and ready to put loafers and heels on the ground when we need them, we’re going to have to support them even if we don’t always agree with them.

So, if they need to show up for Milo to prove their unwavering support of the founding principles of this country, let them! As long of they keep showing up to protect our civil rights, rights to privacy, advocate for marginalized groups, and block every unconstitutional piece of nonsense that comes from this administration, then there’s no reason to stop supporting them.

Don’t Hit Share : Here’s what to do instead

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In less than two weeks, we’ve experienced rapid changes to our political landscapes and in the struggle to stay up on all the changes so we can understand the order of the new world, we have turned our newsfeeds into bastions of fear. The easiest way to combat this toll on our mental and emotional well-being is to stop hitting share on every news story but I don’t mean stop sharing the news.

Instead of just hitting “share” on a post, copy the link of the news article. It’s really easy from mobile. Next to the share button are three dots. Tap them and the second option in the drop down menu is “copy link”. Select that. Go back to your page, make a new post with your thoughts on the article and what the topic is. Hit post. Then, in the comments share the link itself.

By doing this, it removes the constant news reports that come with their “urgent” and “devastating” headlines so people can pace themselves without missing anything. The Facebook machine is going to push all those similar news reports to the top of your feed if you just push share because chances are, everyone is sharing the same article or handful of articles. By removing those headlines and photos from the direct feed, we’re still sharing but giving people some mental distance so they can stay engaged without becoming so quickly overwhelmed.

We need to continue to share and speak on what is happening in the world today. That is the only way we can prepare for things and make plans for the way the new regime may harm us. Social media is a powerful tool as it allows us to share news quickly, however, thanks to its algorithms, it is also giving us a window that is largely fear based and causing greater anxiety in its users.

That’s us. We’re the users.

We saw this after the election when we looked the feeds of people on the Red Team. What was found was that, aside from the “Fake News” problem (which was and likely still is a problem) were that these feeds were drowning in these fear based messages. The use of really salacious headlines and scary reports was designed to keep people engaged and clicking.

In the past less than two weeks, I’ve noticed my own timeline has become more and more anxiety filled as it’s flooded with news reports, all slated to get you to read them and I thought, “Is this what the Red Team has been dealing with all the time? No wonder they think liberals will be the death of the country!”

I don’t want the Blue Team to be that. I don’t want the Red Team to be that either but one problem at a time.

You may have seen the meme calling for people to “make Facebook fun again”. It’s a picture drawn in pen with different colored highlighters like it was done in middle school during a boring science class. Ignoring the art style, that meme is hot garbage and what I am suggesting is not that.

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I don’t think that people should ignore what is happening in the world in favor of puppy pictures. Puppy pictures are awesome but being up on current events is also REALLY, REALLY IMPORTANT. That meme (and resulting thought process) treats political movements as a sort of hobby that isn’t particularly enjoyable right now as opposed to events that could affect one’s life for years to come.

Feel free to push share directly on single creator blogs and networks, they NEED the clicks to get their content shown. Times, Reuters, CNN, HuffPo, WaPo, etc, do not need Facebook traffic from clicks so moving the content to a comment will not kill them. But it will give people a chance to engage with the news in a healthier way.

Social media is important in keeping us informed but we need to adjust how we interact with it so the negative consequences don’t outweigh the positive benefits.

Trump Doesn’t Have a Mental Disorder

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Stop writing pieces speculating on what mental illness Donald Trump may have. It’s abelist and it’s the same tactic we use to excuse white boys who shoot people. They didn’t mean it, they’re SICK. No. Donald Trump isn’t sick. He’s just a man who is used to having everyone kiss his ass.

Our president does not have a mental illness. We are not going to excuse his bad behavior because he has narcissistic personality disorder or he may be suffering from PTSD from the 9/11 attacks. His actions are not based on some emotional boogeyman. He is doing these things because he wants to and thinks they’re the right course of action.

It’s scary to accept that the leader of the free world is so visibly self-serving and is lacking quite a bit of knowledge surrounding the very important position he’s in but it’s the truth and we must accept it. Armchair psychology at the best of times is a pointless pursuit and we are not anywhere near those times.

Continuing to play this game that Trump has some yet undiagnosed disorder is at once a distraction and a tactic used to hold him less than accountable for his choices. It causes people who could act to hold back with the idea that “he’s reacting to his disorder, possibly.”

No, stop it. There’s nothing wrong with Trump. Discussions about what might be wrong with him are a distraction. Don’t get distracted.

Anarco-Parenting: A Chat with China Martins

China Martins -photo by PM Press

China Martins is a writer known for her work in the zine scene. She is running a Kickstarter for a second printing of her book The Future Generation. I chatted with her a bit to learn more about her project. Mostly though, I just support there being more literature out there for alternative parents.

You can support the project (and get your own copy!) with their Kickstarter.

What’s the book about?

The Future Generation: A Zine-Book For Subculture Parents, Kids, Friends & Others is a “best of” anthology of 16 years of my first zine: The Future Generation. I started it in 1990, when I was 23 and my daughter had just turned two. I spent about a year trying to gather up essays to put out the first issue. I wanted to make a zine to connect to other parents like myself, and to the whole community, to talk about issues and how we are going to go forward, what do we want, not just what we don’t want.

The zine starts while my daughter is young and me, being a young single anarchist parent – with topics of home birth, physical experiences of raising a child, how you feel and how you relate with your friends. Articles and essays about a great amount of assorted things like city planning and healing from trauma, poetry, letters.

Over the years, the zine changed as my daughter grew into a teenager. I was always trying to keep it real and printing the real struggles as well as my aspirations. Sometimes I would look around me, like the Ocean issue, or Fatherhood issue, and look for essays from others. It’s really just a big book documentation of ziney-goodness. Of the struggle of one person to write her point of view, connect to others, and self-publish, before the internet made that possible.

Why are you re-releasing it now?

It’s the tenth year anniversary!! It first came out in 2007 and sold out after two years. There were slow and steady sales, it was reason enough to make a second printing, but we just never did. It is awfully big, in the old larger format of books with lots of cut and paste graphics and expensive to put out. It came out during a time Atomic Books had a small press. Maybe it was too big to print again. But we have been talking about it for a while. I get emails from folks all around the world about it. There are a few copies left for 30 dollars and over on Amazon but it’s no longer available, really. And I just think it deserves a second run, for a new generation.

Do you think it’s apt for the current times we live in?

It’s important to have some idea of current history, of what it was to go through Welfare Reform, during the Clinton era, and what led up to massive numbers of incarcerated women and greater poverty in society, as we embark on some scary times with policy changes that threaten lives. It’s just as important to talk about issues of child raising, and community caregiving, supporting and understanding and having some attention to low income parenting and childrearing, and radical striving. It’s important to stay engaged and participate, build community. That’s what I’m doing right now.

As a 50 year old, using my energy to back my first, more personal book, I find it rewarding the ripples that are coming out of just the fundraising right now: to connect with others. My stories of young punk parenting aren’t outdated. In fact, maybe they are more relevant than ever.

What do you think has changed since you first wrote the book?

I’m post empty nest single mama of 50 years old. I don’t have any caregiving to do, besides being paid to do it as a nanny right now. My daughter comes to my house and brings wine, she brings black eyed peas and collards and cornbread for new years, to share with me so I have good luck. I went to a show a few months ago, and got in free, because I was recognized as her mother. So what has changed, for me, is life is easier. Yet it still feels hard. Very hard. So, I’m not sure what has really changed.

If you could add anything to the text for today’s audiences, what would it be?

Well my 28 year old daughter is going to write the updated afterword, about what it was like to grow up with a writer mom and zines. So I think she’s the one who has it to say, after all those struggles, her reflection is going to be great!

And I actually have felt inspired to put out a new TFG next year as a perk, I will complain like always, about isolation and loneliness and what it’s like to be me, at this age; and my hopes and dreams. But I want to curate some other essays too. I want to call it the Rebel Issue. And I have a lot of ideas, for it, I’m excited.

How close are you to your goal and what happens when you make it?

I’ve raised two thousand dollars right now. I am emailing everyone I know, every contact, everyone I don’t know. I’m going to get it! 10K is just a number. (haha) I’m thinking beyond the goal. I want to do this. I need a lot of support. I am funding the book coming back out through pre-orders, which is pretty brutal to have such a short time frame as I do – but it is what it is – and like always, I’m learning by doing, growing as I learn. I just got my first bookstore to preorder. I’m emailing all the bookstores I’ve read at with the past two books. With your support, really, every single order, YOU, this book will be possible again.

What are you plans for after this Kickstarter? Do you plan any future books?

Oh Yea! My revolutionary mothering co-editor Mai’a Williams gave me this winter assignment: to write about menopause, dating, and the Baltimore uprising. Which I started on a bit. Also, I have a whole finished novel, I am looking for a press – Shopgirl Metaphysics, based about my time working in an antique store in my neighborhood in Hampden, Baltimore. They say novels don’t sell anymore. That’s what they said about parenting and mothering issues! Its always the wrong time, for something, right? But what other time do we got. It’s our time. As long as I’m alive I will be writing, and pushing, to survive as a writer.