Month: February 2017

The Quietest People Have the Loudest Thoughts: Introversion in Society | Kendrick Williams

     The definition of an introvert according to the website introvertspring.com is “a person who gains energy from being alone and loses energy in stimulating environments, such as social events”. However, even as the website says, there is much more to being a introvert and someone’s introversion can vary from person to person. Some can be shy, while other have no problem dealing with people.  Unfortunately, we live in a world built that discourages people from displaying introverted traits, no matter how varied. Parents constantly encourage their children to “come out of their shells” Schools, the workplace, and even among introverts, extroversion is the preferred personality type. Extroverts seem to have an advantage in many social facets of life. However, there is no one “better” of the two and extroverts even have their own struggles.

introvert-vs-extrovert.jpg

     Introverts prefer to lose themselves in a world of thought while extroverts lose themselves in reality. Introverts draw meaning from an event or experience, while extroverts express the experiences themselves. If introverts and extroverts were machines, introverts recharge themselves by staying in with a good book or a movie. For extroverts, a quick jolt of another person is just what does the trick. Introverts need lower levels of stimulation such as a quiet dinner or getting lost in a novel or a movie. Extroverts need a higher space of stimuli such as meeting many people at a party or coming home to tell someone about their day. Introverts and extroverts just find their energy and enjoyment in different settings.

     Despite there being no “better” personality type, introversion is stigmatized and introverts can face discrimination. Found from the website Pit Journal, submitted by a user by the name of skela in an article titled “The Stigma of Introversion and Why It’s Wrong” a test is run by an introverted teacher, his students and he took the Myers Briggs personality test. He believed that at least a handful of students would score the “I” for introversion on the test, so it was to his surprise when he realized that none of his students had scored for introversion at all.  However, at a further glance at the questions, it began to make sense of why many of the students were reluctant to answer the “introverted” questions. For example one of the questions was “ would you rather go to a party or stay at home reading a book?” The question has a “correct” or “socially acceptable” answer. The teacher, William Pannapacker, states “Given that introversion is frowned upon almost everywhere in U.S. culture, the test might as well have asked, “Would you prefer to be cool, popular, and successful or weird, isolated, and a failure?”

      This fantastic article also references another high school English teacher by the name of Natalie Munroe. In 2011, she became famous for writing on her blog about how she truly felt about some of her students. She said things such as “A kid that has no personality.”, “She just sits there emotionless for an entire 90 minutes, staring into the abyss, never volunteering to speak or do anything.” as well as “shy isn’t cute in 11th grade; it’s annoying. [he] must learn to advocate for himself instead of having mommy do it.” She was later fired for what was considered “poor performance” While details of whether the case is still going on is unknown, she has decided to fight the termination and has taken the Central Bucks School District to court.

philly28n-1-web.jpg

Natalie Munroe

     Unfortunately, the discrimination doesn’t stop after high school graduation. In the late 1940s, the Provost of Harvard has said that Harvard should deny people that are “sensitive and neurotic”  and “intellectually over-stimulated”. Many employers in jobs today will administer personality tests in hopes of screening out introverts, claiming that they prefer people who can work better in a group setting. An employer would rather hire someone who has “conviction” in their voice even if they are not even truly passionate about the thing they’re talking about. Psychologist Russell Green performed a study where he gave math problems to introverts and extroverts and changed the background noise while they took the test. The study revealed that introverts performed better with less background noise while vice versa for extroverts.

instacart-office-design-10.jpg

However, most workplace settings are jam packed with people and rarely have a place where an introvert can sit in silence.  Huffington Post writer Carolyn Gregoire writes in an article that “Many workplace set ups undermine introverted employees by failing to accommodate their personalities and productivity styles — over-stimulation and excessive meetings can easily stunt their full brain power.” (Gregoire, 2013). Starting at birth, introverts are forced to learn how to live in a world made for extroverts. Introverts are forced to mask who they truly are so they can play a game that was designed for them to lose.

     It is not all doom and gloom for introverts though. Susan Cain, author of the book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking states that without introverts, we would not have the world’s most brilliant thinkers, we would never have some of the world’s greatest literature, scientific breakthroughs, influential leaders, and most amazing advancements in technology that the world has ever seen. Cain sites people such as J.K. Rowling, Barack Obama, Rosa Parks, and Steve Wozniak as introverts.pasted image 0 (1).png    pasted image 0.png   images.jpeg    Steve Wozniak.jpg

Barack Obama describes himself in his book Dreams From My Father as a “lonely old man who lives in a building” . “Introversion has been one of his assets. He plans his campaigns intricately and gives very cerebral speeches.” says Susan Cain. J.K Rowling also describes herself as very introverted “especially when she was a child”. Steve Wozniak  is credited with designing the first Apple computer by himself. “He still advises people to work in solitude” says Cain. Cain even starts the first passage of her book with how she had always imagined Rosa Parks to be a woman with “a bold temperament, someone who could easily stand up to a busload of glowering passengers” (Cain, 2012).  At the time of her death in 2005 however, she was described by obituaries as being soft-spoken and thoughtful, as well as being timid and shy. Obituaries also noted that she had “the courage of a lion” and “quiet fortitude”. Even the title of her autobiography is Quiet Strength. Introverts have been shown that they have truly shaped the world for the better.  

      I myself am an introvert. Growing up in a small household made me feel comfortable and at home being alone form a young age. I too have personally felt the struggle of being the quiet and soft-spoken one in settings. Especially as a man, these traits are seen as being “weak” or a “pushover”. At times I have felt left out and other people have regarded me as “boring”. It took me years to realize that being quiet did not make me uninteresting and that not wanting or liking to talk a lot is OK. Even though today I still struggle with accepting my tranquil nature on occasion, I know that with introverted role models like those listed above, I too have potential to do great things.

Thank you all for reading and I hope you have a great rest of your Feburary!  

Advertisements

Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby: Virginity is a Social Construct

TRIGGER WARNING: This blog will talk about sex, virginity, and struggling to form opinion and self-identity around the concept of virginity as a sexual abuse survivor. Sexist slurs are also mentioned in this article, uncensored. Survivors of rape, sexual assault, and/or sexual abuse may be triggered by the contents of this piece.


 

The notion of “virginity” is one we are typically all familiarized with from an early age in life. Virginity is discussed in our religions, in the media, in our homes, and in our schools. In my experience, virginity became a regular conversation topic when I entered the sixth grade as I hung out with peers with older siblings, a number of which were also sexually active themselves. I began to hear “virginity” in the context of someone having lost it or someone having taken it from another person, rather than the standard statement of “I am,” or “he/she is a virgin.” Stories of partnerships began to circulate the school; intimate secrets and rumors were spread surrounding the sexual activity of my classmates — predominantly of girls, with boys only being mentioned as the person who the girl “gave it up” or “lost it” to.

 

     Even the language that revolves around virginity is problematic. We’re taught to say “I/he/she/they took their/my virginity” or “I/he/she/they popped their/my cherry” in a way that is boastful and insensitive. Why do we talk about it this way when sex is something that is mutually entered into? Why are we not taught instead to simply state that we “had sex with” that person? Why do we want to talk about it so much at all? (Answer: our society is hella hyper-sexualized; there’s tons of research to prove this, especially on how it affects girls.) The language surrounding the term “virginity” could fill a whole other blog post, so I’ll digress.

 

     So, what even is virginity? In my personal experience, the most common understanding of so-called loss of virginity seems to be engaging in cisgender-heteronormative penetrative sex; re: penis-vagina intercourse between a cis man and cis woman.  This definition is problematic for lots of reasons.

 

    This definition is clearly exclusive of trans, Queer, and non-binary individuals who do not necessarily engage in the standard cis-heterosexual penetrative sex. People have sex in lots of different ways, including penis-vagina penetration, and all of these different ways are valid and respectable so long as consensual.

 

    This definition is also dismissive of the feelings of the individuals involved in the sex. Sex should be defined in a way that feels comfortable and right for you and your partner, not by some societal standard. As long as what you are engaging in is consensual, and it feels like sex to you— then it should count.

 

     Virginity is also frequently centered around sex that reaches climax, which is unhealthy and exclusionary of individuals who may be physically unable or may struggle with reaching climax; it’s ableist. This focus is unhealthy because sex should be focused on communicating with your partner and making each other feel good — not just through orgasm but through the process of potentially reaching orgasm.

 

     This definition is also detrimental to survivors of rape, sexual assault, and/or sexual abuse. As a survivor myself, I found the question “Are you a virgin?” extremely complicated to answer; because technically, by society’s definition provided by my own experiential understanding, I was; by my own standards, which I possessed because of what I’d been told by society, yes. But my body had been invaded to provide someone else sexual pleasure, and wasn’t that what sex was in essence anyways? My experiences hadn’t been consensual, so did they count? Being questioned about my virginity only further confused me about the concept of virginity as a whole, and made entering a relationship intimidating. How much would I need to disclose? Was I a liar if I said I was or wasn’t a virgin? Did non-consensual sex acts count as loss of virginity, even if I hadn’t willingly “given it up?”

 

     I ultimately decided that I could not allow non-consensual, abusive experiences to determine my value or worth. Virginity is a social construct that is frequently used as a tool to control women, and to determine both men and women’s worth. A man is not seen as “man enough” if he is a virgin past a certain age, wants his “first time” to be “special,” or wants to wait until “marriage.” Conversely, women who engage in premarital sex are deemed as “sluts,” “whores,” “hoes,” and every synonym in between once it is learned that they “gave up” or “lost” their virginity. Alternatively, if women do not have sex, they’re seen as “prudes,” “bitches,” “boring,” and a “tease.” You literally cannot win.

 

     As I came into my Queer identity and entered a consensual sexual lesbian relationship, I was flabbergasted to hear from a then-friend that they still saw me as a virgin because I had not slept with someone of the opposite sex. Again, you can’t win.

 

So, what’s a person to do?

 

     Challenge the ways of thinking that society has programmed into you when it comes to virginity and sex. Question the language that you use, and be especially critical around this topic. Question why you are interested in talking about this topic if it does not relate to your personal business. Our society has an obsession with paying an excessive amount of attention to other people’s lives, business, and sexuality. Reflect on why. Challenge why. Define things for yourself and do not allow others’ opinions to change your definition.

My Natural Hair Journey | Chelby Gill

     I have had an enlightening hair journey over the past couple of years.  January 2016, I officially started my journey towards “natural” hair.  “Natural” in the Black community means to not use chemicals or heat of any kind that will alter the growth pattern of the hair. The journey so far has been exciting, liberating and expensive. Having natural hair is a personal choice but can also be seen as a political choice too. Embracing natural hair is political because it means that you are embracing your Blackness through your hair.

        For the majority of my life up until a year ago I had only been wearing my hair chemically straightened. It was routine for me to ask my mother if she could schedule a hair salon appointment to relax my hair once every 2 to 3 months. For me getting my hair relaxed was not about style or choice, but rather a form of upkeep. Whenever I saw my “roots” or “new growth” growing in around my edges, it looked “weird and fuzzy”.  I would become anxious and eager to go back to the salon. My hair at that time was relaxed, so it was shiny, thick, and  bra strap length. Those long straight strands of hair felt lifeless to me. I felt completely disconnected from the hair that grew on my head, it was not indicative of my personality.

img_0361

Before I began my natural hair journey

     In January of 2016 I decided to join the natural hair movement that so many of my Black sisters and siblings had joined. I began watching hours upon hours of natural hair Youtube tutorials hosted by other Black women that were already fully natural or transitioning to natural hair. Watching the Black women taking such pride in their curls was so inspiring, I was in awe of how they enjoyed doing their hair. I learned that going from relaxed hair does not happen overnight it can range from six months to a year. I was introduced to so many black owned natural hair products, and although I wanted to buy them all, they were expensive . While the process of learning about natural hair was exciting, I was also scared, because I had never actually seen what my natural hair looked like. I was not sure what my curl pattern would be and if I would even want to deal with the upkeep of natural hair.

For the first four months I spent transitioning to natural hair I was frustrated, I would attempt do different twist out methods such as bantu knots, braid outs two or three strand twists; the end result was never the same as the tutorial. I spent money on products that I often didn’t need or weren’t right for my hair. I would sit on social media pages dedicated to natural hair and see images of beautiful women with full heads of bouncing curls and coils, and I would wonder why my hair did not look like theirs. I was comparing my hair to those who were established naturals and new how to take care of their hair and I was just at the beginning. There were times I wanted to give in and get it flat ironed and just go back to chemicals and heat but I chose to stick with what I started.

img_0362

After my first big chop, this picture is in the middle of me transitioning to natural hair

The most liberating part of my journey to curly hair is the process of cutting off the old chemically treated strands. I had my first haircut when I got my “big chop” done at my local salon, I cut off six inches of hair in one day. The big chop is a phrase used within the natural hair community meaning cutting a large amount or all of your hair. The cutting of hair was symbolic because I was also cutting off the bad memories and unhappiness I had with that straight hair.

Overtime my hair became thicker curlier until I too had a head full of healthy looking curls. I see this process of transitioning to natural hair as an overall journey of self-love. So now when I look at my hair I am filled with a sense of pride and I am confident in my hair. I feel that my hair is an extension of me and my crown.

img_0363

follow me on instagram @chelbaey to follow me on my natural hair journey!