As a regular who trolls the Internet looking for topics that tickle my wavy, curly and coily hair fancy, I often hop on over to major publications to see what’s going on in the world at-large. After all, our hair is only a part of who we are and it relates to the world in more ways than we may realize, public perception notwithstanding.
One of my personal favorite sites to visit during these early morning digging activities is Feministing.com. I pause slightly here in fear that I may disenfranchise some readers. The word ”feminist” often has a tendency to stir up political and religious opinions and views. Certainly politics and our religious beliefs are rooted very much in our moral perception of the world and how we fit into it, but feminism, by definition, is solely the belief that women should be privy to the same rights as men.
As a community of people often slighted merely for our hairstyle choices, not to mention a born into gender choice in which we have no say, I feel as though each and every one of us understands the basic concept that everyone, male or female, natural or relaxed, deserves the same rights as any other person.
That being said, Feministing brought my attention to Tulane professor Melissa Harris-Perry who commutes to New York City in her spare time to do a morning weekend show on MSNBC. What’s more, Harris-Perry, is not only a feminist, but a natural to boot!
“Stereotypes don’t exist because of what we do or don’t do. Black women who were enslaved aren’t Jezebels and domestics, aren’t happy mammies. That is just the stereotype. [These stereotypes exist] because it does political or social or racial work for other people.”
One of the very few African-American women to have a cable TV show all her own, Harris-Perry transcends race and gender, avoids stereotypes and is the epitome of an educated voice and opinion on air. In fact, Ms. Magazine recently gave her (and fellow contender Rachel Maddow”> the “Future of Feminism” title.
In the few short weeks that she has been on air, Harris-Perry has already covered topics spanning from the republican war on women to the political impact of the late rapper Notorious B.I.G, and in the following interview with Loop21, dished on what she would LOVE to ask Beyonce.
Melissa is one natural to keep on the radar. She is bringing her education and pizzazz to the forefront of the political debate, natural hair and femininity notwithstanding. Check out a portion of the interview below, and read the rest on Loop21.
Loop 21: Do you feel unique intersectional pressure because you are a woman of color on television? [“Intersectionality” is pressure from the feminist community and the African-American community as well as a specific pressure as an African-American woman.]
Melissa Harris-Perry: Well, I don’t know what white guys feel. [Laughs] I don’t know if I feel more [pressure] or less pressure than they do. I feel pressure, but not in the worst way. I want to do well and get the stories right. I want to make my [hardworking] staff proud. [With regard to pressure from the audience], there are times when I will tune into social media and there are a lot of nice things but there are [also] criticisms. Sometimes the criticisms are specifically about race and gender and that I don’t care about race and gender. I want to [push back] against that notion that I don’t care.
Loop 21: Do you feel that you have to battle and navigate the traditional stereotypes you address in your book “Sister Citizen?” If so, what advice would you give to black women feeling like they have to push back against these misleading perceptions of how they are?
Harris-Perry: No. I do not feel pressure to push back against stereotypes. Stereotypes don’t exist because of what we do or don’t do. Black women who were enslaved aren’t Jezebels and domestics, aren’t happy mammies. That is just the stereotype. [These stereotypes exist] because it does political or social or racial work for other people. There isn’t so much you can do. [That said] I do try very hard in public presentation not to express my ideas with anger even if I feel it. Part of that is the stereotype [of the angry black woman]. I know the [angry black woman] stereotype is so powerful people won’t be able to hear [what I am saying]. They will hear the anger first. Trying to have a say is the point of having a platform. Anger will keep people from hearing me.
We’re working on getting an interview of our own with Harris-Perry. Let us know in the comment section below what questions you would want to ask her and we’ll try our best to include them in the interview!