An Open Letter to Elle Varner

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Dear Elle,

Whenever I listen to your music I feel like you’ve been going through my diary. A lot of your songs speak to me and my trials and tribulations when it comes to love and finding myself. For example, Not Tonight perfectly sums up how I felt about my crush growing up. I was always admiring guys from a distance and I stayed second guessing myself when it came to approaching guys. That track perfectly captures all of that. I recently went through a rocky falling out with a guy that I loved and Fuck it all, girl, that song spoke to my spirit during that time. Your music has always been one of my favorites.

When you followed me on Twitter I was mad hype. Literally, I gasped and did a victory lap around my room. It was such a moment filled with excitement and surreal awe–Elle Varner, one of my favorite singers followed me. Can’t get any better than that right?

I never really questioned why you followed me. I guess I was so caught up in the excitement that it didn’t even hit me to think, “Hmm. What was the tweet that made her go ‘this the one’ and follow me?” Either way, I was elated. I would always go on and on about how your music is not celebrated enough nor is it appreciated enough. You were definitely an underdog worth noticing, in my opinion.

Yesterday, on Twitter, I saw that your name was trending but it wasn’t because of your music…

Now, after seeing these Instagram posts, it really made me wonder “But really though? Why is she following me?” It’s no secret that I’m a feminist. That’s probably one of the most obvious parts of my identity. It’s just saddening to see you spread misinformation when you follow me and probably have seen me address these topics multiple times before.

I’ve learned to not expect perfection out of my favorites. I understand that you are human and you make mistakes. I understand that everyone is still unlearning and learning but although, I recognize these things, it does not mean that I can’t be disappointed.

When people tried to express to you why your statement was inflammatory, you basically wrote it off with “We can agree to disagree” but honestly, this is not how that works. Statements such as the one you made are toxic. They perpetuate ideas that teach women that we should apologize for our bodies. It also perpetuates rape culture.

I know you’re like “Who said anything about rape or rape culture?” Most people don’t realize that they’re reinforcing ideals from rape culture because it’s so deeply seeded in our everyday lives and dialogue that it’s become normalized. We perpetuate rape culture when we teach young girls that they need to “cover up” in order for young boys to “control themselves” instead of teaching young boys to control themselves. This transfers into the victim-blaming response most female rape survivors get: “Well, what were you wearing?”

See…

You ever wonder why we expect self-control from girls? We expect girls to be in a classroom with boys in tank tops, muscle shirts, shorts, etc and expect them to be able to focus in class. Why is it that we set this reasonable standard for young women to have self-control but not young men? Why do we teach young men that they are these sex driven beasts who lack control and responsibility?

The point of the post was young girls should be able to dress comfortably for the weather. If it’s at least 90 degrees outside, don’t you think it’s fair that girls should be able to wear tank tops without being penalized? No one is implying that young girls should dress like grown women. It’s simply not fair that girls are held to such restrictions and boys are told to…what? I don’t know… pull up their pants at most? Dress codes are very one sided in most public schools in the United States and there is no denying that.

You suggest that we should let girls flourish in their free education but how can they flourish when they’re being sent home from school because of a tank top? Is that not getting in the way of their learning? A girl covering her shoulders is more important than her receiving her education for the day and you see nothing wrong with that?

It is also incredibly heteronormative–meaning that we assume that everyone is straight. We assume that every boy is attracted to girls and vice versa. Some young boys may not get “turned on” by female students.

This remark also embodies how people severely misunderstand current day feminism. People, not just you, generally have a superficial understanding of feminism. It is not simply this bubble gum, sugar coated, vapid “girl power” thing people want it to be. It is not solely about fighting against the wage gap. It is an ideology that advocates for the safety and agency of women from all walks of life–whether that be a lifestyle of modesty or a lifestyle of being provocative.

“Slut-shaming” is a serious issue that also contributes to rape culture. I talk about that in depth here. This culture also harms BLACK women and girls in an unique way. I also talk about that here. Slut-shaming has driven certain women into depression and in some cases–suicide. Slut-shaming has left women and girls dead. It’s not just about women wanting to be sexually active without judgement being passed on them (which is valid enough itself), there’s much more to this and I wish you would’ve educated yourself before speaking.

By letting young girls dress comfortably for hot weather we are not “deflowering” them. We are letting them exist in peace in their bodies. And yeah, you’re right. These kids are growing up and their hormones are raging but instead of pacifying them with these arbitrary rules, let’s have a meaningful conversation with teens about sex. Teach young boys to have self-control just how we expect young girls to have self-control. Teach them boundaries. Teach them about consent. Teach them that girls are more than just their bodies.

The answer to this is not to turn our heads and place unfair restrictions on female students. It is not to contribute to a culture that in turns harms many women and girls. Sure, I understand the point of dress codes but when they’re so restrictive that young girls can’t even wear shorts (that are well above the knees) and tank tops in hot weather? Or the fact that young men are not also held to this standard? No, that’s not acceptable. It’s not fair to anyone.

Hopefully, one day you will understand. Once upon a time, before I was this devout black feminist, I thought it was acceptable to shame other women for how they chose to live their lives. I also thought it was the responsibility of women and girls to “help” men have self-control by following these rules that obviously don’t work (seeing how fully covered women are still objectified, abused, and assaulted by men but I digress). We all gotta start from somewhere.

I hope that you learn one day. You and Erykah.

Still got love for your music but I gotta be real with you every once in awhile.

Peace,

De La Fro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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One Comment Add yours

  1. The Cotton Panty Wearer Blog says:

    Beautifully said. I don’t think anyone wants young women represented poorly, but there are too many of our young ladies being judged for the silliest things like whether or not their arms are showing, how high their heels are, etc. That’s not a poor reflection on them. That’s a poor reflection on society who hit women with a double edged sword. “Be sexy but not too sexy but not too boring.”

    Hopefully others will be able to see what you meant here.

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