This is a quick vlog I recorded on my way to Afropunk describing my experiences as a young immigrant Black girl in Canada of shame and how #selfies and representation of unrepresented folks are an important act of self-love & community love.
As always transcript & closed captioning by writer. artist. revolutionary Mercy Medusa Minah
Replacing Shame with Love & Respect
[Transcript of video shot by Kim Katrin Milan on replacing shame with love and respect]
Kim: I wanted to record this video really quick because I was about to take another selfie and I had that moment of guilt...that creeps up on me sometimes when I wanna take a picture of myself. For posterity, for joy, because I feel proud about the way that I look, um, because I feel excited about the way that I look, because I feel excited about the day...for all sorts of different reasons we wanna record ourselves. There's so many different reasons why artists throughout history have chosen to record people. And you know if we look around in museums all over the world, we'll see the people who normally get represented. And they're normally not womyn of color, they're normally not trans womyn, they're normally not men of color...they're normally the same kinds of people that get to be commemorated uh, in museums, in art galleries, um, in film, on most magazines, in most books, you know? So I think that it is a really powerful act of resistance for people of color and people who are visibly not part of what is included in most of what...the messaging we see in the world, um, when we choose to represent ourselves. I think it's a good thing and I think its an important thing.
Um, but I wanted to describe sort of where my guilt comes from. Coz whenever I find an emotion like guilt I try to seek where the source of it is, I try to understand where it came from. So hopefully it won't have the same kind of power over me. Or that when it does come up, at least now I know how to talk myself down from it.
So I was thinking about why I feel guilty about taking pictures of myself. And when I was younger, you know, my mother's boyfriend was a really abusive person and I lived with him for most of my childhood years and up into sort of the middle of my teens. And he was a really religious man and really Christian man. And he really believed that women were the source of so much sin and shame and temptation. And he would often call my mother a whore. He felt that because she was friendly with people around her that that meant that she was promiscuous and that I should always be weary of becoming a whore like my mother. And it was a threat that he would often levy at me and I...you know I was a very awkward young girl, but then when I started to develop which was very young - which is often very young for women of color- which was eight, you know, I had boobs. You know, he really shamed me every time I looked in the mirror. He would really um, physically chastise me or verbally chastise me. You know, and he would blame the kind of abuse that I was experiencing, on...me. On the fact that I was developing the way that I was, on the fact that my body looked the way that it did, you know and...
I think that everytime I looked in the mirror...I, I remembered the feeling, the violence and all of the things that would come with that and so eventually I stopped looking in mirrors. So when I look back over my high school years and I look back at you know, all of the kind of year books and all the different ways that people were commemorating themselves...there aren't really pictures of me. And I worked really hard for that not to happen, you know. I didn't go in for school pictures, I didn't go to prom, I didn't go to any of those visual sort of public things because I felt really ashamed of who I was. You know at 8 years old, in grade 3, I'm having like boys like snap my bra-straps you know? I'm having grown men, tell me as a child...I remember when I was thirteen years old, I was on the plane and this 31 year old man said to me that he wanted me to be his bride and that I should just come with him and get off the plane with him in Barbados and just go away with him.
You know like, grown adult men, when I would tell them how old I was completely disregarded that and continued to like advance upon me in ways that were really really really sexual and really really really violent. And I felt so ashamed of myself, for just existing in the body that I had, in the way that I was and I tried my hardest to hide it. And I think that we have a choice um, in the ways that we raise our children, to not tell them that their bodies are the problem. People might be doing all sorts of violent things and they might be rationalizing that someone's body is the problem. But everyone makes a choice. When you make a choice to inflict violence, that belongs to you, that doesn't belong to anybody else. And I really feel like for me, very very very much that taking pictures, choosing to be seen, choosing to be visible for me is an important part of my process.
I think that so much of what we do is we seek out the validation we didn't have as children, we didn't have as young people, we didn't have for most of our lives, you know? For most of my life I was in places where all of the things that I was were not valuable. And they were seen as a constant liability and I was always trying to hide myself away. And I think that sexism does that, transphobia does that. It tells you that simply because of the person you are you're not valuable and you should not be seen. And that's bullshit. That's wrong, coz we all deserve to be visible, we all deserve to be seen in the ways that we wanna be. Not everyone wants to be seen in the exact same way and no one should be forced to be. But we all deserve to be in control of our image. We all deserve to get likes, we all deserve to have people tell us that we're valuable and important for the ways we that we look if that is how we choose to seek out our validation. And we should try to fill that need. We should try to seek out validation for the parts of us that are in need of love and care and respect and kindness, like we deserve those things. And we deserve to find a community of people that does that. And for me, that is the power of social media. That I couldn't do this before. I couldn't find ways to reflect myself and have other people in the world think and validate me and tell me that I might be important just for existing in the way that I do.
And that I could do the same for other people who are all so different from me, who all have very different experiences and look in profoundly different ways and I can learn how to love and respect more and more people. And that is my goal, to learn how to love and respect more and more people, to get better at doing that for other people so that we can be better to each other. I can't imagine having any other purpose in the world than wanting to make each other feel better about the people that we are. Wanting to make all life be able to flourish in ways that are harmonious and I think that even if we can't do it in this lifetime, it's still worth trying.