I’m a particular kind of woman. Here’s a superficial breakdown (because of limited space and time):
|I’m Black.||More specifically, I’m African American.|
|I’m cis.||That means I agree, psychologically, socially, and sensually, with the gender I was assigned at birth.|
|I’m straight.||I like men; I like the ones who are masculine.|
|I’m Christian.||I believe in the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ. I believe He lives and reigns and offers salvation to all of humankind.|
|(I think) I’m middle class.||I make decent money and I’ve not experienced poverty or material want.|
|I’m femme.||I got my girl.|
I’m pretty serious about this last identity marker. I tend to note it regularly, in my personal and professional life. I call being femme “getting and keeping my girl.” My girl energy is my most essential and abundant feminine energy. Naming my femininity as femme, and seeing girl energy as crucial in that identity, is important to me for several reasons.
Here’s a short list:
1. I want to promote femme sensibilities and girl energy in my profession. I think it’s a good thing to show people who are girls and women that one can attain various levels of success (or make up her own levels) and be femme. I think it’s important because femme sensibilities and girl energy get a bad rap. Femme sensibilities (whether prescribed to straight/cis women like me or lesbian/trans women like them) and girl energy are sometimes qualified as shallow, frivolous, silly, enchanting, stupid, incredible, or even seductive. None of these qualifiers are equivalent to girl energy. And, none of these qualifiers belong in the workplace. This is especially the case if the workplace is hyper-masculinist, heterosexist, and homophobic. A lot of workplaces are. And, yet actual, femme sensibilities (such as creativity, imagination, inventiveness, inspiration, resourcefulness, etc.) can generate levels of emotional and somatic literacy in a profound and transformative way. Girl energy can broadly enhance research, teaching, service, and coaching for heterogenous groups far and wide. They have for me. When I embrace my natural inclination to do my Black womanhood from my feminine center, with my girl energy, I am smarter, braver, stronger, and sharper than when I attempt to repress myself and do research, teaching, service, and coaching like everyone else, or by modeling a manufactured masculine model…or, worse, one that is devoid of any soul at all. Nah. I’m keeping my girl.
2. I want to un-designate “girl” as a four-letter-word. The term “girl” is often used as a pejorative, even though it describes half the population. When a person is told they are “acting like a girl”, they understand themselves as being insulted. I have a problem with that. In one of my articles on #BlackGirlMagic that’s currently in review, I write:
Girlness and Blackness can cooperate with each other. I understand Girlness as a multifarious sensibility of youth. Girlness is imaginative, expressive, expansive, organic, fun, curious, smart, quick, faithful energy. Girlness bounces, brightens, and soars. People who are girls lead with buoyant vitality. They breed visions and enterprising energy. Girlness, like Blackness, is complex, yet girlness is light. Womaness describes a graduated state of mind, emerging from, and intertwined with, Girlness. Womaness often carries within it wisdom, temperance, patience, grace, courage, and a bolder power. This identity phenomenon is informed by, and informs, generations and even other worlds. It charts course. It paves way to make happen that which needs to happen to anchor and elevate Self, Others, communities, and worlds. Although this identity provokes movement, it is actually fairly still in its effect; Womaness is as much, perhaps more, about being energy as it is about doing energy. Womaness embodies (i.e. holding immovable and immutable within Self) beauty, sensuality, reproduction, and creativity, among other things. People who have Blackness, Girlness, and Womaness operating within their collected person generate magic.
As a person who has Blackness, Girlness, and Womaness operating within my collected person, I generate magic. I want to keep me that way. Recognizing and naming girlness as a power is a part of my worth and work. As an endarkened feminist, scholar, educator, and coach, I am intentional about that. Yup.
I’m keeping my girl.
- I want to encourage associations with femme sensibilities and girl energy as associations with deep power, real magic, and pure genius. When I debuted my website in pink, green, and white a lot of people thought my initial brand style was “too girly” and would hinder readers’ abilities to take me seriously as a scholar, educator, and coach. That’s a shame. It’s also a big part of my point. To call femininity inherently frivolous is the same as calling masculinity inherently barbaric. These are false equivalents. They bear no weight because they are too simplistic and reductive, rendering these two binary expressions of identity flat and cheap. While, in fact, there is great strength in both expressions. Femme sensibilities, and girl energy in particular, are running over with wisdoms, nuances, creativity, wonder, faith, and courage. Such expressions belong in personal and professional life. #Amen. I’m keeping my girl.
When you gitcha girl you get:
- Powerful vision for various futures
- Unique creativity in multiple ideological and material realms
- Eclectic expressiveness in articulated voices and stories
- Complex intuition and insight into supremacist patriarchies and their results
- Depth of awareness in the present and power to counter invisibility
- Breadth of character
- Height of ideals, fortitude, and enterprise
- Wavelengths to fun, laughter, music, and peace
And keep her, always.
Jeanine Staples is Associate Professor of Literacy and Language, African American Studies, & Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at the Pennsylvania State University. Her book, The Revelations of Asher: Toward Supreme Love in Self, is an endarkened, feminist, new literacies event (Peter Lang, 2016). In it, she explores Black women’s t/Terror in love. She produces research-based courses and methodologies that enable marginalized girls and women to realize internal revelations that fuel external revolutions.
Dr. Staples’ next book details the evolution of her acclaimed undergraduate course, The Philadelphia Urban Seminar. In it, she explores Supreme Love in schools. She shows how she generates curriculum and methodologies that incite anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-ableist pedagogical stances among teachers interested in urban education and equity for all people in schools and society.