Black womanhood is like an exclusive club. A sisterhood.
We are bonded by our likeness and our differences; our diversity. But we are also bonded by the adversity we face as a collective. Lucky for us (because it hasn't always been this way), social media has allowed for all Black women to feel seen, heard, and connected to other Black women. Even those who didn't have the pleasure of growing up around other Black girls. During tough times, we see heavy themes echoed amongst black women about their childhood.
Being a little Black girl is having to grow up too fast and being sexualized too young.
It's being overly self-aware in a way that other children are not.
It's being treated like an adult because you lack the "fragility" of your white counterparts, and the "boys will be boys" excuse afforded to your male counterparts.
For me specifically, being a little Black girl was being sexualized too early. It was being aware that I was not afforded the same carefree-ness as other kids. It was, and is, feeling like many aspects of childhood were privileges that I was not fortunate enough to be born into.
I did everything while keeping in mind the worst thing I could appear to be was "fast." My sexuality was being controlled before I was old enough to even think about sexuality.
I sat on top of a table at the laundromat, eight years old, legs dangling from the edge of the table, open, swinging freely. My mom was taking clothes out of the dryer with her back to me. I was going on and on about some childhood thing of dire importance at the time. My mom turned around and stared at me. I stopped talking. "What?"
"Close your legs."
I scrunched up my face. "...For what??" I questioned rather skeptically for an 8-year-old. I really didn't get it.
"It's not lady-like," she answered as she turned around to continue folding.
I was visibly irritated. "I have on pants…"
"That doesn't even make sense," I said. "There's nothing between my legs mom… It makes more sense for BOYS to have to close their legs because there's SOMETHING there!"
It was driving me up a wall. What did I need to close my legs for?
I felt gross. Like I was doing something dirty and obscene.
I completely understand the reason behind my mom's comment. You want to do everything you can to protect your child from potential danger. You worry that a man will see a person with female anatomy and want to penetrate. While the responsibility not to rape lies FULLY on men, the responsibility to protect your child lies on the parents. Ultimately, the responsibility to protect your child causes many parents to lean in to rape culture – telling their young girls what to do to avoid being victimized instead of telling their young boys not to be trash. I was being told to close my legs for fear that a man would see my open legs and want to enter me.
In another instance, I played outside with my older male cousin. I wanted to be just like him. I did everything he did. I was around nine years old. His dad, my uncle, drove down the street to pick him up. He jumped up and down, excited to see his dad, and I did the same. We both ran over to his dad who picked me up to hug me. I heard my mom call my name. "Brittany! It's time to come inside!"
My uncle put me down and I ran inside. "Don't let him pick you up anymore. You're too big for that now," my mom ordered as I walked into the house.
"You're too old to be having a grown man pick you up. It's inappropriate."
Once again, I felt dirty. Like I was doing something wrong. Instead of the adult in the situation being confronted (although he was also doing nothing wrong in my opinion, even in retrospect as an adult), I was being confronted. The responsibility for the actions of an adult man was being placed on me. I felt embarrassed, like I had done something obscene without realizing it.
I felt it again when I was around 10 years old. My parents and I took a trip to my godparents' house. When we got there, my godbrother, who was 21 at the time, asked me if I wanted to take a trip to Toys R Us to pick out some toys. Of course, I said sure. We went, I got a toy, and returned without incident. On the car ride back home from my godparents' house, I could sense tension. I felt like I was in trouble for something, but the car was silent. Finally, my dad broke the silence.
"Next time a man asks you if you want to go anywhere with him… say no. Just to be safe."
Once again, I felt accountable for the potential misactions of adult men.
While each of these instances sound small, they sent very strong signals. They made me feel as though if something were to happen to me, it would be because of a misjudgement on my part. Like if a man one day decided to take advantage of me, somehow it would be my fault. I felt like it was my responsibility to make sure that I didn't provoke men with my barely-developed body. I was acutely aware of my body, of men looking at my body, and of seeming "fast." While this may sound "better safe than sorry," it came at the cost of a blissful, carefree childhood.
Being sexualized too early strips young Black girls of the childhood bliss afforded to most other children. As the world struggles to see us as children, we are being being thrust into a mode of hyper self-awareness that most other children aren't entrenched in until damn near adulthood. This unwanted, victim-blaming responsibility that we carry around causes a lot of shame when something happens to us.
We're supposed to be strong, independent, and self-sufficient. We aren't afforded assumed fragility. We don't get to be the victims.
It's tiring, it's painful, and it's time to stop normalizing these microaggressions.
Fortunately, now we, the former little Black girls, are in control. We're responsible for making sure the next generation of little Black girls don't have it as hard as we did. With social media making it easier to not feel so alone, we can commiserate with other Black women who may have similar experiences and ensure this toxicity ends with us. Being a #carefreeblack girl shouldn't be something that has to be learned. Little Black girls deserve to be truly carefree from the start and we're doing a damn good job of making that a reality.
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This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
Self-employment is something many people prefer or aspire to, as being your own boss is both admirable and empowering. And women are bossing up more than ever, representing almost 40% of all self-employed professionals. Being self-employed myself, I can attest to the benefits, but like everything in life, there are two dueling sides to every coin. And if you're considering taking the leap from 9-to-5er to self-employed, there's a lot to consider before totally pulling the plug on your day job.
Here are a few things to know, from my own experience, before transitioning into self-employment:
1. Recognize that self-employment is not entrepreneurship.
There are key differences between being an entrepreneur and being self-employed that many people get all mixed up and confused about. The terms are often used interchangeably, but they are definitely not the same.
A self-employed person operates just like an employee, often offering services and talents to business owners, nonprofits, or organizations. An entrepreneur typically offers goods and services to a client or customer, registers their business for tax purposes, and can reap the benefits of resources like business bank accounts, financing, and investments.
When you're self-employed, you often don't get paid if you don't work, most typically as a freelancer or on a project-by-project or client-by-client basis. When you're an entrepreneur, you can successfully scale a business where you can reap the benefits whether you're actively working in it or not.
You can indeed launch a one-person business (i.e., as a limited liability company or LLC), but there are requirements related to that, particularly when it comes to taxes. There are also things to consider, such as lifestyle, goals, and risk tolerance. The annual and financial obligations entrepreneurs have aren't the same as self-employed professionals, like additional taxes, filing fees, and mandatory financial reports.
(I know some of y'all entrepreneurs might be reading this with a side-eye, but hey, not every self-employed person is a business person, and some simply might not want the extra maintenance and responsibilities of having a registered business, no matter the perks.)
While I'm not discouraging any self-employed person from launching a business, knowing the difference between the two is important because it sets the tone for how you approach the work that you do, your expectations on the lifestyle and requirements, and what benefits might be afforded to you.
Many entrepreneurs can employ people, scale their businesses for expansion, get capital investment, and even take days, weeks, or months off without having to actually work yet still reap the benefits. This is often not the case for a self-employed person whose salary largely depends on actual work hours, paid invoices, and strategic budgeting.
2. Inform yourself about the tax obligations and other financial shifts that might happen once you are self-employed.
When you're working a 9-to-5, your company handles taking taxes out of each check. This is not the case for self-employed folk. There's a quarterly schedule that must be followed for federal taxes, and there are other regulations based on the state where you primarily work (even if you're working remote). If you're used to having a hands-off approach to taxes (other than going to the tax preparer once a year), you definitely want to shift your expectations and get to know all the information you can about self-employment taxes.
Also, the way you budget might be a bit different when you're self-employed. If you find, for example, that you're constantly living check to check or that you're used to a guaranteed paycheck every two weeks, you'll need to shift the way you look at how money flows in your household.
Self-employment can include periods where you're not getting paid as consistently, and many companies work with invoices that are paid 30, 60, or even 90 days after you've finished the work you've done for them. Keep this in mind and plan accordingly based on the industry you'll be working within.
Talk to a tax or personal finance professional to find out about how your finances and tax obligation might change once you decide to become self-employed, and then set up a plan so that you won't get caught slipping come Tax Day. The process is different for self-employed people, and this is an important aspect of the process that will save you lots of money and stress in the long run.
I learned the hard way to negotiate, upfront, a set period of time for my services (when applicable and reasonable) to be written into a contract and to set my rates not solely based on my previous salary but considering additional costs like WIFI, travel, health insurance that I have to pay for out-of-pocket, home office technology and tools, and the time it actually takes to complete tasks. The pandemic brought home how super-important this was because, as a freelancer, someone can simply cut you with no compensation or warning.
3. Get to know your true strengths and weaknesses when it comes to work ethic, skills, environment, and motivation.
Self-employment is definitely not for the faint at heart. It can be a constant hustle in the beginning, and if you're not careful, you might end up wondering how you'll pay your rent or car note simply because you don't have clients or work lined up. It's good to be a self-starter and super-organized. It's also good to brush up on your marketing, communications, and sales skills because you'll need to pitch yourself and your background in order to land projects and clients.
While working your full-time job, take a few courses or find a self-employed mentor so that you can strengthen your skills in areas where you might need some improvement (i.e., pitching, online marketing, social media branding, or project management.) Practice self-employment on the side as an intern or with a side hustle so you can learn a bit more about yourself that you might be overlooking while serving as an employee.
Being self-employed means you become multiple departments in one person. For example, your current company provides support like assistants, accounting departments, legal teams, and IT, so you might not be used to having to handle all of those things on your own. For some, this can be overwhelming, while others find the challenge invigorating and worth the sacrifice if it means having autonomy and financial and time freedom.
Also, if you're motivated to do your best by being around teams or working in an office, self-employment might be too isolating for you. True, there are groups and co-working cultures you can join, but it's definitely not the same as having built-in comradery of fellow full-timers at a company. Be aware of these things so that you're realistically making a choice that suits the life you want to live and the work experience you want to have in order to thrive.
4. Create an emergency fund solely for the transition.
While you're working a 9-to-5, create a separate savings account just for the transition. Anything can happen between quitting your job and getting your first freelance gig, client, or project. When I first stepped out to be self-employed, I thought I had the dream client, only to find out that it wasn't a good fit and I'd be looking for a new one after six months. This might happen several times before you really hit a groove, find your fit, build up your reputation, and get consistent work.
Having a financial cushion outside of your usual emergency fund helps to soften the blow if something like a client loss, a late invoice payment, or an unexpected work-related expense (i.e., computer replacement or broken equipment repair) comes up.
Sometimes, self-employment can include certain up-front costs like renting an office space, investing in new technology or other tools, travel expenses, or hiring other self-employed professionals (i.e., a consultant, web designer, or tax preparer), so you'll want to be smart, be prepared, and keep your receipts.
5. Understand your why.
Every great and sustainable journey starts with a good reason---a "why" that keeps a person going. If you know your why, you're less likely to just give up when things get rough, and you're less likely to make costly, mentally and physically draining mistakes. I decided to go for full-time self-employment because, after more than a decade working in my field, I really felt burned out at the time, began to resent not being promoted as quickly as I thought I should, and saw that I could make more money contracting my skills and talents out than working full-time for one company.
I also loved that I could pick and choose who I worked with and align my values with the projects that I was part of (versus being forced due to being a full-time employee beholden to a contract and the so-called values of a corporation or company.)
I've made quite a few mistakes over the years, but my why remains the same, and when times get hard, I simply remember the overall peace, flexibility, and autonomy I have in serving the women millennial audiences I want to serve through journalism and communications.
6. Be sure that you're offering services or expertise that can be used for years to come and that's competitive.
If you're considering self-employment, be sure your skills are competitive and have a future of need. I knew, even a decade ago, that much of the media industry was going the freelance route, and today, with layoffs becoming commonplace and full-time employee budgets being cut, contract work has become the name of the game. I saw this industry shift coming a mile away, and, like my early foray into digital media before publishing houses were monetizing it, I knew eventually, freelance work would be abundant and preferred.
If you're already doing a job that is in high demand or you offer something niche and one-of-a-kind, working for yourself might be the move. But if you've found that your current skills might be obsolete in the next two to five years, try learning another skill, shifting how you do the work you do, or tapping into another passion that can ensure you're offering something valuable in a market where it's direly needed.
Self-employment can be a joy and a pain, and for many of us, it's the only choice for self-care, mental wellness, and financial freedom. If you're considering taking the leap, take into account these tips and go forward in bold confidence, informed, and prepared.
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