InspiHERed By spotlights phenomenal women in the Black queer community—everyone from artists to activists. Each month ELIXHER features someone whose personal journey and individual craft inspire us to dream bigger, laugh harder, and love deeper. This month ELIXHER spotlights pansexual sex-positive writer Feminista Jones.
ELIXHER: Tell us about Feminista Jones.
FEMINISTA JONES: Feminista Jones is a writer, a sex-positive feminist, a social worker, a student, an advocate, and public speaker, a friend, and most importantly, a mother. I assumed the name “Feminista Jones” as representative of the uniqueness of Black women in the feminist movement. I’m someone who wants to help people improve their lives, fight against discrimination and oppression, and inspire people to work towards their goals and realize their dreams.
ELIXHER: You’ve gained quite the following on Twitter talking about sex, sexuality, and sexual liberation. What drew you to exploring those topics on social media?
FEMINISTA JONES: I’ve always been comfortable discussing a broad range of topics in front of large audiences. Talking about sex and sexuality has always been fun for me because, well, it’s sex! I love everything about sex: reading about it, looking at images, watching movies, sex-related conversations, and of course, having it. I understand that women have long been frowned upon for speaking openly about sex and sexuality. Over time, I realized that I could discuss the impact of sex and sexuality on how women have come to be viewed and treated in society, and I try to get folks to understand that by changing the discourse, we can change behavior.
ELIXHER: What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced talking about sex?
FEMINISTA JONES: The biggest pushback I’ve received has been from both men and women, but that has always been expected. People really live by the “lady in the streets, freak in the sheets” mantra, which is a bunch of bull. This idea of being a “lady” is one that has been bought and sold for centuries, and most women subscribe to the parameters of what it means to be “ladylike.” I don’t buy any of it for one second because I don’t believe there is any one way to be a “lady” other than marrying a “lord,” so I don’t feel the need to be quiet or hush hush when it comes to talking about sex. I think many women uphold the oppressive limitations of patriarchy right alongside men. They hurl insults like calling sexually open women “hoes” or “sluts,” not because they’re at all privy to their behavior, but because they assume that talking about sex means you’re engaging in reckless sexual behavior. They also feel that by shunning other women, they make themselves appear better to those they seek to attract.
ELIXHER: On your blog, you very openly wrote a letter calling out cyber bullying, which is a very important issue that doesn’t get talked about enough. If there was one thing you would hope people take away from your experience, what would it be?
FEMINISTA JONES: People lacking courage have found cyber gumption and feel they can lash out at people, provoking them non-stop, especially if they feel people have something to lose. I would advise people to do their best to block and ignore the cyber bullies, while understanding that every bully lashes out from a place of pain. There are some people out there dealing with a whole lot of pain, anger, and sadness from things totally unrelated to you, but they may see you as the perfect target because they believe you won’t fight back. Just know that if you do fight back, you’re going to risk a lot more than they will ever be worth.
ELIXHER: You lost a significant amount of weight and have started a major health challenge movement. Can you talk about #SexyShred?
FEMINISTA JONES: #SexyShred began as a way for me to maintain my weight loss after having weight loss surgery. I was very open about what is a rather polarizing topic because, again, I wanted people to know that they can make decisions they felt were best for them without shame. There is a lot of negative stigma about people who have WLS, but there is even more misunderstanding about it. One of the biggest misconceptions is that you don’t have to do anything to lose the weight and keep it off. That simply is not true. When I had the surgery, I did so understanding I would still have to watch what I eat very carefully and I would have to exercise regularly. That’s what #SexyShred is all about.
ELIXHER: What about your interests in Black feminist experience, theory and politics? How has this influenced your work? Are there any authors or writers that speak to you?
FEMINISTA JONES: I don’t know if I can speak of any one “Black feminist experience,” as we are all different and have different views about ourselves as women and as Black people. I became interested growing up the daughter of a proud, lesbian, feminist mother who, though biracial, identified as Black. I am a fan of Angela Davis, Florynce Kennedy, Audre Lorde, and Patricia Hill Collins, as well as Barbara Smith of the Combahee River Collective. I like what bell hooks has to say about our interactions with Black men and the communities in which we live.
ELIXHER: What are the issues important to you and queer communities, specifically Black queer communities?
FEMINISTA JONES: I think the focus on marriage equality is important for those who value marriage within the queer community. I think people should have access to the same rights and liberties, and be given the choice about whether or not they participate. I think the spread of HIV, particularly among the Black queer community, needs immediate attention and aggressive actions to be taken to stop the spread and increase access to treatment. I identify as pansexual, though I often say bisexual when among people I think won’t understand pansexuality or who will just ask annoying questions when they aren’t really interested in learning the answers. It is hard to explain to people who have their minds made up about sexual binaries that there is a great deal of fluidity, and that sexual identity, orientation, preference, and behavior are four very different things. I admit I grow weary of having to explain it over and over. I’m also tired of people writing off bisexual/pansexual people by saying, “Well, you can go be with a man and be normal” or some kind of thing like that. I don’t think dismissing certain types of queer people helps anyone’s causes. I’d like to see more embrace of the sexually fluid.
ELIXHER: Thinking about changes and accountability, what do you feel will allow queer communities to make productive changes?
FEMINISTA JONES: Education, cohesion, developing agreed upon platforms, and funding. The lobbying for funding happens within the white queer community and often ignores unique issues within the Black queer community. The suicide rates of teenage Black boys, for example, has soared in the last 20 years and a lot is attributed to being queer and/or HIV+ and unaccepted by family and community. Both cis and trans women in the queer community face sexual assault that goes virtually ignored because of splintering within the collective agendas. We need to increase funding for CBOs that work on the ground, directly with the populations in need (HIV+, LGBTQ youth in foster care, housing for queer couples, etc.). We need more cohesion.
ELIXHER: So what’s next for Feminista Jones?
FEMINISTA JONES: I’m hoping to release my first erotic book by the end of this year. I’ve been writing it for the past year, sharing the chapters with my readers. I hope to package it up as an e-Book and include the final chapter only to purchasers. The next cycle of #SexyShred returns in January 2014, so we’re working behind the scenes to make it the best one yet. I’m doing more writing for other media outlets and I’m becoming more and more engaged in civil rights efforts and community organizing. I’m looking forward to speaking at more conferences and on panels. I’m entering my last year of graduate school and working on how we can use social media to improve social work. I’m just keeping busy and being the best person I can be while I’m still alive.
ELIXHER: Is there anything you would like to add?
FEMINISTA JONES: My beautiful son is going into the second grade and I want to wish him the best!
– Interview by Tia Williams
Tia N. Williams is the woman behind The Buddha In Me, an agency of artists, speakers, poets, and activists based in Atlanta. The Buddha In Me specializes in providing quality programs to educate, enlighten, and entertain. Tia recently received her M.Ed. from the University of Georgia in College Student Affairs Administration.