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 Kimber Tai Monroe: on Being Gaslighted, Being Yourself, and #AllLivesMatter

Kimber Tai Monroe: on Being Gaslighted, Being Yourself, and #AllLivesMatter

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On honesty: I’m very honest about what I’m going through every day. I think we live in a society where we have to portray on social media and in real life that we are perfect, successful and happy. So if someone asks me how I’m doing, I’ll say “I’m having a shit-ass day”, if that’s what is going on. I think it’s really important, because I’m sick of pretending that I am okay, when I’m not.

On early age sexism: I think young girls and boys are taught at a very young age to be sexist. It’s never straight up “you’re a boy - and you have more power”, but it’s subtle and in everything. I babysit for a Bangladeshi family, and their son is nine, and they are always telling him, “You’re a man; you need to be a man; you need to act like a man.”

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On her career: I’m a full-time college student and a working actor. I just finished an Off-Broadway show. I just got offered a guest star on a web series, so I’m really excited. I’m getting my BFA in Dramatic Arts right now. I’ve grown up in NYC, and I want to see what’s it like to be somewhere else, like LA- I want to go into TV and Film, and it’s hard to break out into that in NYC. But if it wasn’t for acting, I wouldn’t move. It’s the polar opposite - I hate LA! So, I will try to be bicoastal.

On being yourself: Sometimes I think I should be more quiet, or less in your face, or wild, or take up less energy and space (because I’ve been told more than once that I take up a lot). But honestly, I don’t want to be less. And I won’t like anyone who would tell me to be less.

On “what are you?”: People always ask me what I am. It bothers me. First off, what am I? I don’t know, a donkey? I’m obviously a human. But we all know what they really mean when they ask that question and it’s so rude. When people inquire about my racial identity, it depends on who is asking, and the form in which they’re asking the question. And yes, there is a way to ask me without being offensive. I receive weird comments all the time like “you look like an Egyptian goddess” - like thanks? But racist.

On the traditional woman: Quiet, “knows her place”, small, petite, plays tennis in white, doesn’t work a job, has three kids, heterosexual, doesn’t talk about anything of substance to her friends, loves to shop.

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On the musical theatre industry: There’s a lot of sexism in that industry. I see girls come to auditions in five inch heels and bodycon dresses - and there’s something wrong with an industry that gives the idea that you have to dress a certain way just to be noticed.   

On the perfect woman: Someone who is okay with not being okay with herself every day. Someone who is there for her fellow ladies. Someone who wants to educate men, and help change the system. Someone who believes in intersectional feminism.

On labeling: I would say I’m heterosexual, but I’ve definitely fallen for girls before...so maybe I’m bi? I’ve never actually thought of a label.

On gaslighting: Last year, I was hanging out with this one guy a lot - nearly 9 months in an on-again, off-again thing. It wasn’t until we had stopped seeing each other, that my friends pointed out to me that he was gaslighting me (that’s when you experience something, but the person who you experience it with tells you your memory of it is wrong). He would pick up on things that weren’t there, say “no, you’re wrong, this is how it happened”, and make a whole big drama out of it...it made me so vulnerable and I was so manipulated by him that at a point, I started asking my friends who were either there to witness, or who I would speak to immediately after something, about what happened because I couldn’t trust myself or my own reality. Thankfully I’m out. On New Years, I met a girl who was his ex-girlfriend. We found out that he was messaging the both of us at the same time. So, as a joke, we sent him snapchats of the two of us together. In reply, he wrote her  this long paragraph about how mixed people were dangerous and disgusting...it was probably top five of most awful things that ever happened to me. I was really heartbroken, and confused. I told my friend that I was going to call him and talk to him about it and let him know that I was hurt. I told him that it really made me questions my identity as a woman of color and he told me that he wasn’t talking about me, but mixed people in general...it was the craziest bullshit that I’ve ever heard come out of anybody’s mouth. “Yeah, I was talking about mixed people, and you know, we are crazy, Kimber, and you know I really wanted to see you that night, and you got out of babysitting early and went to a party without me and didn’t tell me, and I was really mad at you, you should have told me...”, he turned it around on me!

On society’s perfect woman: In society, the perfect woman has the perfect social media presence. She’s attractive and beautiful in the very stereotypical way. She casually laughs in every candid photo. She is relationship oriented, she’s a feminist, but she only read Lena Dunham (shudder). I used to be pressured to be the perfect woman - it was when I was doing musical theater and I hadn’t come to terms with my racial identity. I was so obsessed with everything I was not: I wanted to be tall, have straight hair...I would wish I was more white. Its awful - but I thought maybe I would be treated differently to how I was. 

On labeling: I would say I’m heterosexual, but I’ve definitely fallen for girls before...so maybe I’m bi? I’ve never actually thought of a label.

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On objectification: I don’t understand why guys catcall, and what there is to gain from it. Do you want to scare me? Because that’s what happens when you catcall. On Tinder, guys can be even more disgusting than in life...I’ve gotten then “OMG, you’re so tiny you’d be perfect to fuck and smash against a wall”. One time, this guy followed me as I was trying to get away from him by hopping train cars. 

On not being taken seriously: When I talk to guys about how women want to be treated or about how they should talk to women, they roll their eyes and pretend that I don’t know what I’m talking about. I’m a woman! I think I know how a woman wants to be treated!

On shaving: I shave my armpits, for myself. A friend of mine told me recently that if I was a real feminist, I wouldn’t shave. Which is just plain wrong - there isn’t one way to be a feminist!

On inspiring books: Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist!! She helped me define what “feminism” means to me and taught me that there is no perfect “feminist”. Trying to be perfect anything is exhausting. And no fun.

On faking it: Of course I faked orgasms! I feel like most of us have at some point. I was with this guy, and we would have the same sex every night. I knew exactly what to do - the right noises, and that’s all. I’ve never lied to my friends about having an orgasm - if I ever have an orgasm with a guy, I text all my girlfriends, it’s a fucking reason to celebrate.

On her superhero: My mom is honestly one of the strongest people I know. When I was four, my mother left my father. She is a business woman - to have to support three kids by herself in the city and work nonstop - she’s a real inspiration to me. I have a lot of friends who have grown up in different types of households where they had to look a certain way or act a certain way, so I’m happy that my mom never pushed me to be any “idea” or “stereotype”, and I’m so grateful for that. I had the opportunity to figure myself out.

On advice for future women: Don’t try to push the way you think you should be feeling. Acknowledge bad days and good days for what they are. Don’t compare yourself to other people - they are faking it too. Just be okay with yourself, it’s just you with yourself.

On the Kardashians: The Kardashians are terrible role models for girls. It’s one thing to alter your own body and dress a certain way - but when you tell girls that it’s okay to appropriate culture that isn’t theirs or make millions of little girls believe that they need to achieve certain unrealistic “beauty” standards - shame on you.

On cultural appropriation: Black culture is not a trend. It’s not a lifestyle. So many black people have suffered because of the way we dressed, the way we talk, the music we make … So you can recognize and appreciate our culture -  wear our clothes and listen to our music - but you also have to recognize our struggles, past and present. Check your privilege and then use it for good. None of that #AllLivesMatter bullshit while rocking your “boxer braids”.

Follow Kimber: 

Instagram: @lil.king.kunta

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