I took a break from social media. At some point the weekend before last I just could not look at one more post, respond to one more comment, or patiently educate. Between the “Great Interrupter” and the Black Lives Matter movement, I experienced a next level reckoning with my age. The last time that happened was shortly before I started Accidental Icon and in retrospect, my blog and social media platforms were perhaps my unconscious response to media that was erasing me from the picture. My conscious intention was to express myself in more creative ways than my current life was allowing me to do.
While there is a substantial amount of promotion going on in Instagram and other social media for younger Black women in the fashion blogging and influencer world, there has been nothing about older Black women who aren’t already famous. They remain invisible. These beautiful women did not appear on the many lists of Black influencers “to follow.” I’ve checked out many of these lists and the lack of age diversity is stunning but not surprising. There are in fact older Black influencers and bloggers. We can identify with the desire these women have to live a satisfying, creative later life. Blogging and influencing can make up for the times where the choice of work (generally helping professions) did not pay all that much. These are women who also want to live their best life no matter how old they are. Blogging and Instagramming allows us to have some extra income.
During this time of reckoning with our nation’s racial history, I’ve had to face up to the ways I’ve been complicit in my internet workspace just like I had to in my social work and academic space. While much of this new generation believes they are the first to address racism, in my life as a social worker and professor I’ve seen racism manifested in the everyday life of my clients and students for many years before cellphone videos. I’ve seen how the roots of it are entwined in every system even those that are supposed to help. I’ve worked with others to intervene when we could. I’ve felt the shame and guilt that those new to the project are feeling and I have come to an acceptance of my white identity and all of the historical baggage and wrongdoing that entails. And I know no matter how much you think you have it, the way our brain automatically creates stereotypes when faced with overwhelming amounts of information, it means I am vulnerable to backsliding every day. This work has prepared me to live in this moment. I do not fear it, but welcome it.
Some of the older Black fashion and lifestyle bloggers follow me and I follow them, we started around the same time but they are not visible in the same way I am. I know how much it meant to me and to many of you that my project was making us older women more “visible”. I should have done more noticing and questioning why some of us were still not appearing in all those posts and articles in all of the fashion magazines and websites about “older influencers/Instagrammers/bloggers.” For that lack of “seeing” and “knowing”, I apologize to the Black women who were left out. This “forgetting” shows that we are never completely “there” and the work is ongoing always. Mistakes will be made. And as you know I’m fine with making mistakes. As long as you learn from them and if they create harm you address it through action.
So I’ve started some conversations with my Black peers about how to fix this lack of visibility. I’ve received inspiration and energy from these conversations. Despite the pain they are experiencing right now Black women are also full of joy. Unlike those new to this work, I will not put older Black women bloggers on a list in my Instagram Stories where they will disappear again in 24 hours. I want us to get to know their real names so we can have a meaningful relationship with these women because of who they are in all the many aspects of their lives. Because of their great capacity for joy. If you decide to follow them, it will be because you really want to and love their work not because you feel you must. Following someone because of guilt or in response to a demand ultimately diminishes the value of these talented and hard-working women. It will also lower their engagement rate if newly impulsive followers do not engage in the long term. For those of you who do not know the engagement rate is what brands look at when they are deciding to hire someone or give them work. These women have been living their best lives despite the challenges they have faced.
While I know how to do this work in the world of social welfare, I’m finding my way In this space of social media. I have some thoughts about how to share “the wealth” with others while also continuing to advocate and encourage all women, but especially older ones to live their best lives. I want to thank Stephanie AKA Haute Grey Fox for her generosity during a time of great pain, in making time to talk and think with me about how we can move forward together in ways that support us all in living our best physical, emotional, ethical and YES, fashionable and badass best life. This work needs to be part of what we talk about when we talk about sustainability.
So in a way, this context is just another twist and turn in the ongoing process of questioning, What Now? While I will always talk about fashion and style, there’s so much more to talk about now when it comes to living your best life at any age and when it comes to all the physical, emotional, ethical, sustainable and fashionable components of doing so. I want to share and talk about those things here. I want to invite others to talk about them with me.
So tell me what else besides fashion you would like to talk, learn about or explore when it comes to living your best life.