Amanda Seales, known for her roles on VH1’s “Best Week Ever,” and MTV 2’s “Sucka Free Sundays,” paid a visit to Slippery Rock University on Tuesday to discuss diversity and challenge students’ perceptions of sexism with her “SideEye Seminar.”
Seales has also been on CNN, mostly known for calling out Steve Santagori on the topic of catcalling, a comment of a sexual nature to a woman who is passing by. Now, Seales is a comedienne, but before she switched her career, she was a host of a hip-hop show.
Seales said she has had some experiences of diversity just as a black woman. She said this year in Hollywood, diversity is very popular. Seales recalled a time when she met with an agent who told her it was a really good time to be black.
“She was like, ‘yeah, you know, because diversity, they have now decided that you can be all kinds of black,'” Seales said. “They’ve now decided that you can be all kinds of black, boo. Taste the rainbow.”
Often times, on college campuses and even in the real world, Seales said there is a wide range of tokenism.
“It’s [tokenism] basically saying as long as there’s one, there’s everyone,” she said. “A lot of times black people in Slippery Rock know they’re the token. So you’re the one person in the room and you’ll feel like, ‘oh, I am the token black person here, I must speak for my entire race.'”
Seales said as long as there’s tokenism, we, as a community, haven’t done the job of being diverse. She also said when talking about diversity, it doesn’t measure against whiteness.
When people create this bottom line that says white is the standard and that everything else is just balanced against that, Seales said that’s the biggest mistake that we can make. Because of this, Seales said when black people are put in non-diverse situations, they often have to code switch.
Code-switching is when people move between different variations of languages or tones based on the cultural context they are in.
She said even though it’s about survival and conformity for the minority, white people often don’t have to code-switch. Seales said that’s something that white people have to keep in mind because they have access to privilege and they don’t have to adjust to gain access to privilege.
Often times because someone is different, they are told they need to change and conform to society. Seales said diversity is necessary because just because someone is different, doesn’t mean it needs to stop. When someone doesn’t understand certain characteristics about someone, Seales said more than likely that person needs to be exposed to it.
Seales said people of all different ethnicities shouldn’t be afraid to refer to black people as “black.” The reason why is because black people have accepted the term themselves. Seales said the term “African American” is bizarre to her.
“African American is a nationality that has gotten muddled up with a racial identifier,” she said. “If that’s the case, everybody in here is African American because we all came from the Motherland.”
Ideally, Seales hopes we get to a world where our differences are about our difference in identity, not just our difference in race, class, gender or disability.
“You have to know you’re not being attacked, you’re being encouraged,” she said.
During her second lecture at 7 p.m. titled the “SideEye Seminar: Identifying, Challenging and Ending Everyday Sexism,” Seales addressed the different everyday sexism situations that woman are put in.
When it comes to sexism, Seales said most people just don’t even necessarily realize when sexism is taking place because they don’t really know what the term means.
“There’s just a lot that goes on in our daily lives that we really should be side-eyeing, but then some of us are just so used to dealing with [sexism], that we don’t even necessarily realize that it’s sexism,” Seales said. “We don’t necessarily know why it’s sexism.”
Strength and how it relates to gender roles was one of many topics that Seales discussed Tuesday evening.
When it comes the genetic make-up of males and females in terms of strength, Seales said it comes in different ways, which is a huge part in how sexism plays out because it assumes that physical strength is superior strength.
“Men should not rule everything,” she said.
Childbirth is one of the things that Seales said sets women apart from men on a strength scale. When men get the flu, Seales said it takes them down and they act like big babies.
“When I look at women and I look at the way we have had to shoulder being considered a lesser part of society for the entire existence we’ve had on Earth, if that ain’t strength, I don’t know what is.”
Today, a lot of women are called crazy because they express themselves in a way that is sometimes not understood by their partner, Seales said.
“If you, from the minute you were born, were considered less than based on a gender that you didn’t even choose, you would go crazy too,” Seales said.
Seales said from a very early age, women are considered a sexual object and are told to be ladylike and feminine. Seales said women need to choose their own version of being feminine. If a woman being feminine means wearing a flannel shirt and Timberland boots or Victoria’s Secret, Seales said go for it.
“There’s no such thing as what’s ladylike because what’s ladylike was designed by men,” she said.
Being that she worked in the hip-hop entertainment business, Seales said for women who listen to hip-hop, they often have to tune out the lyrics of songs because a lot of times what they’re dancing to is actually talking terribly about them.
Seales said it’s important to remember that everyone, including men, can be a catalyst for positive change in regards to sexism. As women, she said instead of saying “let me live,” she said women should start saying, “this is how I live.”
“When it comes to sexism, that’s really one of the biggest things you can apply to yourself to changing because it affects everybody,” Seales said. “Gender and the limitations based on women is something that all of us can be working towards.”