On Ayesha Curry and Selective Listening: Why Do We Only Understand People We Like...

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*deep and exaggerated long exhale*

You all know why we’re here so I’ll skip the pleasantries and just jump right in.

This past Monday Auntie Jada dropped a new episode of her Facebook Watch series, The Red Table Talk. The episode features the women who make up the Curry dynasty. If you’re not a basketball fan, here’s a brief rundown: former NBA role player, Dell Curry, is the father of two sons—-NBA superstar Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors and NBA sharp-shooter Seth Curry of the Portland Trailblazers—-and a daughter, social media personality, Sydell Curry. At the table were Dell’s wife of 30 years, Sonya Curry, Ayesha Curry—-wife of Steph, Sydell and the newly engaged Callie Rivers—-who will marry Seth Curry and shares a child with him. We all caught up? Good. I, for one, was excited to see that the Curry women were going to sit down with Jada, Willow and Gammy. Being a fan of the show, I knew Mrs. Smith was not going to hold back on the questions and, unlike many show hosts, she’s lived that life (the life of wife to a meteoric superstar) so I felt like it would be a safe space for the women to be honest.

And I was right. After a little friendly banter about the family, Callie’s engagement that happened the night before and gushing over the unprecedented rise of Steph—-Jada dug in:

How do y’all deal with all the ladies around y’all men?

It’s important to add that all of the clips that have floated around the internet have been missing what prompted Ayesha to speak on the things she did—-she was ASKED to. But, I digress. Mama Sonya, who is a triple OG, was the first to response. And, I’d say she responded like someone who’s been married for 30 years.

Say we’re out in the club and some girl was all up in his face? I kinda liked it. Because for me, this my man and you oughta be attracted to my man and I’m ok with that as long as my man is standing beside me making me feel good. But if my man turned around and was like “hey..”, which happened a couple times, I’d be like “hold up…” and I would solve it. I’ve always been the one who would solve it right there. I’d be like you need to back up and YOU need to make her back up.

Now, let me stop here. Once again, context matters. Sonya is married to Dell who, with all due respect, was not and has never been a NBA superstar. And, there is a difference. I’ve seen lots of comments about how “being married to a NBA player” means expecting certain things. Here’s the rub: there are 400+ players in the NBA and only about 15-20 of them are name recognized by people who are not basketball fans. And, let’s face it, this interview is happening because of the rise of Steph Curry. Sonya and Dell are also of a different era. Mama Sonya didn’t have to watch women throw their digital draws at her man in his IG comments daily. No one was walking up with cell phones to record their family. Dell is not a 2-time NBA MVP or a 3- time NBA champion. Sonya is not just as famous and as recognizable as her husband or her sons. Yet, in the interview, she still talked about rebelling against the idea of being just Dell Curry’s wife. Wanting to have something, an identity, that was only hers. Which leads us to Ayesha’s responses…

Stephen is very nice by nature and he’s very talkative…so everything is very friendly. So I just get to a point where I’m a grown woman so I’ll just insert myself….I’m ok with it now…obviously you know the devil is a liar…the ladies will always be lurking and hoping for their moment. You need to be aware of that. I honestly hate it. I don’t like when I feel leveled off with someone. It irks my nerves. So we had a conversation about it like when we’re going somewhere make sure that I’m being introduced. I don’t like to have to introduce myself. It irks my nerves. But there have been a couple of times where I’ve wanted to punch somebody in the face. But that’s just human nature.

Eh. Nothing to see here as far as I’m concerned. One of my favorite songs is Nivea’s “Don’t Mess With My Man”, so I’m picking up what Ayesha is putting down. I have also had the conversation about being introduced in my relationship. And with all the attention, I’m sure, Steph gets in the world—-from both men and women—-wanting to still feel like the most special person in the room to him seems like an honest emotion. Moving on…

Here’s where, according to the anti-”Pick Me”-s and the “I wish my wife would…”-s on Twitter, things took a turn. Jada segues into discussing having compassion for what their men have to contend with: constant female attention, power, etc…and Ayesha jumps in with a response:

Something that really bothers me and has honestly, given me a little bit of an insecurity is the fact that like 'Yeah, there are all these women throwing themselves [at Steph] but me, the past ten years, I don't have any of that. It sounds weird but I have zero male attention. Then I internalize it and I'm like is there something wrong with me? I don't want it. But it would be nice to know that someone's looking."

Jada agreed.

It’s because you’re not looking. Listen, when your radar is turned off…because I dealt with that for years too…you don’t even realize it. I was young like you feeling like “WHAT?”. Don’t ever think for one minute that there aren’t men out there saying “I wish…” and you know who knows that? Your HUSBAND.

Yep. That’s it. That’s what the internet has been in shambles about for two days. Because context is important let me interject here and say that I know part of the response to Ayesha is cumulative. People have felt that she was judgmental of other women based off these tweets:

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Now, these tweets are not usually shared in their entirety, with people focusing on the one that starts the thread and not the one that ended it. They were tweeted in succession. And she never said “classy” vs. “classless”. Or said “you Jezebels should leave something to the imagination like ME!”. But the tweets have been the foundation to call her everything from a slut-shamer to a boring goodie-two-shoes who’s lost and miserable and who, eventually will wish she’d showed a little more titty. Issa reach. For NBA fans, maybe it was her tweets during the NBA Finals in 2016 that did it. Sis Curry was pissed with officiating and decided to get her tweets off. I’m sure she learned a valuable lesson but, again, context is everything. Unlike the wives of other superstars, like Vanessa Bryant or Savannah James to name a few, before Curry’s time, her and her husband came into the league pretty much under the radar. They’ve had to learn, on the fly, what will cause a media firestorm and what won’t. Ayesha was a regular ol chick from Canada who married the boy she met at church camp or whatever…sis ain’t have no media training. But she also has never made the mistake again.

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So, I get why maybe people don’t “like” her. That’s fine. There’s nothing that says you have to. But I don’t understand why people have decided to vehemently hate her. Her comments about being insecure and feeling less desirable aren’t particularly provocative. How many memoirs, TV shows, songs and films have explored the very same topic? How many strong and independent women have talked about feeling less than worthy after motherhood and in the eyes of not only their husband but also the general public? Are women not getting mommy makeovers to feel more like themselves again? Is being able to “snap-back” not a goal that women are happy to show they’ve reached? And why do we think that is? If she went on the show and pretended to have a perfect life with a perfect marriage and flexed on y’all about how she lives the fairytale while y’all are lowly and hoeing…would that have been better? What it have been more on-brand? She, along with the other women at the table, decided, instead, to be transparent about how a life that can seem perfect and easy has its downfalls. She was brave about battling anxiety, questioning her worthiness and even, sometimes, wanting to punch a bitch who steps out of line and somehow that’s turned into her being the Queen of the Pick-Mes to the umpteenth degree and I just…am exhausted by y’all.

Lastly, the “what if the roles were reversed and Steph said that…heads would roll” delegation. Steph would never have to say it. Not just because he’s rich and a man and handsome and powerful but also because never in the history of mandom has being a husband and father made you less desirable in the world. Did Will have to stop being Mr. Box Office when he and Jada started a family—-or did she? Is Beyonce having to stay badder than a two year old despite having carried 3 children while Jay-Z can fade to dad bod extraordinaire? My point exactly. Women, no matter how famous/talented/light/dark/big/small/rich/poor have an uphill battle to climb after adding wife and mother to our titles. Everyone understands the weight of a patriarchal society and rages against it until a woman they don’t like says it’s affected her. That’s wack. I am not for the brand of feminism that says we can only rally behind women at one end of the liberation spectrum and not at the other. What I mean by this is if we’re going to stand behind the freedom of a Cardi/Meghan Thee Stallion, etc.. to dress how they want, say what they want and express themselves as raw and as raunchy as they please, we also should stand behind the Ayesha’s. Though the Ayesha Curry’s of the world may trigger in us the feelings of what we, especially as Black women, have been told we should be more of—more light. more “classy”. more Christian. more “wife material”. more…whatever she is that we may feel like we aren’t—-that doesn’t give us the right to project things onto her experiences and words that are not there. That doesn’t give us the right to tell her she doesn’t get to have insecurities and if she does, she doesn’t get to talk about them. That doesn’t give us the right to act like we’re not all constantly having to peel back the layers of our own behaviors as women to make sure they’re not just extensions of us seeking validation from men—ALL men, not just our husbands. But the men we work for. The men we go into meetings with. The men we have to deal with on the street. Even when we discuss not centering men in our lives…we still have to be sure to tell people that we are, in fact, not centering men—-it is a cyclical and pretty much unavoidable aspect of living as a woman on this planet.

But something tells me y’all understand EXACTLY what Ayesha was saying. It’s just more fun to act like you don’t.

Read more from Iman here. And here.