I'm Judging You: The Do-Better Manual by Luvvie Ajayi
Published by Henry Holt and Company on November 17, 2016
Genres: Comedy, Humor, Nonfiction
Comedian, activist, and hugely popular culture blogger at AwesomelyLuvvie.com, Luvvie Ajayi, serves up necessary advice for the common senseless in this hilarious book of essays
With over 500,000 readers a month at her enormously popular blog, AwesomelyLuvvie.com, Luvvie Ajayi has become a go-to source for smart takes on pop culture. I'm Judging You is her debut book of humorous essays that dissects our cultural obsessions and calls out bad behavior in our increasingly digital, connected lives—from the cultural importance of the newest Shonda Rhimes television drama to serious discussions of race and media representation to what to do about your fool cousin sharing casket pictures from Grandma's wake on Facebook. With a lighthearted, rapier wit and a unique perspective, I'm Judging You is the handbook the world needs, doling out the hard truths and a road map for bringing some "act right" into our lives, social media, and popular culture.
Here is where I dole out shade, side-eye, and basic-but-necessary advice for the needy – the logic-deficient who consistently come up short in this new world order of 140-character opinions, Facebook beefs, Instagram groupies, and pop culture idolization, i.e., The waste land, where common sense has tragically become the rarest flower in the thought garden. I’m judging you changes the game and snatches wigs one page at a time. It is a guide to getting some act-right online and in real life. All the shade that resides in my spirit, all the side-eye I’ve dispensed across my vast network, has led me here.
I’ve been following Luvvie Ajayi’s blog (AwesomelyLuvvie) for some years now. I find her to be incredibly hilarious and I love her immense shadiness. I watched once (online) as she was arguing with a reporter over his reporting of the Nigerian presidential election. When the reporter claimed she started it by “being shady” to him, she told him “I haven’t begun to get shady. You still have lights on at your house, right? Believe me, you’ll KNOW when I get shady.” I was DONE. Howling with laughter. He shut the hell up, too. There is nothing I love more than to get Luvvie’s latest blog post so I can cackle over the foolishness. I swear, she has helped me to grow and learn to embrace the shady, crotchety old woman living inside me. ;-D
So I was really excited about I’m Judging You: The Do-Better Manual. I was expecting the AwesomelyLuvvie blog but on steroids.
This I did not get.
I’m Judging You felt…disjointed. It’s a series of essays that are difficult be read back to back (due to subject change) which leaves little to no flow to the work. I found myself reading this very slowly – I needed to take a break between most chapters. Luvvie excels in short non-fiction and she stayed with what she knows. I’m Judging You is truly a collection of essays – very loosely connected essays. As someone who reads mostly long-form fiction in novel format, the essay-nature of I’m Judging You was a challenge.
I’m Judging You started off rather strong. Reminding me of Luvvie’s more typical blog posts, I chuckled a lot and forced hubby to listen to me read aloud. Sadly, the strong beginning gave way to a very serious and not funny middle section. This un-funny middle section revolved around all the shit we have deal with but wish we didn’t: racism, sexism and homophobia. And don’t get me wrong – there are some profound comments and Luvvie often hits nails on heads… but when you’re looking for funny, you’re looking for funny.
Luvvie tackles head on a lot of the things that we avoid discussing in polite society. While I love a lot of the statements she made, I often felt that the people who need to read said statements will never pick this book up. So I’m Judging You is NOT for people who already agree with/know Luvvie to some extent – unless they are looking for gifts. Of course, what makes I’m Judging You into a little gem is that all of this social resistance/activism commentary is wrapped up in a single book. There is a little of everything here:
Privilege and White Privileges:
Our privileges are the things not with in our own control that push us forward and move us ahead from that starting line. Acknowledging them does not mean you are admitting to doing something to purposefully contribute to someone else’s oppression or marginalization. Nay, friends. It means that you recognize that some part of your identity puts you in a better position than others. It means something about you assists your progress in the race of life. It also means that whatever majority group you belong to has likely contributed to the oppression of another. Knowing our privilege does not make us villains, but it should make us more conscious about the parts we play in systems that are greater than us. It should make us be more thoughtful; it should humble us. We need to admit that some of us had a head start and aren’t just flourishing on our strength alone.
Again, YOU might not personally be responsible for the oppression of others, but you were amongst a group that is benefiting from said oppression. On the list of privileges, whiteness is arguably the biggest one. This is not an accusation a fact that people need to recognize and acknowledge. If you are white in the United States, you carry a giant stamp of approval that has already made your life easier compared to others’. White people are in positions of power in every societal structure, and get to see them self reflect and everywhere. White privilege is not having to worry about speaking for your entire ethnicity because your behavior is perceived as yours alone, not representative of everyone who looks like you. It’s characters in cartoons and video games that look like your kid, or at least only a few shades away from them. Tights and undergarments that are labeled as “nude” consider your skin the default, so it matches you, and you only, white people. Privileges never even having to notice when you are reflected in movies on board rooms, because you were always reflected.
The most glaring aspect of white privilege is that when someone is described neutrally – without indicating color or ethnicity – more often than not, people will assume that person is white. THAT assumption indicates an uncomfortable truth: in our society, whiteness determines humanity.
Sexism & Rape Culture:
It is an unfortunate right of passage for girls to be walking down the street and have a guy you’ve never met yelled something at you. He wants to get your attention, and he will do it by jeering up to you. Sometimes he’s in a car at a red light. Sometimes he’s at his job, which you have to walk by to get to where you’re going. Other times, he’s just loitering, and you happen to walk by him. Far too many of us have also experienced the negative response that can come from a guy who feels ignored or rejected when we do not seem all that flattered by his remarks: “Well, fuck you too, then!” All because we did not give him the attention he felt entitled to.
There are so many people who cannot seem to fathom how we can be so “sensitive” about something like being told we’re beautiful or sexy by a random dude. When women are walking down the street in the morning/afternoon/night/ever, minding our own business, one thing we are not asking for is folk’s opinion on our appearance – yes, even if you think we look amazing. People will say we should be flattered that someone found us so attractive that they were moved to yell about it. Being street – harassed is not a blue ribbon, nor does it prove you have the looks of Miss America. There is no rhyme or reason to it, and it is not special. I’ve walked out of my house looking like “whodunnit and why” and men will still catcall. It’s like some of them feel that if they don’t holler at someone for a say, their “talk to a girl” muscle atrophy and become a gummy worm.
Rape culture has taught people that women do not have inherent value as human beings who deserves dignity. We must earn it through being “ladylike.” And when we do not fit into the scope of that conveniently vague and subjective category, the things that are done to us in our bodies are just part of what we’ve asked for it. So a sex worker is considered at the bottom rung of the latter and whatever violation she experiences is part of what she brought on herself. That’s foul.
Religion (being used as a weapon):
Alls I know is that you can’t represent hate, misogyny, discrimination, and lack of common sense while saying you’re acting on behalf of Christ or any other celestial being. Get some decorum about your lifespace. Saints and Aints, let us live life well and good, but please leave Brown Baby Jesus out of your shenanigans. AMEN? Amen.
The middle section eventually stops torturing us and we get to the final collections of essays. By this time, I’m not laughing and I’m not really having fun – for a humorist, Luvvie got really un-funny and then stayed mostly in seriousland.
I applauded the commentary on social media and behavior. As a person who has grown with the internet but clearly remembers a time before all things digital, I often wonder what malfunction pushes people to share every little detail of their life online. It frustrates me to no end when people I love are stressed the hell out over some shit that happened on Snap Chat. Or Twitter. Or Facebook (all sites I avoid). When my friends call me with their internet drama – and this isn’t just “I was arguing with an internet idiot” but rather “my BF is upset I liked this guy’s pic on Instagram and we’re arguing” or “This chick posted this comment about my man so I posted THIS comment….” – I get upset. I always implore them to remove the media from their social lives. So I was 1000000% here with Luvvie when she discussed keeping the important things about your life private.
I like to keep my personal life sacred and away from the eyes and ears of prying people. I have never had my relationship status on Facebook, and I’ve been there for more than ten years. I have never uploaded couples albums, and I certainly have never argue with my beloved there. Why? Because that is hallowed ground for me. My relationship isn’t for public consumption, and my heart would not know how to heal properly from hurt in a public way.
You’re probably like, “Luvvie, are you saying we should never talk about our relationships on social media?” No, I am not. I’m just saying that when people are invited onto your love train because you’ve shared every detail, then you’re making it community property. For every broadcasted gesture of love, I hope there are two gestures we don’t see because they’re yours and yours alone.
But do what you want and keep sharing every detail of your relationship on Facebook, and I’ll keep my floss handy, because popcorn gets in my teeth and I like to stay prepared.
By the time I got to the end, I was just ready for the book to be over. I’m Judging You had a lot of the hallmarks of Luvvie but it…is missing something. It’s missing the “essence” of Luvvie that we often get in the blog.