“Tackling Taboos”: A Conversation About Redefining Our Own Truths
“Honestly, I feel like telling the truth has become a taboo,” author and digital strategist Luvvie Ajayi told an audience in the Chicago Ideas Week “tackling taboos” event. The evening was split into three conversations, a performance, and a lecture, and touched on classically taboo topics including porn, sex, and religion. This allowed audience members, especially high school students who are part of the Chicago Ideas Youth Ambassadors program, to come away with a new understanding of the importance of talking about difficult issues in a transparent manner.
The first conversation was between Ajayi and Yvonne Orji, a Nigerian-American comedian and actress who currently stars as Molly on HBO. Precarious. She spoke of the career change that occurred when she put her faith in God, or “Daddy,” as she calls him. “I don’t have any dad issues, don’t worry,” she joked. When she devotes herself to religion, she gives up her plan to become a doctor and launches into comedy. This led her on a path to success that she didn’t think she could have due to the confined lifestyle she had growing up in an African household.
When living with African parents, “dreaming is a luxury,” said Orji. “Living with Mexican parents too,” said one of the teenage girls sitting across from me. Although Orji followed her parents’ plans until she graduated from college, she was able to grapple with the taboo of pursuing her own dreams and following her own plans.
Orji also spoke about therapy and the stigma associated with mental health within black communities. She and Ajayi joked that their parents would be so much happier if they went into therapy and let go of all the pain and grudges they’ve held onto over the past 40 years. “Our generation makes it healthier to ask for help,” said Orji.
Journalist Emily Witt then took the stage and gave a talk on the contemporary pursuit of sexual pleasure and connection, including topics such as porn, orgasmic meditation, webcam sex, and planning polyamorous couples. sexual relations.
“Our own taboo limits us,” she said of how we limit ourselves to exploring different sexual experiences. What a wonderful thing for teenage girls to learn so early in life, I thought.
After Witt’s speech, comedian Becca Brown sang a song about the lies women tell to get rid of unwanted attention from some men, specifically addressing the period taboo. “Your false period got rid of that jerk,” she sang. “Because you’re filthy and useless when your pussy isn’t working.”
The second conversation of the night was with Michael Arceneaux, author of I can’t date Jesus: love, sex, family, race, and other reasons I put my faith in Beyonce. He spoke about the taboo of being gay in a southern, black Christian family.
“I think religion is very beautiful and very useful in people’s lives, but at the same time, religion tortured me,” he said. He believes the transparency of his book has helped tell other people’s stories and solidified him as “the Cardi B of lighting.”
The final conversation featured fashion designer Norma Kamali, whose recent work raises awareness of the unique experiences women face when it comes to objectification. She said that due to the acceptance of harassment and assault in the fashion industry, she never realized how bad the things she and other models or designers had experienced were. She encouraged everyone to keep talking about the assault so that it doesn’t continue to be normalized.
Overall the event was fun. It opened my eyes to how my different identities have led me to regard certain truths as taboo and to hope for a future where those truths can be mundane.