Twanna A. Hines is a feminist sex, dating and relationships writer living in New York City. She started out as a sociologist, and soon found that her interest in human interaction took a rather intimate turn. When she moved to New York in 2005, she started Funky Brown Chick, where she blogs about sex, love and life here in the city. Think of her as Carrie Bradshaw, minus the shoe addiction, plus some heavy duty feminism.
Twanna, who has lived all over the world, from Illinois to Amsterdam, says that for her, the most important part of blogging about sex is “to be able to talk freely about sexuality and give other people the space to do that.” As someone who grew up in a community where sex and sexuality were demonized, she feels that talking openly, inclusively and without judgment about sex, and interacting with her readers, is a way to improve the way our culture approaches sex. Which, I’m sure she’d agree, is pretty messed up.
Twanna’s writing has been published in Nerve, New York Press and Fast Company, and she also blogs at the Huffington Post. At Funky Brown Chick, she writes about everything from being called a skank online, to the intricacies of dating bisexual and bicurious men, to the immense satisfaction of being recognized by a reader in real life. And if that weren’t enough to make you want to have a drink and a good chat with her, she also owns a first edition of the groundbreaking 1948 book on male sexuality, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, by Alfred Kinsey. Which, I think, officially makes her a very sexy nerd.
And now, without further ado, the Feministing Five, with Twanna A. Hines.
Chloe Angyal: What led you to start writing about sex and relationships, and how did you come to start Funky Brown Chick?
Twanna A. Hines: I did a Bachelor’s in Sociology and then I also did a Master’s. Then I went on to do postgraduate work at the University of Amsterdam and NYU. So I’d always been interested in how people relate to each other, not only in intimate relationships, in sexual relationships, but in families and friendships and things like that. It’s not just about sex and sexuality, but about how we relate to the other people in our lives. I’ve been interested in those questions for a long time.
Writers aren’t paid extremely high wages, in general, so most of my friends in the city who write also hold full-time day jobs, some of which are related to their writing work, some of which are not. I moved to New York in 2005, and I started working in publishing. I had PR jobs at Newsweek, and I also worked Inc. Magazine‘s online outfit. I also did contract work with BBC Worldwide. For a while I thought that I would work full-on in publishing and do my writing there, but what I found was that I couldn’t necessarily write about what I wanted to write about. And doing full-time publishing and full-time freelance turned out to be too much for me; I was working way too many hours, and I felt that my quality of work wasn’t as strong as it would have been if I were solely working in freelance or solely working in publishing. So the route that I took was a corporate job by day and doing freelance by night.
I started Funky Brown Chick when I came to New York in 2005, and I feel that writing about my sex life is my way of contributing to the dialogue about sexuality in America and beyond. There’s a lot of advice columns, and I just didn’t feel like I had much to contribute. The way I came to understand sex, it was very late and very dysfunctional because no one in my family talked about it, and I grew up very religious and of course no one in church was talking about it either. So the most important thing for me with my writing was to be able to talk freely about sexuality and give other people the space to do that. So when you go to Funky Brown Chick, you won’t see “Ten ways to please your lover tonight” because no ten things are going to work for everyone, so it’s much more a spirit of “This is the way I see the world, and this is what I’ve experienced, and if you get something out of that, great. If you disagree or see things differently, tell me about it, and let’s make this a conversation.” Because I don’t think there are many spaces to have that dialogue. It’s either one-way dialogue in the form of advice, or it’s just something that shouldn’t be talked about at all. So my motivation is facilitating that conversation.
CA: Who is your favorite fictional heroine, and who are your heroines in real life?
TAH: I love Betty Boop. I love her hair. I love wild hair, and big hair, and curly hair, and I remember being a little girl and seeing a Betty Boop coloring book, and the first time I saw that big hair with those curly bits going up I thought, “that’s awesome.”
In real life, my friends, my friends who are out there every day, just doing their things, whether it’s writing or painting or going to work and earning their own money. I’m really proud of my friends. When I look around and see the lives of the people I’ve surrounded myself with, I’m just really proud of them.
CA: What recent news story made you want to scream?
TAH: The CNN story about how more women are going on to get advanced degrees and becoming lawyers and doctors and things like that. And it was maybe, I don’t know, five paragraphs. It was an article about how women are educated, and I was like, “OK, where is the ‘and they’re all going to die alone!’ bomb?” and actually, only Black educated women get those news stories. It makes me want to bang my head against a wall because it’s such a double standard, that whenever we write about just women, women generally, being educated or making financial gains or things like that, then that’s the story. But when we write that story about Black women, it’s “and this is why they’re all going to die alone!” It gets old, it gets really old, and there are so many stories out there like that, it’s overwhelming.
CA: What, in your opinion, is the greatest challenge facing feminism today?
TAH: I don’t know if I believe that there’s ever one greatest challenge, because I feel like for all of us to be doing the work that we need to do, we all take on whatever we can. For the women out there fighting human trafficking, for example, for them, right now, that is the greatest challenge right now. And that needs to be a priority, because someone needs to make it a priority. But that doesn’t mean that for people fighting for rights for women who have been in abusive relationships and now need to find shelter, that’s not the greatest priority for them at that moment. So I feel like if I named one that’s the greatest challenge, then I’d somehow diminish the great work that so many people are doing.
CA: You’re going to a desert island, and you’re allowed to take one food, one drink and one feminist. What do you pick?
TAH: Steak, alcohol and whoever my next partner is, because I’m going to want to have sex a lot. Conversation’s great, but at some point, I would get horny.