My womanhood and rights are not up for debate
I've been reading some highly-charged, racio-misogyny and anti-Black woman rants about how feminism (or Womanism) is supposedly ruining society and the black community, and is to blame for the contentious relationship between black men and women. Some folks seem to think that if (black) women would just shut up and stop speaking out against issues like reproductive rights, sexism, sexual harassment, street harassment, abuse and sexual assault we would all get along swimmingly, because women are meant to be seen and not heard, am I right?
Contrary to popular (and misinformed) belief, feminists don’t operate as a monolith. The majority of us don't live to emasculate or browbeat men, nor are we opposed to feminine sensibilities, sex, marriage, family, or whatever we supposedly abhor in the linear and limited thinking and misunderstanding about gender equality.
Some people seem to harbor the convoluted, and cartoonish, idea that feminists are fervent misandrists who hate everything and everybody… perhaps because they themselves are averse to evolving beyond the status quo of patriarchy. Believing the “Feminazis are evil, man-hating feminazis!” narrative makes it easy for anti-feminists to continue espousing patriarchal propaganda, and to believe they shouldn’t be held accountable for how they (mis)treat and marginalize women and young girls; so they can have reasons to keep their foot firmly rooted on my neck, enact epistemic violence, and rationalize dangerous arguments in support of “legitimate rape”; so they can continue to uphold gender inequities and maintain a stronghold on women’s vaginas. And while some women are well within their right to not be labeled as a feminist (or Womanist), and will gladly uphold patriarchy as a way to score brownie points, ‘other’ themselves, or seek favor with misogynists, they conveniently forget that they reap the benefits that feminists fight to secure. Good luck with pandering though, ladies.
Full disclosure-- I shave my delicates (because I want to) and I enjoy makeup, but I also value my reproductive rights and am a huge proponent of gender equality, denounce the patriarchy, and believe in holding people accountable for using oppressive tactics against marginalized groups. I believe in exercising my right to be able to sit at the table with impunity and voice my opinion without being relegated to the fringes. Womanism/feminism helps keep me visible in spaces that would much rather erase me, and enables me to challenge conventional ideas of what's expected of women... especially Black women.
I should not have to walk around breathing a sigh of relief because I haven’t been sexually assaulted yet. I detest street harassment and have the right to say so without being crucified or verbally abused. I think little Black girls are just as worthy of protection as little Black boys and little white girls, and that their self-esteem should be cultivated without criticism.
The lives of Black women are just as valuable as anyone else’s, and I deprogrammed myself from engaging in respectability politics ages ago because it's counter-productive; if you’re a grown woman who wants to wind her waist to pulsating rhythms, that’s your prerogative. I’m not interested in policing other women’s bodies or determining: who’s more of a respectable 'lady' or feminist than I am; or who does and doesn't have the right to claim to be.
I am not here for rape culture, online threats of violence or harassment from virtually cloaked men because I, or some other woman writer, wrote something you didn't agree with. I also reserve the right to buck against intimidation in my offline life because you're upset that I said, “No” or “not interested”.
I don't care if you get mealy-mouthed over critiques about you stripping women of our identities by defiantly calling us ‘females’ in a derisive way that drips with the essence of eau de bitch, with discordant notes of cunt. If referring to a woman as... a woman... causes you that much distress, then that's a problem that may require the intervention of a therapist.
My humanity is not up for debate. If hearing a dissenting opinion from a woman makes you hot around the collar, then clearly you’re too remedial to engage in any kind of adult or social discourse and you might be a sociopath. My humanity is not up for debate. My humanity is not up for debate. My humanity is not up for debate.
I'm open to discussion and have no qualms about anybody disagreeing with me, provided we come away with some semblance of respect for each other’s views sans ad hominem attacks. But my humanity is not up for debate, and I've no interest in having anybody dissuade me from my beliefs.
Practice the social mores and ideals that work for you without infringing on my right to exist as a Black woman who doesn't want to be marginalized or resented for being so. If words like womanism and feminism make you bristle due to antiquated ideas you harbor about what it means for a woman or man to identify as such, and you can't understand the need Black women have for feminism beyond some skewed view, I’m not interested in engaging with you.
If you’re a woman or man who identifies as a feminist, but words like womanism and intersectionality make your sphincter clinch and your brand of feminism or ‘empowerment’ is one that polices or criticizes Black female bodies, a woman's right to marriage and motherhood, single-motherhood, a woman's decision not to be a mother or a wife, or female sexuality… I’m not here for you either and you most certainly aren't my ally.
If us being allies or cool with one another is contingent on my silence about my lived experiences as a Black woman or you thinking you get to talk over me all dictatorial-like, then nope… we can’t engage. But please be clear, I won't recoil just to placate egos because some of you are too self-serving to defend Black womanhood, truly understand what gender equality entails and recognize that Black women are also worthy of protection.