April 05, 2013

My Petition: My Black Feminism is Here to Stay

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. 



8 comments:

sleepyccs said...

As black women our humanity should never be up for debate.

Tiff J said...

Exactly. We really need to stop engaging people who have zero interest in our well-being and who insist that we put our concerns and needs *last*.

Black women make too many concessions and we need to understand that if we have to insist that people recognize our humanity or are challenged to *prove* we're also worthy of protection, then they most certainly aren't our allies.

Anonymous said...

The humanity & dignity of Black women & girls should be respected, period, end of story. Anyone who disagrees should be shunned and called out for the lousy raciomisogynist that they truly are.

jinna said...

i am a black woman against feminism and I am not trying to score brownie points with anyone. Is it not possible that someone genuinely thinks differently from you on this topic? In my opinion feminism is a cancer that is hurting the black community. It is breaking up the relationship between men and women.. the relationship that leads to kids.. happy kids who have more kids.

TiffJ said...

@jinna: You're certainly well within your right to not identify as a feminist. If you aren't someone who's trying to score brownie points, then you shouldn't take the critique personally. But understand this: there are some women who *do* have internalized sexism. In fact, you describing the quest for gender equality and us fighting for the right to *exist*, as a "cancer" that's "hurting the black community" registers as internalized misogyny (to me).

Black women need (black) feminism, because so often we are the victims of misoynoir and are merely skirting by... invisible mules ... considered *not* worthy of protection; "Strong Black Women" often thought to be invisible and incapable of vulnerability and so, deserving of the abuse perpetrated against us.

Some folks underscore our right to matter and don't even consider us as *women*... Default womanhood is always a white woman. White men harbor this thought, other white feminists harbor this notion, and some Black men and self-loathing Black women harbor this feeling about us. My (black) feminism requires intersectionality, justice, gender equality, protection, and agency over my own body.

Next time you describe feminism a form of "cancer", think of the scores of young Black women and girls... murdered, raped, street harassed, molested, domestically abused, denied resources, sterilized without their consent, fired from their jobs... and how they go ignored and remain invisible to the world at large, because people don't CARE enough about Black women, to speak up. Black FEMINISTS are many of the ones advocating on their behalf and offering their mentorship and resources to help them. And while you don't have to self-identify as a feminist, you still reap the residual benefits of the movement.

Thanks for commenting.

jinna said...

Thanks for not being rude in your response!

""Next time you describe feminism a form of "cancer", think of the scores of young Black women and girls... murdered, raped, street harassed, molested, domestically abused, denied resources, sterilized without their consent, fired from their jobs...""

And what about men? Feminism allows us to paint these issues as women's issues when they are not. They are societal issues that do not require female independence to be fixed. If anything they require men and women to start working together!



Not being a feminist does not mean that I do not care about these issues, it means that I think the approach of feminism is completely and totally wrong. That is the cancer. We should be trying to work on these issues by working together not screaming about misogyny and female independence.


Males are not misogynous and neither is the system. The system is flawed but it has nothing to do with misogyny or female independence. Give me any one form of misogyny and I am sure that I can give you a very logical reason behind it. Men and women have to start respecting each other caring about each other and working together. Feminism undermines that, it undermines male-female cooperation by creating issues where there are none.

TiffJ said...

Firstly ma'am, I'd've found no value in being
rude to you, particularly since I didn't find your comment to be rude.



Also,
men and women *do* have to start respecting one another... this I agree with
wholeheartedly, but @jinna , we live under the patriarchy (this is a fact)...
men have privilege over women, just by virtue of being a man... and yes this includes Black men... they have privilege over us, even while white men have privilege over them.


Black men have and will *always* have folks
galvanizing, marching, and raising money on their behalf, when the need arises (just look at the throngs of wonderful people who marched to show their solidarity with Trayvon Martin's parents this past weekend).

I'm not a misandrist and I don't hate men... at all, nor do I reject building
and working with any man who has no qualms about being a proper ally to me.
I've done it. As a writer, I do it. But my primary concern is with my mental
health and well-being. Black women tend to be so consumed by taking care of and
worrying *other people* FIRST, we neglect ourselves. The stress and the
self-neglect is *literally* killing us. "Independence" has zero to do
with my point. People seem to equate Black feminism with "being
independent", and that's far from what I'm trying to convey here... it's much bigger than the "independent woman" anthem.



To
quote Iyanla Vanzant: "It's self-full to be first,
to be as good as possible to you. To take care of you, keep you whole and
healthy. That doesn't mean you disregard everything and everyone. But you want
to come with your cup full. You know: 'My cup runneth over.' What comes out of the cup is for y'all. What's in the cup is mine. But I've got to keep my cup
full."



Check out my review of the documentary: "Reflections
Unheard: Black Women in Civil Rights", a great feature doc by Nev Nnanji,
which offers insight into the issue: http://www.coffeerhetoric.com/2013/04/documentary-reflections-unheard-black.html

We talk show much about cultivating and protecting black manhood and supporting black *men*, but black women and girls get lost in that narrative and there should always be space to include them. We need people... women... Black feminist and even women who *don't* identify as such... advocating on our behalf as well.

jinna said...

I agree that we live under a patriarchy and there is nothing wrong with looking out for your own interest.

But their are just as many disadvantages to males who live under a patriarchy as their are to females (think drafted to war, expected to be a breadwinner, manliness, ect.) and there are just as many female advantages to living under a patriarchy as there are male (think not being drafted, not being jailed unfairly, and patriarchy without the racism blacks deal with did mean a lot of financial support for females)

You say: "People seem to equate Black feminism with "being independent", and that's far from what I'm trying to convey here... it's much bigger than the "independent woman" anthem."

The general theme of feminism is female independence. It is not about black feminism or white feminism ... feminism itself speaks a lot about female independence, it belittles male-female cooperation. And male-female co-operation is necessary to fix many of the issues within our communities.