I find patriarchal, sexist, misogynist Black men who shade feminist Black men for being feminists amusing at times. I don’t find their patriarchal, sexist and misogynist beliefs amusing, to be clear, but the shade itself.
They often say that feminist Black men are feminist “just to get women.” Nevermind that some feminist Black men are gay and in relationships or are dating/married to women. Nevermind that some choose to be single. Nevermind that in a White supremacist capitalist patriarchal society, it’s actually patriarchal men who have an easier time “getting” women (“getting”…as if she has no choice…). Why? Well, many WOMEN are socialized to WANT patriarchal men, regardless of the emotional, psychological, sociopolitical and even physical damage it causes their bodies and lives. As bell hooks writes:
Knowing that both women and men are socialized to accept patriarchal thinking should make it clear to everyone that men are not the problem. The problem is patriarchy.
Now, some patriarchal, sexist, misogynist Black men conflate benevolent sexism with feminism. Benevolent sexist Black men who are “polite” about sexism, who want Black women to live their lives within the confines of binary social constructs for the edification of patriarchy are NOT feminists. These are the men who police womanhood, decide who is a “lady” or not (as if being a “lady” is even a relevant goal, or goal at all), blame all relationship troubles and failures on women, ignore or rationalize men’s failures, and will even use some Black women against other Black women. (Women do this too.) The “Michelle Obama good, Beyonce bad” narrative in the blogosphere is an example of latter point. Black men who do this do not truly love Black women. Further, they enjoy their position above the more “aggressive” (naturally, less educated and/or poorer Black men get this label—no class privilege) patriarchal Black men. You’ll find many college educated and/or celebrity Black men who perform benevolent sexism. These men are not feminists. And, these are the men who enjoy the networks, platforms and money that can come from this form of sexism. Life coach instruction. Church leadership. Relationship advice culture. These are the men that patriarchal, sexist, misogynist men sometimes think are “feminists” just trying “get” women. Benevolent sexists are just trying to appeal to women at times…and do get women because of their actions…but enjoy the power even more. Benevolent sexism is in the binary with traditional, more aggressive patriarchal misogyny and sexism. Feminism isn’t. People who believe that being a feminist is the “equal” negative extreme (on the other side of the pole) of being patriarchal, clearly do not understand feminism.
(There’s also the current [especially in social media] of some Black men calling themselves “conscious” and are anti-racism yet are pro-sexism, pro-patriarchy, pro-homophobia types of men who seem to think that sexism and homophobia are liberation ideologies. Um…they definitely aren’t feminists. I’m not going to elaborate on them much more in this particular post.)
Now, Black women who are womanists who identify with feminism have to be careful not to conflate benevolent sexism with feminism. Ever. Also, we have to make sure that while we appreciate and love feminist Black male allies, we do not always privilege their views and ideas above our own or privilege their position as “leaders” of our issues because that’s not their role as allies no more than Whites seeking to be the spokespersons over Blacks on anti-racism issues (very common). Good allies stay in their lane. For example, as a heterosexual ally to the LGBT community, I NEVER privilege my views on their experiences over actual members of that community and I spend more time LISTENING and learning from their experiences instead of telling them what said experiences are, and what analysis of said experiences should be. I’ve learned a lot, especially since 2009, because of social media, the blogosphere and reading.
Truthfully, it’s hard for some Black women who are womanists who identify with feminism to temper and not privilege the words of feminist Black men over our own because we love them so much and they feel rare. When the entire world—and I mean the world, is dumping on Black women daily, kind, intellectual, thoughtful, insightful, and critically engaged words at the intersection of womanhood and Blackness from feminist Black men sort of makes us want to put them on a pedestal. But the irony is that such a pedastal actually feeds into patriarchy and male privilege.
I’ve haven’t encountered any feminist Black men who tried to used an appeal to feminism to try to “holla” at me or anything. It doesn’t mean that they don’t desire sexual or emotionally intimate relationships with women (or men, or both). The ideological differences that they have compared to other men probably tempers how they choose to approach people they’re romantically interested in. In my experience, the overall interactions are more pleasant since they aren’t trying to dominate, control, suppress, abuse or hurt me, and don’t feel the need to do so since they aren’t compelled to perform patriarchal masculinity since they actually critique patriarchy. This doesn’t mean that they are perfect, but that they’re critically engaged in both introspection and the necessary micro/macro cultural critiques.
Plenty of benevolent sexists (who again, are not feminists) have tried to use their position to try to “holla.” I yawn and laugh at them now. Shit…I dated several of them many years ago. Who hasn’t? They often seem different from many traditionally patriarchal, sexist, misogynist men in that they seem like “nice” guys. Seem.
Black men who truly embrace feminism are on a continuum just like Black women who embrace it. There’s no final destination of “look we’re finally done!” Amidst that continuum is the personal introspection and growth as well as the willingness to unpack, deconstruct, challenge and change the corrosive forces of patriarchy and patriarchal masculinity that utterly obliterates a healthy existence for Black men in a White supremacist capitalist patriarchal society. Ultimately, if a Black man became a feminist as a ploy just to get women, he isn’t really a feminist at all. (He could still eventually become one though.) So no, feminist Black men aren’t just trying to get women.