For some reason, feminist praxis for men keeps getting marketed (and yes, “marketed,” as it is often portrayed as an object of consumption and a club, a problem with mainstream feminism itself) as 1) being “nice” to women and 2) somewhat rethinking masculinity outside of patriarchy. I don’t only mean cishet men either; I’ve seen this assertion in several spaces for men in the most comprehensive sense of what “men” means. This fascinates me because as a woman, especially as a Black woman, I find this bar low and asking so little involvement of men. The hurdles that Black women are expected to jump over before ever being considered feminist are astronomical compared to White women and trying to compare it to men, Black, White or otherwise is beyond laughable. So little is required of them compared to what is required of Black women, even as Black women’s Black feminist/womanist language and work are regularly appropriated or erased.
Yesterday I shared some tweets about this topic, including this one:
Though in terms of womanism, wholeness matters and healing matters—and beyond the scope of challenging sexism alone as feminism is often articulated as—this work towards wholeness is not solely individualized as it often is expressed in feminism. It requires commitment and work beyond individualized actions for personal situations, though those matter also. Feminist praxis for men is more than “being nice” to women. It’s about rethinking men’s ideology regarding all oppression, not only sexism. From there it involves men actually doing. Challenging the men in their lives. Checking their privilege. Not mansplaining. Not hogging the mic. Additionally it involves recognizing their role in speaking about domestic violence/rape, for example, and not as “women’s problem.” This involves men as well. And when I say it involves men, this is not to alter the statistical scope of women, cis and trans, as well as vulnerable non-binary individuals as the most common victims of rape and abuse, to center men. It’s to say that men as perpetrators of violence has to be a topic men discuss, not a "but men ‘too’" statement when men as survivors can be heard without silencing women.
Also there’s the issue of patriarchy itself; men’s feminist praxis cannot only be playing “good man” and call that a reformation of masculinity. Even as that personal masculinity reformation occurs, men have to realize that quoting bell hooks all day on this one topic, masculinity, is limited. bell hooks is the only source for some feminist men since they think feminism is solely about their own personal masculinity. She’s not even the only Black woman whose written on the topic. It’s that she’s placed as the bar that Black women have to meet in order to be considered feminists while for White women it’s having a pulse. Thus, she’s noticeable and not solely for her genius then.
While how we embody the oppressor within is where all feminist work begins, men’s own praxis can’t always be about themselves and self-therapy. If a man’s feminist praxis equals being “nice” to women and internal focus on masculinity and nothing else, it’s just large gaping holes in the work. I have a problem with this. It’s male privilege. Black women who are Black feminists/womanists aren’t allowed to do so little and be recognized as voices/thinkers. And praxis isn’t about recognition alone. It’s work against the many ways that oppression manifests (i.e. yes sexism, but also racism, homophobia, transphobia, transmisogyny, fat shaming, ableism, classism, colonialism, imperialism, capitalism etc.). But the amount of work Black women are expected to do versus everyone else? I am not interested in Mule Of The World Feminism where Black women move from status quo spaces to progressive spaces to still be servants while men are applauded for so little.
As I’ve mentioned before, I am not so concerned with applauding men who accept the label of “feminist.” I simply watch what men say and do more than if they claim the label “feminist” or not. Do they uphold sexist oppression or do they challenge it? Do they only have an issue with sexist oppression when the target is a White woman? Almost no one takes a stand in defense of Black women, ever. This is what I watch. Do their concerns permeate more than performing masculinity in a way that they think is acceptable in feminist space solely to maintain authoritative positioning no less? Are they more concerned with not being viewed as “bad men” or patriarchal versus challenging oppression any and everywhere it exists, and not solely sexist oppression? This is what I watch. Are they more concerned about “correcting” anti-feminist women or women who’ve internalized sexism and face a greater risk from rejecting patriarchy than most men ever will or are they actually challenging other men’s patriarchal and oppressive thinking for once? Are they fighting for the microphone versus making already male dominated space feminist space? Are they concerned with speaking over women and lecturing women on why patriarchy is bad while ignoring how male privilege gives them the space to do so or are they actually interested in the end of patriarchal domination, including within progressive space? This is what I watch.
I am not interested in handing out trophies to men for feminism nor am interested in them proving how they are “better” than other men and thereby require reward, especially when some abuse while claiming that they are better than men who don’t label as “feminist.” I am interested in anti-oppression praxis that will of course include challenging their own patriarchal notions of masculinity and how they treat women interpersonally, but this work requires more than interpersonal relationships and “proving” how “good” they are. The same work I require from myself is required from men, period. And while certain things will eclipse their experiences and knowledge because of male privilege (and all men do not experience male privilege in the same way; White men with class privilege versus Black men with or without it are not living the same lives as men, for example; this is why knowledge of more than just patriarchy and masculinity is needed by all male feminists; a grasp of intersectionality, not linear concepts on gender is need) still more is required than being a “nice” guy focused on studying masculinity and little else.
Related Essay List: Womanism, Black Feminism and Race In Feminist Discourse (Updated)
Back in May I posted an essay list with some of my essays specifically on womanism, Black feminism and race in feminist discourse, though just about anything I write is shaped by a womanist lens and an intersectional world view/experiences. I’ve since written more essays within this theme, so here’s an updated essay list.
- My Feminism Is…
- On The Word “Womanist” Being “Made Up”
- Who Can Be A Womanist?
- On Womanism and Greater Inclusivity In The Margins…
- The Impact Of White Privilege On Womanism
- Respectability Politics ≠ Womanism/Black Feminism
- Attempts To Silence Womanist/Feminist Writers
- Music As A Source Of Womanist Scholarship
- What The 20-Year-Old Tupac Song “Keep Ya Head Up” Means To Me As A Womanist
- Goodie Mob’s Song “Understanding” Takes A More Nuanced Approach To “The Other Woman”
- A Note To Some Feminist Black Men: Though bell hooks Is Exquisite, There’s More To Black Feminism Than bell hooks
- On Black Men Who Use The Words Of Angela, Assata or Audre To Silence Other Black Women
- Fresh Outta Trophies To Give To Feminist Black Men
- Callousness and Betrayal By Yet Another “Feminist” Black Man…
- A Black Man Asked “Whose ‘Side’ Are Black Women On?”
- Examining The Claim of White Women’s Oppression By Black Men With “First” Or “More” Rights
- Patriarchal and White Supremacist Feminist Binaries That Oppress Black Women
- The Idea of Feminism Isn’t The Problem; The Current Manifestation Of “Mainstream Feminism” Is
- On Feminist “Branding” and Consumption
- Feminisms; Plural…
- Exploitation of Black Women’s Labor…In The Name of Feminism or Justice? Please.
- How EVERYONE Works Together To Silence Women of Colour’s Critiques of Mainstream Feminism
- On Hugo Schwyzer, White Supremacist Mainstream Feminism and Its Abuse of Women of Colour
- Feminism Is Already Valid; It Doesn’t Need Celebrity Approval
- What’s Really Going On With White Feminists’ Critiques of Beyoncé?
- White Feminists Who Think Of Michelle Obama’s Identity As An Assault On Their Own Identities
- So Lena Dunham Is Your Pathway To Feminism? Ha.
- Race and The Attention Wars Amidst Feminist Discourse
- The Predictable Cycle of White Liberal “Humor” At Black Women’s Expense
- The Academe Was My Introduction To White Supremacist Feminism
- Black Women Are Not Just White Women’s “Allies” In Feminism
- Black Women Do Not Have To Reject Any Mention Of Beauty To Be Womanist/Feminist
- I Don’t Have To Like What White Women Like: Pop Culture and Feminism
- "You’re A…Feminist Blogger?"
- I Am STILL HERE For Feminism
- 7 Attacks On Feminism
- I Don’t Like The Word “Unfeminist”
Answers to Asks/Tweet-Related Posts:
- sex work, sex positive feminism and inclusion of sex worker feminism in womanism [X]
- White feminists patting themselves on the back for *finally* recognizing Black women’s humanity [X]
- solidarity with non-Black women of colour [X] [X] [X] [X]
- word origins: womanism, intersectionality, matrix of domination, misogynoir [X]
- some celebrity Black women with womanist politics [X]
- racist language in White feminist propaganda [X]
- writing Black characters and on being an ally [X]
- educating others on racism and safety as a Black woman [X] [X]
Of course like any other womanist/Black feminist, my thoughts on feminism and all anti-oppression theory, politics and praxis change (and hopefully evolve) over time, so as I progress I will certainly expand on certain ideas and some have evolved even since I’ve written some of these posts, as some are older than others.
As far as basic questions that examine the similarities and differences between womanism and feminism, see the first several posts in this essay list and also these quotes and my notes: [X] [X] [X] [X] [X] [X] [X].
This quote comes from her brilliant discussion with bell hooks on how people tried to shape her response to poor shaming that occurred on her show as her being irrationally angry and as some personality facet, when it was simply a legitimate response to a very disgusting problem of classism and racism in America. And this uniquely happens to Black women based on long held stereotypes and controlling images about Black womanhood, shaped by misogynoir.
I saw the film 12 Years A Slave on Saturday. It’s one of the greatest films I’ve ever seen in my lifetime. From when I saw the trailer, I knew it would be something different. A (British) Black man (Steve McQueen) who is unapologetically Black, a critical thinker about race/media and a visionary as a director lead this film. It has a brilliant cast full of talented people, is a more truthful exploration of slavery (based on a slave narrative by the real life Solomon Northup, though there are contextual and thereby directorial historical deviations) and the intended audience actually includes Black people (H/T @heavenrants), versus Black people being expected to view slavery through the White Gaze, satire or hyperbole. There’s a difference; see bell hooks’ books Black Looks: Race and Representation and Reel To Real: Race, Sex and Class At The Movies to understand gazes in a sociopolitical sense.
It’s…profound. There is no award worthy of this film. Not that the film is not worthy of awards; of course it is. There is simply no award worthy of this film. None. (I think @jsmooth995 said it best.) It was devastatingly complicated and beautiful. I truly saw the humanity of the enslaved, who I know Black people to be verus a film meant to coddle the White imagination and guilt.
"In evading my humanity, you have done something to your own humanity." - James Baldwin
The only thing that I will mention (from a visual artist’s point of view) is that having some of the shots linger so that sense of time was grasped yet comfortability completely dismantled was genius. I’ve never seen this done, especially on this topic. It wasn’t just torture porn nor were scenes quickly moving forward as to have the audience forget. Nope. No country for delusions. The truth had to be faced head on. The sense of timing and pacing, the length of time (i.e. “Solomon’s” time alone when first captured, the time he spent stranded in the noose, the lingered expressions on his face before he joined in and sang the hymnal at the funeral with the rest of the enslaved Black people, when he kinda broke the fourth wall and stared at the audience towards the end of the film) McQueen allowed to elapse and what the cinematographer did with this is only a small part of the layers of genius of the film.
But it was also a painful film in ways that I cannot always fully articulate with words. I felt that pain in my spirit, my skin, my bones, my heart, my existence. I still feel it. I…well…felt it before I saw the film, actually.
I’ve decided that I will only discuss (the sociopolitical aspects, womanist politics etc.) this film in detail offline. The level of non-derailed nuance needed to discuss such a film is better for me to seek offline. Despite the fact that I have pages of notes that I wrote after I saw the film, I won’t be posting them here. There won’t be a film review or any thoughts laid out like flesh for buzzards and vultures to pick around and carry back to their larger nests especially for the upcoming film award season. Thus far, I’ve had three really great offline conversations with Black women in regards to 12 Years A Slave. Deep. A lot about “Patsey,” of course, but the entire film itself.
Unlike some middle class Black people that I’ve seen mention this, I don’t have general slavery film fatigue. I have “ahistorical, White supremacist, White Gaze, coddle the White folks, let’s only reward White folks, torture porn without context” slavery film fatigue. I do not view all films as the same just because they are in the same genre or cover a similar topic. There is no reason to even mention the mess of Django Unchained and the genius of 12 Years A Slave in the same breath for comparison purposes. That’s like contextually comparing Airplane and The Aviator solely because both involve planes. It’s like comparing Red Tails and A Soldier’s Story. Laughable.
While I do prefer modern portraits of Blackness over period pieces (like the work Ava DuVernay is doing) if slavery is shown cinematically ever again and it is not of the level and nuance of 12 Years A Slave with a vision that eludes the White Gaze, I won’t care to see it. The bar has been set in the stratosphere. In other words, it’s important and I am enjoying discussing this offline. I won’t have these conversations here or on Twitter though. Nah.
Thus "what are your thoughts?" type of inquiries aren’t needed. Suggesting this is not a doorway for bland, robotic The Onion style “humor" where you ask me the question I just said don’t ask. I already explained how I handle such people from now on. Further, I will simply ignore/block people who reblog this post just to insert their multi-paragraph film review into my space. That’s what YOUR blog is for. And for the smart asses who think this short post is a review, so why did I say “no review,” I say they’ve must’ve never read my actual reviews or writing in general. And yes, I’ve read other reviews and analyses so I don’t need links on them filling my email box. *sigh*
Anyway, try to see this film if you can. It’s a must!
From Remembered Rapture: The Writer at Work. I 100% agree. We NEED our words. They save lives. Including our own.
This quote is from her phenomenal essay Dig Deep: Beyond Lean In on The Feminist Wire. I think she pointed out something really important that helps move past individualistic critique on Lean In to again, an institutional/systems view with an intersectional lens. It’s about Sheryl Sandberg but it’s about more than her. It’s a critical essay especially in the age of neoliberal, 1%, mainstream feminism. The essay gets into race/class and reveals how a lot of respectability politics and bootstrap theory is involved in this corporate reshaping of feminism. MUST READ.
[I originally published this list in February 2013, and have since updated it and the title, adding some new essays and removing a few old ones.]
I recognize the important intersectional, anti-oppression theory and praxis (and not only anti-racism) that many Black men articulate and engage in and I speak about that good work; I never suggest that there are no Black men interested in such work. In addition, I regularly recognize Black men on my “sublime men" tag and quote/cite their work as well.
However, I am NOT going to be silent about the impact of intraracial sexism, misogynoir and patriarchal oppression by Black men and its impact on my own life, Black women’s lives and Black people in general. However, I discuss it with an intersectional lens and within the larger context of White supremacist capitalist patriarchy itself because “arbitrary” pathology doesn’t exist nor do I promote decontextualized blaming, as that wouldn’t be Womanist work.
Most people understand patriarchy and sexism, but I will briefly define misogynoir here: Term coined by Moya Bailey, its etymology = hybrid word, -e not currently used on the end. From the word misogyny: miso-: hater, gyn-: woman, noir: Black. Specific anti-Black misogyny. Race and gender, together, intersectionally are factors. This type of misogyny has a binary with White women (who still face general misogyny) where White women represent “good” womanhood and Black women do not or has hierarchical levels that include other women of colour, but only insofar as Black women are placed at the bottom because of anti-Blackness. It’s especially virulent historically and can be proliferated by anyone in a social sense though in an institutional sense how its articulated by others varies based on White/male privilege etc. This essay list speaks to how male privilege, sexism and intraracial patriarchal oppression by Black men who are misogynistic and misogynoiristic impacts Black women; but most certainly Whites engage in this (as its origins are in White supremacy and the construction of White womanhood, and my other writing and essay lists on White supremacy/racism etc. speak to this) and even how/why Black men oppress is connected to the larger context of White supremacist capitalist patriarchy because the role of anti-Blackness in White supremacy and the role of sexism and misogyny in patriarchy intersect. See: Misogyny, In General vs. Anti-Black Misogyny (Misogynoir), Specifically.
Below are some of my essays on Black patriarchy, intraracial sexism and misogynoir:
- Black Women Do Not Need Black Men’s Permission To Control Our Hair/Bodies
- Black Women and Domestic Violence (Awareness Month)
- Scandal: On Black Men’s Disdain For “Olivia Pope”
- When Gay Men Are Misogynistic
- Misogyny, In General vs. Anti-Black Misogyny (Misogynoir), Specifically
- Fresh Outta Trophies To Give To Feminist Black Men
- Callousness and Betrayal By Yet Another “Feminist” Black Man…
- How Anti-Blackness Shapes Heterosexual Black Men’s Dating “Preferences”
- It’s Not “Racist” For Black Women To Discuss Black Men and Rape
- Rape “Prevention” Advice That Doesn’t Include Tips For Men’s Behavior = Rape Culture
- On Black Men Who Use The Words Of Angela, Assata or Audre To Silence Other Black Women
- The “Me Me Me” Patriarchal Men
- You’re A Blithering Misogynist…and UOENO
- A Perspective From Some Black Men That I Am NOT Here For
- Black American Families Are Not “Matriarchal”
- Can Black Men Understand Black Women’s Experiences With Sexism/Misogynoir Without An Immediate Parallel Made To Racism?
- Did You Call Me “Fatherless” As An Insult?
- A Black Man Asked “Whose ‘Side’ Are Black Women On?”
- I Don’t Want “Advice” On My Body From Men
- I Won’t Accept Abuse In The Name Of Racial “Unity”
- A Silencing Tactic Used Against Black Women Who Speak Out Against Rape Culture
- A Black Man Blamed The Onion’s Attack On Quvenzhané On Black Women
- Dealing With Men Who Are Anti-Racism, Yet Pro-Sexism/Homophobia
- Black Male “Relationship Counselors” On Twitter Have Taken A Turn For The Worst
- Nice Guys™ and Race
- Black Men, Patriarchal Masculinity and Django Unchained
- Black Masculinity, Dating, and Twitter
- Black Women’s “Unreasonable” Dating Standards
- Submissive Is A Noun Now?
- I Don’t Have To Know You To Care
- Patriarchy Is Not Logical, Boo
- Patriarchal Thinking Is Hypocritical Thinking
- Here’s The Deal…
- Who Hates Black Men? Who Indeed…
- Race, Gender and Violence
- Delusions of Black Patriarchy
- The Faux “Allies” of Black Men
- Not Interested In Patriarchal Labels For Women…
- Submission? Nope. Kthanxbai.
- A Great Compliment From A Man…
- A Core Problem That Black Women Face In Regards To Domestic Violence
- Why People Listen To Steve Harvey’s Advice (Ugh…)
- Why I Don’t Like Tyler Perry’s Work
- Social Justice and Cultural Hierarchy
While street harassment (or any form of gender oppression) is not specific to Black men (as all men benefit from sexism and male privilege [which has variances based on race/class/sexual orientation/cis vs. trans,intersex etc.] and though harmed by patriarchy as well, still exhibit patriarchal dominance over women), most gender violence that Black women experience is at the hands of Black men where Black men dominate and oppress Black women. (This is recent. Historically, there was a time where the primary threat of interpersonal violence Black women faced was statistically by White men though via State violence, sexism, misogyny, misogynoir, racism and White supremacy, White men still harm and greatly oppress Black women [and Black men via racism]). This intraracial oppression is not arbitrary pathology and I examine it intersectionally, where White supremacist capitalist patriarchy and its impact on Black masculinity, as well as Black men experiencing oppression while oppressive is included.
The essays on street harassment below are newer and then the final bullet is an essay list on street harassment that covers my other essays on the topic except for the newer ones mentioned above it.
- Things Street Harassing Black Men Actually Have Said To Me…
- Street Harassment and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
- On Street Harassment: The Incident Count
- Why Some Black People Don’t Want Me To Discuss Street Harassment
- I Don’t Discuss Street Harassment As A Leeway To Dating Advice For Men
- Street Harassment: Fear On Both Sides of The Street
- On Street Harassment (Essay List Updated…)
A few things. One, this essay list is not a free for all for random academics to exploit. Do not fuck with me. See my Content Use Policy. Two, this is about what I and other Black women experience; it is not a post for White feminists to co-opt and then use to claim how misogynistic Black men are to White women while completely ignoring the utter havoc and oppression that White men and White supremacy cause globally or to ignore the oppression that White women also cause Black women via White privilege and racism. It’s not for White feminists to use to parallel the racism Black men experience to the sexism that White women experience while purposely ignoring and erasing that Black women experience both. Check your own race of men and your White privilege first. Three, this work is not about portraying Black men as “more” misogynistic than other men when all men have male privilege and White men’s class and White privilege means how they use and abuse power is unmatched, globally. Women of colour face abuse and oppression from men of colour AND from White women and especially from White men. However, this work is about the oppression that Black women face intraracially.
There are definitely more oppressions that impact Black women, in general, to consider (i.e. classism, colourism [though some of what I wrote include these] and fatphobia/fat shaming, homophobia, transphobia/transmisogyny etc.) that other Black women may articulate on much better than I can.
This essay list is not conclusive and the end all on the topic. It’s simply some of MY work on the topic.
"Everyone seems eager to forget that it is possible for Black women to love Black men and yet unequivocally challenge and oppose sexism, male domination and phallocentrism." - bell hooks
©2013 Gradient Lair
Because I am a visual artist, I do like the idea of a nice template and a palette and design across multiple platforms that have a certain aesthetic that speaks to my taste, specifically. So yeah, the logo, the fonts, how I organize my blog etc. matters to me because I like that uniformity and organization as a type A, Virgo person or whatever. I love the idea that women of colour come to my blog and easily find whatever it is they’re interested in and think that what I create and share includes tools that facilitate critical reflection and anti-oppression praxis. Thus, the aesthetic aspect of branding makes sense to me. But…
…I don’t like when “brand” has to go beyond this. Where “brand” exists in place of a person. And the buzzwords. I don’t wanna be an authentic useful guru expert evangelist guerrilla social media savant unicorn badass BAMF cyborg shape-shifter deceptacon. I am a body, not a brand. I am a person, not a personality.
And when I see feminism now, feminists discussing “branding,” I feel icky all over and want to put on Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce’s track cleats and run away like lightning. I really like how Black feminists Mikki Kendall and Sydette Harry challenge this “branding speak” in feminism. A global movement has to be for everyone and more than about repackaging the same old hierarchies and problems that plague mainstream feminism today. Not only without White and male privilege, but without “brand” recognition and mainstream acceptance, it means I’m actively “consenting" to plagiarism, paternalism (where Black women can only be “victims to save” or “problems of” feminism) and silencing in some people’s minds.
I loathe Goldilocks journalism, which I think functions because of how brands play into White supremacist capitalist patriarchy. Thus, as a womanist and writer in the margins, my essays are too analytical for some, not analytical enough for others, just right when someone else plagiarizes them. I am never fitting to their “brands” to recognize, only to take. Only to consume. What happens is even in the quest of learning, even with the supposed quest of genuine feminist praxis, everything becomes a consumable good where the end result seems to be consumption not revolution. And my issue is, me the person am always deemed something solely to consume as well, not even just my work, which is bad enough.
Even a few days ago (and before) I mentioned how I really loathe when Whites send their Twitter follow Fridays around demanding that other Whites follow me just to “learn.” The consumable good (me, a person) is still never fully human to them, even if the type of consumption itself is deemed “positive.” Embracing everyone’s wholeness and full humanity is not solely an intellectual activity. So they can choose to memorize everything I write and say and even use it with or without permission in their own work, but that’s not really the point. This isn’t solely intellectual exercise. Without any actual compassion and recognition (and Melissa Harris-Perry wrote eloquently about the plague of misrecognition for Black women), then they’re just consuming me and all of the other Black women and women of colour that they do this to. When bell hooks mentioned "eating the other" she really spoke a word. A word!
I don’t only engage with people to “learn” and absorb things from them to then regurgitate in my own work for my own “brand” instead of to be more adequately prepared to fight oppression itself. I think of people as human, even ones online! I know…radical! So I want to talk to them, laugh with them, crack jokes with them, talk about our favorite television shows and art. Offer them support. Give them digital hugs when they need one. Truly listen to them. Recognize them. Did I mention laugh? And sure, we’re automatically going to learn from each other because we’re walking the road of complicated humanity and unsure existences with each other (even if our experiences and identities differ, and these differences can be acknowledged, as Audre Lorde so beautifully explained), but we recognize each other.
White people don’t recognize me. They see a collection of stereotypes at worse something to voyeuristically experience in the middle and a portal of information for consumption and a stepping stone for their “progressive” careers at best. I can count on my fingers how many White people I think actually see me, actually recognize me.
I don’t need them to see me though. My self-worth is not based on their recognition. I don’t want a seat at their table. I want them to stop setting fire to my table in a different room in a different house that they try to rob. Feminism is not solely about sitting at tables but dismantling walls and building bridges; about challenging the structures that make those tables so exclusive in the first place. However, them not seeing me, even when they think they “care” because they want to “learn” and consume me, can mean they harm me. Since I am endlessly harmed by the very minute of my existence as a Black woman, I kinda want to avoid that as much as possible. I don’t expect most people to care or love me; I need them to not harm me though.
And people think these are the same two things. But they aren’t always mutually inclusive (something @bad_dominicana taught me). It makes me think about something Audre Lorde wrote about Black men and Black women: "support against outsiders is very different from cherishing each other." Yeah, some Black men stand up against racism in general but that doesn’t mean they love, respect or care about me as a Black woman. And really, I don’t even ask them to at times. But I do need them to not harm me. For example, I don’t need a Black man to tell me I am beautiful or smart or any of that. I do need him not to street harass me (or do nothing while another Black man street harasses me) or endlessly carry on about how White women are “better.” I don’t need White people to do anything beyond not harming me (whether individually or institutionally) and they need to understand that approaching feminism like a brand, like a consumable good, like people are things to consume, is going to continue the harm against women of colour. To me, genuine compassion from Whites doesn’t require deep romantic or platonic or anything in between love. It does, however, require recognition of my humanity at a level superior to how they recognize Whites. Why? Because even Whiteness itself filters them from truly seeing themselves. They most certainly can’t fully recognize my humanity then.
Sometimes I feel like a corpse having my flesh gleefully picked away and told to be honored to be consumed since I taste delicious and new and fresh. But the problem is that I am not a corpse and in fact am alive. And I feel every bite. And I know once all that is left is skin and bones, the consumers will be on to their next meal. I mean, that’s what is done with “brands” right?
When I articulated what my feminism is (#MyFeminismIs) nothing about it was solely consumption of feminists or feminist politics. It was about critical reflection, challenging the oppressive thinking I embody within, challenging the major planes of oppression: internal, familial, relational, media, legislative, cultural, societal. I don’t see how making feminism a “funny” thing and a consumable good, and a slogan, and a catch phrase, and something cis hetero able-bodied White men in the middle class “approve” of and are willing to “fund” will do anything for the people who need revolution not rebranding. But maybe that’s their true point. That the status quo remains preserved. If so, then that’s what I am fighting against, not for. The point. The status quo. The brand.
Welp! I think bell called out those Gold Medal cake flour shower ashy Noah and the ankh dudebruh kinda men (ironically the ones who troll me daily) and their partners; the ones who entrap young Black people into thinking along the lines of really rigid heteropatriarchal notions of Blackness.
I promise we can ground our liberation work, our anti-oppression praxis in fact not fantasy, in nuance not narrow mindedness. And though there is an exquisite history of royalty, I promise not everyone was a king or queen. That’s…not logical or possible…or necessary. We are VALUABLE even when we are average.
I promise that being an “average” Black person is okay and still quite exceptional considering the circumstances, and that though someone like me may never be Harriet or Assata, I’m still critically reflecting, listening, reading, learning, writing, deconstructing, engaging in dialogue, protesting, educating, fighting, resisting, changing and evolving.
Oh my goodness…you’re gonna make me cry. <3
Apparently Fast Company created a list of 25 smart women on Twitter. As with most lists created by mainstream publications, the list is predominately White and predominately women of social status. Now, ignoring the first part for a second, the list still could have included Black women on Twitter like Anthea Butler, Melissa Harris Perry and Kerry Washington, if social status is a factor. Back to the first part, most lists are about reinforcing hegemony. I know this as a photographer since “best image” lists are usually of White subjects and include photographs created by White photographers. These lists will repeat the same 20 or so White male photographers year after year in many cases.
In response to this, the trending topic #SmartBlackWomenofTwitter came about and was started by @FeministaJones. What I did was made a Twitter list which you can follow and/or individually follow members of the list: Sublime Black Women
…racism is perpetuated when Blackness is associated solely with concrete gut level experiences conceived as either opposing or having no connection to abstract thinking and the production of critical theory. The idea that there is no meaningful connection between Black experience and critical thinking about aesthetics or culture must be continually interrogated.
Black women are rarely ever associated with intelligence let alone womanhood. "All the women are White…"
"Woman" is so readily associated with "Whiteness" that unfortunately even some White trans women are suggesting that there needs to be more outrage about Chelsea Manning being placed in a men’s prison yet they are unaware/ignoring the fact that Black trans woman CeCe McDonald is in a men’s prison now and cis, yes cis Black woman Assata Shakur was placed in one for a while as well, decades ago before her escape from this country altogether (which @Karnythia brought up a few days ago). So the correct assumption is that if a cis WHITE woman was placed in a men’s prison, there would be outrage. Because for Black women, cis or trans, this has already happened. (And yes, there needs to be outrage for Chelsea and CeCe.)
Even within marginalized groups among White people, White supremacist thinking prevails. But again it’s rare that a White woman even knows who Assata is. Why is that? Well…for the same reason that Fast Company didn’t think to place Black women on their list despite Black users making up 25% of Twitter (clearly overrepresented compared to our actual population size). The White hegemonic frame of thinking naturally marginalizes or excludes Black women, our experiences, our epistemology. Further, the White supremacist concept of Whiteness as “universal” and being able to be representative of any and all experiences is why even if the creators of these lists don’t “intend” to be racist, their actions reveal White supremacist thinking. It doesn’t even occur to them that women who are not White or of great social status could be intelligent. The same thing occurs with scholarship, in general. As Layli Phillips notes in The Womanist Reader:
Black women’s scholarship has placed Black women and their experiences at the center of analysis just like traditional White men’s scholarship has placed White men and their experiences at the center of analysis; the crucial difference is that Black women’s scholarship has articulated and owned the centering, whereas traditional White men’s scholarship has not. Black women’s scholarship does not parade as universal, but rather it emanates from a point of acute authenticity and invites others to participate in a similar, equally authentic, process. While traditional White men’s scholarship presumes to have a monopoly on content as well as method, Black women’s scholarship underscores the fallacy and pomposity of such a presumption.
When White-owned publications seek to comment on intelligence, the stories are usually about White men. When it is about “women” the stories are then primarily about White women. Whether or not ignorance or maliciousness is the intent of these publications, it doesn’t really matter. Intent is irrelevant when the ramifications of hegemonic thinking occurs.
And let’s be clear, while some Whites (and sadly also some people of colour) will be quick to claim "well you shouldn’t need their acceptance," again, this is not about a sorority or who gets to eat the cookies. This is about large media organizations operating as tools to reinforce hegemony. And when Black women are purposely or accidentally excluded in every sphere possible, from important lists of influence to employment to media representation, it matters. It’s not about acceptance. It’s about respect and the unraveling of the status quo. It’s about challenging hegemonic thinking that reinforces White supremacy.