Author’s Note: I know the title alone is going to upset some people. I know persons are going to come flocking into this post to try and “educate” me and assume I know nothing about feminism and how I’m drawing negative connotations thanks to Rush Limbaugh and his ilk. NOPE. I am speaking from my own experiences, observations, and conversations. This is about me and at no point am I advocating anyone else think like me. If you want to follow a concept, do it for your own reasons and not because of what someone else says or thinks.
I already anticipate the complete ignoring of my thoughts and feelings that are typical of feminist backlash at this point. It ALWAYS happens when a black woman expresses her anger at the feminist cause, however valid that anger may be. She is told at some point to “sit down and shut up for the sake of ‘the cause’”. Any black woman trying to convince me otherwise (1) has not been exposed to white-privilege centered feminism long enough (2) never had any intention of representing their interests as a black woman, and thus have been spared that hurtful experience (3) it already happened and they missed it or (4) they’re too busy doing it to others to appreciate the irony.
But, I don’t care what the race of the person is who rushes in and tries to “shh” me. Not gonna happen. This post will stand, as will my feelings whether you like them or not. And if you don’t like them, perhaps that energy can be applied to appreciating how the badly movement deals with the issues and concerns of women who are of color rather than acting like the problems and issues are just with these women, are all in their heads, and that the bigger issue is them “not offering their unconditional support”.
I’ve tried to write this article a couple of times and both times I backed down. It’s not a comfortable thing to express as a woman who holds ideals that are very much feminist at heart. And yet I want nothing to do with the feminist movement. I do not call myself a feminist. And odds are, so long as certain attitudes prevail, never will.
Why would any woman who believes in freedom, choice, and equality for all women not want to be part of the feminist movement? Well, I think I pretty much answered my question: I believe very strongly in these things. And because I do, I will not consider myself part of anything that I feel does not fully represent those ideals for ALL women as claimed.
All women, and not primarily just white, upper middle class and educated women. And anyone who honestly thinks that there is no hierarchy in that order regarding representation of the interests of women when it relates to feminism is far less cynical and jaded than myself.
For my part, I have found time and time again that feminism as a movement has me on a “waiting list”.
I would not be crossing the “equality” finish line with the other victors. No, I would have to get mine after someone else gets their’s first. Black women, you will get your equality, dignity, and respect when white women get theirs…maybe. And I’m sure there are black feminists now who are shaking their heads and believing the opposite. Welcome to the hell of intersectionality: If you aren’t getting it from one group, you’re getting it from another. And if you’re a black woman, you’re probably actually getting it from all of sides.
You’ve just decided that for the sake of your own sanity, you’ll consider the bigotry, discrimination, and invisibility you have to put up with from one group less harmful than from others. You’ve just weighed a part of your soul and decided that you won’t miss it as much as the the other parts. But that doesn’t change the fact that a part of your soul is now missing.
Perhaps I should use an example of what I’m talking about for people who don’t get it and who scoff at what I’ve just said.
At the time when I had previously considered submitting this post, I’d gotten into a brief argument with a young woman about the problematic statement of a particular white feminist by the name of Camille Paglia. The white feminist in question was hating on a series of current women pop artists, and how negatively their image was impacting young women today. I thought she made a couple of good points. However, at the close of the article, she lost me entirely. Paglia ended with a lament that went, and I quote:
Middle-class white girls will never escape the cookie-cutter tyranny of their airless ghettos until the entertainment industry looks into its soul and starts giving them powerful models of mature womanliness.’
And it was the sentence where myself and other women of color went, “Oh look, yet another white feminist carrying on about themselves and acting like WOC don’t exist, and neither do our concerns or problems.”
What got me though was that even though some white feminists expressed understanding at the reasons why some black women were reluctant to have anything to do with feminism, you had other women who thought that the anger that non-white women were expressing at being blatantly ignored was “a distraction” and that there were “bigger fish to fry”. Yes, let’s completely ignore the underlying classist and racist implications of that phrase and the ideology it represents.
Because when black women join someone else’s cause, no matter what criticisms they put forth, there’s always something more important than what they have to say on the matter.
And this got to me because this seemed to be the much more common narrative when it comes to white women feminists and the concerns and anger of black women.
A situation I’m still desperately trying to forget ever being made aware of went down in 2008. And if you can believe it, I am actually NOT addressing the ugly tug of war that had black women being blatantly expected to choose between their gender and race in the political primaries (because how else DO we make our decisions?!). No, I’m talking about a situation so ugly, one young white feminist had to write a PSA telling other white feminists just how badly they are bungling their relationship with women outside their precious hierarchy. What’s sad is that even though other complaints have been written by women of color regarding their treatment by white feminists, it took a white feminist trying to tell other white feminists to stop what they’re doing to get as much attention as it did (which, sadly, remains rather inadequate).
The wall of racial privilege that confronted me when faced with this very recent issue was the equivalent of “Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here.” I do not begrudge black women who charge ahead anyway, believing that they can encourage and educate feminists as a whole regarding THEIR unique issues, and that these things will one day be given equal weight. But I have increasingly been overcome with a sense of ”not for me, not about me, no thanks” when it comes to the feminist movement. And I’m not fighting or denying this feeling anymore. I’m done.
And the more I looked around, the more I found the sentiments expressed here about the anger and sadness of WOC was not at all rare. One only had to glance at the wiki for Womanism and why it exists to understand how utterly ignored black woman have always been by the white-centric feminist movement.
Well, except for certain situations where certain feminists feel perfectly comfortable co-opting our situation as black women and making it about themselves.
And I’m talking about a big ugly portion of the backlash related to “No Wedding, No Womb”.
First and foremost, even though it’s not my movement or concept, after looking it over I think I can safely say no-wedding-no-womb is not and has never been directed at or ever about white women. Nevertheless, leave it to white privilege to make a door where there isn’t one.
A privileged group has no qualms about coming into a conversation that’s not about them and either making it about their thoughts and feelings, telling that group how they ought to think and feel or both.
Privilege means shaming and talking over the disenfranchised group from your ivory tower where you know damn well that their problems are not your problems because you never intended to make them your problems and certainly never to help alleviate them. And that’s something I’ve observed as it relates to this situation, and the audacity would have been shocking if I didn’t already know the mindset of the people involved.
How can white women who have never existed in an ethnic group where pervasive OOWness was a massive problem, fix their mouths to preach to someone about the validity of their cause? Especially while not bothering drumming up a serious campaign regarding a sensible alternative (being a mule for the black community is not a sensible alternative, thanks) to help these women out of their situation? Oh, and don’t look to these women to do so, not with any mass motivation. If you exist in a structure that appreciates a caste system that you are not at the bottom of, why break your neck to lift others out of those systems?
How else could such persons totally overlook the irony of the fact that there are VALID arguments that the white racist patriarchy, through the institution of slavery, helped established this norm among the poor and uneducated black population? The very SAME white racist patriarchy that has largely gone out of its way to shield and protect the majority of white women from the sort of destitution suffered by black women as a result of a crumbling black family structure among the increasingly permanent black underclass?! Yes, the very same evil patriarchy that allows many of the white feminists to have achieved the wealth, privilege, and power that has moved white women as far forward as they have come, inarguably much further than other groups of women further down the hierarchy ladder that we aren’t supposed to acknowledge as existing.
And even worse, you have some black feminists volunteering as battering rams for these women to beat down the doors of this particular cause, and so many black woman-centric causes; because what can black women achieve on their own that doesn’t somehow need the opinion and blessing of educated well-to-do white women?
Yes, black women came charging in to spout white-centric feminist jargon about how telling black women they should reserve their wombs for a worthy man (rather than any random and questionable black man that comes along) was somehow backwards and wrong. Because marriage is about “being property”, overrated and archaic, and yadda yadda yadda.
Now, I do a lot of reading. I do a lot of research. I am more than aware of many out-dated and harmful ideologies that modern marriage evolved out of. For example, did you know that the “best man” was a role born out of a guy helping the groom kidnap his unwilling bride-to-be? Nothing says bros-for-life quite like, “I trust you to help me stuff my future wife into an empty sack”. But then, why am I expected to remember uncomfortable relics as it relates to the institution of marriage? At least more so than uncomfortable relics of a time when many white women owned black women and treated them like furniture? Even today I’m supposed to skate over this fact because “white women were victims, too.”
Everyone’s a victim, it seems. White women feminists are victims. Male black right’s activists are victims. Both groups are crying out to black women to drop everything and come running. Both groups have made their own concerns their chief priority. Both promising in so many words that when they get theirs, the benefits will “trickle down” to black women. We are, according to these groups, EQUALLY beat down. By racism or sexism, and so we both should be allies.
So they each offer up a pill, one red and one blue. The red pill makes black women forget everything about racism and focus on fighting the Patriarchy. The blue pill makes black women forget any desire to be respected as a woman by black men and instead throw our support behind fighting “The Man”.
Both pills are placed before me, and I must understand that no matter which pill I were to take:
- I will not be the face of the cause, as it’s not my cause. I’m merely a “recruit”.
- I should sit on my concerns and anger because these things will derail from focus on overcoming “the enemy”.
- My time may or may not come, but at least I’ll feel the warm glow of someone else getting ahead…even if I’m not sharing equally with their achievement and rewards. There’s the pat on the head to look forward to. Maybe.
You know what? I fully acknowledge that both sexism AND racism exist in this world. I have been hit on the head with both, and while some people may feel comfortable looking at the mirror trying to determine which lump is bigger, I am not interested in pretending like someone didn’t hit me on the head! I will NOT be taking any “pills” and calling anyone in the morning!
I fully believe that alliances are EARNED and you don’t get to call yourself my ally and then hit me on the freaking head with your privilege. You don’t get to tell me to sit down and shut up because my unhappiness with how you go about doing things is taking away focus from “your glorious cause”. And you don’t get to use black feminists as a buffer for doing so. Because the answer is the same whether it’s white feminists or their black feminist mouth-pieces: I want no part of your bullshit.
I think purporting to be about anything other than yourself is bullshit. I think that is what makes me so angry when it comes to feminism and me as a black woman: I’ve seen this shit before. I’ve had this lie sold to me before, only it was by black men. And the driving force has always been, in my mind, a bridge built to black women on the basis of victimhood, pain, and suffering. Of unfairness and anger. This, I feel, allows black women to be better manipulated into being someone else’s toy soldier, side-kick, and mouth-piece. We are moving forward with our feelings, rather than our brains. When you are moving based on logic, you are moving with a mind that thinks and asks questions. And when you are a thinking and questioning human being, it becomes harder for someone to sell you a sob story based on emotions and have that be enough to justify why they’re much closer to the goal line than you are.
And it is on that note, I must close.
Until such time as I feel that the feminist movement isn’t just a red herring for white women trying to get extra white people privileges, I want no part of it. Until such time as I stop seeing it a sucky alternative to being on the back burner of the male-centic black right’s movement, I want no part of it. I want no part of any group, system or structure that sells the lie of being equal partners in striving to overcome inequality and oppression while that supposed ally is also standing on my neck. Some black women can say, “At least this group isn’t pressing on my windpipe with quite the force of the alternative group.” I just can’t.
I won’t call myself a feminist so long as I feel that the feminist movement itself is about something other than what the heart of feminism claims. I will not get myself wrapped up with or confused with such persons, and I have no time for disclaimers and differentiating myself from this or the other group of hypocrites. I have no time for rationalizations, expectations, and especially the idea that it’s on ME to educate and convince and change this group, rather than they do it themselves. I have no time to wait on other people getting around to me and my issues. It is not in me to be paralyzed and waiting for someone else to validate my right to be free and happy.
I’d rather make my own path and own way. I am not anti-feminism. I just am not interested being sold a leaky bucket.