I’ve been a feminist for over a year now, and it definitely took a conversion to get to this point. I used to believe things like girls could be sluts, and that I was friends with the guys because girls are inherently drama-filled attention seekers — what I now understand to be manifestations of my own internalized sexism.
As I’ve learned more about feminism and the way it’s trying to bring justice and equality to all people in the world, regardless of gender, I’ve realized how many of these attempts only focus on certain aspects of one’s identity which often leads to solutions based on tunnel vision. It was in this understanding that I began to identify as an intersectional feminist, realizing that my race, class, ability, sexuality, gender, economic status, and education all play a role in the feminism that I can relate to… and that that feminism does not necessarily mean it’s a righteous endeavor to fight for. As a light-skinned (“mixed-black”), upper middle class, cisgender expressive, mostly straight “educated” woman, I’m in many ways in a position that oppresses others. If I chose to focus exclusively on the problems I face as the kind of woman I am, I’d be missing a whole side to the feminist spectrum where my existence creates justification for violence and discrimination against poor, uneducated, and/or trans*/queer people of color, especially black women, queer and cis alike.
The point I’m trying to illustrate is that our identities are much more complex than we sometimes feel they are, or want to believe they are. It’s sometimes impractical or guilt-inducing to understand our full selves and the oppression we are directly involved in. It’s nice to think about oppression as some far-away thing that’s happening where you can learn about it in theory but ignore it in your own personal life.
But if we do that are we really fighting for justice and equality? And if not, is that still feminism? NO.
And this is why feminism is so important to everyone. Not just women, not just white women. Black women need feminism too.
I came across a video the other day of a black woman flaunting her natural hair and dark brown skin. She had a sharp voice and a strong opinion: Black women don’t need feminism. She went on to talk about how feminism is destructive to society (you know, the globally racist, classist, capitalist, phobic patriarchal one), and that black women were suckered into feminism by white women which as a result forced black women into the work force which in turn destroyed our relationship with black men and the black family unit… All in an attempt to be “equal” to men, which we “naturally and instinctively will never be”.
Now, while we all may be able to clearly identify the flaws in her logic (black women were always in the work force since they arrived on America’s shores in chains and many of our problems with black men stem from history and internalized racism on THEIR end), her video was viewed almost 10,000 times and received soaring comments of praise (no shock that many of the comments were by infatuated misogynoir black men). That’s 10,000 people who listened to almost 40 minutes of a girl retelling a false history of feminism in order to dismiss black women who are speaking out on the injustices they face as women, and silence those being oppressed. This woman clearly doesn’t understand that our identities as black women intersect at race and gender because of a long history of structural violence against us. So for her to use the credibility of her skin and gender to tell other black women that feminism is bad for them and destructive to their communities is really to tell marginalized black women to ignore systemic problems they may be facing in their own lives.
Anyway, I made my first video about it, because after 24 hours I was still feeling so nauseous by what I had heard this woman say and wanted to try and set the record straight. I’m not shooting for 10,000 views but just to counter the ignorance that is now floating around on youtube (there’s already enough out their for a few lifetimes). Silence is compliance, and I’ve sworn never to be silent when I see injustice. Skewing history to keep black women from feminist ideals is injustice.
So, I hope that’s cleared it up. And now to focus on black women who are working everyday to dismantle the misogynoir patriarchy, not reinforce it. Crystal Velentine and Aaliyah Jihad are two spoken-word activists breaking down the sexism they’ve faced. Check em out and try to tell me #1) you weren’t covered in goosebumps with your jaw on the floor by the end an #2) that you as a black woman (or even a black man) can’t relate to their shared experiences.
A systemic problem is an individual problem everyone (of a particular group) is having. FEMINISM IS THE ANTIDOTE TO SEXISM, RACISM, COLORISM, CLASSISM, HOMOPHOBIA, TRANSPHOBIA.
INTERSECTIONALITY, PEOPLE, WAS COINED BY A FEMINIST!!!!
So now, let’s please keep going.