(previously published on nerdhenshinlovegogo.wordpress.com by Howard Tyrone Smith II)
As a Black man, I’ve seen a good portion of the Black experience. But it’s the fact that I was raised by a highly matriarchal family, along with being raised by a father that was as well, that helped me understand (to a degree) the plight of Black women.
Now, I will admit my faults. I have a deplorable relationship with my own mother. But I believe this stems mostly from misplaced anger on both our parts.
I’ve said and done horrible and awful things to women over the years.
And I apologize.
You see, there’s been a long-standing issue in the feminist movement–a rivalry if you will–between Black and White women in the field. This issue came to a head when the #solidarityisforwhitewomen tag began to trend on Twitter and became a hot button issue on podcasts such as “TWIB after Dark” and “The Black Guy Who Tips”. This issue expanded when Patricia Arquette came out and seriously asked Black people, other people of color, and queer people to fight for their right to equal pay.
As I saw this issue be discussed and dissected, I wondered, is there a tangible way to explain or even understand why such a rivalry exists?
As a man, I realized that how I conveyed my perspective on said issue would be just as crucial as the point itself. And in my investigations, this is what I gathered as the reason:
There is a schism due to cultural paradigms.
The only reason I see why White feminists don’t seem to come to the aid of Black feminists is because while both sides are fighting male patriarchy as a whole, I see that Black feminists deal with things that I frankly don’t think their White counterparts fully understand.
For example, when the controversy over Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines began, I heard both Black and White feminists decry the song and video as the physical embodiment of rape culture.
I also came to notice what wasn’t being mentioned as much by White feminists:
The fact that, for what seems like two decades (or more), Black women have been dealing with such imagery of themselves in music videos on a much more frequent and–sadly–more accepted level.
For years, the image of the Black woman as the “Video Vixen” has been seen as a scarlet letter, a badge of honor, and a phenomenon all at once. I understand that just as not all porn stars are broken-down women with molestation issues that only work in the industry to feed a drug habit, all video vixens are not women from fatherless homes that only work in the industry to try and trap a rapper.
But I also noticed that while Black feminists such as C. Delores Tucker were–for years–fighting to stop such misogyny from being produced, when she and many other advocates reached out to White America for support on said issue, it seems that the only people who came to their aid were people such as William Bennet and Bill O’Reilly.
Also known as the very poster boys for White patriarchy.
But in Gloria Steinem’s absence, it leads me to my final point:
The stakes for both factions are much different and way higher for Black women.
Now, call me biased if you will, but hear me out on why I believe this.
Gloria Steinem came out and defended Miley Cyrus and her recent antics. Saying that (and I’m paraphrasing here): “I wish we didn’t have to get nude to get noticed…but this is just how the game is played.”
At the same time, how long have we heard White feminists like Lena Dunham and the like berate several Black female celebrities such as Beyoncé or Nicki Minaj for not doing enough for the feminist movement? How much sh*t did they give Rihanna when she went back to Chris Brown after what he did to her, even when statistics show that women usually go back into a relationship at least once after violence occurs?
To me, it seems that White feminists fail to understand that while they themselves really only have to deal with White patriarchy directly, Black feminists have to deal with White patriarchy, Black patriarchy and misogyny, and the general racism that causes so much division within and outside the Black community.
To me, I see what some would consider an awful truth about it all that is never actually mentioned:
It’s the reality of what White feminists and Black Feminists face in the aftermath should they surrender or just outright become a traitor.
For the White feminist, if they were to one day walk away from it all, denounce their past, and go from Catharine MacKinnon to Barbara Bush, they would have one giant advantage over their Black counterparts: White privilege.
They would go from being a saboteur to a saint in a short matter of time. From being a FeMRA to the next Sarah Palin. They would go into a world that would already be ready to cater to their every need. And they would likely never see a reason to go back into the fray other than to maybe defend their betrayal to feminism.
Black women, on the other hand, have a much higher wager in this case. If they were to quit, if they were to simply kneel and not stand up to both White patriarchy and also Black patriarchy, they would become third-class citizens. Along with the typical issue of White men looking down Black men and women, they would ultimately become nothing more than willing dumping grounds for the frustration that Black men carry every day from knowing that, at the end of the day, America still sees you as nothing more than a nigger.
If a White woman thinks she makes the least, I wager her to look at her Black female coworkers’ paycheck.
This is why I research to see how and what I can do to help Black women in their fight for equality. I feel as though in our community, not enough is done to uplift our women outside of Oprah and Tyler Perry, that latter of whom, in reality, does more to harm the image of Black women than it improves (see Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor or Single Mom’s Club for proof).
I am not afraid to call myself a feminist because I know that just as in life, we all come in various forms and shapes. We are not homogenous.
But in that, I am a Black man first and as one, I see myself as having a duty to stand against any injustice levied against Black women. No matter the offender.
I say this in closing to White feminists:
Am I divisive? Yes.
Do I want division? No.
I truly believe that the key to solving these things is for White women to see that the fight is a league bit harder for them–Black women–in things. Look at it like this:
If Black women were a country during World War II, they’d be Russia. They played a great deal in winning the war, suffered heavy casualties, and fought bravely and effectively despite massive disadvantages against its enemies.
But despite their bravery, due to differences, the two proud nations of Black and White feminism have developed a bit of a divide between each other. A wall if you will. And I ask one thing:
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