Last night I did a You Tube Live talk with my homie in New York and a guest about black feminism in 2017. I shared that I am reluctant to call myself a feminist. Reason being that I don’t truly know what that label means. I definitely don’t know what that means as a black woman. Our guest, a black woman who works for a women’s foundation, gave us a wonderful review of feminism and why it matters to all women yet it still doesn’t resonate with me.
The history of feminism reveals that feminism sprang from the women’s movement that started with two women who were abolitionist attempting to attend an anti-slavery convention in New York in 1848. They were barred for having breasts and periods essentially and started their own convention which was eventually attended by men. Fast forward to the 1940s and 1950s when war took so many men away from their homes and left women hanging unemployed with their children. Feminist began to demand a welfare system that would help these struggling mothers who still couldn’t make ends meet with their low pay and husband’s crappy salary from the military. All of this seemingly included the burden of black women.
But then the fork in road comes during the “bra-burning, anti-man, politics-of-orgasm ” 1960s and 70s when the equal pay for equal work fight began. College-educated white women were demanding more opportunities for employment outside of being a nurse or schoolteacher or housewife. They were inspired by the Civil Rights Movement to demand change and they did it in creative ways. They protested sexism in Congress, the media, in health with abortion rights and access to contraception, and even at the Miss America pageants. But where was the fight for black women’s issues.
Black women most definitely benefit from equal pay protests and health care equality and protection from domestic violence. We absolutely need access to education and deserve the right to compete for higher ranking positions in the government, and on the police force, and in the military. And you bet your sweet ass we have earned the right to have sex and birth control pills and orgasms and a full career without a husband or children if we choose. However our struggle goes deeper than the white women’s agenda.
To me you cannot talk about black feminism without addressing the issues that creating this mounting burden on us in the first place. In the 1960s and 70s our men were leaving us in scores. We lost them to wars that weren’t our fight in the first place. We lost our men police brutality that was far worse than what we experience today. Our husbands and sons were being locked up in droves thanks to the war on drugs. If that isn’t enough depression stole another large chunk of our men. I mean really. How many men would do you anticipate would want to marry and create a family when they can’t find employment, get turned down for a home loan, get called a nigger and chased out of desirable neighborhoods, and get locked up for crimes they didn’t even commit? And don’t even get me started on the 1980s when we started losing our men (and ourselves to some extent) to drugs because they were self-medicating. Black women had to fight so hard to get college degrees and post graduate opportunities. No one was shelling out home loans to us. Where was a black woman’s help back then? Where for art thou white feminists?
Black women have had to walk the line for themselves and their families for decades now and I haven’t heard or seen much from white feminists on the matter. We have had to shoulder a heavy burden created by policies and policy makers who lacked empathy. We have even had to fight against other women-probably so-called feminists- for common decency and respect in some regards. Our challenges are unique.We needed help then like we do now. That help is indeed coming from feminists far and wide. They are pushing for paid sick and maternity leave, equal pay for equal work, access to quality health care that won’t cost us more, and so many other issues that affect us all. But black feminism to me is indeed a special class. Black feminism to me includes protection from high rates of suspension in school for our girls, lowering the incarceration rates for black women particularly the ones who commit non-violent offenses, stopping police brutality against us (say her name hashtag exists for a reason damn it). It is also about preventing horrible stereotypes from being perpetuated through the media with those video vixen and angry images. It is about eliminating rape and domestic violence. It is about providing a better educational system for our children. And more and more and MORE. Yeah black feminism is not for the weak, that’s for sure.
In recent news there has been a flurry of conversation and controversy surrounding the upcoming women’s march. When it was presented as a march black women should support I was kinda like ummm…is that some kinda ploy to add more voices to your cause while ignoring my struggles? But now I say black women should show up for it and make it plain if you’re feeling it. I’m definitely not against joining the march. Say the chants, make the signs, walk with dignity down the streets. We need to be heard either way. Divisiveness gets us nowhere. No more suffering in silos. Sound off like you got a pair (of breasts). Just be sure to stick around for the after party ladies. We’ve got so much work to do…ahem….together.