first and foremost: the mainstream feminist movement was never "ours" anyway. black folks seem to have developed a gross misconception of what the feminist movement entailed both during its inception, in the mid to late 20th century, and now.*
the labels womanist/womanism do better to explain the struggle of women of color for dignity, life and freedom within the kryarchic oppression imposed by their respective men--but even that might not be enough. and that's ok. wikipedia attempts to sum up some of the complexities:
Black feminism argues that sexism, class oppression, and racism are inextricably bound together. Chicana feminism focuses on Mexican American, Chicana, and Hispanic women in the United States. Multiracial or "women of colour" feminism is related. Standpoint feminists argue that feminism should examine how women's experience of inequality relates to that of racism, homophobia, classism, and colonization. Postcolonial feminists argue that colonial oppression and Western feminism marginalized postcolonial women but did not turn them passive or voiceless. Third-world feminism is closely related. These discourses are related to African feminism, motherism, Stiwanism, negofeminism, femalism, transnational feminism, and Africana womanism.that's a lot, right?
for me, the bottom line is this:
i deserve to be able to stand up for myself and my humanity--from my seat as a woman and in solidarity with other women. if that somehow screws with the worst manifestations of the black man's ego, i don't see that as my problem. or, more sweetly said, that is an opportunity for healing amongst the community of brothas, just as we have healing to do amongst ourselves.
being down for some of "our men" at the expense of ourselves is killing us, not to mention forcing us to shoulder the blame for systemic problems that harm us all. somehow, our collective consciousness around those systemic issues has been reduced--in many circles--to a perceived inability to have "respectable" heterosexual relationships.** in my humble opinion, that loss of consciousness is both unfortunate and dangerous.
expanding that thought: if "feminism" is the root of the black man/woman problem, then maybe it got that way when black men achieved a measure of male privilege in the general society.
yes, you heard me.
in that historical window between the end of segregation and the beginning of urban decay--including the rise of the prison industrial complex--it seems that black men learned a lot and forgot a lot. then, when sistas got wise and started looking out for ourselves, the response from the brothas wasn't, "whoa...maybe we should check ourselves." black women were simply wrong, acting counter to our original culture, trying to be "white" and all that. or lesbians.
the forgetting was deep and complex.
black women have always worked.
black women have always been spiritual leaders.
black women have always made, kept, and used their own money.
black women have always been strong.
it'd be lovely if we could recall the concept of ubuntu, coming to understand that all our oppressions under white supremacy are linked. i can't get free without you, you can't get free without me, and the basis of all that is that we also have to let ourselves be ourselves--man, woman, human.
it is my belief that when you are following your purpose--the things you agreed to do before you incarnated--then you are assisting the community. but so many sistas are being taken off their square so they can fit in, be down, please a brotha or at least remain "attractive" to one...
warrior goddesses pushed into to being handmaids for the consciousness movement du jour. mama goddesses forced to settle for mediocre mates as they fulfill their calling to raise the beautiful babies that will someday move us all forward. love goddesses pushed into the ever changing vortex of the madonna/whore complex when they could be transforming the energy of whole communities--while enjoying deeper, higher love in more powerfully intimate spaces.***
we are so much more than the boxes we've been given. if we're going to decide to embrace afrika, we need to look at her fully, and that includes understanding the true depth and complexity of the afrikan woman.
"feminism" doesn't have a whole lot to do with that. being truthful with ourselves does.
*anybody remember that little rift between elizabeth cady stanton and susan b. anthony around whether or not to give black women their due? remember mama audre's constant calling out of white feminists? no? see what i mean?
**despite who might be left out of that equation--not to mention the centering of the gender binary. and who defines respectable? but that's another blog...
***and please note just how white that madonna/whore thing is.