Many of today’s women who label themselves “Feminists” believe that any man who doesn’t fully buy into the propaganda is a misogynist.
It’s actually deeper than that.
A man can fully support the rights of women and still view Feminism as problematic.
And unless we begin to have open discussions with such premises as a basis, we will have less understanding as a result.
I know the battle lines have been drawn. And for many Feminists, either a man supports it or he hates women. And that’s about the silliest, most counterproductive position that anyone can take.
Frankly, the movement of women towards parity in society has to be undertaken with balance and pragmatism.
And some women are going to have to acknowledge the inconsistencies of Feminism.
The feminist movement has been inconsistent for a long time.
It paints a picture of women united, but it refuses to deal with racism or classism. Feminism rages against the machine of oppression, yet it clearly embraces elitism.
Feminists seek equality with men, yet many of the women who support it, are not equal with all feminists. The women’s rights movement, which was arguably given a huge boost in the 1970s by Black women, has yet to embrace empowerment for oppressed women of color, seeming to say: “You’re a woman and you’ve come a long way, but you’re still Black, baby.”
Feminists rage against sexist cultures overseas, especially Islamic cultures, but tacitly ignore the heavy hands of racism and classism swung against their sisters of color in America.
Feminism redefines itself and its icons for convenience, re-writing history a la Winston Smith in George Orwell’s 1984. It moves so fluidly, that it is hard to keep up, even as a man attempting to pay attention. Its slogan should perhaps go something like this: “What do we want? We’re not sure! When do we want it? Now!”
The problem feminism presents to African American women is that the politics of feminism are based on oppression meted out by white males in a white male-dominated society. Feminism rebels against a history of strangled womanhood in favor of a skewed version of manhood, a history largely foreign to Black women with clear vision of history.
Not many African American females were living the oppressive life of June Cleaver or Harriet Nelson. Some were, but most were not. In the majority of Black families, both parents went off to work and cooperatively built a home and family.
Were Black females oppressed? Hell yes! But their oppression came from the same hand which oppressed Black males.
What I hear frequently these days is that the Civil Rights Movement oppressed Black women by relegating them to the background of the movement. Being left in the background of the Civil Rights Movement is not the same as being left out. And such ignorant statements completely ignore the contributions of Rosa Parks, Fannie Lou Hamer and Shirley Chisolm.
Black women were there from the beginning to the end and no sane person can deny that, but if racist whites were hardly prepared to listen to Black men-few Black women could make the standing up front.
Some Black feminists compare some romanticized time of deep sex-based oppression in our community to their “evolution” into today’s empowered, all-powerful beings, while Black men have spiraled from oppressive brutes, to lazy, unemployed brutes. The result of embracing a history which never occurred is a present that does not exist and a future that can never fully develop.
For many, feminism in the Black community conjures up images of combat boot-wearing man-haters who live for the day to crush the spirit of men. Its hyper defensiveness has given way to hypersensitivity, with feminists reacting to oppression that may not be real and men reacting to any hint of feminism with disdain and repulsion. (Some feminists will react to this column with anger, while some men will cheer, both thinking I am attacking Black feminists. I am not.)
Yet, there are real feminists in the Black community who are very serious about their struggle and still very serious about being Black people.
For Black women who are feminists and still very much concerned and active about their entire community (composed of men and women), the reality lingers that sexism can not be separated from racism and classism.
It was a mistake to move beyond the Civil Rights era without a clear agenda for Black women. Without such an agenda, feminism is schizophrenic when it comes to the Black community.
Feminism is schizophrenic in that it is too many things to too many people and not enough things to some people. Not that Blacks were ever monolithic, but the Civil Rights era garnered progress because we were only moving in a handful of directions. Feminism has far too many.
For example, some feminists see all men as the enemy.
Some feminists see men as oppressive, while others see men as a burden (especially those lazy men who are beneath their level).
Some feminists see a streamlined female agenda without attention to race, while some feminists struggle with their activism as females versus their activism as Black people.
Some feminists see freedom of sexuality as a crucial part of the agenda, while some feminists see sex as a tool to be used for power.
Some feminists see abortion laws as male-designed for oppression, while some feminists struggle with their religious beliefs instead. (Some feminists will ask how a person with a penis dare write such sexist drivel, but contrary to popular feminist rhetoric, abortion concerns men, too.)
The bottom line is that there are too many conflicts and too much confusion in feminism for Black women to ever successfully deliver it to Black men.
I’m dreaming of a day when Black women create their own damned movement, specifically for the freedoms necessary for Black women. I already know a few Black male soldiers who will stand on the frontline in that struggle. I know them, because I am one of those soldiers.
The best way for my sisters to become empowered is not against Black men, but with us.
Feminism carries too many inconsistencies and far too much confusion to be effective.
A movement for women who are Black makes a whole lot of sense.
Darryl James is an award-winning author of the powerful new anthology “Notes From The Edge.” James’ stage play, “Love In A Day,” opened in Los Angeles this Spring and will be running all Summer. View previous installments of this column at www.bridgecolumn.proboards36.com. Reach James at firstname.lastname@example.org.