I remember asking my mom why she didn’t call herself a feminist. She said, “Because I live in the real world and I work for a living.”
BEST ANSWER EVER!!
Now, I do call myself a feminist, a black feminist and there’s a difference. See, I don’t hate or fear black men. I’ll fight any man who tries to use me for a doormat, but I will also take my brother’s part when no one else will. See, in spite of the black pretenders to the throne, try as they might, patriarchy under white supremacy is still a white man’s game. Black men can practice paternalism and support the white patriarchal system, but since white patriarchy targets non white men in both overt and covert ways in an effort to keep them from not any already sanctioned power, patriarchy, for all its illusions to the contrary cannot be controlled, instituted or enforced outside of white male rule.
That is the real world my Momma was talking about.
I have not tribed with white men. I did not have a white father. I do not have a white brother or kid. While I have and will work with white men, talk to white men, laugh and joke and have a pleasant time with white men, they are not my tribe. Their access to power cannot be passed to me. Their pedestals of privilege and womanhood are not built for me. While I have had the good fortune to meet and know white men who would never personally harm me and some who have helped me, white patriarchy will not allow them to free me and all the people who look like me. I, those in my tribe, and our allies have to fight for freedom, work to survive, and strive to make a place for ourselves, defined, designed, and refined, outside the binds and confines of white patriarchy. .
That is part of the working for a living my Momma was talking about.
My Momma was pro woman. She said so often but she saw feminism as something white women did to make white women’s lives better. And looking at the tortured history of women’s rights in this country, she wasn’t wrong. Susan B. Anthony saw suffrage for black men as direct attack on white womanhood. The Klan has long professed as one of its main duties the protection and elevation of white womanhood. In the Women’s Liberation movement, black women’s experiences and stories were co-opted and lauded for the cause, but few black faces made it to the table when it came time to produce theory and policy. Even within this “universal” feminism, there was little room made for any women, including white women, who valued a domestic feminism, a religious feminism, a truly class-conscious feminism.
A lot of women think like my Momma. So do I most of the time. But mine is a generation not ready to surrender the word to women not as much interested in dismantling patriarchy as they are determined to have their piece of it. And there are white women within feminism who can see the what’s wrong and want to fix it.
But wanting to do something and doing something are two different things.
If you don’t know, now you know.