As a man, my relationship with feminism is an odd one. Surprise, surprise.
Let me unpack that for a second. Whenever I seek to understand why I adhere to a philosophy or why a belief holds sway over me, I try to control for race. In other words, can I vet myself as a human without attaching a color? I find that, fortunately or unfortunately, in this matrix, my base experiences are seen and felt through a certain prism.
That prism is the dichotomy of rich and poor, right and wrong, black or (whatever your race is), 0 and 1 (computer nerds unite) and so forth. To transcend that would be to embrace alienation and isolation; in other words, survival is predicated on learning how to live and thrive within a flawed system.
Our quest to just be with no apology is confronted daily by standards that say otherwise. So when I say “as a man,” I’m including all the factors therein. Most prominently, being an African-American man in a society that won’t let you forget that.
This brings me back to the subject of feminism, something I never, until recently, challenged or fought to understand because, frankly, it didn’t directly concern me. Intellectually I understood its purpose. Yes women are undervalued. Get paid less in corporate settings. Get stigmatized for acting on the same human urges men do. Fall victim to senseless double standards. I got all that. But that didn’t stop me from enjoying the perks of being the latter chromosome.
Being a writer and editor for Clutch, I’ve grown over the years in this regard. Talented minds and writers have graced this space with insight that stood up to reason, antiquated dogmas and flat-out rubbish that dominates the male-female relationship.
I’ve grown up with a lot of Black men who never really cared to synthesize how sexist thinking and actions perpetuated brokenness. Perhaps many Black men feel they (we) have more “pertinent” issues on board and sounding the alarm about gender-based oppression doesn’t register.
Or maybe Black men feel that patriarchy is the Big Joker in a weak hand. The one trump card that when all else fails, we’re good, because guess what? We’re men and genetically a cut above. Many of us hold this thought while failing to see we’re borrowing from the same ideological capital that was used to enslave us.
(My shield: Two grandmothers who demonstrated early that women, in many instances, are not only a man’s equal, but his superior.)
Last week, Jamilah Lemieux penned a piece about an encounter she had on the Twitternets with someone who took offense to this article. This someone ended up making an about-hour long video debasing her thoughts and the like. Cool, all in the game. But then he got personal. What had started under the guise of intelligent refutation, ended up being a study in therapy, only without the proper diagnosis and prescription.
Rhetorical dissent tends to come when a system’s inconsistencies is brought to the light. But in 2011, defending (or knocking down) a point with ad hominems is so fatigued as to be on a respirator. What ad hominems also do well is expose glaring insecurities.
Black men who show an aversion to feminism are generally a product of a thought process that goes something like this: For me to win, somebody has to lose. False dichotomies fuel our cognitive engines to the point where disagreements turn to glorious exercises in bitching and moaning.
James Baldwin once wrote, “I would like us to do something unprecedented: to create ourselves without finding it necessary to create an enemy.”
The black guy who hates feminists because “they just wanna run things and wanna blame men for every problem and not take personal responsibility” is as misinformed about the intentions of feminism as the woman who blames men for everything that is wrong with the world.
Of course, this is not limited to black men. Because the infighting is played out in media circles and enflamed by articles (seemingly every week) that puts a spotlight on black men and women, we have a unique relationship to this subject. We’re constantly conditioned to see the end game as the acquisition of power. Battling patriarchal slants is seen — consciously and unconsciously — to the exclusion of stacking ducats and attaining “elite” statuses built around male domination.
And if status can’t be had in the monetary and social sphere, we damn sure won’t give it up in the domestic sphere.
What a shame. A much richer experience awaits when each sex is recognized as what they are. Not queens. Not kings. Not bitches. Not epithets.
But humans. Being born with a shaft shouldn’t make me more able to enjoy and suffer through the human experience than anybody else. A certain rapper once flowed, “Being human’s hard, on the boulevard.”
It seems that respecting humanity is even harder.