It not only frightens me, but literally pains me to be privy to the prevalent myths about feminism that circulate the Black community. Various forms of propaganda and misinformation about what the movement is and what its goals are have imbedded some incredibly ignorant and fallacious notions in the minds of not only men, but sadly even some women. What makes these myths particularly harmful is the fact that they often take attention away from the real issues that the Black community continues to face.
To combat such misdirection, here’s a list of 9 of the most ridiculous myths and logical arguments to put the conversation back on track.
1. Feminism is responsible for the breakdown of the Black family. The number one indicator that a man will marry and stay married is his financial predicament. With the ongoing struggle against employment discrimination and unfair judicial practices that have branded large swaths of Black men felons, further limiting work opportunities, it should come as no surprise that the Black community has the lowest marriage rate of any other racial demographic. Though it may be easier to place blame on feminism, rather than to actually explore the reasons for the breakdown of the Black family, it is pointless and impractical. While the Black community rambles like a senile, misinformed, outdated man, the true issues plaguing the Black family continue to fly under the radar.
2. Feminism made Black women lesbians. Though the LGBT(QI) community has fought and been able to promote social awareness of queer issues, there has been no dramatic increase in the number of gay people in the United States of America. Currently, people who identify as lesbian, gay, bi-sexual or transsexual only account for 4.6 percent of the entire Black population. When we consider the large number of women show identify as feminist in the Black community, should we not expect to see far more lesbians?
3. Black history’s most notable women weren’t feminists and they only cared about “Black” issues, not women’s issues. Many attempt to smudge out the contributions to feminism made by various Black Civil Right activist women, primarily out of ignorance. Let the list begin: Angela Davis wrote a book titled “Women, Race & Class” which literally studied the women’s movement. Sojourner Truth’s notable speech “Ain’t I A Woman” was delivered at a Women’s Convention. Harriet Tubman toured the North East giving speeches in favor of women’s suffrage. Rosa Parks championed for the rights of rape victims. And the list goes on and on. Seems like just about every notable Black woman in American history was a feminist or believed feminist ideologies.
4. Feminism is responsible for the feminization of boys. This myth is tied to the unfounded claim that feminism has somehow made Black people gay. There is no connection between advocating for the right’s of women and girls and “gayness.” That is just absurd.
5. Women are single because they think “they don’t need no man” (which they learned from feminism). Women are single because large swaths of Black men are incarcerated, unemployed or under-educated.
Let’s explore the numbers:
**1 million Black men incarcerated and thousands more out on parole or with records
**A 3:1 ratio of women to men with a college degree
Seems like the dating pool just isn’t fair to Black women.
6. Feminism divided the Black community. When Black people came to the United States of America as slaves, they could not marry and families were often torn apart and sold separately. Most Black slaves could not marry and When Black people did somehow find a way to maintain some semblance of family, the threat of rape or violence was always omnipresent. Even a rudimentary historical education would reveal the very evident and obvious reality that White supremacy is the major divider of Black people.
7. Feminism promotes White supremacy or is a White supremacist tool. Funny enough, this myth actually reinforces White supremacy, because it marginalizes large numbers of Black women who made significant contributions to the feminist movement from its inception. As with any movement, the more powerful majority always receives more attention to their issues, overshadowing the needs of the minority. This could be seen in everything from the gay civil right’s movement, where White receive more mainstream attention, to even the Civil Right’s Movement, where Black male participation casted a shadow over the contributions of their female counterpart. There are racial hierarchies (created by white supremacy and patriarchy), even in movements– that is true. However, we should not reinforce those hierarchies by further marginalizing those wanting to be heard.
8. Feminism has not helped Black women or the Black community. Feminism fought (and continues to fight) for reproductive rights. This includes, but is not limited to, the freedom for both men and women to decide if, when and how many children they would like to have, access to birth control and access to abortion. If a Black man wears a condom, he is actually demonstrating his belief in such reproductive rights. Feminism also remains at the forefront of the fight against domestic violence, and abuse, rape, all issues that have huge effects on the lives of Black women and girls. These examples, and many left unmentioned, exemplify the importance of feminism for Black women.
9. Only White or gay women can be feminists. It should be understood that within every movement exists a multitude of demographics and belief systems. Participants in any movement cannot be painted with one broad brush. For example, the Civil Right’s movement was composed of numerous ideologies like those who believed in militancy, or peaceful protest, from Martin Luther King Jr. To Malcolm, Angela Davis and The Black Panthers. Though there was only one Civil Right’s Movement, many pieces comprised that complex puzzle. Similarly, there are White feminists, Black feminists, womanists, heterosexual feminists, lesbian feminist and various other groups that all comprise “feminism”. For that reason, we should always be careful that we do not characterize entire movements based solely upon the ideologies espoused by one specific group, but we must instead look at a movement in its entirety.