Feminism doesn’t 'speak' to me but I respect what it’s done for me
Politics. On any given day, voting the “wrong way” can get you punched, arrested or cut out of a will. On a bad day? Well, people have gone to war. Literally. So far, this election has been a brutal media war. Why? Well, it seems that any time you add a woman to the political mix, the milk curdles, and what rises to the top ain’t the sweet smell of equality. So, when I heard about a chance to hear some really boss broads talk on a panel about the intersection of politics and feminism, I was curious about what they would have to say. But would there be love for me — a sometimes feminist — in a room full of "all the damn time" feminists?
Look, I know I got some sizable gains due to the movement. Yet, like almost a third of the women surveyed in a recent SheKnows study, #TheFWord, I have the same stance as many black women. I’m not committed to the #TheFWord. We’re dating.
I’ve never been a pom-pom pusher for the “feminist” agenda. I have, however, been a shish-boom-bah cheerleader against the other “ism” — racism. So when I got the chance to hear what equality advocate, moderator and SheKnows’s Chief Community Officer Elisa Camahort Page had to say on a panel of cross-generational heavy hitters, I was about that life. When Nina Burleigh, National Politics Correspondent at Newsweek, Ashley Alman, Social Media Editor for Politics at The Huffington Post and Angélique Roché, Senior Director for External Affairs, Ms. Foundation, talk, you’d be less than smart if you do not pay attention.
When a panel attendee, a Muslim Latina, asked, “What does feminism mean to me?” I was all ears. What does it mean to me, a West Philly-raised, homeschooled in a conservatively revolutionary home until high school woman who now lives in Brooklyn with her two high-yella sons?
Huh? I know. That was a lot. Translation: My mom was raised Catholic. Married my dad, a former Catholic turned Fruit of Islam officer. Conservatively (Catholic). Revolutionary (FOI). Home. Once you walk that out, come back and walk this next lap with me, baby. We gonna get acquainted on this feminism ish and what it means to me.
When I was a little girl, I learned I was to listen to my father’s word. Without question. I also learned three other things: 1) There was a man’s place, 2) there was a woman’s place, 3) never the twixt will twain. For a girl who could take apart a bike and put it back together in minutes (still can), outrun many of the boys (except long-legged Quincy), cook for six and rock my three brothers to sleep in minutes, I was pretty sure I’d earned the right to ask a few questions about these two “places.” “Dad, why can’t my brother help with the dishes? I help with the trash.” “Dishes are a female’s job.” Huh? Silly me, I thought a job was a job. “Dad, how come I’m not supposed to do wheelies (I mean I could pop a bike like WHATTTTTT)?” “All that is for boys. Ride like a lady.” But I was good at it! Needless to say, this stuff about “places” and “jobs” made no sense atall. No typo.
And since it didn’t make sense, I did the things I liked to do, anyway. Curiosity was both my salvation and burden. Yet, no matter how much trouble I got into for asking questions I wasn’t supposed to ask, I would not, could not, let go of curiosity. No gender rules were going to affect that. Which brings me back to my situationship with feminism.
See, I come from women who don’t have time to affix causes to their bumpers. Systematic oppression steals time. Time to savor your kid. Time to reflect. You know, time to “find yourself.” I come from women who made things happen despite being marginalized.
I come from women who didn’t dare ask for help outside of their communities because their voices were categorically silenced in “other” circles. Let’s call a spade a spade. “Other” means “white” circles. Offended? Get to the core of why you’re offended, my friend. I’ll be right here — waiting for this tea to cool.
1. You’re the type of black I am. And nooo, I cannot speak for a whole people. You weren’t expecting that, were you? Sigh.
2. You’re in the black (married, child of, BFF of) the type of black I am.
3. You’re a #HeartAlly. A what? A person of any of the glorious hues of humanity who hears love in the timbre of all of our songs. In the lives we celebrate, share, create. A person’s person. I love my heart allies. JFK? #HeartAlly. Oprah? #HeartAlly. Merkl? #HeartAlly. Biden? ALL DAY #HeartAlly.
While some feminists may not have stood up to break down some of my chocolate-specific challenges (systemic institutional resource disenfranchisement), others have. No movement is homogeneous in its ideology. Movements are made of people. And people are made of ideas. And independent thought. Some are down with the brown. Some are not.
Common sense has taught me that as a woman, as a multitasker, I have the ability to be a woman, a mom, an employee, an entrepreneur and erstwhile feminist. And this election has really proven that the intersection of politics and feminism affects my bottom line and my kids' bottom line. And so does the other “ism.” When I see more of my feminist sisters committing to my challenges, I’ll feel a lot more inclined to commit to a serious relationship with feminism. Until then, I’ll be on that hotline bling. You want this? Impress me, bae.
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