As I’ve declared time and again, I am not – indisputably not – a feminist. Part of the reason is because the feminist movement is so shrouded by the sheer fuckery of white womanry that I could never willingly associate myself with it. That said, I still recognize and appreciate the need for a movement which challenges and seeks to end patriarchy.
But what I cannot appreciate is women who purposely antagonize the men we need to recognize how they oppress us. We cannot expect men to change their behavior and challenge that behavior in their peers if every time they misspeak or otherwise endorse language or acts that are harmful to women, we call them misogynists or otherwise label them. We cannot expect them to dismantle systems of their own design if we are not willing to patiently and repeatedly explain to them how those systems disadvantage women. We cannot yell, scream, fight and troll men when we need them to attack and tear down the mountain that is patriarchy.
I mean, sure, patriarchy and the men who administer it are dangerous, even deadly to women. Certainly rape and domestic abuse overwhelmingly and disproportionately affect women around the world. And it’s absolutely true that men use their political dominance to enact policies that regulate women’s bodies, leaving our health and well-being at their mercy. But still, even though our rights to body autonomy, safety, personhood and individual freedoms are trampled daily on Capitol Hill, on sidewalks, in boardrooms and in our own homes, we cannot allow our anger to drive us to alienating the men we so desperately need to enact change. We must fight with them, not against them. Only kindness, love and patience will help our causes.
What man will step in when he sees his friend groping a woman at a party despite her avid protest if every time they enter a discussion, women are yelling about rape statistics and how women have every reason to be skeptical and afraid of men? What man will want to respect a woman’s contributions in the workplace more when he’s constantly being bombarded with articles and research about the pay disparities between white men and white women (since the fact Black and brown women are paid even less than our white counterparts is never part of the discussion)? What man can be expected to lend his voice to feminists causes when he’s constantly having to remind women who paint all men as oppressors that “not all men” are like that? What man will understand how pap smears, birth control and cancer screenings are vital to a woman’s health and should be totally covered by insurance if women are constantly bitching about how they are punished for their anatomy from birth?
Would you want to help someone you have almost absolute, state-sanctioned and system enforced power over if they were constantly reminding you of your unearned privilege instead of dismissing their own devaluation, dehumanization and oppression to work tirelessly to provide you with evidence and examples of how they are disenfranchised in hopes that you would one day concede? Would you be willing to renounce your leverage to the people whose second-class citizenship makes your dominance possible if those people were constantly pushing their agenda just because their oppression is always looming and affects every aspect of their lives?
Do y’all see how ridiculous that shit sounds when applied to women fighting patriarchy? So why the fuck do y’all keep trying to convince Black people to gently coax white people into giving small concessions where our lives are concerned? Why the hell do y’all expect Black people to educate white people, celebrate them for the most basic acts of humanity and invite them into our spaces with open arms despite the fact that history has shown and the present continues to validate that white people are fatal to Black people?
As ridiculous as it is to tell a woman that being suspicious of a random man offering to help her carry her groceries is unreasonable, it’s even more ridiculous to tell a Black person that being suspicious of a “nice” white person is unreasonable. As ludicrous as it is to expect a woman to accept inquiries from a man about why she doesn’t use qualifiers when discussing the violence men visit on women with grace, it’s as ridiculous to expect Black people to qualify our statements about racism with “some white people.” As furious as women are with men penetrating our spaces trying to speak over us and challenge us about our lived experience, Black people are even more fed up and disgusted with white people feeling entitled to penetrate our spaces, be welcomed and issue their opinions on our lived experiences.
If you can understand that the oppressed have no obligation to be polite, tolerant and give the benefit of the doubt to the oppressor as it relates to women with men, then you can damned sure understand that Black people are wise to be hostile and defensive to white people. The disconnect though, is that part of the universally oppressed group that is women are white women. And white people, even white women, are at least granted humanity in all situations. So empathizing with women is really empathizing with white women. Black people are not granted that humanity. It is demanded that we the victims of white supremacy and racism shoulder the burden of not only our own struggle but of redeeming those who inherit and maintain the system.
We have to not only resist becoming jaded on white people and their endless intrusiveness but continue to affirm them and believe in their collective good nature. Nah! Black people don’t owe white people anything, or at least anything they would want. And women don’t owe men anything, or at least anything they would want. But the former seems the impossible concept to grasp.
Black people crawling to white people, eyes wide with hope and longing, begging them to see our humanity and reject their inherited privileges and power may be white folks’ fantasy, but it will never be a strategy for Black people. Resistance isn’t supposed to be comfortable for the offenders. And if my freedom from the chains of white supremacy depends on whether I can convince white people that the chains exist, then that’s no freedom at all. You are nice and gracious with people who are gifting you something. Freedom, equality and equity are not white people’s to give.
We owe no one our gentle protest.