a reality that decenters you
I recently had a conversation with a male friend about building our Twitter platforms. He made a comment that if he said what he really felt on social media, he felt like he would lose a lot of fans. Me being me, I decided to probe this: Was it because he was a misogynist or because he is pro-LGBTQ? Which end of the spectrum was he on, and what kinds of fans was he unwilling to lose? (My probes are extremely direct.)
I have spent a lot of time, both clothed and un-, around a variety of men. I have always had strong relationships with both men and women, queer and straight and in-between, so I feel I have a very good grasp on men and masculinity, and I know what to expect from certain types of men. Still, I was slightly disappointed when he said (paraphrasing) he found feminists hostile, annoying, and rude. He claims he sympathizes with our struggle, agrees with “the concept” of feminism, but dislikes what he’s seen or experienced from social media feminists.
I hear this a lot from Black men, and it’s highly frustrating. To add to the issues, these same Black men usually do not care to hear a feminist or womanists point of view on the subject — instead they tend to dig their heels in, insisting that by telling them that they are ignorant on the subject of feminism and the history of black women’s liberation — you are “boxing them in,” “putting words in their mouth,” or “not seeing it from their point of view.” Many Black men have “Not All Sydrome,” the same as most white folks when you bring up racial issues. Their reactions are almost identical: “I believe in equality — in theory,” “I’m not a bad person,” “Why are you attacking me,” “Bringing up __ is divisive and divides us and keeps us from achieving true solidarity.”
Oh if only we would be quiet and just let things happen by themselves. If only we weren’t so mean. If only we weren’t so angry. If only we would just fight nicer, quieter, gentler.
Here is the reason you find feminists annoying, honey-love-sugar-baby-zaddy-bew thang:
You’re a privileged misogynist.
AW SHIT, HERE IT COMES. How can a Black man be privileged, you exclaim as you rifle through your notes on mass incarceration, police shootings and all of those other things that only happen to Black men and that us mean, awful Black woman don’t ever think about as we march, organize prison visits, raise your children, and get way out of pocket and hurt your feelings.
OOPS WHAT ABOUT THE INTRARACIAL VIOLENCE BLACK MEN PERPETRATE AGAINST BLACK WOMEN AND CHILDREN?
Oh, those are white man stats, you say. We just wanna blame everything on Black men you say. We’re just hurt, you say. All Black men aren’t like that you say. We just wanna keep Black men down, you cry.
Or maybe you say nothing. Maybe you just shrug like my (ex-)friend did. Because at the end of the day nothing I say has any merit anyway, right? You know better, you’re a good person. And you have female friends. And you love your mom. And, really, none of this affects you.
You have elevated yourself up above the rest of us peons, who worry too much about our problems, our existence and that of others. You have prevented us from interrupting your white moneyed male aspirations and will now ascend to the height of greatness where other people’s problems will remain other people’s problems indefinitely. The wind beneath your wings never seemed so sweet-smelling as you catch your breath and ignore us, us with our annoying theories, hurts and traumas. Nothing can stop you if you just close your eyes.
If you can look at yourself and claim you agree with the concept of someone else’s freedom, yet dismiss them when you feel threatened by the fervor with which they pursue it, you are no better than any other oppressor. Black women have been historically dismissed by Black men, white women and white men. Yet we have continued to fight for you. We have continued to fight for us. Much of Black male freedom has come on the backs of Black women. Yet while Black men’s anger is righteous, ours is unbecoming, shallow, threatening, and “hostile.” Black men continue to lob those same racial stereotypes at us, not recognizing that this is a gendered response reinforced by living in a phallocentric world where Black women’s issues take a backseat to [straight] black men’s issues, queer issues are a non-factor or an afterthought, and everything that happens to Black women and children is independent of Black men and their desire to prove their manhood by dominating us.
The nail in the coffin wasn’t just this friend’s shrug. It was the fact that he’s read my work here, and shrugged. It was the fact that I clearly am the better informed on this — I am a woman, a womanist, have been through the study and the shit — and he refused to hear me, and to communicate on an adult level. The words, “I don’t see race these days” dropped from his lips and a part of me knew it was a done one. But still, I held out hope and I said, “I’m disappointed.” Because I loved him like so many other male friends, and something in the way I was socialized always drives me to want to save them.
But he typed *shrug*, and the disrespect was too much, and the ball in my stomach reminded me that I had been here before. And the price is just too damn high for me to keep loving Black men who clearly don’t love me.