One of my ex-boyfriend’s referred to Feminism as noise. A reactionary movement with no real tenets or significance. I was crushed. Mostly because while I tried to explain what Feminism is about he just rubbished my statements and said he can gladly support the struggle for gender equality but he won’t accept Feminism. I paused, I wondered and decided I was fighting a losing battle.
What was most strange to me was that this man’s behaviour as a partner was in-line with everything that feminism stands for. We had no roles, we co-existed and we were equals. It led me to believe that he has been taught to hate the word Feminism. Feminists to him are a bunch of angry women trying to dethrone men and trying to paint all men with one ugly brush.
Last week when Caitlyn Jenner came out, Black Twitter was a hot mess. It was a war of words between the angry black Feminists who think they know everything and who think their opinions are akin to those of gods. On the other hand black men were fighting for their right to have an opinion and to voice it – no matter what. I paused, I questioned, I read, I tweeted, paused again then simply stepped away.
I found it quite interesting that there was this defence of prejudice based on the right to voice one’s opinion and one’s freedom of speech. I thought about it and for a split second I tried to understand but then I realised something just didn’t add up. There were arguments about how the angry black Feminists need to get off their high horses and educate people on Transgenders rather than shutting them down for not understanding.
Upon reflecting on these issues I have a few things to note.
Privilege really blinds
I find it interesting that black men and women come together as a strong unit when fighting White Privilege and white supremacy. We agree, we fight and get angry together, we shut down people who try to delegitimise our cause and we bring out the guns together. We are militant in our discourse with no fear and unapologetically too. But then something changes when it’s black women talking about feminist issues and gender issues. The silence is deafening and those who speak generally have a “here they go again” attitude to the conversations. Suddenly we become too angry, too militant, too eager to shut down. Just too much of everything. We are alone.
Hypocrisy is relative
As the fight carried on, there was an argument that feminists choose battles one day but laugh at others another day. Feminists are judgemental of some women then are judgemental of those who don’t understand being transgender the next day.
For example: Apparently there were feminists who laughed at Caster Semenya when her sex was being questioned by athletics associations. There was also silence about Cassper Nyovest’s lyrics “Caster Semenya yeah I’m the man”. And there are some feminists who laugh at Wendy Williams and say she must have been a man at some point. Hypocrites these feminists, that’s what they are.
I paused. I took note. I questioned. I thought.
Why would all of this come up in a moment where you as a person are defending why it is okay for you to be prejudiced? Why would you not point out this hypocrisy at the time that you identified it and saw something wrong with it? Why does it suddenly matter to you if feminists have wishy washy tendencies? Why not call them out at other times? Because, the point is you don’t really care but in order to legitimise your prejudice and your opinions you have to delegitimise the standing of another.
Yes, there may have been feminists who made the mistake of doing all the things they were called out for above but here’s the thing: call them out WHEN they do it, not months later when no one remembers.
Getting educated is YOUR responsibility
Now look, no one is perfect. We are all learning. We are all constantly trying to navigate our way through this world where certain standards have guided our living for so long that we sometimes fall into the trap of being part of the status quo. We fall into the trap of bowing to misogyny and patriarchy and the inferiority of blackness because that’s been the norm for a very long time.
Now, one of the things that stood out for me was the argument of the impatience of the black feminist with black males. “Educate us instead of shutting us down” kept coming up. Okay fine, at the end of the day, these guys have grown up with a certain view and trying to break that down via a couple of tweets and maybe a few articles or blog posts here and there may not be enough to change those mindsets. I am very aware that if we went back to my tweets from a little while ago would show how much I’ve grown too. I don’t delete old blog posts because I like to look at how my perception has changed over the years through reading, listening and understanding various views.
Here’s the thing though, I didn’t wait for people to bring that education to me. I sought after it. And when I was called out on Twitter, although defensive, I would marinade in that information and absorb it. Sometimes I think people just don’t want to accept a certain thinking and therefore don’t even try to understand. There is an education about feminism and misogyny on my TL almost daily, the issue is not that the education is not there. It’s that when it’s there you ignore it and have a “here they go again” attitude.
I will however accept that we often have an impatience with people who have different views from us and we should try to listen so that we can have conversations about these things. This is something I think the human race must practice in general because well, if you’re shouting and screaming the likelihood of someone listening is zero to none.
Just because you have prejudice like everyone else does not make it okay. It is not an excuse to make hateful statements and then get away with it. You need to sit down with your briefcase of prejudice and you have to unpack (lessons from Nechama Brodie I will never forget). You have to consciously consider how your prejudice impacts another. The fact is you may not get it, you may not understand it but you must respect that people’s lives, if not harmful to you, are really none of your business. But your opinions can be harmful, they can lead to the strengthening of normative standards and societal behaviour which in the end says we should not challenge the status quo. If that’s the case, and if things were just meant to stay the way they are then black people would still be slaves because for a long time that was the norm.
We have to free people and allow them to feel free to be who they are.