| Random Thoughts wrote:|
Response to OP video
Why I Like My Feminism Gray…
What’s the quickest way to pick a fight?
Wear stilleto heels to a conference on Feminism.
And if you want it to really get ugly…pair said heels with skinny jeans, nail polish and copious amounts of lip gloss.
This is exactly what I did a few years ago. As I waded through a sea
of buzzcuts and flannel shirts, I could feel the eyes on me. Eyes of
contempt. Eyes of lust. Eyes of confusion. I smiled and waited for the
hammer to drop. I didn’t have to wait long.
About an hour into the conference, the conversation turned to the
“male gaze.” For those of you who are unfamiliar with feminist lingo,
male gaze is a term that was first used by feminist scholars to describe
how the film industry typically adopts the point of view of
heterosexual men by using camera angles and filming techniques that
objectify women. Although it was a term initially applied to sexist film
practices, the term now has a wider application – as it is used to
describe the focalization of women as objects on a socio-cultural level.
Today, much of the female representation and imagery that we see in the
media is shaped to please the male gaze.
So at this conference, one sister kept talking about how we, as
women, too often defined ourselves by the standards set by men. As she
spoke, she pointedly looked at me… and my shoes. Following her cue, a
few other women glared at me, openly hostile. Many of the women at this
particular conference were lesbian and mixed in with their hostility
about my questionable feminism -was definitely a certain amount of
sexual interest in my appearance. Hate and lust in equal measure. Maybe
they thought I would be intimidated or would start to doubt my decision
to unabashedly be myself in this space that they had carved out. I
chuckled silently as a Beyonce line ran through my head. They must not know about me.
First of all, let me be clear. I am a feminist. A staunch one. I am a
woman who firmly believes that women should have access to all of the
rights and opportunities that are afforded to men. I do not hate men. Or
anything for that matter. I love men and women. I want to see a society
where all of us can be free and whole. I take my feminism seriously. So
seriously in fact, that I have taken time to critically think about it.
I have not allowed anyone to impose their brand of feminism on me.
Whether it’s white women who have made feminism all about the white,
middle-class experience or sistas who have rejected feminism for some
reactionary and equally debilitating form of womanism that
still denies full range of expression and being, I reject anything that
tells me that I’m not allowed to be my whole self. I like stiletto heels
and make up. I like men. I like attractive men. When I was a single
woman, I liked to look at attractive men and I liked them to look at me.
Does being a feminist mean that I cannot love and embrace these parts
I used to feel a deep internal conflict between who I was and what I
thought my feminism should look like. But like Joan Morgan said in When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost,
I’ve learned to embrace a feminism that’s not afraid to “f*&k with
the gray areas.” A feminism that lets me find peace in the
understanding that my job as a
feminist human being is to
constantly work on checking the “isms” within myself, while also loving
the parts of me that are healthy and conducive to my growth—even if they
don’t fit into someone’s pre-conceived notion of who I should be.
I now understand that every woman is a whole woman. This means that
she is multi-faceted, (perhaps, contradictory), complex, and nuanced.
She has many sides and has the right to express any of those sides
whenever she sees fit. I experience myself as intellectual, emotional,
spiritual, sexual, physical, mental, and growing. And if my
understanding of feminism is correct, the ultimate goal is to create a
world where women can be whatever they want to be, whenever they want to
be it, without limitations imposed by gender and sexism.
I think that
any idea, institution, or person that tries to deny a woman this full
range of expression is an enemy to feminism. Feminists…this means you!
Sometimes in a misguided attempt to set up parameters, feminists create a
narrower and (ironically) oppressive definition of womanhood
Check out the video below of a young lady – who goes by the name of
NineteenPercent – giving her take on the new Beyonce video, Run The World (Girls).
This is EXACTLY the kind of feminism that I experienced at that
conference…snarky, confrontational, biting, sarcastic, and ugly…
Now don’t get me wrong. I value critique and I don’t believe anybody
is exempt from it. I also think that if you can look past the
off-putting tone, NineteenPercent shares some really important
information and makes some critical connections. I appreciate her and
any young woman who decides to address these pressing issues. Unlike
NineteenPercent, I believe Beyonce’s lyrics were not oppositional, but
complementary to the points outlined in the video. I think any form of
empowerment starts with an internal decision to be empowered. Beyonce’s
song is just that…a creative, aesthetic, call to empowerment.
NineteenPercent thinks Beyonce is a liar because she failed to speak
about all of the challenges faced by women. I think Beyonce is an artist
doing what artists do…creating her vision of what reality should be.
However, NinteenPercent has every right to disagree. I definitely
think that a strong feminist movement must include critique of ourselves
and each other. But I also firmly believe in what bell hooks, calls
“loving critique.” Particularly when it’s a critique of another
woman. Why is it that the women who proclaim to be pro-woman so loudly
are the first ones to tear another woman down in the most brutal and
humiliating fashion? Why must we enter the arena of dialogue armed with
ridicule and disdain for each other? Or is it less about feminist
critique and more about seizing an opportunity to attack another woman
in an unconscious act of internalized sexism? Does sexy (and arguably
hyper-sexed) Beyonce become more of a target because of the added
influence of jealousy and repressed sexuality? These are questions we
should be willing to face with honesty and authenticity.
Now, I can completely understand the crux of Beyonce and why she is
so controversial. Her expression is decidedly sexual. People observe her
blonde hair and question her racial politics. When confronted with her
as a woman, a brand, and an artist, questions arise about how much of
her is genuine expression, how much is savvy marketing, and how much is
female exploitation by male handlers. I’ve often thought about Beyonce’s
relationship to corporate interests and what it means for the young
women and men in my community whom I work with on a daily
basis. Beyonce, just like feminism itself, is a complicated knot of
fascinating and uncomfortable questions.
Let me just state for the record, that I have not always been pleased
with everything that Beyonce has produced. And if given the
opportunity, I would love to engage her in a conversation about all of
the things I love about her body of work AND the things I take issue
with. However, the tone of this hypothetical conversation would reflect
the amount of respect that I have for Beyonce as both an artist and a
black woman. Being able to navigate contentious points and differing
perspectives is the sign of a movement that is healthy and truly
With that being said, I absolutely love Beyonce’s new song and video.
I can relate to the words and performance. In so many ways, this song
embodies how I experience my own feminism. Furthermore, I respect that
Beyonce is Beyonce. She is not Gloria Steinem. She is not bell hooks.
And she is not supposed to be. Her brand of feminism is and should be a
reflection of who she is.
Thank you, Beyonce, for making a song for the women who embrace their
wholeness, even in the face of ridicule and repression. For us sisters
who have no qualms about marching into a feminist conference in sky high
shoes and perfume. For the women who understand that feminism has a
million different faces.
Who run this mutha?!?!?!?