Can Black Women Be Feminists

Updated: Nov 21, 2019

Today I engaged in an IG conversation that I normally never would’ve engaged in. In fact, I stay out of the comment section on all social media platforms because it is not conducive to my anxiety.

But today, I said, “what the hell, I can sweat a little.” And that’s exactly what I did.

A long time family friend posted, “Feminists were so hell-bent on shutting down Miss America pageants and Victoria Secret shows because they ‘objectify women.’ But let an obese woman dance near nude on stage and feminists love it. I get it now, feminists only hype up women they’re not jealous of.”

His caption read, “Feminists of all ethnicities are moronic imbeciles. They are functionally illiterate assholes.”

And I thought, “damn, that’s harsh AF.” All ethnicities though? We debated over the post. The discussion wrestled its way into my inbox. I used the feminism and womanism interchangeably, and so he asked, “what does womanism do for you?”

I responded, "Womanism allows me to think for myself without the gaze or opinion of a man. It allows me to feel confident in holding my brothers accountable for their ish towards black women when ish comes up. It allows me to be free in what I choose to wear because my body doesn’t belong to anyone else and blame shouldn’t be put on me if a man can’t control himself. It allows me to have a voice when the entire world wants nothing more than for women especially black women to shut up. My womanism isn’t for whiteness it’s for black folks and black men to know that I don’t have to submit to you to love you, to respect you, to honor you to lift you up but I’m not holding black men’s secrets that crush my soul in order to that. That’s what womanism is for me. Accountability, strength, intelligence, and never backing down from any oppressor even if they look like me."

He was wowed and awed by my response. But, by his definition, I am not a feminist.

So it got me to thinking, can Black women be feminists?

Yes feminism is problematic. If you watch Black-ish, you saw on a minuscule level just how problematic it can be. But, if Black women don’t make room for themselves in conversations that affects us, who will?

When I think of feminism, I think about how Black women make 82 cents for every dollar a man earns. I think about how we are the most educated group, yet also carry the biggest debt. I think about how we repeatedly share the statistics of unwed Black women compared to other racial groups. Society takes those statistics as to say we are less desirable. Meanwhile, we are fetishized and everything down to our asses are appropriated.

When I think feminism, equality and the Black woman’s fight to be heard, I think about Renisha McBride. I think about Sandra Bland. I think about Korryn Gaines. I think about Atatiana Jefferson. I think of the many black trans lives lost. I think of me. I think of my anxiety as a Black woman navigating this world while being invisible yet extremely visible at the same damn time. We’re too much and never enough.

A feminist is someone who believes in advocacy of women’s social, political, and economic rights, and equality of the sexes.

My feminism doesn’t have to be rooted in whiteness to want all of those things. My feminism is rooted in reminding Black women how much we matter, how much we have contributed to this land. This type of advocacy does not have to take a back seat in order to be there for Black men. If we put our issues on the back burner, when will it be our turn to fight for ourselves?

After all the protest we’ve led, after all the beatings literally and figuratively, we’ve taken, who’s going to be alongside us in the fight to pay us fairly, to stop fetishizing us, to stop ignoring our pain, to stop killing us.

I believe in speaking out against all of those things. Is that not feminism?

What does your feminism look like? What do you call it?