By Sister Shabazz
Four years ago, if someone had told me that in the next couple of years I would consider myself a feminist, I would have laughed in her face, met her with sarcasm, and changed the subject. I vividly remember rejecting feminism on an individual and communal (black women collective) scale, never really taking the time to think about what feminism could mean to a young, black college woman like me.
Why do black women need feminism?
My ideas of feminism were mostly informed by what I had read as a student in a three hundred person Sociology class. First-wave feminism? Got it. Second-wave feminism? Check. Third-wave feminism. I had that too. Black feminism? *Insert a long pause and an intensely perplexed face*.
It’s not that I had never heard of black women who claimed a feminist identity. It’s just that I never understood why black women would actually want or needfeminism. My limited understanding of feminism led me to believe that black women didn’t need it because it was a white women’s cause. The way most history books tell it, black women were immensely absent from the women’s rights movement in the United States. Having taken several African-American Studies classes my junior and senior years of college – one in which focused on black women specifically – I now know that black women have always been feminists dating back to the mid-1800s.
In 2014, I can proudly call myself a black feminist. The reasons for such go as followed.
I choose to be unapologetically black and woman at the same time.
There isn’t a moment when I view the world through a lens that is solely characterized by my womanhood or my blackness. The prescription of my lens is ALWAYS that of my coexisting identities.
Misogynoir is real.
From harmful hashtags such as #jadapose to equally harmful photo captions like “Retweet this to ruin a black girls day,” black women are repeatedly targeted on major social media outlets. As a black feminist, I believe it is myduty to actively combat such language or actions whether the person behind the keyboard is black or not. I cannot and will not sit silently or passively in the face of such unwarranted vitriol and aggression toward the black female body.
The black woman’s existence is inherently political.
If you haven’t already done so, I highly recommend reading Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America by Melissa Harris-Perry. This book provides a comprehensive look at the stereotypes plaguing black woman, and helps give a voice to the millions of black women across the country that are silenced and shamed for being simply human. It is in this book that Perry argues that the black woman’s body is inherently political because she is black and a woman. Her black womanhood is the antithesis to the revered white womanhood. Everything she represents, for better and for worst, is contrasted to the representations of white women (i.e. the black woman’s strength and independence – real or fictitious – to the white woman’s meekness). I agree with Perry in her analysis, and it is because of it that I choose to challenge what I have been taught about myself and other black women. I choose to ask questions and demand sensible answers. I choose to hold black men accountable for my safety — physically and emotionally.
I choose to be a black feminist.
You can find read more from Sister Shabazz on her blog, The Black Corner