Tuesday, February 21, 2006

White Lesbian Feminists on a Mission

Well, Shawna, author of Lesbianizing the Black Woman stopped by and directed me to a thread she thought I'd love. (wink-wink) Authored by the Cocoa Lounge's Strongblackman, it is entitled The White, Lesbian Feminist Culture and It's Impact on the Black Man, Woman and Child. Apparently (I love that word, y'all, sorry), evil white lesbian feminists are responsible for all the intra-racial gender conflicts--and, well, just about any other conflicts--that African Americans experience. The crux of his argument:
The woman's lib movement came out at that time to cause distraction to the legitimate black movement.
As a result, where black women, who had come "home" to her man and family saw race as a primary focus in our salvation, the women's lib movement tricked, cajoled, seduced her into thinking that MEN were the problem. NOT white men, but men. Subconsciously, this surplanting into the brains of black women caused a rift in her collective, community, black thinking, creating a more individualized, self-centered, narrow-minded thinking.
Since men, black men by default are the enemy, instead of working with us, she became an enemy, joining the open and obvious enemy.
We began to hear the talk of "I don't need a man", a common philosophy ranted by the white woman. This was the common mantra of the [whitewoman's] feminist movement, which became the new ideological expression of woman's lib. Furthermore, who else would plant the seeds of such an outrage if not a lesbian?
Who else indeed? I am proud to be able to rely on historiography and not strictly personal bias (for once) to challenge this argument. And to be fair, a number of people at the Cocoa Lounge challenged him, too. Here goes.

1. The reality of life for many black men in the period after Reconstruction was that their attempts to enter the public realm and demand equality, justice, a fair share of public expenditures, and just about anything else for black communities met with beating, lynching, disfranchisement, imprisonment and other negative consequences. According to historians Glenda Gilmore (Gender and Jim Crow), Stephanie Shaw (What a Woman Ought to Be and Do) and Deborah Gray White (Too Heavy a Load), black women had to step forward to try to get what they could (often, they had to build their own educational, health, and service institutions) for their communities and to "defend the race." And, no, this was not based on some inherent weakness of black men, but rather, on the threat he represented to white male supremacy.

2. So, black women spent decades being the public "face" of the race,( see Paula Giddings When and Where I Enter and Gray White again). Then, in the 1920s, two figures emerged to further challenge white male supremacy--the New (white) Woman and the New Negro (man). Black men positioned themselves to do more of the "race work" black women prided themselves on. According to Gray White, this is where some of the tension between black men and black women began--black women weren't willing to simply step aside and let the New Negro "handle" it.

3. Skipping ahead (this is a blog after all and this is way too long), to the freedom movements of the 1950s and 1960s. Charles Payne (I've Got the Light of Freedom) argues that while the "big" leaders and mobilizers of the CRM were men, it was women who did the everyday, grassroots organizing. Here is another source of tension between black women and men--the world knew all about the Dr. King's, the Rev. Abernathy's, the Medgar Evers's, etc, but no one knew of Ella Baker and Septima Clark and Diane Nash. Why were black women hidden during the movement? It wasn't white feminists who changed the meaning of the movement--it was black men. See, to many black women's understanding, according to Gray White, Elsa Barkley Brown, and Stephanie Shaw, the work for race and the work for gender couldn't be separated--to do so created a false dichotomy. But black men acccepted white men's notion that their "freedom" was predicated on their dominance over black women. They turned the CRM into a movement not about black freedom but about black male freedom--hence all the comments about women "coming home" and helping by "having babies" and "staying prone." Black and white women activists felt betrayed and formed their own movements for freedom.

4. Finally, it is ridiculous to assert that black women have been misled and deceived by white feminists. It is unfair to white feminists for obvious reasons I won't get into. Instead I'll say why it's unfair to black women--we are not mindless and it ignores the many years of protest by all women of color that the "women's movement" was narrow and exclusionary. Black women had different concerns and different issues. And as the historians I've named pointed out, we are quite adept at building our own movements and institutions.

Believe it or not, we can think for ourselves.

6 comments:

Dr. Mon said...

Nice post--Black women have always found themselves in a position different from both White women and Black men going back to slavery. Neither group is to blame as both have been oppressed by racism/sexism, but both groups have definitely had a roll in leaving Black women to fend for themselves at time in freedom movements. I also like how the authors in All the Women are White, All the Blacks are Men, But Some of Us Are Brave talk about the need to carve out space for Black women's studies. Perhaps if the person who wrote that post had a richer understanding of Black history and Black women's studies, they wouldn't be spoutin such nonsense. I would follow the link to read it but I'm not in the mood to be mad today--I like your final response--we can think for ourselves. Shocking isn't it???

Quinn said...

Curse you, Elle! Here I am laying the groundwork for months to trick you into succumbing to my white feminist lesbianism, and now you're telling me you can think for yourself?

Elle said...

quinn, i knew you were up to something!

Baba Ahmed said...

Are you a so called lesbian; which by the way is a word corruption; i.e., if derivatives carry weight in the academic area. Im not an academician. Far from it.

Also if u're a feminists, will u define the word for me.

To keep things above board, I detest both lesbians and feminists, tho the latter a little less.

Again, if u care to reply for my eyes, use cocoalounge. If not thanks anyway. I had another question: why do u choose to bare your soul, if what u write is true and on the square. Why? Don't u have family and friends?

Baba Ahmed

Elle said...

baba,
i wasn't going to respond, but obviously, i'm still not confident enough to take the high ground. i think i've identified myself as a feminist and it's none of your business, nor does it matter, whether or not i am a lesbian.

was there a point to your comment? did you have a question about my post? do you think it is some sort of "attack" to imply that i am a feminist (singular, btw. i'm one person, one feminist) and/or a lesbian?

as far as baring my soul--my blog, my choice. if you're uncomfortable, please feel free not to come back. if you'd read anything else on here, you'd know that i've been blessed with a wonderful family and down-for-whatever friends.

and btw, you need to work on your skill at insulting-people-but-not-insulting (e.g. the supposedly "innocent" question about my family and friends; the "i detest both lesbians and feminists). your comments aren't even "thinly-veiled."

Paramendra Bhagat said...

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