I attended “The Feminist Question” event hosted by Black Girls Book Club to discuss being a Feminist and a Black woman. Three of the questions raised really stuck out to me and forced me to think critically about what Feminism really means to me. They were:
Are you Back first or a woman first?
When was your first experience with Feminism?
What about fighting for Black men?
Growing up in America, constantly in majority White spaces I always felt the need to disprove stereotypes. I am smart enough, I’m not loud, I will not be “angry.” Every stereotype I wanted to confront was surrounded by my peer’s thoughts about blackness. This is why when that first question was posed I without hesitation said: “I’m Black.” At my gifted school, my intelligence wasn’t questioned because I was a girl it was because I didn’t look like them. When my dance teacher told my mother I should smile and play around more, we were all women, but I happened to be the only Black one. Now that I live in London, I’ll admit that I get defensive when I see jokes about the “ignorance and annoyance” of Black Americans because that’s what I’ve done my whole life, defend my race.
Even at my predominantly White university surrounded by corn fields in Ohio, I joined the Black Student Action Association instead of Black Women Empowered and I constantly threw myself in every space I could to represent the Black student population in a positive light. At my undergraduate institution, the majority held views like we were all here or scholarship and we didn’t deserve a diversity center so I made it my purpose to show them Black Students can be athletes and anything else they desire.
My first experience with feminism was rooted in gender roles and came at a very young age. I hated being told what girls could and couldn’t do. As I got older I realized that these same pressures were put on boys and it bothered me just as much. Attending this talk made me realize that my definition of feminism was first about letting women and men be unapologetically themselves outside of these expected roles. I know that this is narrow and leaves out so many other people and ideas but this was the belief that 10-year-old Tia created. Now that I’m older I have little cousins that get told “stop acting like a girl” or boys can’t like girl toys and it brings me back to that frustrated little girl. I see the results of that conditioning in my friends whose idea of masculinity is so important to them that they can’t address issues that hinder their growth as human beings.
It was this last question that brought all my thoughts together for me. A lot of the women talked about how they don’t believe we should have to talk about men in these spaces because they are for us. At this moment I realized my idea of feminism has always included men. I’ve always believed that the Black man’s struggle was part of mine and since feminism is about equality of the sexes I should be fighting for their equality as well. This probably stems from my need to “protect my race” but I now see the issue in that. I’ve been so focused on being Black first that I’ve completely ignored being a Woman.
I look at this discussion as my second introduction to feminism. The kind that’s selfish in the pursuit of equity and representation for BLACK WOMEN. The kind that ignores the distractions of “what about me?” from anyone who dares to question why we fight for our own.
I’m channeling my inner Solange and saying this shit is for US.
Thank you BGBC for opening my eyes to something I was missing.