Feminism vs. Black Men

By Tristan Lee-Wright

Feminism is an attack on masculinity.

Feminism is a white woman’s problem.

Black men have no involvement in feminism.

These are some common myths and criticisms about the relationship between Black men and Feminism.

1)     An attack on masculinity?

Some argue that feminism seeks to tear down masculinity and strip men of their manhood.  In actuality, it seeks to tear down the narrow notion of masculinity created by and reinforced by a patriarchal system.  Under the slave system a black man’s wife or children could be sold, killed, lynched or raped at the discretion of the slave owner and the laws and government of the time provided no protection for  black men if they retaliated or resisted.  Their manhood, as defined through the protection of their family was stripped of them.   A Black woman holding power or a leadership role makes some black men feel unease because it exposes a deep insecurity created through the slave system where black men felt powerless.  This is where the sexist idea “I need to keep my woman in line” through domestic abuse or other means comes from.  In their mind the black women are protected and the black men gain back control taken away by the white power structure of the time.

2)     A white woman’s problem?

Feminism in its “movement” form originated within upper-middle or upper class white woman circles of discussion and congregation.  The rights they sought, were more for themselves and what they experienced, Racism was not a focus for them because they were not black and probably thought the end of Racism came with the abolishing of slavery.  It ceases to be a white woman’s problem when Black woman were raped, breeded like cattle, and when black men adopted the mistreatment and false views of woman from their white counterparts.  When slavery ended, black feminism separate from Racism began.  They had begun to fully experience sexism from white men, black men and the patriarchal system and could finally do something about it.

3)     Black men and feminism have no involvement.

W.E.B Du Boi, Alexander Crummell, and Frederick Douglass to name a few Black male scholars, and Black male activists were in support of Feminism and sought more rights for woman.   Frederick Douglass masculinity and gender was challenged by being called a “hermaphrodite” because he was concerned with something that was deemed  “a woman’s issue”.  Black men have had a long history of involvement in women’s rights because as Kalamu Ya Salaam writes “Womens rights are human rights” and this is how these men felt.   Racism, Sexism, and Homophobia may on the outset appear to appeal to “specific” communities but it’s important to look at the “common enemy” of these groups, as well as the people who fit into the overlaps of their definition like Black lesbians or gay black men (or any person of color).   We should realize as black men (and men in general) certain criticisms of feminism are put out there to keep the “divide and conquer” mentality in place, and to maintain control by preventing the groups from uniting to create real change against the “common enemy”.

Let’s do less divisive criticism and seek more uniting (or occupyingJ).

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