in my continued pursuit for justice, equity, and an overall more leveled playing field in the world, i have been more in tune to the rights of women and more intentional about my role as a man in defending their rights. although i consider myself to be an ally and an advocate of women and girl’s rights, i admit i still have much to learn about the movement and much behavior to unlearn relative to the male privilege i’ve enjoyed all of my life but possibly have not used to the benefit of women. that being said, i need a full fledged, non-abridged handbook on “how to be a feminist” because more times than not, i just don’t get it. i often look to my feminist sisters for guidance and discover that sometimes feminist can’t even agree on what feminism is either. it’s tricky subject matter.
when beyonce’s self-titled album was released there was public debate over whether or not beyonce is a feminist. i hadn’t listened to any of the album nor had i seen any of the videos, so i had not the slightest clue as to why such a discussion was being held on social media. so i took to facebook and started a conversation on my page asking women to comment on what feminism is and why beyonce is or isn’t one as reflected by her latest album. the post garnered over 100 comments, but by the end of it i wasn’t any more informed than when i’d first posed the question. what was clear, however, was that many women – many feminists, had many different definitions of what it means to be a feminist, and beyonce’s more mature music was deemed as empowering by some, and demeaning by others.
the most recent social media feminist uproar came just two days ago when miss nevada – now miss usa, responded to an interview question about sexual assault on college campuses, during the miss usa pageant. when asked how to combat sexual assault on college campuses, miss nevada answered that women can learn how to protect themselves through self defense training. you can click the link above to both read and view the full exchange, and read some of the social media backlash generated from her response. so here i was again wondering what all the buzz was about considering i did not watch the pageant (in my former life maybe), and when i researched and watched the exchange for myself, i was again left confused. i naturally took to my female feminists friends for clarity and asked how miss neveda should have answered the question if the way she responded embraces rape culture as many on social media suggest. my favorite go-to feminist/womanist explained,
“Her answer was fine BUT I think some take issue with the notion that we would invest more in self-defense than in stopping rape. I think women should know how to defend themselves but if more focus is placed on us defending rather than on those who perpetrate, then we have a problem. The impetus is on the woman to stop the crime. The first thing people used to say if someone was attacked was what were they wearing and what time were they out, as if any of those were relevant questions. I think people are reacting to anything that puts more emphasis on the victim’s role and response to addressing rape.”
fair enough. clear enough; and i think the last line of her thought is an important one.“people are reacting…” we generally listen only to react. We listen only to reply. We don’t listen to first understand. here’s what i understand: rape is a crime; a heinous one. just like murder or robbery or fraud. herein lies the problem: how do you stop murder? how do we prevent robberies? how do we limit fraud? merely through education of the perpetrator to teach them the difference between right and wrong? because people who commit crimes don’t know what they are doing is wrong? there is research that suggests that even babies are born with some sense of morality, being able to discern between right and wrong/good or bad as early as 3 months old. bottom line: crime will exist until days end as long as the world and its people remain broken. we’ll never stop crime. we’ll never completely eradicate rape (barring some anti-rape technology like a futuristic electrified chastity belt). i wish we could. i hope we can reduce the occurrence of rape; of crime. but it will always exist. because the world is broken and so are its people. it’s why we needed a Savior. we’ll continue to need One.
in the meantime, why not be prepared? i understand it’s a shame that one has to even prepare themselves to stave off something as vile and wrong as rape. but here we are. it’s the same ridiculousness of my father having to teach me how to be a black male before i turned 13; how to seem non-threatening as not to make white women uncomfortable by my presence or get gunned down by the police unnecessarily. i’ll likely need to have the same conversation with my son. it’s ridiculous preparation on all levels that might not help the situation, but it definitely won’t hurt. what also won’t hurt the movement of equal rights for women and girl’s is preparation in the communicated feminist narrative. a unified movement can only be achieved by a unified message. the LGBTQ movement for equal rights under the law has been so successful because their message is very unified. but sometimes the greatest detractors of a movement are the movers themselves. it’s one of the reasons (many being institutional constructs) i believe black america has not made the progress we’ve hoped and expected to see because we’ve failed to unite as a community. likewise, when i see the public criticism of feminists by feminists i see a divided front.
so let’s unite; feminists, womanists, allies, advocates, both male and female. let’s prepare ourselves with self-defense against the opposition by unifying our communicated narrative. if feminism is about dismantling the deeply rooted pillars of patriarchy, let’s do that without discrediting our own voices. let’s stop listening to react, and start listening to understand, and by doing so maybe others will better understand the movement and be encouraged to get behind it. so, i’m listening. are you?