Silencing Black Female Voices: The Difference Between Misandry & Critique

To say that I have an active twitter life would be an understatement as many of you who read my blog know. I use my twitter to address a lot of different topics and to critique politics and social interactions that deal with race, class, weight discrimination and gender. When talking about the African American community I often address the ways in which black men oppress black women and how patriarchal masculinity affects black men. For some reason any and all critique of black men or men in general is read as a HATRED of men and I think it is unfair that any time male sexism is called onto the carpet, men are allowed to declare that you simply hate all men and dismiss what you have to say. It’s not pretty, describing the ways in which men contribute to a culture that excuses things like rape, female objectification etc. but pointing things like this out should not be labeled as hatred. There are a lot of things in our society, in our culture, that are atrocious and that are upsetting. There are people who are complicit in maintaining the oppressive status quo, why then is it considered hatred to address those people? What I find interesting is that black men seem to believe they are above reproach. They will agree with you when you talk about how white men are complicit in white supremacy which in turn oppresses people of color and drives capitalism but don’t you dare mention how black men contribute to the gender based oppression of black women. Calling cultural critiquing “hatred” silences and redirects a conversation that MUST be had, not only to the benefit of those suffering under the oppression but those who are perpetrating that oppression. It is especially hard to reach men of color because they experience oppression based on their race and that victimization seduces them into believing that they cannot in turn victimize but black women know this is not true. Does black male patriarchy mean every black man is a horrible person; does black male patriarchy render solidarity between black women and men impossible? NO. But it is not up to those who profit/perpetrate a system of oppression to silence those that are victims of it. Progress in the black community is seriously stunted when an open and honest discussion about sexism and patriarchy cannot be had and the opinions of black women are continually dismissed as misandry.

 

There is a difference between hating men and critiquing men in an effort to improve the lives of those oppressed under male rule and the lives of the men contributing to patriarchy. bell hooks talks about the ways in which patriarchal masculinity effect men in her book “The Will To Change: Men Masculinity and Love”. According to hooks, patriarchal masculinity robs black men of their humanity; it alienates them from their loved ones and encourages them towards behavior that slowly kills them, like violence. Patriarchal masculinity shows men that being vulnerable and expressing any emotion besides anger or lust makes you subject to losing your manhood and those privileges that come with manhood. The way that bell hooks critiques patriarchal masculinity is out of love, a desire to show men how their version of masculinity contributes to their own unhappiness. We cannot always critique patriarchy from a standpoint of “this is how patriarchy is damaging men” because patriarchy also has ill effects on women, ones that are more immediate. Pointing out these ill effects in conjunction with the ill effects of patriarchy on the men who are supposed to be profiting from it, makes for a holistic critique of a damaging social system. The problem is that even when we take this holistic approach to critiquing sexism in the black community, those old ideas about sexism come back up. There is a belief that if anyone critiques black men they are not for black communal freedom from racism. There is a belief that if you critique black men you are showing the world their weaknesses and thereby betraying your own community and exposing yourself as a man hater. The labels that come with critiquing black men can seriously silence black women who have something important to say! There is also the idea that a WOMAN cannot critique black men because her opinion will be biased. Women and men alike will be biased regardless of whether or not they are critiquing their own gender or another gender, it is human error. This does not mean that what they have to say is not legitimate or cannot be used for the betterment of the community. We have to get past this belief that calling out patriarchy is hatred for the patriarchs. Not every feminist/womanist talks about patriarchy from a holistic point of view, not every advocate for female social justice uses language that makes men comfortable but it is important to remember that victims of oppression do not HAVE to ensure the comfort of those they are critiquing! Some of us do because we know that progress will come easier if our words are like honey but it should not be a requirement. You can aggressively talk about male oppression and be speaking generally and that NOT be HATRED. For some of us it is hard to sound nice when we feel a foot on our necks and being in a position where you are critiquing the people that hurt you is difficult. But again, there is a difference between genuinely hating men and angrily critiquing them. Misandry is the hatred of men, hatred is extreme dislike or ill will towards someone, is exposing patriarchy and suggesting a better way for both men and women HATRED? No. Sometimes what is said sounds aggressive or angry but the content of discourse will indicate the difference between a critique and misandry.

 

“Fuck men, all men are alike, they are all rapists and vile violent pieces of shit”……yeah, that’s misandry. That is hatred, Cut and dried, obvious……”Fuck patriarchy! It tells men that they are entitled to female bodies if they are violent enough, and dehumanizes the men that are supposed to profit from it”…….do you see the difference? Both are angry statements but one is about hatred and one is a frustrated statement about a system of oppression. Why then does the second statement silence the voices of social advocates? If men … especially men of color, for the purposes of this post, are really interested in racial solidarity with black women, then SEXISM has GOT to be discussed and addressed. It is not possible to have this discussion without a little bit of anger and even bitterness or resentment by those who have been oppressed but these emotions do not stem from hatred and associating them with hatred is counterproductive to growth. I think it is time we stop calling every critique of patriarchal behavior, HATRED, and start calling it a CRITIQUE. I know that these critiques often sound like accusations and that is why they are hard to stomach and easy to file away as hatred but the introspection called for by these critiques are beneficial to all. All knowledge and understanding that requires you to change is hard to stomach but it doesn’t mean it is negative.

 

*This article can be found at its original source athere*

The Thin Vs. Fat Negative Dichotomy

As a fat woman who will never be thin, a fat woman with no desire to be thin, I often come across people who hate me for nothing but my size. To be a fat woman in America means to be invisible in many ways because of the social construction of beauty. When you carry extra weight on your body people expect you to make yourself scarce, they expect you to be humble at all times and in a constant state of apology for the way you look; and when you aren’t you are subject to ridicule and shame. And when you are, you get taken advantage of and are STILL subject to ridicule and shame. Lose-Lose, in a lot of ways. I, like many other women have learned that a woman is judged first by her desirability in this society and that desirability is measured by how close that woman comes to the ideal norm. Thinness, along with a lot of other traits both physical & personality wise, is one of the things used to measure desirability or beauty. Some women are born automatically missing this mark (women of color for instance) and some women develop into missing that mark (full figured women). However you arrive outside of this beauty ideal, the consequences are upsetting and wreak havoc on a woman’s perception of herself which in turn can set her up for all manner of ill use and shaming by other people. So what happens when a woman who is outside of this norm, or even when a woman matches this norm PERFECTLY, comes to love herself? It is a beautiful thing to defy the world you live in by daring to love yourself the way you are but for a lot of people, loving yourself comes with hating someone else. This is where that negative dichotomy comes into play. This is what I mean: I have known aloooot of fat women who have struggled with the way that they look and the only way they could get on top of their poor self-image was to make what they couldn’t be, thin, a negative thing. So one question for today’s blog is, why does thin have to be ugly for fat to be beautiful?

 

Why does thin have to be ugly for fat to be beautiful? Why does fat have to be ugly for thin to be beautiful? There is something that disturbs me about having plus size friends who refer to thin women as “skinny bitches” or who call thin women “grossly thin”. It normally says more about the fat person who hates the thin person than it does about the thin person. The thing is, hateful words like those suggest insecurity in fat women. I have been called a fat ass and other fat insults by thin women who absolutely HATE me because I have the gall to take up space without apologizing. The looks I get when I’m in public in a short skirt or dress or tight pair of leggings, express the vehemence of women who have not learned a healthy way to love THEMSELVES. When I was younger my mom would tell me that people who were mean to me were just jealous…in a lot of ways she had a point. Most of the women who get suckered into this negative dichotomy feel like they have to fight constantly to keep the world’s attention. Whether fat or thin, othering other women is about not wanting to be invisible and wanting to be powerful. True self confidence, true self esteem stem from self-love, and self-love makes you powerful AND visible. We are encouraged to measure ourselves against each other constantly and it profits us NOTHING but to create an “other” in order to make ourselves visible. When the basis for your self-esteem and your self-confidence is gained by othering other people then the foundation for your self-esteem and confidence is fickle. It sets you up to always be in competition with other women over the way that you look, it gives you negative thoughts about women who don’t look like you and it cheapness the journey into self-acceptance because it is less about self-love and more about the power involved in telling yourself you are superior. I understand this desire, as a fat woman, to make thinness unattractive. It’s a heady feeling…declaring thinness unattractive while the majority of the world holds a different opinion because thinness is one of those beauty norm ideal traits. Rejecting thinness in favor of fat and then declaring thinness to be ugly or inferior…in a lot of ways makes me feel better because no one wants to accept me for my size…it’s almost like armor, a first line of defense…but true self love is armor in and of itself. It does not require you to hate on, dismiss or judge anyone else because it is about YOU.

 

I’m writing today because I want to encourage thin and fat women alike to begin their journey into high self-esteem and self-confidence with a foundation of SELF love. If you constantly compare yourself to other women, like you are encouraged to do, then you will always come up short. This will leave you with two options, take a hit to your self-esteem or make what you are compared with inferior. My suggestion is to stop the comparison all together. Measure yourself against YOURSELF because your esteem, confidence and love is not really FOR anyone else.

 

*This article can be found at its original source here*

My Thoughts On FatHood

Let me start by saying this piece is about fat, big bold beautiful fatty FAT. The term “fat” makes a lot of people uncomfortable because for too long it has carried stigmas about health, cleanliness, physical fitness, and character flaws like bad hygiene, laziness, over-eating, insecurity and low self-esteem. Those who appreciate fat prefer terms like “thick” or “big” because of the weight of stigmas around the word FAT. But fat is not an identity, it is a physical characteristic (like curly hair or long toes) and because of that fact, I prefer to use the term fat. The identity of fat (as previously mentioned) is one created out of prejudice. That’s not the kind of fat that I’m going to talk about, push out of your mind all the fat stereotypes and let me tell you about the REAL world of fat from the perspective of an ACTUAL fat woman.

 

I am a 22 year old fat black biracial woman; I have thunder thighs and cellulite, a stomach, flabby arms, a big ‘ol butt (say wah!?), a slight double chin, pretty feet, full breasts, smooth skin and a graceful gait. I have been encouraged to believe that my fat body is unattractive, that I should hide it every chance that I get. This message has been sold to me under the guise for concern about my health and by the media, the beauty industry, the diet industry, and society. I have been told that I shouldn’t wear bright colors or short dresses. I have been discouraged from wearing bathing suits in public by people who snicker or take pictures of me. The fact that I am so proud of my body makes people uncomfortable, they do not wish to SEE me and that is always made abundantly clear. But if I decided to see myself through the eyes of society, I would become someone that I am not. Besides, I have come to realize that my fat is beautiful. My fat is sexy. The way I throw my weight around makes some men drool and there is NOTHING wrong with my fat. My fat was meant to be seen, flaunted, touched, kissed, my fat looks good naked or underneath a man. I will not apologize for being alive, fat and in your face.

 

Well intentioned people will tell a fat person that it’s great to love your body but “you really should lose some weight”. As if the bodies of other people were there for policing as long as they seemed to genuinely care. There is a problem with that though, telling someone what you think they should do with their body, assumes that they don’t know (that they are stupid) or that they are dissatisfied with their health or size. It is perfectly possible to be fat, fit and healthy; in fact it is scientifically PROVEN (see Health At Every Size Research). So the health aspect of telling a fat person they shouldn’t be fat is entirely based on assumptions that they do not eat healthily or exercise…. There are plenty of thin people who do neither and are extremely unhealthy but there is something about fat that makes people get dominant and superior. Having said that, I do not entertain concern trolls. When it comes to my body, I AM AN EXPERT; my health is between me and MY doctor. So what does that leave us with? The constructs of beauty and attractiveness. When you strip down ideas about the health of fat people, all you have left is what you think of the way they look.

 

Fat Love

 

Beauty and attractiveness are two highly subjective things. What I find to be beautiful & sublime, another might find ugly. This holds true for every individual yet through the media we are taught to believe that there is a “standard” of beauty; that beauty is objective. This is a big problem because of the weight our society puts on physical beauty. We have been taught that if it’s good enough for the television, if they don’t sell a pill to fix it, then it is perfect. That is a lie of course but thousands of people accept this as true. Another component of this lie is the societal belief that women are symbols of status and power for men. We are taught that the most important job of a woman is to look good; beauty is what makes a woman worthy. So when you have a woman who doesn’t meet idealized standards of beauty she is seen as having less value than those who do. This creates a problem for fat women, especially in their romantic lives. “Thin is in” means fat is out, so what happens to all of the sexy, hunky, nerdy, professional, thuggish men who find fat to be attractive? They are caught in a catch 22 of sorts. That is, being attracted to fat women but being ashamed of that attraction because of the stigma that comes with fat. Other men will look at them and think they are weaker, less powerful because the woman on their arm is devalued in our society. Fat women do not make very good “trophies”. The stigma that comes with being fat (laziness, overeating, insecurity, bad hygiene etc.) will be attached to the man who dates a fat girl. The solution unfortunately has been for men to objectify and use fat women. Instead of pursuing relationships with fat women, men use them to gratify their sexual needs. They love our awesome curves, our jiggle, our bounce but they wouldn’t be caught dead with us. As a womanist/feminist I get a little bit aggressive when I’m referring to these types of men, I usually call them “slaves to white patriarchal standards of beauty” because these are men who put society’s standards before their own standards. They will put what their friends think about how a woman looks before their own preference and frankly it’s sad. And as a fat woman dealing constantly with men like this, it is extremely dehumanizing to realize that someone would find you as beautiful as you find yourself but be ashamed to express that outside of sex. The conditions for this behavior were created by these idealized & sexist standards of beauty. There are other standards of beauty like standards that declare black skin to be unattractive, that are even more sinister and harmful. These standards are built on white supremacy yet they are pervasive; just as the standards of beauty’s size are pervasive. As individuals we must start acting on our own attraction, our own idea of beauty because when we don’t, we allow other people to dictate subjective parts of our identities! And that is the truth, straight from a fat girl’s lips.

 

Fat women internalize messages about their inferiority every day, and to be a fat woman who is also black means you have to work hard to fight racial messages about your skin as well as those about your body. But that fight for self-actualization and efficacy is a worthy one and as a feminist and fat activist I make that fight a public one in order to empower women like me. I’ve said all of this to give you a little peek into my mind and hopefully to challenge some assumptions and even behaviors. Whether you are fat or thin, black or white you must always challenge stigma and prejudice, not only for yourself but for the sake of others as well.