Feminism · Personal

Bad.Black.Feminist. (Word to Roxane Gay)

From http://www.allmusic.com. The cover of Betty Davis’ 3rd album, Nasty Gal.

I’ve been very inspired by Roxane Gay’s fab essay book, Bad Feminist, where she explores the contradictions many of us self-identified feminists feel between our feminist politics and our personal lives. She asserts that there is no perfect way to be a feminist, and I love that. Proclaiming myself a Bad. Black. Feminist. simply says that while I am committed to feminist ideals and praxis, i’m human, and while I try to live out my feminism everyday, I’m not perfect. As Black women, we have been denied the privileges of being seen as feminine, mothers, wives, hell, human, all social constructed identities (except for being human), many White feminists push back against. Although I recognize how problematic those identities are, I often times relish for those to be recognized as possibilities for me and Black women as a whole.

In tribute to Bad Feminist, I’m exploring a few of the human contradictions between my feminist beliefs and how I desire to live my personal life. The “personal is political” is the mantra of feminism,so I’m not sure what my desires really say about my political philosophy; other than that I am a messy, complicated, flawed human being.

  • I engage in beauty rituals, sometimes painful ones, in order to adhere to society’s beauty standards. Bushy eyebrows, hairy legs and armpits, etc are not inherently wrong, but in our society they are perceived as unfeminine. I therefore, pay lots of money and spend lots of time removing hair from various places on my body.
  • I love designer clothes and purses. I’m still the teen who spent hours browsing the websites of Neiman Marcus and Saks, daydreaming about growing up and being able to afford those clothes. I grew up but the designer duds are still out of my reach. Yea capitalism, consumerism, materialism, blah blah, I can’t help but lust after Michael Kors beautiful clothing and purses
  • I hate housework with a passion! Is it wrong for a feminist to want a housekeeper, especially knowing the history of White women employing women of color as domestic workers while they fought to be included in the workforce. How does me being a Black woman complicate that?
  • I love hip hop, including songs by male rappers who rhyme sexist and misogynistic lyrics over hot beats. I also love hip hop by female MCs that rhyme about their bodies, sexual conquests, and how they wrangle money from men. I don’t make excuses or rationalize why I like the music, despite the problematic lyrics. I believe that I can still like ratchet music while advocating for black women’s liberation.
  • I support the decriminalization of sex work. For too many feminists, sex work is seen as the opposite of feminism, because they believe that it is inherently exploitative for women. Sex worker rights advocates have debunked this; sex work is work, and while exploitation exists in sex work industries, it also exists in most other industries as well. Stigmatization and criminalization are what fuel exploitation and violence within sex work. Negative ideas about sex workers support the harm done by people like Daniel Holtzclaw, a police officer in Oklahoma who raped and sexually assaulted 13 Black women, targeting poor black women with histories of drug use and sex work. He knew these women would be afraid to report because society views these women as less valuable, not even human.

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