I never set out to be a Black male feminist. Like everyone else, I was groomed to see feminists as bra burning, anti-family, baby killing, lesbians who hated men. On top of that, I was and continue to be a Pan Africanist and the idea that feminists were proponents of white supremacy was hammered into my head. So there was no way I was going to become a feminist. Slowly but surely it happened. I went kicking and screaming but here I am.
Many have asked me what is the biggest problem I encounter in being a black male feminist. While I encounter many peers who question my sanity and my sexuality because of my views on feminism, sexism, and male privilege, the biggest obstacle in being a black male feminist is myself. Probably the biggest thing that most likely prevents the average brother from becoming a feminist, outside of religious and societal conditioning, is male privilege. Yes, the big phrase that every male, especially black males, are quick to defend. Don’t believe me? Throw that word in a dinner conversation and see what happens.
Each and everyday I wake up battling male privilege. Oftentimes, we menfolk revel in it without even knowing about it. That’s what makes it difficult. Privilege is invisible. It’s not something noticed by those who own it. A white person doesn’t worry about being followed in a department store. That’s a privilege that is pretty much invisible to a white male. For a black male, it’s a fact. The same thing applies to male privilege. I can sleep around with all the women I want and my morality is never called into question. As a matter of fact, it is seen as my grooming to becoming a man. My manhood is tied to my sexual prowess. We often see sexism as an individual act against one person and fail to recognize the invisible systems that places dominance over women. I don’t have to protest the fact that women in every profession makes less money than I do working the same position, with the same experience that I have.
Male privilege is probably the number one reason I refused to even consider being a feminist for so long. There are days when I wake up and slip right back into it without even realizing it. There are days when I can recognize it as quickly as a cat can spot a mouse.
While I might find it difficult to continue to be a black male feminist, I have learned that it is far more difficult for a woman to be a feminist, and It is probably doubly difficult for a black woman to be a feminist. All one has to do is hear the things men say to feminists who happen to be women. While I might have been called a number of things that made me want to send someone crashing through a plate glass window, I have never been threatened with bodily harm or rape when calling someone or something out as sexist. The irony of it all is that because of male privilege, most people are much more willing to hear me out when it comes to feminism then they might be towards a woman who happens to be feminist.
For any black male to become a feminist, he has to recognize male privilege and then give it up. In a society where oftentimes we feel powerless, any advantage we have to recognize and give up might make one feel helpless. Or so we think. That is not true at all. Not everything we do has involve a power dynamic of any kind. We are partners right? So we should share. We should not take advantage of any privilege we might assume is ours by birthright. We as men cannot expect to uplift the community while treating one half of the members of said community like second class citizens. We are partners in this struggle. The sisters should not have to play the back. Like us, they have a stake in our triumphs and suffer much more than we do in our losses.
Not only must we recognize and give up male privilege, we must challenge and revolutionize the false teachings of masculinity. As human beings, it is our duty to protect and provide for our families. Everyone does that in their own way. We must also love, nurture, build with, uplift, and strengthen our loved ones and our communities. We must challenge the idea that as men we must remain in power and then destroy all those who even seem to think about threatening our hold on said power. While everything is political, not everything is about who maintains dominance over the other.
Being a black male feminist does not imply that I have arrived. I am a work in progress and I don’t have all the answers. I am thankful that I have several sister warrior friends in my corner. They are supportive, loving, strong, and intelligent. I have come to realize that in the words of the wonderful Dr. bell hooks, feminism is for everybody. Becoming a black male feminist has made me a better husband, father, brother, son, and teacher. I don’t expect to convert anyone to feminism in one article, one conversation, or one debate. As a matter of fact, I don’t believe in conversion. As a black male feminist I have learned that part of our fight is against sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression. Now who wouldn’t get down with that?