Originally published August 3, 2015 at 8:38pm
I will probably be accused of being an ‘agent’ [of ‘the White man’ and/or ‘feminist agenda’] by some of my “conscious” comrade brothers or as a much less enlightened cat once accused me of “pandering for p*ssy” due to my anti-misogyny stance in defense of Black women within the Black “conscious” community. Well, although the following is somewhat directed at them, this is not about them.
This is about saying what needs to be said, but remains quietly one of the worst ‘best kept secrets’ in the conscious community: conscious male privilege (misogyny). An example of “conscious” male privilege is attractive socially conscious, activist men being appreciated for both sex appeal and substance, while our women comrades are primarily Liked for either one or the other… seldom both.
Actor and activist Jessie Williams (above) is great example of “conscious” male privilege–by no fault of his own–that allows him to be both heartthrob and firebrand social commentator with neither one undermining the other. In fact, his luminous social commentary gets just as, if not more love on social media.Of course, ‘friend’ response to social media posts are not exactly a scientific poll of the values and interests of said ‘friends’, but when a disparity of interest between ‘skin deep’ and substantive expressions by women manifests itself in tangible ways that impact them and their endeavors, it’s not a matter of a narcissistic need for validation. Using social media as a means of organizing activities in the ‘real world’ is more about generating offline action than online reaction.
Point of note: If you support a cause, remember that ‘support’ is not just a noun, it’s a verb. (Message!)
It’s especially frustrating for a woman organizer to get hundreds of Likes for a ‘pretty’ pic, only a few Likes for a community rally, and even less admirers actually attend the rally (even those who are down for the cause’). It pains me to have my women comrades confide in me about how disheartening it is organize a successful rally, only to have male guest speakers and/or male fellow activists attempt to treat them like personal assistants, as opposed to respected peers… but I digress.
Here we have, Niecee X, a woman of substance, Black Power activist, organizer and self-defense instructor in the Huey P. Newton gun club, who literally puts her boots on the ground from state to state on behalf of bettering conditions for Black people… but she also happens to be aesthetically attractive. The contrast of crowd response between her two posts above illustrates the sexist double-standard that “conscious” women face from within their own “conscious” ranks. One “conscious” brother’s ‘revolutionary sister in arms’ is another “woke” brother’s “hella thick redbone” with “some nice a** lips!”
When a “woke” woman activist who’s actually “’bout that action” with a predominantly “woke” base, consistently gets more Likes, Comments, and/or offline personal ‘interest’ for her looks than she does for a rally she’s organized in defense of Black women, what does that say? What does it say about the value of beautiful Black women’s intelligence and contributions to the cause that Niecee X could probably get more Likes as an Instagram ‘model’ than she does laying her life on the line in defense of Black lives?
I have rallied with Niecee X alongside another superfly sister, Indeya X Assatta, and the pattern of disparity between the crowd response to sexiness over substantive content glares. Women being more appreciated for their sex appeal than substance in the general “unconscious” population is not a newsflash, but the exact same phenomenon plays itself out in the “conscious” crowd, too. No shade at Niecee X’s fan/friend base. This contrast between her aforementioned posts is just a microcosm of the misogyny that impacts women from virtually every race, background, political stripes and/or ideology.
Even though a Black Power sister and a woman with the KKK are diametrically opposed to one another in virtually every tangible way, they both have misogynistic double-standards working against them in common from within their respective group/community.
A woman should not have to wear Hi-Tec ‘Magnum’ tactical boots, camo, and/or military fatigues–unless she chooses to of her own volition–to be seen as a soldier in the fight for equal justice. If she is genuinely ’bout that life/action we should be willing to salute her, even if she is wearing a pastel print sundress, sandals, and a flower in her hair.
I greatly appreciate the fact that my social media friends Like my ‘pretty’ pic posts and Like my social commentary posts even more, but I want my women comrades to enjoy that same privilege of being able to be aesthetically admired and principally respected at the same time, especially when they are advocating for their own protection–of which we “conscious” men claim to be in full support.
When Niecee X asked me to make an impromptu speech at the “anti-KKK” rally on the SC State Capital steps, I was wearing a grey v neck t-shirt (drenched in sweat), slim cut blue jeans, and black leather Chucks. Though local, national, and international media were there reporting, at NO point did I wonder if I my hair was ‘camera ready’ or if I was “dressed appropriately” to speak.
I would like to believe that’s because I’m so self-confident as a person, but I’m aware that it was also a result of male privilege. I didn’t think about it consciously, because I didn’t have to. I knew subconsciously that I would be judged for my words, not my clothes.
Sure enough, that speech netted me interviews with reporters from multiple major news organizations, including CBS News, who ran a great piece prominently featuring me. Had I been a woman conditioned by misogynistic patriarchal social rules to believe that I looked too haggard for the occasion, I would likely have politely declined Niecee X’s request to speak at that rally and missed out on an opportunity to represent the movement on an national/international platform via CBS News.
A woman (or girl), especially a woman of color, does not have to be vain, shallow, insecure, or superficial to be concerned that her beauty or attire may be just as important in certain presentations as her personal virtues, character, aptitude and intelligence. She might be just as self-confident as a man, but likewise be subconsciously aware of the same male privilege (misogyny) that benefited me, but works against her.
Well, unlike many of the top priority issues in the collective “conscious” community of color, which require some degree of White acquiescence to be realized, we can address and resolve misogyny on our own. (And by ‘we’, I mean men. You know… the ones who benefit from it.) Of course, I get that there are levels to male privilege and racism has an influence in conditioning African-American men to subscribe to a values that do not value Black women, but I also know that many of the self-anointed “conscious” [male] voices are too comfortable subjugating ‘their’ women in the same manner they decry being subjugated themselves by ‘the White man.’
The flip side of the old Kelly Le Brock ‘Pantene’ ad catchphrase “Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful” is that we should neither love our sisters in arms simply because they’re beautiful. Sexually objectifying women in general is disrespectful, but relegating socially conscious, active women to being ‘eye candy’ is not only disrespectful to women, it’s detrimental to the movement. In other words, sexism is strategically stupid because it stymies the growth and efforts of women in the movement. Which in turns impedes the movement itself.
Mary McLeod Bethune said “The true worth of a race must be measured by the character of its womanhood.” By that principle, we “conscious” men will not and cannot ever effectively convey the worth of our race or how much our lives matter, if we’re more attracted to Black women’s lips than we are to the insightful words they express through those very same “nice a** lips.” If you know better, do better. And if you don’t know, now you know. #dontBSyourself