Tag Archives: Black Feminism

4 Reasons Respectability Politics Has No Place in Black Feminism

27 May


Okay so, quick recap:
Since my feminist views have changed so drastically, I had to write a 3-post series.

In Part 1, Bad Girls Are My New Role Models, I argued that black pop stars are good sexual agency role models (for adults) because they teach us to articulate pleasure.

In Part 2, “Turning to the Dark Side,” I renounced respectability politics, a system of beliefs that expect black women to always be noble, chaste, and deny sexuality because of the hypersexual stereotype that weighs on our shoulders.

Now we’re on to Part 3:
4 Reasons Respectability Politics Has No Place in Black Feminism

“Keep your legs closed AT ALL TIMES,” say the folks for respectability politics. Their argument is that if black women do not acknowledge or flaunt their sexuality, we can extinguish the hypersexual stigma. Because of this argument, we are quick to shame sexy black woman entertainers for singing about sex and daring to twerk.

Though I previously was a devout believer in respectability politics, I’m now saying that acting “respectable” doesn’t fix the hypersexual problem, but instead adds onto it. Here’s why this type of thinking, as well-intentioned as it is, simply doesn’t work.

1. Black women do not control the master narrative
What was that Malcom X said about the media having the power to control the minds of the masses? The media fuels the master narrative, the ideas that circulate about black women. And the media is not ran by black women, but by older white men who profit greatly from the hypersexual black woman stereotype. So even if Rihanna and all the other bad girls on TV suddenly became Claire Huxtable, the narrative would not change. Those who have much to gain from the stereotype would simply find a way to sexualize all of the Claires, the same way they sexualized little Sasha Obama (who has no public sexual record) last summer when she went out in 90+ degree weather wearing short shorts.

2. Black women are not a monolith
We don’t need everyone to be Claire Huxtable. That wouldn’t be an accurate representation of black womanhood. We all have our own various ways of expressing ourselves that go far beyond “respectable vs. ratchet.” Some of us are both and/or neither. We need a diverse range of expressions, as that gives more accurate representations of black women: we need Beyoncé and Janelle Monae, Nicki Minaj and Lauryn Hill, bell hooks and Joan Morgan.

3. Respectability politics works to further restrict and shame, rather than liberate
In respectability politics, we create a very small, heteronormative prison cell for black women to function in. All black women must be Claire, otherwise they’re an embarrassment. What about our working class women, our single mothers, and our lgbt friends…are they an embarrassment? Are our friends who got pregnant a little earlier in life unworthy of respect? Should I be ashamed to move my body the way it wants to when music plays?

Black women are so diverse and express themselves in such varied ways, that demanding for a specific way to publicly perform suppresses not only our sexuality, but also our everyday mannerisms and ways of walking in the world.

4. Ultimately, Respectability Politics is a result of internalized racism
In accepting respectability politics, we’ve internalized the sexist views of black women. Instead of speaking out against America’s minority monolith mentality and stereotyping problem, we support it. We pray that if every black woman is on her best behavior, those rich white men who own the Big 6 media corporations will stop making so many damn housewife shows.

With respectability politics, we’re trying to change our stereotype from a hypersexual one to a respectable one. Yet, instead we should be trying to demolish stereotypes altogether. Shackles are still shackles even if they’re made from gold—and stereotypes are still stereotypes even when we try to make them seem nicer.

Sure, a “nicer” stereotype may do us some good: Maybe then black graduates wouldn’t suffer the higher unemployment rates than their fellow graduates, and maybe people wouldn’t believe we’re “talking white” when we enunciate. But we’d still need to combat whatever other “nicer stereotypes” (sorry, I don’t believe in good stereotypes) are thrown at us. And we would still need to combat the stereotypes cast upon other groups in the U.S.

Wanna know the reason why my opinions changed so drastically? Check out what I’ve been reading:
The Best of the Best articles on respectability politics

P.S. This article is part of the Top Posts. Check out the Best of A Womyn’s Worth.

Black Feminist Backlash I’m Tired of Hearing

28 Feb


Top 5 Things Not to Say to a Black Feminist

“Uh oh, she quoted bell hooks. That’s how you know it’s serious,” said one of my guy friends while reading an article I’d written on Katy Perry’s cultural appropriation for the Ms. magazine blog.

He and another friend were impressed with my stance on appropriation’s way of reinforcing harmful stereotypes, but their response wasn’t the general response.

Of course, that wasn’t the only article I’ve written that’s gotten negative feedback, and I’m not the first writer to ever be told that my work is “a load of bs.” However, as I review the comments on my writing and on the writing of other black feminists on the web, I’ve noticed a pattern of backlash. The disapproving comments usually fall into 5 main responses. And since I’m sick of reading the same old comments on every black feminist/womanist blog or website, I think it’s time to address the backlash. Read more…

Author’s Note: Hey Everyone. This article was originally published on XO Jane (Ya girl got published again!). So you can read the rest of the article there. Hope you enjoy!

Oh, and heads up! A Womyn’s Worth got a Facebook page (I know—long overdue).  So like it on Facebook, share it with your friends, and enjoy.

P.S. This article is part of the Top Posts. Check out the Best of A Womyn’s Worth.

How to Date a Feminist

29 Jan


How to Date a Feminist in 6 Easy Steps

My boyfriend Ryan and I have had countless very loud and heated feminist-related discussions/arguments. I’ve called him out on male privilege, he’s claimed I’m a separatist, and we’ve had intriguing debates on Juicy J’s Twerk Scholarship, #Solidarityisforwhitewomen, #Blackpowerisforblackmen, and cultural appropriation. After disagreeing on Grand Theft Auto’s need for playable female characters, we had to reconsider whether or not this relationship was going to work out.  

Needless to say, my black feminist politics has impacted our relationship, bringing us closer together, while at the same time, fostering lots of disagreement. But somehow, we’ve managed to survive. So here’s our 6-step plan to dating a feminist (by feminist, we mean feminist of any gender).

Step 1: If you’re considering dating a feminist, DON’T. Plain and simple. If you can avoid dating a feminist, by all means, do so. Otherwise, you might end up in a relationship with a partner who, if they practice what they preach, treats you like a human being, brings up interesting topics at dinner, cares about other people in the world, and maybe even helps you pay the check every now and then. God forbid it!

Instead, run and hide.


However, if find yourself in a situation where a feminist happens to be the object of your affection, we’ll try to help you traverse the waters that are feminism in your relationship.

Step 2: Know the definition of Feminism (the real one).  Feminism is not just for women.  If your significant others thinks feminism is only about women’s issues, they’re wrong. Feminism also addresses the human condition, and is more than simply a woman’s ideology.


Step 3: Think about the ways in which you expect your partner to obey certain gender norms…then get rid of those expectations. That’s kiddie crap. Gender norms are for old school Disney characters; you are dating a real person.

Step 4: Be ready to defend your beliefs and prepare to be wrong. If you are dating a passionate feminist, they will call you out on your sexist/racist/homophobic/privileged ways. So have well-thought-out answers and questions.

Step 5: Do not pacify discussion. If your partner happens to be on a feminist rant (or a light discussion, depending on their temperament), listen up. You might actually learn something new about yourself or about something pretty freaking cool. It won’t benefit either of you to end the conversation with “Okay, you’re right.” Instead, when you feel your partner is blatantly wrong or isn’t making sense, call them on it. Discussion only helps you better understand.

Step 6: Accept that feminist ideology will creep into your thoughts and make you a better person…you’re welcome.


%d bloggers like this: