Friday, December 5, 2008

Ain't I A Feminist? Aaronette M. White's Study Of Black Feminist Masculinities.

Hey everyone, sorry for the lapse in time since my last post, its been a bit hectic! But I wanted to be sure to read enough of this amazing new book (dare I say, my new sacred text??) by Aaronette M. White, "Ain't I A Feminist? African American Men Speak Out on Fatherhood, Friendship, Forgiveness and Freedom." (link gives excerpts from book)

In this book, AMW questions whether men can be feminists at all in her chapter "From Healthy Doubt to Critical Acceptance", she documents the role of Black men in feminist movements hundreds of years ago, quoting Fredrick Douglass saying "I am a radical woman suffrage man." She calls Black feminist men the "Sons Of Sojourner Truth" since Truth refused to prioritize issues of race over issues of gender. In the biographical sketches that AMW has collected of Black men who self identify as feminist, profeminist, antisexist or womanist, all of the men interviewed exemplify this intersectional approach to multiple systems of oppression in our communities. These men talk about the events that became the turning points towards this way of being and thinking, and both AMW and these men share visions of fatherhood, romantic and platonic relationships, and a truly holistic movement for Black liberation and healing. I'm telling you, this is THE BOOK!! I would even recommend this for people who aren't black folks... just because templates for dismantling patriarchy in our communities are here.

Allow me to have AMW and the men speak for themselves:

"What can be learned about feminist Black men's definitions and practices of manhood that would challenge institutional inequities, while contributing to the viability of African American communities and the construction of a humane and just society?" -AMW, pg.2

“Black feminism is frequently misunderstood. It may help to note what it is not. Adding the adjective “Black” to the term feminism does not mean that it is White feminism donned in blackface, for Black women only, or Black people only. Rather, there is more than one kind of feminism because culture, class, sexuality and a host of other experiential factors shape feminist perspectives. Thus. Black feminist thought, as used here, does not assume an essence of Blackness; instead it understands “Black” as a construct that reflects the intersection of a variety of institutional power relations. Black feminist thought has historically emphasized the intersection of race, class and gender, highlighting how African American women and other social groups are positioned within unjust power relations.” -AMW, pg.6

“What can feminist Black men’s narratives teach us about how to raise boys? How do we recognize feminist Black masculinities and support the different versions of it when we them, in the interest of broad social change? What are the public policy implications of their feminist activism?” -AMW, pg.11

“Men have to take responsibility to educate their kids and other men about sexism in the same way that White people have to take responsibility to educate their kids and other White people about racism.” - Jake, social justice activist, pg. 24

“When you become antisexist, you are perceived by others as a defector. Men don’t trust you, and a lot of women don’t trust you either.” -Bruce, Co-ordinator of program for men who batter women, pg. 17

“My experiences as a Black gay man have been at the heart of the anti-sexist work i do.... One of the messages that men get growing up is that the worst thing in the world for a man to be is gay, and to be gay is to be interpreted as being like a woman. People think, “Oh you’re gay so you must want to be a woman” or “You’re a fag because you are acting like a woman.” To come to grips with being gay has meant, for me, coming to grips with negative attitudes that men have about women and to realize that there is nothing awful about being a woman! I mean, tell me, what is so awful about a man being like a woman? So, addressing these woman-hating attitudes is at the heart of my work with men.” - Rex, Social Worker, pg. 27

“I grew up in a family where I saw a lot of violence meted out by my father to my mother. I hated how my father treated my mother. But I had to learn that if you’re not actively involved in unlearning behavior that you hate, you may find yourself repeating what you hate. I know what I am talking about because I became a batterer just like my father. I owe a lot to my ex-wife because she showed me pretty dramatically that being a batterer was not the thing for me to be. She shot me. If that doesn’t get your attention, nothing will.” - Soyinka, Labor Unionist, pg. 28

“In traditional Christian patriarchal culture, God is always male; and in traditional Christian White supremacist culture, God is always a white male. So, my struggle has been- over the course of my life- to remove the Whiteness of God’s image, then- over the course of my feminist life- remove the maleness from God’s image.” -Alan, Pentecostal Minister, pg. 34

Black men who are cognizant of the particular predicament of Black women, as persons who experience both racism and sexism, tend to prioritize race issues over gender issues and argue that Black women should do the same (likewise, liberal White feminist women often expect Black women to rank gender issues over race issues when the interests of both collide) -AMW, pg. 43

Men, primarily, teach boys and men to be violent. Regardless of how badly a father treats his child or the child’s mother, he also teaches, by example, a shameless way of being in the world; his actions say to the boy, “You, too, can behave as I do when you become a man.” Too often, “what fathers pass on to their children is their own unacknowledged pain, and in instances of violence, a male sense of entitlement to inflict pain on others.” -AMW, pg. 48

Boys who show the worst psychological development are not always those without fathers but, often, those with abusive or neglectful fathers.... Current research suggests that the key factor in a boy’s healthy relationship to his father is affection, not some essential, yet vague, role modeling of a particular concept of masculinity. - AMW, pg. 53

....when Black men truly see their fate as linked to that of Black women, they move from sympathy to genuine empathy. In this context, empathy is like the African proverb “I am because we are.” -AMW, pg. 39

...And there are so many other insights to be offered, some of which you can read at the link above. My only criticism, which she acknowledges, is that all of the 20 black men featured are middle class and fairly highly educated. I look forward to any updated work she does.

For those of you who celebrate Xmas (and also those who don't), I would suggest getting this book at Powell's or Amazon for a black boy or man in your life.

Thoughts? Bless up!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the mention of this book. It is one that every family needs.

richard said...

agreed steadycat. and by the way, sorry to hear about your deleted facebook page. that is just effed up. glad that you still up and runnin in the blogosphere tho! feelin what you are bringing.

and wow, i just read over this post, i didn't realize how quote happy i got! practically transcribed the whole book into my blog! lol

jeff said...

Wow, what a great find. Though the marxist in me begs people to buy this from Powell's or something, rather than Amazon, I wanted to say thank you for putting this out there. I can't wait to read it.

richard said...

Powell's is a great recommendation Jeff. Though I have heard a suprizing buzz that Amazon actually has really great labor practices and may be worker-owned as well. But i haven't seen any documentation of that.

And yes, this book is amazing.

richard said...

hey Jeff, i added the Powell's link to the post.

lemme know when you've peeped the book!


Anonymous said...

Richard, everyone NEEDS NEEDS NEEDS to read this book. All black men need to read this book.

I commented before stating my bias against men claiming to be feminist, I've had many expereiences that make me question men like this. But after reading this, and many other of your posts, I will say I view you differently.

I will keep reading and I appreciate what you have to say/what you've written.