The Silence of Our Friends

Sunday, June 10, 2007

men of color, sexuality, liberation, female autonomy

It seems that I have really pissed off a lot of men of color lately. amongst some of my unapproved comments: "fuck you and everyone here," "fuck who made this website," and a really beautiful "fuck you" in Arabic (I've been told to fuck off in three languages now!!!).

I hold no naive belief that I can possibly change the mind of the man of color that calls me a traitor or a whore or tells me to fuck off.

So I want to talk to the men of color that I think will listen to me. The ones that respectfully listen when women of color share their experiences, the ones that respect our spaces, the ones that support and believe in feminism--the ones that oh so rarely actually talk about any of the issues and their places within any of the issues that feminists of color are talking about.

The men who are currently posting comments are pissed off about this post. And before anybody jumps all over the idea that these men's reactions reflect "their culture"--please remember that only a few weeks ago, I was called a vendida for this post. I've also been called a thunder cunt by black man and told that he hopes I crash in my car and that I need to be fist fucked. Throughout my blogging career, I've received multiple threats like this--and just this morning, I got this comment from a (presumably) white man:

Women are not welcome at protests because women screw everything up by making stupid decisions.
Don’t start a fight you can’t finish ladies.

So this sexism/violence not something that is specific to a certain race or culture.

And yet it is something I rarely hear men of color activists talk about--and when they do, more times than not, it's in a very specific sense--women as hyper victims of European colonization, or women as loyal supporters of national liberation.

Specifically, women have been brutalized beyond all sense of the word by white people, and therefore that brutalization stands as proof of the ultimate evil of white people. OR, we are all comrades in the fight--we are all working together for the common goal of "liberation"--liberation that happens to require women reinforce a certain gender role that many women may not want to reinforce.

There are several things wrong with each of these ideas.

First, to be brutalized is a very real thing. Not one woman of color denies that women in her particular community have been brutalized. But to use one part of our history as proof of the inherent evil of the white race does little more than position us as a tool to use in YOUR (i.e. MALE) battle against white structures of power. We are only good for the movement as long as we are submissively down cast, our fierce angry hearts silenced and cold in the name of liberation.

It also positions us as the eternal victims--the ones that can not fight shoulder to shoulder because we are "weak." The fact that we could be brutalized in the manner we were proves it, right? Only weak people are raped--forced down on to their hands and knees, forced to accept physical penetration. And that is NOT what a man is, right? "Manly" violence is being arrested unjustly by the cops, being beaten, being shot in the streets, dying like a hero, pretending that a tragedy is a bit more bearable because a brother died like a warrior, on his feet and fighting.

Except, my brothers, we know you and your history as much as you know ours.

We know the little boy that was raped by priests until he killed himself with alcohol or drugs. We know the little boy that had his penis cut off because he whistled at a white woman. We know his father who had his own genitals ripped off and shoved in his mouth right before he was set on fire. We know how your (not work safe)painful history is appropriated (just like ours) by people that would do you harm and revel in it.

We know this about you, because we were there also being violated, also being terrorized, also forced to watch while you writhed, listen while you screamed. We also had to find ways to not fall apart when white mistresses took you for the night, and we cringe from the same embarrassment when our sexuality is used to animalize us.

We know this about you--and yet, how often do we all talk about it? How often do you lead discussions on it? How often do you lead the warrior chant at rallies "NO MORE RAPE", scream about the evils of the rapist white man that sexually manipulated your brother?

We all know the answer to that.

And why don't you all position yourselves as the sexualized victim of white men? Is it because you do not want to be defined by your violation? Is it because you don't want to use the pain of your brother to make a political point? Is it because you don't want to be a victim, like a woman?

Why do you think we want to be defined by ours? Why do you think it's ok to make a political point with our pain? And why don't you want to be like a woman? Is there something wrong with women?

Second--the "we are all comrades" idea. This is where, as activists, we all get together because of the violations we are experiencing, we all decide to work together for liberation--and then BAM! Any sexist, dismissive, violent action on the part of males against females becomes instantaneously acceptable, all in the name of "liberation." This is where young university women are expected to do the laundry and homework of men of color. And where men protect other men in the name of "liberation,"

Leonard Peltier on the murder of Ana Mae Aquash by AIM members:
I fear that John Boy will not receive a fair trial in the US anymore than I did. I must remind you, it is court record that the FBI lied to extradite me back to the US. I know that their behavior hasn't changed just as I know that Anna Mae was not an informant. As much as I want justice for Anna Mae, I likewise do not want an injustice to be enacted against one of our own in the name of crime-solving--so that some finger-pointing government lackey can get a feather in his cap.

And where we are expected to look a certain way when we protest:
this picture is lies !
you are belie about palestinian women .just see this link

And we are expected to protest for certain things:
But when it is used as a purely sexist or gay/lesbian tool against all males or to dominate or negate the progressive idealism of Chicana/Chicano Studies with a feminist/gay/lesbian agenda, it is then that they are in full mimic of their white feminist/gay/lesbian racist masters, and thus become traitors to their own people. Those with a Feminist or Gay/Lesbian agenda could have started their own studies without destroying Chicana/Chicano Studies.

And we are expected to protest in certain ways:

He is taught by observation that the Chicanas are only useful in areas of clerical and sexual activities. When something must be done there is always a Chicana there to do the work. “It is her place and duty to stand behind and back up her Macho!”

All in the name of liberation.

But, I must ask, who is being liberated when half of the community is expected to follow such rules as they liberate themselves? Who is being liberated when half of the community are dealt horrible repercussions that mimic on every level the violence they have experienced at the hands of white structures of power when they speak out?

Who is being liberated? Is it females?

By this time in the game, all of us know that "no means no." We all know rape is wrong, we all know that hitting a woman is wrong--and yet even so-- Men control the women in their communities in ways that are much subtler than rape--they may speak out aggressively against rape, but they also never seem to notice much that not one of the various organizations they have organized with has ever supported or stood in solidarity with lesbians of color. They may not have even noticed that there has never been an out lesbian at any of the protests/meetings/get togethers they've participated in.

They may stand in solidarity with all women of color who have been raped by white men, but they never seem to quite notice that women don't stop being raped after "rape awareness week" is over. And they never seem to realize how "rape' is consistently redefined to mean different things-- if it's done through emotional pressure (you won't be a "real" chicana/native american/chinese woman/indian etc unless you do me) rather than physical violence, it's not "rape".

And they never seem to notice that all of their organizing centers race--a word that consistently defaults to "male." Because when Tookie Williams is on death row or another man has been shot in the streets it's always very clear the violence men experience promotes a sense of urgency, the violence women experience, it's not as brutal, it's not as intense, it's not as in your face--it's not as important.

The silence of women of color in "race based organizing" does not mean every thing's ok--it means that we are shut up, hidden away, shoved into a corner, mocked into silence--it means that there are things we know better than to talk about in your presence.

Is that Ok? That half the population monitors itself and checks itself in your presence?

At the same time, it's not like feminists of color have never spoken out either--we have and we do. It was other native women that buried Ana Mae, working together to dig the hole and perform the ceremony. Even as the men of AIM did what they could to distance themselves from Ana, most not even attending her funeral.

Could women's voices ring any louder?

And they aren't the only ones. The Combahee River Collective, Women of all Red Nations, the Latina Health Organization, Incite! Women of Color Against Violence, UBUNTU, ASWAT, CARA--and so many others--SO many amazing others speak out every single day. Not to mention all the amazing woc scholars that speak out. And all the bloggers, and artists, and musicians, movie makers, and writers.

The message is there--and yet, so few men of color, even progressive/radical men of color that may even consider themselves feminists or feminist allies, are actually interacting with the message. So few men of color are demanding that other brothers pay attention to the message and interact with it--so many more times, men of color are mired in their own profound silences. Silences that I won't even attempt to name. That is a job for ya'll to do.

But I will say that it's past time for men of color who consider themselves allies to women of color, who recognize that their freedom can't come at the expense the women who share their history, to meditate on and interact with the words, the ideas, the actions of the women of their communities. It's time for them to contemplate something deeper and more profound than "rape=bad"--it's time for them to look at their own roles in the creation of "race=male," and why it is that every woman of color I have read, talked to, interacted with, watched, heard of, all have an extremely thoughtful critique of various issues like Tookie Williams, Leonard Peltier, hip hop, Abu Ghraib, suicide bombers, lynching, etc etc etc--and yet most men of color don't even know that Latinas, black women, and Native women are ALL disproportionately imprisoned compared to their white counter parts. Or that Asian women are committing suicide in frightening numbers. Or that our work around rape extends well beyond a "no means no" campaign. Or that the women men do organize with have all probably been on some type of harmful birth control at one point or another. And they've all also probably carefully weighed their words at some point or another--considered how they could say something in the "right way".

It's time for men to contemplate this in meaningful, thoughtful and transparent ways, with other men of color, with boys of color, with the men that call us bitch, cunt, vendida, traitor, thundercunts, ho's, nappy headed, ugly.

It's time to push this thing to the next level, to put your money where your mouth is.

It's time to push this to the next level, so we ALL can be free.

much love to you,

6 comment(s):

i responded in depth at your place.

By Anonymous nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez, at 6/10/2007 10:59 AM  

This is a great post. It should be obvious that misogyny is not race-specific (just like racism isn't gender-specific), but it is regularly ignored and even denied. So thanks for writing this.

By Anonymous Cara, at 6/11/2007 3:26 PM  

Wow. Just wow. Excellent, thought-provoking post, bfp. Thank you.

By Blogger Chari, at 6/15/2007 11:23 AM  

I am so moved by your posts lately.

This is an old pecking order story. A man is treated like shit by his boss, he comes home from work and treats his wife like shit...she, in her pain and rage, screams at the oldest kid, and down it goes to the littlest one who tortures the family hamster/pet. Etc.

I feel a lot of compassion for men of color, who have been forced to "take" abuse from our culture. But that does not excuse their own "assimilation" of an abusive mindset (though it does make it understandable).

I have been reading/studying a marvelous little book by the Vietnamese Buddhist monk (who was an anti-war activist in Vietnam in the 60s/70s and nominated for a Nobel by MLK) Thich Nhat Hanh called "Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames." He puts forward a radical vision, which is that happiness is the birthright of every single human being, and while any of us suffer, we all suffer. And that anger, if "eaten raw, that is assimilated unconsciously (unmindfully), is poisonous. Anyway--I recommend it, because it has helped me to find better ways of dealing with the anger I feel (having been physically abused as a woman and as a physically, emotionally and sexually as a child).

By Blogger Robin, at 6/15/2007 6:07 PM  

*hugs* That was wonderful, BFP. I know I'm a bit late on this, but still. Thank you for writing it.

By Blogger Magniloquence, at 6/16/2007 11:44 AM  

I beleive that all people have the right to pursue happiness regardless of race or gender. We are each responsible for our own level of awarness. Victims are of their own choosing. Look within to our own inner conflicts for responsibility. Only I can change myself to grow and I do.

I was in a relationship with a liberated woman of color for five years on and off and was totally supportive of her. I was open honest and giving and in return was brutalized with deciet. In the end I learned she lead a dual lifestyle was bisexual and practice poligamy covertly. SHe is a sucessful court reporter working in the public sector for a reputable judge.

Is this liberation? If men of color are treated like this by women of color I can empathize with their frustration,

As a assertive person I simply walked away from this individual and learned from this feminist of color.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/02/2011 12:15 PM  

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