Relationships are great. They teach you much about yourself and people. They can be quite amazing when shared with the right person. I only inserted this snippet of mush to avoid sounding like a total asshole when I say… THERE’S MORE TO LIFE. Although I’m a “big sister” and confidant to many, I don’t classify myself as a role model because my bluntness isn’t always well received. Nonetheless, it is paramount for me to give this message to women, especially those of color. Speaking on where I come from specifically, this message is not heavily enforced. Having a man, becoming a wife, being a homemaker is GOAL for so many young black girls because that’s the image that many of us grow up seeing valued as the most desired jewel in the case. We hear “You can do it” “Break the cycle” but often our influencers do not lead by example. Now there’s absolutely nothing wrong with naturally desiring these things, FREEDOM is always the number one goal. In urban and poverty stricken areas, responsibilities are sometimes issued differently and some of us have to grow up much faster than others. Often times, this leaves little to no room to dream past our circumstances. This usually leads to involuntary mediocrity AKA settling for what available. Men often play the role of the night and shining armor in these reality stage plays. To escape reality we often except what looks and feels like love. Overtime, you start to notice shit like, “I don’t even LIKE his ass” or “He doesn’t even care about what I actually want”. I can’t speak for the Urban nation as a whole but I’m sure a few queens can find validity in these words. My heart was filled with sheer AWE and agreement when Beyonce struck the world with her single Flawless in 2013. I thought to myself, “Yes, finally! This is what the fuck I’ve been saying Bey!” but not for the undeniably ICONIC “I woke up like this” line. My entire body immediately became sheathed with goosebumps when my mind met the powerful and profound words of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Beyonce sampled a snippet from Adichie’s highly- acclaimed, proactive New York Times Bestseller We Should all be Feminist. The quote goes as follows :
“We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls, you can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful. Otherwise, you would threaten the man. Because I am female, I am expected to aspire to marriage. I am expected to make my life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important. Now marriage can be a source of joy and love and mutual support but why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage and we don’t teach boys the same? We raise girls to see each other as competitors not for jobs or accomplishments, which I think can be a good thing, but for the attention of men. We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings in the way that boys are.”
― Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, We Should All Be Feminists
(Feminism defined; the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes; organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests.) The highlighted area above made women of color look at feminism differently as a whole. I often ran away from the term “feminist” for many reasons. One, I grew up hearing that feminism wasn’t a black woman’s game and in addition, I always questioned the starting line for feminist. Being born a woman, it’s inevitable that you have to work harder for respect, higher wages, status and the list pretty much infinite. Being born a Black woman, you’re faced with infinity and BEYOND. I recognize the Gold in God’s design when he created Black women so my cries for help are slim to none. I unapologetically confirm that Black women are uncelebrated inspiration for amazing things that trend all over the world. I aligned this philosophy with the definition of feminism and my mind began to sway a bit. Maybe I am a feminist? I thought to myself. I’ve never been a big fan of labels and I am the self-proclaimed queen of: DON’T BOX ME IN! Still something about this word would not let go of my attention. I always knew that I was different. Growing up in deepest pits of the south elders would say things to my mom such as “That baby been here before” or “She got a old soul”. In translation, that means that one is distinguished/mature or rich in wisdom. I was surly no angel growing up, but I never laughed at Bullying or those that were less fortunate. I remember vividly, even as a little girl, my heart would ache for those in need. Whether it be me over listening to a “grown-folks“ conversation or seeing a homeless person in need, I just wanted to help. I remember wanting to take whatever little I had to make the next person’s situation better. As time progressed and the way of the world made itself clear, I realized that it would be most beneficial if I focused that energy on making things better for those that look like me… women. I grew up watching movies like Foxy Brown and Mahogany with my grandmother on Sundays. Watching all of those bad ass black women rock out on screen definitely wasn’t familiar in comparison to my reality. Women would talk with the same sass in their voice, but their actions just didn’t add up. Over the years I’ve watched many intelligent, creative, and powerful women put their goals on the back burner to make their men feel secure or to dumb themselves down so that they’re not so independent to where a man doesn’t feel like a man. For me, that’s a personal problem of any potential candidate that may be interested in me. My gifts and abilities are not by chance or luck, they’re apart of who I am. If they make a man insecure, I believe it’s safe to say that he’s not the one. I’ve learn to pick my battles. For me, It’s better to deal with a little disappointment up front than to invest time and allow the disappointment to multiply and manifest. Relationships are cool, but living your best life creates an indescribable type of fulfillment that only you can obtain. Young black women need to know that dreams can become reality regardless, of their circumstance or environment. That wasn’t made plain to me growing up. We should revise their hope. What I mean by WE, is we as women. If feminism truly means equality for all women, we have to stand together in our sisterhood, regardless of race, religion or creed. We make this possible, by having the uncomfortable conversations and acknowledging what’s keeping us stagnant. This is where the healing begins. We have to be willing to go the distance that men will not. If you think about it, most of the time a woman’s opinion holds more value with a woman than a male’s opinion. Imagine if we used this power to uplift and inspire each other, the possibilities and healing would be limitless. There is so much power in being a woman. Without question, the future is definitely femme. Do you consider yourself a feminist? Why or why not? We would love to hear your thoughts.