Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Silence of Black Women Writers

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Black writers are a cursed lot.

By its virtue of its origin, suture and function, black writing is
mission conscious and is necessarily a hazardous undertaking.
In turn being a black writer is an enobiling, exigency and black
literature constitutes one of the supreme enrichment's of black
culture and black life. This has been and is the burden as well
as the heritage and legacy of every black person who takes
up a pen in the United States. ~Calvin C. Hernton
In October and November I spent a lot of time reading looking
for connections between the misogyny in the civil rights movement
and in hip hop.

I hit the nail on the head while reading Calvin Hernton's book
The Sexual Mountain and Black Women Writers.
Hernton spendsin time analyzing the swift effort to condemn
both Ntozoke after
For Colored Girls hit Broadway and
Michelle Wallace after Black
Macho came out.

Hernton sum's it up when he says,

Although we keep looking for the men in The Color Purple to
be white, they are black men, our men, committing deeds
we cannot help but associate with slavery. The analogy
unbearable, the irony
is burning. Black men who are themselves
victims of oppression victimizing
black women in what looks
like the same oppression? A system of oppression
within
another system of oppression.
(Can Victims Be Perpetrators came
out of this reading.)
Which brings me to last night. I was at a function and a black man
asked me what
I wrote about. I said hip hop and feminism. He then
put up
the two fingers and said, "Are you an L?" and I looked at him,
unphased
, as I saw it as a teachable moment. Then I said, eye brows
furrowed, "Hunh?" He joked "There is nothing wrong with that as long
as I can watch." I guess he THOUGHT he was going
to humiliate me.
All I could think was my ipod died two weeks ago,
my relationship
died three weeks ago and I took the GRE this morning,
nothing
really was going to f-ck with me.


I let him speak, he stuttered and stammered and then he noticed
that I was serious. I responded saying "It's interesting that I say I am a feminist
and you joke about me being a lesbian, I am currently writing a piece
titled a A World Built on Black Pussy." He raised his eyebrows this time.
It was clear that I was serious. I added, "The rappers talk about it all the
time, but if I do, I am being tacky." We were then able to have a more
civil conversation that wasn't based his lesbian fantasies.

In his comment, I was reminded about how normalized it is for men
to be so flip towards women, women who are strangers, about
sex. Yet, as a woman if we have the gall to say something back we risk getting
the Michelle Wallace, Ntozake Shange treatment. Silenced. Dismissed
and told you are being used by The Man against BLACK people.

I am happy I didn't come at him hella sideways. I mean. What
good could have come of that? Besides I think god puts me
in those situations because I don't look for victims, or opportunities
to humiliate people who have neanderthal-esque gender politics. I see
it as a chance to be like "eassssy star, lets think about what
you just said and the implications of it."

Being an M.dot is hard.

9 comments:

Ankh Ah said...

That Hernton quote couldn't be more true. Good Lord, you've taken me back to the debates in my undergrad classes. If you coulda heard the uh-huhs and mm-hmmms I was exhaling as I read. I applaud you for embracing that teachable moment *after* that "as long as I can watch" mess.

I do not know you but I love you for writing this post.

Good luck on that GRE!

Ankh Ah said...

I wanted to add that in my senior year, my thesis was a collection of essays and personal stories. The responses to my writing (not the style or form, but the content) brought so much hostility and straight up nastiness from Black men, that I ultimately gave up the little dream I'd had of being a writer because I didn't want Black men to think I disliked them. I hadn't really reflected on this until just now, reading your post. I see how quick I was to stay in the "good graces" those who have a history of silencing me... wow wow wow.

M.Dot. said...

Ankh Ah
Hello new commenter.
Thank you for sharing and for reading

If you coulda heard the uh-huhs and mm-hmmms I was exhaling as I read.
========
Like church hunh?

You know, it really it really was an embracing and after a certain point, I HAD TO, because in many ways my world changed so drastically in the last month that putting my arms around it was the only way to prevent it from mutilating me<<<---That girl be writing

that I ultimately gave up the little dream I'd had of being a writer because I didn't want Black men to think I disliked them. I hadn't really reflected on this until just now, reading your post. I see how quick I was to stay in the "good graces" those who have a history of silencing me... wow wow wow.
=======
First of all, if you would give me the honor, I would love to read your essays and personal stories.

Secondly, Silence is the way of the walk. I just JUST finished my personal statement ON THE SILENCE and SILENCING OF BLACK WOMEN AROUND BLACK FEMALE SEXUALITY.
That being said. If you want to write, write.
If you are f-cking with people, then that means you are doing something right.

As SJ says, "You are a child of god, how dare anyone sh.t on your dreams."

BP said...

This is a REALLY deep essay. I wonder how silence can be a tool for transformation. I wonder how the act of silencing itself on black women has cultivated black feminist spaces.

Black women writers have to continuously deal with being silenced but I think to choose (like you did with the type of black man who wants to keep his masculinity in tact by rejecting a black feminist) to challenge patriarchy within our own communities by writing and finding your voice is powerful. I guess I'm returning to Lorde's Sister Outsider..does that make sense?

LIving in the margins is radical, most times lonely, but ultimately necessary!!
Again, THank YOU for your courage!!

Model Minority said...

Thank you for your comment love.
Cleary, I am on a tear.

I guess I'm returning to Lorde's Sister Outsider..does that make sense?
========
Absolutely.

I wonder how silence can be a tool for transformation.
=======
It can be, to the extent that as Darlene Clark Hine puts it, "The culture of dissemblence" is a tool that we have used, which may involve silence, and it acts as a cover so that we can protect our inner lives.

However, in being silent, to be clear we cede the ground to others, who take it upon themselves to speak for us.
that http://books.google.com/books?id=9kX_fOJ8iPQC&pg=PA37&lpg=PA37&dq=hine,+culture+of+dissemblance&source=bl&ots=iYAEjtxuF-&sig=4tn67WM6dW8cCZPlZuZnpqLRLLk&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=5&ct=result

claudettejameson said...

Great post, it's deep, yet so true...

Model Minority said...

Claudette,
Thank you for stopping by.

I left you a note on your blog as well.

Keep writing college girl.

~m.

Renee said...

Being a black woman writer is a difficult thing. It is so hard to get our work published and taken seriously if we decide to write about race and gender because society is used to silencing our voices. I have sent manuscript after manuscript only to receive pretty rejection letters. It almost feels like magazines have a quota of how many so called "black articles" that they are going to publish in a month.

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