Feminism and Chivalry -- A Case of Identity and Desire

About two weeks ago, I saw a tweet that said (and I'm paraphrasing here) -- A woman who wants to be considered a man's equal, shouldn't complain about not receiving chivalrous treatment. I think my brain went blank for a good minute trying to make sense of the seemingly simple statement. The tweet thrived on twitter as person after person not only retweeted it, but co-signed with the sentiments. And I am sad to say the majority who did so were women, specifically black women. 

There has always been a delicate relationship between self-labeling as a feminist and desiring chivalry. In the year 2012, the idea that all feminists are man-hating, bra-burning lesbians is still highly prevalent. Many fail to see that like most schools of thought, feminism has undergone a dramatic evolution from its early days of being headed by affluent white women like, Simone de Beauvoir. Now, works by black women such as, Audre Lourde and Angela Davis, stand side by side to those of Mary Wollstonecraft and Jane Austen.

With all these changes within the the movement being fairly unknown to the general public, I think many would fail to see how I could label myself as such. I love men. I love romance and the idea of building a life with someone. I love releasing the control I exhibit at work and in society within the confines of a relationship, and having a firm shoulder and strong arms to lean on and fall into. To many, I don't necessarily fit the image of what the mainstream says a feminist should be because of my race, my socioeconomic status and most importantly my adoration of men -- specifically, black men.

Feminism gives women the tools and space to speak, write and argue about their need of equal representation in the political, social, religious and economic spheres of life. It in no way diminishes any romantic or sexual desire that a woman may experience. I love having men open doors, give up their seats on public transportation, and pull out chairs for me as well as rise from the table when I do. Does this mean that I am complacent and weak without thoughts and ideas of my own? Of course not. Wanting to be a treated a certain way by men that I am attracted to, does not mean that I want these very men to control other aspects of my life, namely how I worship, what I am entitled to from the government, and how I am to act in social settings.

We cannot continue to let people dictate what women, black women, in particular should expect due to our beliefs, needs and demands. By taking pen to paper (or rather I say, fingers to keyboard) on this subject, I am using my platform to join others to continue to educate the general public and our community on what it means to be a feminist. It is time that more of us continue to break down the old stereotypes and images to make way for the truth. By correcting others of their misinterpretations and misconstructions of this theory, we pave and secure new ground for ourselves and the upcoming generations of women to be thoroughly heard, understood, accepted and respected in all sectors of life.

Valerie Jean-Charles is a 23 year old community servant and writer in Brooklyn, NY. She holds a BA in Political Science from Fordham University. Follow at @Empressval to join her never-ending conversations about everything and then some.

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