Dear Black Men: Black Feminism Is For You Too

by Qubilah Huddleston

Recently, I was tweeting about how I wish black men would stop valuing big butts and fuller thighs (read: typically features of black women) on every type of woman but black woman. I followed that tweet with: "Reasons why we need black feminism. [Because] these dudes ain't loyal, respectful, informed, or grateful for women [with] an abundance of melanin."

In all honesty, I was being petty. It was an emotional tweet—void of any real belief that ALL black men are disloyal, disrespectful, uninformed or ungrateful for us melanin-blessed queens. I’m fully aware that black feminism is needed for more than correcting the sexual desires of a few ungrateful black men.

Yet still, I had a black man respond by telling me why and how black feminism is divisive. Even though I know him personally, and know that he was just trying to incite a conversation, the points he made don’t stray far from the real beliefs of thousands of black men on and offline.

I continue to be amazed at the overwhelming combative nature of black men’s opinions on black feminism. Too often, black men write off black feminism due to a lack of understanding or a refusal to recognize that black feminism matters. They repeatedly tell black feminists that black women and our communities don’t need black feminism, because it creates “more problems than it aims to solve.”

This is an argument similar to the one held by prominent Black Power and Civil Rights leaders during the 1960s and 1970s. Many black women who supported the movements sought to make their experiences as women part of the fight for equality and justice. Sadly, they were silenced and told that their women’s issues could be addressed only after the community’s race issues (read: black men’s issues).

To hear and see that such rhetoric is still being perpetuated reveals that black men are still reluctant to prioritize the safety and well-being of their female counterparts, despite black women’s willingness to prioritize the issues that plague black men—such as racial profiling and police brutality.

As I tried to explain to my friend, black feminism isn’t about ordering black women’s issues before those of black men. Black women can have feminism and still recognize the challenges black men face. The way I see it, black feminism helps both black men and women because it helps us strengthen our relationships with one another. Black feminism creates spaces in which dialogue about intra- and interracial interactions can happen productively. Black feminism isn’t about bashing black men. It’s about holding them accountable for the grievances they’ve committed against their sisters. It’s about addressing the overall effects that a racist, sexist, classist, and patriarchal society have had and continue to have on the black female body.

Truthfully, black feminism would benefit more if there were more black male supporters. Black feminism isn’t about the “either/or” of our experiences. It’s about the “and” of our blackness and womanhood. Black women don’t get to be black or woman. Thus, in embracing our intersectionality, we get to account for the things that happen to us as women, as black people, and as people who are both. I’d like to see a day when more black men realize that yes, they are oppressed, but so are black women—just in different ways.

Black men, we need your support as much as possible. The plights of black women and men BOTH matter.

All I ask is that you learn more about black feminism now, so that later, you may be the one to educate someone else when they say black feminism is “divisive.”

This piece originally appeared on The Black Corner blog on July 25, 2014.

Qubilah Huddleston is a recent graduate from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She's an herbal tea enthusiast, aspiring scholar activist, and wants to own her own book store one day.

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