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By August 28, 2013

The Fire This Time: James Baldwin and Feminism

Politically Correct Feminist Speech is an Oxymoron

I was recently sent the meme below, which contains an excerpt from the April 2013 speech by the prize-winning Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Her presentation at TEDxEuston entitled “We Should All Be Feminists” shares her experiences with being labeled a feminist in Nigeria, the negative associations tied to the word, and her belief that feminism is necessary to change the culture of male/female interactions worldwide. She opted to use the “story-telling” style of speech delivery, which is generally highly entertaining and suitable for a blended audience in a professional setting.

Though the speech was certainly well done, I didn’t find it particularly motivating. One could listen to it, laugh, and easily get up and go on with your life exactly as it was without thinking much about it. Much like a comedy show – I laugh when I’m there but I don’t remember the jokes.the quote of the year

I believe a lot of the problem I had with her presentation is that she adopted the indirect tone typical of women who are anxious to avoid looking like they are attacking men’s egos. Even so, she did manage to deliver more than one uppercut punch that had the men in the audience looking a bit stern faced because they don’t want to hear ANY criticism about themselves at all, no matter how gently delivered and indirect.

Listening to the video, I began to wonder why it is that so many people, especially African and African Americans, rail against feminism. To them “feminism” is a dirty word, and to be thought of as “a feminist” is worst than being called a serial axe murderer prostitute.

In the black community it is common for feminism to be blamed for pretty much everything. Black men assign responsibility to feminism for all ills… from the high divorce rate to single parent homes and global warming. Black men can’t get a job? It’s because of feminism black women are getting all the jobs! Black men get profiled by white cops? Feminism musta had something to do with it. Black men get arrested for spousal abuse? Those damn feminists made that happen. Wife leaves you for acting a fool? Feminism made her think she didn’t have to stay. Black man has to cook his own dinner? That’s feminism too because modern women don’t know how to treat a man!

Black women are often just as bad, as they “follow” men and regurgitate the drivel that comes from men’s lips about feminism and how it hurts black men. They believe, with no proof whatsoever, that “the most dangerous place for a black child is a black womb” and that there are hundreds of thousands (if not more) women who “use abortion for birth control” which make feminism responsible for “black genocide”. I often wondered why these women don’t stop and think about what they’re saying. If black women are single and pregnant, that means 99% of the time that a black man got them that way. If black men don’t want black women to get abortions, why are they not stepping up and marrying said women?


No, feminism has not hurt men in the least. What feminism has done is help women. Women have always been capable of being great and greater than men, and men knew it. Which is why they created religion and laws to keep women pinned down and under their control.

Feminism forced men to share power, to treat women fairly under the law, and given women some of the rights that men kept for themselves to maintain the upper hand. Feminism has provided women access to careers, educational and business opportunities, solo travel, social autonomy without the requirement of marriage or children, and freedom of choice. Feminism has given women the right to say “no!” to men, even their husbands. Feminism has given women the right to establish credit in their own name. Feminism has given women the right to demand equal pay for any job they do with the same title as a male. Feminism has provided women the right to be in a work environment free from sexual or gender harassment by sexist males. Feminism has given women the right to choose to be a stay at home mom or a driven career woman or both.

Those are the key benefits we have now… choices and rights. We as women can choose to be whoever and whatever we want to be, because women before you fought for your right to have those choices. But be careful, as there is a contingent of men and silly women out to dismantle your rights and eradicate your freedom to choose.

In fact, 54 abortion clinics in 27 states have closed in the past three years nationwide, impacting millions of women’s ability to terminate an unwanted or accidental pregnancy. These men, generally Republican, view the freedom of women, women’s rights, and women’s ability to be independent of male control as a serious threat.

In reality, because an act, a law or a movement is PRO WOMAN does not mean it is ANTI-MALE, and that is the one aspect of feminism that I think Black people in particular have the most difficult time understanding. Feminism goes up against the bible which mandates that women assume an inferior role to men and be happy in that role of servitude. With more than 80% of African Americans reporting to be one form of Christian or another, the belief that God told women to take a back seat is deeply ingrained in black culture.

With religion used as a tool to subdue women, and with black women being used to muling for Black men, they don’t question the fact that they are carrying the burdens and responsibilities for relationshps, communities and families all alone. Putting men first in every way is so common, so deeply ingrained in the psyche of the Black woman, that when something comes along that seeks to put women’s interests first, Black women see it as evil and a challenge to the male’s role of “leader.” It’s very sad. Why do grown women feel the need to have a man to “follow” like a sheep? Are you not capable of choosing the path best suited for your life?

Though the quote below and many others in this piece are related to issues of race, I thought them fabulous for a discussion on feminism. Racism and sexism, oppression by skin color and by gender are two sides of the same coin. Black men cannot cry foul concerning racist treatment by whites, seek out the black woman’s assistance in fighting that racism, then turn around and treat black women with the same disdain as a Klansman. You believe in roles, right? Then remember that your role is to protect women and envelope them in softness, not to terrorize, abuse and beat them down.

“You were born where you were born and faced the future that you faced because you were black [a woman] and for no other reason. The limits to your ambition were thus expected to be settled. You were born into a society which spelled out with brutal clarity and in as many ways as possible that you were a worthless human being. You were not expected to aspire to excellence. You were expected to make peace with mediocrity. Wherever you have turned, James [women] in your short time on this earth, you have been told where you could go and what you could do and how you could do it, where you could live and whom you could marry.” ~James Baldwin – The Fire Next Time

It is far past time for black women to stand up, join hands and take control of our collective destinies. It makes no sense to fight about what race of woman does what in the feminist moment. We all need to work together to save ourselves, or we will ALL perish.

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