So the end of last year saw the infamous [read: misogynistic] image of Tumi Molekane from his latest music video.While the image is an important discussion in and of itself, what I’m more interested in is a discussion that was had on how we as black feminists should respond to patriarchy and sexism from black men.
Simphiwe Dana, feminist, singer and friend of Tumi’s tweeted the image with the words: “Not cool bruh, and you know I love you. Not cool at all.”
In turn, Sivu Siwisa, womanist and founder of the alternative LGBTQIA movement, Ikasi Pride, tweeted a critique of Simphiwe Dana’s “soft feminist approach” that “coddles black men” and in effect “maintains patriarchy”.
Dana responded to this by critiquing Siwisa’s proposal for a more separatist “matriarchy”, highlighting the fact that these are “the same black men we have to live with in our homes? Yet expected to ignore that they exist and are influential in our lives.”
A long debate ensued between the two and I found that it illuminated a latent dilemma for many black feminists including myself. I am usually quite clear in my stance on coddling oppressors about their oppression. I do not explain myself or coddle white people about their racism. This is for two reasons. The first is personal and is part of practising what Millisuthando Bongela calls the ‘Radical Self Care Project (RSCP)’, which amongst a number of things, prevents the insanity that comes from constantly having to explain and justify your pain to those who don’t recognise it). The second is political in that it is a strategy that sees the only effective way to incentivise white people [insert any other dominant or oppressive group] to confront their own racism [insert form of domination or oppression] is to stop coddling them and force them to do the work themselves.
Now, my stance on black men is a little more complex. I am sympathetic to Dana’s arguments that taking a separatist or ‘hardline’ stance is difficult because the trouble is that black men, as Dana points out, happen to be my father, uncles, brother, boyfriend and, one day, they may be my sons and nephews. I am also sympathetic to Siwisa’s arguments that as black women there are times that we need to approach misogyny from black men with the same of kind of hardline approach, that is, for example, as ‘hardline’ as the approach taken by Dana in response to Helen Zille’s racist ‘refugee comments’.
I am usually not a fan of ‘middle-grounders’ but in this case, I don’t think the discussion is best served by a binary of ‘hardline’ versus ‘coddling’ positions. There is a indeed a continuum and there are indeed times that require ‘hardline’ and ‘seperatist’ approaches in order to effect meaningful change.
Of course, life’s problems are not solved by simply recognising continuums and exceptional circumstances, things are not always easy to navigate. A case in point being Floyd Mayweather who is a well-documented misogynist and domestic abuser, who may well face the kind of anti-black racism that many black sports stars such as Serena Williams are often subjected to when they enter the arena. Do we support him in the face of the rampant anti-black racism or do we completely right him off because of his misogyny?
As black feminists grapple with this, Vanguard will use this month to curate content on the subject of black men as our fathers, brothers, sons, abusers, lovers, friends, allies and enemies. Nqobizitha Ndlovu will write on “Separating Manhood from Patriarchy: Finding liberatory masculinities”, Thato Magano will write about “Of Handbags and Heterosexism: The trouble with straight girl – gay guy relationships” and we have the pleasure of playing Cecile Emeke’s evocative poem “Fake Deep” that takes on “benevolent sexism”, saying “If I hear one more poem written by a man telling women how to live their lives by policing their clothes, bodies, sexuality, make up use, reading habits, exercise regimes and cooking skills, I’m going to slap somebody..” In line with Chimamanda Ngozi’s stance on not having to choose between “beauty, fashion and intelligence”, style blogger Siki Msuseni teaches us how to pimp a pair of round sunglasses with pearls.
We hope you enjoy our May issue.