Defeminization

I love men… they get on my nerves, but I love them. Like many men are just in awe of the female spirit, form, and beauty… I love male energy. Hair on the face, muscles in the arms, verified members of the #strongbacksociety, and a lil bravado… a star is born! That masculinity, cloaked in strength and pride, is very easy to break with any feminine reference. If you have ever told a man he was acting like a girl, or worse called him a bitch, you’ve seen the cracks forming as he goes from 0-100 in defense of his manhood and rejection of any semblance of being similar to the softness of a woman he wants so much.

I was talking to a girlfriend and she noted that the break of the male ego, often termed emasculation, had no female counterpart. That no matter what was said to women, it wasn’t looked at as some attack on her womanhood. As if only fractured manhood was problematic.

It got me to thinking…

In that same conversation we discussed chivalry and the general belief that it stems from some patriarchal bullshit regarding a woman being ultimately weak and emotional. Based in feudalism and times when only white women were put on pedestals to keep their feet free from sharks in the life waters beneath… too soft and stupid to defend themselves… it doesn’t lend itself to every woman.

And it dawned on me: the same way the threat against white male supremacy is often juxtaposed against the men they seek to claim are not real patriarchs (black men, poor white men, and the male allies of women), the threat of emasculation is often only socially claimed by men against the very women they seek to claim are less than women… feminists and women of color.

There is a reason why women of color and feminists tend to reject chivalric code… it was generally never meant for us! And our independence, strong sense of self, and rise against the patriarchy is a threat to their manhood. It is only upon our subjugation that their manhood is built.

Defeminization is historic.

It’s the reason slave women were relegated to objects of work. Even when white men desired slave women sexually, they claimed it as simply adding to the slave population. It’s the reason Black women’s bodies were put on display. It’s the reason why white abolitionists such as Susan B Anthony, Sarah Grimké, and Lucretia Mott were never married. Other famous abolitionists women Angelina Grimké, Elizabeth Candy Stanton, and Harriet Beecher Stowe were married to fellow abolitionists and preachers. White businessmen who profited from slavery would never have married them. These women weren’t seen as delicate and feminine, as Sojourner Truth, stated:

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? 

More modern day feminists like Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, Angela Davis, and even Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama were criticized for their looks, compared aesthetically to animals, and despite how attractive they may have been to many, likened to men to somehow twist their powerful and on point messages to male bashing.

Yet it doesn’t end with feminists.

No group of women has been as defeminized than Black women, to the point where many of us don’t feel deserving of the care and protection that a man is biblically called upon to show us. Through the systematic emasculation of our men, we have become the workers of our communities: the teachers, the doctors, the parents, the providers. It becomes difficult to nurture ourselves and allow ourselves to be nurtured. While our men were tilling fields day in and out, we worked, with a baby latched on one hip and one breast, pulling off cotton with one hand and snapping beans into a basket near our feet with the other. When our men were being laid off of industrial jobs, we got jobs and came home with broken nails and corns. While they were filling up prisons, we took care of whole houses ourselves. As they are being gunned down, we mourn them one day and return to a life of toil the next. There’s a whole argument about Black women getting Father’s Day cards… it’s real!

Most of us don’t recognize chivalry, we aren’t totally familiar with it, and we don’t want it encroaching on our independence. Many women reject a man’s coat over the puddle because she isn’t and has no desire to be treated like a dainty porcelain figurine. Hell, we don’t even have that shit as tchotchkes in our house. We work hard at being dope AF… and there is nothing weak about that. But weakness as femininity is a fallacy. Being a woman, is not just one thing, it is as diverse as we are. Tall, short, Amazonian or petite, straight or queer, thin or plus, creative, nerdy, intellectual, goth, bohemian, witty, blond, blond or brunette, girly or androgynous, modern or traditional. All of it beautiful and phenomenal!

Those of us on the short end of defeminization must remember that all men are not white supremacists. All men don’t seek to control women. Some men appreciate our strength and independence, and most men recognize our beauty and power. Despite women of color being seen as too strong, too loud, and too everything and feminists being seen as hairy, braless, men haters, there is someone who wants to give us the space and place to be just who we are, a woman. That isn’t a bad thing!

I have come to accept and appreciate it, because after all…

To my sista … allow him to treat you with all of the tenderness that he can muster, love and honor you as his check mate, the Queen, and to protect you like a lion, the King.

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