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Steele: We Are Not Post Sexism

Steele: We Are Not Post Sexism

Ray Rice deserved to be cut by the Ravens and his contract terminated. Honestly, he needs to be out of the range of a female body unless and until he has proven that he has recovered from whatever it is that caused him to punch a woman unconscious and then become (seemingly) annoyed that he had to drag her body. 

Jay Z elevator-gate is a good illustration of how a man should handle violence, anger, frustration, etc. No, I am not coming to Jay Z’s defense. Jay Z may have acted appropriately in the elevator but his even louder message came in the form of a lyric that conjoined violence and love for his wife. Sorry, he’s not getting a pass on that and neither is “Ms. Feminist” Beyonce.

Recently, I was in conversation with Roxane Gay and Jessica Valenti on NPR’s ‘ON POINT’ with Tom Ashbrook (http://onpoint.wbur.org/2014/08/29/beyonce-blue-ivy-jay-z-feminism). The conversation has remained with me mainly because of the “dress code” argument that keeps surfacing. In popular Feminist circles, women are pushing back against the notion that we should be judged for dressing a certain way. I am in complete agreement with that. However, making this argument the main staple of Feminist concern is troubling. Lately, I’ve been noting how Feminists have different priorities. Certainly, in a movement that allows varied voices, that is to be expected. But, at this point, I see little need to rally for our right to wear heels. My focus is on the dead or bloodied body in the heels. Yes, the end game is the same. But, one can serve as “click” bait (and selling products) while the other does not.

I am a Feminist because I am overwhelmed by the levels of violence enacted on Black & Brown women’s bodies (all women, actually). It is a staple in American culture. White women are deified and Black women are defiled. That’s the spectrum. The spectrum goes from one end to the other. The closer you get to blood and death, that’s when you know you’ve reached poor Black and Brown women.

As a person who is committed to anti-racism work, I cry and rage every time a Black man is shot dead in the street. Shot dead, not like a dog. Americans treat dying dogs in the street better than they did Mike Brown’s body. As some recalled, he lay in the street for four hours. No, that child was in that street for an untold number of hours. It was there, for the world to see, as that image played on repeat for days. Media still shows his body lying on the ground, brains splayed for all to see. How many more hours will we see his body lying on the ground? Keep the clock running on how long his body was in the street because the media keeps it there. Yes, at some point, the callous bastards who run the newsroom knew to put a filter over his brains. But, they kept showing his body, lying in the ground, completely unawares and unconcerned that they were inviting desensitization to the image of a Black child lying dead in the street. And before that, the media invited us to watch Eric Garner die over and over and over again. Fucking enough!

If, at this point, you have not made the connection between the uptick of bullets slaughtering Black male bodies and the violence paraded on Black female bodies, let me give you a brief initiation.

1. Renisha McBride, murdered in Black skin: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/04/us/theodore-wafer-sentenced-in-killing-of-renisha-mcbride.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&version=HpSum&module=first-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=1

2. Missing in Black skin. Where the hell is Relisha Rudd? http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/wp/2014/08/04/the-forgotten-relisha-rudd/

3. Daniel Holtzclaw raping and sexually assaulting marginalized Black women until he attacked a woman who had a voice- a Grandmother: http://www.buzzfeed.com/jtes/daniel-holtzclaw-alleged-sexual-assault-oklahoma-city

4. Girlfriend of Ray Rice: http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/eye-on-football/24700871/graphic-vdeo-emerges-of-ray-rice-knocking-out-fiancee-in-elevator

5. The murder of a 10 year girl Veronica Roach and her foster Mother, Joan Colbert. The Uncle of the girl made her pose in sexually provocative positions. The mother walked in on his violation of the little girl and he then he murdered both of them: http://www.app.com/story/news/crime/jersey-mayhem/2014/08/14/long-branch-murder-joan-colbert-veronica-roach/14046037/?sf29795832=%5B%271%27%5D

6. Emma Sulkowicz, Columbia University student who is carrying around her mattress as an illustration of the weight she is carrying until her rapist is expelled from school: http://jezebel.com/columbia-student-will-carry-her-mattress-until-her-rapi-1629625177?utm_campaign=socialflow_jezebel_facebook&utm_source=jezebel_facebook&utm_medium=socialflow

7. There are 64,000 Black women missing in America. Do we know any of their names? http://mic.com/articles/93780/64-000-missing-women-in-america-all-have-one-important-thing-in-common

There are too many too name. As you read this, if you are a Black or Brown woman (or man), you can probably name a girl or woman, in your own life (if not yourself), who has been the victim or domestic or sexual violence. The numbers are astounding. And, similar to how folks want to believe we are post-racial because of Obama’s election, it is clear that people believe that Feminism is unnecessary because Oprah and Beyonce and Hillary Clinton exist.

Similar to how President Obama’s presence elucidates the racial fault lines in the culture -i.e. Black President but Black males still being shot dead in the street and in Walmart- John Crawford : http://jezebel.com/columbia-student-will-carry-her-mattress-until-her-rapi-1629625177?utm_campaign=socialflow_jezebel_facebook&utm_source=jezebel_facebook&utm_medium=socialflow), the fact that we have a highly successful woman, who espouses Feminism, the sexist fault lines come into focus, i.e. Black female bodies still riddled with violence although “twerking” is popular.

No one wants to read about death and violence, especially, not a constant parade of it. But, some of us have to keep ringing the damn bell. While folks are advocating for their right to wear mini-skirts, some of us have to do the hard work of connecting the insipid cries to don lipstick with the death and violence enacted upon Black women’s bodies. How does Sherly Sandberg’s Feminism “ban bossy” relate to the life of 10 year old Veronica Roach? How?! It is as compatible as seeing Black social networking grieve over Mike Brown while most of America is regaled in pouring ice over their heads. Yeah…huh?! Different priorities.

Put simply, I am Mike Brown. He is my brother. He shared my fate. I am in Black skin in America. I, too, run the risk of being gunned down if America’s disease of racism encounters me in prejudged circumstances. Just as Black males are Veronica Roach and Renisha McBride and Relisha Rudd because they are housed in Black skin. It’s that simple. Had you been born a female, in that skin, the violence enacted upon your body would be different but, it can result in your death or in a life spent trying to catch your breath. You know that feeling, right? You know what it is to be followed in the store, to be feared as you stand in an elevator, you know that, right? So, you can make the connection to that fear and the fear of being punched, unconscious, in an elevator, by your lover. We are not safe in our Black bodies. We have the same gotdamn goal- we simply want to feel safe in our Black bodies.

I will continue to love and live in the belief that we are all working toward the same goal. I will watch as Black women “twerk”, believing that they are seeking freedom of expression in their bodies (although, I have to admit, my brain has turned “twerking” into the “it’s an unconscious way of Black women stating “kiss my black ass” dance). I will believe that when Black people rally to stop the senseless murders of Black males that they are marching for molested Black girl bodies and raped and murdered Black women. I will believe that, one day, I will see a protest sign by a Black Nationalist male that links the death of Black men to the violation of Black women. I will believe that pop Feminism’s desire to squash dress code politics is linked to the death and violence of Black women. Somewhere, in all of this, I have to believe that.

Because, you see, there is no dress code for being male in Black skin. Just as there is no dress code for being female in Black skin.  

Follow Tanya Steele on Twitter @digtanya. Or, Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SteeleInk. Or, website: digtanya.com.

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