A New Way of Looking at Womanhood
by Asha Asarani
Being a black woman is not the same as just being "woman". It brings with it, depending on how you are looking at it, a whole list of do's and don'ts. There are categories that you must fit yourself into as a black woman and paradigms that you must never try and shift.
Since entering my thirties, I have been faced with a large dilemma. Had I grown up a normal black female, under the normal circumstances, then I would perhaps be able to fit myself neatly into the categories, easily avoid the don'ts while embracing the do's, and side step the paradigms.
But life for me has not been so neat. It has exposed to me the unlivable paradoxes of what it is to be black and female. To be black and female means fighting against racism from outside forces, while ignoring colorism from within. Being a black woman means listening to people tell you that sex is wrong, while watching them encourage your brothers' to "sow their oats". It means watching single mothers raise babies against all odds with absent fathers and having to accept that (married or single) when you have kids you will probably raise them alone too. It means questioning what you did wrong to lose so many brothers to death, aids, men, and women of other races.
Black women have had to come up with creative coping strategies to deal with being black and female in America. Black woman-hood seems to be defined by several contradictory schools of thought. There is the "I can do badly all by myself school." This school includes a group of angry black women who blame men for all of their problems and yet spend most of their time complaining that they don't have men. Then there is the "A man's going to be a man regardless school" The principles of this school are clear. Let men do what they want because they are going to do it any way. Then there is the black lesbian school which has its on parameters and categories, and following up and ending the list are the "multi-racialist" who have given up on black men all-together and gone of in search of men of other races. No matter which school a black woman belongs too, no matter her sexuality, no matter the color of the people she chooses to date, the conflicts of being black and female still remain.
However, the first two schools are the ones to which most black women belong. Neither the first school of thought mentioned, nor the later makes a world of difference where black women and relationships are concerned. It does not change the aids for black women from rising, it does not stop black men from leaving black children, and it does not stop anything. The sad part about both "I can do" school and the "A mans going" school (and I would wager for the other two schools as well) is that neither recognizes that the problem is not whether our men leave us, but whether or not we stick together as sisters to help build the tomorrow we want to see.
This is the world that I find myself in just as my foot moves a little further into the 30 something world. I belong to neither school. I don't look at black men as my saviors nor as my enemies. I see them for what they are, another group of programmed black individuals contributing unwittingly (and sometimes on purpose) to the continued chaotic madness that makes up African descendants throughout the Diaspora.
I have joined the small group of sisters who have turned to celibacy and African spiritualities. I have joined the women who recognize that at some point black women are going to have to recognize that we need to let go of romantic notions of "me and my man forever" and come up with creative ways to build black unions. The European concept of love just does not seem to apply to us. These illusory and fragile ways of getting and keeping men have not worked well and will not work well as long as we are in America. We are going to have to take it "black" where building "African"centered unions are concerned. We are going to have to demand respect from our men by our actions and not just by our mouths. There is no force greater than women pulling together to heal their nations. Here are a few of the things we can do to show our power.
By sticking together and pooling our resources we can build a strong economy. With the number of black women in business (hair care, childcare, modeling, dance, acting, teaching, etc) we can build guilds, co-ops and other organizations specifically designed to create a separate and strong black economy.
We, as sisters, can use our resources to create new schools, after school programs, Saturday schools, etc to help educate our children about economics, religion, African history, colorism and other such relevant subjects. This will help us give our children the cultural and global education necessary to help us maintain a strong economy in the future.
Many of our communities now are filled with sisters who can't function because of physical or mental illness. For those of us in psychology and health care we can develop support groups for women who have been abused and who suffer from anger, depression, skin-color affliction, bi-polar and other mental injuries that prevent these sisters from moving forward in their lives and contributing in a healthy functioning way to themselves and their communities.
If we are ever to survive as a community (global and national) then it is black women and not black men who must take the lead domestically. This does not mean that we must take abuse nor does it mean that we must confront life on our own and remain lonely and community less. What is does mean is that we must dismantle the categories, re-evaluate the do's and don't and shift the meaningless paradigm's of black womanhood.