women’s history month.

28 Feb

There was a time when celebrating Women’s History Month was an uncomfortable experience (like Black History Month through high school). Celebrating my “womanhood” meant, also accepting a host of other things I didn’t necessarily want to. Most of it was my fear of being called a “feminist” – that ‘ugly’ misinterpretation of a name. Claiming it, the name and the association, actually made me feel less “feminine.” Aggressive and hard, “too strong” I think. Ugly even. I hated it. (I could really go there right now, but let’s stay focused – look out for a post later this month.)

Because I was affected by popular representations of Feminism and femininity, I wasn’t able to imagine a woman as both intensely ‘political’ and beautifully elegant. As being simultaneously bold and graceful. I wanted to be both Harriet and Billie. But I had to pick a box – check one. I chose the ‘prettier’ girl. And that came at the expense of a very significant part of my identity. I’ve had strong opinions since birth, but people – teachers especially, have always chastised me to silence and stillness. If I had a voice, it had to look a certain way. In essence, I had to wear the face of a femininity that never belonged to me. And I was never (ever) taught that it was ok to be a “feminist.”

It took me until 2007 to finally understand, that Feminism and I (despite our flaws) stand for many of the same things. The root of which is humanity – people. God forbid. And… I’ve decided, feminists aren’t ugly. Patriarchy is. Sexism, domestic violence.  Male chauvinism, sexual abuse, entitlement, unrestrained and ignorant male privilege. Those are ugly. I think I must have quietly participated in each of those evils all those years I was ducking the designation. I sure do hate boxes though.

Experience has afforded me this wisdom: trying to make people understand you by masking who you are will not help them see you. (Nor will it help you see yourself, or them.) If anything, it cultivates greater misunderstanding. I get it now. My current status: “Working Title.” But Feminist or some variant is in the game.  Being me is inherently political. I think that’s sort of neat.

Anyway, my whole point is this… March is Women’s History Month. And I’m celebrating, as a Lover/Supporter/Defender of women and people everywhere. Word.

This month is dedicated to my mother who epitomizes strength and grace, and love. To her mother Hannah who breathed life into my mother’s walk, and my Nana still living like she’s my age in the MidWest. To Maya Angelou, Virginia Hamilton, Alice Walker, and Paule Marshall – you gave me my first novels, and my first poetry. I started painting with your palettes. To Ntozake Shange, you saved my life one summer when I read For Colored Girls for the first time. I am every one of those girls, I have touched every color of the rainbow. And before that summer, I thought I was alone. Thank you for telling those sharing – all of it.

To Paulette Childress White, June Jordan, Sonia Sanchez, Nikki Giovanni, Toni Cade Bambara – I know it sounds cliché, but you are inspiration. Everyday. To Assata Shakur and Angela Davis and those who inspired you, I wonder what this planet would be like if we were all like you. After all you’ve been through, you still have faith. I have no excuse. To Audre Lorde, I haven’t been the same since we met. You helped me get here, and “…I am very glad to be who I am, here.”

Thank you to all the women in my life, and in this world, who understand human value and self-worth, and have had the courage to invade silence to violently protect their names. To those who seek to learn themselves, but search more than their own faces. And to those who are after more than Self.

(H*ll, I haven’t made it past the 30’s yet…and it truly was an accident that they’re all Black. It has NOTHING to do with the fact that I picked up a Feminist Reader today and out of 26 chapters, 2 were written by Black Feminists. Seriously. Coincidence.)

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One Response to “women’s history month.”

  1. BP March 7, 2010 at 4:05 pm #

    *tears and joy as I snaps* what a beautiful post!! I celebrate Women’s Herstory with you, P!! I’m so proud of you!!

    We reclaim our feminism!! I share a similar experience with you about choosing feminism and renegotiating my identity (as feminine, masculine, etc.). I agree identities are not clear-cut, easily-identifiable, square-boxes..and to think folks who identify as feminist must fit into a box or have to be a certain way to practice a feminist ethic is WRONG.
    I appreciate your honesty and I, like you, am grateful everyday for the beautiful, courageous women and women-identified warriors who shined their light on me whether it was through their writing or another form of art (i.e. mothering). I am so so very grateful that I was privileged with the gift of sight (i.e. consciousness raising) to be who I am today. You should be proud to, sis! I’m proud to read your work..as it shines its light on me..and moves me to write. 🙂

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