Three years ago, at the height of the SlutWalk movement, we told y’all about the movement being led by women of color to fight the street harassment women and girls of color face on their way to work and school. Folks weren’t even checking for Girl for Gender Equity’s video. I mean is everyone only paying attention because there’s a white woman in Hollaback’s video. Maybe if you’re on the Daily Show, folk will pay a sister some attention but otherwise…
We have famously called out white women for their participation in Slutwalks.
And we have gone hard in the paint for brothers over various forms of state-sanctioned violence.
But on this botched Hollaback video we will not do it. Time does not permit a full explication of all the problems with all these liberal white folks and all these well meaning Black feminist sistren out here caping for this unfair criminalizing of Black men in this video. At the same time, I don’t think it’s an un-Black feminist move to say that I’m bothered by the street harassment of any woman, white women included. That is in part because I know that for brothers brazen enough to harass white women and their protected femininities on the street, my God what won’t they do to cis and trans women of color, whose womanhood is structurally devalued?
So I’m just going to share my FB status update on this matter (because I do way too much on FB anyway, and ought to go ahead and make it count in the cause of feminism some of the time.)
“Soooo…I been waiting since last week for that copious procession of thinkpieces (and status updates and tweets) from Black men taking the opportunity presented by that botched Hollaback video to go hard at the problematic racial politics of the video. Yes, I have been waiting for those pieces that talk about how the video obscures all the women and girls of color, who are harassed daily on their walks to and from work. I mean surely all those brothers didn’t just harass that one white girl walking down the street. Surely, the white dudes who catcalled and were edited out of the video didn’t just reserve their “compliments” for the “white meat.” I been waiting on brothers to use this moment, this moment where sisters are now outnumbering them in the Ferguson street activism for instance, to build coalition with black women around the ways that we, too, are not allowed to occupy public space unharrassed. I have been waiting on the thinkpieces where brothers acknowledge that a lot of dudes who look like them were complicit in the criminalizing of Black men because they followed and catcalled this woman. I was waiting for the thinkpieces where those progressive enlightened brothers said some shit like, “Yeah, we won’t allow the obvious racism of this video to excuse the problematic sexism and misogyny that it highlights. While we find it problematic, egregious even, that Black men are still represented as being more violent and criminal and scary to white women and thus to the American public than all other men, surely this does not excuse the entitlement we feel to gawk at and comment upon all women’s bodies, both the white woman you saw in the video and all the countless sisters of color you didn’t see.” And then I was waiting on those brothers to point us to Girls for Gender Equity’s video and Hey Shorty Campaign from 2011 that talked about the disproportionate harassment our black and brown teenage girls experience on their way to school in the morning, to call out brothers for that. Had I seen these pieces I might have felt better about all these sisters being on their Ida B. Wells going hard in the paint against these white women at Hollaback and their carceral feminisms and unfair criminalizing of Black men. But alas, haven’t seen these pieces, so instead, liberal white folks looking to be anti-racist, and Black women wanting at all costs to maintain our solidarity with our always embattled brothers have circled the wagons to call out white racism, making only gestures towards acknowledging the pervasive problem of street harassment. So ask me again why I refuse to be out in these streets going hard for brothers on this one? Who is going hard for us? Who do we have to be to get some reciprocity? Got intersectionality? #thatisall“
Consider this my response to all the brothers who had a problem with me choosing not to use my one other public comment on this matter to represent for Black men rather than choosing to represent for sisters. And consider also that what I’m calling for is not an excusing of racism and criminalizing of Black men. That shit is absolutely egregious especially in these times. But in the name of Mary Spears, I am calling for brothers to look out for us, ride for us, call out problematic behaviors, and not sit idly by while sisters roll up our sleeves to go in on white women yet again, while y’all refuse the due diligence of attending to the other side of this issue, namely violence against us.
Crunkadelic told me that street harassment is one of the ways men of color get to participate in patriarchy, even as they are foreclosed of many other opportunities to do so. We ain’t fighting for a world in which brothers get to be patriarchs. That is not what my anti-racist analysis will be used in service of. So I’ll be damned if we sit by while white liberals co-opt an antiracist analysis and use it in ways that fail to hold men accountable for patriarchy and misogyny. And for all the Black feminist sisters out here writing these beautiful nuanced think pieces critiquing the carceral and violent logics of the video, I’ll just say to you on the matter of your labor of love, that Ida B. Wells found throughout her life that many of the brothers she rode for couldn’t be bothered to do the same.
We will still stand up for brothers being killed by the police in these streets. We will do that even when they feel no compunction to ride equally as hard for our right to be safe while doing it. But please excuse us while we sit this particular monthly cape-session for the endangered Black man out.
Further reading: Jamilah Lemieux, What You Need to Know About Street Harassment