*Note: I know this will open me up to a great deal of scorn from SOME Black men, but the majority of those are not my regular Random Readers or in the MOM Squad, so…. Yeah. Kick rocks.*
Hashtag activism is like the ocean tide: raging one moment, a ripple the next. Sometimes our “hashtag issues” are so far from shore that you wonder if they have any significance of them at all – and then BOOM! – dawn breaks and you are enveloped and swallowed by the concerns that once seemed so distant to you.
I am not one of those people who believe that a hashtag is really going to change anything. I do however believe that hashtag activism is a precursor to change. I believed strongly in the #BringBackOurGirls campaign because:
1) It was a mandate for the Nigerian government to GO and BRING back our girls, rather than an onus on Boko Haram graciously returning them, and more importantly
2) Because it put pressure on the Nigerian government to do something more than spin lies and propaganda to keep their citizens quiet. (Remember how they told us 3 days after the attack that all the girls had been rescued? Swine.) Now suddenly, the world was watching and making them accountable for their action and inaction.
A little over a week ago, #YouOKSis started making the rounds on my twitter time line. I didn’t know what it was, and honestly didn’t care to investigate until a Black male e-friend of mine DM’d me asking to explain. I was at a loss. A quick search informed me that it was about street harassment that women, in general, and Black women – in particular – face. We both concluded that if Black men stop the catcalls, and Black women learn not to be offended by every sort of Black male attention, we might begin to take some mutual steps in learning to respect each other.
And then I found this article by Rebecca Carroll which told me why I was both right and wrong in my assessment on how casual interaction among the sexes might work, particularly in the Black community.
I tweeted it with the accompanying #YouOKSis hashtag.
A few hours later, I got this in my mentions.
I was shocked. Me? The paragon of Black female ‘respectability’? (Don’t laugh.) That was like calling the Queen a stable boy! Of course, I blocked this fool without response. There is no dialoguing with a person of limited mental faculties. I’ve held more intelligent conversations with a cactus.
His tweet reminded me of those afternoons I spent walking home from school, dreading the portion where I had to stroll by a group of men/boys that routinely sat on a certain wall cat-calling and harassing my friends and I. After a stressful day of classes, this only compounded my distress.
In calling me a “bed wench”, he managed to do the miraculous:
- He proved that he cannot/did not read the article.
- Dismisses the very real tension that all women feel when they are harassed, sexually and otherwise.
- He proved that rape culture is very alive and well.
- Lost the opportunity to engage with a very witty woman. (And yes, I mean me!)
The term “bed wench” as it applies to Black women is about as low as you can take a woman. Bitch, whore, c*nt…none of these can hold a candle to the shame and torture implicit in that word. As the MOM Squad knows, I love to read/watch/hear about anything that has to do with slavery and the colonial era. It informs me on how I live my life today and how I instruct my children.
I once read a slave narrative about a runaway woman, who had her breasts torn from her flesh by the hounds after they had prevailed upon her. Among other things, she was being forced to breed with one of the male slaves on the plantation. When she refused, she was whipped and made to breed with (read raped by) this particular buck all the same.
Don’t forget: Black men were called “bucks” in those days. Women were wenches.
Rape was not just something that White men meted out on our women. Black men were also forced to rape us as well. My best friend did a search on her family’s lineage, and discovered that two of her male ancestors were used as breeding stock and fathered 100 children between the two of them.
Sold, and probably re-sold, and never knowing their Daddy because he was used as an instrument of rape.
And this guy has the nerve to go ahead and harass and call me a bed wench because I have the gall to point out the very thing he and his ilk are – ironically – guilty of? I have no time to nurse your delicate ego!
I really wanted to use this example for a post I was planning to do on America’s pervasive rape culture, but I guess it applies now.
I didn’t touch #YouOKSis initially because I didn’t think I needed to. I didn’t think it applied to me. I live in white bread Roswell. I am familiar with the majority of the Black folks I regularly interact with. Most of us moved up here because we want no parts of the very ugliness that #YouOKSis has brought out in Black men and women alike. We have not dealt with the issues of our ancient and recent past, and it’s showing. However, as I just said two seconds ago, NO ONE has time to nurse a Black man’s ego because he got shut down after asking “when he can hit dat” or hollering “ ‘ey, shawty, ‘ey ‘ey ‘ey!” while he begs for change to get on the MARTA.
In that regard, I suppose I should thank Mr. Bed Wench Intimidator (as he calls himself), because he has shown that this is not an issue I can insulate myself of my children from. We are not immune. His actions prove that there is still so much work needed to be done in raising a better caliber of Black male. One who is intelligent and informed about his culture’s past. One who does not stoop to insulting and harassing women whom he has no kinship to or relationship with…and even if he did, would have enough self-respect not to do so anyway. I really thought we had come a little farther than that; like certain things were a given – i.e. don’t chew gum during a job interview, and don’t call Black women bed wenches (unless she’s willfully and gainfully employed as one).
Feminista Jones, the originator of hashtag, was kind enough to check in on me.