Comments on the Afrikan Gender Wars

I want to say something and it’s not about gender constructions or relationships per se. I would question why we focus on the negative and claim to want the positive to happen. I see brothers who have nothing good to say about sisters, in the movement and out. I know sisters who have nothing good to say about brothers, in the movement and out. Afrikans, before getting brainwashed into Western constructions of gender, sexuality, masculinity, femininity and so on, believed in our collective and individual power to speak what we conceive of in thought into existence. Therefore, I was to say to my brothers and sisters the positive. They never denied that the negative existed or could and had to be addressed. They never declined to attempt to address it effectively and we must completely eliminate the sexual, economic, and psychological exploitation of Afrikan men and women, even when it’s caused by each other. That being said, and assuming at great risk that we at least have common ground on that necessity, our methodology for constructive action cannot be recycling the pain and devastation. In fact, we need to draw attention to what it is that we WANT to institutionalize. I know brothers who love sisters, protect them, respect them, and treat them well. I know sisters who do likewise for brothers. Yet the discourse the slavemaster gives us argues that the only way to deal with the negative is with more attention and focus on the negative. Only in Eurocentric mathematics do negatives make positives when they are multiplied. In our culture, negatives multiplied means more negatives and the destruction of the capacity to build. So while I validate all of this pain and negative experience in both directions (as I sociologist I know empirically that the gender pain we inflict on each other is not unidirectional), I would like to see our discussions as a people move more in the direction of positive examples (and if we don’t know any we have been fooled) and also strategies for positive action. I think there is a risk of the kind of narratives we get into devolving into “brothers suck” or “sisters suck”, which is the strategic equivalent of “we all suck and therefore why bother moving forward”. I really reject the notion that constant reaffirmation of a problem is any step towards a solution. In fact, too much re-articulation and affirmation of the problem is itself a problem as it becomes analogous to ritually pouring salt on a known open wound. If there is a balm in Gilead, there at least must be among Afrikan people some calamine lotion.

I am not talking about and neither implying nor saying that we should not articulate the problem. My suggestion though is that this problem is well documented and has extended over the last 400 plus years among our people and in fact, is rooted in the condition that I alluded to where our constructions of family and gender and other things like our communities as a whole were invaded. I work and have worked my entire life as an activist on fighting sexism and systems of patriarchy from the standpoint that they are not organically Afrikan in historical origin, certainly not the Eurocentric variety and that true Afrikaneity respects the dignity and quality of all human beings and certainly without the idea that one gender is existentially superior to another.

Nor have I ever sought to silence voices. In fact, I have tried to be a catalyst and facilitator for those who have been victimized to be able to speak to their victimization. It is simply that in doing so, I do not interpret the mere speaking of pain as any progress towards a solution and we as a people often get stuck there.  I reject silence and have never been on these issues. I reject secrecy as a larger matter of principle in our communities on a cultural basis. But I know articulation of the problem is NOT analysis and if one believes that, that is part of the problem itself.

None of what I read generally in this area among a lot of activists is leading in the direction of what we CAN do as men AND women, brothers and sisters, strategically and tactically TOGETHER in the midst of our pain to ameliorate the problem. That is where MY interest is. Those of us who are activists on these issues are NOT those who do not know the problems exist or need to be convinced that there is a need for change. To my knowledge most activists are actively working, in some way, trying to stop the pain and the practices that lead to the pain. So We, the smaller we, know the narratives. What we need to do is to think about what we can do collectively, together, to build a counter-narrative and mentor our young men and women in different directions. I don’t claim that there is a silver bullet or that any one of us has the magic answer. But me articulating my pain and you articulating yours and us going around in a Eurocentric Freudian therapy session is not moving us anywhere and I sometimes think activists think that that IS activism. It’s not, it’s the prerequisite for it and if the real collective work does not follow, it is counterproductive. It took several hundred years for us to be confused and arrayed against each other in this way and it will take time for us to heal and redirect. But the WORK and not just the TALK must begin and that work if we are to build collectively, must be collective work. We must hear, but we also must listen as men AND women. Men cannot dismiss the voices of women. Women cannot dismiss the voices of men. We have to contradict the rhetoric that we cannot be allies, despite the difficulties and challenges which are strong, not only in terms of gender, but in many other ways. And the greatest nightmare would be that we are deluded by the philosophical egotistical and individualistic framework of our mutual enemies that we can do this without each other and without working collectively.

If we reach the point where we cannot be allies to each other and we dismiss the voices of those who seek to build coalitions among us, we are twice defeated and the larger enemies have no further work to do towards our dissolution.  I am and will always be a voice for Afrikan unity, even when that desire for unity gets me mocked by those who do not understand or who are so caught up in their real pain that they can no longer hear.

I must stand on the truth of our ancestors. Very simply a gender specific discussion of communal problems, be that from the sole authority of women or the sole authority of men will fail. That idea is not ours and instead that of our oppressor’s philosophies which treats gender as rooted in antagonistic opposition. That is why I seek instead collective dialogue for collective building. We can create all the male only and female only spaces we want to talk about whatever communal problems we wish, but their solution from an Afrikan perspective must be collective. Our ancestors believed that anything else was delusional. I think the tragedy is the idea that the unrighteous and evil silencing of women’s voices we all condemn in turn justifies the same in reverse. I reject the notion that we cannot have a civil collective discussion as a family across gender lines on these questions (assuming we WANT too) or that we HAVE to silence someone, anyone on communal issues. Replacing one authoritarian approach to discourse by one gender with another is not progress. I do also believe in a necessary airing of grievances, but I believe ADDRESSING the grievances and collective work to that end to be equally if not more important. Otherwise, a hundred years from now we will still be addressing grievances. Actually, we WON’T because if we don’t address the horrors sisters have experienced that so pains their consciousness, we won’t exist as a collective at all TO address them. if we are going to progress at some point this is going to have to involve ALL of us together. Call me when we are ready to make that step from recounting pain to constructing progress.

 

In order to deal with Afrikan gender problems we have to start from an Afrikan gender framework, discuss it in an Afrikan way, and propose Afrikan solutions. Anything else will lead to gender segregation, mutual recrimination, familial breakdown, and more abuse and exploitation for all of us among ourselves and who but the Devil would be interested in approaches and concepts that lead us to more of that?

Eurocentric feminism will not liberate Afrikan women from Eurocentric patriarchy any more than Eurocentric nationalism will liberate Afrikan people from Eurocentric white supremacy. You cannot use the master’s tools to deconstruct the master’s house.

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