What if the Proverbs 31 woman was a feminist?

[Image courtesy of lis-gl.tumblr.com]

In life and in love the first step is really understanding who you are, why you are and who you want to be. Black love in particular needs you to lay it all bare – between culture, patriarchy, religion and feminism it becomes difficult to really understand why you love the way you love and whether that is ok.

I have been thinking a lot about the intersectionality between blackness, religion and feminism – can you really be all things without compromising yourself? Let’s consider braai plate economics for instance:

Black culture says take care of the man first – so you dish up for him before you dish up for yourself.

Religion says that the woman does not eat the bread of idleness – so you rush to the kitchen to join the other women making salads while he sits outside drinking beers with the other men.

Patriarchy says know your place – so although you are having a good time the man says he wants to leave, so you leave.

Feminism says fuck it – so you make a point of sitting outside with the boys so people know that you are not the kind of woman who will be led by patriarchy and oppression even though you don’t really mind bringing him a plate.

The problem with the multi-dimensional nature of the black, female experience is that it all feels natural, too natural. You want to take care of your person, and growing up black, so much of that is making sure he is fed and pampered. On the other hand, increasingly our social context has made us a lot more critical of the ‘why’, why should YOU be the one to do the pampering. What if you are actually just hungry? Why doesn’t he get up to make you a plate?

On the other hand we need to also consider why taking care of someone is so closely linked to infantalising them as opposed to empowering them? Why must my care of the man I love be about feeding him, cleaning for him, sacrificing for him? Why does his traditional role so often mean a disrespect and disregard of the plethora of ways I have to betray parts of myself to be what he needs?

I think it is time we problematise it all. I do not want to embrace so readily a culture that thinks of my needs as less. I do not want to so readily run to a religion that puts the man’s needs constantly ahead of my own. I do not want to so easily accept patriarchal structures that make my oppression feel normal. I cannot continue to unthinkingly embrace a feminism that tells me to throw out my culture, my religion and integral parts of who I am. But where does that leave me?

I fear there are no easy answers, but what I know to be true is we cannot continue blindly living and loving without confronting the truths of our tapestry.

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