The "F" Word: Femininity v. Feminism Battle For Dominance In Women's Lives

This is certainly an eye-opener. Is it true?

There’s a myriad of reasons why I don’t refer to myself as a feminist with a capital “F” in much the same way I refer to myself as a Christian with a little “c”. The politics get in the way of the practice. The message gets subverted. Other people who claim to know it all try to speak for me and instead of me. I don’t like being dictated to. I want to investigate and exercise my own core belief system. I want to ensure I am benefiting by way of increased enlightenment and elevation and not allowing a dead ideology to rule my life in ways that block that.

To be certain, there have been substantial gains vehemently fought for that women in Western societies benefit from. There’s so much more that needs to be done. Yet for every gain there has also been a jockeying for power internally within these organizations, events and in representation that always manages to push non-white women out of any position of power. Or really put enough roadblocks in their way so they never get the necessary momentum to get close.

One case for example was with the NOW national elections in 2010 when Latifa Lyles  (who is African-American) ran for President and looked to be on the verge of winning until Terry O’Neill came in at the 11th hour to appeal to the “traditional base” and won. Some wanted to blame it on Palin supporters.  Some wanted to say age and experience played a factor. Go back..way back…to 2008 and reread the nasty, vile things said against black women by some of these so-called feminists when Obama overtook Hillary Clinton to refresh your memory about the non-existent solidarity present.

Fortunately or not depending on which way this administration goes  – Lyles is currently serving as the Deputy Director of the Women’s Bureau at the Department of Labor – the only part of the Federal government specifically tasked with improving the lives of working women.

Before you think this is going to be a rant against white women and an evaluation of their ongoing racism, I’m going to shift the focus. We have numerous examples to draw from history if we want to continue tripping down memory lane. I also have removed a knee-jerk emotional reaction to this type of behavior as I know much of it stems from taking actions to preserve the dominant positioning they have. Which ironically is from being protected and elevated by the men of their group.

I’m also only going to focus on the strategies and needs of black women, versus these ridiculous “women of color” conversations the few black women who have some media access tend to have. It’s a huge mistake that black people seem to run towards every time. They want to include “everyone” in what should be their exclusive spaces and focus on elevation. It’s only foolish African-Americans that retain this “let everybody in” mentality and will wonder why everyone else (including non-AA blacks) got ahead of us in society. Go read the definitive essay on the analysis of African-American ethnic identification at Sojourner’s Passport and let it sit with you for a while.

That’s simple common sense and a normal display of self-esteem and self-worth. I dare anyone to show me where “women of color” spaces really focus on the needs and experiences of black women from inception to completion without adopting a similarly paternalistic viewpoint that whites are accused of supporting. You have people discussing the atrocities within Darfur but they’re ignoring the atrocities within the black neighborhoods in their vicinities – esp. when they’re also black!

Oddly enough this also ties into the ongoing conflicts black women have with white women about not “including” them and even worse referring to themselves and by extension the group as being “marginalized”. It’s the rope all the non-whites together for solidarity [without vetting and demanding reciprocity] coupled with the “let me in” begging mentality that will continue to leave black women on the sidelines in any so-called woman-centric political/social justice movement.

Part of the marginalization issue has to do with lack of race and/or ethnic pride. If the contributions of people have not been properly credited, if boundaries are not drawn, if people don’t want to be around each other that’s an intra-racial and intra-ethnic issue. The other side of that again has to do with women being left to fend for themselves in a patriarchal society. A dirty little secret about the political side of feminism is much of its success still has to do with the support white women receive from white men. They may not have liked many of the changes, but they couldn’t let the entire collective go downhill so they may grudgingly support them. They’re not going to make it easy but they can’t function without them.

We’re on 3rd wave feminism now, going into the fourth and this is why I vaulted over all of that when I wrote about 5th Wave Feminism. Unless the medium is controlled by black women they will always be “marginalized”. Even if it’s by one of their women of color “friends” but don’t tell that to some of them because they’ll be angry, deny it or be completely caught off guard when the door gets slammed in their face.

But, aren’t we all sisters in the struggle? No!

There’s a vast difference between a struggle with some intersecting causes where a blanket remedy will work across the board and those with competing needs (let’s say specific needs) who would claim a false solidarity to get ahead. It may not seem fair, but it’s the smart choice. If you are someone willing to “wait your turn” or “hope for a share” of the spoils of “victory” that you can enforce or present penalties for breaking, don’t be surprised to get the short end of the stick.

Those WOC (including non-AA blacks) who have used the Civil Rights template know exactly what they’re doing and why. There’s them and us and however you define that had better be based on reality. If women haven’t figured out by now that those with power have no intention of giving it up voluntarily, they would cease the complaints about others not “creating space” for them. Why should they when they are solely focused on getting their needs [and wants] met? IF some of those things also help you then that’s part and parcel for the initiative. Think of it as Trickle Down Theory that actually works, but nope your sisters are not actively seeking to help you before they’ve helped themselves!

You are their competition for resources.

It’s nothing personal, though. It’s about survival of the most cunning.

This is how “women” got added to the EEO laws. It meant [mostly then] WHITE women. This is also why black women have had the ongoing conversation related to expressing their specific racio-gender parity issues. See my post If All Blacks Are Men and 5th Wave Feminism. Sojourner Truth wanted to know Ain’t I A Woman?! That was back in the 1800’s! It’s 2011 and we’re still in conflict over this?

I have a solution though, but some of you won’t like it:

Let those white women have the political movement of feminism. Don’t fight, argue or wring your hands about it anymore. Here’s why.

The political aspects of feminism with a capital “F” pits women against men. Many of those women are in direct competition with men for power. They want to upend patriarchy as we know it. They want to be on top (in theory anyway). Let them do all the heavy lifting then. Let them be the instigators and alienators.

Let’s face it, many of those women have at minimum a healthy disdain for men. Many hate men in fact. Quite a few are not heterosexual so their interests and yours [since I’m addressing my core audience] as a hetero woman are polar opposites anyway.

There’s a reason why the lines between the roles of men and women have gotten blurred and women are getting the short end of the stick. I’m not even talking about the specific situation of black women, but all women in Western cultures. We were told we could do anything a man could – that it was our right. We were told we were the same. We were told we should have the same sexual “freedoms”. We were fed a lot of hoo-ha that suited the needs of a few women who talked a good game in public and made different choices privately. They pushed an extremism that no one bothered to question when the balance would be restored.

So now we have all the responsibilities with none of the rewards. How many women have full careers, yet still have to juggle majority work at home? We have 12 year-olds who dole out fellatio at the drop of a hat. The train has long derailed!

There is an article written by Tracy McMillan in the Huffington Post titled, Why You’re Not Married as excerpted here:

You want to get married. It’s taken a while to admit it. Saying it out loud — even in your mind — feels kind of desperate, kind of unfeminist, kind of definitely not you, or at least not any you that you recognize. Because you’re hardly like those girls on TLC saying yes to the dress and you would never compete for a man like those poor actress-wannabes on The Bachelor.

You never really cared that much before. But suddenly (it was so sudden) you found yourself wondering… Deep, deep breath… Why you’re not married.

1. You’re a Bitch.
Here’s what I mean by bitch. I mean you’re angry. You probably don’t think you’re angry. You think you’re super smart, or if you’ve been to a lot of therapy, that you’re setting boundaries. But the truth is you’re pissed. At your mom. At the military-industrial complex. At Sarah Palin. And it’s scaring men off.

2. You’re Shallow.
When it comes to choosing a husband, only one thing really, truly matters: character…

McMillan goes on to make several more observations (“You’re A Slut”) that left my jaw on the floor. I thought it was a scathing analysis of the behavior of some women and more than a little mean. Even, if the information presented was a fairly accurate analysis I wasn’t certain it wasn’t done out of spite. Perhaps it is just brutally honest.

I asked for feedback from Mr. Guy at What Women Never Hear and the blog host agreed that the spitefulness opinion displayed is the correct attitude that many men have for modern-day women. Yikes! Now again, that bit of insanity has run amock amongst white women because of a lot of misguided behavior and little accountability. Black women have separate issues are their motivations are wholly different. The outcome for that behavior is also vastly different between race and class.

Despite all of that dragging down segments, the majority is still invested in protecting their own. Hence sites like The Art Of Being Feminine, WWNH and a slow burning but soon to gain speed Return To Femininity movement. At the end of the day white womanhood must be upheld and supported despite all the angry little girls running around throwing rocks at the boys.  Otherwise the white collective will no longer dominate. Even if that happened black people still wouldn’t be in the driver’s seat because of the intra-black animus that fuels the denigration and apathy within the collective. We need to have this analysis for the larger collective of Western women but never forget to focus on the needs of black women and our own specific ethnicity and station in life first. Hence my If You Really Want To Get Married post. Common sense must prevail.

So, back to my alternative. Black women who want to position themselves to be elevated shouldn’t be looking to other women to do that anyway – because they can’t. This is still a patriarchal society. MEN are still in charge. The truth is there’s a dark side to patriarchy that men have to bear the brunt of. White women do not want that responsibility. If they think they do, let us have a Freaky Friday style collective swap where they can see what it’s like to have ALL of the burdens placed on you the way black women do. They’d run screaming. If you’ve ever had the distinct pleasure of having to report to a woman boss who mishandles her authority with overkill and domineering condensation then you’ll understand why sometimes having a man in charge is better. Oooh, I know some of you want to throw things at me right now…but it’s true. Especially, if your boss is a woman trying to be as thin as possible. Whether she eats too much or not much at all, if she’s insecure, if she overcompensates you might be Mother Theresa and your head will wind up on a platter. If she sees you as competition just for breathing you’ll want hers on one. Agree or disagree but this has occurred to many women  – especially when you are a non-white woman with a white boss. Yet, I’ve digressed. There are many variations of what I’ve described here.

My point is for black women to employ their Charm Offensive and be shrewd but as feminine as possible. Our femininity will set us apart from the politics. We will be viewed as ladies who are assets and pleasant to be around {and yes, to look at]. There is a fine line obviously, but companies are not trying to get sued today. Besides, some very clever women have also parlayed their careers into successful avenues for finding spouses. I’m thinking an Asian woman would see this as an opportunity to seize. Off the top of your head can you even name one nationally known feminist who’s Asian?  I can’t. They’re not rallying against the Man. They’re becoming MRS. Man instead. Now who has the real power position?

In closing, I’m going to remind black women again to let those women who want to be enemy combatants against males remove themselves from their vicinity. There is a vast difference between addressing legit concerns about gender parity, social justice advocacy in protecting women and girls and what some are doing to upend a system that can work for women if they learned to wield their inherent power wisely. Men need women far more than we need them it would seem. Women set the tone for how society at large operates. At their core functional males want to please women they respect, who respect them. Men step in to police the behavior of their deviant males (well…except for black men). Despite the slutty behavior of some white women they can still act like a porn star but marry into respectability and become the soccer mom. They are protected regardless of their behavior. As we can see, less are held in high esteem and many commitments don’t last, but many of those men have at least tried to uphold some of the behavior of a functioning group by fulfilling obligations (i.e. marriage).

YOU can be the one to marry their brothers, sons, uncles, cousins, etc. and set yourself apart by your decorum. We’re already on par (and better perhaps) with looks, education, loyalty, etc. if we look out for our interests and stop trying to be “black” in everything we do instead of being a “lady”.

Those national women’s organizations and mass media outlets are getting their funding from male-dominated sources. Guilt money or hush funds  – it doesn’t matter. If you position yourself accordingly you can be the one who gets the final word on how those assets and resources get allocated and who partners with each other. THEN you can make a difference by vaulting over the heads of your sister frenemies. Or do you think it’s an accident you’re being held at bay?

The oh-so-tired argument about women as property had particular impact based on the social standing and wealth of a family. If a woman was poor she had limited options. If the family had more resources their focus was on retaining and further adding to them [the same way smart families do NOW]. Has anyone read Jane Austen? Maybe the woman wasn’t always “happy” but she still had household servants and attendants, food to eat and didn’t have to work. How likely was she to give that up for a false sense of independence? How many shotgun weddings have been worthy of fairytale endings? I’ll take that type of “oppression” for 500K Alex. This might be overly-simplistic for some, but I hope more women are taking notes and notice what other women who have secured a great future for themselves and their children did.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking you have a deep and abiding friendship ala Della & Maya with someone who correctly assesses you as a (potential) rival. You are a means to an end. You are only as valuable as the resources you bring to the party – or most likely allow to be used with or without permission.  Don’t be another woman’s b*itch. Of course exceptions abound and individual relationships do matter, but I’m talking about group elevation here as always. There’s enough for all of us, so we don’t need to be concerned about what other women have. Black women have paid their dues to this country. We deserve the right to sit wherever we like, to be a stay at home wife (mother), to cash in our check for those acres and that mule. No reparations are necessary. We don’t need to get mad – we need to get everything.

Read the extended piece at the Racialicious blog On Being Feminism’s Ms. Nigga. There’s a bit of biting the hand that feeds you reactionism throughout the piece but some of those things Latoya Peterson is writing about need to be addressed. I thought the segment about book deals as validation for legitimacy was spot on! Yet certain voices are still excluded from the voice of “official” feminism, like the BWE message. Which of course is the epitome of power positioning that works in the best interests for black women and black women alone.

P.S. Don’t forget ~ those men who may have opposed certain aspects related to gender parity as individuals often rethink them when it comes to their daughters.


Excerpt (from comments by the blog host) Via What Women Never Hear:

Respect means to esteem, be considerate toward, or show deference toward somebody. As used here, ‘respect’ means regard for who someone is and what they do in the scheme of life relative to the respecter.

‘Equality’ is not an ingredient of respect. Neither is one’s station in life. The way that people live their lives and show respect for others earns respect.

A simple premise: Family friendly means female friendly and vice versa.

A man’s respect for a woman rises out of female gratitude as shown through respect for who he is and admiration for what he does   A man’s enduring love is based on respect for females generally and for one in particular.

Excerpt from Marianne Williamson‘s essay Feminine 2.0

As with any movement, however — whether a person’s individual journey or the collective journey of a culture — there were sometimes two steps forward and one step back. While women were powerfully liberated both externally as well as internally by the feminism of the 1970’s, we made some serious mistakes as well. Looking back on it now, it’s clear that in some ways we denigrated the feminine in the name of feminism. Too often we took liberation to mean simply that we were free now to behave just like men. In the name of feminism, we denied some essential aspects of our authentic selves. While feminism should have been nothing if not a celebration of our own unique characteristics, we insisted that we had no unique characteristics… that gender differences were hogwash, and a feminine woman was nothing more than a plaything for men. Calling a woman “feminine” was practically an insult! Words like nurturing and maternal weren’t viewed as feminine and therefore feminist; rather, they were viewed as weak.

36 comments to The “F” Word: Femininity v. Feminism Battle For Dominance In Women’s Lives

  • jubilee

    I'ts been said: an MRS who is married to a good Mr. and even goes by Mrs. Husbands Name has more power than Ms.Single--double if she is able to be a SAHM. Black women could take advantage of this since 'in general' werent able to; many WM would want you to be and keep kids out of daycare. My mother was a SAHM and so was my grandmother—and we hated to be noted as Mrs. Husbands Name in the past

  • jubilee

    I know you may have got BURNED by the misuse of Ephesians 5:22 and other passages like that--People who misuse them arent Christians either--the submission of the woman is the COUNTERPOINT of the CHERISHING of the man--it's similar of being BACK TO EDEN before the fall-- Genesis 3:16 (childbirth is hard work). I've seen some black churches use it wrong, and too many of those kind of churches have too many women in them

  • jubilee

    Ladies, we need to take back the term, we need to start wearing skirts and dresses more to go out. It's summertime; WEAR BRIGHT COLORS--the color of flowers--pinks, light blues, yellows oranges, If men start wearing them it isnt very cool--keep the dark grays browns for their seasons, browns for october november to match the leaves. grays for december, january..get out of the 'uniform of modified tshirts and jeans"

  • I agree with much of what you're saying, but I wanted to touch on a few points. First, their are several Asian feminists throughout history, but Fanny Cheung and Margaret Cho are two that come to mind. There are many Asian women who married and have married well but many of them have not. When you visit countries like Vietnam, Sri Lanka and Thailand, Asian women and girls have almost no value or worth and are raped, bought and sold with no thought about protecting or keeping them safe. And many of them go from the frying pan to the fire when they get married because of all the stereotypes many men have about how docile they supposedly all are.

    I'm fairly new to your blog so I may be misunderstanding your point about patriarchy, but the problem in my estimation is patriarchy itself and the very fact that women can't be safe and are in need of protection in the first place, that is what needs to be changed. Just look at what's happening on Yale's campus, according to the latest statistics 20% of the women on the campus have been raped. You don't treat someone badly or take advantage just because you can, and while I think women can deal with all of this in different ways, if we don't say that something is wrong it will likely never change. I'm sure house slaves felt comfortable and happy about not having to be out in the fields picking cotton, but they were still slaves just the same.

    I don't call myself a feminist because I'm generally not into group think in that way, but I do think that every woman should be able to define for herself what her life will be like. So whether she wants her life to resemble that of a Jane Austen romance or the life of Asata Shakur and Gloria Steinem, the point is she gets to choose, so I guess that's what its about.

  • One of my gf's is really involved in organizations on campus that advocate for LGBTQ/Straight Alliance and women's rights, etc. I remember asking to her about what she gets out of it and if there is any attention at all paid to women of color-ooops, I mean black women, and it was quite painful to see her her struggle to come up with an answer.

    I asked if the LGBTQ group ever discussed in their meetings that black women in the military are more affected by laws like DADT then their white male counterparts or if they discuss the conditions of black women in America and the amount of sexism and violence that occurs in the black collective in their women's right meetings. Since they do advocacy for women in other countries, I asked if they cover those black women in S. Africa and the corrective rape running rampant.

    She mumbled something about there being too many topics to cover in such a short meeting time, that they want to help all women, gaybashing mostly affect gay men, etc. She hasn't asked me to assist in one of her projects since that convo. Speaking of projects, it seems that she takes on the bulk of the work that a lot of the other girls in organization could be doing….very interesting.

    I asked her point blank what is she getting out of it? How is your hard work and support benefiting you and women who look like you? All of a sudden, she remembered a meeting she had to run to. Sigh.

  • APA

    I used to be real deep into Feminism back when I was in high school. Some of the women whose books that I read were Susan Faludi, Gloria Steinem, bell hooks, Betty Friedman, etc. But now, I don't really care as much and don't really identify myself as a feminist anymore. One of the things that turned me off was the constant focus on the issues of white women. None of the books that I read by the previously mentioned women truly included the specific struggles of women of color. The ways in which patriarchy oppresses women of color are entirely different from the ways it oppresses white women. Mainstream (i.e. white) feminism needs to acknowledge this, if they want women of color to join them in their fight. I recognize that misogyny and sexism exists, but I don't feel the need to go out and fight the power on the behalf of a bunch of (white) feminists.

    I applaud feminists for their work and the rights they've helped secure for all women. However, white feminists weren't alone in their fight. I can think of a few women of color (i.e. Sojourner Truth, Angela Davis, Audre Lorde, Florynce Kennedy, etc) who were helpful in their fight. However, the voices and accomplishments of these women of color have been silenced in the larger narrative of the feminist movement, much like the achievements of black women during the Civil Rights movement were downplayed by male leadership.

    Feminism as an ideology no longer works for me because it's not going to aid me in achieving my goals (i.e. enjoying my femininity, getting married, dating, etc.), so it's not an ideology that I align myself with or try to spread.

  • STDM

  • Melissa Q

    In truth, I believe feminism does not belong to us anyway. They began their movement to get their needs met, let them struggle after. Let them MULE…and we can pick up their equal rights goodies (… marry their men) LOL!

  • STDM


    There is so much in here…I need to gather my thoughts before I write something that doesn't make any sense lol.

    I hope you don't mind, but I have linked a couple of your posts on my site. It's just a teeny tiny way I can help expose more bg/bw to the content you have provided (for free) on your site!

  • Joyousnerd

    Oh, and on the theme of seizing the opportunity to take advantage of where white women are messing up (by fighting the Man, or by acting lascivious) let's please consider personal appearance! I have been looking closely at the women I encounter in my daily comings and goings lately. I have noticed that an ever increasing portion of the white women I encounter are seriously overweight! (I know many black women are as well.) As has been covered on the BWE blogs many times, men prefer women who are in shape. So those white women are taking themselves out of competition by remaining overweight.

    Also, I have taken notice of the increasing portion of white women who do not apply makeup, even when they are at an event such as a play! Even if you don't "need" makeup, wearing it appeals to men.

    Many white women have also taken to dressing in a very masculine or gender neutral, sloppy manner. This does not appeal to men at all! So many white women are voluntarily taking themselves out of the game! I think this might be unprecedented in human history!

    So for a black woman who is at a normal weight, who applies some light makeup, and who puts on a feminine dress or skirt… she is already head and shoulders above those women! Because white women have been slipping, this is the ideal time for black women to seize the opportunity to become Mrs. Man!

    Even if you are already married, it helps to have male allies, especially in the workplace. Just by fitting the above criteria, you will find men automatically treat you in a protective and supportive manner.

    My two cents!

  • Joyousnerd

    This post is really food for thought. The Feminist movement is NOT looking out for my interests at all from what I can see. Therefore I see no benefit to claiming them. There's a whole lot of double talk coming from that corner, so to suss out what's really going on, look to the actions and the money! How many of the Feminist leaders crow about how women should be working, even when they have tiny infants. That's all well and good but when THEY have children, all of a sudden they are taking a lengthy period off from work! Yet for women who are single moms or who are partnered with low-income men, trundling off for a shift bagging groceries is supposed to be some empowering thing? Riiiiight.

    I've been a stay-at-home-mom for a very long time, and now I'm planning to transition back into the workplace once my youngest is old enough.

    I've been stressed, not over the work itself, but over the catty backbiting manipulative games that I fully EXPECT from white women I'll encounter! I know that it will be coming, but I'm just not sure how to deal with it.

    I know that the syrupy-sweet catty comments are designed to anger me and lure me into showing my anger…. in which case I get "othered" and her femininity gets upheld. I refuse to fall into that trap, but I don't know how to
    respond effectively. Perhaps I should study how asian women deal with this behavior! They seem to have mastered this game.

    And I highly recommend the strategy of becoming Mrs. Man!!

  • Faith,

    Thank you for this outstanding post! {standing ovation}

    If nothing else, I believe AA women should focus on two points one can glean from your essay:

    (1) Stop being cannon fodder for causes and step away from the firing line; and

    (2) if you don't know what to do, look to see what the Asian women in your environment are doing/not doing—and imitate their moves. Asian women have an excellent, long-term track record of making the best moves that serve their interests.

    P.S.-Thanks for the shout-out! {smile}

  • MsMellody

    I have got to hand it to you Faith -- This post right here is amazing. Amazingly on target. I absolutely cast my vote under the banner of "Charm Offensive" for Femininity.

    I clicked over to that link and read a little of the Gawker sister website-Jezebel article. I instantly saw the face of this woman and knew without a doubt that this woman was put up against the black woman as a "traditionalist" ( sarcasm included in quotes) candidate.

    Having had little to no experience with NOW but benefiting from their work -- I feel a little detached from the marching.fasting, posters, etc. However -- I feel totally connected to this current BWE teachings that alert women like myself to the unspoken fact that women of color are white women's competition for resources. Period.

    And as it has often been said -- "let the games begin" To my fellow women of color -- you have been alerted to this fact over and over, accept your beauty, charm, grace and get back into the game of life!!
    Love your post Faith!!!

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