I tend to stray away from labels when it comes to doing what is deemed "the right thing to do." Being an "ally" or "feminist" are meaningful roles for our society, but I would one day hope to live in a world where one doesn't need a title when it comes doing something humane. Most likely this won't be the case anytime soon.
Nonetheless, I have been tackling with a recent dialogue that has been occurring subliminally in the black community when it comes to the role of women. Never really noticed how annoyed I have been when it comes to male-chauvinism until a series of conversations in my social network with fellow peers took place.
I was sitting at a bench with a group of women eating lunch when another one woman passed us. She was wearing high shorts and a tank top. As I had predicted, the construction workers around began taunting her whistles and street talk. She gave them no attention and proceeded to cross the street.
The ladies at my table began to speculate with the statements:
"She knows she is wrong for coming out here looking like that with all her junk nearly out."
"She will never keep a man wearing those high booty shorts."
"I didn't know 2 Chainz had strippers out here on set."
And then it was this statement that made me think:
"It's sistas like her that make it hard out here for the rest of us... they are just asking for it."
For the time being, it was easy to pass this off as common sense. I became accustomed to hearing older black women criticize younger black women for dressing a certain way. At times, I would not even feel any sympathy for the girl at the cookout in the "high booty shorts" because culturally I was taught she "asked for it."
But just recently I began to actually put myself in her shoes and rationalize it with a different mindset.
Perhaps she might be thinking:
It is hot outside; I don't want to wear heavy clothing. Contrary to popular belief, I am not actually indecently exposed wearing these shorts or this tank. I only plan to go out and enjoy my day. Construction men going outside of their way to whistle at me or talk to me is unwarranted given that I have no intention of suggesting conversation.
What I am beginning to realize is that there is a level of subconscious sexism in the black community that is misguided and misunderstood. While the women I was sitting with were more focused on the shorts and tank top the younger woman had on, perhaps they should have been noticing the men that were giving her a hard time.
The truth of the matter is that no woman asks for sexual harassment, and no woman (regardless of how short her shorts may be) wants to be a part of rape culture. Wearing short, tight skirts does not automatically authorize a man to make a pass and take advantage. What is even more problematic is how society has given black masculinity this right.
Let's get real. The more intense, uncut hip-hop music videos we have watched for more than a decade has now brainwashed us no doubt. The fantasy world of unlimited music video strippers and black women wanting to be groped by men religiously has now been a played out pseudo recreation at college parties and night clubs. And even though in some cases, a few women actually desire such attention, the vast majority across the aisle doesn't and ends up being collateral.
And what has now become an even larger problem thanks to the power of social media, the black female body has now become more objectified than ever. I cannot even count how many times the rear end of a black woman has been placed on memes and gifs and retweeted for endless discussion. What is even worse is how the terms of endearment for such body parts have shifted from "making love" to now "beating" (or worse) "tearing it up."
The consequences for such actions are now borderline irrevocable. The social constructs of a black male that goes against the objectification of a black women is gay, weak, or a pariah. As a result, young black men that long to go against the grain are silenced as the disrespect continues.
Today, black entertainers, such as Steve Harvey, are now offering women solutions to solving some of their problems by telling them to nonetheless "Think Like a Man." There are is barely any room for free expression given that anything a black woman chooses to do today have to be reevaluated every second. It annoys me when one of my homegirls ask me if I think she looks like a whore if she puts a certain shirt on when male privilege allows me to go shirtless without a thought.
Recognizing this, I would like to demand my fellow black men to take a step back and check themselves. This has gone too far. It is borderline crazy. The excuse that it is a man's "natural instinct" to look, whistle, and possibly touch is just as repulsive as suggesting that the sexual harassment you didn't realize you are doing is as natural as well. We need to raise our daughters to not feel as though she is the sole reason for male disrespect just because she wants to personally express herself harmlessly. We need to raise our sons to know that they don't have to declare their masculinity by how many girls they strive to "pull" without their consent. And lastly, instead of teaching girls how to avoid rape and abuse, how about simply teaching boys how not to be the culprits.
Black women are exploited in America at a higher rate than their counterparts and the lack of positive influences in our media doesn't make it any better. The role our own community plays in this is problematic and the issue is not going to get any better if we do not reevaluate our mindsets.
This issue has been on my mind lately and I don't necessarily want to be considered a black feminist, but just someone who wants to see better treatment for the generation of my mothers, sisters, cousins, and homegirls.
If we so much declare equal rights and respect from others, we need to also expect it among ourselves.