By: Virgil Hayes
Since learning and writing about the plight of women, and the importance of intersectionality as it pertains to women of color, a few of my friends have inquired as to why I chose to embrace feminism? After pondering this question for a hot minute the kid has finally come up with an answer. As a male, I learned that my ties to patriarchy were not only contributing to the oppression of women, but they were limiting my understanding of my mother, who like many Black women before her, always sought to understand the struggle that Black men and boys face on the daily. For me, feminism was a way for me to cure the maladies of sexism and misogyny that plague men like my father, whose only criteria for a wife was a woman, “who attends church and cooks”. But the intergenerational curse that is patriarchy ends with me. Because of my understanding of intersectional feminism (Fella’s don’t leave home without it), I now see the danger in constantly praising Black women for their strength. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all down for feminism, womanism, or anything that empowers Black women to deal with the BS of racism and patriarchy. But as someone who grew up watching his mother devote so much of her time to being an active member in the church, raising a family, holding down two jobs, maintaining cleanliness and order in the home (I swear the woman could clean bleach), cooking & baking sweet potato pies that were so good they could make ya slap somebody (the pie don’t lie); I realized that the task of saving the world left little room for Wonder Woman to simply be human.
There are days when my memories of her kidnap my attention, and force me to replay conversations with my mother that bring about an array of emotions. While reading Sister Citizen and learning of the ways that strength can bind and oppress Black women, my mother’s words begin to echo in the halls of my consciousness; “(insert nickname here), I’m so tired”. As simple as they were, her words seemed to carry a complexity that she struggled to articulate. I imagine that there was a part of her that was fed up with the gender roles that so many women are often times forced to play, or maybe she was exhausted after years of understanding men who couldn’t grasp the simplest parts of her identity. There were times when I became so consumed by guilt that I blamed myself for my mother’s death (a side effect of depression following the loss of a loved one). Feminism became my "Balm in Gilead", a catalyst for an internal revolution that has challenged everything from my use of oppressive language, to my spirituality (look if Christians are going to claim that God has no gender than I see ZERO reasons as to why God cannot be imagined or portrayed as a woman).
As you all know this past Sunday was Mother’s Day, a time of celebration and praise for the women who have given us life, love, and their unwavering support. Rather than uploading the usual “Happy Mother’s Day status”, I chose to channel my energy into my writing, a gift I inherited from my mother. I find myself rejoicing when thinking of her reaction to the words I’ve written. The joy orchestrating the smile on her face as she whispers; “You go boy”.
Much love and many blessings, and Happy Belated Mother’s Day!