If you missed the debate on Janice Graham’s Our Common Ground last night, then you missed a historic moment. Drs. Tommy J. Curry and David E. Ikard debated the concept of Black Male Feminism and assessed its potential, validity, and moral fortitude. More to the point, they discussed feminism’s influence on the matter, and whether or not there is any merit to the idea that Black men have “not been there” for Black women (historically). In truth, there are several arguments that extremist Black feminists have posited in regard to Black men that Curry and Ikard engaged:
1) Black men never support Black women, even though Black women always support Black men.
2) Black women’s lives and experiences are overshadowed by Black men.
3) Intersectionality Theory exposes how much more oppressed Black women are than any other group.
4) Black men have gender privilege over Black women and refuse to accept it.
5) Black men are the primary domestic violence abusers and have no regard for Black women.
6) Academic Black Feminism represents all Black women and is the best vehicle for addressing gender in the Black community.
7) Black men have always sought to emulate White masculinity’s patriarchal tendencies.
Although I could name others, these seven best summarize some of the major themes of the discussion, and highlight the primary points of contention between the two scholars. The discussion? Epic. The outcome? That’s for you to decide, but from the standpoint of NewBlackMasculinities and Black Masculinism, they articulate one aspect of the type of new gender dynamic amongst Black males: a clearer analysis on how to talk about gender with historical equity. In other words, I’ve stated on this blog often that most Black men have not been trained to talk about gender in ways that articulate men’s historical experiences with accuracy–outside of investments in traditional patriarchal tropes, and consequently they are often not able to participate in discussions on Black gender matters (without, at best, deferring to Black Feminism). Yet Black Feminism overwhelmingly casts Black men primarily as patriarchs and oppressors who enjoy privilege and refuse to accept it. Intuitively, this is a problem for most Black men who know that this is a problematic assertion, but often can’t argue for an alternative point of view without being further labeled as defenders of patriarchy. Here, Curry models the essence of Black Masculinism in that he demonstrates a love for the Black community, a passion for racial and communal justice, and yet a nuanced concern for the unique race/gender experiences of both Black females and males.
Now this discussion is a highly academic, so it stands to reason that a new conception of Black gender would need to be more accessible to the masses of Black folk who aren’t privy to such rarefied language, but the legacy of academic feminist discourse requires that new conceptualizations of gender address past and present approaches, regardless of what language has been used in the past. Furthermore, the two discuss disciplinary mythologies (assumptions people make–including academics–that aren’t necessarily reinforced by empirical data), as well as the extent to which feminism can be considered as representative of both Black women and men. Most people are aware of the complaints Black men have had with Black Feminism (often dismissed as sexist), but few have entertained whether or not there could be a meditated critique of feminism that still challenges patriarchy, supports Black women’s calls for gender equity, and yet highlights Black men’s need for a new paradigm of race and gender. Also, most assume that Black Feminism is representative of all Black women, and yet dismiss the works of such people as Clenora Hudson-Weems, Athena Mutua, Nah Dove, or Kathleen Cleaver who have all pointed out the problematic and bourgeois posture of Black Feminism–often arguing instead for a feminism that is produced organically from the grassroots experiences of everyday Black women (including Africana Womanism) rather than from the ivory tower or from White Feminism. Curry and Ikard’s debate, here, rightly challenges another assumption about Black men…machoism. They debate Black nationalistic hypermasculinity and homophobia, but instead of ending as many do, asserting how bad Black men are, Curry rightly asserts that the real issue is homophobia, challenging that it’s not limited to Black men by citing such works as Cheryl Clarke’s poignant critique of Michelle Wallace’s homophobic assertions in Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman (1976) (see Cheryl Clarke’s “The Failure to Transform: Homophobia in the Black Community,” in Home Girls: A Feminist Anthology edited by by Barbara Smith, 1983). But I digress…
Regardless of your position, you’ll not be able to dismiss the brilliance of this discussion! Enjoy! Click here to listen!
For more information:
Tommy J. Curry is the author of the upcoming text The Man Not, “The Eschatological Dilemma: The Problem of Studying the Black Male only as the Deaths that Result from Anti-Black Racism,” and
David E. Ikard is the author of Blinded by the Whites: Why Race Still Matters in 21st-Century America (Blacks in the Diaspora) (2013).