Why the need for Black male feminists…?

… Because it’s 2016!
What is feminism? What is a feminist? Why are feminists necessary? Can a male be a feminist? Why are male feminists necessary? Why are Black male feminists necessary?
This is not an exercise for purely intellectual or entertainment purposes. I am raising issues relevant to all of us, regardless of gender, race or socio-economic status, issues necessary for every society’s success.
That main consideration of relevance requires us to start with a clear and basic definition of feminism. I found one that is as simple as it is workable: feminism is advocating for social, political, legal and economic rights for women, equal to those for men.
In that vein, I define a feminist as a person who believes in and advocates for equitable rights, freedoms and opportunities for women and girls and therefore opposes any form of denial of equity for women and girls.
The need for that advocacy is so evident that it is embarrassing. How can it be that women and girls make up more than 50% of the population of most countries, generally perform better than men and boys at all levels of formal education in most countries and yet occupy a small percentage of the leadership positions in the corporate world, in politics and in religions? How can we justify the significantly lower wages earned by women for the same jobs performed by men? Women earn 72% of what men earn for similar jobs in Canada.
And what about the two other hugely scandalous realities affecting women in today’s world: violence against women and in many, many countries the discriminatory practices and attitudes that push boys into school while shunting girls towards the home, work and marriage?
All those factors clearly prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that we need feminism and feminists to counter those shameful facts of life. Male-dominated societies have been around for so long that we have become complacent in the face of the blatant discrimination against the female still so prevalent in most aspects of our lives.
However, I must confess that I too have tended for too long to accept the traditional idea that only women can be feminists. And I see how much we have been seduced by the tempting argument that is still being advanced today to justify that idea: to be a feminist one has to be personally subjected to the damaging primary effects of sexism and therefore personally subjected to the life experiences of belonging to the oppressed group, namely women.
I insist that we must move beyond that restricting view of the effects of anti-women sexism. My view is that the anti-women sexist attitudes and values have also wrought significant damage on men and their male psyche. The hyper-masculinity that bred the he-man as a hero consolidated the concept of manhood based on physical strength and aggressiveness. And that warped concept of manhood was used to promote the male as the rightful candidate for social leadership, the so-called head of the household to whom the woman was to be obedient and beholden.
My point is that it is both natural and healthy that men and women should have strengths and weaknesses, moments of strength and weakness as we face the ups and downs of life. It should be considered natural and desirable that both genders show their emotional and rational reactions to the variety of situations that we confront. In order to move beyond those constricting concepts of gender roles, both men and women have to break the chains of our inherited stereotypes as the so-called stronger and the weaker sexes.
In that context, the alpha female should be just as natural as the alpha male. If feminism means advocating against a system of biases that debases women and also does men significant harm, then men can and must be feminists too, agents of justice and equity working to change the structure of gender relations and to eliminate patriarchy. None of the antiquated concepts of sex and gender identity should be allowed to divide and discriminate against us.
In that same context, I am happy to see men fully integrated into the role of male feminists and I am overjoyed that the corollary is also working well: there are already women fully integrated into the leadership of the National Organization for Men Against Sexism (NOMAS).
That leaves us with one last question: why do we need Black male feminists? On this specific issue of race and ethnicity, the trials and tribulations of Black feminism and Black feminists are finally beginning to receive serious attention. So, I need only respond with a quotation from one of our empowered and inspiring Black sisters.
Making reference to her HIV status, her recent article in the Huffington Post (online) by Muluba Habanyama was entitled: “I Am Female. I Am Black. I Am HIV Positive. Any Questions?”