Yes, All Men...Until You Prove Differently
I recently had a paradigm shift. I have decided to limit my collaborations with men. All men - unless they are going to fight for my visibility and recognition.
It sounds weird to say it aloud, but it’s a logical choice. We live in a misogynistic culture that habitually ignores Black women, and I’ve found that this is true with men regardless of race or sexuality. Men are listened to more, acknowledged more, and given credit for activities of which they were a minor part, and they feel entitled to that credit.
Not only do they feel entitled to it, pointing this out leads to accusations of jealousy, excessive ego, and man-hating. I’ve been told it’s not their fault and that I’m misreading the situation. That I’m impatient. That I need to get over myself. They’ve tried to convince me that if I’m not getting recognition for my efforts, maybe it’s something I’m doing; that somehow, I’m at fault.
For years, I internalized this message. I looked at myself and asked what I was doing wrong. I watched other people, saw how the world responded to them, and tried to adopt some of those behaviors. I reshaped and remolded myself into someone more “acceptable” until I realized that I was punishing myself by trying to be someone I’m not. And it was never going to work because the problem wasn’t me. I’ve seen plenty of atrocious people never be punished for their terrible actions, so, yeah, it wasn’t me. It was the hierarchical humanity perpetuated by this society. It was that I was somewhere near the bottom of that hierarchy and nothing I did was going to change that.
But this wasn’t a realization I came to alone. I talked with other Black women, femmes, and gender non-conforming individuals about and learned that we shared the same stories. Experiences exacerbated by our intersections: fat, dark skin, queer, trans…these intersections informed those around us that we were not worthy of respect. That it was fine to hide us, steal our work, and ignore how this impacts us. Our intersections made it okay for people not to fight for us. And they don’t. So now, I’m choosing not to work with them because I deserve better. We deserve better.
We deserve better than to be edged out of our own projects.
We deserve better than to be ignored.
We deserve better than to have our creations co-opted by others.
We deserve better than to have our justified concerns dismissed as paranoia, jealousy, and egotism.
We deserve better than to be marginalized in our own lives and accomplishments.
But our voices have been deemed shrill and unworthy. Our work subpar. Our efforts never enough. Our labor valued only for the recognition it brings others.
And I’ve finally learned that if my only value to you is how you can use me, we aren’t fighting the same fight. You are exploiting me and using my marginalization for your benefit.
It may not be intentional, but if you KNOW this is how the system and society treat us, and you don’t use your privilege to fight it, what do you think you’re doing? If you’re willing to count something as a win that benefits you but screws me over, what do you think you’re doing? Not only are you participating in and benefitting from oppression, you are helping promote it. And if you throw the onus on the person being exploited, telling them to be patient and humble, you’re gaslighting and harming that person. And now, you are the problem.
I don’t need that problem.
Last year, I attended a woman-focused conference and I asked them if any of them collaborated on their businesses with men and how they managed that relationship, especially when people would attribute their work to their male collaborator. The room went silent. Completely silent. Nobody wanted to answer the question but when someone finally did, they said “we don’t really do long-term collaborations with men anymore.”
That’s because it’s easier to walk away from collaborating with men than it is to get them to fight with you for your rightful space. And that’s fucked up.
So, for all the people who like to tell me that this is the world we live in and that I have to figure this shit out…I have figured it out. I’m not fucking with people who won’t fight for me, and sadly, that’s men who are so focused on maintaining their privilege that my getting destroyed in the process doesn’t matter. For the record, that’s all y’all until you prove repeatedly that you’ll fight with and for me.
If you know the type of society we live in, and don’t you fight for Black women, femmes, and gender non-conforming individuals? Fuck you.
If you know that people will credit you with our work and won’t stand for Black women, femmes, and gender non-conforming individuals? Fuck you.
If you know that people will do everything in their power to erase Black women, femmes, and gender non-conforming individuals from our work and you decide to spend your energy convincing us to accept it instead of standing with us to fight it? Fuck you.
Use your privilege, regardless of how small it is, to fight for me. For me. For us.
Otherwise, you ain’t shit and I can’t trust you.