“Imani, you are a feminist,” the Caribbean guy of short stature and large opinion blurted one sunny afternoon. This guy always offered sporadic perceptions of my identity. Another day he criticized my Skittles inspired ensemble and called me a wannabe Latina.
I held random opinions of him that never became sidewalk spillage as his did. However, that f-word was unsettling. I felt confined to a square, similar to the sidewalk on which I stood. And it made me uncomfortable.
“No. I’m not,” I said with a forced grin, shifting weight between two ballet flats.
Wasn’t feminism a condition of rebellion for women who had no other choice?
I later realized by believing that, I fed into misinterpretation of women and men who quest for equality.
Feminism seemed to be sideline hopscotch for women who didn’t climb society’s inclusive jungle gym because they hadn’t learned their place.
If they would cement their lips and be barefoot in somebody’s kitchen synchronizing meals with the arrival of their breadwinning men, they would be OK.
Admittedly, I can rock with or against that. Some prefer “traditional” gender roles. More power to them.
By being called a name that I was taught ought to make me uncomfortable, I began confronting society’s fear of outcast groups who seek empowerment.
Sometimes that group is minorities, the LGBT community, supposedly lower class individuals, people with disabilities, overweight people and so on.
I learned that not only is feminism the personification of equality, but it is also a multifaceted consciousness.
My 20 year old, Southern reared, HBCU attending, Black feminism looks quite different from middle class dissatisfied White feminists of yesteryear. But, in some ways it is quite similar.
My feminism is not about role reversal. I’m not out to beat patriarchy with matriarchy and don the proverbial “pants.” For me, life is not about domination of others.
It’s about using individual gifts to complement and supplement the lacks of our loved ones.
My feminism is about teaching men to value women and women to value men. It’s about teaching men and women to value their sexes. I oppose isms and want all injustice to stop, not just gender issues.
The sun’s back out and I haven’t seen the Caribbean guy anywhere. Now that I’ve read more and mulled over an inclusive worldview, I realize that he gave me a compliment, superior to affirmations of attraction most are taught to seek.
With bell hooks’ books, friends of other races, orientations and genders by my side, I embrace a feminism that is liberating, not a liability. The journey to realize this is as complex as its advocates.
Imani Jackson is a junior mass communication major from Jacksonville, Fla.