I Might Choke Ya: Why I'm Not Here for Black Male Consumption
This picture has been making the rounds on Twitter. My initial reaction was to physically pull away from my phone. It's the kind of thinking as a black woman and a feminist that I want to distance myself from. I am not for anyone's consumption.
None of us, male or female, should reduce ourselves to an object for anyone else's consumption. There's no reward for you in a dynamic like that. Consumption implies that you will be gobbled up, perhaps savoured if you're lucky, swallowed down, stripped of all the good you have to offer, and the rest will be discarded. You will be mined for your best assets and the remainder will be thrown away. There is no guarantee anything will be given back to you or that you'll be properly appreciated for what you're worth. You are more than just a thing to be consumed. To see yourself this way is reductive, objectifying and dehumanizing.
I take particular issue though with the dynamic suggested by this sweatshirt. For one thing, historically, black women have been sexualized, objectified, and dehumanized. We have been treated as things to display, to gawk at in human zoos. Our bodies have been copied and exaggerated for comedic effect. Our humanity has been denied, and not just by white men, but our own.
And this is my second issue with the sweater's message. Believe me, I get her sentiments. I love black men. I think they are beautiful. I think they have a special connection with black women because of our shared history of oppression. They understand our culture and appreciate the fullness of our lips, hips, and buttocks.
But they are just as capable of dehumanizing us and under-appreciating us. There are black men that will happily call black women roaches, who will consider is inherently inferior to white or paler women, who will only see our beauty if it resembles that of white women. There are black men who only see us as hoes and bitches, purely for consumption. They are not somehow automatically incapable of misogynoir.
We can't avoid racism by running headlong into the arms of patriarchy.
Any man of any race is capable of misogyny just as much as any man of any race is capable of loving a woman wholly and completely. Let's not pretend that we can't be loved well by other races or mistreated by our own. And above all, don't ever delude yourself into thinking consumption =/= love, no matter who's doing it.