“The Power of Self Naming”-TFG

Jun 21, 2010 @ 2:48 pm | By TheFeministGriote | 4 Comments

” I am not a feminist. I am not a Black liberalist, Republican, Democrat. I am not anything. I’m human. I support things that have good intent and that I feel I vibrate with, that I resonate with”.-E.Babu from her interview with Vibe magazine June/July 2010

I never thought in a million years that I would say that I disagree with Erykah Badu. Badu in my humble opinion is the epitome of a feminist/womanist. Her music is uplifting to women and seeks to remind us that there is much power in being vulnerable and honest with yourself and how your flaws can become a platform to your greatness, but I don’t agree that a human being can navigate in this world without self definition. There is power in naming your self for yourself.

As minorities when we read history we can see for ourselves the dangers that can happen when the majority is allowed to name the rest of us. The majority thought that Blacks were 3/5 of a person, that women were not capable of voting, and that only wealthy white men can have the right to rule. In the 60’s and 70’s Black people fought so hard to be called by their rightful names. We went from Nigger, Negro, Black, to now African-Americans. The beauty of the 21st century is that we have the privilege of calling ourselves whatever we feel best suits our interests. Women also throughout history went through their own metamorphosis. Women went from being subservient to men to almost equal with men. Although, both people of color  and women have a long way to go in terms of solidifying their rightful equitable place in this patriarchal white society, but we can agree that gains have been made. The major problem I have with this quote is that many people subscribe to this type of thinking that leads to a cancerous form of apathy within Black and Brown communities. Badu is an artist with a different set of resources from we the masses which gives her the ability to be “free”.

I understand that as human beings we like to cling to groups which have a tendency to stifle and kill the spirit of individuality, hence “group think”, but going to the extreme polar opposite and simply saying I am just human too- me is dangerous. We are all human beings but some humans are more empowered than others. As average folks we do not have disposable income that can afford us the luxury of retreating from society and escaping the ills and perils that come from being in this urban jungle.  I understand the intent and the context in which Badu made this statement, but as a Black Haitian-American woman, I cannot afford to walk down this path.

Everyday my psyche and spirit is being attacked by patriarchy, sexism, racism and all the other isms that seek to want to dominate me. Therefore politically and socially, I must align myself  in order for me to ensure that I hold on to the few liberties that I still have. If the right wing majority had its way I would be stripped of all of my reproductive rights. Being just human is not going to keep the moral majority at bay. Unfortunately, not all humans are good or seeking righteousness. Therefore, its imperative that the masses align themselves to remind the bourgeoisie that we are alive and will not be quietly displaced and disenfranchised.  I commend Badu for being able to transcend  group affiliations, but from a socio-economic perspective I am still in the belly of the whale fighting to stay afloat consciously. On a social scale labels are not evil they are necessary. Until we live in a Utopian society where being just human is sufficient then-we can cast social struggle labels. Till then the masses cannot afford politically, socially, or economically to be so ambiguous.

“If we do not define ourselves for ourselves, we will be defined by others-for their use and to our detriment”-Audre Lorde from the essay  Scratching the Surface

4 Responses to “ “The Power of Self Naming”-TFG ”

  1. Awesome images! I appreciate the post so much! 😉

  2. I get what you’re saying but some believe that defining ourselves to the world is what proves to be detrimental to us. There’s a power in ambiguity; not subscribing to any social, political, or economic labels. Also because we live in a society where things are becoming more gray, there isn’t just black and white sides anymore. We have conservative democrats, liberal republicans, straight-drag queens, Jewish-Catholic mixed households, and the list goes on. The idea of self-definition is becoming arbitrary, simply because as the world progresses and cultures becoming interwoven, its getting harder to define everyone. I bet you can’t say that all of your ideas as a feminist match up to every feminist in the world, if it doesn’t then what sense does the title make. A zoologist isn’t going to name a species of salamanders; the Australian kiwi-eating salamanders, if they’re indigenous to five continents and only 30% eat kiwi. So with said I believe we have more power by not pledging to any social definitions because really, all it is another way to seperate everyone.

  3. Although we are becoming a society of grey we are not in a post-racial or post-struggle world. Race matters and affiliations matter more. The point is Badu is part of the economically elite. As relatable as she is her economic status gives her the privilege to distance herself from the “causes” or social movements. I am a poor Black woman if I do that then there are serious economic and political implications that I just can’t afford. Yes, I am a feminist and the personal and the political do not always cohesively align with one another. So, i try to carve out my own niche. By destroying social labels we tear down one binary to pick up the cross of another more complicated binary. Because what is “human” and who dictates how they act? Thanks for responding!

  4. I was talking to someone about being a feminist the other day and they said that word is no longer what is being used among educated people. She said that the new “trend” is to say you are a humanist. Why are we so scared to say what we are, to stand up for what we believe? I am a feminist and that does not mean that I hate men. It does mean that I believe in woman’s rights and that I am always ready to stand up for it.

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