Brittney Griner recently became the WNBA’s #1 draft pick, and she also became the first openly gay athlete to sign with Nike. But after NBA star Jason Collins came out publicly and was heralded by many as the first “major out athlete,” Griner’s moment in the spotlight was, at least temporarily, eclipsed. In a powerful essay written for the Sunday New York Times, Brittney finally got the chance to share her story.
I adore her.
Love this woman!
Have you Ever Tried to Hide?-Pat Parker
Have you ever tried to hide?
In a group
slide between the floorboards
slide yourself away child
away from this room
& your sister
before she notices
your Black self &
her white mind
slide your eyes
away from the other Blacks
afraid-a meeting of eyes
& pain would travel between you-
change like milk to buttermilk
a silent rage.
SISTER! your foot’s smaller,
but it’s still on my neck.
From the ‘Lean In’ pushers who demand I read the book to understand how great it is or to decide that I am justified in not reading it, I am told that Sandberg deals artfully with the limits of her advice. I am told that she is clear that she has privilege and I am told that knocking down a successful woman for writing the kind of business books men write all the time is some sort of violation.
I do not accept that it is my responsibility to authenticate my disinterest. I also think Sandberg will manage without the support of one low-status black woman.
Sandberg doesn’t have to attend to things I care about like race, class, inequality and capitalism. But when she does not then you must understand why I mostly tune out all those imploring me to lean in.
An “anti racist” scholar in Canada took me to task of my criticism of Slaughter’s Having It All thesis awhile back in an online forum. She said that I can no more expect Slaughter to speak to my feminist concerns than I can be expected to speak of Slaughter’s.
That gave me pause.
I think I have determined how I would respond to that criticism as it relates both to Slaughter and Sandberg.
Basically, so what?
Privilege is about never having to critically engage the realities of others. So what if the threshold for clearing my litmus test for relevance adds an additional burden for those in privileged positions? If the burden is so great, I am always willing to trade my privilege for Sandberg’s.
It is not fair but I do not think I am arguing for fairness. Fair ignores the reality of structural inequality. Fair supposes that Sandberg and I are peers. And while I thank you for the back-handed compliment, you and I both know that is blowing smoke up my arse. We are not peers. We are not equals. Expecting some arbitrary ‘fairness’ index in our engagement of ideas effectively reproduces our respective unequal power relations. Sandberg should have to work harder to earn bona fides in my feminism because she needs my kind of feminism the least. Wealth and privilege inoculate her from the job insecurity, poverty, and isolation that other women work to provide through feminist ideals and labor. They have less time, fewer resources, less attention to be divided across concerns with concrete implications to their actual livelihoods, if not their very lives. Running a multi-billion dollar company is, without a doubt, stressful and time-consuming. But when Sandberg drops a ball her children likely will not go hungry. That difference requires, from me, a different litmus test for relevancy.
I am arguing for relevant cultural work that contributes to a feminism that is not all about privileged women.
Tressie McMillan Cottom (@tressiemcphd)
This is an excerpt from her essay Lean In Litmus Test: Is This For Women Who Can Cry At Work?. It is truly exquiste and perfectly encapsulates my feelings, thoughts and perspectives regarding Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, and this particular brand of feminism that some have referred to as 1% Feminism (no pun intended, I think…)
This book is NOT for me. Sandberg was not thinking about anyone even remotely like me when she wrote it. What is NOT okay is the presumption that this is some sort of feminist pathway for all women. To me, it is a work-life advice book for a particular sliver of women in the way that Seth Godin writes modern marketing and business advice. It won’t replace any bell hooks on my shelf, is my point. It’s not for me.
As Tressie points out in other parts of the essay, it may be for women who can cry at work, as she writes: “Crying at work is a euphemism for the myriad ways in which black women are sanctioned for demonstrating behavior from which white women benefit.”
Again, this book is not for me. And that is okay. I hope people will stop demanding that I worship this book sometime soon.
For me, queer theory is the emblematic example of how we say the value of what queer politics brings is a challenge to what is the normal. And it’s of course what that whole angst is about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and marriage equality. On the one hand, those are basic citizenship rights, right? You always know that there’s some second-class citizenship going on in military policy and marriage policy, right? If you’re looking for second-class citizenship, look in those things and you’ll often find it. So it’s a very reasonable set of political strategies, but the problem is also a very normative set of political strategies, right? It’s not about, “We have a right to be queer and create different kinds of communities and different definitions of family.” It’s about, “Look how much just like you we can be; look how respectable we can be, see; we can have our families look just like your families, and we can serve in the military just like you; and so look how straight we can be!” Rather than, “Look how queer we can be and look at how valuable it is to take queerness and open up the very definition of what constitutes respectable and normal.
Melissa Harris-Perry (via teacakes)
“Look how queer we can be and look at how valuable it is to take queerness and open up the very definition of what constitutes respectable and normal.”
there it is
Being queer does not make you radical.
Queer African American Women and the History of Marriage
This photo and headline accompanied an article from the October 15, 1970 issue of Jet magazine. They reveal that long before the recent struggle for marriage equality began, African American women who love women have engaged with the institution of marriage and have fought to make it their own.
Edna Knowles, on the left, and Peaches Stevens were wed in Liz’s Mark III Lounge, a gay bar on the South Side of Chicago, “before a host of friends and well wishers.” The article ended by noting, “although the duo has a type of ‘marriage license’ in their possession, the state’s official marriage license bureau reported it had no record of their license.” This ending serves to remind Jet readers that Knowles and Stevens’ union was not legitimate in the eyes of the state, as does the use of quotes around the word “married” in the headline.
However, decades prior to this bold public display of queer affection, African American female couples in New York strategized alternative ways to obtain marriage licenses in the 1920s and 30s:
“Marriage ceremonies were held with large wedding parties which included several bridesmaids, attendants, and other wedding party members. Actual marriage licenses were obtained by either masculinizing the first name, or having a gay male surrogate obtain the license for the marrying couple. These marriage licenses were placed on file with the New York City Marriage Bureau.” - Luvenia Pinson, “The Black Lesbian: Times Past-Time Present,” Womanews, May 1980 p. 8.
Also during the 1930s, popular performer Gladys Bentley was making a living singing bawdy tunes and playing piano late into the night at various clubs all over New York, including one named after her.
Bentley married her white girlfriend in Atlantic City in a ceremony to which she invited friends in the entertainment industry:
“Columnist Louis Sobol remembered Bentley coming over to his table one night and whispering, ‘I’m getting married tomorrow and you’re invited.’ When Sobol asked who the lucky man was to be, she giggled and replied, ‘Man? Why boy you’re crazy. I’m marryin’ ——’ and she named another woman singer.” - Eric Garber, “Gladys Bentley: The Bulldagger Who Sang the Blues,” Out/Look, Vol. 1, No. 1, Spring 1988, pp. 52-61.These examples show some of the various ways queer African American women have created public rituals to express their relationships and have therefore insisted on their rights to full citizenship, many decades prior to the current struggle for marriage equality.- Cookie
One of the greatest afflictions in American society for both the teacher/student and the writer is the affliction of disconnectedness. The separation between the world of academia and the world of knowledge that exists beyond the campus gate, the seeming dichotomy between politics and ethics, the vision between politics and art, the division between dead authors and live authors, etc., etc. It is extremely difficult to arrive at the formula for living or for defining what the [B]lack agenda should be, once you fall victim to the disconnectedness. In this society, forgetfulness is a virtue, amnesia is a virtue. We are always asked to celebrate the new and improved laundry detergent as though that which came out yesterday is already obsolete. And we carry this habit, this outlook, into our daily lives. This is extremely dangerous. So I teach about the necessity of being connected, and about the necessity of resurrecting the truth about our experiences (and revising the texts) in this place called America.” ~ Toni Cade Bambara interviewed by Zala Chandler in 1987