Tex-Mex Feminism

24 Jun

There is a reason why the CFC is a people-of-color collective. Our sheroes come in all shades of brown: Barbara Smith and Gloria Anzaldua, Chandra Mohanty and Patricia Hill Collins, Cherrie Moraga and bell hooks. Many a feminist therapy session has been devoted to healing the divide between Black and White feminists. It remains a necessary conversation, but the future of feminism is all about us brown-hued girls. And I, for one, am much more interested in stitching a dream coat of many colors in a global community of sun-kissed sisters, than I am in rehashing tired debates about whether white women will ever get it. Many will. Most won’t. I’m so trying to be over it.

Besides, squabbling about who owns feminism is so 1980s. In the wise words of Jay-Z,  “We off that.”

Given our commitment here @ the CFC to Brown-skinned girls everywhere, I was absolutely appalled when my colleague shared a link this week to a clip of Prophetess Juanita Bynum remixing her famous “No More Sheets” sermon series for a group of Latina churchgoers. In the early 1990s, Bynum, a protégé of T.D. Jakes, burst on the scene calling women to let go of their unfulfilling, soul-wrenching, and sinful sexual relationships. There were to be “No More Sheets” she declared. And for any woman who’s ever lain down desperate and awoken disappointed and disillusioned, perhaps that message is encouraging.

I, for one, am ambivalent about the  (unhealthy) discourse of sexuality that goes on in Christian churches today—a discourse that often traffics in guilt, compels loneliness, and demands a woman’s disavowal of her sexual desire in service of being holy. But as a Christian, I’m inclined to give people of faith the benefit of the doubt, since the Church has done me much more good than harm.  SN: Dr. Susan Newman’s Oh God: A Black Woman’s Guide to Sex and Spirituality has been a wonderful resource in my journey to have a healthy integration of sexuality and spirituality.

But alas, this post really isn’t about that. It’s about the kinds of silences we participate in in the name of female empowerment. It’s about the need to be vulnerable, open, and honest about our shortcomings and our f*ckups, if we are ever gonna grow and be transformed in genuine community.

So when I listened to Pastor Bynum, I found myself a.) hoping that that Sister is seeing a counselor other than Jesus about her years as a victim and survivor of domestic violence b.) disappointed that she has not capitalized on a pivotal opportunity to have a real conversation about the connections between patriarchy, the Bible, antiquated gender roles, and dv; and c.) appalled that when she chose to bring her message of healing and empowerment to another group of women of color, she reduced them to the food they cooked. “No more enchiladas!” she screamed. “No more tacos.” Really! Anyone named Juanita should know better. But then I couldn’t be as judgmental as I was poised to be because I remembered:

In one of the very gatherings out of which the CFC was born, about six years ago, I, too, was the perpetrator of such ignorance. Dominican CFs Susana and Crunkista used to throw amazing dinner parties for the grad students of color. I remember distinctly attending one of my first parties, and seeing the great spread of food, and announcing with classic Sagittarian tactlessness, “I love Mexican food.” Then I noticed the look of chagrin on Susana’s face. Uh-Oh, I thought. That wasn’t too bright. These chicks aren’t Mexican. You fool. At the time, the extent of my exposure to Latino culture had been my brief sojourn to Cuba and my enduring love for Tex-Mex food.

Now Tex-Mex is as American as Hip Hop. It’s fast and flashy and it has flavor, but lacks character.  Authentic shit takes time. #Hip Hop Ain’t Dead, but It’s On Life Support. Having just returned from Germany where the food was awesome, I declare that time is out for Tex-Mex approaches to food, life, spirituality, AND feminism. So as an ex-offender, I call out Sister Bynum to do better. Her words were delivered in the spirit of connection and I can get with that. But like good sex, effective activism, and lasting community, connection takes time, intentionality, and accountability. And the process is oftentimes messy. Loving patience –like that shown to me by Susana and Crunkista when they chose not to get crunk even though I deserved it—is required.

And as for televangelism, commercial Hip Hop, and Tex-Mex Feminism, I tell you like my mama told me: everything that looks good to you ain’t good for you. Period.

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