My husband and I have been together for ten years, married for five. I have been reflecting on our relationship particularly because there are very few positive narratives about black male and female relationships in general. But I have been thinking about the fact that I haven’t come across many positive narratives about self-identified black (women) feminists in intimate relationships with black men. It seems that hetero black feminists tend to discuss brothas in an “out there” cultural or intellectual kinda way in our scholarly work unless someone close to us does something unforgivable and then we make “the personal political.” The obvious exceptions are poetry and songwriting. Now I know for a fact that I have a tendency to only write about personal stuff when I am really upset, but today I am going to try something different. I am going to write from my happy place.
I feel privileged to call my spouse “my partner” after ten years because sometimes it can be extremely difficult to have black feminist values and be married and parenting. To be clear, I recognize that it is a privilege on many levels to be able to go to the JOP in the middle of the day and get married immediately and to decide I want to have children and just get pregnant. But I want to raise the fact that marriage as an institution can crush your feminisms from the outside in unless you cultivate a partnership where the discussion of roles and expectations is ongoing. Because many heterosexual couples assume that they agree on roles, I think this discussion rarely happens, and unfortunately cultural pressures to conform to traditional heteronormative gender roles comes from everywhere. Now there are some black men who have figured out that marrying a feminist works to their advantage because she is expected to work full-time, split the bills, and cook, clean, and raise the child(ren). And that right there is some bullshit, but not my focus.
I really want to talk about what it can look like when black men and black women rewrite the script. In keeping with the CFC top ten lists, here is a list of ordinary but important things that my husband, a black man, has done or does in support of our re-scripted partnership.
10. Gives me positive body comments and tells me to drink more water and take my vitamins.
9. Read my syllabi, exams, prospectus, and made written comments and suggestions
8. Engaged in a full discussion about the politics of womanism and black feminism
7. Volunteer taught cooking classes for my summer program (field research) with youth
6. Stands with me to challenge family/friends/associates about their sexism, homophobia, and classism
5. Cooks and does grocery shopping because he is better at it and more interested in it
4. Listens, reflects, and re-engages when we have arguments or disagreements
3. Shares parenting responsibilities from daily rituals like packing lunch, running baths and reading bedtime stories to special activities including kids’ birthday parties and volunteering at our son’s school
2. Calls me out on my shit (personal and political)
1. Holds me at night like it’s his last opportunity; tells me and shows me he loves me daily by doing ordinary important things