Confessions of a Backslider…

28 Jul

I’ve been backsliding y’all. I mean really backsliding. I act like I forgot how feminism saved me, way back when. The way it taught me how to listen more closely to the music that moved me.  The way it stopped me from saying things like “I don’t really hang out with girls because they’re too catty” and appreciate sisterhood.  The way it showed me the intersections of my black face, my gendered body, and my poor status.  The way it beautifully awakened my consciousness. I forgot about my feminist rebirth.

In the beginning, my new born-again identity caused me to scream it from the rooftops. I was suggesting that everyone I ran across read Angela Davis’ autobiography and read Patricia Hill Collins Black Feminist Thought. Studying the good books was everything to me. I was alive and engaged during discussions. Eager to hear the testimonies of others who have been saved and excited by the potential of a world on fire with a feminist politic. I was that feminist. Yes, the one that pointed to the sexism in every single rap song and music video. The one people hated to go to the movies with because I was going to destroy all the fun. The one that wanted to live in a totally feminist world and wouldn’t stop preaching the glories of the mothers!

I became a feminist scholar so I could continue to learn more and do more. I worked with non-profit organizations on a tangible, on the ground feminism that blends theory and practice. I’ll never forget the excitement I felt participating in the First US Social Forum in Atlanta. I was beyond hyped! This is what it was all about. Saving the unsaved!

There was even a point where I would completely write off anti-feminists as ignorant patriarchy worshippers. I didn’t even have the desire to save their minds. Why, when I could just surround myself with like-minded people and just be in complete feminist circles? (That’s super easy in Atlanta). And those days were amazing! Sitting over wine and spaghetti talking about sexism in hip-hop and constructing conference panels.  I was on it!

And then things happened in my personal life where I had to be around the heathens more often. And at first, while difficult, I enjoyed the challenge of imparting feminist knowledge into their conversations about phat asses and the difference between a good woman and a slut. (You know the whole Jay-Z “Sisters vs Bitches thing). I enjoyed the opportunity to be around a small male child on a consistent basis and balance his male socialization with feminist contradictions that allowed him to play more with his identity.

But somewhere in between dealing with reading feminist theories that didn’t look like the foremothers I knew, and being situated in the academy that was never designed for my black female self, constantly being around sexist voices, and mothering a child I didn’t birth,  I got tired of fighting feminist fights. So I stopped, and let a few things slide. Then a few more things slid by. Then before you know it I was finding more problems with feminism than with the world. And I was critiquing the uptight feminists of yesteryear. And I became quite skilled at theorizing why certain behavior can actually be read as feminists if you looked at it in a different light.

Then I caught myself laughing at something that would have pissed me the fuck off before and in the middle of my laughter something didn’t feel quite right. And I realized, I liked my life better when feminism was more present. It had more meaning and I had more purpose and was much more hopeful.  And for some reason I forgot that.

But I’m back! And I’m coming down the aisle today ready to get Crunk for the Lorde once again! I’m excited to spread the word in my intro course this fall and ready to renew my faith in feminism. I have Borderlands open and ready to read. I have my notes from Methodology of the Oppressed pulled up and color-coded. And I have my Erykah Badu on repeat. I am slowly coming back and looking forward to some intentional feminist fellowship soon and reminding myself of the power of feminism for my personal and political life. Pray for me!

26 Responses to “Confessions of a Backslider…”

  1. Jacquie July 28, 2011 at 4:35 PM #

    Heck yeah! I’m playing Erykah right along with ya, too.

    • Chanel July 29, 2011 at 10:27 PM #

      On and on and on and onnnnn….

  2. simone July 28, 2011 at 5:18 PM #

    yay! welcome home.

    • Chanel July 29, 2011 at 10:30 PM #

      thank you 🙂

  3. Beverly guy sheftall July 28, 2011 at 5:21 PM #

    Great piece. Slippage happens but you’re back!!!

    • Chanel July 29, 2011 at 10:26 PM #


    • Chanel July 29, 2011 at 10:28 PM #


  4. NIC July 28, 2011 at 5:54 PM #

    Fantastic & we need you to be back! 😉

    • Chanel July 29, 2011 at 10:26 PM #

      Welp, I’m in the building! lol. I seriously love the open arms and all the love. Thank you

  5. sheridf July 28, 2011 at 7:31 PM #

    Is that Asha in that painting? Glad to have you back, sis. I’m looking forward to feminist fellowship with you soon.

    • Asha July 28, 2011 at 7:54 PM #

      Oh my goodness! That’s not me, but I do have that painting on my wall. LOL! And thank you for this Chanel! Everybody needs re-immersion every now and then. This is a reminder to me about self-care and redirection… What does it sound like when feminists speak in tongues?

      • Chanel July 29, 2011 at 10:25 PM #

        @ Asha. This! “What does it sound like when feminists speak in tongues?” Can you write that as a poem and tell us what it would it sound like. I love this idea.

    • Chanel July 29, 2011 at 10:20 PM #

      actually, it is Asha! I had this piece commissioned. lol. Siiiike. But I am looking forward to fellowshiping with you in the near future too.

  6. Deb July 28, 2011 at 9:21 PM #

    Consider yourself prayed for, little sister. Though I don’t don the “feminist” label (my old ass has been through the fire of the first wave and realized, those labels aren’t – as most labels are not – “all-inclusive”) – I get the place, from which you young sisters at “Crunk” speak (which is why I continue to religiously lurk!).

    But the thing to which I relate most in your post, is the absolute “normalcy” of back-slidin’ and, the need now and again, to “do your first works over,” as Baldwin once said. Sister, we’ve ALWAYS had the means to check our “own selves!” You’re no differerent – and it seems, that’s where you are right now. Trust me, after having lived that “normalcy” over half a century – that’s always a good thing!

    You’re going to be just fine…

    • Chanel July 29, 2011 at 10:21 PM #

      This was so affirming. Thank you so much!

      • Deb July 29, 2011 at 11:01 PM #

        You’re welcome…

    • joybeatsoppression July 31, 2011 at 2:24 PM #

      “the absolute “normalcy” of back-slidin’ and, the need now and again, to “do your first works over,” as Baldwin once said.”

      yes. thanks for this comment & this post. ❤

  7. Boner Killer July 28, 2011 at 10:18 PM #

    This was very inspiring to read. 🙂

    • Chanel July 29, 2011 at 10:24 PM #

      Thank you! I’m glad.

  8. wriggles July 29, 2011 at 6:43 AM #

    This made me laugh, but hey, don’t we all have to pick our battles?

    • Chanel July 29, 2011 at 10:23 PM #

      I totally agree with that. But I went from picking my battles to just saying forget it altogether. Thin line. Thin line. Smh

  9. Heather July 29, 2011 at 9:24 PM #

    Yes I needed this! Although I keep my Sister Outsider in my purse like a bible, I’m guilty of backsliding a little too.
    BTW I love that “Crunk for the Lorde”

    • Chanel July 29, 2011 at 10:22 PM #

      Sister Outsider is flexible enough to carry around like that too! I may have to try that!

  10. Deb August 1, 2011 at 1:52 AM #

    joybeatsoppression…Your welcome too! 🙂 Glad I could offer at least something in return for what I receive as I read you ladies! Thx

  11. Charlie August 2, 2011 at 6:15 PM #

    This spoke to something inside of my own soul. Thank you for putting these words in the universe!

  12. feministliving August 9, 2011 at 8:23 PM #

    Yes, it is very easy to fall back into old habits. I too, find myself with the word bitch at the tip of my tongue more often now that I’ve graduated from Spelman. Being around a newer crowd that isn’t apart of the Women’s Research and Resource Center is new for me, and I miss the like-mindedness of it all sometimes. But then I remember that feminism’s place is in life, not the academy.

    That is why all of my classmates think I’m crazy because I am so spirited about teaching, feminism and everything I do. I LIVE. For me, feminism is more than the empowerment of women. It is a love for peace, humanity, balance and freedom. It’s me.

    I bring myself back to these circles just for that very purpose: to find my way back home. That is why I love CFC so much for being in constant dialogue, so that I can have a few moments to be myself at work, even if it’s just on the convenience of my smartphone. Never leave home without it.

    I also keep an extensive music collection that uplifts me and carried me over, a personal library that keeps my mind going and a wealth of girlfriends that give me thoughtful conversation over pleasant meals. I’m happy, and happy for you!

    Prayer given, God bless and welcome back! 🙂 🙂 🙂

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