Women who are woman

Nandi Maunder

I.

Confession: I learned very early on that the only women that are women are white.

They don’thappen to be white. It’s never an accident.

I wasn’t a woman. I was black half the time and a woman the other half. There was nothing to

suggest I could be both, not at the same time anyway.

Black women could not afford to be black and woman.

But I remember picture of the long white dresses marching down 5th Avenue. While

campaigning for Women’s Suffrage, those women were white.

They were white and it was their whiteness that outweighed their gender. The right to vote.

“I had to choose between civil rights and feminism!” That’s what actor Jennifer Lewis’s

character, Ruby, says on TV show Black-ish.

Civil rights or feminism?

Blackness or femininity?

Femininity or blackness?

These are all good questions. Imagine having to divide up your body, until it fights for one cause or the other. Decide which parts of you are woman and which parts are black. You have breasts and a vagina, but they are some shade of brown. Your hair curls in unnatural ways even though it grows out of your head. Not proper women. Incorrect. Unworthy. Translation: Black women are not women.

“I chose civil rights!” Ruby tells her family.

II.

Lie: Black women only exist as a combination of hard exteriors, sensual hips swaying to the

beat, and without any emotion that isn’t anger.

 

Lack of femininity. Lack of white dresses. Lack of whiteness. Black women are not women and will never be treated as such.

Confession: I prefer to cry in private. My privacy is my haven. Black women need havens.

 

Aurora Perrineau, a biracial black woman, had her haven stripped away by a white man and two white women didn’t believe her. 

Aurora Perrineau was raped at age 17 by Murray Miller and two white women couldn’t get past

her blackness to notice a woman underneath. Only a black temptress threatening the security of a white man.

Miller was a writer for self-proclaimed feminist, Lena Dunham, on her show Girls, and she and

another showrunner defended him against Perrineau’s claims. In an now retracted statement,

Dunham suggested that while she was “thrilled to see so many women’s voices heard,” but

Perrineau’s accusation was “one of the 3 percent of assault cases that are misreported every

year” and Miller was “wrong[ly] target[ed].”

True or False: Melanin is a disqualifier for womanhood.

 

Confession: I don’t know.

 

III.

I was one of many that cheered and celebrated as Hollywood’s leading men, men with power and influence were held accountable for their actions. I paid attention to all the #MeToos and all the falls from grace that followed.

 

Truth: Harvey Weinstein is, was, and will always be a monster.

 

Headline after headline named woman after woman, victim after victim. Daryl Hannah.

Annabella Sciorra. More names than I can list.

It took some of the biggest women in Hollywood adding their voices for doubters to believe the

accusations. Angelina Jolie. Gwyneth Paltrow. Lena Headey. Cara Delevingne. Ashley Judd.

Rose McGowan. All recognizable names and faces to believe and support.

Truth: All of these women are white and they are victims of sexual harassment and/or sexual

assault. They are victims and they took down the man that gave them that title. They are

inspirational and highly successful women that have worked for what they’ve achieved.

 

Oscar winning and Oscar nominated actresses Lupita Nyong'o and Salma Hayek both wrote their own personal essays detailing their individual encounters with Weinstein in the New York

Times. Kenyan-Mexican and Mexican respectively, their experiences were similar if not the

same as some of the women mentioned above.

 

Nyong’o and Hayek’s claims were the only ones denied by Weinstein’s lawyers, and Lupita’s

account, out of dozens of white actresses, was the only one publicly denied by Weinstein

himself.

Truth: Both of these women are women of color and they are victims of sexual harassment

and/or sexual assault. They are victims and they took down the man that gave them that title.

They are inspirational and highly successful women that have worked for what they’ve achieved.

Tarana Burke’s words launched a movement, but her face, a black woman’s face, wasn’t on the

TIME magazine cover. She wasn’t a 2017 Silence Breaker in the way that other women speaking

out were, including Ashley Judd and Taylor Swift. Burke founded the #MeToo movement in

2006.

While she was interviewed in the article itself, Burke’s face isn’t attached to her words on the

cover. #MeToo. Other women of color were on the cover with Judd and Swift; they are all

victims.

Confession: I want to be a writer with a Broadway show. Will my breasts or the color of my

breasts decide who I’ll be?

Tarana Burke works hard fighting for women all across the country, and has been for over

decade.

Confession: Burke deserves to have her face representing what she started for women by a

woman.

 

IV.

Black women are not women, but we are.

Color doesn’t erase gender, people do.

Gender doesn’t erase color, people do.

 

Truth: I am a black woman.

Confession: I am a black woman.