Does black feminism keep black manhood “on the margins?”

I saw a few tweets by a follower I love and respect that dissects some sectors of black feminist thought. It got me thinking about black feminism — as well as womanism — and how it relates to black men. I will copy and paste the entire set of tweets so you all have a full perspective on what @TheUppityNegro (who has a private Twitter account) was saying.

Watching @MHPshow with @MHarrisPerry talk about (black) feminism and I really wonder do black feminists at all value black men? Seems like some black feminists push and challenge black male patriarchy so much so, they push black masculinity away to and then you end up with the Church of the Lonely Woman. I guess when I hear these conversations it’s like black men aren’t valued, then when black women date outside of the race, it’s all about how black women are mistreated and aren’t fully valued as seen by black men dating outside the race. I think far too much of black feminism is circular thought that intentionally keeps black manhood on the margins. There are parts of feminist critique that I full-heartedly agree with and understand, and parts in which the critique of black male patriarchy make sense and have caused me to be self reflective. But there is a large strain of black feminism that does not have a role of black men at all, and I see that as nothing but reverse hegemony. Black feminism criticizes black male patriarchy as saying it keeps black women in the margins and creates an “all boys club” at times. I get that and acknowledge how that’s problematic. But please tell me how does one justify turning around and creating “all girls, no boys allowed” clubs where black masculinity & black male sexuality isn’t even acknowledged let alone appreciated.

First, let me say Melissa Harris-Perry wasn’t discussion black feminism per se. She was discussing Beyonce and the impact she’s had on feminism. Second, I’m a bit troubled by this blatant misrepresentation on what black feminism is. The basis of black feminism and how it differs from mainstream feminism is it takes into account that black women and black men are bound by race and our experiences with living in a society that marginalizes, discriminates against and subjugates us to racist policies. It’s a legitimate bone to pick with mainstream feminism, which is why many black feminists have no involvement with the mainstream arm of the moment. But it would be ahistorical to paint mainstream feminism and black feminism with the same brush when there’s concrete evidence to suggest otherwise.

Also, many black feminists — as well as womanists — write extensively about black male patriarchy, black male sexuality and black manhood. Two quick examples of this includes bell hooks’ We Real Cool and Patricia Hill Collins’ Black Sexual Politics.

But, The Uppity Negro’s comments remind me of the inherent entitlement many black men have when it comes to black female spaces–a belief that they should automatically lead be part of discussions and that their thoughts/opinions should be valued because they are men. While I do not think The Uppity Negro has this mindset as he has been more than willing to keep an open mind when it comes to discussing issues that impact black women and girls, I will say there’s an automatic assumption by black men that black women and girls should automatically welcome them into our spaces and automatically shift our focus to include their perspectives and thoughts as the primary basis of our activism.

Black male patriarchy has its roots locked so deep in the psyche of many individuals that they don’t even realize they are perpetuating said patriarchy when they demand leadership access to black feminists/womanists spaces.

I, myself, have encountered this on social media, email responses to blogs posts and comments made by many self-proclaimed black male feminists who feel it’s their right to dictate and dominate black female activists spaces. I’ve had black men email me and tell me they’d thought about being a fan of my blog, but were “worried” that I was influenced by white feminist, lesbian radical activists (I guess we black women are just too simple-minded to develop our own philosophies). I have had a running…”debate” with a black male associate who believes I should shift the focus of my blog from social justice activism to “uplifting” black women; that I should focus on shaming teaching black women to follow respectability politics and perpetuate Christian, heterosexist norms.

Black feminists and womanists — and other women of color who do not identify with those two philosophies — are more than entitled to safe spaces where we don’t have to worry about the black male gaze; where we don’t have to worry about soothing the feelings and justifying ourselves to those who merely are more concerned about maintaining their dominance in black society rather than sitting back, shutting up and listening. Black feminists, womanists and other like-minded black women deserve a space to discuss *their* philosophies without having to worry about derailing and red herring tactics often deployed by men in mixed-gender spaces.

As opposed to the argument that black feminism intentionally keeps black manhood “on the margins,” I’d argue that black feminism and womanism shun the longstanding preference in the black community to make black manhood and black men the center of our struggles for equality.

Instead of promoting the widely-held belief that uplifting black men will lead to trickle-down equality, black feminism and womanism instead center their focus on promoting and advancing the belief that black women and girls are worthy of protection, admiration and reverence — with the help of black men and boys. Black feminism and womanism and other black women with similar goals want the help and support of black men and boys in our efforts to fight the degradation, devaluation and subjugation of black women and girls in a white patriarchal capitalist supremacist society. However, many who remain stuck on black male patriarchal thinking often think helping black women and girls would come at the expense of black men and boys.

That binary mindset — stemming from an inherent insecurity in one’s manhood — often lead many unenlightened black men to feel threatened by black women who make no apologies for the direction of their social justice activism.

But I want to open this up to and ask you all what you think: are there factions of black feminism that ignore and devalue black men and black manhood?