I woke up thinking about the way the women are put into categories and are ranked hierarchically.
For example, on any given Sunday in a barbershop, you can hear hetero African American men saying, “You can’t turn a “ho” into a housewife”.
Or on any given Friday night you can find hetero Black women saying “Girl, he wants a lady in the sheets, and a freak in the bed.”
I am sensitive to how women are put into the sexual binary (ho/housewife) than ranked as Loved/ain’t worth shit because I am currently in the thick of creating the arguments for a paper on Black women’s sexuality.
I am also teaching gender theory, so to watch how my students are either uncomfortable, or comfortable with being made aware of how they rank and treat others is enlightening.
In productive meeting with my boss last Wednesday I said that I included a section on “Naming, Hearing and Seeing Black Women’s Sexuality” because “being read as deviant has fractured the space for Black women to discuss their sexuality.”
She then turned around and said she was going to contradict me. And while she did not contradict me, she forced me to see how powerful the word “fracture” was in that sentence.
By using fracture, I meant impacted and broken. She read it to say that a fracture does entail small breaks, but fractures create space, small spaces. And if a fracture doesn’t heal, like a bone, then it breaks completely; there is a big space.
I was like holy shit.
She then said that what I am saying is in many ways different from what twenty years of Black women scholars have been saying who have been talking about sexual silence, sexual taboo’s etc.
This was riveting.
She finally said that I was “reclaiming deviance.”
Context. In order for US chattel slavery to “work” Black women had to be described as subhuman and “natural” whores. We were lewd, lascivious and deviant.
I mean really, in order to enslave a woman, and her children, and rape her, and have her work in the fields picking cotton, slave owners had to figure out a way to make us “natural” whores.
While I know that in my day to day life, there is a reclamation of “being deviant”. I had not idea that the shit was in my work as well. #Ha.
With regard to reclaiming deviance, I still didn’t know what she meant. So she used the example of how “Queer” has a history of being a derogatory term.
I then said, wait the implications of this are huge because by saying this, it is almost like the “Slavery in the US benefited Black people argument”, you know the one about the “happy slave”. I also said that I am not comfortable defending that publicly.
She said that I didn’t have to be, but I should just think about my ideas of deviance and Black women’s sexuality and what that can possibly mean for my work.
It isn’t so much of being deviant, as it isn’t allowing white and black historical generated ideologies of what “proper Black femininity” (ho/housewife) looks like shape how I roll.
So, what’s the difference between a ho, housewife an your sister? Nuffin.