Thursday, September 15, 2016

"Strong Black Sisters" and Feminism

I used to attend a poetry reading in DC that was lead by some brilliant young black folks. One recurring skit consisted of two young men rapping “What I want is a strong black sister, the only thing for me is a strong black sister,” and there was a young woman walking around playing the part.

I have known any number of black sisters of all ages, and all of them were strong. Most however did not have an in-your-face attitude. At that poetry reading, there was another black sister. She was a complete sweetheart, but when someone tried to mess with her boy did he get it. I can respect that kind of strength a lot more.

Every sister I've known from India was strong; but most did not have an attitude. Every sister in my family is strong; but most are kind. Was that sister strong? Maybe. But I don't think she could have been stronger than Russian and Jewish sisters who've lived through the Second World War.

There are many women, especially in America, who mistake attitude for strength and gentleness for weakness. They think that they are the only strong women in the world. Quite simply, they need to get out more. The world is full of women who are genuinely strong. And most of those women do not have an attitude.

One major premise of martial arts is cultivation of strength in order to keep the peace. The person is taught real strength, and he is also taught to control it and only use it when necessary. As is said in a movie, “Fight not good, but if you do fight, win.” American third-wave feminism has created a bunch of aggressive, malicious, mean-spirited women who think that they are strong and that all other women are weak. I would like to see them go up in an argument against an older Russian woman, or against an older Southern woman, or against a woman from India or Saudi Arabia or Tanzania. These women will show them who is really strong.

Some people find strength in themselves. Others find it in other things. The person who finds strength in Christianity, or in Hinduism, or in family, or in patriotism, or in service, is often stronger than the person whose only source of strength is herself. Women who've been mistreated are often taught to be strong in themselves and only in themselves; and that is a very wrong approach. There are bigger and better sources of strength than oneself, and many women – and men – find greater strength in such things than they do in their immediate selves.

Should people be strong in themselves? If that rocks their boat, fine. But let's not be mistaken enough to think that the self is the only, or the best, source of strength. It is neither. A person whose source of strength is himself will be less willing to do actually brave things than someone whose source of strength is patriotism, service or Christianity. Self-esteem does not win wars. Real strength does.

I have heard it said by a woman who works at the University of Chicago that women have always been the stronger gender. I have heard it said by a Lesbian feminist graduate student in Maryland that in “traditional” societies women had more power than they do now in America, because they were in control of reproduction and sex, whereas contemporary women are under control of male-dominated business culture. I have heard it said by a number of women that feminism fails to represent women, as many women would much rather stay at home with children than pursue careers. I hear it said repeatedly by women – strong, successful women – that feminism has gone too far. I did not invent these ideas, nor did I get them from the “patriarchy.” Strong, intelligent women told me these things.

Is it rightful to teach women strength? Yes. But it is not rightful to instead teach attitude and arrogance and mistake these things for strength. They are not strength; they are stupidity. A woman who wants to be strong stands to learn a lot more from “traditional” women than she does from the feminists. The feminists are not the only strong women in the world; in any number of meaningful senses many of them are the weakest. Wrong qualities are being taught, and women suffer as a result.


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