Thanks to the blatant omission of Dee Barnes’s violent assault and other acts of sexism in the hit summer film Straight Outta Compton, the topic of misogyny in the Black community has been front and center as of late.
And while Dr. Dre and other NWA members have apologized for their past behavior — however late — many Black feminist/womanist writers and male allies have spoken out about how the mistreatment that Black women face is often silenced and ignored, how to navigate our complicated love for hip hop music and how to create effective strategies to address these issues without pathologizing Black folks.
However, Stacey Patton, esteemed Black female writer and activist, decided to enter this conversation focusing on an “overlooked” aspect of what may help influence Black men to be misogynistic. In her Dame.com article, “Are Black Mothers Beating Their Sons Into Misogyny?” Patton explores the theory that “celebrated” Black mothers, like Dre's mother in Straight Outta Compton, who slap and beat their kids may be exacerbating misogyny.
Using past research and interviews with a dozen Black men, the piece was riddled with personal male anecdotes of how past abuse inflicted by Black mothers and other female relatives created a deep discontent for other Black women down the road.
One man said: “I do think having a mom who was the traditional Black mom — loud, overbearing, strict, religious — made me really timid as a child. I always tried to make her happy and please her…dating, I never wanted to be with a woman who had those tendencies or personality.”
Another said: “In my circle it is, and was completely normal and justified because you are her child so she could do whatever she wanted to you because it came from a place of love. It wasn’t until that I got married and had my own child with my White wife did I see her have such an adverse reaction to my whooping our son that I realized how deeply ingrained as normative and embedded in our culture that whooping is.”
Now, I’m always here for a conversation about Black male pain, especially given the lack of safe spaces allotted to make that dialogue happen. I am also always here to talk about the ways that Black mothers can improve their parenting style and how the trauma from physical, verbal and sexual abuse impacts our development into adults.
And while I am confident that the writer had good intentions when writing this piece given her rich history in family dynamics and abuse, I am not here for a one-dimensional Moynihan Report-esque approach to explaining why sexism exists in our community. Nor am I interested in reading yet another "think piece" that alludes to how amazing white women are compared to our awful Black selves.
Where was the mention of the role that Black fathers — present and absent — play and how their participation in spanking impacts their sons? Or the infuriating trend of Black mothers who coddle the hell out of their boys while raising their daughters sternly?
I wonder how much stronger this piece could have been if it touched more upon the constant messages we hear at church, or in the media and in our music that teaches us that Black women are inferior? Or how we live in a culture that consistently sends messages to our boys and men that hyper masculinity is the only way for them to be regarded as men. Or how systematic racism strips Black men of power and how in return perhaps sexism in our community is also a means of Black men regaining that power at our expense.
Instead we got the same tired old message we’ve been hearing for generations: Black women, there is something really wrong with you.
Victim blaming at its best.
And I don't know about you, but this ish is exhausting. Because once again, like rape, sexism isn’t about what we as Black women are doing, it’s about what men are doing. Until then, leave Black women out of it. Seriously.
Follow Kellee on Twitter @kelleent
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