Midler Forgets Sankofa- White Privileged Feminism Ensues

By S. Christopher Emerson

Some attribute Bette Midler’s now-infamous tweet “Women are the n-word of the world” to Yoko Ono, who forthrightly regarded that “Women are the nigger of the world.” But the roots of the controversial comment stem far deeper and darker than Ono’s 1969 declaration.

In Zora Neale Hurstons 1937 Blackety Black Black coming-of -age novel “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” main character Jamie Crawford gets a lion’s share of motherwit from her grandmother Nanny, whose wisdom proves timeless in the present circumstances. No doubt that some may see Ono as a standalone force for change, but many attribute the foundation of Ono’s bold acknowledgement to Nanny’s declaration “De nigger woman is de mule uh de world so fur as Ah can see.”

Nanny provides an insightful, plainfolk analysis of the plight of BLACK women, with regard to gender and race, during a time in which an American women’s movement, built off the straight-backed energy and efforts of Black women abolitionists like Sojourner Truth and Mama Harriet Tubman during slavery, was gaining steam after having won the right to vote in 1919. The elder asserts that Black women, quite flatly, have to work the hardest, often driven to push and pull with all they’ve got, while deplorably being treated the worst. Others have since echoed this sentiment, even some men, namely Malcolm X, who famously said “The most disrespected person in America, is the Black woman.”

This is a central idea that Black women have been knowin’ and tellin’ and fightin’ to change for decades, centuries even; and only within the last 100 years, have mainstream ears paid heed.

And while Ono gathered this energy to give voice to the efforts for women’s equality in this country, let’s be clear that even that within those ranks, Black women like Nanny, and freedom fighter Bree Newsome, even Auntie Maxine Waters still stand firmly at the bottom of the hierarchy within white feminism.

Midler’s, eh… thought-provoking [*shrug] statement is a bit more problematic than at first glance, because it forgets to Sankofa- “Go back and fetch it.” Not only does she use language that we are in the process of simultaneously reclaiming and eradicating with reckless privilege, but she neglects the foundation of her statement, that would, no doubt, help her definitively, demonstratively and acutely call the racistly-informed patriarchy demon by its name.

This is why we fight not just for changes WITHIN the systems we find ourselves, but we’re also building a total cultural shift toward equity and inclusion across cultural, economic, gender, age, ability intersections. We don’t want white supremacy in Black face, with all the misogynist, capitalist trappings of time-honored, pale-faced, mayonnaise-flavored oppression. Quite frankly, the cultural mores, economic/capitalist structures, gender roles/norms, age assumptions and ability fallacies created and maintained by this euro, elite-dominated society are just not good enough for The People.

A humble analysis.





a Black man who sees Sistas out here, against the odds, working it out and making magic happen daily

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