Days Black People Not Re-Enslaved By Trump

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

RE: Why Men Need to Get Over Their Femiphobia

I admit it. I haven't read any of Dyson's work. I rarely catch him when he's on CNN or whatever other media he finds himself. In fact I only really know him for his shots at Bill Cosby. Anyway. His piece, apparently an excerpt from his book, that appeared in Alternet yesterday begged to be responded to.

The piece spends a lot of time discussing how black men, in essence need to straighten up in their attitudes towards black women. Something I generally don't have an issue with. though it is an interesting angle given a recent study found in the Psychology of Women Quarterly (vol.33. No.2) that found that:

African American women and men have been found to be more supportive of feminist principles than white women and men.

So perhaps this charge of "femiphobia" by Dyson, at least as it relates to black folks may well be overblown.

In any case his discussion about African-American "femiphobia" took a turn to religion where Dyson says:

A new understanding of black male and female relationships that can truly help our communities should flow from our churches. I believe that the black church is still the greatest institution black folk have, and we’ve got to work hard to keep it that way. That means we’ve got to move beyond the spiritual apartheid we practice. Seventy-five percent of the black church is made up of women, and yet they rarely have access to the central symbol of power — the pulpit. We’ve got to stop dragging our feet and begin to acknowledge just how important black women are to our churches — and to our mosques, temples, ashrams, and sanctuaries of all sorts. We must also realize just how important black women are to our success and survival as a people.

I would say that if Mr. Dyson is really interested in dealing with religious equity within the black religious sphere, that he advocate mass exoduses from the "white mans' religions(tm) (and perhaps the Arab man's religion as well). While Dyson points out the principle of mutual submission as Biblical we can point out the clear teaching that women ought not have authority over men and other ideas such as a man is head of house as Christ is the head of the church (his wife). But I don't want to belabor that point but go back to my exodus suggestion.

If Dyson is concerned about female representation in black religion he ought to advocate that black folk change to a religion such as Ifa. I know, I know, clear boosterism on my part. But really though, the whole male domination thing really doesn't apply among us (not to say that gender issues are absent). In our religion, which I'll call the "Old time religion" just to get under some people's skin, we have both male and female priests. They are referred to as Babalawos and Iya's (Iyanifas). They are both accorded the same level of respect, though there are some significant differences between the two that are based on gender. Initiates will have either God Mothers, and God Fathers who essentially shepherd their children (Omo-Orisa) through initiating and higher levels of Iwa-Pele (Good character). And since a Babalawo or Iya cannot give what he or she does not have, members are referred to different priests to receive whatever initiation is required for them. Furthermore throughout our "pantheon" are both male and female gendered Orisha (angels being the easiest translation). And each are accorded their due respect as well as their manifestations in our personality or character (long explanation). Most importantly, God, Olodumare, is not gendered in it's representation. Yes, there are many who speak of Olodumare as "he" but I, and others see no support for this in how Olodumare is to be thought of. In fact, while one will often see carvings of different Orisa (Esu, Ogun etc.) along with certain sacred groves, one will not find such carvings for Olodumare because in general Ifa is seen as an intercessionist (possibly not a word) religion in which access to Olodumare is negotiated via Orisa and therefore one must be on "good terms" with all Orisa, male and female, in order to have proper communication to Olodumare (consider this the very short discussion).

Hence, unlike Christianity, Islam and Judaism (the religions of interest to Dyson) Ifa is more structurally egalitarian. Such egalitarianism does not need to be "translated into" the religion, it doesn't need to be "re-worked" or wait for some Pope. Imam or Rabbi council to declare..oh God didn't really mean for women to be kicked to the curb.

It should strike any thinking person that the rise of the "West" as well as monotheistic and expansionist religions also coincided with the destruction of more egalitarian bi-gendered traditional religions and their replacement with highly authoritative and often angry God heads.

That black churches are purportedly 75% female ought not shock Dyson. As it is generally natural for men to not want to submit to such an overwhelmingly male power being, not to mention one that does not look like them in the least. I would also suggest that it is entirely possible that the submission of black women to a white male imagined god head is not healthy for black male-female relationships.

Lastly to deal with the issue of sexuality, it should be noted that Oya, is the Ifa representation of Femininity. She is married to Shango (so called God of thunder). She is wife, but she is also a warrior. So it could be said that in our original state, we respected women who were warriors and these women, even being warriors, still respected their men. Many (and this does not imply a majority) women have difficulty not being a warrior to their own men, hence the many references of "niggas ain't shit." "I can do for myself" etc. So let us not be surprised when black women have been yanked from their previous positions as part of that which we call the spiritual universe, made to look to a white god head as an object of "perfect love" to then have issues relating to black men, who have also been trained to see a white male as the height of perfection and godliness and black women as having nothing to do with matters of religion other than deaconesses and choir members (I'm speaking broadly here). Imagine the deep psychological significance to being in a relationship in which if and when the male messes up, his wife will point out that he's not living up to the standard of this invisible white male whom she sees as the paramount symbol of manliness.

So in essence to address Dyson's concern in the quoted paragraph, there are authentic African religions out there that address his concern of the place of black women at a deep level. It's too bad he chooses not to acknowledge them place them in front of his reader.