The keynote speaker’s constant mentioning of her extensive literary background invariably led one audience member to question if she could ever consume it all. The keynote assured her and anyone else listening that they too could be part of this unit by requesting that the schools she attended open up even more classes to spread the rhetoric and keep the employment of these women intact.
O, to enjoy the luxury of sitting on the sidelines claiming to bring answers to the suffering in the world around you when in fact the only projects these women dare to approach are so sanitized that they can discuss them wearing comfortable feminist loafers, designer casual comfortable clothing while enjoying platters of catered fare.
They pay high rates to take up space in think tanks, symposiums, conferences, workshops, platforms, seminars, forums, summits, conventions, sessions. They discourse, fart, talk, giggle, hug, cry. A sisterhood.
The fact is that there are as many variations on feminism as there are women, but sadly few of them consists of women who are truly willing to go into the trenches and fight for the causes of struggling women. Many talk about things of which they have limited if any real life experiences.
So perhaps I should have expected the response I received in posing a question about the plight of homelessness in our country, a topic that has become so out of favor in our culture that even those who are charged with handling its problems shrink away. Nonetheless, in the light of recent discrimination against black women at the Ann Arbor’s Emergency Shelter, The Delonis Center, I had supposed that I might find a way to connect. Also considering the fact that women in general are treated less favorably than men in the homeless community, I had hoped to strike some genuine, authentic chord with this assemblage.
So since I’ve suffered through it for two years, I dared to raise the only topic that fills my mind these days, homelessness. The first response was some sort of gibberish about Third World Women, which the keynote clearly supposed to be a safe distance for any credulity check. But my pushing the issue and bringing it closer to home caused her to cave and admit that at the moment they had all they could handle in dealing with the LGBT community and they would not want to spread themselves too thin. She further assured me that they would not broach the topic anymore as they were a more or less “wait your turn” society. So I guess as far as they are concerned the Third World American Women could “wait in line.” I was confused as to whether or not that meant that I needed to wait for all feminists to respond to my query or just their “chapter.”
An article written last year by associate editor Anita Little of Ms. Magazine entitled, “How Many of the Early Black Feminist Do You Know?” was challenged as she attempted to pick and choose black women from the past to fulfill a Black History Month segment. The women she selected for the article ranged from Sojourner Truth to Harriet Tubman. There was Zora Neale Hurston and Amy Jaques Garvey. An insightful reader commented that the women included on the list from the past were not “… black feminists, but black female activists. She went on to question, “…What of the feminist ideologies of today (second wave) did any of the women on this list espouse?”
The lines become easily blurred and although these second wave women want the praise and repute for being women who stand for women’s rights, they bare little resemblance to these former women. The women from the past were spontaneous and bold. Sojourner Truth‘s speech “Aint I a Woman?” was delivered to a group of angry white men and not only challenged slavery, but defended her womanhood In the all to familiar idea that a woman could not speak with such ability. The rights of women and of slaves were inextricably linked as are many of the suppressed people of our society. Sojourner Truth bravely handled each. I clearly understand the need to be efficient and to not take on goals that one cannot accomplish. However, that does not replace compassion and understanding.
When I posed my question, I was not angry and I was not a white man, I only sought answers as to how this group of seemingly like minded women could support another group of women in our distress. What I found instead were women well-versed in strategically avoiding issues that don't fit the parameters of their faux feminist mindset.
What I did not expect was the almost awkward ending to the meeting at my further clarifying my question as to how we could engage with them at the present. Rather than allowing me to speak further, the moderator begin an awkward, untimely applause to drown out my voice and by her actions instructed the audience to do the same. I was unable to attend the remaining days due to complications from an illness brought on from being homeless.
So in the end what I found at this so called think opening meeting was a highly structured event, ruled by time limitations, and no substantive content. In the end, what I thought were insightful feminists seeking equality for all women, regardless of their plight, was a virtual sales convention of merchants touting their wares.
I was not sold.