Columns / Discourse / May 3, 2017

Being an assertive femme of color

 

Life is not easy for femme or female identifying persons. And it is not any easier for people of color. Institutional and hierarchical structures of oppression hurt the marginalized and when we try to fight against them, we are told that we are just angry or that we are overreacting. Who wouldn’t be angry? We have every right to be angry. The intersecting institutions of racism and sexism specifically hurt femmes of color and then they gaslight us into thinking that we are being irrational or overly assertive with our demands.

If you think I am just another femme of color who is complaining about how they are perceived negatively for being outspoken, you are correct. But who else would speak on this? How could anyone who is not being trivialized for their identities and opinionated behavior know that this is going on? The answer is they couldn’t!

The way women are penalized for being assertive is outrageous. It is not at all common for femmes to be genuinely praised for leadership. On the rare occasions that we are is because our leadership position somehow feeds patriarchal expectations of “feminine” works and feminized labor and we are almost never properly paid or compensated for our emotional, mental and physical labor in said leadership positions.

So what happens when women take charge, in roles that they are passionate about, and are not willing to let misogynistic societal barriers and behaviors sabotage their efforts? We get called Bitches. We get called “manly,” “bossy” and “mean.” Some of us reclaim these words and move on. Some, including me, are fine with being those Bitches who are not afraid to say it like it is. And then we get penalized some more for not changing our behavior. But those who work around these labels, gently and carefully, are penalized too because they do not get taken seriously.

Our politics, classrooms, and organizations are often run by non-femmes who are jokes, non-femmes who harass us, non-femmes who are mean and non-femmes who NEVER get punished or disciplined for the same actions femmes would be labeled “bossy” for. White or white-passing femmes are given the benefit of the doubt. They are often perceived as classier, more beautiful, more educated and more worthy to listen to counterparts to femmes of color. And I am tired of it.

If you are reading this column thinking “Well, I don’t do that personally!” then maybe you would fancy knowing that institutions of oppression are called institutions because they are beyond the person, the individual, and if you, in any way, benefit from any of these systems, then you are a part of them; start thinking about how you can help us and not how you can wash your hands and stand aside.

I am saying it like it is. Call me a bossy Bitch but I will not stop calling anyone out for pushing me and my fellow femmes of color to the margins of our schools, organizations and politics. It is time that we stop the terrorization of opinionated femmes of color altogether.

Eden Sarkisian, Discourse Editor

Tags:  assertive column discourse F-Word feminism femme

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