Why I Didn't Wear Red
Black af, Feminist af, but wise enough to know this day wasn’t meant to include me.
March 8th is International Women’s Day, a day set aside to celebrate the women of the world for just being women. In its conception, I think it’s great, but I woke up this morning unenthused and feeling no urge to wear what I like to consider my favorite color. I couldn’t help but think that this day was just not made with me in mind.
I identify as a black woman who is cisgender. Although that is nowhere near all of who I am, those things, in that order, are the first that come to mind for a few reasons. There has been an ongoing conversation about blackness and gender, both together and separately, that almost force me to keep them at the forefront of my mind. This doesn’t bother me; I am quite comfortable with all of those hats, and I wear them all proudly any day of the week.
That’s also the reason I didn’t wear red.
It’s not about wardrobe by any means. For me, my blackness supersedes all else. This by no means says that I do not love my womanhood, it simply means that my personal experiences have compelled me to put my blackness first.
I grew up in a family of mostly women. Each one had children either out of wedlock or by a man who is either passed or an ain’t shit husband. These women didn’t flaunt their womanhood, and I grew up believing that I didn’t have to either. It was as if it were obvious I was a woman, but my blackness was something that I had to face daily. This has carried over to my life now.
At my job I am one of the few black people who work with all black children. I constantly find myself in all white spaces and considered a “voice for my people.” I work with women and men who consider themselves feminists, but they are also white and middle class, and our perspectives just don’t match.
Then there’s that other part of me that gets on Facebook to see my “woke” friends posting beautiful speeches about their womanhood — but then I see the women who didn’t even know the day, or month, existed. These are the women that are asking questions, wondering why and how they didn’t know; these are the women that look like me. So I can’t help but question if this day was meant for us.
Now, I know that there is no way that the organizers of International Women’s Day could possibly alert every single woman on the planet. But I also wonder who this all benefits. What about the women who can’t strike because they’ll lose their jobs? What about the uniform wearing women? What about the ones that thought about taking the day off but desperately needed those hours to pay rent?
When I think about why women went on strike, I think yeah, that’s cool. But if the goal was to prove to 45 that we are necessary to the fabric of the nation, did it work? Y’all know that man doesn’t see anything he doesn’t want to.
But as a Black woman I struggle on different fronts to make my contributions look palatable, be appreciated. On a daily basis I find myself reminding coworkers that trying to touch my hair is racist, among other things. So yeah, my womanhood is important, but my blackness is necessary.
Although both are very easy to see when you look at me, I most frequently get slack for being black. I have to more often explain my blackness, protect my blackness, and defend my blackness before I have to do any of that for my womanhood. That, for me, makes it very difficult for me to wear red, or post about women’s month, not because I don’t love my womanhood, but because my womanhood is more respected than my blackness.
I just can’t bring myself to be excited about a day about women when I’m asked numerous questions at work as to why we should be celebrating Black History Month. I don’t feel included in a protest that focuses on women who can afford to take a day off and not have to answer for it when they go back. I can’t celebrate with women who, even with the wage gap, still make more on average than I ever will.
Yes, I am a Feminist, but my feminism is different. My feminism is oftentimes disrespected. My feminism comes second to my blackness because my blackness makes me a feminist. So, I’ll wear red when black women are considered as valuable to the progression as white women are. I’ll take a day off work when I feel safe enough to not get fired for it. I’ll wear red when I can have a conversation about my blackness and womanhood with a white female coworker without her face turning the color of my shirt. I’ll wear red when white feminists see me as their equal not just when it is beneficial for them, but beneficial for me too.
It may be selfish, but black women have given too much of themselves since time began. We have every right to be selfish and celebrate our own selves regardless of the backlash from people that look like us, people that don’t, and whether we choose to wear a red shirt to prove that we love our womanhood.