Discussing polyamory as rooted in womanism, not your typical white washed privilege.
This is a write-up I did for the Black & Poly group that I assist in moderating in. This is a summation of my belief in why I believe Black, polyamorous spaces are needed (really POC need spaces to discuss things in general) and a summation of the group’s stance on the “Polyamory is Feminist at its foundation.” statement.
Polyamory is based on some pretty feminist ideas:
- Sexual self-determination (which women often lack pre-suffrage).
- Redefining and redesigning your love life rather than sticking to societies proscribed rules.
- Establishing that women have a choice ( mostly by disrupting gender roles).
- Providing an equitable way to achieve your goals.
- Reducing the likeliness of force possession and control by addressing the fact that people are not objects and focusing on relationship negotiations.
- And in theory, women should have equal footing to communicate their wants and needs, without feeling guilty or shamed for exploring them.
Let’s be real, our relationship style does have its roots in feminism, but for us ( read: black people and POC in general) it’s not this mainstream thing created to be palatable. You see feminism is a spectrum of socio-political movements and ideologies that have a base goal to establish equal rights for all genders in the political, economic, and social spheres, by focusing on the minority group who did not have equal rights. That seems relatively harmless right. Mainstream feminism, however, has been tainted by the historical focus on white middle to upper-class women and thus ignoring the intersection between all women’s issue. In short, it is blinded by white privilege.
Luckily for us, we have had some amazing strides made to address intersectionality, especially for black women.
Thank the activist for Intersectionality. It is, in essence, the idea that equality can be reached by creating equity to erase the boundaries that separate us. But where did this idea stem from?
Partially (well a lot from) womanism and black feminism.
— is a social theory that centers on the racial and gender oppression of black woman and other women in marginalized groups. Unlike white feminism, it makes sure to focus on the fact that women have been oppressed and POC have been further oppressed because race-based issues are not a separate category with no overlap. XX X X XX
Black Feminism ( 1960s)
–Is incredibly similar by positing that sexism, socio-economic oppression, gender identity, and race issues are irrevocably connected.
The difference, well to me there isn’t much of a difference, except that womanism is not about fostering interracial cooperation. Some people take this to mean that black women think themselves superior in negative ways towards white women. No, not necessarily. The fact is that womanism addresses that the black experience is different in western countries, and for white people, interracial cooperation has been historically contexted around POC assimilating to their “white” culture and leaving our culture behind. X
For black people, polyamory is about ( or at least it should be about) building and uplifting our brothers and sisters. It is addressing the fact that our communities have and to an extent today experience our humanity and rights being stripped away. If you have not had a chance to view it watch “13th”
Directed by Ava DuVernay
. This gives a great view of how slavery never really ended, just was reframed. But back to my point, we have had to recreate and define terms, find our own humanity, self-respect, and create things for ourselves.
The mainstream polyamorous movement has done a lot, but again it is erasing POC in a flurry of peace and love and the new modern family. Take for instance that the Article “Polyamory is for Rich, Pretty People by Vivienne Chen. In non-intersectional focused spaces this is met by the idea that she is complaining, when the reality is that her discussion is addressing the lack of intersectionality in mainstream groups by ignoring that there are some pretty bad risk for deviating publically from societal norms for the poor, non-cis, non-straight folks or just people who don’t fit the non-polyamorous person’s assumptions of poly.
A major contributor to this whitewashing is that people forget that non-monogamy has always been something that has been practiced in many cultures. Polyamory is a modern adaptation post the stress of hetero-monogamy. We forget that if we look back on the history of civilization and before the modern construct of marriage, people did work together and practice communal love.
I assert that by the POC polyamorous community saying that, yes polyamory is based on feminism, but not white-washed feminism. We are forcing ourselves and the surrounding cultures outside of our plural relationship doors to address that this is not just a relationship style. This is our socio-political stand that as POC we aren’t defined by other people and you do not get to sweep history under the rug and pretend that racism and classism don’t exist. For many of us, the reality is that until President Trump was elected, people had a tendency to push the idea that this is the twenty-first century, so these socio-political discussions weren’t a problem, but that was simply because it was not their experience. For black POC and POC in general, reframing your polyamory to be centered around intersectionality, womanism, or black feminism will force you and those around you to see that we have something different, yet similar we are fighting for.
I date not exclusively interracially. I do not date people who are colorblind because of the way many people try to apply the term. We don’t need a homologous world, we just need to be accepting that there is no dominant culture. Yes, my partners’ politics matter to me, because politics are more than personal opinions. They are opinions that become our laws and that affects our lives.
If you can’t understand or try to understand and learn that a POC experience is different in western culture, can you truly build a community with them? I know it’s a hard pill to swallow, but the way the women’s suffrage movement was framed was that it was not a movement for us. Racism crept in and we were pushed aside. To me, this doesn’t say that we shouldn’t ever work with white people, but it does say to me that we must be careful to not let our experiences and our politics be pushed down for the sake of the movement. We must be critical of what people are saying when they push that polyamory is feminist in nature. Is feminism that solely addresses white equality, or is it being critical to address that all people deserve equality and it takes equity and time to actively deconstruct our country’s foundation.
To conclude I want to make one thing increasingly clear. What I am saying is to critique the hell out of feminism. Don’t just accept its feminist and that it must be right or always addressing equity. Polyamory foundationally seeks to build people up individually and socially. How can you do that without addressing and breaking the oppressive social ideologies that exist and fight against equality?And for this reason, I believe that for POC Polyamory can only be feminist for Black communities and other POC if it is intersectional in nature.
The Black & Poly stance.
In Black & Poly one of the primary things we want everyone to remember is that while we are not a Black ONLY space, We are a Black CENTERED space. We are about building up Black people. If you are not about that, this is not the space for you.Our experience is different. Racial oppression gives us a different view of authority, of fighting to reach our potential, of defining words and concepts that weren’t even meant for us. This space is one pebble that sends out a ripple effect of addressing how to break down the systemic oppression in westernized countries and how to give POC the equity we need to truly explore being equal.