Praise Feminist God for Chivalry

Praise Feminist God for Chivalry May 7, 2019
Photo by PHUOC LE on Unsplash

I wanted to buy more salt for our home water softener because I had just used the last bag.

Last week,* I planned to purchase 160 lbs. of it. Despite my recovering shoulder, wrist, back, and hip, I planned on lifting every pound into the shopping cart and into my vehicle.

Even as I write and reflect, I shake my head at the ridiculousness of repeatedly lifting multiple 40 lb. bags in my condition.

My mind and spirit are willing and ready to function pre-injuries. On the other hand, my body keeps whispering, “For the love of God, Woman, please gentle with me. I need time.”

I wish I could tell you that I make the wisest decisions at all times, but I am a person who wing walked on a plane. So, there.

Robert E Blackmon via giphy.com

I knew that asking my husband was an option. After all, if he observes that I am behind on laundry, he will help without being asked. He does it with a loving attitude, too.

Some of y’all know that attitude is everything, everythang, and errthang.

You might say, “Well, dang, Girl. Don’t hurt yourself. Let your husband help.”

Ahhh… You make too much sense.

Oh no. I could not take the simple route.

via giphy.com

I had to go and make things complicated.

giphy.com

Old habits die hard.

I did what a lot of us do, when we know to do better, but want to justify a less than sound decision. I rationalized the wiser option away:

“Both of us are busy…”

“I want him to enjoy golf after work without thinking of errands.”

“I want him to simply come home after a long day- Work, play golf and come home to relax.”

My plan involved leaving the bags in the vehicle, so my husband could do the rest of heavy lifting at his convenience.

Feeling Salty About Help

After I arrived at a home improvement store, I wheeled my cart toward the back. There, I asked an store associate about the exact aisle to find the salt.

“You’re pretty close,” he said, “It is over here. I’ll show you.” He began walking away and I followed him to a nearby aisle from our location.

When we got to the section for all things water softener, he said, “Do you mind if I load these for you?”

Unlike times past, “I’m a strong Black woman” did not even come to mind as a response.

Do you want to know what came to my mind?

The aches and pains I felt in my body.

“Yes. Thank you. I was going to count this for my workout today,” I replied. Why get salty for help with the salt?

Brimstone (The Grindhouse radio, hound comics) via giphy.com

Indeed, I felt happy about it.

As we laughed, the store associate replied, as he lifted and placed the salt into my cart, “I used to have a gym membership. I tell my friends I don’t need it because my job is a work out.”

“I believe it. Thank you so much.”

sza via giphy.com

After purchasing the salt, I slowly pushed my weighty cart across the parking lot to my vehicle.

I strained to load the first bag. Then, I heard a voice from a close distance behind me.

When I turned around, it was a man I recognized from inside the store. On my way to the register, he had moved  out of an aisle h to let me pass.

“Do you mind if I help? I see you struggling there.”

I did not feel offended by his use of “struggling,” because the struggle was real, Folks.

@wetv via giphy.com

“Sure!” I replied.

He added, “If you can get the door, I can load the bags.”

“Works for me. Thank you!”

We chatted, as I did the light work and the kind stranger did the heavy lifting.

Afterwards, he took my cart away for me. I thanked him again before leaving.

As I drove away, I waved and smiled, thinking that maybe Divine intervention helped my half-baked ambitious plan.

Closing: Feminism, Need, and Decent Human Beings

Years ago, I would have refused help both times. I have stories-hilariously embarrassing and cringe-worthy humbling ones- to prove this historic pattern.  I would have powered my way to make it happen and probably caused more injury.

My “need” to prove something or demonstrate my strength would have outweighed acknowledging the usefulness of support. I would have felt compelled to perform my “independence.”

Over time, I have developed a knowing that power comes from learning to be interdependent, too. A lot of self-professed “strong” women feel uncomfortable with recognizing the “need” for help.

Beauty happens when we shift our vision of relationships from “need” and “control”  to relating to each other in powerful ways with our distinctions.

Did I take a leap backwards for feminism, womankind and all women’s rights?

I doubt it.

Correction: No.

Can chivalry co-exist with feminism?

Yes.

Praise Feminist God for chivalry!

Chivalry helped to thwart potential injury to this womanly body.

I believe in a feminism that makes bloody good sense.

That is, if I can use help, then I can use the help. If I need help, then I need help.

There has been a gift in journey of healing. It is not that as a woman I am a weaker vessel, and before injuries, I relished in proving this fact.

Our bodies feel weaker and stronger. Our times of experiencing weakness invite us to recognize the strength of community.

I think in our efforts to challenge unequal power relations in society, we can become so focused on the issues, that we  forget the additional and necessary work of learning to co-create a world with interdependence. We can lose sight of co-constructing a space where everyone can contribute-with no power loss.

At times, the only thing we lose from relying on each other’s strengths is our pride. The only thing that suffers when we are interdependent seems to be our ego.

For the White man who acted like a jerk to me earlier in the day, who went unmentioned in this account, there were two other strangers, both White men, who chose to be decent human beings and offered to assist a Black woman, with injuries unknown to them.

They didn’t have a race or gender weight on their shoulders because they were mad at feminists, all women, or Black people.

They chose kindness.

And it was not the non-racist or non-sexist thing to do. It was not the feminist or chivalrous thing to do, either.  It was the decent human being thing to do, which encompasses all of these.

I see God in it.

By the way,  if you are feminist fuming or in a racial uproar because I let two White dudes help me lift 160 lbs of salt, what is your address, so I know where to send my medical and manual therapy bills?

giphy.com

A sista “needs” to know.

 

*Week 44 of Quitting the Bible


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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Grace Terry

    As a feminist, I feel uncomfortable with the idea that you think feminists would object to your accepting help with lifting heavy loads. Respectfully, you seem to be operating in a world of outdated stereotypes. Feminists have taught the importance of interdependence from the beginning of the women’s movement and not just of men and women but all of life. Your use of the word “chivalry,” which definitely has medieval sexist connotations, to describe civility and kindness is interesting. Thank you for sharing your experience. Angels abide with you ~

  • @RaceandGrace

    Thank you for your comment.

    I align with Black feminist/womanist perspectives, which stem, in part, from a critique of the racism within the “feminist” movement. I shall call it for what it is: White feminism. Contemporary White feminism still struggles with how to be interdependent with Women of Color.

    Why do different feminists, particularly those who are perceived as White in the world, position themselves as the center of all women’s experiences?

    Black feminism is anchored in the unique angle of vision of Black women’s lived experiences, which furnishes a rich institutional, socio-cultural, and interpersonal analysis of race, class, gender, and other constructs. Women of Color feminisms stand in need of critique, too.

    Thank you for noting my use of “chivalry,” which I intentionally used given the history and present of feminist politics across race.

    I wanted to highlight the messiness and complexity of truly wrestling with language in our race and gender politics.

    I know what it is like to be policed about what it means to be a feminist and a woman by diverse women.

    This post arises from these experiences.

    Also, it is a critique of the expectations of Black women, as Michele Wallace wrote, to be the “workhorses” of the world, pushing through pain. It is a critique of sexist and racist society that minimizes our pain and the ways that Black women internalize these beliefs.

    My critique arises from the feminists and women across race who further judge women according to narrow depictions of contemporary womanhood.

    My post is a nod to Sojourner Truth who spoke up in critique of the feminist movement.
    She stated the following at a “women’s convention” (read: predominantly White women):

    “That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman?”

    I believe that Truth’s critique is ever necessary and valid. While White women fought for equal rights to be on par with White men, Black women and girls were being preyed upon.

    What I find “interesting,” is that various White feminists have perpetually benefitted from White male patriarchy and the protections that come from a White supremacist society for their own benefit. Numbers of these individuals still fail to deal with how racism and sexism impacts Women of Color.

    Various feminists can feel more uncomfortable by a Black woman challenging their politics than the injustices, oppressive structures, and lack of protection that we, who deal with both racism and sexism, have experienced throughout history and today.

    Needless to say, feminist solidarity is still a tremendous work in progress.

    Different Women of Color, particularly Black women, are still asking White women and the world the same question Sojourner Truth asked in 1851: “Ain’t I a woman?’

    Again, thank you for your comment. Blessings to you, and may the force be with you. 🙂

  • OJJegede

    I won’t call it chivalry. I would call it basic human decency and kindness. The strong helps the weak irrespective of the gender, age, race, whatever cleavages you think up. I would expect you to do the same for a man or woman who was struggling with a load you were better fit to carry. If there was a female equivalent word for chivalry or if the world has evolved to include women helping men, then I would probably have no qualms. But there isn’t an equivalent word and chivalry is still loaded with the male saviour complex.

  • @RaceandGrace

    I think you raise sound points about being a decent human being. So much in life comes down to being decent and I kind. In addition to the previous comment, I add the following: How did enslaved Black men have the power to oppress women through chivalry? When were enslaved Black women “saved” as damsels in distress when our families were in bondage for hundreds of years? Did White feminists consider that the treatment of Black women as property and preying on them as acts of chivalry? When Black families were being terrorized during Jim Crow with little to no justice, was it chivalry? The Klan had this racist and sexist White male savior complex to protect White women. I am unfamiliar with a Black Klan that rose up to maintain Black supremacy. I think misogyny, for example, has been an oppressive force against Black women and chivalry can still be wielded as a tool of oppression against us. I am inclined to push back against the often narrowly constructed and dehistoricized renderings of White feminism and womanhood that gets projected on all women’s experiences. Furthermore, I appreciate your comment because I like the idea of creating an equivalent word. Let us do so. Why not? Also, why not call women “chivalrous?” We seem to be in an age of reclaiming language and words. I am going to start using “chivalry” this week, especially when I do something decent for my husband. I am reclaiming “chivalry” like Maxine Waters reclaimed her time. Thank you for your comment. It has sparked more thinking.