6. Craziness, Conscious, Concepts: Sexual Politics and Feminism

“Black feminists often talk about their feelings of craziness before becoming conscious of the concepts of sexual politics, patriarchal rule and most importantly, feminism, the political analysis and practice that we women use to struggle against our oppression.”

What do we think about these concepts of craziness and consciousness in our movements?  Do we move from craziness to consciousness?  Does our consciousness lead us to to new levels of crazy? Is the point of our organizing to feel un-crazy?  Who says what crazy means anyway?  How did you feel before gaining some of the tools and words that we use as organizers?  How do you feel inside your movement(s)?  What are some of the political analyses and practices that you use to struggle against oppression and create clarity in your organizing?

Check out I Wanna Live the radical self-care site created by women of color in Washington DC (including the brilliant Kismet who commented below)!  I wanna live features visual meditations on what self-care means for women of color, sparked by a redefined relationship to anger members of INCITE: Women of Color Against Violence in DC created during the Summer of Our Lorde.   Reflect on the image above in honor of the young, gifted, queer and black Lorraine Hansberry.

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2 Responses to “6. Craziness, Conscious, Concepts: Sexual Politics and Feminism”

  1. hey lex/y’all-

    so i was just talking today about how crazy i feel in certain environments. one of the things i love about our community (of love, consciousness, growth, dreaming, ending sexual violence against women of color (and everybody else who comes along in the process), sustaining transformative love, gardening and more-whew) is the space to feel sane. how when i start talking politics at work or with family members, i go to a crazy place.

    w/ coworkers because of the assumptions around who is trustworthy, who is not seem to mirror the societal beliefs that cannot ever make sense to me. so since the values upon which we base our judgments of credibility are so different, it just seem hard to move from there. and somehow there seems to be a sense of sanity in numbers. So i think that points another thing about crazy – when we feel a fragmentation between ourselves and our environment. like when michelle on america’s next top model was having lots of outbursts and tantrums till she came out, and then she was cool. or when i was crying all the time when i knew it wasn’t working with my partner but couldn’t find the words to talk about it. so… yeah. these disconnections of having to be fragmented selves make us (or me & some folks like maybe you) feel crazy. And my mind gets so caught up in it all that i don’t realize all the crazy energy being spent until it’s gone. Like how much easier it is to enjoy a balcony when an internal protective part is freed up from worrying whether the crazy part is going to jump.

    Anyway. I think the work thing continues when we think back to the Summer of our Lorde & Audre’s discussions of ways we distance ourselves from desire (from human-ness) when working (I know when i look corporate and wear make-up and panty-hose it feels like a whole nother gender – “professional” – which i guess shouldn’t surprise me since it’s always sneaking into the personal ads…) when i let myself just be whole in these situations people make comments about drug use. which (if i get over myself) is sad if that’s the only way they let their guard down enough to think differently i guess.

    Anyway back to another thing that makes me feel/act crazy sometimes – when i feel so hurt rejected hated and despondent in response to things that supposedly aren’t even about me. like if a lot of people (some who say they love me) vote for bush with his homophobic hate-mongering or the EZLN meets with armed resistance because the maps say they’re mexican despite many realities or people die and die and die in haiti and new orleans and folks think it’s sad these things happen but only see a hurricane as a cause.

    there are lots of other times i feel crazy too, but these are plenty for now. so when i say i feel crazy, i think it has something to do with with a big disconnect between emotional/physiological expressions and our cognitive understanding of a situation or condition or maybe even a cognitive dismissal feelings stemming out of belief that we shouldn’t care because we are fine, because that’s how life is, because others have had it worse, because we are overly dramatic, because we don’t deserve anything different, because we’re not capable enough to handle what we want, because our attitude is poor, because we are being immature, because we are being mean, because we want what we shouldn’t want, because we will appear vulnerable or scary or weak or aggressive or needy or jealous or crazy, because we don’t appreciate what we have, because we don’t want to be stereotypically angry or violent or submissive or dangerous or non-credible, because we have not successfully killed the parts of ourselves that feel – despite societal efforts to the contrary, constantly trying to coerce us into betraying and defeating ourselves, into turning understanding that “we were never meant to survive” into self-eradication.

    maybe the crazy part is the part with the “inappropriate” desires that refuses to settle…. and movement is the part that takes them seriously and creates a place where crazy desires are transformed into the legitimate basis of collective action. So in addition to potentially gaining tangible rights that sustain our physical beings we also gain the spiritual ease that lets our minds stop fighting our humanity. So while this might begin with the same illusion of sanity in numbers (group think), I think we really get a world view and a reality that aligns with what we know we need, our truth.

    when i just admit my craziness and move on, when i can draw or read (fiction/literature/poetry), enjoy weather and plants, or am around folks acting in ways that are wondrously both true to themselves and loving to me, i start to feel whole. so yeah, i like that the folks i organize with identify as truth tellers and help us all to be attentive to our truths and to find comfort joy love community strength and wholeness (which might crazily enough be sanity) in voicing them together.

    and fortunately lex reminds me and us to feel & speak & write….

    love always,
    beth

  2. I wrote about this elsewhere: http://waiting2speak.blogspot.com/2008/10/of-saving-bell-jars-and-mental-health.html. But I wanted to add one thing:

    I felt so crazy when I entered graduate school–leaving the wonderfully warm and delicious academic family that was my African and African American Studies Program and Mellon life and entering the sterile, violent, homophobic and heterosexist world that is mainstream academia–that I had to split my personality. Just to survive as a professional.

    Literally.

    I made up different personalities for myself. One was The Wild Girl. She was able to release all of the foolishness–as we like to say, Act Out–and then when class came around I put her away. I made a poster on the wall with a box for her and I drew a wild girl on a Post It (nappy hair and all!) and stuck her in it. And I put it right up in my office. So that when the racism fell like rain in the classroom, my wild girl was already caged up and I didn’t hurt someone or lose my mind like I wanted to.

    When I started teaching I had to make up a second one. I called her Sandra. She is named after my mother. Because no matter how RIDICULOUS her co-workers and employees are, my mother always managed to be a teacher, to love them for who they are, to laugh at their ignorance in spit of itself, and did it without alienating them. Because, at the end of the day, we are all victims of this racism–some of us just have deeper, bloodier, harder to heal wounds than others and the rest of us get to pretend to run away from it. She always saw that humanity in other people and didn’t reduce others to the hatred they didn’t even realize they were spewing.

    Yeah, I’m not QUITE so noble. But at least I can try, lol. So Sandra is my teaching personality. And I’ve retired the Wild Girl. I’ve integrated her into Kismet now. 🙂

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