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Paige Courtney

Black Feminist Prose

There is a subtle misogyny I have observed lately and it weighs heavily upon me. Black Feminist Prose, my second manuscript, will demonstrate what true feminism looks like in all aspects of life: religion, relationships, and the professional sphere. But for now, I would like to share a brief reflection on relationships.

Unlike racism, which is at least socially unacceptable in theory, and therefore tends to take more subtle forms in the 21st century, sexism continues to take overt forms.

21st century American society battles the influence of the sexual revolution that pretends to give women power over men by degrading them.

A man is objectified by a woman in so far as she exerts power over him by using him for her sexual pleasure. This is exemplified in the "Sex and the City" phenomena. Power women with power jobs have casual sex with men, as men have historically acted in regard to women. This objectification degrades men because they are not treated as persons of infinite worth. Yet the irony is that the woman cannot exert this "power" without objectifying her own self. She presents herself as a sexual being first and not a thinking, feeling, human person.

Her own sexuality is degraded to the satisfaction of mammalian desires and the higher faculties - the intellect and the emotions- are still disregarded.

And then there is the more subtle form of sexism that holds women responsible for any difficulty that they encounter. Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was one of the first to bring this trend into public discourse in her Ted Talk. According to Adichie, when men find themselves single, it is simply because they have not yet made a choice. But women find themselves single because they are not pretty enough, not trying hard enough, trying too hard, doing something not quite right. Yet we are slower to identify the men who are too immature to value what a female companion would bring to their lives.

Where does this double standard come from? It is simply a more subtle form of inequality. If there is dissonance between men and women, the person who wields power is less likely to be identified as the one at fault. Black Feminist Prose will reflect upon gender equality from both the African-American and the Catholic optic. From my experience as a woman of color I have lived life as a minority within a minority. Yet as a Roman Catholic I have a universal perspective rooted in the scripture and Sacraments of Jesus Christ.

Therefore I recognize that equality is not a shift in power so that the subjugated party may simply oppress the oppressor. Equality is the arduous task of conforming our perspective to the truth.

The truth is that "male and female He created them" (Genesis 1:27) therefore men and women both share the image and likeness of God, equal in dignity with differing abilities. Yet these abilities are not to be set in opposition to one another. They are to be put at the service of our helpmate, so that we may complement each other and move toward human excellence.

I began this reflection with relationships because I believe that human relationships, both romantic and platonic, are suffering due to a subtle misogyny born of the sexual revolution. We must bring to light the truth about who we are as men and women, so that we may reverence the infinite worth of each human person we encounter.

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