Why the #YouOKSis “White Feather Campaign” failed … badly

Of all our studies, history is best qualified to reward our research.
—Malcolm X

With summer 2014 now firmly in the history books, it’s a good time to review some of that season’s biggest “stories” on the sexual politics front. Fortunately for us, our sistahood’s feminist contingent never fails to disappointrecall summer 2013’s tempest in a teapot involving Professor Hugo Schwyzer, for example. Great job, ladies!

So, what was this summer’s “big story”? Well, to let Feminista Jones, the Amazonian “sex-positive” third-waver from the Boogie Down up in NYC, tell it, it was the “epidemic” of “street harassment,” dontcha know—and her solution?

To “call on” (read: cajole, shame, demand) brothas to “police” other brothas, to intervene whenever they spy a sista out and about being “harassed” by another brotha, by “simply” (heh) going up and asking said sista in distress(?), “You OK, sis?” Jones was able to drum up a bit of media attention for her bright idea, which culminated in a feature appearing on the Black-themed News One channel, and some social media buzz came along for the ride. Ultimately, though, the whole thing fizzled out before summer was done and instead wound up alienating not just (Black) men but quite a few (Black) women as well—for example, I got wind of her Twitter beef shooting war with Tariq Nasheed via a Black female follower of his. None of these developments came as a surprise to your humble correspondent; indeed, in an email correspondence to Jones, which, interestingly enough and completely unbeknownst to me at the time, occurred shortly after her spat with Nasheed, I made the case that she was going about the whole thing all wrong. Of course, my attempts toward reason, moderation, and understanding with an eye toward real solutions with the brothas who actually matter all fell on deaf ears. Such is the way of the sistahood, to favor irrationality in the face of reason.

Sigh.

Why was I able to call the outcome of this much ballyhooed “campaign”—one that, in Jones’s own words, has done more harm than good in the form of garnering the attention of lots and lots of very irate (White) men in the form of emails, tweets, and the like (not even including the Nasheed factor et al.)? Well, aside from the very poor strategy planning of the whole thing—assuming that Jones truly does want meaningful solutions, that is (which is questionable in the light of this incident and a string of others that I’ll be discussing in due course)—there are the grand lessons of history to look back on and to learn a tremendous deal from. You see, attempts to “shame” men into doing the bidding of others, in this case that of Black women, is a very, very old story—at least a century old. And back then, the story ended as badly as this summer’s #YouOKSis Twitter campaign.

Let’s take a look, shall we?

A Brief History Lesson
A century ago, when World War I was jumping off in earnest, a British Navy officer, needing fresh recruits to throw into the meat grinder of the Western Front, instituted an interesting idea—have all the women present a white feather to any man not in military uniform, which would mean that she was calling him a coward for not fighting for God and country. The white feather notion itself came from observing that fighting cocks born with a white feather or two in their tail plumage tended to be weaker fighters (or didn’t fight at all) than fighting cocks that weren’t born with such feathers in their tail plumage (which just goes to show that feminists don’t really have a problem with Darwin’s discoveries and, by extension, EvoPsych—only those parts that they do have a problem with, i.e., those parts that show up their tortured ideology for the sham that it is). Well-known feminists of the era, like Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughter Christabel, not only jumped on board with both feet but also lobbied hard to institute an involuntary draft of men who couldn’t even vote. Gotta love that equality.

The campaign worked so very well that soon even civil servants (who, of course, didn’t wear the uniform) and decorated war veterans coming back home injured and broken were being HARASSED ON THE STREET by women thrusting white feathers in their faces. Even soldiers on leave from the dreaded Western Front were getting the white feather treatment(!).

The White Feather Campaign finally died a merciful death by the end of WWI, but was briefly resurrected during WWII, only to go down in flames again. But the damage had been done, and the historical precedent had been set—for feminists, the shaming of men became a powerful tool—weapon, even—in getting them to do their bidding.

Today, we see the White Feather Campaign live on via the #YouOKSis social media campaign and other such “efforts” supposedly aimed toward getting men to “act right”—earlier this spring, the Obama government released on its YouTube channel a series of video shorts featuring well-known actors, including Daniel Craig himself, shaming, er, imploring men to police other men when it came to the issue of campus sexual assault. And of course, more recently, there’s the HeForShe campaign brought to us courtesy of the United Nations, spearheaded by none other than Emma Watson of Harry Potter fame. And in clockwork fashion, both of these campaigns have been met with formidable push back—looks like the fellas are pretty solid readers of history after all, hmm?

Another Lesson of (Recent) History: Charles Ramsey
Of course, no such White Feather Campaign can be complete without a mention of Charles Ramsey—the everyday brotha who rescued not one, not two, but three women, who were White at that, from the clutches of a man who kept them hostage for the better part of a decade. Here’s the very first Google result that came up when I typed the words “charles ramsey, feminista jones” into the search engine. Very complimentary.

It plays right into the insights that Tommy Sotomayor (yassssss, I’mma go there) noted in his commentary on the topic—in the minds of sistas—like Jones (who, by the way, had a VERY strong reaction to my informing her that I was having a conversation with Lindsey of Cards Against Harassment fame—fascinating!). How dare Ramsey or any other brotha do anything heroic for White women? They should be heroic for “their own,” dontcha know. Take a wild guess as to who just had to come in and piss all over Ramsey’s moment in the sun … Here’s a hint: It wasn’t Becky.

Couldn’t find any tweets by Jones addressing that, though (and that’s saying A LOT, since Jones seems to be quite the prolific tweeter). Perhaps one of you reading this right now can?

At any rate, in a widely published column written on the matter shortly thereafter, I made the case that Ramsey proved what I had long suspected to be the truth: that it didn’t pay to be a white knight. Playing Dudley Do-Right can and often does put one right in the line of fire—in his case socially, but in others, as this story right here in my hometown of Philly aptly shows (thanks to a SISTA LADY reader of J4G for sending this in!), it can prove literally life-threatening.

In both cases—that of Ramsey and that of the guy in Philly who got stone-cold knocked the eff out that night down on Rittenhouse Square—it just isn’t worth it to put your neck on the line for people you don’t know and for other people who you don’t know who will have no qualms about dragging your name into the dirt because of their own personal axes they gotsta grind. Best to mind your business, look out for your own, and let the pros (read: police) handle the rest. Besides, especially when it comes to the sistahood, they’re strong, independent, and don’t need no man—right?

Right?

Yet Another Recent(!) History Lesson: “Handbags 4 Peace”
Picking up from the Ramsey debacle was something that also took place here in Philly: a fellow Black feminist/activist demanded that Black men be shamed into protecting her and other Black women who just had to go into sketchy areas of town at all times of the night to shake their tail feathers and show off their handbags by holding a rally to that effect in the wake of a spate of what became known as “handbag shootings” across the city. In response, your correspondent wrote two columns outlining how and why such a notion was so woefully wrongheaded. Here’s an excerpt from each:

Let’s take things a step further, shall we? I feel your questions are ill-put; for example, the question isn’t “Where are our men?”, Ms. Sanchez; the question is, “Where is YOUR Man?” – especially given the fact that, per the article in which you were quoted, you are the mother of a daughter, yes? My question is, where is the father of your daughter, and why are you not turning to him as your first line of defense in terms of “protection”? And if he is not around, why is it my or any other regular citizen male’s “duty”, to step into his place? If you feel justified in posing such a question, then I feel as justified in posing mine. If you feel that I or any other male Philadelphian “must” protect you, because, well, the “mothers/sisters/daughters” argument, then I have yet another question for you:

WHY, should someone else’s father, brother or son, hubbie or “boo”,”protect” YOU? Do they not have a responsibility to protect their own people? After all, the very article in which you were quoted, notes that one such “boo” was shot after giving chase to a perp who snatched his lady’s purse. This I highly respect, though his tactical awareness left a bit to be desired (more on this below). Why should this fellow, take a bullet, for you – or for those ladies out at 53rd and Market?

Similarly, your lament about how you feel that “our men are not protecting us” is again, misleading – how can a Man protect YOU, Ms. Sanchez, if you don’t have one in the first place? Again, per the article, you have a daughter – and it was implied that you are a Baby Mama – are you not? If this is indeed true, again I ask: why isn’t YOUR Baby Daddy, protecting YOU? And why is it my or any other Philly Brotha’s job, to protect YOU, or any other Baby Mama? Per the article, you are 40 years old – so it is difficult to see how your mating decisions were the result of “youthful indiscretion”. Again: why should I or any other Brotha in Philly, step in when the father of your child, or failing that, your current mate, can and should?

If you feel it is within your right to demand that other Men protect you, I feel it is within my right to demand that you answer these and other questions; if you feel that my questions are out of bounds, than I feel that yours is beyond the pale of legitimate discourse as well.

And here’s the second excerpt:

On the very day that the aforementioned column appeared on JFG, a very interesting story appeared on the New York Times website (H/T: Steve Sailer): “Growing Support & Tea From Young Women Embolden Kiev Street Fighters”. It was a piece covering the-then “Defenders of Maidan” – the ragtag group of ordinary Ukrainian Men who, with the aid of improvised melee weapons, helmets and body armor, successfully fought against the riot police and forced the ouster of the utterly corrupt Pres. Viktor Yanukovych. What was interesting about the piece, however, was the fact that the Women of Kiev were out in force, supporting their Men as they made what would amount to for some, their Last Stand against Yanukovych’s forces; young Ukrainian Women in their 20s, out there in the bitter cold (as much as 20 below!), serving hot tea and light refreshments to the “Defenders” and boosting their morale. Several of the ladies quoted in the piece had made it very clear how so very proud of their Men they were, and fully intended to marry a number of them as soon as possible.

Now, the events in Ukraine over the past few months has risen to the top of the global news and political agenda, as the West, mainly in the form of the European Union and the United States, battles against Russia for the highly strategically significant Ukraine, a former client-state of the Soviet Union; as I type these words on Sun, Mar 16, a referendum is going down in its southern state of Crimea to determine if it will remain a part of Ukraine-proper, or if it will breakaway and become a part of Russia itself. It’s a fast-moving story with many twists and turns; but for our purposes here at J4G, the aforementioned NYT coverage highlights the arguments I presented in my Open Letter to Ms. Sanchez, namely the following:

1. That the ONLY Women talking that “strong, independent/I don’t need no Man”/then turnaround and bemoan Men “not showing up for them” BS are American Black Women: notice how even Black Women in post-colonial, war-torn Africa, don’t talk that nonsense, and for good reason – because they know firsthand, what the Women of Ukraine know – when the deal goes down and the you know what hits the fan, bunk what you heard, “Girls DON’T Rule The World” – Men do, and it will be Men who sort it all out, one way or another

2. That no Man worth the having is gonna put his life on the line for Women that not only aren’t his own in some fashion (lover, wife, daughter, sister, mum, auntie, nana, etc. et al), and definitely ain’t going there when a plurality of Women in a given locale have cavorted with Mr. Big and now “demands” bodyguard and human shield protection from Mr. Plan B (read: Tyrone)

3. That the Ukrainian Feminist outfit, “FEMEN” was NOWHERE TO BE SEEN OR FOUND when the bullets started flying – and this is true of White Women Feminists here in the States, too, as lady blogger Ms. Judgy Bitch has rightly pointed out recently, and as I noted in my previous column, “One Of The Good Guys: A Conversation About Why Tyrone’s World Is Coming Apart”. Let that be a powerful lesson to observe on the part of the Sistahood: White Women understand very well the profound difference between Rhetoric and Reality – which is why, for all the bunk they talk about “Patriarchy” and whatnot, at the end of the day, they got their Chad – and can and will defer to him when the Going gets Real. ONLY American Black Women, cling to the Rhetoric like the proverbial life preserver – and how’s that been working out for them?

Yea, that’s what I thought.

The “campaign,” predictably, went down in flames … and Sanchez hasn’t been heard from since.

Ahem.

Why Are There No Feminist Chess Grandmasters?
In a previous post where I briefly discussed the “shooting war” between Feminista Jones and Tariq Nasheed, I made the observation that, based on said “war” and the overall “strategy” of her #YouOKSis campaign, no one would be accusing Jones of being the next Kasparov. For those who may not be familiar with whom I’m referring to, Gary Kasparov is among if not the most successful chess player the world has ever known, holding the title of Grandmaster. Chess is a game of strategy on multiple levels, requiring the ability to both “zoom in” on parts of the board and to “see” the whole board at the same time. On top of that, you have to be able to anticipate what your opponent is likely to do so as to be able to counter him with moves of your own, and all in the service of capturing, or “checking,” his king. Chess is perhaps the oldest military strategy game … and is it really any wonder as to how or why precious few avowed feminists like Jones are adept at it?

Again, this is important because of the stated goals of the #YouOKSis campaign itself: to get more brothas involved in the active intervening of sistas supposedly being “harassed” out on the street. Jones—while definitely able to shake a social media rattle, create some buzz, and the like—doesn’t seem able to actually engage those people on the ground who could actually help her achieve her ends; indeed, the fact that she’s been beefing with Nasheed, a brotha of national stature and a demonstrated track record of achievement (and resultant respect) on the streets of Black America, proves her tactical ineptitude. As many of the nodding brothas said over at Very Smart Brothas earlier this summer when the same topic was broached, why are the sistas aiming their fire at them? After all, they’re not the ones who are on the streets anyway. Why not take their “fight” to those brothas who are actually out there? Indeed, this was the point I raised to Jones, again in an email correspondence, and to which she again reacted violently. Which really got me to thinking: Exactly what is the point of this “campaign”? Because if indeed the point is to get brothas on the block policing each other, bougie brothas like VSB/Ebony’s Damon “The Champ” Young or New York Daily News’/The Root’s Jozen Cummings et al. ain’t gonna get it—they don’t live, or work, or socialize with the Pookies and Ray-Rays of the world. Indeed, they live, work, and love a world apart from them.

Brothas like Tariq Nasheed, and even Tommy Sotomayor for that matter, DO. They can be found busting it up with brothas on the corners of Black America all the time, with plenty of video footage to prove it. THEY are the brothas (along with yours truly, of course) that the Feminista Joneses of the world NEED on their side if they’re serious about the “mission” they claim to have. But the very fact that, again, Jones has alienated the likes of Nasheed (and by extension Sotomayor, given that they hold similar views along these lines despite their own “beefs” of late) really calls into question what she actually hopes to achieve with her own little white feather campaign.

Perhaps Black feminists like Jones know deep down that engaging brothas like Nasheed, Sotomayor, and me would invariably lead to us asking a series of pointed questions of our own, which could make life a bit uncomfortable for said sistahood. And perhaps that explains how and why they assiduously avoid us like the proverbial plague, playing to a group of ostensibly sympathetic brothas (and completely out-of-the-picture SWPLs—aka “White educated liberal bohemians,” a second meaning arising from the acronym for Stuff White People Like) who, as I’ve noted above, don’t have a dog in the fight and are more than willing to do the Oprah nod in the face of the sistahood’s perpetual pleas of victimhood and being passed over for Ms. Ann’s fainting spells. After all, to be bougie is to care, deeply, about appearances, dontcha know.

By this time next year, as we look back on the big stories of summer 2015, #YouOKSis will be a distant and, to be frank (as far as Jones is concerned), embarrassing memory. It remains to be seen where the larger “street harassment issue” will be a year from now and whether it will still have the legs to run another lap or two before finally petering out. But what is clear is this: Feminista Jones has squandered a real opportunity to get something real and meaningful done out on the streets of Black America. Maybe I’m expecting too much of her and her kind; maybe I’m a bit naive myself.

All I know is it’s never a good look for a sista to embarrass herself.

So, what’s really behind all the Sturm und Drang animating Black feminists? And why do I care so deeply about the so-called “street harassment” issue? Both excellent questions that I’ll be tackling in my next column. Stay tuned.


 

This article originally appeared at Just Four Guys on October 3, 2014.—Eds.

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