Why Amber Rose is Important: Inclusive Feminism Matters

Black Feminists like to shame. We enjoy shaming institutions, companies, politicians, even whole countries, whom we see as actively engaging in the degradation of the female body and psyche. In a world of Congressmen telling women how to avoid rape, and defenders of Bill Cosby and R.Kelly, black feminists are a part of an important club of women who are self-proclaimed keepers and protectors of the black female experience. This I love, but what I do find detrimental and counterproductive is the shame that we project upon one another. There is the false belief that there is only one definition of black feminism. Not only are there ideals that should be projected within all camps of black feminists, but there is the false belief that we should all represent the same image as well. You know the image I'm refereeing to: African head wrap wearing, natural hair having, shea-butter loving, underground hip hop followers. Those conscious sistas who call each other sista on the metro. It seems to me that as a black feminist, you should be prepared to be very homogeneous, not too sexual, traditional, or anything that would deem you as anti-movement. In my humble opinion, feminists can be sexual, overtly so, they can be coy, they can be whatever they want. To say mainstream artists like Beyoncé or Rihanna are feminist can be deemed a shallow interpretation, but it is someone’s interpretation and that’s fine. Let them be feminists, they are bosses, mothers, sisters, millionaires, and they control their empires well. Why are they deemed less feminist than Erykah Badu? Because of the way they show sex appeal? Because of how they wear their hair?

That is why I like Amber Rose. She is not an Assata Shakur quoting feminist that can tell you the difference between Judith Butler and Simone de Beauvoir. She doesn’t give a damn about feminist theories and the first, second, and third waves of feminist movements. She is a woman who thinks it is unfair that women are shamed for doing things men do every day. She is shamed for her clothes, her leaked nudes, even for having sex with men she was in a relationship with. She was called a slut, a whore, and whatever new terms are being used for women who enjoy sex. She didn’t need to be a dashiki wearing, bra burning, feminist to highlight a problem and mobilize women to take back the power of their own narratives. Amber Rose is important in the discussion of inclusivity. Black Feminists should not turn up their septum rings at feminists like Amber Rose because her Instagram doesn’t look like theirs, because in reality trying to fit that black feminist mold is exhausting. 

If I wear tight dresses, get tipsy, and “dance” to ratchet music, in many circles, I would be perpetuating un-feminist ideals. I have had black “feminists” tell me that the fact that I put such effort in my hair, make up, and heels makes me compliant with society’s definition of what women should look like. The part of me that wants to be married and have children can also be considered anti-feminist. I had a gender studies professor tell me that marriage is inherently anti-woman and engaging in it leaves women vulnerable and defenseless to patriarchy. Like Adiche says in her TED talk, feminists believe in social, political, and economic equality between sexes. That doesn’t always look the same for everyone. Now, is Amber Rose a feminist? Yes. Are her and I the same type of feminist? No. I am trying to navigate the white, patriarchal world of international development. Trying to structure my career so that I can represent African women in a world where they are raped, beaten, and spoken for by men. I am still trying to speak up, and be more assertive, and not shrink myself professionally. I am still having a hard time demanding more money and more benefits when I know they are owed to me. I downplay my education and my experience because I don’t want to look like I’m bragging or intimidate anyone. I’m still learning to do a lot of things. I want to learn these things so one day my daughter doesn’t have to question herself like I often do. So she won’t feel threatened, so she will get paid the fair amount and if she doesn’t she will speak her damn piece. That’s what my feminism looks like, but it doesn’t trump anyone else’s. I’m not more of a feminist than Amber Rose because I work in Africa, and she’s not more of a feminist than me because she has more notoriety and resources to put on slut Walks. We are both trying to make it in a world where people want to divide AN shame us as black women  at the same time. Without inclusive feminism, that includes non-traditional feminist like Amber Rose, there is no point in claiming that women’s empowerment and socio-economic mobility matter to you.