THE BLOG

Your Heterosexuality Is A Privilege

We live in an obvious heteronormative world and cis het black women can be so clueless to the privilege of their heterosexuality.

11/04/2017 03:53 SAST
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I recently had a healthy debate with a black, female friend about how she considered Moonlight underwhelming and to just wait for it to come to TV. I'm acutely aware that people are entitled to their opinions, but during the course of our discussion I realised that she was not conscious of her heterosexual privilege.

We live in an obvious heteronormative world and cis het black women can be so clueless to the privilege of their heterosexuality. I understand that existing as a black woman is a "double jeopardy" – you're black and female, the system oppresses you on two axis. The power dynamics in our society can be perverted in that in some form, parts of your identity, are oppressed while another aspect is the comfortability within privilege. For black cishet women, that privilege is their heterosexuality.

We are all, as black people at some time, negotiating ourselves between this dichotomous existence of both oppression and privilege on different social strata. Humans seem to invisibilise any aspect of their existence that is privilege as 'normal', therefore, due to our conditioning, we are unconscious to its benefits as members of that privileged group. Since privilege is power, power can fool one into thinking that they have a right to comment and speak on the experience of the marginalised group. Cishet black women have been abusers of this when it comes to LGBTI, especially black gay men and masculinity.

I came across Shandukani Muluadzi's article titled "A Recovering Homophobe's Lessons from Intersectional Feminism", even though I felt she raised valid points about how being self-congratulatory for unlearning her homophobia is problematic and that the same way black people don't expect white people to dictate to them how they must deal with racism, she is also learning about not commenting on issues that aren't her own. The title, "recovering" suggests that the author was somehow "sick", which is not the case. No one catches homophobia.

Maybe the aim of the title was to exemplify that Muluadzi has undergone an evolution and is better now but here lies the problem: we cannot treat homophobia or any social injustice as an illness, we invalidate the harmful nature of irrational, structural phobias against the oppressed groups. Social injustice is the offspring of a world system that aims to always create "us" and "them", with the "us" keeping the power in their favour. The article was also a lesson in how we can all be "allies" to marginalised groups, but without the first-hand experience of a lived reality belonging to a marginalised group, your ally-ship will always be lacking in just that – lived reality.

An article was published on Cosmopolitan South Africa, titled "Why as a Xhosa woman, I'm offended by The Wound" by Mela Ngaba. The Wound is South African film that challenges cultural notions of masculinity as a romance seems to develop between two Xhosa male initiates. In the article Ngaba, trashes the film as an offense to her culture as she believes that the Xhosa tradition of initiation is meant to remain secret. Ngaba, centres herself as a cishet black woman and inadvertently performs the function of the hetero-partriachial nature of culture that simultaneously subjugates her to the servitude of patriarchy. There is a coddling of a specific kind of masculinity and a performance of delegated heterosexisim, using culture as a conduit, to trash the narrative of the film, that actually has a Xhosa lead and writers.

I think in order for the world order to change, we need to question everything, even the cultures and traditions that raised us. Muslim, lesbian and Islam reformist, Irshad Manji said "the customs that hurt people don't deserve to be tolerated; they deserve to be challenged." Therefore, in our processes of unlearning and chase of consciousness, we must remain aware to the privileges we do have, and constantly question their value.