Willow Smith's Hair: Gender, Race, and White Feminism

Over the holiday weekend, this quote from Will Smith on his daughter Willow's choice of hairstyle flew about the intertubes, making the rounds of the feminisphere on tumblr, twitter, and showing up on a few of the bigger blogs as well:
“We let Willow cut her hair. When you have a little girl, it’s like how can you teach her that you’re in control of her body? If I teach her that I’m in charge of whether or not she can touch her hair, she’s going to replace me with some other man when she goes out in the world. She can’t cut my hair but that’s her hair. She has got to have command of her body. So when she goes out into the world, she’s going out with a command that is hers. She is used to making those decisions herself. We try to keep giving them those decisions until they can hold the full weight of their lives.”
I reblogged it when I saw it, with a comment about "Parenting, ur doin it right," as did most of the other people I saw reblogging it.

But this morning, as I was reading through my daily un-newspaper (the collection of blogs from which I get my news on a daily basis), I found the above-linked post by Renee of Womanist Musings, which addressed the quote in a context that focuses on the racial dynamic at play when you're talking about a young black girl's hair like that.

And I realized, as I read her commentary on the way white feminists picked up and passed around this quote, treating it as a statement on gender equality and encouraging a young girl's sense of bodily sovereignty while ignoring the girl's race and how that intersects to give the statement a totally different meaning and context...that I had done exactly that.  I read that quote and got excited about what it meant in terms of gender only, without taking into account the additional politics of black women's hair and how that was really the bigger issue being addressed here.

So I wanted to A: apologize for my personal intersectionality fail in how I viewed/addressed the issue when I saw it this weekend (though I didn't do it *here*; I will however be cross-posting some version of this to tumblr), and B: signal-boost a great post about the racial+gender politics of it, for those who similarly heard about this but forgot to look beyond our own immediate gendered oppression.

Today in Not Actually Helping

Look, I'm as much a fan as anyone of the making-a-point "lol let's propose bills restricting men's reproductive rights to see how y'all like it" legislative shenanigans that have become semi-popular lately.  Attempting to require invasive ultrasounds before prescribing ED pills, declaring the existence of "sperm persons" and making murder of said spermsons illegal, that sort of thing.  It's funny in a dark sort of way, it makes a good point about the ridiculous invasiveness of the legislation the right-wing is pushing across the country.

But it can be taken too far.  Just because we know damn well that the pushback bills won't actually be passed, doesn't mean we can do absolutely anything we want.  (Okay, yes, we *can* - but everyone knows that just because you can, doesn't mean you should.)  Some bills are funny but inappropriate, as a mockery of equally-inappropriate bills that they actually intend seriously.  Today, I ran across one that, to me at least, crosses that line.

In Utah, a doctor wrote and submitted a bill that would institute heavy penalties against any man who impregnated a woman:
  • Restrict elective abortion to the first 16 weeks.
  • Require DNA testing to determine paternity of all out-of-wedlock children, even aborted.
  • Require the father to establish a $50,000 trust fund to care for any out-of-wedlock child, even if adopted. If the child is aborted, the fund is used for sex education.
  • If the father can’t pay, he joins the military and uses his enlistment bonus and salary to pay.
  • No man can avoid paternity claiming “she seduced me,” or that she claimed she was on the pill, had her tubes tied, whatever.
  • Man under 18? His parents are responsible.
It would be funny, in an over-the-top sort of way, except for numbers 1 and 4 there.  The first one, for obvious reasons - I don't think any of us would see a 16-week restriction as a fair trade for penalties against impregnators to try to discourage them.  And the fourth one, because compulsory military service is a really fucked-up idea.

And then there's the fact that, despite what RH Reality Check may think of the bill's aims, I don't actually think the bill's author is intending this as a joke or mockery.  He calls it a way to eradicate abortion, and I think he means it, for all that he knows it would never even get passed, much less pass constitutional muster before the courts if someone challenged it.

Oh, and when you have a doctor claiming it would scare men into using 3 condoms as an entry in the "pros" column for his bill, considering that using multiple condoms is actually less safe than using a single condom...I'm kind of disinclined to think it's a good idea on any level, from the silly nonsense down to no-I-really-mean-it.  And I would like to see a little - or a lot - more discernment from such a big, generally reputable source on reproductive health issues as RHRC before they slap the "not gonna happen but funny anyway" sticker on something like this.

The man who wrote this bill is not on our side.  Let's not gloss over that and lol at it like he's in on the joke, okay?


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