A picture I saw the other day on social media, depicted the many ways women work. Not only does she tend the cow, she cooks it too. Not only does she grow her own food, she buys them from the market too. Not only does she tend to her children, she tends to the home where they live too. That women work both outside and inside the home is well known. But the details, the feelings, every mood, every thought that occupies her mind when she gives herself to all the ‘multiple selves’ she inhabits is almost invisible in mainstream discourse. Anthropologist Ifi Amadiume defined this notion of ‘multiple selves’ as not only being a daughter or a mother, but a member of an extended family, a social being with independent political views. It’s this standpoint that I seek to explore further, the fact that all the multiple selves of women need to considered when thoughts or discussions about her are brought to the foreground. Most women are not frail or weak, passive or submissive. Yet all you see are these portrayals time and time again. For Black women, it’s a double edged sword. Not only are we ignored, invisible, but when we speak, we are labeled angry, aggressive, too oppositional in our thoughts and action as if our gaze isn’t oppositional in the first place. But what if we lay bare all the assumptions and speak from a place of truth. Shine light on the multiple lives of women, the good, the bad, in sickness, or in health, as mothers or daughters, what would such a crucial critical standpoint entail.
When you use a radical visionary stance Bell Hooks once shared in her book ‘Yearning’, to understand the ‘multiple selves’ of women, you call attention to alternative ways of thinking, alternative ways of seeing, alternative ways of being. You also call attention to how deeply connected we all are, our shared humanity, our shared passion, our shared yearnings as women. When you see women from this radical visionary stance, a connectedness comes to mind. Women are not only life giving but a strong sustenance comes to mind in a way that the depiction above helps to tell a cohesive story about her. When people need food, in many diverse contexts, it’s not uncommon for her to find the food herself. When people are sick, the same applies, with women doing their best to find cure or treatments where necessary. Children belong to women. Not just your own, but every child around you. I personally owe my upbringing to multiple women around me, not just my own mother. All sorts of women in my life, have helped to raise me, telling me exactly what to do and how, showing an interest in me, my behavior, my mind, my being. The very essence of who I am today is because I was surrounded by strong women, mostly strong Black women, who were never afraid to speak their mind, to tell the truth and shame the devil.
Living out the truth of my experience in a space where feelings of out of place are all too common is the sole reason for this keep. That and the fact that the time for a radical visionary stance is ripe for all women, Black women in particular. I would love to see more representation of myself, all my ‘multiple selves’ too not just for me but for future generations of daughters, mothers, sisters, all black and unafraid to be themselves. Keep the multiple selves of women in mind as we approach International Day for Women.