We come home to ourselves. Our realized desiring selves. We also come home to spaces that are loving, spaces that are giving, spaces that are nurturing, spaces full of awareness, spaces that enable looking. Of all these spaces, looking is my keep for today.
Bell Hooks once described a power in looking. A power also with choosing to stop looking. She described it as a gesture of resistance. And when you return to looking, when you return after turning away, an oppositional gaze emerges. I am in this space, these days.
Not to be confrontational or difficult or even disrespectful, I am finally understanding the pleasure of saying no. I understand now what it means to say no to structures which had asked so much from me when I assumed a posture of subordination. Saying no is a radical gift that I gift myself these days, a gift that I use to nurture and protect me.
In the past, I was the first with ideas. I still am in circles that value my intellect. I was the first to say yes, to give myself fully to such spaces because we were all fighting the same beast. The truth is, our battle was personal and we wanted to come out victorious and unharmed. Until the fight turns on you. Until you realize you are now the beast and your head is on the chopping block. Hence why looking becomes critical.
Bell Hooks described this as having an oppositional gaze. Mainstream research circles in no way acknowledges that black women can thrive on their own. You don’t have to ask me, just do a quick search on who gets funded and you will see that they are not black or female. Look also at those in power in whatever space you find yourself in and again, whether at a grocery store or at a hospital, chances are that your leader isn’t black or female.
It’s for this reason that an oppositional gaze becomes vital, viral even if you are black and female.
Mainstream circles will remain ‘aggressively silent on the subject of blackness and representations of black womanhood,’ noted Bell Hooks. Many disallow the ‘possibilities of spaces, places even that include black women’s voices. It is also difficult to talk when you feel no one is listening, when you feel a special narrative has been created that only the chosen can understand’ she states. Yesterday, I was in such a space.
I know I shouldn’t be using this medium to air personal grievances. But I want growth and I need to continually gift myself the freedom to just say no to spaces that fail to enable me to discover or uncover all that I have. I did that internally, silently too when demands were asked. Not because I could not speak, but because it is difficult to speak when no one is listening. It’s is also difficult to speak when you are not valued.
So I stayed mute and looked. I stayed mute and applied Bell Hook’s oppositional gaze. I shared my thoughts with friends and they said, staying mute doesn’t help you grow. I disagreed. It helps me. That’s all that matters these days.
After going through this pandemic (we are still in it too), after going through moments of chaos with homeschooling, moments of stress with raising children, all I want these days are moments of healing for myself.
Even though silence will not protect me, and Ms. Lorde would want for me to transform it to action, I am, but for myself. I am learning to say no for myself first. This gesture protects me from whatever they think they have in store for me. I say yes always and all the time to spaces worthy of my yes. I say yes to spaces and people that know my worth.
I keep learning this every day. The power of saying no, the power of saying yes. It’s mine to gift first, to spaces that nurture and protect me. Spaces unafraid to affirm my subjectivity. My yes these days belong to people that are not afraid to hear me speak. People that know that my words are just that, words, with no desire to harm but to help them grow. People that don’t make me speechless. I was not born to be speechless.
This power that I gift myself, this power of oppositional gaze is to protect myself for the violence perpetuated and advocated in spaces that would rather I stifle my growth. And if I describe it as violence, it’s because this is still a battle, and the goal remains being victorious and unharmed. Writing in this way, about the power of oppositional gaze, makes my healing possible. I am also learning that there is more to looking. Keep it for yourself, especially in spaces where you gift yourself the power of saying no.