This is for the men who are “woke” and write, sing, and perform spoken word that focuses on women. This reflection is for you, and for myself, as I am equally guilty, for not too long ago I thought your words revolutionary and beautiful.
You rise on that stage, take that mic, look at us, be us in front of you or via a computer screen, and speak.
She is not some virgin paradise to find treasures in. Before you saw her, she saw herself. Your eyes did not suddenly bring her to life, did not validate her existence. Your melodies and sonic waves reminisce the wood Columbus rode as he “discovered” America. Your discovery is again like that of men across the centuries, “discovering” lands, galaxies, and phallic ideologies. Even you who are Brown like me, who think they have been robbed of this ability to discover, her body, their body, is not for you to find.
Your spoken word with rocking rhythms and cracked voices and deep deep do not interweave her words of consent. Did she tell you that her body was a map written by men to be explored? Did she welcome you to speak of her, did she accept your uncredited poem, did she say yes to having your voice speak about her body over hers? Did she consent to your exploration, or are you just another Lewis and Clarke dressed in hipper clothes and using your melanin to tell us “its okay, I’m oppressed too” as a fake feminist card to make us re-share your pseudo-solidarity YouTube video?
You sound like the white man in his metal tower on Wall St., thinking your descriptions some clever decolonial wordsmithing but instead again use objects, rivers, stars, mountains, nature, things, to tell us how beautiful she is. You focus on her curves, her melanin, her eyes, her touch, even sometimes her tongue, but always fail to mention her intellect, her emotion, her own words, her owns thoughts, her own soul. You love her brown, in all its shades, but thats where your poem and song ends. You apologize, its because you’re 2 minutes and thirty seconds were up, but no worries, part 2 is coming.
When you speak of those who have been murdered by police, you seem to forget her name. You seem to forget their voice, how their bodies experience violence, some of it by you. When you speak of chains, you forget those chains are not only around your ankles. When you speak of liberation, you forget to speak of her bloodied hands as they try to rip you from the abyss. When you speak of the complexity of the human spirit, you forget not only her body, you forget her entirely.
Her body, their body,
it is not yours. It is not mine. It is not ours.
It does not belong in your song, your essay, your short story, your spoken word.
Her body, their body,
it is not, it is never, yours.
And never forget it.