On the heels of this week’s federal report noting a rise in suicidal thoughts and extreme sadness among American girls, it feels fitting to highlight a writer whose work speaks to the country’s insufficiency in making these girls feel safe.
The very title of Mikki Kendall’s bestselling essay compilation is enough to send right-wingers up a wall. “Hood Feminism” is a Republican nightmare — which is to say, it’s vital reading for anyone looking to understand the plight of Black American girls and how they navigate around it.
Kendall doesn’t merely believe in feminism — she believes that her experience as a Black girl who has endured poverty makes her one of its true evangelists. When it comes to true support for women and girls, Kendall knows what it is. And what it’s not.
When it comes to true support for women and girls, Kendall knows what it is. And what it’s not.
That’s why I’m highlighting Mikki Kendall in today’s edition of “Black History, Uncensored,” our series dedicated to Black authors targeted by right-wing book bans. Kendall’s “Hood Feminism” is on such lists, and those familiar with the fragile, patriarchal id driving the conservative movement will recognize why Republicans fear her the moment they see the book’s table of contents.
So, naturally, we’re going to dive right in.
Specifically, I want to highlight Kendall’s essay “Of #FastTailedGirls And Freedom,” which denounces the culture of victim-blaming that so frequently descends upon girls — particularly, Black girls — subjected to sexual violence.
For women of all ages, sexual violence is a real possibly, if not a painful memory. Republican efforts to ban books that address this suggest a level of acceptance with women and girls experiencing this violence, but no tolerance for discussing it.
Kendall doesn’t abide.
In “#FastTailedGirls,” she writes:
As an adult I can look back and see that my mother was probably afraid for me, because I was so far from her idea of a respectable young lady. I hung out with boys, wore midriff-baring shirts and miniskirts when I could, and practiced flirting like some people breathe. I wasn’t Jezebel or Lolita, but she couldn’t see that, and I didn’t have the words to explain that I was fighting to control my own body. For young Black American girls there is no presumption of innocence by people outside our communities, and too many inside our communities have bought into the victim-blaming ideology that respectability will save us, not acknowledging that we are so often targeted regardless of how we behave.
She goes on to dismantle the frequent characterizations of impoverished Black girls as promiscuous and careless, instead noting that many girls turn away from harmful patriarchal systems at home in search of support elsewhere.
The logic, she writes, is understandable, even if the results vary.
According to Kendall:
Most of us had parents or guardians, had people who did their best to shelter us, but the first steps toward independence were also steps into a broader world full of danger. There we faced more than just the patriarchal church leaders, the grandfather who expected you to be ladylike, or even the teachers who hated everything from bracelets to silliness from girls like us. We had to worry about all the other social dangers of police and predators and learn to navigate a world where poverty meant that the street sometimes spoke to us, and sometimes outright shouted invitations.
With conservatives looking to force pregnancies by girls and young women, demanding access to information about their menstrual cycles and policing the clothing they wear, the assault on America’s women could not be more apparent.
Mikki Kendall’s work is a salve for the injuries. A reminder to women and girls in need that it’s the world that needs fixing — not them.
Read previous “Black History, Uncensored” posts about Nikole Hannah-Jones, Ralph Ellison, Zora Neale Hurston, Maya Angelou, Richard Wright, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison and more.