Breaking the Silence: Toward a Black Male Feminist Criticism

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LSU Press, 2007 - Literary Criticism - 191 pages
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Can black males offer useful insights on black women and patriarchy? Many black feminists are doubtful. Their skepticism derives in part from a history of explosive encounters with black men who blamed feminism for stigmatizing black men and undermining racial solidarity and in part from a perception that black male feminists are opportunists capitalizing on the current popularity of black women's writing and criticism. In Breaking the Silence, David Ikard goes boldly to the crux of this debate through a series of provocative readings of key African American texts that demonstrate the possibility and value of a viable black male feminist perspective.

Seeking to advance the primary objectives of black feminism, Ikard provides literary models from Chester Himes's If He Hollers Let Him Go, James Baldwin's Go Tell It on the Mountain, Toni Morrison's Paradise, Toni Cade Bambara's The Salt Eaters, and Walter Mosley's Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned and Walkin' the Dog that consciously wrestle with the concept of victim status for black men and women. He looks at how complicity across gender lines, far from rooting out patriarchy in the black community, has allowed it to thrive. This complicity, Ikard explains, is a process by which victimized groups invest in victim status to the point that they unintentionally concede power to their victimizers and engage in patterns of behavior that are perceived as revolutionary but actually reinforce the status quo.

While black feminism has fostered important and necessary discussions regarding the problems of patriarchy within the black community, little attention has been paid to the intersecting dynamics of complicity. By laying bare the nexus between victim status and complicity in oppression, Breaking the Silence charts a new direction for conceptualizing black women's complex humanity and provides the foundations for more expansive feminist approaches to resolving intraracial gender conflicts.


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A Black Male Feminist Critique of Chester Himess If He Hollers Let Him Go
2 Black Patriarchy and the Dilemma of Black Womens Complicity in James Baldwins Go Tell It on the Mountain
Understanding the Politics of Black Manhood in Toni Morrisons Paradise
The Other Gender in Toni Cade Bambaras The Salt Eaters
Reconceptualizing Black Gendered Resistance in Walter Mosleys Always Outnumbered Always Outgunned and Walkin the Dog
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Page 10 - Old bald-headed four-eyed ofays popping their fingers . . . and don't know yet what they're doing. They say, "I love Bessie Smith." And don't even understand that Bessie Smith is saying, "Kiss my ass, kiss my black unruly ass.
Page 11 - Just straight two and two are four. Money. Power. Luxury. Like that. All of them. Crazy niggers turning their backs on sanity. When all it needs is that simple act. Murder. Just murder! Would make us all sane.
Page 5 - I'll learn you how to disobey my orders!" and after rolling up his sleeves, he commenced to lay on the heavy cowskin, and soon the warm, red blood (amid heartrending shrieks from her, and horrid oaths from him) came dripping to the floor. I was so terrified and horror-stricken at the sight, that I hid myself in a closet, and dared not venture out till long after the bloody transaction was over. I expected it would be my turn next.
Page 15 - I use the term here simply to refer to Black female critics who analyze the works of Black female writers from a feminist or political perspective. But the term can also apply to any criticism written by a Black woman...

About the author (2007)

David Ikard is an assistant professor of English at the University of Tennessee. He lives in Knoxville with his wife and two children.

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