BLM resources: Brittney Cooper’s ‘Eloquent Rage’

By

After spending six years of my life in an all-girls school, and subsequently growing up around bright, ambitious young women, I count myself a firm advocate for gender equality. However, the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement rightly being brought back to the forefront of discussion has made me keen to educate myself more on intersectional feminism; a term that recognizes there are barriers to gender equality different women face depending on their race, class or sexuality. In her brilliantly bold, intelligent, and vulnerable memoir, Eloquent Rage, Brittney Cooper explores the intersectional struggles of race and gender and channelling her power into thought-provoking tools to rebuild a racist patriarchy.

From the first chapter, Cooper tackles the stereotype that feminism is synonymous with lesbianism, stating “most tried and true feminist chicks are open to the possibility of their own queerness…labels matter so much less when you get down to the real work.” Love and support for women is undoubtedly a key aspect you must embrace as a feminist, and although not always to a romantic extent, Cooper testifies that this love must be deep and unapologetic. This is especially the case for Black women, due to a “world that hates us all”. This can be evidenced through the history of feminist activism, where Black feminists were excluded from the conversation, such as Ida B.Wells being forced to the back of a 1913 suffrage protest. Although this may seem like a good enough reason to doubt the effectiveness of feminism, Cooper insists this is all the more reason for Black women to bond over their own form of feminism, one that prioritizes the voices of Black women and centres around their own care and well-being. All women deserve to have their voices heard in feminist discourse, and therefore white women must use their privilege to actively support and elevate unrepresented women’s voices as much as our own.

Another insight I felt was particularly prevalent to the current protests for systemic change was a thought Cooper explored in ‘Bag Lady’, a chapter about the structural and cultural expectations Black women have foisted upon them. When talking about the trickiness of empowerment, Cooper highlights that it “places the responsibility for combatting systems on individuals”. Whilst self-empowerment is a valuable tool for recognising our own worth and “cultivating wisdom”, the politics of it shifts the blame for social injustice onto us, when power is in fact held in larger social systems. For me, this analysis from Cooper proves the importance of protesting for systemic change. Our individual solutions must combine to combat collective problems effectively, and therefore empowerment is a term I’m beginning to evaluate more critically. 

Cooper beautifully demonstrates how we need to stop policing Black women’s actions and respect the approach they choose to fight with.

Finally, although by no means the last concept I found compelling, Respectability Politics was something I learnt a lot more about. Defined as a “survival strategy”, this idea is that Black people must work hard and educate themselves to be seen as respectable and worthy of citizenship; working twice as hard to get half as far, and even when they achieve the highest levels of respectability, being resented by others. Cooper evaluates Respectability Politics through the example of the Obamas, subscribing to this and encouraging sensibility, proving that Black people could achieve anything if they were ‘respectable’. However, Cooper believes this acts as a rage management project – an attempt to comfort those “deeply uncomfortable with black rage”. Although anger is associated with being unreasonable, Cooper’s whole text builds on the idea that orchestrated rage of Black women has the power to build movements and push democracy forward. She’s clear to clarify that you can’t be dogmatic about the correct way to survive, “embracing rage or choosing safety”, I believe Cooper beautifully demonstrates how we need to stop policing Black women’s actions and respect the approach they choose to fight with.

Electrifying, un-sugar-coated calls for justice.

Ultimately, this gem of a book contains abundant food for thought on strong female leads, the relationship between sexuality and religion, roots of toxic masculinity, and so much more I wish I could expand on. I believe the engrossing nature of this book is due to not only electrifying, un-sugar-coated calls for justice, but its laugh-out-loud humour and touching personal moments. Cooper’s fiercely intelligent personality is infectious and will leave you hooked to Eloquent Rage.

Photograph: New America via Flickr

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

 

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.