We Need to Listen to Women More

(WWHDD collective member shares some thoughts after the CONSENT screening)

We Need to Listen to Women More
Sur Rodney Sur·Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Draft © Sur Rodney (Sur) In solidarity with today’s AVAC Global Advocacy for HIV Prevention meeting In Sisterhood: Celebrating the Achievements of Networks of Women Living with HIV.  

My identifying as a Black gay man, had the essence of my concern focused on my gay brothers during the early stages of the AIDS pandemic.  The politics of my anger and caring for the survival of our communities focused on them and shaming the ignorance of communities that wanted to distance themselves from us. Homosexuals were seen as solely responsible for our suffering as we had brought it upon ourselves with our irresponsible behaviors and having a sex life that we had many believing we had chosen for ourselves. The stigma played havoc in the minds of what it meant to be gay. The majority of infections propagated were gay men at that time and the rate of deaths were growing exponentially. It was a community of men who held power in the patriarchal structures and support of the women who loved them who fought relentlessly for change. The male body becoming the central theme, the female body so much less recognized albeit their concerns were as urgent but silenced.  Throughout the challenges that were brought about to serve the interests of the dominant male body, women were marginalized. Despite the relationship of women to gay men in the community during the early stages of the pandemic, as evidenced in what they had to say at memorials, protests, and their work in heath care, they were never discussed in the legacy as important as male bodies were with their relationship to male privilege while women were relegated to the shadows. The pandemic seemed to be mostly about gay men. Demos, research, and education had them at the center while women were still relegated to the margins, despite the fact that the number of women, especially women of color as the epidemic grew, were the fastest growing group of new infections. They would become the new pariah’s holding less agency and power in the dominant patriarchy putting them at much higher risk for abuse. Where are these women today? Why are they continually left out of the mainstream discussion still focused disproportionally on the Black male body deemed less responsible with its caring?  A lie, and certainly less protected within the structure of the dominant white supremacist patriarchy. I was sitting in an auditorium after watching a film about issues that women living with HIV are facing with regard to criminalization and consent. During the Q&A a young Black man posits how the plight of women in all this is something new to him and why is it that in his experience the damage and injustices have always been targeted at the Black male body? I too came to this realization working with the forming of a group questioning the potential for HIV Doulas in communities affected by HIV and AIDS. We came to recognizing the underlying need for more caring, compassion, and support for the health and well being of affected communities. The feminist spore within me clearly had me thinking of education and the plight of women in all this. Realizing in conclusion that when the male body was central, woman continued to be marginalized. If the female body were central, the male body would not only be forced to become more caring with their considerations around HIV AIDS but would become more strengthened by default. I see it as essential to defend, protect, and educate around the plight of women or what we’re up against will continue to be compromised and our hopes for any form wholeness and strength in our communities well being and health will be lost.