In an attempt to define Black Feminism, Collins clarifies that it must “avoid the idealist position that ideas can be evaluated in isolation from the groups that create them (Collins 385).” In reality, this forms her basis for why Black Feminism is necessary, and who it serves. Thinking about feminism historically, the concerns of black women were pushed aside in favor of fighting sexism, most notably during the Suffrage movement. And even when feminism began looking at other social injustices, such as racism and class issues, only prominent feminists were invited to the discussion. What resulted was, and often continues to be, a problem of white women speaking for oppressed people. It’s impossible, Collins argues, to have Black Feminist thought without examining the experiences and positions of African American women. Therefore, Black Feminism must be a movement that “encompasses theoretical interpretations of Black women’s reality by those who live in it (Collins 386).” However, such a definition brings about many questions: who’s experiences are valued, how do black women take their voice back, and how can they center feminist thinking on their own unique standpoint?
Combahee River Collective in their article “Combahee River Collective Statement” examines the relationship between racism, heterosexism, economics, and racism. The group of black feminists, Combahee River Collective, strived to firmly and clearly establish their position when it came to politics of feminism, and therefore separated from the male counterparts and white women (Thomas). In the statement, the activists dwell on four major topics, including the dawn of modern Black feminism, the domain of politics, short history and the issues and practices of the group. This paper gives a summary of “Combahee River Collective Statement” and reviews some of its key points.
Similar to the author Kimberle Crenshaw, the author of “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory, and Antiracist Politics,” I would like to start my critical review essay by mentioning the Black feminist studies book entitled “All the Women Are White, All the Blacks Are Men, But Some of Us Are Brave.” Having this idea of problematic predisposition to treat race and gender as mutually exclusive entities in mind, I would like to review Angela Davis’s book entitled “Women, Race, and Class”, and compare my findings to Kimberle Crenshaw’s groundbreaking article that we have read in class, where she famously terms the idea of “intersectionality.” I will start with the examination of similarities between Davis’s and Crenshaw’s arguments regarding the erasure of the Black women’s experiences in social sciences and feminist writings, and will also point out the additional consideration of class that Davis brings to the idea of intersectionality of race and gender initially suggested by Crenshaw, and further discuss the triple discrimination that Black women face on the fronts of race, gender, and class. My main aim in the review of the two author’s texts is to reveal the prevalent problematic notion in Black societies of viewing race implicitly gendered as male, and recognizing gender mainly from the white women’s standpoint.
Doetsch-Kidder’s (2016) monograph defines the important role of intersectionality as a defining sea-change in the way that women of color began to unify across racial and cultural barriers. Interviews with minority activists define the perception of the diversification of feminist ideology through the lens of intersectionality. One interview with a African-American activist named Donna illustrates the unity between women of color that evolved in the 1970s: “But overall, we are all fighting for civil rights, so there has to be some type of overlap with each one” (Doetsch-Kidder, 2016, p.103). This development defines the “overlapping’ ideology of different feminist groups, which soon began to devolve the racial and cultural barriers not only between women of color, but also with white feminist groups. In Doetsch-Kidder’s (2016) point of view, the civil rights movement laid the foundation for intersectional feminist principles to be practiced for women seeking greater representation in the workplace.
Alice Walker’s historical novel Meridian proposes a complex story of intersectionality describing the unequal social power dynamics between Black women, White women, and Black men throughout the Civil Rights Movement caused by the overlapping combination of race, gender rather than standalone factors (Collins 2). The novel deals explicitly with the Women’s Liberation movement: a journey through which women of all races break free from internal domestic struggles, exemplified by Lynne and Meridian’s characters. At the same time, these women struggle to define themselves and the causes of their actions. I argue that by presenting and constructing three main characters-Lynne, Meridian and Truman who are struggling to define themselves against expected social roles, Alice Walker is demonstrating that women who participate in political movements for rights of oppressed groups experience greater struggles, sacrifices and social criticisms than men who have done so. Their struggles create a rebellious social dynamic in which women break free from their expected role. In this paper, I will prove her aims by analysis of characterization, the characters’ actions and their connotations in reference to their relationships with men.
The Combahee River Collective “was a black feminist lesbian organization active in Boston from 1874 to 1980.” Their key proclamation was to highlight the fact that the feminist movement was mainly about the priorities of white women, and in no way helped the needs of Black women and other women of color. “Black feminist presence has evolved most obviously in connection with the second wave of the American women’s movement beginning in the late 1960s.” Though this was a good thing, Black women still were receiving no spotlight and still struggled with racism and sexism. However, in 1973, Black feminists who were located in New York started their own group called the National Black Feminist Organization.
The exclusionary aspects of feminist activism in the 19th and 20th centuries are fundamental topic of the Sojourner Truth and The Combahee River Collective. In these two readings some of the concerns arisen are very similar, and they are both from the prospective of black women. In both readings they talk about how they would like to see equality between men and women because there is no reason why women and men can’t be equal.
"Our politics initially sprang from the shared belief that Black women are inherently valuable, that our liberation is a necessity not as an adjunct to somebody else 's may because of our need as human persons for autonomy". The opening of the second part of The Combahee River Collective Statement, What We Believe, expresses one of the major will of the Third World Feminist studies: making Women a topic of research in its own rights. It 's in 1977 that the Combahee River Collective, a US radical feminist lesbian group, wrote this very famous manifesto that became essential for the Black Feminism Mouvement. They made as central the total recognition of the different forms of oppressions, sexual, racial, social, that black women endure and the necessity to fight against them. Therefore, the integration of notions of gender, sexuality, race, class in any feminist analysis that deals with power and domination become unavoidable. They express clearly the logical result of their struggle, the destruction of the political, social and economical system as they are the representative basis of an unfair and racist society. To bring a fresh way of looking at the position of some women in the American society turn to be a way to consider differently the organisation and the functioning of the actors of a society on a national and also international level.
She describes how white women “ignore their built-in privilege of whiteness” when they ignore the black female’s point of view and focus solely on the white female’s view (117). She points out the hypocrisy of white feminists, in that they will refuse to read black females’ works because they are “too difficult to understand,” but will read the works of Shakespeare, Molière, Dostoyefsky, and Aristophanes (117) There’s an obvious contradiction between white feminists’ “incorporation” of black females into their movement and the exclusion of their literature, which Lorde later analyzes and determines is because white women would feel guilt upon recognizing and validating their experiences. Furthermore, the exclusion of black writings from the feminist movement weakens the strength of the movement, offering the opposite effect as desired. Lorde writes how “ignoring the differences of race between women and the implications of those differences presents the most serious threat to the mobilization of women’s joint power.” (117) Since the feminist movement seeks to apply social pressure to achieve social change, it would make sense to try to gain strength in numbers by including the most people possible; Lorde sees this strength in numbers and calls into question the consistency of the white side of the feminist movement with its
The ‘Critical Resistance’ is a good concept to be applied in society, however there has to be a need to restructure the law and how racialized bodies have been stereotyped throughout history. This in itself would be a lot of work to change people’s consciousness. But in the meantime, people, in order to protect themselves, must create their own activist group or figure out how to advocate for themselves in the justice system. Sudbury provides a good examples how women work together like the “Sistah to Sistah and Companeras programs which connect Black women activists and Latinas, respectively, with - Black women and Latina immigrant prisoners, is one way in which CCWP has made efforts to build bridges between women of color organizing inside and outside of the prison walls” (p.349). This is one of many ways how people of color fight for their rights by building a strong activism group that help their experiences to be heard by
After delivering the food, and being understandably annoyed with the task, she was belittled by a male protestor who would have her as a sexual reward for sitting-in. Black feminists, such as those in the Combahee River Collective, experienced very similar discrimination in Civil Rights campaigns, especially groups like the Black Panthers. Just like Jay, many African-American women were used as sexual remuneration to men who did good work within their organizations. This patriarchy, antithetic to the goals of feminism, was the undoubted enemy of both these lesbian organizations - usurping it became one clear goal. The Combahee River Collective, though, did not feel separate from African-American men concerning race, yet, felt doubly oppressed by white patriarchy. Understanding that they connected with black men racially, yet struggled with them sexually, almost supplements the idea that white men – who controlled government and economy – were the ultimate oppressor. They did not feel they were separate, but rather, just opposed to black men along patriarchal lines. Inversely, the Collective connected with white lesbians against patriarchy, but were subjected to hierarchy within feminism as well as lesbianism.
According to Nicole C. Raeburn, “…safe spaces may seem like they are just now on-trend when actually they trace back to the feminist consciousness-raising group from the 1960s and 1970s, others to the gay and lesbian movement of the early 1990s. In most cases, safe spaces are innocuous gatherings of like-minded people who agree to refrain from ridicule, criticism or what they term “microaggressions” – subtle displays of racial or sexual bias – so that everyone can relax enough to explore the nuances of, say, a fluid gender identity. As long as all parties consent to such restrictions, these little islands of self-restraint seem like a perfectly fine idea.”
In her piece “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics”, African American civil rights lawyer Kimberlé Crenshaw defines society’s current understanding of the term “intersectionality”. Crenshaw legitimizes the intersectional experience as one that is “greater than the sum of racism and sexism” (Crenshaw 140)– meaning that if intersectionality is not included in feminist ideology, “the particular manner in which [women of color] are subordinated” is ignored and therefore disbars them from the
Patricia Hill Collins addresses the issue of how focussing on the naming of particular struggle can become a “political distraction” from gendered racist and sexist oppression that Black Women face (Alexander-Floyd & Simien 2006) Collins contends that womanism “exaggerates out group differences and minimises in group variation by assembling a stable and homogenous racial group identity” (Alexander-Floyd & Simien 2006) potentially, this comes with the ubiquitous essentialisation of Black Women struggles, which denies varied experience of Black Women who align with various social-culture heritages.
Even with the full forced feminist movement in the 1970s, black women (and essentially all other non-white women) were pushed aside, while the white middle class women became the face of feminism. As women such as Gloria Steinem’s blonde hair, blue eyes, and light skin were admired and more and more accepted as the face of feminism; black women were still not fully recognized. Therefore, black women and other non-whites began partnering together to work towards a common cause; their own rights that were being ignored by the “mainstream feminists.” Such is evidenced in the The Combahee River Collective Statement, which was created in 1977. This statement chronicled many issues that black feminists faced at the time, and is still highly applicable today. The collective stated, “We do not have racial, sexual, heterosexual, or class privilege to rely upon, nor do we have even the minimal access to resources and power that groups who possess anyone of these types of privilege have.”