Feminism Beyond Black and White

May 1, 2015 at 2:12 am Leave a comment

Earlier, I mentioned there seems to be a growing division between Black and white feminists. As I’ve done more reading and listening to speeches, books and blogs by Black women, I’ve come to better understand and empathize with their concerns, and see the problems with mainstream liberal feminism- that it is centered around the concerns of upper-middle class, educated cisgender non-disabled white career women- or stay-at home moms who have “opted out”- the so-called “Mommy Wars” frame this as a choice for “every woman” while ignoring that is truly only a choice for some. To make clear that this “feminism” is not truly inclusive, it has come to referred to as white feminism.To be fair, I understand that the “white feminism” is distinct from “feminism(s) as theorized/practiced by feminists who are white” (The definition of white also varies by country & culture)

I’ve toyed with “Country club feminism” instead- since country clubs traditionally exclude all the groups that white feminism excludes (or make feeble but clueless attempts to include!) However, like “white feminism” I think it ends up having a rather U.S. centric cultural connotation. Clearly, this is very much a false dichotomy, to begin with it leaves out Latina, Asian, Pacific Islander and indigenous women activists (whether they identify as feminist or not) And even within the designation of Black, it is not always clear how inclusive this may be of Afro-Caribbean and African immigrants and their descendants and people who still live in Africa or other parts of the diaspora. (Sometimes Black/African Diasporan feminism/womanism is used instead)

I feel white liberal style feminism does include lesbians pretty well- at least if they are white and class privileged. There is a mixed record with bisexual women, and an even more mixed record of trans inclusion! Poor/working class and disabled women might be included if they manage to “make it” into the business, academic or political fields- so long as they keep the focus on their struggles with sexism and less about other isms.

Another tension between Black and white feminism is the use of the term intersectionality, which was coined by Black feminist legal scholar Kimberle Crenshaw to discuss the complexities of discrimination and oppression experienced by Black women- including gender, race and class. I have embraced this concept and seen it used by many feminists of various cultural backgrounds, but then it came to my attention that intersectionality is being used more broadly than intended by Ms. Crenshaw and her colleagues. I am not sure what this means for non-Black feminists of color, but at least for white feminists, please note that I did write this post discussing various forms of oppression without using the word until this paragraph. I think we are intelligent and capable of coming up with our own words, though perhaps we can still use intersectionality when Black women are part of the conversation. White (sub)culture(s) built on stealing from others have made us lazy and uncreative, learning to create without taking from others (and not giving back) is a skill we need to develop. Even if we are intersectional, we need to show it with our actions, not by just invoking the word!

Further reading-

#SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen- Women of Colors’s issue with Digital Feminism- by Mikki Kendall

Conversation with Patricia Hill Collins (Black feminist/womanist) about use of intersectionality by white feminists

If You’re White, Don’t Call Yourself an Intersectional Feminist

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Entry filed under: Feminism/Gender, Race/Ethnicity. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

Nontheistic humanists, monotheists and Pagans can all share in UUism Creating Devotions for Secular Events- Brainstorming

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