Feminism & Black Women – An Oxymoron?

Lately, I’ve been noticing the disconnect between black women and feminism – a disconnect that has reinforced the notion that feminism is a “white woman’s movement”. Being that I’ve always prided myself as being a black female feminist, the silence from the feminist talking heads following the

Michelle Obama ‘Baby Mama’ debacle was jarring – to say the least. Though I’d personally endorsed her husband, Barack Obama, as the presidential candidate, I equally felt that his rival candidate, Hillary Clinton, was the victim of rampant sexism that borderlined on misogyny. Thus, I had assumed that the same amount of outrage would greet Fox News’ Freudian slip – only to be sadly mistaken. Sort of like Geraldine Ferraro’s ‘observation‘ being called out as racist, but I digress…

Furthermore, a recent autobiographical article by author Rebecca Walker all but raked her mother, acclaimed black feminist author, Alice Walker, over the coals for being a ‘rabid feminist’ and ‘borderline neglectful’ mother. Having considered the majority of the elder Walker’s work as a paean to both feminism and black womanhood, I was dismayed to see one of my sheroes dismantled as yet another ‘angry Feminazi’. While my initial thought was to dismiss Rebecca’s story as an outlet for her mommy issues, a larger issue loomed: is feminism truly exclusive to white women? Moreover, do we, as modern black women, have a meaningful feminist movement to honestly call our own? Or are we continually marginalized within the existing movement, as black people as a whole in politics?

While I can’t say that I am any closer to finding the answers to these questions, I will say that this is something that definitely needs to be examined – if not for our future as black women in America. I’d love to hear you opinion of this as well, sistas.



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  1. Hello,

    Black women have many excellent reasons for not wanting to identify with feminism, although we have been fighting for women’s rights hundreds of years longer than the feminist movement.

    Part of the problem is that organized, politicized feminism refuses to give a seat to women of color, refuses to give up it’s white privilege, refuses to respect the religious faiths of women of color.

    The needs of poor women and women of color are isolated to our vaginas and forget all of the other, greater angst (media demonization and invisibility, statutory rape, domestic violence, weaponized poverty) that they must face by virtue of being a woman of color.

    The universal term “women” in their minds means “white women” — as seen in this political season’s juxtaposition of “Women vs African Americans”… the astounding and willful blindness to the fact that most African American voters are female is something they have absolutely no shame in indulging in.

    Many Ferraro-esque feminists (not all, of course) hate gender privilege but glory in race privilege, refuse to acknowlege it (much less condemn it) and will never let that power go, even in defense of their ‘black sisters’.

    I have blogged about the sexism against Hillary Clinton and so have others, but how many of our white sisters were angered by O’Reilly’s ‘lynching reference’ to Michelle Obama, etc? You got it: none.

    My blog sister at WhatTamiSays
    explores this dynamic in depth, I think she sums it up beautifully.

    Blessings, sister.

  2. Hi, shecodes:

    First and foremost, thank you very much for the feedback.

    “Part of the problem is that organized, politicized feminism refuses to give a seat to women of color, refuses to give up it’s white privilege, refuses to respect the religious faiths of women of color.”

    And that’s disheartening to me because there’s a lot that we can learn and benefit from one another. The theory of feminism is something that a lot of us need to be more apt to embracing, but at the same time, the feminist movement needs to do a far better job in including ALL women – not just middle to upper class white women.

    “My blog sister at WhatTamiSays
    explores this dynamic in depth, I think she sums it up beautifully.”

    I actually tried to click on that link, but it was defective. Is there another way to find this blog? I’d really love to read it.

  3. Feminism in its true form is meant for all women. Women of color, white women, poor women, rich women, straight women, queer women. It must acknowledge all that we go through together, and acknowledge experiences and struggles that are unique to certain women.

    But you are right in pointing out that feminism has been used as a term for “white women”, and that white women have a history of abandoning their sisters of color. It’s true, and I think feminism has been corrupted, but that is not what its intended to be. I think the media has been greatly to blame for constantly positioning things as: “women v. african-american!” I think it serves the institutional white male patriarchy well to help divide us, and I think they have done so all throughout history, for together we are stronger.

    When shecodes says that “none” of your white sisters were angered by O’Reilly’s “lynching reference,” it isn’t true. But I don’t fault her for thinking that, since prominent white feminists such as Ferraro and Robin Morgan were silent. But I wasn’t, and most of the feminism blogging community was not either. Michelle Obama is going to continue to be under attack by conservatives, and we’d better all get on board for this or our cause is dead.

    There are many women, white and of color, doing great work in the field of feminism, in blogs, books, and academia. Their work isn’t highlighted enough. But I have optimism in our future, especially if women of color keep the missteps and silences of white women in check.

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