celebrating black feminism

I get Google alerts every morning. All the news about “black women” and “feminism” gets sent to my inbox. I noticed some time ago that more writers and bloggers hurl charges against feminism than embrace it. A number of pieces that mention feminism chart how it has been “bad for women” or “bad for men” of just plain bad (meaning bad not meaning good). One of today’s gems is titled “Does neo-feminism lead to prostitution or sexual freedom?” No, I’m not kidding.

A couple of weeks ago in observance of Feminist Coming Out Day, I noticed a similar scorn for feminism when I asked on Twitter: “What does feminism mean to you?” The overwhelming disdain for feminism made me post as my Facebook status last week: 

“Jennifer Williams wishes people hated patriarchy as much as (some hate) feminism”

Because of my caliber of friends, the status hailed lots of “likes.”  

I know all the misconceptions about feminism: that it’s a “white” thing, an anti-male thing, a lesbian thing, and on and on and on. To be sure feminism–particularly in its narrow, Anglo, classist sense–is not above reproach, but before we critique it, we have to agree on what it is, don’t we? When I teach black feminist literature and theory, I notice that most of my students don’t have a working definition of black feminism or feminism. Places I like to start for clarification:

“Only the black woman can say ‘when and where I enter, in the quiet, undisputed dignity of my womanhood, without violence and without suing or special patronage, then and there the whole Negro race enters with me.‘” Anna Julia Cooper

“I am a feminist, and what that means to me is much the same as the meaning of the fact that I am Black: it means that I must undertake to love myself and to respect myself as though my very life depends upon self-love and self-respect.” June Jordan
“The most general statement of our politics at the present time would be that we are actively committed to struggling against racial, sexual, heterosexual, and class oppression, and see as our particular task the development of integrated analysis and practice based upon the fact that the major systems of oppression are interlocking. The synthesis of these oppressions creates the conditions of our lives. As Black women we see Black feminism as the logical political movement to combat the manifold and simultaneous oppressions that all women of color face.” Combahee River Collective

“Womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender.” Alice Walker
“Feminism is the struggle to end sexist oppression. Its aim is not to benefit solely any specific group of women. It does not privilege women over men. It has the power to transform in a meaningful way all our lives … Feminism as a movement to end sexist oppression directs our attention to systems of domination and the inter-relatedness of sex, race, and class oppression.” bell hooks
This past week, I was delighted to witness female and male black feminists embracing and celebrating black feminism. The brilliant and always timely Beverly Guy-Sheftall reminds us that black feminism has an “emancipatory vision” that can help us understand the complicated and interlocking nature of oppression in the U.S. and other parts of the globe. Filmmaker Byron Hurt recounts his process of becoming a “black male feminist.” G.D. of Postbourgie joins the fray and celebrates the women in his life who have encouraged him to identify with feminism. I join these writers and scholars in celebrating and touting the continued necessity for a black feminist politics today.
Photo Credit: David Fenton/Getty Images

Ain’t I A Woman

Marian Wright Edelman | Huffington Post

I often wear a pendant that includes her image and her words: “If women want any rights more than they’s got, why don’t they just take them, and not be talking about it.” Her name was Sojourner Truth. A staunch defender of the rights of women and an abolitionist, Sojourner inspires my determination to continue to fight for equality for women, citizens of color and children left behind. A brilliant but illiterate woman, she was a great orator and powerful presence who possessed great courage and determination. She was born into and lived the better part of three decades in slavery, but dedicated her life to combating slavery and her gender from second-class citizenship. She never gave up talking or fighting for justice and equality.

Continue reading @ HuffPo