Saturday, February 21, 2009

Dear Black People WOC Feminists/Womanists Do Exist

It is hard enough as a WOC to advocate feminism or womanism without having our existence totally ignored from our own community.  In their anger at Gloria Steinem, Geraldine Ferrario,  and NOW, it seems that the erasure of black women from feminism/womanism is deemed completely unproblematic.   The following is from Jack and Jill’s Saturday open thread.

Not to beat a dead horse, but.....
In light of the allegations that Chris Brown beat his girlfriend, Rihanna, as well as the release of the photo of her injuries as a result of this abuse, I just have one question:
Where is Gloria Steinem, Geraldine Ferrario, NOW and other feminists?

Still, my point was directed towards all of these "feminists" who flooded the MSM to defend HRC against sexism and misogyny, yet why are they M.I.A. in this case? Correct me if I'm wrong, but I haven't seen any "feminists" defending Rihanna on the cable news shows/networks like they were a year ago.
ETA: Angelar, the article you referenced was written on Feb. 20th. The assault occurred Feb. 8th. Is this the first time NOW has mentioned it?

Because "feminism" IS "whites only." Most of the prominent "feminists" who run their ass to a TV screen anytime one of their own (upper class white women) is hurting.
They aren't running to the TV tubes when Crystal, Amber and Becky from the trailer homes are under attack.
They weren't running to the TV tubes to defend Paula Jones when she accused Bill Clinton of sexually harassing her. No, they all but called her a piece of trailer trash!
They aren't running to the TV tubes when any black female politicians are running for president.
They aren't caring about the Hispanic nannies and maids being underpaid by the likes of them.
I'm not saying that all or most feminists don't care about women's issues if it involves non-upper class white women. Just saying the "feminists" who cried loud and hard all of last year about women (Hillary) being under attack couldn't give a hot runny shit about Rihanna or any other non-white upper class woman being beaten.

It is hard enough to enter white dominated spaces  without continually having to deal with the fact that we are invisible to POC as well.  WOC have a long history of activism.  That you may not have understood it as feminism because it may have been based in our motherhood, or employment, the environment, or even anti-racist work, does not mean that it was not inherently feminist. 

Steinem and Ferraro are prominent second wave feminists however, they certainly do not encompass all of feminism, nor do they speak to lived experience of many.  By failing to recognize the work of black women in feminists spheres, you are committing exactly the same crime of erasure as the women at whom you throw vitriol at. 

Where is your remembrance of bell hooks, Audre Lorde, Sojourner Truth, Patricia Hill Collins, Dr. Angela Davis, Dr. Maxine Baca Zinn, Vandana Shiva etc and etc… These women work and worked for the advancement of WOC and yet somehow you only seem to focus on the work of white women. 

I am tired.  Like many black women before me, my back has been bowed in the service of my people, only to find that once again our activism is overlooked.  Feminism does not belong to white women even though some are determined to make the issue about them.  By accepting their definition of feminism you prove exactly why WOC have contended that our gender oppression is often ignored.

It never once occurred to these commenters that WOC have largely been excluded from mainstream feminists organizing and therefore must use different avenues to spread our message.  Most recently blogging has provided a platform wherein WOC have been able to organize for change, as well give voice to our concerns.  It was a black woman that started the Michelle Obama and it is WOC who continue to speak out about the various ways in which race and gender intersect. 

Instead of spending so much time railing against white women for their obvious racism, some time needs to be devoted to celebrating the large body of work produced by WOC.  It is in our words that you will find validation of your life because in the intersection of race and gender POC are all validated.  Racism will continue to be an issue in our lives and that is all the more reason that we should acknowledge those that daily do battle with the forces that attempt to create us as “other”. 

Whiteness has always had leadership positions in every single social justice movement and yet it is feminism that is often singled out as uniquely white.  This understanding has more to do with the ways in which we trivialize gender than in the difference of leadership.  It is not because we understand this as a movement of whiteness but because we understand this as a movement of women.  Feminism is diverse and has been from the very beginning.  It suffers from the same faults as every other social justice movement; it is imperfect because it is made from imperfect beings.  It is simply unfair to hold feminism up to a different standard than we do for any other social justice movement.

Feminism is for everyone and not just the rich white women that have loudly claimed ownership.  It belongs to the poor, hungry, destitute, rich, disabled, gay, straight, etc., people of the world.  That we are not heard is not solely the fault of feminism, it is also the fault of the  hierarchy of bodies that we have allowed to flourish.   People are stigmatized for a myriad of reasons and this in turn affects who is deemed worthy to speak and who access has to power.  WOC have continually spoken truth to power despite the various isms that we have to negotiate.  Ignoring our contributions  in the name of critiquing white women on their racist behaviour relegates black women to obscurity.  If you care at all about fighting racism, WOC cannot be ignored.

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