Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Loryn Of Black Girl Blogging Speaks

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Loryn can be found at Black Girl Blogging.

1) It is my understanding that you identify as a womanist, what lead you to your click moment?

During my freshman year at George Washington University, I took a black literature course with Jennifer James. Professor James focused on women writers from the 20th Century. One class we talked about Alice Walker's definition of womanism. It really resonated with me as a Black woman--before taking that class I had no idea that there was a type of feminism that included the experience of women of color. 

2) What is your definition of womanism and do you feel that this applies to all across the board?

To me, womanism brings together the importance of men and family to the struggle for gender equality and the experience of women of color that cuts across class, race and gender lines. While I believe that womanism speaks particularly to the black female experience, it is important for men and women of all races to embrace the principles of womanism.

3) How would you say that womanism differs from feminism and why is it important to you to identify as a womanist rather than a feminist?

Womanism differs from feminism in that it takes account for the experience of women of color. Feminism has been painted as the movement of  white middle class women and has excluded women of color and poor women for a long time. It is important to me to identify as a womanist because it means a greater devotion to causes that effect women of color like myself.

4) What would you say is behind the backlash of the black community towards feminism and what steps if any can be taken to rehabilitate this image?

I think feminism is seen as a threat to black men. Many people equate feminism to the exclusion of men from society--there is a belief that being a feminist means to tell black men, "we don't NEED you. We can do this shit by ourselves," which isn't true. Like I said, feminism is for men and women. Another reason there is a backlash is because of the "feminist=lesbian" meme. The homophobia in our community makes it harder for us to embrace feminism as a norm and not as a taboo. When I was at GW I started the Black Women's Forum, a safe space and discussion series for black female students at GW. When the group first started, some people wondered if I was a lesbian! We need to get away from the idea that caring about women's issues and gender equality doesn't mean that you are a lesbian. And by the way, there's nothing wrong with being a lesbian either.

5) Online just as in the real world, white feminists continue to represent much of womens activism, what challenges have you faced in your efforts to push for a more inclusive environment?  Also what ideas do find meet the greatest resistance and why?

I think the hardest challenge I've had to face is being labelled as the "angry black woman" by white feminists. I write about women of color issues for change.org and many times I find myself being extremely careful with how I say things so that I am not pigeonholed into a label or a box that doesn't fit me at all. Oftentimes, women of color are excluded from feminism and when we are actually included, we're labelled as "angry" or "too sensitive" which only further marginalizes us.

6) How do you deal with the idea that many would like to split your identity? As a WOC we are often asked to choose between our race and our gender identity. Do you find that are forced to privilege one over the other?

I normally ignore any attempts to "make me choose" one or the other. I am comfortable with the fact that I am woman, but that I am first a Black woman. Many people may take issue with that, but it's my identity to own, not theirs.

7) What role does blogging have to play in your activism and do you believe that your daily online exchanges are a path to true growth both for you as a blogger and for the women that read your work?

Blogging is SO important to my activism because it can give activists a safe space to talk about their cause and tell their stories. It is empowering for women of color to utilize these spaces to build community and to meet other like-minded people. Also, blogging can be used to create teachable moments for those who may not be aware or agree with feminist and/or womanist ideals.

8) What would you say are some of the most important issues facing women today and what concrete steps can we make towards change?

I think some of the most important issues is the wage gap especially in this economy. I think a good way to change or ameliorate this is the teach women how to negotiate pay and how to ask for raises--so many women do not know this skill and if we did, perhaps we could make a greater steps toward closing the wage gap. Another issue that effects women is HIV/AIDS. Besides healthcare and access to condoms and testing, we need to keep talking about the disease but more importantly, we need to talk openly and honestly to our youth about sex. We need to do more than tell our youth to "not have it"...that is one of the things that has benefited to the problem of unprotected sex. Instead, we need to discuss STD's and how to protect themselves among a discussion about what sex actually is and why people have sex.

9) How important is ally work in your blogging and what steps can be taken to encourage wider participation?

Ally work is important in that a lot of the things I write about are intersectional. The struggle that gays face for marriage rights in the US is not too different from supreme vs. Loving years ago, the court case that made miscegenation legal. By the same token, the wage gap is also tied to the achievement gap in education, which cuts across both race and class.

10) In the years to come what concrete changes would you like to see in womens activism and how best can we achieve these goals?

I would like to see the inclusion of girls and teenagers in women's activism. Many times we tend to treat this work as something for "grown folk" and we forget that we have to help the younger generation continue the work when we are long gone. We need to talk to our girls and engage them in projects that they can be passionate about too. And we need to be there as mentors to support their growth and maturity.


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