Saturday, April 10, 2010

I'm not a feminist (and there is no but)

I have a new post up at the Guardian. 

Chloe Angyal is correct when she asserts that most young American women believe in equal rights. However, for some women, eschewing the label of feminist is not about avoiding being called "ugly" or an "angry extremist". For some women, avoiding the label of feminist comes from a place of self-love and balance.

Feminism is the form of women's organisation that is prioritised both in the media and academia, but many black women have turned to womanism in an attempt to counter the ways in which the combined oppressions of race and gender affect our lives. Womanism is not just feminism for women from minorities; it is based in our spirituality, honouring our foremothers and a desire to support both men and women. While womanism at its heart is pro-woman, it is also about understanding the communal value of all people of colour.

I'm not a feminist (and there is no but), because my life experiences lead me to believe that feminism was not created for women like me. The name of the first feminist hero mentioned by my professor in my first women's study lecture was Simone de Beauvoir, and the trend of focusing on white women would continue throughout my education. Inclusivity to the women's studies department that I was a part of meant using the work of bell hooks occasionally. However, she quickly became an additive, thrown in to give the appearance of intersectionality. I would have to scour the library and online journals to learn names like Patricia-Hill Collins, Audre Lorde and the woman who would become my inspiration, Alice Walker. And so I followed indexes and bibliographies, desperate to read journeys that mirrored my own.

I sat in seminars where I became the "token black woman" when they deemed it necessary to actually consider something outside of the white woman as monolithic representative. Despite feminism supposedly being a movement to end women's oppression, women's studies seminars and lectures are where I learned to recite "Ain't I a Woman" out loud to protest the assumptions about my race and my culture. It is where I learned that the sisterhood and camaraderie lasts only as long as you don't insist on interrogating oppression from multiple sites.

Finish reading here