Monday, November 16, 2009

With Gratitude to African American Radical Feminists


Several of the images in this post are from here, a blogpost titled "Sisters in the Struggle: Why Are Black Feminists Ignored?". The image of Audre Lorde is from here. The image of Harriet Tubman is from here. The image of Sojourner Truth is from here. The image of Duchess Harris is from here. The women whose photos appear here are African U.S. American unless otherwise indicated. Clockwise from top left: Alice Walker, Audre Lorde (Afro-Caribbean), Sojourner Truth, Duchess Harris, bell hooks, Patricia Hill Collins, Dionne Brand (African Canadian), Barbara Smith, and Harriet Tubman.


I have been realising over the years, with deeper clarity, what the realities are that various women face, and how from a U.S. white point of view it can appear that "All women suffer at the hands of men" and that "the problem is patriarchy", that patriachy--the patriarchies that exist across the globe--are THE oppressive forces worthy of sustained radical activism, fighting and resistance. Surely it IS oppression worth fighting against. And it must be. Until patriarchy everywhere is only an unfathomable footnote in herstory books.

But connection with U.S. women of color, and in my case especially and particularly with radical feminist African American women, the picture is different and the abuses multiply and point to a more complex set of systemic problems.

There is a multilayered or woven set of analyses and perspectives that have been shared with me by Black women who have grown up entirely in the U.S. Most of these women--without class privileges, mind you--have traveled outside of the U.S. Their discussions and writings about their experiences while traveling has enriched and informed my own profeminism, as I get to hear their varied experiences of other women of color outside the U.S. (mostly in Central and South America), not white perspectives on women of color outside the U.S. Ironically or not, it seems to me that non-whites visit places where women of color live without the assumption that "we are all sisters" because African American radical feminists know too well that there are divisions among women that are not being addressed by those with the most privileges. And the African American women I know also carry consciousness that they are U.S. women, Western women, and that that alone carries a huge form of privilege and entitlement, to name reality as if speaking for all women, rather than sharing their truths and understandings while owning their political locations. This has been critically important to me understanding the oppression of women.

There is also white radical lesbian feminist who I know who has great sensitivities to what it means to be a white woman traveling to other parts of the world that are not white-majority or white-dominated. So I'll thank her as well.

And of course the work of radical feminist women of color who are Black and not U.S.ers, and who are of color and not Black, inform and direct my work. I mention with special appreciation the perspectives and analysis, the resistance and rebellion of Indigenous women globally, who are of all colors.

And none of this is to say that the work of U.S. white radical feminists, lesbian and non-lesbian, has been anything but invaluable and transformative. I don't think there's any radical feminist text, or any radical feminist person, from whom I have not learned a tremendous amount, about what being a woman means in a white heteromale supremacist society. About feminist values and feminist practices that are not patriarchal.

But in this post I want to explicitly thank all the African American women, the writers, the filmmakers, artists, the activists, the bloggers, the rabbis and other religious leaders and thealogians from various other faith traditions, the friends and colleagues, co-workers and womentors. I want to thank you all, because without your knowledge and analysis, my understanding of what it means to be a radical profeminist would be much less informed by women who are part of a global majority, and by women who understand oppression by whiteness as well as oppression due to heterosexual--and gay--male supremacy. This is one of several reasons why this blog will remain WOC-centered. And probably specifically centered around the analyses and activism of U.S. women of color, augmented with the work of white women from the white-majority and white-dominated regions of the world.

I have just added links on my blogroll to more Black feminists, to update you all. And I want to link to an article here, from On The Issues, about Dr. Duchess Harris.