Author Archives: blessdwoman
New Generations of Black Feminists
The 19th-century black feminist movement had its roots in the abolitionist movement; it was, in fact, at a global abolitionists’ meeting that the Seneca Falls organizers got their idea for a convention. Still, despite their efforts, the central question of 19th century feminism was whether it was acceptable to promote black civil rights over women’s rights.
The 1980s were a depressing period for the American feminist movement. The Equal Rights Amendment was dead. The conservative and hyper masculine rhetoric of the Reagan years dominated national discourse. The Supreme Court began to drift incrementally to the right on important women’s rights issues. And an aging generation of predominantly white, upper-class activists largely failed to address issues impacting women of color, low-income women, and women living outside of the United States.
In 1993, feminist author Rebecca Walker–herself young, Southern, African-American, Jewish, and bisexual–coined the term “third-wave feminism” to describe a new generation of young feminists working to create a more inclusive and comprehensive movement.
It is 2012. What are the issues of the day at the forefront of black feminism? From many of our readings we see that oppression, sexism and racism are still very much prevalent. Writers speak of a ‘new racism’ that plagues us. Mass media has not represented blacks in a good light. Upon reflecting what I learned this semester about the wonderful contributions of the “original change agents”, I pondered, What would the 19th century black women think of us? Would love to know what you think.
By: Kathleen J. King
As I peered through the window display of a book store, I noticed several books grouped together—all of the titles included the word “bitch.” It got me thinking about Women’s History Month. Should we rename it: Bitches’ History Month?
I had been hoping to find some more intelligent life in that window: perhaps books on the women’s history and civil rights movements, Seneca Falls, Bella Abzug, or Gloria Steinem?
Instead, I found:
• Why Men Love Bitches: From Doormat to Dreamgirl—A Woman’s Guide to Holding Her Own in a Relationship
• Skinny Bitch
• I Bitch, Therefore I am
The notion that women and the editors who publish them are using the term nonstop to get a reaction from us readers—eh, potential buyers—truly bothers me. Is this the path to celebrating women—or reinforcing negative stereotypes?
Words can make us squirm. Some go to the extreme of asking us not to use a word. A Queens, New York, councilman recently proposed a symbolic ban on the N-word. It was later approved by the New York City Council, but that’s a whole other—and equally interesting—conversation that merits its own article.
But whether or not you agree with the use of the B-word, can’t we be more creative about what we call ourselves as women? Must we call ourselves the very stereotypes we’ve been fighting against since the beginning of time: gold diggers, hookers and whores? (The list is endless, but I won’t bore you here; as women, you know them all by now.)
When I look around me at role models and other women I admire—writers, artists, businesswomen, stay-at-home moms, leaders in my community, activists, politicians, environmentalists, scientists, CEOs, global leaders, and family members—I don’t see them using the word. I don’t hear or read about them referring to themselves and other women as “bitches.” Why? It’s undignified for one. And it doesn’t advance women necessarily.
Thinking about how we use words is exciting, thought provoking, and invites discussion. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons we do it. I’d love to hear what you think.
I came across an article that spotlighted African American women in their 50s, 60s, and beyond. Most are invisible to the media, but if you can, it will bless your life to include them as black women role models and mentors who have lived, learned and say “I’m still here, and I still got lots more to say.” Women who are not afraid to reinvent themselves (I am one of them – returned to college at age 48) when the old life no longer fits.
Tuesday, April 14th, 2009
This article saluted scholar, educator, anthropologist, public thinker, feminist activist, Dr. Johnetta B. Cole.
After years of serving as president of Spelman (1987-1997) and Bennett Colleges (2002-2007) and being an ardent advocate for women’s education, in March of this year Dr. Johnnetta Cole was appointed the new director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C.
Did I mention that Johnetta Cole is in her 70s? Google her and you’ll find her exact age. But that’s the beauty of her story. In fact, that’s the whole point of this blogpost. A woman changing her mind, discovering new parts of herself, reinventing herself long past the age of lactation and lust (of the achy, breaky sort that is). Reinventing herself and finding new things to do with her life after 60, the age when a woman is all but invisible and is expected to dodder and stay put in one place.
This was so inspiring that I am excited about my future. Black women are awesome.
In the spirit of revisiting the Clark Doll Experiment where black children in the 1940s struggled with positive identity issues, seventy-two years later (2012) Black American women and children are still struggling with identity. In the Bluest Eye, Morrison shows the devastating affects of what can happen to young black children when this issue goes unchecked (Pecola had a mental breakdown).
Why have the black women of modern time suddenly lost confidence in their physical features and their own beauty standards, as God had given them? In this era of crazy pop culture, ask the black African woman who set the standard of beauty for her. You will see clues pointing to the white women standard of beauty judgment. So the question for the African American women today is: have you compromised your beautiful essences?
In an issue of ESSENCE magazine, which features Beyoncé on the cover, suggests some validity to the trend of skin lightening treatments. This also includes her new album cover, in which both show that her skin tone has been dramatically lightened. What message is this sending to men, women and young girls of what “beauty” is? Who are they investing so much money to look like?
I believe that industry pressures and inferiority complexes have made some African American women crave whiteness as the standard of human beauty. Another crazy truth is that we are all getting lost in pop westernized way of viewing and interpreting people, cultures and the world in general.
The above examples are the images that young black girls are seeking to emulate. What we need to change is what we instill in our young girls; that from the lightest to the darkest of black skin is beautiful. We still have a lot of work to do.
Are Black Women Invisible?
Published on December 8, 2010 by Melissa Burkley, Ph.D. in The Social Thinker
In a 2010 article published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Amanda Sesko and Monica Biernat examined the intriguing idea that Black women are socially invisible. In their first study, these researchers wanted to test if Black women were more likely to go unnoticed in a crowd, so they conducted a study to see how well people remembered Black women’s faces. They showed White participants a series of photos depicting men and women who were White or Black. Later, participants were shown a new series of photos-some of the photos were new and some were the same photos they had seen before. Participants simply had to indicate if they had seen the face before. What they found is that participants’ memory was worst at remembering whether they had seen a Black female face before or whether it was new. The same did not occur for Black male faces, suggesting it was something more than just the fact that the target was of another race than the participant. As the researchers pointed out, these results suggest that Black women are more likely than Black men or White men and women to go unnoticed by others in a group or social situation.
So why is it that Black women are so invisible in social situations? Some argue it is because they don’t fit the prototypical image of a stereotype target. So not only do Black women have to overcome the disadvantage of being a member of two underrepresented groups (a disadvantage sometimes referred to as the “double jeopardy hypothesis”), they also have to deal with another form of discrimination that is not shared by White women or Black men: Invisibility. This means their presence is more likely to go unnoticed and their voice more likely to go unheard. To stand out and voice their opinions, Black women have to work even harder than their fellow Black men or White women counterparts.
I found this article both intriguing and frustrating because it is the 21st century and it does not seem to matter the advancements, successes and contributions black women make to their families, their professions and the world– someone, somewhere is still not giving credit where credit is due.
View complete article http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-social-thinker/201012/are-black-women-invisible
In Words of Fire, the essay Religion and the Pure Principles of Morality, the Sure Foundation of Which we Must Build by Maria Miller Stewart (pg. 26-29) addressed the place of religion in the movement. She began by declaring that America is ‘the land of freedom’ and every man has a right to express his opinion. The color of his skin does not make him inferior because God has made him. She understood that many would suffer for the cause of equality and that she would gladly be one of the martyrs. She addressed a letter to ‘My Respected Friends’ about her prayers, about using the knowledge that God gave her and spoke of having to give an account to God. She asked several affecting questions to the daughters of Africa (black women), such as what have ye done to immortalize your names beyond the grave? What examples have ye set before the rising generation? Where are our union and love? When was the last time we heard someone speak of love in association with the movement? She spoke of every woman being united, how they raised their own funding to build a high school and how God would raise them up. She encouraged women to promote and patronize each other, to possess the spirit o independence and to be bold and enterprising. But, she also pointed to God and encouraged them ‘as a people, to hearken unto the voice of the Lord, our God, and walk in his ways and ordinance, and become distinguished for our ease, elegance, and grace, combined with other virtues, that day the Lord will raise us up, and enough aid to befriend us, and we shall begin to flourish…
I think Stewart was essentially giving credit to God for many early achievements of the movement and stated that principles of morality were foundations to build upon. Any thoughts on why that has changed.
A Black Feminist Statement – From The Combahee River Collective
I read an article that openly accuses black men of contributing to the African American Feminism struggle. I found that odd on many levels, but also can see where the concept comes from. It read as follows:
During our years together as a Black Feminist Collective we have experienced success and defeat, joy and pain, victory and failure. We have found that it is very difficult to organize around black feminist issues, difficult even to announce in certain contexts that we are black feminists. We have tried to think about the reasons for our difficulties, particularly since the white women’s movement continues to be strong and to grow in many directions. In this section we will discuss some of the general reasons for the organizing problems we face and also talk specifically about the stages in organizing our own collective.
Feminism is, nevertheless, very threatening to the majority of black people because it calls into question some of the most basic assumptions about our existence, i.e., that gender should be a determinant of power relationships. Here is the way male and female roles were defined in a Black Nationalist pamphlet from the early 1970s:
We understand that it is and has been traditional that the man is the head of the house. He is the leader of the house/nation because his knowledge of the world is broader, his awareness is greater, his understanding is fuller and his application of this information is wiser. . . . After all, it is only reasonable that the man be the head of the house because he is able to defend and protect the development of his home. . . . Women cannot do the same things as men—they are made by nature to function differently. Equality of men and women is something that cannot happen even in the abstract world. Men are not equal to other men, i.e., ability, experience, or even understanding. The value of men and women can be seen as in the value of gold and silver—they are not equal but both have great value. We must realize that men and women are a complement to each other because there is no house/family without a man and his wife. Both are essential to the development of any life.
The reaction of black men to feminism has been notoriously negative. They are, of course, even more threatened than black women by the possibility that black feminists might organize around our own needs. They realize that they might not only lose valuable and hard-working allies in their struggles but that they might also be forced to change their habitually sexist ways of interacting with and oppressing black women. Accusations that black feminism divides the black struggle are powerful deterrents to the growth of an autonomous black women’s movement.
These are pretty strong statements.
Are they relavent in 2012? To the married women and those in committed relationships, do you agree or disagree that black men’s reactions to black feminism can be notoriously negative? Would your ‘black feminism’ unite or divide your home? Would you risk your relationship to participate in the Black women’s movement?