Black Feminism as a Feminism for All





by Emily Lang
August 27th, 2021



While the broad outreach of feminism defines its mission as the advocacy for all women, not all women are included in feminism. When I refer to “feminism,” I am specifically alluding to the Western, white, heteronormative feminism that fights solely for gender equality alone.





Throughout the history of women’s rights, it has dominated the sphere of how feminism is defined in its totality and how it has thus inadvertently been characterized as the single, homogenous feminism. When we recognize this feminism as the only feminism, the women who seek more than just gender equality for themselves are left silenced and ignored on the margins.


No one is excluded from “traditional” feminism more than Black women.


From birth, Black women are forced to exert their entire beings against the double jeopardy of race and sex. These two simultaneous fronts strip them of any and all privilege.


While the Black man is still prejudiced for his race, and the white woman prejudiced for her gender, the Black woman is prejudiced for both her race and her gender. Black women are expected to choose one oppression to prioritize and the other to neglect; they can not fight for both. Black women can not be individually identified by their race or gender because these two elements of the Black woman are what define her. One attribute can not exist without the other within her person.


As The Combahee River Collective reinforce in their Black Feminist Statement: “We do not advocate the fractionalization that white woman who are separatists demand. Our situation as Black people necessitates that we have solidarity around the fact of race, which of course white women do not need to have with white men, unless it is their negative solidarity as racial oppressors. We struggle together Black men against racism, while we struggle with Black men about sexism.”


At the same time, however, because Black women belong to both the Women’s Rights Movement and the Civil Rights Movement, she does not fully belong to either one. Neither fulfils the lived experience or intersectional nature of being a Black woman.


Black feminism, therefore, is based “Out of the condition of being both Black and a woman” in order to equally include the facets of race and sex without prioritizing one over the other (The National Museum of African American History and Culture).


Although there are multiple different interpretations of Black feminism, there are three principles which form its foundation: “Black women’s experience of racism, sexism, and classism are inseparable; their needs and worldviews are distinct from those of Black men and white women; and there is no contradiction between the struggle against racism, sexism, and all other-isms. All must be addressed simultaneously” (NMAAHC)


However, the existence of Black feminism is not exclusively for the Black woman alone.; Black feminism is a feminism for all.


Black feminism allows for marginalized and privileged communities alike to advocate for themselves and their chosen liberties because “If Black women were free, it would mean that everyone else would have to be free since our freedom would necessitate the destruction of all the systems of oppression” (The Combahee River Collective).


Black feminism serves the tangential crossroad of oppressions that no other identity possesses. Once they enter the world, not only do Black women have to reckon with the adversity that comes from their gender and race, but they may face other forms of adversity against their individuality, including their sexuality, disability, and class. This makes Black feminism all the more notable because it serves to represent the under-represented and bring their struggles to light, beyond the superficiality of Western feminism.



Sources:

The Revolutionary Practices of Black Feminism,

https://nmaahc.si.edu/explore/stories/collection/revolutionary-practice-black-feminisms


The Black Feminist Statement,

https://americanstudies.yale.edu/sites/default/files/files/Keyword%20Coalition_Readings.pdf​