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Feminism

Dear Amy,

First, I want to begin by thanking you for the work that you are doing. Your writing is eloquent and poignant. I have two questions:

1) Do you know how to contact WITCH? I have searched the web, yet come up empty handed. Is the organization disbanded perhaps?

2) I really need some help here. I have found myself in what appears to be the only (oh god I hope) massively conservative Black Studies class in California. The only brilliant student in the class, except for myself of course, has raised a debate with me. He is dutifully "radical" in his beliefs about the history of race relations and the current oppression in America. Every time he raises his insights to the attention of the class, the professor dismisses him. The professor does the same to me when I raise any pro-woman issue. I thought the instructor had some intellectual elitism issues going on until the day he belittled my rant about FGM within Islamic communities. I was informed that I was just being a cultural imperialist and that FGM was not a human rights issue, but instead a welcomed tradition.

Now that I have set the context of my dilemma, I propose the problem: The other student that I mentioned believes that black women should not identify as feminists. He feels that the Afrikan American community needs as much unity as possible to overcome today's massive obstacles. He also feels that feminism pits black women against black men. He used Garvey's analogy about united fingers that can make a fist. I feel strongly that black women must not be inactive in the feminist movement because, by definition, feminism opposes oppression of all types. Perhaps, his view of feminists has been tainted by today's media induced fervor to describe the feminist movement in ball-busting terms that should be threatening to everyone.

Regardless, I would like your input in assisting me to show him that feminism does not set back the racial equality movements. This has been an ongoing discussion for several weeks now and apparently I am not getting through. Since, I can't go the professor and expect any information on the historical issues of black women. I would like your views as well as info on any black women-centered feminist organizations. Keep up the great work! Thank you so much.


Sincerely,
Jenna

 

Dear Jenna,

1) WITCH--to my knowledge is no longer in existence--however, members of this radical feminist group are still around doing feminist work. I recently read an article about such groups by Prof. Kathleen Barry who is at Pennsylvania State University, State College, PA - perhaps you can contact her and see where these archives are and/or who would be a good contact. She herself would be good.

I'm sure you are familiar with "womanist," a term coined by Alice Walker who was looking for a way to define black women as feminists without identifying their race. Womanists would never deny their link to feminism, but choose this term because it is more inclusive of their race and gender. I don't agree that all African Americans need to bond together, just as I don't agree that all women need to bond together - the point of social justice movements is to make the invisible visible and to put the focus on individuals independent of race and gender and sexuality. Not that these things don't define us - but just because we share one of these things in common with other people doesn't mean that we are the same. Therefore, we have to have a broader lens with which to define people.

Historically, it also hasn't worked for black women to identify primarily along race lines rather than gender lines. I think that the title of an anthology sums is up: All the Women are White, All the Blacks Are Men, But Some of Us Are Brave. Black women have fled groups organized around race because their issues as women weren't being prioritized. Of course, some people have also fled feminist groups because they didn't feel that their race or sexuality was being prioritized. So it does work both ways. I'm not sure if I have given you enough information--but I hope this encourages your thinking. Let me know if I can clarify anything or if I can offer anything else. Thanks again - and good luck.

Amy


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