Blac(k)ademic has a very articulate post up about a comment that she received when guest-blogging at Alas, A Blog and in my eyes really brings out how mainstream feminism is in fact still dominated by whiteness, despite so much work done by feminists of color, third world/black feminists and anti-racist white feminists. Mainstream understandings of feminisms (in many cases, far be it for me to essentialize here) still show to be obsessed with the reduction of issues, in this case the belief that gender could possibly *trump* race.
…it is ridiculous to lay claim to the idea that all women are oppressed on equal terms, simply because they are women. obviously, oppression is more complicated than that and i personally think that gender does not trump anything. instead, there are interlocking systems of oppression that women face based on gender, race, class, sexuality, religious background, nationality, citizenship status and so forth. it is very naive and very, very 2nd wave-ish to say, “well, gender trumps race.” i can’t even understand how one can come to such a conclusion.
in the case of the current duke scandal, some folks feel that we must pay attention to the issue of gender before race since, she is a WOMAN and was allegedly attacked by MEN. however, i don’t see how we can only pay attention to her as a woman, or as just a black woman, or even as a economically disenfrachised black woman, for that matter–all of her identities must be taken into account. her race is already determining who believes her and who doesn’t, how bad of a parent she is (the myth of the bad black mother), and it’s determining how she is misrepresented in the media. additionally, we must not forget that we exist in a media saturated world that continuously reproduces negative images that deem black womens bodies as disposable sex objects. it is all too impossible to deny that those images do not play a strong part in concluding how she was/is/will be treated by men of all races. furthermore, if one believes that gender trumps race in this specific situtation, then they deny the harm of the racial slurs that were hurled at the dancers, which i personally see as a form of violence towards these women–no matter what.
I couldn’t agree more. And to add to it sexism and racism (among other issues, but this is not my dissertation) are not only intersected but they continually reinforce each other. Things like the feminization of poverty (that women of color are the poorest sector of our society) or the emasculation of men of color (black men being systematically raped in the criminal justice system asserting white male paranoia, anxiety and dominance over *them*) describe moments when issues of class, race, gender, sexuality are interrelating to create new types of realities, differing moments of oppression, that would simply go ignored if we are to look at singular categories of *oppression*. This type of thinking is useless for me. No one ever sees me and thinks “a woman!” they immediately see my race (fuck half the time they hear my race) and that could never *trump* my experience as a woman.
Furthermore, feminists of color are often (and continually, usually subversively) asked to put their race (among other) *issues* to the side to call for some kind of fictional universal sisterhood fighting towards a type of equality we may not even agree with (and an equality the men of “our” diaspora never had). This is in no way a new critique but one that has been discussed and hashed out several times over by many different feminists. But reading the comments to her post (and thinking about all the times I cringe to read the comments when I write about women of color) I realize little has changed…
Ultimately I have to wonder, what is the mainstream face of feminism? All the work we (women of color) have done, has it trickled to the mainstream? Or are people still under the belief that patriarchy functions in a vacuum and is the sole root of oppression? (clearly this discussion is for people that recognize that patriarchy is oppressive…)
Jessica and I were talking the other night about all the posts we have done on women of color and third world women and how ultimately the posts that get the most discussion, the most comments, the most attention are the ones about dating, or differences between men and women, or body image. Of course these discussion are important (and often humorous), but can they *really* be had without rigorous analysis and incorporation of class, race, sexuality etc. And is it still that difficult to engage in discussion about/with/around women of color or are we still strategically and instinctually left out of the dialogue of mainstream feminism?
This is just the tip of the iceburg but since we are a mainstream feminist blog and I am a woman of color writing for a mainstream feminist blog, I thought it was really important to bring this discussion here.