Welcoming a new digital space: what “hood feminism” means to me

Atlanta-based girl group Krave, pioneers of “ghetto pop”

There is so much power in a pen (or a keyboard). Creating language to describe our lived experience is so transcending, turning abstract principles into discourse. I was reminded of this when I first heard about hood feminism. Blogger Jamie defines the parameters of her own existence and the ways in which she felt out of place in feminist spaces. She says:

“While Big Name Feminists are debating The End of Men, women on the margins–women like me–are sleeping at train stations and working double shifts for paltry wages. They are buying school supplies with rent money. They are fighting for citizenship because they aren’t the ‘right kind of immigrants.’”

This is reflective of the concerns that many women of color have had with feminism since- well… since feminism became a mainstream movement dominated by white middle-class women. But it is important that today’s young women of color are still able to declare: we are not fooled. We recognize capitalism/imperialism as a root cause of our oppression, intersecting with sexism and racism.

And on a more personal note, the phrase “hood feminism” resonates with me (I see a twitter bio update in my very near future). I grew up in “hoods” all along Chicago’s 63rd Street (from Kedzie to Cottage Grove – for those of you familiar with the Southsidea). Growing up, I always challenged and questioned the assignments on my body, my sexuality, my gender and my race, way before I understood my personal politics as  a”feminist framework”. Opportunities to engage those dynamics were all around (we see women rappers do it all the time). Messages about our specific identities were coded within our language, music (hip hop specifically), and other culturally-unique practices.

I would argue that being brown and poor aren’t the only criteria that align folks with hood feminism. The term “hood” invokes more than a class connotation. It is about operating within a certain cultural context. This circumstantial understanding of the world and your own lived experience is an important piece of being “hood”. It’s certainly not just about living there. I am reminded of this when I think about all of the poor, brown women I know that live by oppressive respectability politics and stand by capitalism, even though it is continuously used against them and their communities.

Reflecting on moments when I felt excluded from mainstream feminism, they’ve had less to do with my actual class than the characteristics that implicated it. It was the look of intrigue I got when I greeted someone with “hey boo.” It was my skirt and Timberland boot combination. It was the loudness in my voice as I spoke with best friend on the phone. It was in my refusing to refer to her by her legal name, and opting for her moniker “Boochie.” It was the fact that urban black girls were central to my feminist praxis.

My interpretation of hood feminism is a love child between hip hop feminism and working class feminism. You can’t have one without the other. I welcome hood feminism with open arms and look forward to the nuanced brilliance that only brown girls can bring.

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