BLACK FEMINIST THEORY

Black Feminist Theory 9

BLACKFEMINIST THEORY

TheName of the Class

Professor(Tutor)

TheName of the School (University)

TheCity and State where it is located

1/9/2015

BlackFeminist Theory in Understandingof Gendered Identity

Thethoughtof Black feminist encompassescontradictory anddiversemeaning.Two approachesare interrelated, butcreatetensionsin definingtheconcept.Thefirstconceptis thequestionof whoqualifiesto be a black feminist. Accordingto Patricia Bell Scotts response,shebelievesthatall theAfrican-American womendespite thecontent of theideasqualifyto be black feminists. However,theperspectiveof indiscriminately labelingall theBlack womenas black feminists beatsthelogicof Black feminist consciousnessbecausemanyof womennamedas Black feminists werenot feminists during thetimetheypublishedtheir booksandin fact,theycurrently not feminists up to date(Collins, 1989).ThetermBlackfeminist isalsousedin referencetoselectedAfrican- American, whoportal someaspectsof feminist consciousness.

Accordingto Guy- Sheftall (1986), bothmenandwomenmay be regardedas Black Feminists. Hecontinuesto aver thatWilliam E.B andFredrick Douglass werepopularBlack Male feminists. Guy-Sheftall identifiessomefeaturesthat are prominentin thefeminists’ experience,which includegenderandracialoppressionthat yieldproblemsandneedsdistinctfrom theBlack andWhite women.Therefore,womenandparticularlyblack must struggleforequalityboth as African American andas women.Thedefinitionfrom Guy usesideological criteriathat fosterthedefinitionof Black Feminist concept,which encompassesideasandexperiences.In addition,sheconfirmsthatexperienceachievedfrom livingas a womanandAfrican-American in extensionstimulatethesenseof Black feminist. However,her definitionher conceptis ambiguousbecauseitmakesthebiologicalaspectof Blackness theprerequisiteforpossessingthosethoughts.Still,itdoesnot explainthereasonthoseparticularideological criteriaare in exclusion.Theconceptof Black feminist alsodescribesselectedAfrican-American womenwhoexhibitsomeaspectsof feminist consciousness.

TheConcept of Black Feminist Theory

Thethoughtof Black feminist has beenignoredin thesocialtheoryin thepastdecades. Black feminist theoryhistorycan be tracedbackfrom thebirthof thefeministmovementthemselves. In fact,from thetimeBlack feminismtheoryemergedfrom thepoliticalmovementforwomen,itis not possibleto identifythegenesis of thetheoryapartfrom thehistoryof thefeminism.Thetheoryof Black feminist isanchoredon thethree ‘waves.’Thefirsttheoryis about thewomen’ssuffragemovementsthat commencedin thelate19th centuryandearlythe20th century(Brewer &amp Collins 1992).

Thewaveof feminist focusedits efforttowards demolishingofficialmandatedinequalitiesthat existedbetween womenandmen,which includedthelegalbarring of votingforthewomen,employment,propertyrights,equalrightin marriage,andbarring of womenin politicalpowerandauthority.Secondly,the‘wave’wasa struggleforwomenliberationbetween 1960 and1970 (Hill 1990). In thiswave,womenhadreceivedsomerightsfrom thefirstinitiative,which allowedthem to participatein politicsandremovalof legalobstaclesto their personalrights.Therefore,their focusshiftedto otherlesserbarriersthatto genderequality.Theywantedotherissuesto be addressed,includingreproductiverights,sexuality,patriarchal culture,andwomenrolesandotherlaborrelationsat home.Thirdly, there wasfinal‘wave’that wasconcerned about feminist politicsandmovements.Thewavebeganin the1980s, anditis stillactiveeventoday.Itis worthnotingthatthethirdwaveemergedas a critiqueof thesecondwavepolitics.Thefeminists believedthatearliergenerationshada negativeperspectiveandgeneralizedthatwhites, heterosexualwomen,middle-classweremoreexperiencedthan blacks. In fact,theyhadignoredandsuppressedtheviewsof thepoor,womenof color,lesbian,gay, womenfrom othercontinents,andtransgender people.In addition,thethirdwavecontinuesto critique universalandessentialnotionsof womanhoodandfocuson issuesof Eurocentrism, homophobia, andracismas a sectionof their feminist agenda(Hill 1990).

Blackfeminist theoryhas influencedthestrugglesandagendasof eachof the‘wave’stages.Theyhavealsocritiqued thebiasesfoundin malesthat are implicitin thetheoryitself, a factthatassists in establishinga theorythat drawson ratherthan a theorythat excludethewomanexperiences.In essence,ifBlack feminist theoryisunderstood,itwill improvethewomen’sconditionsin thesocietyanddevelopconcepts,ideas,philosophies,as wellas intellectualprogramsthat will accomplishthepursuedagenda.Black feminist theorylike othertheorieswill continuetheconversationsof manyviewpointandvoices.

BlackFeminist Theory and Idea of ‘Differenceand Intersectional’

Thetheoryis a conceptthatindicatesthatclassoppression,racism,andsexism areconnected,andtheyrelatedtogetherin intersectionalityplatform.Iffeminismstrivesto overcomesexism andoppressionbutfailsto includerace,thendiscriminationagainst womenwill prevail(Riley 2003). Thecontributionof black feminist theoryin our understandingof gendered identitycan onlybeappreciatedwhentheideaof differencesandintersectioncomesinto play.Thedeveloper of thistheorypointsout thatblack womenwereliableto differentandintensekindof oppressioncomparedto thewhite women.

Theemergenceof their movementprecededtheir white counterpartmovementthat wasledby white middle-classwomen,which ignoredtheexistenceof oppressionbased on classandrace.Theargumentstatesthatblack womenare in structuresof powerthat are differentfrom their white counterparts.To explainthis,thehighlight thatmanyblack women,unlike white women, havebeenmarginalizedalong linesof sexuality,gender,class,andrace.In manywhite feminist theories,theyhavenot beencomprehensivein dealingwith issuesof racial,economy,andconsiderationof black femaleexperience.Theblack womenwereexcludedin manyantiracist andfeminist discoursesthat soughtgenderequalitybetween 1960 and1970 (Raj 2002). Therefore,theshortchanging contributedtotheemergenceof theBlack feminist movements.

Concerningdifferencesandintersection,weunderstandthatpeoplelivein layered andmultipleidentities,which arederivedfrom socialrelations,history,andthegenderpositionin thesociety.Infact,through Black feminist theoryweunderstandthatthere is diversityin thesocietyandtheycan simultaneouslyexperienceprivilegeandoppressionforinstance,a woman,who is a medical practitioner, maybe respected,butexperiencedomesticviolenceat her home.Theideaof intersectionaryarea toolforgenderandjusticeandthrough Black feminist theorywecanidentifyhowdifferentidentitiesimpacton theaccesstotherights.Through thetheory,weunderstanddifferentwaysgenderequalitycan advocateintegrationof allindividualsin thesociety(Ontario Human Rights Commission 2001).

Accordingto WICEJ (2003), individualshaveintegratedwiththerecentdecades winningprivilegesandeliminatedcontemporaryformsof discrimination.However,theprocessesandpoliciesin themale-dominatedworldare&nbspperpetuatingintolerance,racism,anddiscriminationagainst women.Womenweresubjectedto genderdiscrimination,age,ethnicity, skincolor,caste,sexualorientation,religion,ability,culture,andlanguage.Through thetheory,weunderstandthemultipleidentitiesandvariousdiscriminationweareexposedto as women,andtheconsequencesconnectedwiththepresenceof combinedidentities.Black Feministtheoryaimsat addressinghowracism,classoppression,patriarchy, andothersystemsof womendiscriminationyieldinequalitiesthat bringtherelativepositionof womenin thesociety.

Thetheorytakesaccountof thehistorical,political,andsocialcontextsandalsopointsout theuniqueexperiencesthat womendemonstrateafter theycometogetheras individualswitha differentidentity.Forinstance,an experienceof Black womenin America wasqualitatively differentfrom thatof a white womanfrom thesameplace.Similarly,theexperiencesindividualshadforexhibitingsuchfactorsas lesbian, thegay,poor,black andothers are someof understandingthat comeswith Black feminist theorycontribution.Anothercontributionof thetheoryallowstheunderstandingsubstantive distinctexperiencesratherthan combiningof identitiesas burdenthat additively increase.Thetheorybringstheunderstandingof not onlyshowingthatone groupis privilegedormorevictimized,butalsoitrevealsthesimilaritiesanddistinctionsthat assistin overcomingdiscriminationbased on genderdifferences(WICEJ 2003).

Itis evidentthatsomewomendue to their multipleidentitiesarediscriminatedwhileothers receiveprivileges.In thesameaspect,theaspectsof an intersectionhelpas visualizethedifferentconvergenttypesof discriminationas pointsof overlaporintersection.Inaddition,feminist theoryassistus in assessingandunderstandingtheimpactof variousconverging identitieson theaccessandopportunityto rightsandappreciatehowprograms,policies,laws,andserviceshavean impacton theaspectsof lifethat are linkedtogether(Thomas, Hacker &amp Hoxha 2011).

Genderidentityisalsounderstoodin theaspectof intersectionanddifferencesforinstance,there are manycaseswherewomenhavebeendiscriminatedby their employers.In fact,itis becauseof their intersectionidentitiesthat putthem in thesituationof vulnerability. Asa theoreticalparadigm,Black feminist theoryhelpsus to understandthehumanrights,oppression,andprivileges(Ontario Human Rights Commission 2001). In thatconnection,wecan buildtheargumentthat supportsequalityforwomenby derivingoverarching principles,andtheoreticalstatementsas theambassadorsof thetheorydidit.Hence,thetheoryallowsus to seecritically theclaimsmadeby womenfortheir positionin thesocietyas fundamentalin achievingpromiseof genderidentityas opposedto mereinterestof groupswhoarefocusedon individualinterests.Anothercontributionof thetheoryin theaspectof intersectionalityis thatour analysisshiftsawayfrom thethinkingabout thecommonality of power(Raj, 2002).

Wehavebelievedthatwhenever a rightof an individualisconsidered,thenitaffectsanotherperson’srightthus,the developmentbecomesan issueof maintainingandestablishingcompetitiveadvantage.Onthecontrary,thetheoryexplicitly explainsthatthinkingabout developmentin theintersectionarityconceptdirectstheattentionto particularcontexts,experiences,as wellas qualitative attributeof equalitythat motivateus tofightfortherightsof others andon our behalf.Justas there would be noexistenceof humanrightswithout consideringwomen’srights,thenthere would alsobe norightswithout takinginto accounttherightsof thegays, black, women,andmanyothers.

Thetheorydiffersfrom otherapproachesto genderanddevelopmenthowever,itis not new.In fact,Black feminist theoryhas beenin operationformanydecades through its attemptsto comprehendtheexperiencesof womenin theUnited States of America (Hill 1990). In fact,werequireBlack feminist theoryto understandgenderidentityandidentifypracticesthat are appropriatein dealingwith patternsof discriminationanddistinguishthechallengesthat black womenfacein as theyseektheir identity.Thetheoryandits strugglehaveovercometheconceptual gapsthat haveexistedin history.Forexample,itis through theeffortsof feminists thatgenderandrace-based discriminationhas beenconsideredunethicalandunacceptable in thelawsof America andEuropean countries.

Blackfeminist theoryhas alsocontributedour understandingof gendered identityin thefollowingway.First,weunderstandthattheconceptof thetheoryifimplementedprovidesa usefulstrategyforlinkingthediscrimination(raceandgender)groundsto thelegal,social,economic,andpoliticalenvironmentthat providestructureexperiencesof privilegeandoppression.In fact,thedescriptionsprovided by the theory assist theinstitution,actors,andpoliciesthat intertwineto establisha givendesirablesituation.Suchdescriptionsare importantin bringingprogressivechangeamid theforcesof womendiscrimination.

Understandinggenderidentityallowsus to respectour diverseprivilegesandidentitiesas thewomenacknowledgethebuildingof powerbased on menstrengthanddiversity.Hence,womenof allidentitiesshould havevoiceandspaceto determinemen’sagenda.In addition,thetheorydoesnot limittheusageof our privilegesin strategicwaysinsteadof exploitingthoseprivileges.Identityis a conceptthat is relativeanditis importantto notethatwhenever weare operating,weare doingitin a positionof powerbe itexperience,age,sexuality,class,orability.Therefore,wecan worktogetherin a holistic wayandprovideapowerfulsolutionfortheproblemof discriminationbased on theplatformwhereparticularindividualrelativeprivilegesintersect.

BlackFeminist Today

Itis evidentthatthewomenmovementsin the20th centurywereverysuccessfulin combatinggender-based inequalities(Hill 2000). In thecurrentworld,wehaveenteredinto thepost-feminist erathat enjoysthestrugglethat womenof substanceachieved.In fact,noonecan denythatfeminist politicalstrugglethrough movementshas achievedtremendousgainin thesocietyforthepastcentury.However,thesocialscientificevidenceavers thatthere stillexistlargeinequalitiesbetween womenandmenespeciallyin theareasof politicalpower,income,legalrights,opportunities,rape,sexualassault,domesticviolence,wealth,andoverall statusin thecommunity.In fact,thoseissuesare rampantin otherareasoutside Europe andUnited States of America. Therefore,as faras oppressionandgenderinequalityexist,theBlack feminist conceptandfeminismwill continueto be an integralpartof manypeopleacross theworld.In addition,intellectualfeminists will continueto initiatenuanced andcut-edging understandingof thesocialsocietythat will enrichthepossibilitiesandpowerof socialtheoryat large(Hill 2000).

References

BlackFeminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics ofEmpowerment. New York: Routledge.

Brewer,R.M. &amp Collins, P.H., 1992. Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge,Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment.&nbspContemporarySociology,21(1), p.132.

Collins,P.H., 1989. The Social Construction of Black Feminist Thought.&nbspSigns:Journal of Women in Culture and Society,14(4), p.745.

HillCollins, P., 2000. Whatʼs Going On? Black Feminist Thought and thePolitics of Postmodernism. In E. A. St. Pierre &amp W. S. Pillow,eds.&nbspWorkingthe ruins: feminist poststructural theory and methods in education.Psychology Press, pp. 41-73.

HillCollins, Patricia 1990. &quotDefining Black Feminist Thought&quot.In: Collins, Patricia Hill,

OntarioHuman Rights Commission, (2001) “An Intersectional Approach toDiscrimination: Addressing Multiple Grounds in Human Rights Claims”,Discussion Paper, Policy and Education Branch.

Raj,Rita 2002, in collaboration with Charlotte Bunch and Elmira Nazombe.Womenat theIntersection:Indivisible Rights, Identities, andOppression.Centrefor Women’s GlobalLeadership,Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey.

Riley,J. 2003, “GAD and Intersectionality in the Region: Forging theFuture”, Workingpaper No. 8 – Gender and Development Dialogue.Melbourne University Private Working Paper Series.

Thomas,A.J., Hacker, J.D. &amp Hoxha, D., 2011. Gendered Racial Identity ofBlack Young Women.&nbspSexRoles,64(7-8), p.530-542.

WICEJ2003, “How Women are Using the United Nations World ConferenceAgainstRacism,Racial Discrimination and Related Intolerance (WCAR) to AdvanceWomen’ Human Rights”, Tools for Women’s Advocacy #2.