Women of Color Feminism

I have been asked several times why I call myself a Feminist since it is considered to be a mainly White movement.  I’ve responded that that is the narrow version of what a Feminist is and that there have been many women of color who have contributed to the development of Feminist Movements and to the creation of theory to support them.   And although the different groups of Feminists have agreed with each other or have been completely critical of each other, they have created a strong foundation for many women to stand on today.

I saw a documentary back in 2000 about Feminist Movements in the US and other countries during the 60′s and 70′s.  The documentary in general was inspirational.  The resiliency and creativity women drew upon to make themselves be heard and stand for what they believed in was truly moving.  Women really showed ways they found to take ownership of their beings and that is something that resonated much with me.  *Then a White Feminist leader was interviewed.  She fit the stereotype of the “men-hating, bra-burning, radical, angry feminist.”  She offered no room for dialogue.  She was clearly disappointed and irate and she wanted the world to know it.  Her interviewer was clearly uncomfortable, given that he was a man.

Although I understood where her anger came from and I could also see her pain at having to come to this place of complete anger and disconnection to be heard, I was very troubled by this woman.  I didn’t want to be represented by someone like her.  Our struggles were similar but I couldn’t relate to her strategies.  Here was I, a Woman of Color that loved men trying to relate to a White woman who culturally and ethnically was different from me and who refused to engage with men at all.  I knew my struggles as a Latina were not addressed in the type Feminist Movement she represented as well as I knew that men as much as women were victims of our social conditioning.  I didn’t want to see men as my enemy.  I wanted to be a committed Feminist at the same time that I connected with my culture and the men in my life.  I wanted to embrace partners, fathers, brothers, cousins, friends, etc.  “That” narrow sighted Feminist Movement did not work for me.  I wanted a more compassionate approach.  I wanted to retain what essentially made me a woman and be a Feminist with strong convictions about the social change I wanted to create.

Then along my path, I found Ms. bell hooks, an African-American cultural critic, feminist and writer of many inspiring and wonderful books.  She talks about Feminist Movements not only in terms of social and financial sexual equality; she encompasses sexism, racism, classism, capitalism, and patriarchy as elements of the big monster that creates hegemonic inequalities.  She brings the theories of Feminism and expands them to address the issues of Women of Color.  She specifically talks about the Black Woman experience, yet it is still relevant to other communities.  She understands the importance of having men as part of our struggle.  Both men and women, in communities of Color especially, need to understand their own oppressions and how they play a role in breaking chains or in perpetuating their toll on them.  She addresses privilege, not to ensue guilt on the ones that have it, but rather to create awareness about the systems of oppression they might be supporting even if unconsciously.   Furthermore, bell hooks constantly politicizes love as the healing force that will liberate us.  She is so complex and radical, yet she also exudes loving, compassionate rhetoric that allows readers to connect.

I know there are several authors that have been influential in Feminist thought yet bell hooks is the one that opened my eyes to the healing power of self-discovery, self-actualization and self-love.  I have found several other books that have contributed to my development as a Feminist and I am constantly learning.  I will continue to write about my discoveries as Woman of Color and my navigation in the world of Feminism.  For further reading please check my blogs under the category Feminism and/or see bellow.

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*This documentary did expose the truth about the bra-burning incident – It never happened.  Women threw their bras and cosmetics into trash cans in protest of the Miss America Pageant but they never burned anything.  The media created that rumor.

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