A Meme: Women of Color Feminists in Their Own Right

I am asking that each of my readers point to one or more books, articles, poems, and/or key female figures of color who have discussed feminism from 1492 to the present. Please choose: one historical figure, one from 1960-70, and one from the present from the U.S. Please also choose at least one from outside of Euro-America. Please include a trackback to this post so we can all see your answers or post a comment with your answers here.

My initial contribution to the meme is:

    • Sojourner Truth – a book of her writings is out at Barnes and Noble, sorry I didn’t get the title
    • Paula Gunn Allen’s “The Red Roots of Feminism” – this article argues that much of modern day feminism borrows from indigenous culture and interaction between prominent first wave feminists and indigenous women.
    • Linda Martin Alcoff – Latina chair of WS at Syracuse works include feminist theory, Latina philosophy, & philosophies of identity. She has co-edited and written many quientessential texts including Feminist Epistemologies, Singing in the Fire, & The Blackwell Guide to Feminist Philosophy
    • Stacy Ann Chin – Jamaican born feminist lesbian poet whose work tackles issues of sexuality, gender, race, class, and identity (see the poem that made me think of her when I made this list)
    • Huda Shaarawi – founded the intellectual association of Egyptian Women(1914) & the Egyptian Feminist Union (1923)
    Stacyann Chin “All Oppression is Interconnected”
    As part of this conversation, I would also like to point you to the following sources:

42 thoughts on “A Meme: Women of Color Feminists in Their Own Right

  1. Prof, I would like to help you with this meme, but I want to verify some things before I mess it all up.๐Ÿ™‚ I am not particularly well-read in feminist discourse that calls itself feminist. What I did read was mostly white women and I found it troublesome. But there are women of color I’ve read and feel are womyn-positive, womyn-centered, womyn-empowering. They may or may not consider themselves feminist. Historically of course the terminology means little anyway. Is it acceptable for me to post women that I feel empowered me, that I am grateful to for their contributions, whether they are recognized as “feminist” per se or not, whether they identified that way or rejected that label?

  2. Also, I may be inclined to make note and express gratitude to women that others might not see that way. I don’t want some beat-down (esp on my own blog, LOL) because someone else wants to point out all of a woman’s flaws and doesn’t understand/respect why I feel I learned something from her… I don’t know… maybe I would even list women that are disliked, that there are strong negative feelings about, but I found benefit from studying or was inspired by. I don’t want my post to be seen as “traitorous” or something… so if it’s okay, fine, but if you think it’d be a problem and I need to be cautious, please let me know. Oh, you can email me to discuss this privately, if you’d rather. And feel free to delete this comment if it is too confusing or seemingly off topic or whatever.๐Ÿ™‚

  3. welcome to the blog Aaminah. I think you can put anybody you want on your list who supports women’s rights, its your list. :DBut I would also make sure that if you put someone down who has gone on record as not being a feminist you should mark that in order to respect their self-definition the same you would for a womanist.

  4. Having read both your thread and the one over on donna darko’s blog, I find her arguments rather confusing. On the one hand, she argues that women of color feminists are derivative (i.e. we only ever respond to the racism of white feminists) but as soon as you call her out on it, she immediate takes the defensive line, saying that women of color feminists have been articulating their arguments against sexism since the 1960s and before, or even, more recently in the 1990s with hip-hop feminism. What I’m hearing is a major contradiction. After all, when I asked her what “evidence” is she basing her arguments on – concerning this so-called derivative response from women of color feminists, she immediately points to the blogosphere. But we all know that blogging is a 21st-century phenomenon, so how could she possibly be talking in a historical context when the history is just wrong?Even on this post, she references women of color like WAOD, who clearly do not see themselves as “feminist” (even though they do feminist work, and I’ve already been in a fight with the blog owner for calling her the F-word) let alone as “hip-hop feminists” since they absolutely loathe hip-hop, so the knowledge that is expressed is extremely limiting, for the blogosphere is hardly the only space where women of color are speaking out against sexism.

  5. to readers who are confused by this thread, I just went back to check the timeline to make sure no comments here were misrepresenting comments there, and found that the post in question has been re-written in the last 2-5 hours in order to seem as though it did not originally argue women of color feminism was awarded to us by white women in the 1960s and 70s. Unfortunately this change was made some time after I deleted the copy of the original version of the full post I provided my readers and after Donna checked to see it was gone. (the comment I objected to being written after my unapproved comment has also been deleted.)This my friends is my objection. If you are going to make an argument and remain reticent about its content when questioned then don’t delete it, change it, or otherwise edit the record because it just makes you look guilty.Despite my best efforts to stay out of a fight, I can’t help but notice that every comment that is made here or there has resulted in Donna changing the time period and the definition of “women of color” in response. Since Donna has been a long time reader of my blog and has garnered quite a bit of respect from bloggers I respect, I find this whole thing particularly jarring. I really did think the exchange would be productive.

  6. anxious thank you for trying to get a little clarity between here and there. I am sorry that your efforts were met with the same subterfuge as mine. I guess what we will learn from this is that conversations across difference are rendered all the more difficult when someone is invested in ignoring concrete evidence against their argument and/or appearing right. I really thought when I waded into that water we could have all come out clean . . . shame on me.

  7. I actually read the post before it was changed and it did say what you have said it said. I just wanted to say that as a white feminist I was offended too and I am glad you made your post. Umm . . . hip hop feminism? really? that’s all women of color contributed in the 1990s?

  8. Marie Stewart Richardson, Marilyn, Maria Stewart: Americaโ€™s First Black Woman Political WriterBarbara Smith Combahee River Collective.Toward a Black Feminist ConsciousnessHome Girls: A Black Feminist AnthologyChandra MohantyFeminism Without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity”Cathy Cohen Punks, Bulldaggers, and Welfare Queens: The Radical Potential of Queer Politics?The Boundaries of Blackness: AIDS and the Breakdown of Black Politics

  9. welcome the blog white feminist.fal – wow! there are things on there I haven’t read Fal that so exciting!!! (Also glad to see some of the core readings in your list๐Ÿ˜€ )

  10. TOTAL CONFUSION HERE.I have not changed that post in the last two days. The last change I made is when I changed the word feminism to sexism in this sentence:

    Intersectionality is just a fancy word for sexism in communities of color.

    Intersectionality goes both ways and every way of course. It can also mean racism in white feminism and all interlocking oppressions at once.

    Having read both your thread and the one over on donna darkoโ€™s blog, I find her arguments rather confusing. On the one hand, she argues that women of color feminists are derivative (i.e. we only ever respond to the racism of white feminists) but as soon as you call her out on it, she immediate takes the defensive line, saying that women of color feminists have been articulating their arguments against sexism since the 1960s and before, or even, more recently in the 1990s with hip-hop feminism.

    Prof. Anxious Black Woman,Let me clear this up since it was confusing.On the blogosphere in the last two years and during this election season, 99% of the focus on the blogs has been with white women or feminists and not the other intersection which marginalizes them.The only visible conversations about sexism within their communities were in the first wave, second wave and hip hop feminism in the third wave. WAOD does not call itself feminist but they challenge sexism of men of color. Of course, women of color resist sexism of men of color on a private basis. But I’m talking about visible conversations about sexism within communities of color. Some examples I brought up in my comments section were Document the Silence, Fallon’s new blog, Ubuntu’s Day of Truthtelling, WAOD, BFPs threads about Chicano sexism, my blog posts about intersectionality. I left out the fact Reappropriate had ten or so threads (out of 900 or so) about sexism in the APIA community.My point is conversations about men of color and sexism make up 1/1000 of the conversations about women of color feminisms. ProfBW,I deleted two of your comments and haven’t edited my blog post in couple days. I deleted them because they were the same circular arguments I’ve heard for twenty years and I was too frustrated to deal with them. You wrote this blog post which objected to the deleting of the second one so I deleted my comment which answered that second comment which made it obvious I deleted your second comment. Then I put the content of my comment that answered the question in your second comment into my previous comment so it wouldn’t look like I deleted your comment because that upset you.Finally, let me reiterate my extreme frustration I’ve had for more than twenty years:I find so frustrating is that in general men of color donโ€™t really get sexism. There is serious gender inequity in communities of color to speak generally. So I find it so frustrating that much of the focus on the blogs has been towards the problems women of color have with white women when the other intersection also marginalizes them.

  11. Let me clarify:On the blogosphere in the last two years and during this election season, 99% of the focus on the women of color blogs with regards to sexism has been with white women or feminists and not the other intersection which marginalizes them.

  12. I agree with you Prof. I saw the whole thread (BEFORE it was messed around with) at donnadarko’s and I am just amazed at how she changed or deleted a few of the comments. Moreover, as Anxious pointed out, how donna completely changed her argument. I have the feeling that, in realizing in the back of her mind that she might be wrong, donna was getting defensive about protecting her racial privilege, even if she doesn’t outwardly intend it (and I am sure she doesn’t). That is very bothersome considering how much she supports feminism. If we want to really support feminism and fight misogyny we have to first recognize that if any of us ARE white feminists, that that whiteness is a privilege that is given to white feminists whether they like it or not. They are born with it and must deconstruct and fight against it as part of the privileged racial class, just as I expect all men (regardless of race) to recognize, deconstruct, and fight against their own male privilege. White Supremacy could not exist without Patriarchy, and vice-versa. That is so important to keep in mind.For the purposes of demonstrating that women of color have always been the backbone of feminist movement, I thought you might find this interesting:http://www.genderracepower.com/?p=158Also, an awesome post by Amy at Feminist Reprise on white privilege and the importance of admitting to and fighting white privilege among white feminists:http://www.feminist-reprise.org/wpblog/2008/01/13/marilyn-frye-on-whiteliness/While it is absolutely essential that men of color recognize their male privilege and stop making excuses for their misogyny, it is also important for white feminists, especially because they as feminists strive to end oppression, to recognize how their whiteness privileges them in a racial and class hierarchy of women. We need to look at this intersectionality to truly end oppression and create unity (Maude knows we women need it).

  13. Lara – I didn’t know Frye’s piece was online . . . Now we have the reason I hate the internet (conflicts turning petty in public; I don’t like it in private either mind you) and why I love it (open source!!!).๐Ÿ˜€ I’d agree Lara that everybody with privilege needs to take responsibility for that privilege and to work toward equity and anti-oppression in all its forms.to stick with women of color meme I would add that the following are online:Audre Lorde “There is No Hierarchy of Oppression”http://www.fuuse.com/article.php?story=20050719163038398Andrea Smiths’ “Heteropatriarchy and the 3 Pillars of Oppression” Pat Hill Collins “Black Feminist Thought and the Matrix of Domination”These and a myriad of other essays (including McIntosh’s Unpacking the Knapsack which is always helpful in intro courses but is not a woman of color text) have been compiled at:http://community.livejournal.com/ibarw/804.htmlI originally got the link from a BFP post entitled “RWOC Theorists Pt. 9: Andrea Smith” at:http://brownfemipower.com/?p=1784I also mentioned this book recently, but I wanted to keep my suggestions down to the 3-4 I was thinking when I started the meme:Joanna Kadi Thinking ClassEden Torres Chicana Without ApologyCherrie Moraga “Xicana Dyke”M. Jaqui Alexander Sing Whisper Shout Pray

  14. Donna – you cannot hold either ABW nor I responsible for information you introduced into the conversation after we were both censored and subsequently exited it. This too is part of the problem I think you are having with how to do history accurately.I have to tell you that several feminist bloggers of color have now contacted me and said their comments have not been approved. Yet you continue to refer to women of color, myself included, as if we chose to exit the conversation. Worse claiming we exited b/c we “feel safer talking to other women of color.” In other words, you are denying us entry or continued participation in the conversation behind the scenes through the liberal use of the delete button and then publicly blaming our silence on us. While you are lamenting the actions of men of color, you might want to do some reading on white supremacy and how it works.This whole thing started for two reasons: 1. you asserted that women of color got feminism from white women in the 1960s-70s then backed that up by claiming women of color “only talk about feminism when they can blame a white man or a white woman.” & 2. you censored and silenced women of color trying to participate in the conversation and changed the record (both posts and comments) in order to soften, hide, or erase, the racialized discourse within which you are working.The only reason you are able to assert that my argument is “the same circular” argument you’ve been “dealing with for 20 years” is because you deleted all of my substantive contribution. I gave you book titles, authors, key figures and time periods that directly contradicted your timeline, your statement that you were “the first person to say” that civil rights influenced feminism (even you have a post linking to one of the essays on that topic earlier on the blog), and that woc are not talking to each other about sexism. Granted, I did not say anything about the internet b/c you hadn’t once again changed the conversation to further minimize the group you were discussing and thus keep from dealing with the evidence you were actively deleting anyway. Similar data was provided to you by ABW and also was deleted/unapproved. If you don’t want to have the conversation, say that, its your blog. But when you edit the conversation to meet your own needs and then label others contributions as “circular” or worse blame them for not participating then you are actively re-writing history to cover your own offenses.I cannot continue to engage you in this conversation on my blog and I am not allowed to do so on yours. I have a rule about keeping flame wars off the blog if I can and down to a minimum when I can’t. I entered this conversation believing that we could have an open and honest conversation about the contributions of women of color to feminism that you were initially negating and hoping to see a multi-racial feminist discussion fostered as a result. Since I cannot trust that: 1. I or more sisters contributions will be allowed to see the light of day2. we will not be demeaned by comments like “ladies please” or “you know in some of our lifetimes” and others3. the record will stay in tact longer than 1 hour4. that you will not continue to have a conversation in a vaccuum and then blame the enforced silence on women of color’s fears of engaging or insular community needs or worse support of men of color’s misogynyI also cannot trust that a community building conversation can occur.I have asked people on my blog to work proactively toward a discussion of feminist of color and global feminists who have moved them in their thinking and in their lives. Your continued invasion of this thread has kept us from moving on to that important work by keeping us focused on your behavior instead.I am asking my readers to please do the meme and trackback to us or post your reads here as well. Let’s make something good out of this quagmire. I promise, at least here on professor black woman’s we will now be commencing drama free.

  15. Wow. I had to take a deep breath after reading all of that . . . My books/figures are:Frida Kahlo – she was an amazing artist whose work deals with gender and disability among other things (she counts right?)Zitkala Sa – she worked to maintain indigenous people’s rights in the early boarding school history, wrote novels, plays, and poetry, and was a key female figure in her community and the senateHaciendo Caras – it is a great anthology full of writing by women of color; we read it in my WS classMaking Waves – this one was the first book I read about Asian feminists, I’m sad to say I had thought there weren’t any before I read this book in class.Umm . . . thanks prof bw for this meme. I think it will actually help those of us who might not know enough to know that woc feminists exist “in their own right” to know the truth.

  16. Well since I think this thread really got started about the election let me try my list:Fannie Lou Hamer – she organized the freedom rides, worked with the SNCC and the Freedom Democratic Party, she worked tirelessly on voter registration, ran for Congress in 64 & 65, was one of the first black women seated at the DNC in history, and yet was still referred to by Pres. hopeful Linden B. Johnson as “that illiterate woman.”Shirley Chisolm – she was the first African-American woman elected to congress & served 7 terms from 1968-1983. She was also the first African American woman to run on a major party ballot for president in 1972 winning 152 delegates and inspiring a documentary film and songs. She worked tirelessly for women’s rights, the poor, children and poc. Recently her legacy has been overshadowed by people who want to give those accolades to someone else.Gloria La Riva – is currently running for president as the potential nominee of the Party of Socialism and Liberation. She ran as VP candidate on the Workers World Party in 1984, 88, 96, & 2000 ballot. And also ran for president as the WWP candidate in 1992. She is a long time workers right’s, women’s rights, and people of color’s rights activist. She has been active in many socialist and unionizing efforts that have bettered the lives of women of color, workers, and marginalized people in the Americas.Alvarez In the Time of the Butterflies – both Alvarez and the Mirabel sisters count on my list. Alvarez for working to reclaim women in Dominican history through her literature and the Mirabel sisters for challenging a dictator. They spoke eloquently about women’s rights, the rights of the people, and against fascism. They were also revolutionaries.I hope it is ok that most of mine are figures and not books.๐Ÿ™‚

  17. Can we use film directors?Trinh Minh Ha – both her books and her films center a decolonized feminist of color gaze, especially from but not limited to an Asian feminist perspective. She really inspires me.Julie Dash – Daughters of the Dust is an amazing film, dealing with race, gender, class, history, just everything. It is amazingly done.Felicia Lemus – she wrote a book about transgender identity that I think is very much a third wave feminist novelSandra Valls – she is a Latina lesbian comedian whose comedy makes room for other lesbians in the community to talk about sexuality and misogyny and empowerment. She also works as a producer at SiTV which may not always have the best programming but does have shows that talk about sexism, racism, classism, colorism, sexuality, etc. and also makes sure our culture is represented on television.Comandante Ramona – she had a small frame but a big impact. She was an essential part of the leadership, directing armies, planning protests, and ensuring the rights of her people. She inspired women to become leaders in her community and around the world.

  18. I posted something as well:http://brownfemipower.com/?p=2360and just so you know, donna and I have gone back and forth over this for a long time. when she says “woc bloggers” she’s talking about me and probably a few others whose names i don’t want to bring into it because it’s just unnecessary. I have just decided to agree to disagree and leave it at that. this link shows some of the background to which I think donna is probably referring to:http://brownfemipower.com/?p=2000

  19. You may get a trackback from me that comes through because I posted an intro and linked here. Actually putting together the meme is going to take some time though.๐Ÿ™‚

  20. Anxious – your list was . . . awe/some (you know as in causing awe)Aaminah – I read your start to this post. It is so brave of you to wrestle so with this subject, I hope it proves fruitful. Whatever list you make I’m sure woc and feminists of all races/ethnicities will be honored by it.bfp – that is sad to hear. If I’d known the hidden agenda was about only counting feminism from woc that mirrored that of white women ie intraracial condemnation of misogyny (which is certainly part of it) and that it may have been aimed at you, I would have staid out of it from the beginning.You have a great list up! As I said, it helped me find something I was looking for at the bookstore just yesterday. thanks๐Ÿ˜€

  21. Prof, it’s not even bravery, nor “wrestling”.๐Ÿ™‚ Obviously I have a great deal of respect for the women that have gone before me and many women still alive today and working for our needs. I don’t personally label myself a feminist, and that’s a very involved discussion that doesn’t need to be gotten into here. But I think that the list I come up with will (I hope) make us think about the different ways that women of color contribute to our well-being and how they inform our outlooks. Although I’ll probably list some “obvious” women that overlap others’ lists because we all know and respect them, I’m sure I’ll also list women that others don’t normally think of in terms of feminism, and maybe even some other women that alot of people just don’t know about. It’s probably gonna be a process and might take more than one post even!

  22. Aaminah – I just meant to applaud your process. A lot of people were able to just shoot out a list in seconds (a powerful reminder that we aren’t as invisible as some might claim) but you are taking this very personal route to making your selections and I think that is great and hope it is useful. To be a dork for a minute, sometimes the process is as important as the answers. To document it in public and show us what you are working with is brave so pat yourself on the back girl! I would if this weren’t virtual.

  23. Ha ha, you’re right, I could shoot out just a name-off and it would still be long!๐Ÿ™‚ But yeah, I wanted to do a little more than just shout out names, especially because I realize that several of the names I shout out would require explanation anyway. I might just as well do the work and present it nicely now than to do a half-job trying to explain it later.๐Ÿ™‚ And really, you deserve the pat on the back and a hug for putting this out there. You took something negative and hurtful and turned it around into something very productive, educating, and dare I say? Healing. Yes, I think this will be healing for many of us. That’s why I emailed it to BFP and asked her if she’d be interested. Thank you for creating the meme and getting us started, for redirecting our energies from the darkness back to the hope.๐Ÿ™‚

  24. Pretty fascinating conversation going on and I can only say from the comments that I find the Professor’s side more compelling–but I haven’t seen the “original” post or the original comments so I can’t say. I AM GLAD THOUGH that both blogs, and other the radical and feminist woc spaces on the internet ARE spaces for this dialogue…and I hope only fruitful (even when the fruit is pained and strange) things come out of that dialogue.That said, here goes my meme contribution, at the Professor’s request. Cut and pasted verbatim from <a href="http://waiting2speak.blogspot.com/2008/02/my-first-meme-women-of-color-feminists.html“ rel=”nofollow”>Waiting 2 Speak: (My First) Meme: Women of Color Feminists in their own Right Historical Figure: Juana La Virreina. Insurgent Maroon Radical Woman of Color [See Jane Landers, “Maroon Women in Spanish America” in David Gaspar Barry and Darlene Clark Hine, eds. Beyond Bondage: Free Women of Color in the Americas (2004)]1960-970: Ella Baker: Uplifting Radical Woman of ColorPresent Day: Melissa Harris-Lacewell: Gangsta Radical Woman of ColorDo I need to conclude this with the obvious–that these are almost arbitrary choices because the list in each period is too numerous to count? That Michele Martin, Darlene Clark Hine, Elsa Barkley Brown, Rhodessa Jones, Stephanie Camp, Jennifer Morgan, Septima Clark, Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, Coretta Scott King, Mary Ann Shadd Cary, Rafia Zafar, Carla Peterson, Maryse Conde, Anne Pepin, Anne Rossignol, Toni Morrison, Amina Wadud, Michelle Obama, and my mother are just a few of the many names I could mention? And that is just right here, in five minutes, off the top of my head?Nah. Didn’t think so….(Thanks for the meme PBW! Glad it was my first. :)Posted by Kismet at 4:12 PM

  25. and i’m glad she did, because i read you through bloglines and i had no idea any of this was going on.and yes–this is a very good way to redirect energy–me, I just got pissed and said screw it. this way, we’re all still talking… and about something beautiful and amazing. I loved spending time reading about the women I posted about, i’m going to be doing more research on Emma Tenayuca for sure.so thanks for this opportunity.

  26. I tried reading through everything at Donna’s place and at the entry BFP linked, and all I can say is I feel like up is down and left is right. I won’t pretend to understand what on earth happened. As for you meme, I am embarrassed to admit that I don’t know of many WoC feminists — that is, I don’t know of many WoC who write explicitly about feminism or gender issues. Most of my experience of feminism and powerful WoC comes from the people in my life: my mother-in-law, the only woman in her graduating class in the 60s; the warden and junior wardens in my church, both Caribbean women, and one of whom is also in the state legislature; Shirley Ann Jackson, the first black woman to get a PhD from my alma mater. I do really appreciate all of the recommendations given here by your readers. I’ve now got a booklist a mile long to take to the library. Thank you for creating this meme and turning our attention to these female leaders, writers, thinkers, activists.

  27. capsicum – welcome to the blog. And thanks for reminding us that there are feminists in our daily lives who shape us.bfp & Aaminah – you are both welcome. I too am excited about turning something into a powerful learning/healing experience for all of us and keeping the dialog on that side of it going. :Dkismet – your choices are great! And you too snuck in a family member “my mom” that’s wonderful!!!

  28. Hey, I don’t have a blog and I don’t know enough about history to fill out all your categories, but I really can’t pass up a chance to send some love to Luisa Capetillo, a Puerto Rican feminist(/Socialist/labor rights advocate) of the early twentieth century. She was basically a feminist movement of one, since while the Puerto Rican Socialist party had a number of active members at the time, they were pretty much exclusively male and unsympathetic to her views. Her writings are, unfortunately, available only in Spanish and may be out of print, but she is so awesome (aside from her homophobia, which is unfortunate) that I felt the need to mention her.

  29. *I meant anarchist, not Socialist. She did interact a lot with Socialist leaders when fighting for worker’s rights but she was at heart an anarchist (I believe, it’s been a while since I read her).

  30. Welcome to the blog Isabel. One or many authors are welcome to the spirit of the meme๐Ÿ˜€ I am unfamiliar with Luisa Capetillo so I will have to add her to my personal list as well.

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