Multiracial feminism: recasting the chronology of second wave feminism



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MULTIRACIAL FEMINISM: RECASTING THE CHRONOLOGY OF SECOND WAVE FEMINISM

Becky Thompson

(2002)
In the last several years, a number of histories have been published that chronicle the emergence and contributions of Second Wave feminism.1 Although initially eager to read and teach from these histories, I have found myself increasingly concerned about the extent to which they provide a version of Second Wave history that Chela Sandoval refers to as “hegemonic feminism.”2 This feminism is white led, marginalizes the activism and world views of women of color, focuses mainly on the United States, and treats sexism as the ultimate oppression. Hegemonic feminism deemphasizes or ignores a class and race analysis, generally sees equality with men as the goal of feminism, and has an individual rights-based, rather than justice-based vision for social change.

Although rarely named as hegemonic feminism, this history typically resorts to an old litany of the women’s movement that includes three or four branches of feminism: liberal, socialist, radical, and sometimes cultural feminism.3 The most significant problem with this litany is that it does not recognize the centrality of the feminism of women of color in Second Wave history. Missing too, from normative accounts is the story of white antiracist feminism which, from its emergence, has been intertwined with, and fueled by the development of, feminism among women of color.4

Telling the history of Second Wave feminism from the point of view of women of color and white antiracist women illuminates the rise of multiracial feminism – the liberation movement spearheaded by women of color in the United States in the 1970s that was characterized by its international perspective, its attention to interlocking oppressions, and its support of coalition politics.5 Bernice Johnson Reagan’s naming of “coalition politics”; Patricia Hill Collins’s understanding of women of color as “outsiders within”; Barbara Smith’s concept of “the simultaneity of oppressions”; Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa’s “theory in the flesh”; Chandra Talpade Mohanty’s critique of “imperialist feminism”; Paula Gunn Allen’s “red roots of white feminism”; Adrienne Rich’s “politics of location”; and Patricia Williams’s analysis of “spirit murder” are all theoretical guideposts for multiracial feminism.6 Tracing the rise of multiracial feminism raises many questions about common assumptions made in normative versions of Second Wave history. Constructing a multiracial feminist movement time line and juxtaposing it with the normative time line reveals competing visions of what constitutes liberation and illuminates schisms in feminist consciousness that are still with us today.
The Rise of Multiracial Feminism
Normative accounts of the Second Wave feminist movement often reach back to the publication of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique in 1963, the founding of the National Organization for Women in 1966, and the emergence of women’s consciousness-raising (CR) groups in the late 1960s. All signaled a rising number of white, middle-class women unwilling to be treated like second-class citizens in the boardroom, in education, or in bed. Many of the early protests waged by this sector of the feminist movement picked up on the courage and forthrightness of 1960s’ struggles – a willingness to stop traffic, break existing laws to provide safe and accessible abortions, and contradict the older generation. For younger women, the leadership women had demonstrated in 1960s’ activism belied the sex roles that had traditionally defined domestic, economic, and political relations and opened new possibilities for action.

This version of the origins of Second Wave history is not sufficient in telling the story of multiracial feminism. Although there were Black women involved with NOW from the outset and Black and Latina women who participated in CR groups, the feminist work of women of color also extended beyond women-only spaces. In fact, during the 1970s, women of color were involved on three fronts – working with white-dominated feminist groups; forming women’s caucuses in existing mixed-gender organizations; and developing autonomous Black, Latina, Native American, and Asian feminist organizations.7

This three-pronged approach contrasts sharply with the common notion that women of color feminists emerged in reaction to (and therefore later than) white feminism. In her critique of “model making” in Second Wave historiography, which has “all but ignored the feminist activism of women of color,” Benita Roth “challenges the idea that Black feminist organizing was a later variant of so-called mainstream white feminism.”8 Roth’s assertion – that the timing of Black feminist organizing is roughly equivalent to the timing of white feminist activism – is true about feminist activism by Latinas, Native Americans, and Asian Americans as well.

One of the earliest feminist organizations of the Second Wave was a Chicana group –Hijas de Cuauhtemoc (1971) – named after a Mexican women’s underground newspaper that was published during the 1910 Mexican Revolution. Chicanas who formed this femenista group and published a newspaper named after the early-twentieth-century Mexican women’s revolutionary group, were initially involved in the United Mexican American Student Organization which was part of the Chicano/a student movement.9 Many of the founders of Hijas de Cuauhtemoc were later involved in launching the first national Chicana studies journal, Encuentro Feminil.

An early Asian American women’s group, Asian Sisters, focused on drug abuse intervention for young women in Los Angeles. It emerged in 1971 out of the Asian American Political Alliance, a broad-based, grassroots organization largely fueled by the consciousness of first-generation Asian American college students. Networking between Asian American and other women during this period also included participation by a contingent of 150 Third World and white women from North America at the historic Vancouver Indochinese Women’s Conference (1971) to work with Indochinese women against U.S. imperialism.10 Asian American women provided services for battered women, worked as advocates for refugees and recent immigrants, produced events spotlighting Asian women’s cultural and political diversity, and organized with other women of color.11

The best-known Native American women’s organization of the 1970s was Women of All Red Nations (WARN). WARN was initiated in 1974 by women, many of whom were also members of the American Indian Movement which was founded in 1968 by Dennis Banks, George Mitchell, and Mary Jane Wilson, an Anishinabe activist.12 WARN’s activism included fighting sterilization in public health service hospitals, suing the U.S. government for attempts to sell Pine Ridge water in South Dakota to corporations, and networking with indigenous people in Guatemala and Nicaragua.13 WARN reflected a whole generation of Native American women activists who had been leaders in the takeover of Wounded Knee in South Dakota in 1973, on the Pine Ridge reservation (1973-76), and elsewhere. WARN, like Asian Sisters and Hijas de Cuauhtemoc, grew out of – and often worked with – mixed-gender nationalist organizations.

The autonomous feminist organizations that Black, Latina, Asian, and Native American women were forming during the early 1970s drew on nationalist traditions through their recognition of the need for people of color-led, independent organizations.14 At the same time, unlike earlier nationalist organizations that included women and men, these were organizations specifically for women.

Among Black women, one early Black feminist organization was the Third World Women’s Alliance which emerged in 1968 out of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) chapters on the East Coast and focused on racism, sexism, and imperialism.15 The foremost autonomous feminist organization of the early 1970s was the National Black Feminist Organization (NBFO). Founded in 1973 by Florynce Kennedy, Margaret Sloan, and Doris Wright, it included many other well-known Black women including Faith Ringgold, Michelle Wallace, Alice Walker, and Barbara Smith. According to Deborah Gray White, NBFO, “more than any organization in the century ... launched a frontal assault on sexism and racism.”16 Its first conference in New York was attended by 400 women from a range of class backgrounds.

Although the NFBO was a short-lived organization nationally (1973-75), chapters in major cities remained together for years, including one in Chicago that survived until 1981. The contents of the CR sessions were decidedly Black women’s issues – stereotypes of Black women in the media, discrimination in the workplace, myths about Black women as matriarchs, Black women’s beauty, and self-esteem.17 The NBFO also helped to inspire the founding of the Combahee River Collective in 1974, a Boston-based organization named after a river in South Carolina where Harriet Tubman led an insurgent action that freed 750 slaves. The Combahee River Collective not only led the way for crucial antiracist activism in Boston through the decade, but it also provided a blueprint for Black feminism that still stands a quarter of a century later. From Combahee member Barbara Smith came a definition of feminism so expansive that it remains a model today. Smith writes that “feminism is the political theory and practice to free all women: women of color, working-class women, poor women, physically challenged women, lesbians, old women, as well as white economically privileged heterosexual women. Anything less than this is not feminism, but merely female self-aggrandizement.” [Reading 12]

These and other groups in the early and mid-1970s provided the foundation for the most far-reaching and expansive organizing by women of color in U.S. history. These organizations also fueled a veritable explosion of writing by women of color, including Toni Cade’s pioneering, The Black Woman: An Anthology in 1970, Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior in 1977, and in 1981 and 1983, respectively, the foundational This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color and Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology. While chronicling the dynamism and complexity of a multidimensional vision for women of color, these books also traced for white women what is required to be allies to women of color.

By the late 1970s, the progress made possible by autonomous and independent Asian, Latina, and Black feminist organizations opened a space for women of color to work in coalition across organizations with each other. During this period, two cohorts of white women became involved in multiracial feminism. One group had, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, chosen to work in anti-imperialist, antiracist militant organizations in connection with Black Power groups – the Black Panther Party, the Black Liberation Army – and other solidarity and nationalist organizations associated with the American Indian, Puerto Rican Independence, and Chicano Movements of the late 1960s and early 1970s. These women chose to work with these solidarity organizations rather than work in overwhelmingly white feminist contexts. None of the white antiracist feminists I interviewed (for a social history of antiracism in the United States) who were politically active during the civil rights and Black Power movements had an interest in organizations that had a single focus on gender or that did not have antiracism at the center of their agendas.

Militant women of color and white women took stands against white supremacy and imperialism (both internal and external colonialism); envisioned revolution as a necessary outcome of political struggle; and saw armed propaganda (armed attacks against corporate and military targets along with public education about state crime) as a possible tactic in revolutionary struggle. Although some of these women avoided or rejected the term “feminist” because of its association with hegemonic feminism, these women still confronted sexism both within solidarity and nationalist organizations and within their own communities. In her autobiographical account of her late-1960s’ politics, Black liberation movement leader Assata Shakur writes: “To me, the revolutionary struggle of Black people had to be against racism, classism, imperialism and sexism for real freedom under a socialist government.”18 During this period, Angela Davis was also linking anti-capitalist struggle with the fight against race and gender oppression.19 Similarly, white militant activist Marilyn Buck, who was among the first women to confront Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) around issues of sexism, also spoke up for women’s rights as an ally of the Black Liberation Army.

Rarely, however, have their stories – and those of other militant antiracist women – been considered part of Second Wave history. In her critique of this dominant narrative, historian Nancy MacLean writes: “Recent accounts of the rise of modern feminism depart little from the story line first advanced two decades ago and since enshrined as orthodoxy. That story stars white middle-class women triangulated between the pulls of liberal, radical/cultural, and socialist feminism. Working-class women and women of color assume walk-on parts late in the plot, after tendencies and allegiances are already in place. The problem with this script is not simply that it has grown stale from repeated retelling. It is not accurate. …”20

The omission of militant white women and women of color from Second Wave history partly reflects a common notion that the women’s movement followed and drew upon the early civil rights movement and the New Left, a trajectory that skips entirely the profound impact that the Black Power movement had on many women’s activism. Omitting militant women activists from historical reference also reflects a number of ideological assumptions made during the late 1960s and early 1970s – that “real” feminists were those who worked primarily or exclusively with other women; that “women’s ways of knowing” were more collaborative, less hierarchical, and more peace loving than men’s; and that women’s liberation would come from women’s deepening understanding that “sisterhood is powerful.”

These politics were upheld both by liberal and radical white feminists. These politics did not, however, sit well with many militant women of color and white women who refused to consider sexism the primary, or most destructive, oppression and recognized the limits of gaining equality in a system that, as Malcolm X had explained, was already on fire. The women of color and white militant women who supported a race, class, and gender analysis in the late 1960s and 1970s often found themselves trying to explain their politics in mixed-gender settings (at home, at work, and in their activism), sometimes alienated from the men (and some women) who did not get it, while simultaneously alienated from white feminists whose politics they considered narrow at best and frivolous at worst.

By the late 1970s, the militant women who wanted little to do with white feminism of the late 1960s and 1970s became deeply involved in multiracial feminism. By that point, the decade of organizing among women of color in autonomous Black, Latina, and Asian feminist organizations led militant antiracist white women to immerse themselves in multiracial feminism. Meanwhile, a younger cohort of white women, who were first politicized in the late 1970s, saw feminism from a whole different vantage point than did the older, white, antiracist women. For the younger group, exposure to multiracial feminism led by women of color meant an early lesson that race, class, and gender were inextricably linked. They also gained vital experience in multiple organizations – battered women’s shelters, conferences, and health organizations – where women were, with much struggle, attempting to uphold this politic.21

From this organizing came the emergence of a small but important group of white women determined to understand how white privilege had historically blocked cross-race alliances among women, and what they, as white women, needed to do to work closely with women of color. Not surprisingly, Jewish women and lesbians often led the way among white women in articulating a politic that accounted for white women’s position as both oppressed and oppressor – as both women and white.22 Both groups knew what it meant to be marginalized from a women’s movement that was, nevertheless, still homophobic and Christian biased. Both groups knew that “there is no place like home” – among other Jews and/or lesbians – and the limits of that home if for Jews it was male dominated or if for lesbians it was exclusively white. The paradoxes of “home” for these groups paralleled many of the situations experienced by women of color who, over and over again, found themselves to be the bridges that everyone assumed would be on their backs.

As the straight Black women interacted with the Black lesbians, the first-generation Chinese women talked with the Native American activists, and the Latina women talked with the Black and white women about the walls that go up when people cannot speak Spanish, white women attempting to understand race knew they had a lot of listening to do. They also had a lot of truth telling to reckon with, and a lot of networking to do, among other white women and with women of color as well.


Radicals, Heydays, and Hot Spots
The story of Second Wave feminism, if told from the vantage point of multiracial feminism, also encourages us to rethink key assumptions about periodization. Among these assumptions is the notion that the 1960s and early 1970s were the height of the radical feminist movement. For example, in her foreword to Alice Echols’s Daring to Be Bad: Radical Feminism in America, 1967-1975, Ellen Willis asserts that by the mid-1970s, the best of feminism had already occmred.23 In her history of the women’s liberation movement, Barbara Ryan writes that the unity among women evident in the early 1970s declined dramatically by the late 1970s as a consequence of divisions within the movement.24

Looking at the history of feminism from the point of view of women of color and antiracist white women suggests quite a different picture. …

… Although the late 1960s and early 1970s might have been the “heyday” for white “radical” feminists in CR groups, from the perspective of white antiracists, the early 1970s were a low point of feminism – a time when many women who were committed to an antiracist analysis had to put their feminism on the back burner in order to work with women and men of color and against racism.

Coinciding with the frequent assumption that 1969 to 1974 was the height of “radical feminism,” many feminist historians consider 1972 to 1982 as the period of mass mobilization and 1983 to 1991as a period of feminist abeyance.25 Ironically, the years that sociologists Verta Taylor and Nancy Whittier consider the period of mass mobilization for feminists (1972-82) are the years that Chela Sandoval identifies as the period when “ideological differences divided and helped to dissipate the movement from withln.”26 For antiracist women (both white and of color), the best days of feminism were yet to come when, as Barbara Smith explains, “Those issues that had divided many of the movement’s constituencies – such as racism, anti-Semitism, ableism, ageism, and classism – were put out on the table.”27

In fact, periodization of the women’s movement from the point of view of multiracial feminism would treat the late 1960s and early 1970s as its origin and the mid-1970s, 1980s, and 1990s as a height. A time line of that period shows a flourishing multiracial feminist movement. In 1977, the Combahee River Collective Statement was first published; in 1979, Conditions: Five, the Black women’s issue, was published, the First National Third World Lesbian Conference was held, and Assata Shakur escaped from prison in New Jersey with the help of prison activists. In 1981, Byllye Avery founded the National Black Women’s Health Project in Atlanta; Bernice Johnson Reagan gave her now-classic speech on coalition politics at the West Coast Women’s Music Festival in Yosemite; and the National Women’s Studies Association held its first conference to deal with racism as a central theme, in Storrs, Connecticut, where there were multiple animated interventions against racism and anti-Semitism in the women’s movement and from which emerged Adrienne Rich’s exquisite essay, “Disobedience and Women’s Studies.”28 Then, 1984 was the year of the New York Women against Rape Conference, a multiracial, multiethnic conference that confronted multiple challenges facing women organizing against violence against women – by partners, police, social service agencies, and poverty. In 1985, the United Nations Decade for Women conference in Nairobi, Kenya, took place; that same year, Wilma Mankiller was named the first principal chief of the Cherokee Nation. In 1986, the National Women’s Studies Association conference was held at Spelman College. The next year, 1987, the Supreme Court ruled that the Immigration and Naturalization Service must interpret the 1980s’ Refugee Act more broadly to recognize refugees from Central America, a ruling that reflected the work on the part of thousands of activists, many of whom were feminists, to end U.S. intervention in Central America.

In 1991, Elsa Barkely Brown, Barbara Ransby, and Deborah King launched the campaign called African American Women in Defense of Ourselves, within minutes of Anita Hill’s testimony regarding the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. Their organizing included an advertisement in the New York Times and six Black newspapers which included the names of 1,603 Black women. The 1982 defeat of the ERA did not signal a period of abeyance for multiracial feminism. In fact, multiracial feminism flourished in the 1980s, despite the country’s turn to the Right.

Understanding Second Wave feminism from the vantage point of the Black Power movement and multiracial feminism also shows the limit of the frequent assignment of the term “radical” only to the white antipatriarchal feminists of late 1960s and early 1970s. Many feminist historians link the development of radical feminism to the creation of several antipatriarchy organizations – the Redstockings, Radicalesbians, WITCH, and other CR groups. How the term “radical” is used by feminist historians does not square, however, with how women of color and white antiracists used that term from the 1960s through the 1980s. What does it mean when feminist historians apply the term “radical” to white, antipatriarchy women but not to antiracist white women and women of color (including Angela Davis, Kathleen Cleaver, Marilyn Buck, Anna Mae Aquash, Susan Saxe, Vicki Gabriner, and Laura Whitehorn) of the same era whose “radicalism” included attention to race, gender, and imperialism and a belief that revolution might require literally laying their lives on the line? These radical women include political prisoners – Black, Puerto Rican, and white – some of whom are still in prison for their antiracist activism in the 1960s and 1970s. Many of these women openly identify as feminists and/or lesbians but are rarely included in histories of Second Wave feminism.

What does it mean when the term “radical” is only assigned to white, antipatriarchy women when the subtitle to Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa’s foundational book, This Bridge Called My Back, was “Writings by Radical Women of Color”?29 To my mind, a nuanced and accurate telling of Second Wave feminism is one that shows why and how the term “radical” was itself contested. Recognizing that there were different groups who used the term “radical” does not mean that we then need an overarching definition of “radical feminism” that includes all these approaches. It does mean understanding that white feminists … do not have exclusive rights to the term. An expansive history would emphasize that Second Wave feminism drew on the civil rights movement, the New Left, and the Black Power movement which, together, helped to produce three groups of “radical” women.


Principles of a Movement
Although analysis of the feminist movement that accounts for competing views of what it means to be “radical” is a step forward in developing a complex understanding of Second Wave history, what most interests me about comparing normative feminist history with multiracial feminism are the contestations in philosophy embedded in these coexisting frameworks. Both popular and scholarly interpretations of Second Wave feminism typically link two well-known principles to the movement – “Sisterhood Is Powerful” and the “Personal Is Political.” From the point of view of multiracial feminism, both principles are a good start but, in themselves, are not enough.

… Lorraine Bethel’s poem, “What Chou Mean We White Girl? or the Cullud Lesbian Feminist Declaration of Independence” (“Dedicated to the proposition that all women are not equal, i.e., identical/ly oppressed”), clarifies that a “we” between white and Black is provisional, at best.30

Cross-racial struggle made clear the work that white women needed to do in order for cross-racial sisterhood to really be powerful. Among the directives were the following: Don’t expect women of color to be your educators, to do all the bridge work. White women need to be the bridge – a lot of the time. Do not lump African American, Latina, Asian American, and Native American women into one category. History, culture, imperialism, language, class, region, and sexuality make the concept of a monolithic “women of color” indefensible. Listen to women of color’s anger. It is informed by centuries of struggle, erasure, and experience. White women, look to your own history for signs of heresy and rebellion. Do not take on the histories of Black, Latina, or American Indian women as your own. They are not and never were yours.

A second principle associated with liberal and radical feminism is captured in the slogan “The Personal Is Political,” first used by civil rights and New Left activists and then articulated with more depth and consistency by feminist activists. The idea behind the slogan is that many issues that historically have been deemed “personal” – abortion, battery, unemployment, birth, death, and illness – are actually deeply political issues.

Multiracial feminism requires women to add another level of awareness – to stretch the adage from “The Personal Is Political” to, in the words of antiracist activist Anne Braden, “The Personal Is Political and The Political Is Personal.”31 Many issues that have been relegated to the private sphere are, in fact, deeply political. At the same time, many political issues need to be personally committed to – whether you have been victimized by those issues are not. In other words, you don’t have to be part of a subordinated group to know an injustice is wrong and to stand against it. White women need not be victims of racism to recognize it is wrong and stand up against it. Unless that is done, white women will never understand how they support racism. If the only issues that feminists deem political are those they have experienced personally, their frame of reference is destined to be narrowly defined by their own lived experience.

The increasing number of antiracist white women who moved into mixed-gender, multi-issue organizations in the 1980s and 1990s after having helped to build women’s cultural institutions in the 1970s and 1980s may be one of the best examples of an attempt to uphold this

politic. …

The tremendous strength of autonomous feminist institutions – the festivals, conferences, bookstores, women’s studies departments, women’s health centers – were the artistic, political, and social contributions activists helped to generate. All of these cultural institutions required women to ask of themselves and others a pivotal question Audre Lorde had posited: Are you doing your work? And yet, by the mid-1980s, the resurgence of the radical Right in the United States that fueled a monumental backlash against gays and lesbians, people of color, and women across the races led multiracial feminists to ask again: Where and with whom are you doing your work? Many antiracist feminists who had helped to build the largely women-led cultural institutions that left a paper trail of multiracial feminism moved on, into mixed-gender, multi­ racial grassroots organizations, working against the Klan, in support of affirmative action and immigrant rights, and against police brutality and the prison industry. It is in these institutions that much of the hard work continues – in recognizing that “sisterhood is powerful” only when it is worked for and not assumed and that the “personal is political” only to the extent that one’s politics go way beyond the confines of one’s own individual experience.



Blueprints for Feminist Activism
There are multiple strategies for social justice embedded in multiracial feminism: a belief in building coalitions that are based on a respect for identity-based groups; attention to both process and product but little tolerance for “all-talk” groups; racial parity at every level of an organization (not added on later but initiated from the start); a recognition that race can not be seen in binary terms; a recognition that racism exists in your backyard as well as in the countries the United States is bombing or inhabiting economically; and a recognition of the limits to pacifism when people in struggle are up against the most powerful state in the world. Multiracial feminism is not just another brand of feminism that can be taught alongside liberal, radical, and socialist feminism. Multiracial feminism is the heart of an inclusive women’s liberation struggle. The race-class-gender-sexuality-nationality framework through which multiracial feminism operates encompasses and goes way beyond liberal, radical, and socialist feminist priorities – and it always has. Teaching Second Wave feminist history requires chronicling how hegemonic feminism came to be written about as “the” feminism and the limits of that model. Teaching Second Wave history by chronicling the rise of multiracial feminism challenges limited categories because it puts social justice and antiracism at the center of attention. This does not mean that the work done within hegemonic feminism did not exist or was not useful. It does mean that it was limited in its goals and effectiveness.

Although the strategies for multiracial feminism were firmly established in the 1970s and 1980s, I contend that these principles remain a blueprint for progressive, feminist, antiracist struggle in this millennium. …

Because written histories of social movements are typically one generation behind the movements themselves, it makes sense that histories of the feminist movement are just now emerging. That timing means that now is the time to interrupt normative accounts before they begin to repeat themselves, each time, sounding more like “the truth” simply because of the repetition of the retelling. This interruption is necessary with regard to Second Wave feminism as well as earlier movements. …

… I want young women to know the rich, complicated, contentious, and visionary history of multiracial feminism and to know the nuanced controversies within Second Wave feminism. I want them to know that Shirley Chisholm ran for president in 1972; that Celestine Ware wrote a Black radical feminist text in the 1970s which offered an inspiring conception of revolution with a deep sense of humanity; that before Mab Segrest went to work for an organization against the Klan in North Carolina, she and others published an independent lesbian journal in the 1970s that included some of the most important and compelling race-conscious writing by white women and women of color to date.32 I want people to know that there are antiracist feminist women currently in prison for their antiracist activism in the 1960s and since.33 … [T]he work of … multiracial feminist activists help show that the struggle against racism is hardly linear, that the consolidation of white-biased feminism was clearly costly to early Second Wave feminism, and that we must dig deep to represent the feminist movement that does justice to an antiracist vision.


Notes
1. For examples of histories that focus on white feminism, see Sheila Tobias, Faces of Feminism: An Activist’s Reflections on the Women’s Movement (Boulder: Westview Press, 1997); Barbara Ryan, Feminism and the Women’s Movement: Dynamics of Change in Social Movement Ideology and Activism (New York: Routledge, 1992); Alice Echols, Daring to Be Bad: Radical Feminism in America, 1967-1975 (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989).

2. Chela Sandoval, Methodology of the Oppressed (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000), 41-42.

3. Of these branches of feminism (liberal, socialist, and radical), socialist feminism, which treats sexism and classism as interrelated forms of oppression, may have made the most concerted effort to develop an antiracist agenda in the 1970s. … For early socialist feminist documents, see Rosalyn Baxandall and Linda Gordon, eds., Dear Sisters: Dispatches from the Women’s Liberation Movement (New York: Basic Books, 2000).

4. For an expanded discussion of the contributions and limitations of white antiracism from the 1950s to the present, see Becky Thompson, A Promise and a Way of Life: White Antiracist Activism (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2001).

5. … Maxine Baca Zinn and Bonnie Thornton Dill, “Theorizing Difference from Multiracial Feminism,” Feminist Studies 22 (summer 1996): 321-31.

6. Paula Gunn Allen, “Who Is Your Mother? Red Roots of White Feminism,” in her The Sacred Hoop (Boston: Beacon Press, 1986), 209-21; Adrienne Rich, Blood, Bread, and Poetry (New York: Norton, 1986) [ed. for others, see Works Cited herein].

7. Here I am using the term “feminist” to describe collective action designed to confront interlocking race, class, gender, and sexual oppressions (and other systematic discrimination). Although many women in these organizations explicitly referred to themselves as “feminist” from their earliest political work, others have used such terms as “womanist,” “radical women of color,” “revolutionary,” and “social activist.” … The tendency not to include gender-conscious activism by women of color in dominant versions of Second Wave history unless the women used the term “feminist” fails to account for the multiple terms women of color have historically used to designate activism that keeps women at the center of analysis and attends to interlocking oppressions. …

8. Benita Roth, “The Making of the Vanguard Center: Black Feminist Emergence in the 1960s and 1970s,” in Still Lifting, Still Climbing: African American Women’s Contemporary Activism, ed. Kimberly Springer (New York: New York University Press, 1999), 71.

9. Sherna Berger Gluck, “Whose Feminism, Whose History? Reflections on Excavating the History of (the) U.S. Women’s Movement(s),” in Community Activism and Feminist Politics: Organizing across Race, Class, and Gender, ed. Nancy A Naples (New York: Routledge, 1998), 38-39.

10. Miya Iwataki, “The Asian Women’s Movement: A Retrospective,” East Wind (spring/summer 1983): 35-41; Gluck, 39-41.

11. Sonia Shah, “Presenting the Blue Goddess: Toward a National Pan-Asian Feminist Agenda,” in The State of Asian America: Activism and Resistance in the 1990s, ed. Karin Aguilar-San Juan (Boston: South End Press, 1994), 147-58.

l2. M. Annette Jaimes with Theresa Halsey, “American Indian Women: At the Center of Indigenous Resistance in Contemporary North America,” in The State of Native America: Genocide, Colonization, and Resistance, ed. M. Annette Jaimes (Boston: South End Press, 1992), 329.

13. Stephanie Autumn, “... This Air, This Land, This Water – If We Don’t Start Organizing Now, We’ll Lose It,” Big Mama Rag 11 (Apri11983): 4, 5.

14. For an insightful analysis of the multidimensionality of Black nationalism of the late 1960s and early 1970s, see Angela Davis, “Black Nationalism: The Sixties and the Nineties,” in The Angela Davis Reader, ed. Joy James (Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 1998), 289-96.

15. Ibid., 15, 314.

16. Deborah Gray White, Too Heavy a Load: Black Women in Defense of Themselves (New York: Norton, 1999), 242.

17. Ibid., 242-53.

18. Assata Shakur, Assata: An Autobiography (Chicago: Lawrence Hill Books, 1987), 197.

19. Angela Davis, Angela Davis: An Autobiography (New York: Random House, 1974).

20. Nancy MacLean, “The Hidden History of Affirmative Action: Working Women’s Struggles in the 1970s and the Gender of Class,” Feminist Studies 25 (spring 1999): 47.

21. As a woman who was introduced to antiracist work through the feminist movement of the late 1970s – a movement shaped in large part by women of color who called themselves “womanists,” “feminists,” and “radical women of color” – I came to my interest in recasting the chronology of Second Wave feminism especially hoping to learn how white antiracist women positioned themselves vis-á-vis Second Wave feminism. I wanted to learn how sexism played itself out in the 1960s and how antiracist white women responded to Second Wave feminism. And I wanted to find out whether the antiracist baton carried in the 1960s was passed on or dropped by feminist activists. …

22. Several key Jewish feminist texts that addressed how to take racism and anti­Semitism seriously in feminist activism were published during this period and included Evelyn Torton Beck, ed., Nice Jewish Girls: A Lesbian Anthology (Trumansburg, N.Y.: Crossing Press, 1982); Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz and Irena Klepfisz, eds., The Tribe of Dina: A Jewish Women’s Anthology (Boston: Beacon Press, 1989), first published as a special issue of Sinister Wisdom, nos. 29/30 (1986); Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz, The Issue Is Power: Essays on Women, Jews, Violence, and Resistance (San Francisco: Aunt Lute, 1992); Irena Klepfisz, Periods of Stress (Brooklyn, N.Y.: Out & Out Books, 1977), and Keeper of Accounts (Watertown, Mass.: Persephone Press, 1982).

For key antiracist lesbian texts, see Adrienne Rich, On Lies, Secrets, and Silence: Selected Prose, 1966-1978 (New York: Norton, 1979); Joan Gibbs and Sara Bennett, Top Ranking: A Collection of Articles on Racism and Classism in the Lesbian Community (New York: Come! Unity Press, 1980); Mab Segrest, My Mama’s Dead Squirrel: Lesbian Essays on Southern Culture (Ithaca, N.Y.: Firebrand Books, 1985); Elly Bulkin, Minnie Bruce Pratt, and Barbara Smith, Yours in Struggle: Three Feminist Perspectives on Anti-Semitism and Racism (Brooklyn, N.Y.: Long Haul Press. 1984).

23. Ellen Willis, foreword to Daring to Be Bad, vii.

24. Barbara Ryan.

25. Verta Taylor and Nancy Whittier, “The New Feminist Movement,” in Feminist Frontiers IV, ed. Laurel Richardson, Verta Taylor, and Nancy Whittier (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1997), 544-45.

26. Chela Sandoval 1990, 55.

27. Barbara Smith, “‘Feisty Characters’ and ‘Other People’s Causes’” in The Feminist Memoir Project, ed. R. B. DuPlessis and A. Snitow (New York: Three Rivers Press), 479-80.

28. Adrienne Rich, “Disobedience and Women’s Studies,” Blood, Bread, and Poetry, 76-84.

29. Moraga and Anzaldúa.

30. Lorraine Bethel, “What Chou Mean We, White Girl,” in Conditions: Five (1979): 86.

31. Thompson. See also Anne Braden, The Wall Between (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1999); Anne Braden, “A Second Open Letter to Southern White Women,” Southern Exposure 6 (winter 1977): 50.



32. See Feminary: A Feminist Journal for the South Emphasizing Lesbian Visions. Schlesinger Library at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University has scattered issues of Feminary. Duke University Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collection Library has vols. 5-15 from 1974-1985. …

33. Marilyn Buck, Linda Evans, Laura Whitehorn, and Kathy Boudin are among the white political prisoners who are either currently in prison or, in the case of Laura Whitehorn and Linda Evans, recently released, serving sentences whose length and severity can only be understood as retaliation for their principled, antiracist politics.


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