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Multiracial Feminism: Recasting the Chronology of Second Wave Feminism Becky Thompson
Transcript of Multiracial Feminism: Recasting the Chronology of Second Wave Feminism Becky Thompson
Both popular and scholarly interpretations of Second Wave feminism link two well known principles to the movement:
1)Sisterhood is Powerful
"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."
"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"
2)Personal is Political
"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."
"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"
" 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."
The Rise of Multiracial Feminism
Normative accounts of Second Wave feminist movement reach back to Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique (1963), National Organization for Women (NOW) (1966), and the emergence of women's consciousness-raising (CR) groups
However, this version of Second Wave history is not enough in telling the story of multiracial feminism.
Even though 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.
During the 70's WOC were working with white dominated feminist groups, forming women's caucuses existing mixed-gender orgs, and developing autonomous Black, Latina, Native American and Asian Feminist Orgs.
Radicals, Heydays, and Hot Spots
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.
Ellen Willis claims that by the 1970's the best of feminism had already occurred . Furthermore, Barbara Ryan claims that the unity among women in the late 70's declined dramatically....
THEY WERE WRONGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG.
Whereas, Chela Sandoval and Barbara Smith both agree this was the time when WOC and white women came together to dismantle their differences in ideologies and oppressions.
The term Radical did not only apply to white feminist, but also applied to antiracist white women and women of color.
These radical women included political prisoners-black, Puerto Rican, and white-some of whom are still in prison for their antiracist activism in the 60's and 70's.
Many of these woman openly identify as feminist and/or lesbians, but are rarely included in histories of Second Wave Feminism
Who were these woman?
One of the earliest feminist org. of the Second Wave was a Chicana group-Hijas de Cuahtemoc (1971), which was named after a Mexican women's underground newspaper published during the 1910's Mexican Revolution
An early Asian American women's group, Asian Sisters, focused on drug abuse intervention for young women in LA; fueled by first gen. Asian American college students.
Best-known Native American women's org. Women of All Red Nations (WARN); they fought for ending sterilization in public health service hospitals, suing the US gov. for attempting to sell Pine Ridge water in South Dakota to corporations, and networking with indigenous people in Guatemala.
On early black feminist org was the Third World Woman's alliance which emerged out of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) chapters on the East Coast and focused on racism, sexism and imperialism.
The most autonomous feminist group of the early 70's was the National Black Feminist Organization (NBFO). Well known black woman like Barbara Smith, Michelle Wallace, Alice Walker were a part of it
These organ groups of women in the 70's provided the foundation for the most far-reaching and expansive organizing by women of color in US history.
Consequently these organizations managed to produce a lot of reading material
For example, 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.
This allowed for WOC to work in coalition across organizations with each other
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.
Multiracial Feminism: Recasting the Chronology of Second Wave Feminism
Introduces Chela Sandoval’s discussion of “hegemonic feminism"
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.
However, this period is not rarely referred as hegemonic, but instead is told through the following branches of feminism: liberal, socialist, radical, and sometimes cultural feminism.
"Feminism is the political theory and practice to free all women: women of color, working-class women, poor women, physically challenged woman,
lesbians, old women, as well as white economically privileged heterosexual women. Anything less than that is not feminism, but merely female self aggrandizement." Barbara Smith
“To me, the revolutionary struggle of Black people had to be against racism, classism, imperialism and sexism for real freedom under a socialist government.” - Assata Shakur
Blueprints for Feminist Activism
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.
" 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.I want people to know that there are antiracist feminist women currently in prison for their antiracist activism in the 1960s and since."