Black Feminism and What It Means Today
As Black History Month comes to a close, one girl's reflections on race, identity, and respect.Feminism is defined as the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men. We all know that. (Except for Kellyanne Conway, maybe.) The oppression of women has been thoroughly documented throughout history. We’ve heard of countless tales of the suffrage movements: parades and rallies, mass incarceration, public degradation and more in a valiant effort to earn the woman’s right to vote. Women have consistently demanded their rights and equality in this world. They have done everything in their power to “break the glass ceiling” (which, let’s be real, isn’t quiiiite done yet). But where do black women fall into this narrative?
The Black Feminist movement happened in response to the Black Liberation movement (which itself happened in response to the Civil Rights movement). Black women found themselves sexually oppressed—that is to say, ignored because of their gender—within the Black Liberation movement. They were lumped in with the white women of the suffrage movement, while simultaneously being racially oppressed and outcast by those same white suffragettes. This lead to the creation of the Black Feminist movement, which sought to be a place for the people who seemed to have no voice within either faction.
I've often been described as “not a stereotypical black girl.” When I was picked on in middle school, “white girl” was the moniker of choice. But there's nothing wrong with being “stereotypically black,” just like there's nothing wrong with liking the things that I like and also being able to embrace my blackness. That's why intersectionality exists! In order to properly exercise our power within the Black Feminist movement, we must remember to keep a practice of intersectionality like my role models Teen Vogue editor in chief Elaine Welteroth and Amandla Stenberg do. Intersectional feminism is remembering that many different oppressive institutions play a part in my oppression as black woman and cannot necessarily be separated from each other.
I'm lucky to have loads of guys in my life who treat me with respect; and if they slip up, I won't hesitate to set the record straight. Even as a young girl, I knew I was worth something, and I wouldn’t let anyone deny me that. At the end of the day, we just have to hold the men in our lives accountable for their actions and their role in helping us achieve equality. And contrary to popular belief, we don't want equality by dragging men down, but by having them help us up to the level that they currently reside.
I'm aware that some women might not agree with me. They might not want to be labeled a feminist or they just might not care because they benefit from “white feminism” (and you don't have to be white to benefit!). To them I ask, is it really feminism if you don't uphold the causes of all women? Not really. So as we approach A Day Without Women, I hope others begin to take into consideration the plight of their fellow black feminists and allow them to speak freely about their experiences so that we can all move forward as one.
By Dymond Moore, 18