Friday, April 03, 2020


Article Index


The Black Feminist Movement was formed to address the ways sexism, racism, and classism influence the lives of black women whose needs were ignored by the black men of the Black Liberation Movement and white women in the Women's Movement. The movement has spawned several important organizations which are committed to the struggle against all forms of oppression. They have created a unique model for cross-class organization in which the needs of the poor are not usurped by the needs of the middle-class and the wealthy. The effectiveness of the movement has not been uniform in the white feminist and black communities. Many white women in the feminist movement have acknowledged their racism and made attempts to address it in anti-racist training seminars. Feminist theory now includes an analysis of the way race, class, sexuality, as well as gender influence women's lives. The women's studies departments of many prominent universities and colleges now have courses which focus on black women's writings and history, in the United States and in other countries. However, in the black community, the movement has not been as effective. The rhetoric of current black liberation movements still fails to adequately address issues which affect black women. Awareness of sexism has increased within the black academic community but the popular culture (especially that which primarily involves black men, such as the rap music industry) continues to be extremely sexist and misogynist. There are several challenges facing the Black Feminist Movement. Most importantly, the movement must find a way to broaden support among black and Third World women. Education about the true nature and goal of the movement as well as resources and strategies for change must reach the women who have little or no access to the movement. There is a need for the development of mentor relationships between black women scholar/activists and young black students, both female and male. Individual struggle must be connected with a larger feminist movement to effect change, and so that new black feminists need not reinvent theory or search again for history that was never recorded. There is also a need to develop black female subjectivity to address black women as the primary audience of theoretical and critical black feminism. Black women and men need to develop a critical style which encourages further dialogue and development of ideas rather than merely "trashing" and silencing new black feminist voices. Respect for fellow black women must be developed and guarded in spite of the sexist, racist, and classist "cultural baggage" with which all Americans are weighed down. Differences among black women must be acknowledged and affirmed, rather than ignored. Finally, alliances must be strengthened between the black feminist movement and its parent movements. The black feminist movement must hold the current male-dominated black liberation movement accountable for its sexism and at the same time work with the movement to end the oppression of black people. As well, there must be a working dialogue between the white-dominated feminist movement and the black feminist movement to continue to develop theory and action which strives toward the end of sexism. The power and influence that each of these groups has cannot be ignored. As one NBFO member has said, "White women are our natural allies; we can't take down the system alone."

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