I realized I wasn’t a feminist earlier this year after reading an article by Patricia Hill Collins. The article racked my brain and forced me to give up my previous identity. I prided myself on feminist ideologies: all of my college/common app essays were based on feminism; I was known as the “feminist” of high school; half of my Facebook posts advocated feminism. I WAS a feminist a couple months ago.
At the peak of my period of feminism I got into my first argument with my boyfriend. I started it pretty abruptly:
“You know you’re a feminist, right?” I claimed.
“What are you talking about, I never said that, where are you even coming from with that?” He responded defensively.
At this point I found myself trying to convert everyone. I recalled he previously admitted to believing in the social, political, and economic equality of both genders, but he didn’t (and would never) consider himself an advocate of those beliefs. I thought there was a clear connection between believing and advocating, I thought the definition of feminism should be unanimously agreed upon, and I thought all opposition was primitive and invalid. Clearly, I didn’t understand feminism. I think my research started after he said that. From that moment on, I remained conscious of evolving definitions of feminism and actively tried to define it for myself.
Earlier this year, in my Intro to African American Studies class, I read the Patricia Hill Collins article I mentioned above. It spelled out a new way of thinking I never recognized before: Black feminist thought. It introduced a discussion on Kimberlé Crenshaw’s idea of intersectionality, and made me realized how exclusive and narrow-minded feminism is. Basically three ideas were defined in the article, and the discussion we had in class afterwards:
Black feminist thought: an enduring and shared standpoint among black women about the meaning of oppression and the actions that black women can and should take to resist it. There is an inevitable exclusivity to black feminist thought, in that only black women can produce it, because only black women experience the unique and systematic oppression of simultaneous racism and sexism.
Black feminism: a revision of the overall feminist movement that addresses not only sexism but also racism, and rectifies the struggle faced by black women and their dichotomized identity.
Intersectionality: is the idea that intersections exist between systems of oppression. An example is black feminism, which argues that the experience of being a black female cannot be understood in terms of being black, or of being female, rather, it must be consider the interactions between both, which frequently reinforce each other.
Everything in the article resonated with me and I realized my research was complete.