In 1979, Black socialist feminist lesbian writer, scholar, and organizer Barbara Smith stood in front of the National Association of Women’s Studies and said the following,
Feminism is the political theory and practice that struggles to free all women: women of color,…
Photo from The Boston Public Library
My partner and I were wandered over to the Wolfgang Puck take-out stand at the Chicago Airport to ease my stomach rumbles after a 4-hour flight from NYC. While I patiently awaited my highly over-priced but much needed margherita pizza, I got lost staring at a black man working in the restaurant, perhaps in his early 60s with grey curly hair. He had a dignified and calm aura around him as he rhythmically pushed pizza in and out of a brick oven. And then it hit me: how can one say slavery isn’t over when all of the people working behind the counter, serving the wealthy and predominately white travelers, are people of color? And how can we say there is greater equality today when people of color are more often those who fill the positions of attendants and servers in the United States? Seems like we have just added a bit more money and a few more jobs to a system of slavery that is still very much in place.
I’ve had this post saved in my drafts for over 5 months now. I was fearful of posting it out of the high possibility that I could offend many of the people that inspire me to be a better activist. Though some of these sentiments have shifted, I realize now how important this personal statement is to my development as a feminist since my journey abroad. And so, I hope that when you read this you understand I am critiquing a system rather than individuals or white, middle class feminist women.
A professor of mine once said that the United Nations is a community of white, male non-retires thus making it difficult for others to enter the system and create change. I have come to believe the same holds true for the feminist community in NYC, except they are a group of predominantly white, middle class women.
When I left for Costa Rica last year, I simultaneously disengaged myself from the feminist community in the United States. My experiences in NYC and LA had made me resent the world of feminism. I saw many powerful feminists have their voices hidden by mainstream feminist outlets because they chose not to focus on commonly discussed topics such as reproductive justice, or sexualities. And though I witnessed many well-known leaders within the feminist community who were supportive, they didn’t want to share their power in order for the younger generations, women of color, working classes etc so that they may be recognized. I was tired of feeling let down, and sometimes ridiculed, by those whom I looked up to. Of course, there were exceptions and some strong friendships have been made.
While I believe passionately about the many causes and fights within the movement, I can’t help but get the sense that this is a community in the United States that heavily focused on recognition. Though there is an immense amount of support, it’s often followed by sentiments of, “I know better and, I can do this event, job, petition, etc better.” The companionship that I’ve found has often been about self gain - who can I mentor, how can I get my name through the door, who is the best person to network with for this project.
But I don’t think this “problem” has to do with individual people, rather it is the effect of the system in which feminism and feminists exist within. The United States, especially NYC, is a competitive place and it takes a long time to get your foot in the door. Of course, once you have gained access and recognition the thought of someone else taking your place is daunting and so people hold on tightly, almost perpetuating the system that they experienced as activist and writers in their twenties. Hello! Why is it that the same women have been running the largest and most well-known feminist organizations (i.e. Ms.) for such a long period of time without passing the torch to others?
As much as we say there is an increasing focus on intersectionality within feminist circles in the United States, we need to put more emphasis on our communities and ask ourselves how we move forward in a way that encourages mutual learning and respect between all ages, classes, genders, races, etc within feminism. How do we empower younger generations, women of color, working classes, etc to do the feminist work that they love as a career path without continuing a cycle that perpetuates competition over teamwork and growth?
Ain’t I A Woman Conference, Galapagos Art Space, NYC
Photo by Mimiko Watanabe + Christian Silva
I have been blessed to have a supportive group of family and friends who have respected my political beliefs and activism over the years. Sure, I have been challenged, my political stances have been questioned, and I have changed my mind regarding opinions I have had in the past-but never have I been told that I was a racist man-hating feminist… until now.
Part of my activism includes sharing pieces of myself so that others may understand the causes that I-and many others-fight for. So, for the person (or perhaps people) out there who believe that I am a radical, racist, man-hating feminist, here is my truth.
Feminism didn’t take me in like some sort of freakish cult and spit me out into a feminazi, bra-burning, hairy-legged lesbian. It hasn’t taught me to believe that I should hate men, or white people, or the very wealthy. Feminism, as a great friend and colleague says, has been hearing my pain, struggles and experiences in another person’s voice and realizing there is nothing wrong with me.
The feminist movement provided me with the words to talk about the brutal murder of my close friend by her ex-boyfriend. It allowed me to understand that getting roofied by a mentor at Lehman’s Brothers was not my fault rather it was the consequence of a larger system that excuses violence committed on women’s bodies. It was feminist activists in college who told me it was okay to love men and women, and antiracist activists who allowed me to appreciate the color of my skin and natural hair despite the hatred I experience because of it.
Like most people, the process of finding this level of self-appreciation and strength has not been easy, and the feminist community hasn’t always been perfect. Yet, contrary to some people’s beliefs, feminism allowed me to respect all people, to fight for peace, to act out of love instead of anger, and to extend a hand, smile or provide a stage for someone else to speak their own truth and reclaim their power.
There may always be those who hold hatred towards another group simply because of the color of their skin, their gender and/or sex, their wealth or poverty, but that simply isn’t me. I understand that each person has different realities. Through my activism, I not only try to respect and honor the different needs of individuals, I also try to find ways in which we can all work together to create transformative change.
On Tuesday, November 6th, 2012, the American people watched as President Barack Obama was re-elected. Though some rejoiced while others cursed in frustration, groups of students around the country gathered on their campuses to shout racial epithets and threats of physical violence to students of color.
At Hampden-Sydney College in Richmond, Virginia, 40 students “shouted racial slurs, threw bottles and set off fireworks outside the Minority Student Union within hours after President Barack Obama’s re-election,” says Steve Szkotak of the Huffington Post (According to Think Progress, the school’s president, who is black, sent an email to students’ parents calling the incident a “harmful, senseless episode,” but it is not clear whether he had plans for disciplinary action). At a protest at the University of Mississippi on Tuesday night, 400 people shouted racial slurs. Only two were arrested.
And in NYC, 16 year old High School student, Ricky Catanzaro, tweeted, “No n—– should lead this country!!! #Romney” followed by, “Only thing black people are good at is basketball #run #shot #steal,” says the NY Daily News.
It is not enough to set up perimeters banning racist language on campus, for while those barriers may silence the most racist of students at school, most students will return home with the same racist ideologies they hold in their mind. Instead, there needs to be a fundamental shift in the ways we are teaching students about identities. Students should have the opportunity to ask questions about communities outside of their own, and address the stereotypes that have been created by the societies they live in.
Originally Posted at Refuse The Silence.
Updated Regularly. Last Update, Friday 11:19am
In light of the demand for a list of places to donate and volunteer in Brooklyn in post-Sandy, I have shared a message from State Committeeman Chris Owens on where to assist in Brooklyn.
Overview: There is no network of shelter phone numbers for volunteers to call, so please simply go to one near you and ask if you are needed. At the moment, the shelters have many daytime volunteers and assigned personnel. They need people in the evenings and at night. When you go to a location, ask to sign in and leave your number/email so the coordinators can get in touch with you if they need you.
Who Is Needed:
1. Individuals with medical training are always needed. If you are an RN or former RN, an EMT, etc., or a social worker, your help is needed.
2. Entertainers are always needed. Singers and musicians are most welcome (particularly during the day hours), and anyone who can be creative with activities for children. There may not be a lot of space to work with, but I have faith in my fellow cultural workers. Those who carry portable instruments (e.g. - your own voice, guitars, accordions, light percussion) will have the easiest time of it, but some schools with open auditoriums have a working piano!
At this point in time, only bring BRAND NEW clothing items to the shelters and check with your location FIRST to assess what is needed there.
NYC Technical College, 300 Jay Street
Park Slope Armory, 361 15th Street
J.H.S. 57, 125 Stuyvesant Avenue
I.S. 111, 35 Starr Street
I.S. 117, 300 Willoughby Avenue
I.S. 136, 4004 4th Avenue
P.S. 189, 1100 East New York Avenue
I.S. 246, 72 Veronica Place
P.S. 249, 18 Marlborough Road
I.S. 271, 1137 Herkimer Street
I.S. 55, 2021 Bergen Street
I.S. 292, 300 Wyona Street
I.S. 383, 1300 Greene Avenue
Franklin K. Lane High School, 999 Jamaica Avenue
Brooklyn Tech High School, 29 Fort Greene Place
Boys & Girls High School, 1700 Fulton Street
John Jay High School, 237 7th Avenue
Bushwick High School, 400 Irving Avenue
I.S. 187, 1171 65th Street
Franklin D. Roosevelt High School, 5800 20th Avenue
Clara Barton High School, 901 Classon Avenue
I also recommend making a donation to non-profits along the waterfront in Brooklyn. Gere are several non-profits that could use your support through an online donation:
Up-To-Date List Of Locations Where Assistance Is Needed:
Updated Regularly. Last Update, Friday 11:17am.
- Folks in Park Slope can also donate goods at Postmark Cafe on 326 6th St. They will be accepting sugar, flour, 100% juice, canned fruit and veggies, canned tuna and chicken, soup, pasta sauce, rice, beans, boxed milk with a shelf life, cereal, oatmeal, coffee, and tea from 7am to 7pm (Saturday at 8am).
- DUMBO’s Powerhouse Arena got rained on in a big way. Over two feet of water stormed the bookstore/event space, destroying store items and furniture with it, leaving the place stranded without flood insurance. However, Powerhouse is determined to re-open, and you can help with that! Donate to their efforts to clean up and restock. There’s also a Sandy Hates Books fundraiser on the horizon, currently scheduled for Saturday, November 17 from 12-8pm. Updates to come.
- If anyone is available today InterOccupy is meeting and regrouping to help the elderly people who still are without food, water and electricity in the Warbass and Brighton area. Today they ran out of food and water. Please bring bottled water and any kind of unopened food or fruits/vegetables. Things that can be eaten without cooking. They are meeting at the RAJE center and moving out from there. 2915 Ocean parkway between Neptune and Oceanview aves. Please be there at 11am.
- In Red Hook, the Red Hook Initiative has been coordinating relief and support efforts (and doing a phenomenal job!). Feel free to drop in at 767 Hicks Street or call them at (718) 858-6782.
- Sign up for the City’s emergency notification message service - Notify NYC - available at: https://a858-nycnotify.nyc.gov/notifynyc/
- Cash donations to support these and other efforts can be made through the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City. Learn more here: nyc.gov/fund
Yesterday, I wrote a post shedding light on an article posted by CNN discussing a recent study surrounding the correlation between women’s voting patterns and their hormones.
Apparently, CNN either realized this was as offensive a study as you can get, or they didn’t want to hear the public critique it any further.
Either way, the article has been removed:
Given the nature of the internet, you may still find the entire article here.
Image by: Todd Benson
According to a new study by Kristina Durante and colleagues of the University of Texas, San Antonio, single women who are ovulating are more likely to be socially liberal while relationship-committed women are more likely to be socially conservative.
When women are ovulating, they “feel sexier,” and therefore lean more toward liberal attitudes on abortion and marriage equality. Married women have the same hormones firing, but tend to take the opposite viewpoint on these issues, she says.
“I think they’re overcompensating for the increase of the hormones motivating them to have sex with other men,” she said. It’s a way of convincing themselves that they’re not the type to give in to such sexual urges, she said.
In order words, if you are ovulating on November 6th and you find yourself to be single, you will a. feel really sexy this day and b. will vote for Obama. If you are married, apparently you will be voting for Romney out of fear on cheating on your spouse.
…sees the research as following in the tradition of the “long and troubling history of using women’s hormones as an excuse to exclude them from politics and other societal opportunities.”
Perhaps Durante and her fellow researchers should move away from re-instituting scientific studies resembling the 1940’s and focus on the social, political and economic issues that will affect men and women’s voting patterns this election.
The violations started small. I was 12, fairly tall with brand new boobs. My mother wouldn’t let me buy “real bras” for a long time. It didn’t occur to me that was weird until boys in my class started advising me to “stop wearing sports bras” because I was looking a little “saggy.”
It was a…