long years of political struggle aimed at eradicating the multiple oppressions that black women experience [and the] erroneous notions about the relevance of feminism to the black community." Nonetheless, the modern women's movement covers more diversity of race, class, sexuality, ethnicity, and ability than any other U.S. movement. It has also created a laboratory for self-discovery, friendship, and struggle that often helps bridge similar divisions elsewhere.
Both successes and failures show the importance of feminism in self-determined and culturally diverse forms, from reforms inside patriarchal institutions to experimental structures outside; from balance between males and females to the goal of achieving the full range of human qualities within each person. As Guy-Sheftall has written, "The history of American feminism has been primarily a narrative about the heroic deeds of white women." Only broadening that history will reveal a feminism that belongs to all women, that frees men from the prison of gender, and that reconnects what has been divided by dualism and hierarchy. There is a growing hope that the history of U.S. feminism will no longer be lost and rediscovered, lost again and again rediscovered. In Paula Gunn Allen's words, "the root of oppression is the loss of memory." --Wilma Mankiller, Marysa Navarro, and Gloria Steinem Feminisms Author's Note: Some feminist histories stress what might have been, others examine what was. Some accounts begin and end with the story of white feminists. Some attribute all of women's varied oppressions to male power. Others treat feminism as a history of struggle among women, as well as between women and men. The following article presents the history of feminism not simply as a history of women mobilizing on their own behalf, but also as a history of race, culture, class, and sexuality. Such an approach gives visibility not only to feminist solidarities, but to differences among feminists; it also holds feminists accountable for their actions. In this view, feminism is not where differences among women disappear, although generations of feminists have certainly tried to erase or deny them. Nor is feminism a singular history, for as individuals and members of groups we have forged distinctive paths toward gender justice. Feminism articulates political opposition to the subordination of women as women, whether that subordination is ascribed by law, imposed by social convention, or inflicted by individual men and women. Feminism also offers alternatives to existing unequal relations of gender power, and these alternatives have formed the agendas for feminist movements. Some feminists may borrow or claim other women's oppression and empowerment as their own, but feminism generally springs from each woman's own lived experience. Such experiences vary enormously, as some women's burdens are other women's privileges: gender roles, expectations, and limitations are not the same for Black women and white, for poor women and rich, for lesbians and straight women. Feminism thus challenges women to respect differences
- Fall '19