womens intellectual capacities and contributions have been historically

Womens intellectual capacities and contributions have

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women’s intellectual capacities and contributions have been historically degraded within the matrix of domination, she also discusses ways that Black women can be empowered to provide theoretical and analytical material important for pursuing social justice. Women of Color are affected by both sexism and racism, as well as other forms of “difference,” such as ableism or classism. As long as the systems of oppression and privilege are firmly in place, the power structures create comfort and ignorance for the privileged and, simultaneously, surveillance and dominance over exploited and repressed communities. The Combahee River Collective’s 1977 “Black Feminist Statement” shows that Black women and other “Third World” women, as well as working-class women, have always been involved in the women’s movement, “but both outside reactionary forces and racism and elitism within the movement itself have served to obscure our participation” (272). This declaration of the Collective’s politics and expression of the multiple forms of oppression faced by Black lesbian
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19 women continues to be influential. They identified their positionality as a locus of power stating: “We believe that the most profound and potentially most radical politics come directly out of our own identity, as opposed to working to end somebody else's oppression” (273-4). This runs counter to mainstream feminism where single-issue feminists claim to work on behalf of all women but are really only focused on their own experience of oppression. As the structures of oppressions are interlinked, a movement concerned with justice and human rights, such as feminism, should work to dismantle those systems of patriarchy, capitalism, and white supremacy, and not leave that work to the most marginalized women whose participation is often ignored by the mainstream. Women of Color have taken leadership on anti-racist feminisms by asserting their own theories and experiences and inserting themselves into the discourse of gender justice. Kimberlé Crenshaw famously developed a theory of intersectionality to provide for a comprehensive understanding of the ways that multiple, intersecting systems of oppression and privilege structure the experiences of different communities. Describing the damage done by single-issue feminism, Crenshaw wrote in 1989, “This adoption of a single-issue framework for discrimination not only marginalizes Black women within the very movements that claim them as part of their constituency but it also makes the illusive [sic] goal of ending racism and patriarchy even more difficult to attain” (152). Unlike white women who have claimed that the(ir) primary source of disenfranchisement is gender, intersectional feminists understand that race, class, sexuality, and other identities impact the ways women experience their gender differentially from the essentialized womanhood of mainstream (white) feminism. However, it is also important to recognize the specificity of intersectionality.
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  • Summer '19
  • Maria Yvonne Dy

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