Deeper Dive into Black Feminism and Class
The construct of femininity has typically been conceptualized from a Eurocentric perspective as traditional femininity ideology. But this may not apply to African-Black females given their unique history and experiences. The strong Black woman ideology, although formulated during slavery, has become an adaptive and idealized cultural idealization. Both constructs have been associated with stress.
Black women still deal with being undervalued and criminalized under a system laced with sexism and racism. The combination of racism and sexism during slavery contributed to Black women having the lowest status and worst conditions of any group.
The black feminist tradition grows not out of other movements, but out of the condition of being both black and a woman. Despite different visions, a few foundational principles do exist in black feminism:
Black women’s experiences of racism, sexism, and classism are inseparable.
Their needs and worldviews are distinct from those of black men and white women.
There is no contradiction between the struggle against racism, sexism, and all other isms. All must be addressed simultaneously.
Black women are often thought to be at a disadvantage because of racism and sexism, but some black feminists view their position as one of possibility.
They argue that in the struggle for freedom, the people most exposed to different forms of oppression understand best how to dismantle them. While late-nineteenth-century black feminism was grounded in heterosexual black women’s bodies, by the end of the twentieth and into the twenty-first century, radical black feminism came to center queer and trans black women, girls, and gender-nonconforming people. Outside black feminist circles, black feminism is often described as an outgrowth of other freedom struggles.
Serena Williams, the world’s most successful female tennis star, is constantly denigrated for not being feminine enough. Williams isn’t alone. In the US, black women have often been deemed too ugly, muscular, and aggressive to be feminine.
American black women aren’t just more likely to identify as feminine; research shows they are also more likely to embrace feminism. This was highlighted in a 2007 study that found that black women were more interested in traditionally feminine behaviors such as wearing attractive clothing than their white counterparts and also were more likely to describe themselves as feminists. The researchers point to decades of previous studies showing that black women tend to identify as feminists more than white women.
This is due to black women’s experience of racial oppression in the US. Stereotypes of black women—that they were loud, lewd, ccrude, ugly, barbaric, and sexually promiscuous—were used to justify the atrocities committed against them. In a society that has deemed black women incapable of being vulnerable, warm, beautiful, and graceful, it can be a powerful choice to identify as feminine.
Research by Umme Affa Ibnat Masud
Graphics by Jhem Picache