Further to Fly: Black Women and the Politics of Empowerment

Further to Fly: Black Women and the Politics of Empowerment

Further to Fly: Black Women and the Politics of Empowerment

Further to Fly: Black Women and the Politics of Empowerment

Synopsis

Toward an authentic feminism -- Uses and limits of Black feminist theory and the decline of Black women's empowerment -- Gender and community : the power of transcendence -- The crisis of Black womanhood -- The economic context of Black women's activism -- The particulars of un-negation -- Feminist leadership for the new century.

Excerpt

I read Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex ([1953] 1974) in 1971. My friend Alix Mitchell lent me the book and insisted that I read it. Although the length of the book was forbidding and much of it was decidedly over my twenty-two-year-old head, I remember being struck by its cogent and unrelenting analysis of the second-class status of women. Much of de Beauvoir's theory connected with and seemed to explain many of my own experiences in the peace, civil rights, and black nationalist movements. Although I did not understand it all, the book definitely left me with a new lens through which to view the social order. The idea that gender consciousness could lead to a new understanding of the power relations in society and culture transformed my thinking. Although I could not have foreseen this in 1971, I have spent the last twenty-eight years thinking about the implications of gender consciousness for social change. During those years, feminist theory has significantly contributed to our knowledge of how the world is or should be organized. Its promise of gender liberation through collective struggle has not, however, been fully realized.

Like many of us, I was a 1970s political activist whose experience with the gender hierarchies of radical protest movements was up close and painful. My campus peace activities, for example, provided me with numerous occasions to see and experience the marginal status of women in radical politics. My participation in the black nationalist movement directly exposed me to the gender dilemmas resulting from the inherent contradictions of black power politics. Because the politics of the liberation movements of the 1960s failed to include any substantive discussion of gender issues, some of us thought that feminist writing about sexual politics could in some way be applied to our situation. In those days, there was contentious interest in whether feminism offered an intellectual framework that could engender social change. I remember many and occasionally heated conversations about the utility of feminism both as a framework for challenging black women's positions in political movements and as a strategy for improving the social condition of black people.

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