Women in Higher Education

By W. Todd Furniss; Patricia Albjerg Graham | Go to book overview

CATHARINE R. STIMPSON


Conflict, Probable; Coalition, Possible: Feminism and the Black Movement

As a child, I learned a strict rule about polite conversation: Race, sex, politics, and religion were taboo. They might be brought up within the family or at school, but never in company. As I grew older, I learned two reasons for the taboo: First, the subjects were so volatile that their introduction transmogrified conversation into controversy or polemic. Second, too many people spoke nothing but nonsense about them. Opinion was inflated into dogma, bias into bibliography, and personal fallacy into public fiat.

My discussion here violates my childhood taboos for its subjects are race, sex, and politics, to all of which many people now ascribe the infallibility of faith. My perspective is that of a middle-class, white, professional woman now working in. New York. I am a feminist. That is, I am part of a public movement that seeks to guarantee to all women full political and economic rights, that profoundly questions the ideology and institutions that assign some virtues and talents to men and others to women on the basis of gender alone, that challenges patriarchal modes of social organization, and that believes that the liberation of women will increase the well-being of all.

I do not speak for all feminists. Feminism is neither a monolithic force for which one person might speak, nor, at this moment, a majority force to which most American women subscribe. I do not know what black women or blacks say to each other about feminism, about those black women who are feminists, about black feminism, or about black women in general. My evidence comes from what some black women have said in public or in print.

My thesis is that serious tensions exist between feminism and the black movement, as movements, and between white and black women, as persons. Not only have white feminists often ignored such tensions, but also they have presumed that a natural allegiance

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