Eloquent Rage: Black and Intersectional Feminism for "Grown-Ass Women"

By Clark, Rebecca | Resources for Gender and Women's Studies: A Feminist Review, Summer-Fall 2018 | Go to article overview

Eloquent Rage: Black and Intersectional Feminism for "Grown-Ass Women"


Clark, Rebecca, Resources for Gender and Women's Studies: A Feminist Review


Reviewer's note: I recognize that the perspectives from which I, as a white woman, read and review this text are limited. I encourage readers to seek out Black women's reviews of the book. Several are cited at the end of this review.

Feminism is slowly but surely picking up steam in the 21st century. The stigma is slowing fading and the word is shedding its supposed dirtiness, overcoming its shame. In other words, in many circles, "feminist" is becoming a socially accepted identity. The Internet is partly to thank--women and girls all over the world now have a wealth of knowledge at their fingertips and can read about and learn from other people's experiences. Acts of resistance can go viral. We can even purchase merchandise to proudly announce we're feminists. Moreover, our president and the bigoted misogynists he's chosen to help lead our country and decide the fate of women's healthcare have forced women to come together on common ground. Finally, the fact that many celebrities are using their platforms to tackle things like police brutality, rape culture, and the gender wage gap helps make feminism more mainstream.

Unfortunately, however, mainstream feminism often overlooks millions of women, opting instead to focus on a select group who usually have only their gender working against them. For example, when you think of prominent, contemporary feminist icons, who comes to mind? Is it bell hooks, Audre Lorde, Angela Davis, Melissa Harris-Perry, and Marsha P. Johnson? Or is it Emma Watson, Jennifer Lawrence, Amy Schumer, Lena Dunham, and Taylor Swift? For many people these days, it's probably someone from the latter group. But lack of awareness of the former can have unintended--and sometimes deadly--consequences for women who aren't included in mainstream or "white" feminism.

Dr. Brittney Cooper, a feminist scholar and professor, sets out to dispel the myth--and reveal the dangers--of white feminism in her second book, Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower. Cooper makes it clear from the first page that this is a book for "grown-ass women" (p. l) to learn about Black Feminism, "capital B, capital F," which she defines as a feminism "situated in the particular ways Black women have understood, thought about, and written about the problems of racism and sexism across space and time" (p. 34).

It is with Eloquent Rage that Cooper gives us what she calls a "homegirl intervention" by calling America out on all its "bullshit about racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, and a bunch of other stuff" (p. 5), and she makes clear that Black women have always been calling out that bullshit. After all, she argues,

Haven't white folks learned that Black folks know them far better than
they know themselves?... Black survival means being endlessly obsessed
with figuring out the depths to which white folks will fall to maintain
a position of dominance, (p. 21 3)

And one of those depths can be found in the voting booth. White women typically pledge allegiance to their race before their gender at the polls. "[W]hite women's voting practices tell us that they vote with the party that supports their racial issues," Cooper says, "even though this means voting with a party that hates women as a matter of public policy" (p. 172). This explains why 52% of the white women who cast ballots in the 2016 presidential election, versus 4% of the Black women, voted for Donald Trump, according to exit polls conducted by CNN. (1) Black women do not have the luxury to simply "be" Black women--they are constantly "asked to choose between [their] race and [their] gender" (p. 1 56). It's impossible for Black women to talk about their gender without talking about their race, something white women don't have to consider.

Cooper does not hold back her rage in her critiques of white feminism and American society, and she is right not to hold back. Tackling everything from race and gender to class and religion, she zooms in on different aspects of society with razor-sharp focus, blending statistics with personal experiences and observations into an accessible and educational text. …

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