Black Feminism: An Integrated Review of Literature

By Love, Katie L. | ABNF Journal, Winter 2016 | Go to article overview

Black Feminism: An Integrated Review of Literature


Love, Katie L., ABNF Journal


Introduction

The experiences of African-American women are both complex and unique, based on similarities in experiences with racism and sexism, stereotyping, and in a shared history. Nurse researchers have increasingly focused on a variety of philosophical frameworks in guiding their research with AfricanAmerican women. Choosing the most appropriate framework requires an understanding of each theory, the language that it uses, as well as the political and historical context. This study attempts to illustrate these aspects of Black Feminism, comparing it with other critical theories, and aiming to increase the rigorousness and utility of Black Feminism in nursing research. To accomplish this, Whittemore's (2005) method of integrated review was used to allow for the examination and synthesis of the topic across multiple disciplines.

Black Feminism can be beneficial to knowledge development for nursing in several ways. Illustrating the multifaceted factors of Black women's identities will help scholars to omit the generalization of experiences, improve understanding of health disparities, and to make changes by broadening the social consciousness of the predominantly white nurse researchers. Asking different research questions and offering different interventions, the structures that contribute to this oppression may be deconstructed.

Background

Nurse researchers who would like to work with an AfricanAmerican female population, and finding the philosophical framework that best acknowledges and supports the unique experiences of the group, will add to the strength of the research and to the success of intervention. Black Feminism is a branch of Feminism specifically focusing on the unique experience of having multiple identities (intersectionality), specifically race, class, and gender.

Intersectionality acknowledges that no one is without multiple aspects of their identity. Black Feminism's focus on race, class, and gender also questions the politics of the oppression itself (Marbley, 2005; Oesterreich, 2007). According to Anderson (2002); Marbley (2005); and Oesterreich (2007), Intersectional oppression looks beyond compartmentalizing the impact of a research topic on either race or gender, which is still how most research results are presented. Understanding the politics of intersectional experiences can offer insight into the health disparities that are of concern in today's healthcare system.

Feminism is often seen by many as reflecting the needs of white women and/or of affluent women. For example, the Feminist movement of the 1960's was w hen white women fought for the right to work outside of the home and use their college degrees. African-American women and working class women were already working outside of the home, so the rights they sought as women were different. These differences were more focused on working conditions, welfare, and physical/sexual safety. Additionally, the work of African-American women (and other women of color) as domestics made it possible for white women to leave the home, further dividing the movement by race (Collins, 1986; Shambley-Ebron & Boyle, 2004). White Feminists today have re-examined these generalizations and are more inclusive of marginalized women. The use of Feminism in academic scholarship remains largely reflective of a White Feminist perspective, and does not reflect on how the arguments would differ across race or class lines, or viewed from the histopolitical context of other groups (Abrums, 2004; Barrett & McIntosh, 2005; Bhavnani & Coulson, 2005).

Black Feminism acknowledges the shared history of African-American women, which is important in researching health related issues. The United States has a history in the manipulation, coercion, and victimization of women of color by the medical community, including forced medical sterilization through hysterectomies and IUD testing without informed consent, eugenics research, and the Tuskegee syphilis experiments. …

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