Born in 1915, Sister Rosetta Tharpe is seen as the Godmother of Rock n Roll. Her electric guitar playing and singing in the 1940s have been cited as key influences by music icons, including Elvis Presley, Aretha Franklin, Little Richard and Johnny Cash. Songs like Strange Things Happening Every Day and Up Above My Head are great examples of her style, straddling her gospel roots with jazz and blues. During the 1940s she was also said to be in a relationship with singer Marie Knight, which was an ‘open secret’ in the music industry. She was an original flamboyant performer who has influenced generations. – Tara
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When Li Na won the French Open in 2011, it was widely reported that she was the first Asian woman to win a grand slam. What was overlooked was that she was only the second woman from outside Europe, North America and Australia to win a singles grand slam title in the open era. In some ways, tennis leads the way forward in terms of equality. It is the only major sport where women approach anything near to the fame and money of men. However, players from white majority countries dominate tennis more so than many other sports.
I do not know much about Li Na but in addition to her powerful groundstrokes, athleticism and quick reflexes, I applaud her for upsetting tennis hierarchies. – Chitra
An exciting new literary voice, born in London and raised in Boston to Nigerian parents, this trans-atlantic writer spanning cultures was recently named one of Waterstones’ Eleven their ‘pick of the most promising Fiction debuts of the year’. This graduate of Yale and Oxford is known for her eccentric personality and stand-out fashion choices. I first encountered Taiye when her essay ‘Afropolitans’ went viral and many of us young Diasporan Black women used it as a blueprint to describe a new generation. I recommend any of her writings to you all, her new book ’Ghana Must Go’ will be published April 4th. – Rianna
Issa Rae is the creator and star of the highly successful web series ‘Mis-adventures of Awkward Black Girl’ or Awkward Black Girl to those who know the antics of J and her crew well. I’m definitely a late comer to the hilarious Awkward Black Girl series but after a couple of minutes I could completely relate to J’s love life, work life and complete inability to be anything other than awkward. Rae started the series after graduating from Stanford University. She was partly inspired by an article pointing out the absence of black female geeks on TV. Rae’s determination to create a place for herself in the world of film and TV is an inspiration for all black women and a starting point for some great TV. – Steph
I first came across this photo at a black feminist event. It shows Indian women joining 40,000 women marching through London on 17th June 1911 demanding votes for women. Seeing the photo led me to visit the original in the Museum of London and read about women like Sophia Duleep Singh who was active in the Women’s Social and Political Union and the Women’s Tax Resistance League (No Vote, No Tax), headed a demonstration to parliament of 400 women on ‘Black Friday’ to see the Prime Minister and was the President of the Suffragette Fellowship, set up ‘to perpetuate the memory of the pioneers’.
Feminism is a global movement with women fighting for rights all over the world over generations and centuries. What this photo shows is that black women have been present in and integral to the struggle for women’s rights in the UK too from the very beginnings of the modern feminist movement. – Chitra
I feel that Jada Pinkett Smith has a lot of integrity as an artist and as a general human being. She has achieved so much artistically. It was a few years ago when I started to notice this woman by accident on You Tube, at an event where Essence Magazine was honouring her:
I thought that the speech she gave at event was truly inspiring, heartfelt and brutally honest; I think that a lot of Black Women can relate to it. Her whole demeanour reminds me not to forget who I am. – Kassandra
Arguably the mother of women’s rights in Nigeria, Funmilayo Ransome Kuti was a revolutionary activist. In 1946 she set up the Abeokuta Women’s Union, its aims being:
i. To defend, protect, preserve and promote the social, economic, cultural and political rights and interests of the women in Egbaland.
ii. To encourage mass education among the women through teaching its members to read and write.
iii. To cooperate with all organizations seeking and fighting genuinely and selflessly for the economic and political freedom and independence of the people.
The union led a militant campaign against the ruler of the Egba clan of Yorubas who was (with the support of colonial authorities), disproportionately taxing girls and women. In 1947 they organised a 10,000 strong demonstration outside the ruler’s residence and in the end managed to have him deposed.
She also spearheaded and was successful in the campaign to abolish a separate (higher) tax rate for women. She accomplished much more! – Lola
March 11, 2013 in intersectionality
This post is about why I am rejecting feminism as it is now.
I have no objection to people who believe in the inherent values of this wave of feminism, as it clearly means something to them. Unfortunately, I can’t share this enthusiasm. I have always been on the periphery of feminism; I didn’t really understand the deep and underlying theoretical abstractions of feminist theory when I was younger. I just thought feminism was about matching men’s achievements with opportunities for women to achieve the same level of success. I was wrong, what I have observed about feminist discourse recently, (I would say since the publication of Caitlin Moran’s HTBAW), and yes, I know feminist discourse goes back a hell of a lot longer than one pop-feminist book; is that a sizeable majority of women who are white, and appear to be from university educated middle class privileged backgrounds are running ‘tings.
I’d never heard of The Feminist Mystique which celebrated its 50th anniversary recently, but I was aware of US black women’s critique of it. I learnt about bell hooks, I dug around and came across more and more women and men embracing this term: intersectionality. I am preparing my research proposal for my intended PhD next year, so believe me when I say theory gets on my tits, however, a good writer/academic will make the obtuse, transparent. This particular blogger has, for me, explained intersectionality absolutely brilliantly. She has taken the time to define, explain, and describe its utility in understanding how and why feminism needs to embrace it:
“Intersectionality is a way of taking into consideration all of the factors that together make up our political identities: our gender, our race and ethnicity, our class and status in society, our sexuality, our physical abilities, our age, our national status, and so on.”
I don’t get why some feminists would struggle with this concept, it is pretty fucking clear to me from that definition what intersectionality is about. Herein, though, is the problem; some feminists, appear to be dismissive of intersectional approaches, because to THEM, it’s not important to take into consideration all of the factors that make up our identities, these factors include our gender, our race and ethnicity, our class and status, sexuality, etc etc.
There are thousands of examples of this sort of dismissiveness of intersectionality, white feminists believe the most important battle to be won is that of misogyny and “smashing patriarchy,” and intersectionality appears to be divisive. However as the definition above shows, an intersectional approach takes into account ALL my identities, why should I only identify as a woman? I am not just a woman, I am 1st generation born British Indo-Bangladeshi, first in my family to go to university, I am Muslim, I am brown, I am smart, I am funny, I am pretty fucking sexy, judging from the amounts of sexts I get from men in my phone. I am all of these things, and no one, NO ONE gets to tell me that I need to silence all these other equally important elements of my identity, so that I can focus all my energy on smashing patriarchy.
I couldn’t give a fuck about smashing patriarchy, and I’ll tell you why, as a brown woman growing up in Britain, I went to school in 80s, when most of my white class-mates were too young to understand calling me “the smelly Paki girl” was hurtful or offensive. Why would they? They were too young and they simply repeated the language of what they heard in their homes. I grew up, never being invited to birthday parties of white class mates etc etc. So to me, if the first thing people recognise about me is my fucking skin colour, you better OVERstand that element of my identity is the MOST PRECIOUS, MOST ENLIGHTENING, MOST JOYFUL.
With that, however, I have to overcome the blatant and subtle forms of racism I face on a daily basis. The last thing, I would have expected from white feminists who preach about equality is what I encountered last night from admittedly a small number.
Last night, I posted this picture:
The shit was retweeted out of it last night, I didn’t pay attention to who was retweeting it or commenting on it, I tweeted “Now this is the kind of feminism I would endorse. RT if you agree.” It was great to see so many women did agree with the sentiment captured in this powerful and challenging image of non-white women working together to overcome societal and economic “oppression.” Or so I thought. Now I’ve debated about whether to post these tweets on here in their entirety, but I don’t really want to feed any trolls, so I will quote from the exchange of tweets and, if you want to check out the veracity of what I am claiming, feel free to visit my timeline from about 20:30pm on 21st February.
One white feminist said “I looked up intersectionality, and still don’t know what it means.” I ignored that one; clearly she hadn’t looked hard enough. Another commented: “Love the picture and headline, hate the jargony fine print. Can’t we find better words?” Quite frankly love, I’m sick to the fucking back teeth of hearing about jargony terms in feminist discourse such as “smashing patriarchy,” “solidarity,” “allies,” etc etc. They don’t mean shit to me, and I don’t understand how one could interpret “Feminism is worthless without intersectionality and inclusion.” Again, herein her prejudices towards the word intersectional and inclusion became apparent. She then responded to the google-challenged person who claimed she didn’t understand intersectionality, with ”Its a stupid term, the stupidest term since stupidest.” Roll my FUCKING eyes.
The google-challenged one then said ”intersectionality is more useful for road design than equality!” I had to bite my tongue, but responded to both of them with “TBH I don’t care what bloody word is used, as long as black women are included.” (By included, I mean included in the discourse of feminism). One of them responded with ”I didn’t know they weren’t.” And so on and so forth. Then, another one butted in with her helpful ”Good ‘transitional’ feminism, but what feminism would claim to be would include a man.” FOR FUCK FUCKING SAKE. It was ONE FUCKING PICTURE of NON-WHITE WOMEN in an image which we are more used to seeing in feminist materials which use white women; making the case for inclusion of black women! The picture was not concerned with the inclusion of men and anyone else who is outside the scope of feminism, (which also needs to be addressed), it was a very SPECIFIC poster concerned with the LEGITIMATE concerns of black women who are not included in mainstream feminism!
The fact that one of them objected to my use of “mainstream feminism” also revealed a lot about her privilege and her denial that this one size fits all feminism speaks for ALL women, and you black women better accept it! Fuck off, just fuck right off. The “whataboutter” who mentioned the inclusion of men and a gender schism, then went on to condescend and fucking patronise me in the way only a white privileged woman possibly could. I was mortified, I was annoyed, angry and felt like I was 8 yrs old again, when I wasn’t invited to little Lynsey’s birthday party. I couldn’t even be my usual fiery self and fire down fire and brimstone ‘pon her. I was shocked, is this feminism? Shutting down the legitimate calls for inclusion from people who are not white, not from privileged backgrounds?
One also had the fucking temerity to tweet meekly and predictably: ”let us not cause further division, women need to work together for equality.” Lady, I don’t give a shit about YOUR fight for equality. You see this is what I think intersectional feminism can help to address, it’s not the INequality of gender relations, it’s the INjustice at the root of unequal gender relations, which to me as a brown woman, I am far far more concerned with. I don’t give a fuck about women only spaces, (Rad Fems are a whole other issue which disturbs me), it is the way in which systems of power (economic, social, racial and ethnic) interlock that concerns me.
Going back to the whataboutter, she failed to recognise that the poster was a very specific one about white women’s privilege in feminism, she kept banging on about male allies: that is a different fucking fight luv, not one that I was drawing attention to last night. I found this tweet from her quite offensive: ”the message is, don’t forget, guys, women of all colors can do it. Implying still a gender schism in assumptions.” Was she really trying to say male allies have a far worse position in feminism than women of colour? Are you fucking having a laugh? I agree more could be done to bring in more male allies – especially when the Rad Fems are so obsessed with the notion that all men are out to rape us, but the poster I tweeted last night had nothing to do with addressing male allies, it was to do with accepting women of colour in feminism, and she completely missed the fucking point: because: privileged white woman.
She tried to backtrack when she realised that I was making a completely different and important point to her, with this: ”I sympathise. Feminism is made of semantics. Sorry to feed yr ‘white wmn don’t want me’ pattern, but that’s not what I meant.” Bit too late, luv, you’ve already made that pretty fucking clear. She had the audacity to end with “Last tweet: I hope you’ll come to feel better supported by feminism, & see internal argument as what strengthens the movement.”
That one exchange from a poster which makes the case for intersectionality lends weight to the ignorance of numpties like a certain NME editor who last year wrote this offensive blog on “WTF is WOC? Weapons of Colour?” AHAHAHA – fucking hipster idiotism. The fact that so many people commented on that piece of stupid with their horror at her ignorance and arrogance is testament to the fact that many people are aware of the destructive power of racism. There is a cadre of these fucking annoying hipper than hip hipsters in pop culture, who try too hard in impressing their little legions of followers with offensive shit, by claiming its ironic YAH! Fuck off, you’re not fucking ironic and you’re in denial of your own fucking privilege.
Moving on, so how do I feel today? Am I reluctant feminist? A black feminist? Or just a nothing-ist? I’m not concerned about equality, it is a meaningless term for me, and its meaningless because of this:
I’ve used this image, before, but to me it perfectly sums up why preaching equality doesn’t actually address the injustice at the root of all unequal power relations. Flavia Dzodan wrote this infamous post on intersectionality and I think the comments are again interesting, because some of the feminists who respond to Flavia, accuse her of being overly angry. This is something which I got a whiff of last night, of the merry little band of white feminists who chose to debate the poster and intersectionality, some of them hinted at “respectful dialogue.” Bitch, you just said intersectionality was a stupid term, think you lost your right to respectful dialogue right there. This is the subtle racism in white feminism, they demand that we speak to them with respect and courtesy, or else they will pout and accuse us of being aggressive and combative. Are you fucking dumb? I will give you a few examples of how racism has intersected with sexism that I PERSONALLY have experienced:
“I’d give that darkie one.”
“You indian gash are freaky innit?”
“I’ve always wanted to see white cum on brown tits.”
“Do you like pink dick?”
“I bet your pussy is well tight, you asian birds don’t get sex do you?”
And so on and so forth. All the above from white men to me. If I come across as a little bit angry, its because of the above and I ain’t apologising for shit. You don’t get to police my feelings or my words. This is not the fucking British Raj, by the way, can we have our Kohinoor Diamond back?
A post from the Black Feminists Manchester has some handy tips for white feminists, I’ve posted a few below:
- For a WF to roll her eyes and display defensive body language, when a woman of colour brings up racism as part of feminist discourse, is racist.
- Labelling a woman of colour ‘aggressive’ and ‘angry’ when she challenges a white woman’s view point, in a non aggressive way, is racist.
- Ganging up with other WFs and psychologically bullying a woman of colour because she called out your feminist sisters’ racism, is racist.
- WFs dismissing racism by suggesting ‘racist remarks delivered as flippant comments are not really racist’… is racist.
- Playing the white privilege card to justify un- intentional displays of racism is transparently racist.
- Simply throwing around terms such as ‘intersectionality’, ‘white privilege’, and book titles written by black feminists does not eradicate racism or prove your feminism will be intersectional.
Strongly urge you all to read the post as it describes the greater need for white feminists to be alert to racism within their movement. This great post from Chelsea Fagan further articulates the need for white feminists to be switched on and alert to the fact that gender inequality is not the only fight to be won, racism which is perpetuated on socio-economic dynamics must also be challenged.
Feminism is not an exclusive little club that only white privileged girls can have life membership to. It should do more to work with (NOT DOMINATE) non-white women and men who are fighting daily oppressions. This great letter from Indian feminists is written to white feminists who have convened a “Task Force” from Harvard to recommend ways in which India and other South Asian countries can combat sexual violence. It is encouraging to see people of colour defiantly demand acceptance and equality of opportunity to frame the discourse and debate. Given the War on Women and reproductive rights of women in the US, the line:
“Perhaps you will allow us to repay the favour, and next time President Obama wants to put in place legislation to do with abortion, or the Equal Rights Amendment, we can step in and help and, from our small bit of experience in these fields, recommend what the United States can do”, is particularly strong.
I am rejecting feminism as it stands now, perhaps I haven’t come across enough good black feminist writing, but I am convinced that feminism is not ready for intersectional dialogue, and by default, it is not ready for me.