by Juhanna Nicole Rogers
Black women doctoral students who have children and are enrolled full-time often suffer in the dark while committing their talents to the academy. We are some of the brightest, yet we can also be some of the most financially struggling.
by Gina Loring
It’s been almost fifty years since Muhammad Ali single-handedly shifted the public conversation surrounding the Vietnam War by openly refusing to be drafted. A year later at a White House luncheon, Eartha Kitt also spoke out against the war and its systemic connection to poverty and racism, prompting backlash that kept her from working in this country for over a decade. Lena Horne, Harry Belafonte, Bob Dylan, Nina Simone, John Lennon and many other celebrities of the day were unapologetically vocal about their political views.
by Hazel Cherry
I am still reflecting on the themes of the recent episode of How to Get Away With Murder- “Mama’s Here Now.” The vivid imagery of motherhood, daughterhood, and black womanhood invited us to see ourselves, our struggles and our sisters. The images and storyline were relevant and necessary.
by Cheryl Thompson
Much attention has been given to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s working woman feminist manifesto, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. While her perspective and insight as a woman is relatable, I still find my ability to connect with what she’s saying limited for me as a black woman.
by Amber Dorsey
Last week we saw a flurry of action in the social media sphere after E!'s Fashion Police Giuliana Rancic made a comment about young actress Zendaya Coleman's faux locs at the Academy Awards. As the mother of a young teen who LOVES fashion, we often watch post award show wrap-ups to see what others thought of looks we liked and to catch up on what we might have missed. My daughter and I loved Zendaya's look and were so excited to see her at the awards, so I was really disheartened when we heard Giuliana's derogatory remarks about her "looking like she smells of patchouli oil and weed.”
by Anna Gibson
The idea of ownership over female bodies and personal labor is as old as history itself. From ancient Sumerian practices of the execution of women who commit adultery to modern day instances of female circumcision in Africa, women’s bodies have been used as a commodity. Black women in particular, especially during the Transatlantic Slave Trade, have had to relinquish autonomy over their bodies time and time again.
by C. Imani Williams
There’s no one more skilled at the art of clapping back than Black women. The ability to check a person who came after us with deft precision is something we do very well, whether it’s in person, through text, or via social media.
by Ashley Daniels
I have this thing. Whenever someone is talking to me about a subject that requires a bit of thought, I'll think of a song that applies to the question, as I'm thinking of an answer. For example, when asked, "Are you a feminist?" I think of Mya, while searching my brain for an answer: I'm so confused / I don't know what to do.
by Candace Simpson
As a high school student, I remember sitting in a packed sanctuary where politicians, scholars, and clergy shared reflections at a town hall meeting on the state of Black America. A young Black girl asked the question that silenced the entire sanctuary.
by Brianna Cox
Patricia Arquette roused many feelings after she spoke about women’s equality at the Academy Awards last Sunday. But her call for wage equality was also an age-old call sounded by many a white feminist throughout history.
In her acceptance speech, Arquette thanked her loved ones and the cast and crew of Boyhood, before saying:
To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights! It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America!This seems innocuous, perhaps, to the untrained ear, or to someone who likes to throw out the problematic baby in the proverbial bathwater. She continued afterwards, telling the press:
It’s time for women. Equal means equal. The truth is the older women get, the less money they make. The highest percentage of children living in poverty are in female-headed households. It’s inexcusable that we go around the world and we talk about equal rights for women in other countries and we don’t. One of those superior court justices said two years ago in a law speech at a university that we don’t have equal rights for women in America, and we don’t because when they wrote Constitution, they didn’t intend it for women. So the truth is even though we sort of feel like we have equal rights in America, right under the surface there are huge issues at play that really do affect women. It’s time for all the women in America, and all the men that love women and all the gay people and all the people of color that we’ve all fought for — to fight for us now!Arquette started out strong – she really did. Nothing in the first section and leading up to this is untrue. However, the Constitution was not written for black people (who were slaves at the time) or LGBTQ people (whose sexuality were often criminalized) either. So, yes, there are absolutely inequalities that affect women because of the white heteropatriarchy that founded our society, but those issues also affect people of color and queer people, just as much—if not more.
“It’s time for all the women in America, and all the men that love women and all the gay people and all the people of color that we’ve all fought for — to fight for us now!”
This is a doozy. It is absolutely time that both men and women alike understand the necessity for gender equality, including the need for equal pay. However, this recognition of sexism should not and cannot come at the expense of the issues of queer, gay, and transgender folks, or black women and other women of color (who may also identify as LGBT).
Luckily, there have been many women—particularly Black women—who have been very public about expressing why Arquette's speech missed the mark on being a true feminist call to action: its lack of intersectionality and inclusivity. On Thursday night's episode of The Nightly Show, Larry Wilmore gathered a panel of Black women to discuss the problematic nature of Arquette's sentiments: writer and content producer Issa Rae, professor and author Christine Greer, comedian Marina Franklin, and New York Live co-host Jacque Reid.
As Patricia Arquette's speech centered on closing the pay gap, the four panelists discussed their experiences as Black women in work place (who traditionally make even less than white women, something Arquette doesn't seem to acknowledge).
This is why an understanding of history, coded language, and intersectionality of identities are all imperative when having honest discussions about gender equality.
HistoryGreer brings up how the inequality of black women in the workplace has historical roots by bringing up FDR's New Deal: "[FDR] had to make some concessions with white Southerners, and so he excluded black domestics. If you exclude black domestics… then we know over time, there's a lack of wealth that's been able to be built. Decade after decade, black people—black women in particular—were paid less."
White feminists also have a hard time accepting how their own heroes for women's equality in the U.S. left out and promoted the oppression of women of color. Suffragettes Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton fought for the voting rights of white cisgender straight women… and not for very much else. As Angela Davis notes in her book Women, Race, and Class, Anthony and Stanton fought for the rights of white cisgender straight women like themselves, at the expense of black men getting the vote (whom in their speeches they denigrate by calling them "niggers" and "sambos," and question their intelligence), and at the complete omission of black women.
Additionally, from Angela Davis to the Wages for Housework Movement in the 1970s to the present-day, both black women/women of color and queer women have always sought equality for all women in their movements (be that wage equality, reproductive rights, or whatever else). Arquette’s assumption and implication that women of color and queer women have only been focusing on issues that affect one particular aspect of their identity is 100% false, and quite misguided.
Coded LanguageChristine Greer brings up the way code words and language are used to discriminate against women of color in the work place, in a way where white people don't have to take responsibility for the problematic nature of what they're saying. Coded language means implying something with your words while not actually saying it.
"We know with Patricia Arquette, when she says 'women,' she actually means white women," Greer explained about the troubling nature of the actress's speech.
Arquette may not have realized how her words came across, but her sentiments basically boiled down to: Because straight white women have helped fight for the rights of gay people and black people (even though, historically, they have not always done so), those other oppressed groups should put down their ongoing battles in order to help white women (who, again, have not always helped them). In addition, this is asking black women to choose their gender over their race, or asking gay people to choose their gender over their sexual orientation, which is nearly impossible to do.
When speaking on the unique issues that African-American women might face in the workplace, Reid expressed, "I had a manager tell me one time that she was afraid of me. And anybody who knows me, knows I'm not [coming] in with a gun or gang signs or anything like that. I'm just, you know, a typical black girl. And she told me she was afraid of me because I'm a strong woman, I'm opinionated, and I say what I feel needs to be said."
This point is particularly important, as Patricia Arquette failed to recognize the way that white women can sometimes make it uncomfortable or unwelcoming for women of color in the workplace, which also affects our ability to advance professionally and close the pay gap.
IntersectionalityIntersectionality, or how differing identities intersect, is important as well. Often, white feminists speak about their own experiences, not understanding how their race or class affords them privilege not experienced by other women.
Jacque Reid brings up the focus on "leaning in," Sheryl Sandberg's philosophy of how women can push back against the glass ceiling. "Black women, we've been leaning in forever. The problem is no one is letting us advance… we get pushed back."
Black women and other women of color, due to their racial identities, have less societal privilege than white women. Queer and gay people have differing privilege as well. While some of them may be white, and are therefore afforded racial privilege, the heteronormitivity of our culture—or the fact that being heterosexual is seen as the status quo—makes them oppressed in that regard. Essentially, women of color, queer women, and queer women of color face multiple discriminations. Thus, when people speak about the need to understand of intersectionality when talking about "fighting for equal rights", these layered discriminations are often ignored, as Patricia Arquette did in her speech. What this does is imply that the struggles of people of color and queer people do not exist, and that (straight) white women are the gate keepers and experts of what all other women need.
Brianna Cox is regular contributor to For Harriet.
by Janice Gates
About 6 years ago, and after losing 45 pounds, I made a commitment to only choose organic and non-processed foods. I researched the web for the best health blogs and fitness professionals to follow, subscribed to newsletters, and followed fitness and health gurus on social media. I was ecstatic! I had discovered the secret to losing weight and optimal health: a balanced diet of fruits, veggies, and lean meats, as well as daily exercise. After 11 years as a vegetarian who rarely consumed an actual vegetable and one year as a vegan who over indulged in heavily processed meat and dairy substitutes, I had finally taken control of my health. I lost 45 pounds, my acne disappeared, and I had a lot more energy.
by Courtney Taylor
In light of rumors about Jessica Williams taking Jon Stewart’s place on The Daily Show and MSNBC’s cancellation of The Reid Report, there’s a rising need to address the vacancy of Black woman voices in political commentary.
by Candice Benbow
I was looking forward to the premiere of Preachers of Detroit. After watching pastors argue over honorariums and babies “born out of wedlock” on Preachers of LA, I couldn’t stomach another show about the “real” lives of pastors. Yet, the Detroit cast boasted two women who have been influential to my life and so many others. Bishop Corletta Vaughn has been a consistent example to and inspiration for many of us who know God has called us to lead the church. Evangelist Dorinda Clark-Cole’s trajectory has been one that many a church girl looked to and found evidence that you can love God, be trendy and still be blessed and highly favored. Naturally, when I learned that they were apart of the cast, I found myself excited. Unlike Preachers of LA, which portrayed women as only pastors’ wives and perpetual girlfriends with no real leadership ability or power, Preachers of Detroit would show two women in ministry, standing in their own authority and proving that God anointed us too.
by Inda Lauryn
When Kesenia Boom wrote “Sh*t White Feminists Say to Black Feminists (And How to Counter Them),” she recognized the ways in which white feminists dismiss the valid concerns and issues unique to Black women. When Jessica Williams announced she would not seek the hosting position on The Daily Show, much to the disappointment of her fans, white feminism took it upon itself to diagnose Williams as having impostor syndrome. In a post for The Billfold, Ester Bloom writes:
black feminist legacies black women and girls gender roles politics of respectability rape and sexual assault rape culture
by Jenn M. Jackson
The common fallacy about misogyny is that it is reserved for men. Many people believe that one can’t be a woman and still possess misogynistic biases. Sadly, this opinion is unfounded especially in the case of Black women. Far too often, our foremothers suffer from internalized misogynoir and respectability even though they themselves have overcome the obstacles of being Black women in predominantly White spaces. In times like these, when popular culture not only condones but excuses sexual abuse of women, we have to work to counter these narratives while seeking community with our foremothers.