Black Feminism/Afro-descendant Feminism

Esther G
Posted September 27, 2009 from Venezuela
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When we speak of feminism in its general and abstract form, it is usually associated with defending the rights of white, heterosexual, middle class women. We forget the various shades of the feminine: the colorful and rich nature of women, their stories, their cultures, their experiences, and the multiple ways in which they express their sexuality.

There is not only one kind of woman, but instead an infinite number of ways of being a woman that coexist; feminism is multifaceted. Feminism should not be defined as a single idea, because understanding it, and its manifestations, in this way, would have a reductive character, a castrating one, and it would be designed arbitrarily.

Traditional feminism is built in a way that makes women of African descent invisible. It is a feminism that seems to fight the subjugation and oppression that affect white women in our societies, but that also omits the exploitation, banishment, slavery, and undervaluedness of the Afro-descendant women in the West.

In a continent where "black" has been associated with silence, invisibility, ignorance, and nighttime, the result is that darkness is seen as inhospitable, desolate, and full of vices. The submission attributed to the Afro-descendant woman will become natural, and she will become an object of pleasure for the white man, an object that belongs to the white man. This part of society has been marginalized historically by a constant process of exclusion, which relegates it to a reduced and small space in social life.

The history of the Afro-descendant woman has been defined according to the triad of oppression: capitalism, patriarchy and racism. All of these support each other in their perpetuation and legitimation of oppresion. They also exist in correspondence to the criteria of exploitation, exclusion, and appropriation, according to which the system defined women as inferior to man, and "black" even lower than being a woman.

That is why Afro-descendant women in our societies will be triply exploited, reduced and subordinate, not only in relation to man, the white man, but also the white woman.

She is subordinate to the white woman because the black woman’s position in society has been defined in reference to, and as inferior to, the socially established prototype for the white woman. The black woman does not find a position in society for herself because all the socializing agents that she is repeatedly exposed to are also the agents of racism.

That is why her chances of upward mobility, socially and personally, depend on her ability to transform to be more like the white woman in her physical traits, her gestures, her attitude, and her behavior. It is necessary to decentralize the ways in which we study and question sexism, thinking about it in relation to its historical and cultural background. We need to redefine a femininity based on the most feminine, but also a femininity based on the “black” itself.

Translation by Maria Cuellar. See original article here.

Comments 4

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  • Maria Cuellar
    Sep 27, 2009
    Sep 27, 2009

    Querida Esther,

    ¡Me encantó tu artículo! Qué valioso mencionar la importancia de incluir a las mujeres de todas las razas en la idea de feminismo. Es necesario especialmente en países donde la igualdad entre razas no tiene tanto énfasis como en otras partes. En EEUU, por ejemplo, ha habido un gran esfuerzo para encontrar la igualdad (social y política) entre los negros y blancos (también se aplica al resto de las razas de minoría). En Venezuela, y el resto de Suramérica, no hay nada comparado con esto. Todavía hay un gran camino que recorrer para tener derechos iguales y no discriminación en el trabajo ni en la sociedad.

    Muchas gracias por haberlo escrito!


    Dear Esther,

    I loved your article! It is so valuable to mention the importance of including women of every race in the idea of feminism. It is necessary especially in countries where race equality is not as emphasized as it is in other places. In the US, for example, there has been a huge effort to find equality (social and political) between African Americans and whites (this also applies to other minority races). In Venezuela, and the rest of South America, there is nothing that compares to this. There is still a long path to be taken to have equal rights and no discrimination at work and in society.

    Thank you so much for writing this!


  • Maria de Chirikof
    Sep 29, 2009
    Sep 29, 2009

    Speaking as an American/Alaskan native, I know what you mean about being marginalized even by other woman and how it is changing and we should celebrate the diversity of woman! I also think it is a great thing that it is becoming more of a natural thing then some rigid definition since there are so many types of woman and feminism needs to include us all from the ones who want to stay home raising a family, those who want a career and everyone in between!

    We are getting there slowly but surely! I agree that we need to work to somehow get this idea spread to all woman and I think that is what we accomplish by coming here and sharing a bit of each other. thanks for posting such a great article to read!


  • Esther G
    Sep 29, 2009
    Sep 29, 2009

    Muchas gracias a ti Maria. Saludos!

  • Jacqueline Patiño
    Sep 29, 2009
    Sep 29, 2009

    The biggest impact of your article on me is the sad truth of women being discriminated by women. I t should not be this way. And although we have walked a long way collectively, there is still a long way to go to become real sisters on the road.

    No, Afrodescendent women and/or indigenous women are not the only ones to be discriminated. In fact, women happen to be harsher discriminators sometimes: professional women disregard non professional ones, blondes look down on brunettes, and slim ones look down on fat ones!

    To change this angles, to build better communities, we need to begin somewhere. I found my very good spot for beginning here at the Pulse.

    Thanks for coming by and writing so that we can understand more about you.