September 20, 2023
Feminism, The Women’s Movement Did Not Has Not Failed, Has Not Failed Me…
Riffing on this piece written in early 1990’s, one included in Thriving on A Riff a ms. from which several essays have been published on this site, in And Then magazine, and aired on Wbai, Pacifica radio; it hasn’t been published in its entirety.
2023 Riffing dips into and shares past writing to serve as reflection and assessment of current states of being and movement. The title of this essay says it all—the 2nd wave of feminism did not fail me. Sharing it now connects me to this 3rd possibly 4th wave of Feminism. Unfortunately the battering-violence statistics are still true for 2023. Fortunately rape is no longer legal in any of the U. S. states, although legal exemptions and qualification exist in several states. The variety of jobs occupied by women that pay a living wage is encouraging for the independence it provides.
Feminism, The Women’s Movement Did Not Has Not Failed, Has Not Failed Me: Feminist Radical-Feminist Lesbian Radical-Lesbian Anarcho-Feminist Anarcho-Vegetarian-Feminist
The feminist movement provided the woman in the Black Woman me a frame of reference, a perspective to think-reflect-respond-react-embrace-accept-reject-reconstruct-deconstruct and pontificate about harshly, affectionately, poetically, and philosophically. It affirmed-asserted that I as a woman am, that I have a right to my voice and to my being.
This information-affirmation-assertion did not come from any teachers in any classrooms. It didn’t come from my work within the Black Liberation movement and in life against racism and internalized racial oppression. Or my participation in peace and anti-imperialist work. It didn’t come from speeches or tracts. It came initially from sitting in circles of women talking, listening, studying, valuing and being valued as a woman.
If nothing else occurred as a result of there being a “woman’s movement,” the contribution to my life in rEvolution would be precious beyond price. Hence, I will not treat it as whores, concubines, women, and other women are all too often treated i.e., disowned, rejected, relegated to the shadows. It is my movement. And, as there has always been a woman in my black there has always been a black in my woman. The movement of women is not owned by any color or class. The composition of anywhere I sit is changed by one.
The “woman’s movement” this incarnation has impacted attitudes, laws and behaviors in relationship to: reproductive rights, childcare, pay parity, multiculturalism, equal access to employment, women’s studies, rape, marriage, family, sexuality, criticism, incest, health, international policy, structures for interaction and communication; the personal is political! We are the blood of life coursing through the veins of being.
Feminist ideology helped to make sense of my mother’s frustrations that went beyond what my knowing that we live in a white dominated society could explain. It illuminated my mother’s wanting a male child; it explained my inheriting that want. Learning that the society is also male dominated provided space to heal. I could want myself; achievement could be defined by me and reflected by me. My wholeness could exist with or without my having to have or own a child, of either sex.
My family validated the existence of racism, called prejudice; I was given an understanding of not only its wrongness but the inaccurateness it perpetuated. Sexism, which there was no name for, existed as women’s lot in life and had to be adjusted to, as in having a “slit” and having to “bleed.” A bizarre pronouncement that in retrospect seems to have had something to do with accepting rape and being quiet about abortions.
“Black Womanism” allowed me to see and feel my mother’s fears and denials without revulsion or terror so that during her life my speaking of rape, of fear, of need gave her permission to speak. And, at the end of her life I could express to her, without reservation, that I loved her, valued her and that part of her went with me to the circles and was my strength to speak.
Knowing, participating in the political and philosophical development of seeing and understanding the nature of sexism, allowed me to meet heterosexism. My sexuality was neither the box (a slang reference for vagina which allows for the double-entendre of the cigarette ad) or in a box, defined by state needs and property arrangements in the form of marriage and reproduction of heirs or workers for the benefit of the dominating propertied class of white males and wannabees.
Understanding the nature of woman oppression has allowed for the liberation of not only the fettered girl but the awakening of the child-self that exist in an all-powerful state.
Obviously this is not a critique of the flaws, errors, detours and mistakes of the “women’s movement,” which contains all of the ‘isms, some egregious beyond belief in their manifestation and fallout. This isn’t even a critique of its impact and success. It is an affirmation of its existence and necessity. Battering is number one cause of injury for women in the United States. [note – This statistic from 1990’s is statistically accurate for 2023.] Marital rape is still legal in at least six states [note – Marital rape as of 2023 is illegal in all 50 States.] Non-marital rape is a potential reality that a majority of women [still] must contend with. Poverty is systemically imposed or threatened on women of color, elderly, working and marginally middle class white women. Women not only lack reproductive freedom and sexual freedom, too many lack the freedom to even acknowledge the lack of freedom. Political office, political power was created for and is still dominated by white men with the wealth that provides access.
I am now part of a very old language, one that has been as long as we have and will continue that long again. I am part of a circle of generation and regeneration. My we is all encompassing and perfectly in sync with my womb-ness which is wholeness. I see in the dark, walk in the light, fly through the stars and live among humans, other animals, insects, trees, rocks, and smart-bombs requiring neutralizing. I’m neither bored, tired, or pessimistic when I breathe and remember myself and the life that I am living.
Yes, we all need to be Feminist as we become Joy-workers fully present in the joy of our breath.