Current feminist theory in validating
However, the assumption that middle-class white women’s experiences represented all women’s experiences was not only made by the early Suffragists, but continued to shape the ideal of womanhood well into the second wave of the American feminist movement and beyond.
Because it simply adds the voices of those historically excluded from the mainstream feminist canon, but does not examine the constitution of these voices within the contexts of power that have given rise to them, it carries the risk of essentializing gender and race, or assuming these categories to be fixed and timeless.This complexity is especially disclosed in the lives of women of color who must contend with multiple and overlapping forms of oppressions--including oppression by white women, who fail to acknowledge the different struggles confronting women who are not like them.Mainstream feminist thought continues to grapple with the interrelations between gender and race, as well as class, colonialism, imperialism, and issues of sexual orientation in what might arguably be called a third wave of feminism in the U. More importantly, the critiques of women who have suffered the most from sexist societies -- women of color, the poor, third world women -- are now at the forefront of a contemporary, progressive feminist politics. Feminist theorists have addressed the relationship of race and feminism in at least two different ways.What she knew was toil and work as arduous as any man could endure. I have plowed, and planted, and have gathered into barns, and no man could head me! I could work as much, and eat as much as man - when I could get it - and bear the lash as well! I have borne thirteen children and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with a mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! In her groundbreaking and canonical work (1949, 1st English trans., 1953), Beauvoir set the course for the subsequent study of the “woman question” in the West by putting the issue of gender into focus.That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Responding to male discontentment that French women were losing their femininity and were not as "womanly" as they believed Russian women to be, Beauvoir wondered if one is born a woman or whether, in fact, one must a woman through various socialization and indoctrination processes.Taking the platform at the Convention in Ohio, she spoke out against the declarations of several men.
They believed that women were to refrain from strenuous work, both physical and mental, so to better fulfill their "womanly nature." But Truth knew nothing of this so-called nature that they espoused and engendered. Almost one hundred years later, Truth's questioning can be heard in Simone de Beauvoir’s challenge to claims that the meaning of womanhood is self-evident.
S., Betty Friedan exposed the hidden frustrations of women who had bought into the “mystique of feminine fulfillment” (20).
Trading in their career ambitions for the promised bliss of marriage, motherhood, and domesticity, many women instead found themselves trapped and isolated behind white picket fences in what Friedan described as the “housewife’s syndrome.” But, what Friedan also failed to recognize was that this syndrome affected only a certain minority of women— namely, those who were white, middle-class, and often highly educated, like herself.
The challenge to this assumption is then posed by women of color, poor women, immigrants, lesbians and women in the ’third world.” Section Three presents the various forms of inclusion of black women within mainstream feminist frameworks. Concentrating on identity and difference, either by working to obliterate or represent it, also tends to the neglect of power relations that establish, hold apart, and bring together such differences in the first place.
Following that is a discussion on the construction of whiteness, the privileges that race afford white women, and feminist strategies to overcome racism within mainstream feminism. This article further explores how sexism and racism are structural problems endemic to American culture.
Thus, to understand the current contours of mainstream feminist thought in the U. and the question of race, one must look at how feminist theory and practice have addressed differences among women, and the specific ways that differences within women’s lives have shaped their relationships to mainstream U. One approach is to view race as integral to gender and explore the ways in which gender identity is constructed in relation to race, and how racial identity is equally constructed in relation to gender.