bell hooks is a well-known Americanauthor, feminist and social activist. In her book, Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism, she uses a feministiclens to examine sexism and racism, and its effects on black women’sexperiences. She parallels some of her findings with the feminist movement and blackfemale sexism. bell hooks claims that black women are seen as either beingblack or a woman, never both, causing them to be victims of racism and sexism.
This marginalizing of their social location leads to a privileged and situatedepistemology. Just like bell hooks, Kimberlé Crenshaw,who is a legal scholar, civil rights activist and professor at the Universityof California, Los Angeles, also speaks of racism and sexism among black womenin her article “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A BlackFeminist Critique of Administration Doctrine, Feminist Theory and AntiracistPolitics.” She created intersectionality theory, which is the idea that oppressedidentities intersect and fundamentally create a whole identity that isdifferent from individual aspects. Kimberlé Crenshawbelieves that black women need to be viewed in intersections rather thanindependently as being black or a woman, in order to emphasize their uniqueexperience of being both black and a woman. In comparison, in W.E.
B. DuBois’s book, The Souls of Black Folk, heclaims, “the problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line”(10). He speaks of black people’s struggle with liberation and the concept ofthe veil of race. W.E.
B. Du Bois believes that black people, specifically blackmen, are born with a veil which causes them to see the world with a truer selfconsciousness; this results in living life with a sense of doubleconsciousness. In this essay I will introduce andexpound on ideas from bell hooks, Kimberlé Crenshaw, and W.E.B. Du Bois. I willthen define situated epistemology, epistemic privilege, and the standpointtheory, and how they are relevant to each authors’ work.
Finally, I will emphasize the importance ofdemarginalizing black women, particularly how their situated epistemology isbeneficial to the feminist movement. The marginalization of black women hascaused them to be victims of racism and sexism; by effectively demarginalizingthem, their unique experiences with race and gender discrimination can be usedto expand feminist and political discussions. Marginalized social locations are critical because theyaid in the comprehension of what it means to live life through intersections.Ultimately, inferior groups must go between two domains, or intersections:theirs, the marginalized, and the superior groups’. This theory goes by manynames such as standpoint theory, situated epistemology, and epistemicprivilege. The combined experiences that an individual has in life create astandpoint, a point of view, in which they can view and understand the world;oppressed groups can offer a more insightful view of the world due to theirconstant marginalization.
Standpoint theory claims that marginalized groupsview the world through a socially situated perspective and in turn it assertsepistemic privilege. Epistemic privilege is the notion that oppressedindividuals have a heightened ability of what it means to see things from anoppressed group’s viewpoint as well as the viewpoint of a dominant group. Forexample, in bell hook’s book Feminist Theory: From Marginto Center,she claims that in order for the feminist theory to incorporate a larger groupof human experiences, it must utilize individuals that have knowledge of boththe margin and center (x). Since black women haveexperiences of both racism and sexism, they can utilize their epistemicprivilege to embrace their different identities. Moreover, black women have theadvantage of viewing both sides and they can provide an intrinsic standpointthat is beneficial to the feminist movement; thus granting them a situatedperspective of what it means to be oppressed. A situated perspective, or situatedepistemology, is the concept that marginalized individuals have a particulartype of knowledge, which reflects their situation or perspective. With thissituated epistemology, they can apprehend many different viewpoints. Situatedepistemology makes it easier for oppressed groups to be more conscious of certainthings than it is for non- marginalized groups.
Each of these theories iscritical in the understanding of black feminism and the feminist movementtoday.In bell hooks’s book, Ain’tI a Woman: Black Women and Feminism, she presents the idea that black womenare not seen as being both black and women, causing them to be stuck betweenblack men’s liberation and white women’s suffrage. Black women’s struggles aresubstantially ignored, and they are made to pick sides when they should be ableto support both causes. By black women supporting only black men, they would bealso supporting a patriarchal society, which makes them the victims of sexism.On the other hand, if black women were to only support white women they wouldbe promoting white supremacy and racism towards themselves. bell hooks believesthat, “black women were placed in a double bind; to support women’s suffragewould imply that they are allying themselves with white women activists who hadpublicly revealed their racism, but to support only black male suffrage willendorse a patriarchal social order that would grant them no political voice”(3). Throughout time, black women have had to suppress their oppression whileblack men and white women gained their freedom and suffrage; the pain andsuffering of black women was seen as insignificant.
Their oppression “could notprecede over male pain,” and white women would often “romanticize the blackfemale experience rather than discuss the negative impact” (hooks, 6). Becauseof this, black women were expected to be strong and were forced to play asupporting role to black men and white women. Being seen as strong became normative for black women.
bell hooks statesthat black women were advised to “find our dignity not in liberation fromsexist oppression but in how well we could adjust, adapt, and cope” (7). Insteadof society dealing with black women’s problems, they made black women concealtheir issues; it was never discussed how sexism and racism oppressed them. Furthermore,bell hooks wants black womento be able to simultaneously exist as being black anda woman.
In her book Feminist Theory:From Margin to Center hooks states “it is essential for continued feministstruggle that black women recognize the special vantage point our marginalitygives us and make use of this perspective to criticize the dominant racist,classist, sexist hegemony as well as to envision and create a counter-hegemony”(15). Since black women experience life as being both black and a woman, theycan offer a different perspective for feminists. They cannot only condemn the multiple domains they interact with, but theycan also dismantle hegemonic supremacyM1 . By black women having thecapability to view both the oppressed and dominant viewpoints, they canchallenge the current racist and sexist circumstances in which they arediscriminated against.
This supports the epistemic privilege theory; blackwomen are oppressed and because of their oppression they can identify withmultiple experiences dealing with racism and sexism. Although they areconsidered outsiders, they have greater knowledge of oppression and thereforecan greatly contribute to feminist theory. Similarly, Kimberlé Crenshaw claims thatblack women are discriminated against twice as much simply because they are blackand women.
M2 She created theintersectionality theory, which describes the phenomenon of multiple socialdynamics coming together to produce oppression that are different from theindividual components. In her article “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Raceand Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Administration Doctrine, Feminist Theoryand Antiracist Politics,” Crenshaw analyzes how law and politics see beingblack and a woman as mutually exclusive rather than mutually inclusive. Sheclaims that black women often face “double-discrimination – the combinedeffects of practices which discriminate on the basis of race, and on the basisof sex” (149). The courts only see women or blacks and often fail to recognizeblack women.
Because black women are not just black or a woman, their strugglesare typically forgotten about. Since the justice system often does not takerace and gender into consideration, black women are excluded. However,intersectionality theory can be used to bring awareness to the marginalizationof black women. Intersectionality addresses the failure of the judicial system tosee black women as being both black and women. By the courts, as well asfeminists, not viewing black women through their different oppressions they arehindering black women’s amalgamation of unique experiences and situations(Crenshaw, 150). By being viewed intersectionally, black women’s experiencescan be a vital source in critiquing a racist and patriarchal society (Crenshaw,153). Crenshaw’s concept of intersectionality supports the standpoint theory; sinceblack women can identify with racist and sexist oppression, they have adifferent and unique outlook from black men and white women.
With this uniqueperspective, they can acknowledge problems that the dominant group cannot. Crenshaw alsostates, “Problems of exclusion cannot be solved simply by including Black womenwithin an already established analytical structure” (140).M3 Additionally, if intersectionalityis not taken into account when trying to demarginalize black women, they willremain disenfranchised.
Society must rethink and rework original biases, inorder to accurately view black women as both black and women. In W.E.
B. Du Bois’s book, TheSouls of Black Folk, he introducesthe idea of “the veil” and “double-consciousness” (3). He claims that black menare born with a veil, which grants them a sense of double consciousness; withthis double consciousness, black men are viewed as “two souls, two thoughts,two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body…” (Du Bois, 3).
Ultimately, black men view themselves as separately being black and a man,causing them to have no sense of true self-consciousness. They live in “a worldwhich yields them no true self-consciousness, but only lets them seethemselves through the revelation of the world” (Du Bois, 3). Living with asense of double consciousness makes it difficult for black males to seethemselves as one collective identity. Not only are they struggling internally,trying to combat being black and male simultaneously, but they are alsostruggling trying to be a part of a subjective white society.
Du Bois states”He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and anAmerican, without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having thedoors of Opportunity closed roughly in his face” (3). Additionally, being black in a predominatelywhite society that oppresses and belittles African Americans makes itchallenging for them to advance in life. Without education and a sense of trueself-consciousness, black men are “prisoned souls within the Veil,” (Du Bois,68).
If black men viewed themselves as one, black and male, they could possiblyhave the same opportunities as white people and even liberate themselves froman oppressive society. Although double consciousness allows black men to viewthemselves from a different perspective, it also allows them to “look atone’s self through the eyes of others,” (Du Bois, 3). With this double consciousness,they are able to identify how they might be viewed by the outside world. Doubleconsciousness can be similar to situated epistemology. Since black men are notviewed as being both black and male inclusively, they have a deeper understandingof what it means to be oppressed.
Their experiences with oppression can add tothe many racial equality movements because they are outsiders looking in. Although Du Bois’s claims arevery similar to those of hooks and Crenshaw, he only advocated for the rightsof black men, not black women. He only mentioned black women when referring to rapeand slavery, never once promoting women’s rights or liberation.
He spoke of the”systematic legal defilement of Negro women” and “loss of ancient Africanchastity…from white adulterers” (Du Bois, 7). During slavery, masters would userape to assert authority over their slaves, specifically black women. Thiswould dehumanize the women and cause them to obey their master’s orders. Similarly,Crenshaw believed that “when Black women were raped by white males, they werebeing raped not as women generally, but as Black women specifically;” the rapetactic was “a weapon of racial terror” (Crenshaw, 158). In Ain’tI a Woman: Black Women and Feminism, hooks claims that rape wasused as an “institutionalized method of terrorism,” which evoked submissivenesswithin black women (27). Now it is being used to “undermine antiracistobjectives,” (Crenshaw, 160). Once again, black women are stuck having to choosebetween their race and gender. Though Du Bois highlighted some issues blackwomen face, he still never advocated for their rights as he did for black men.
Nevertheless, black men and women have both been oppressed due to their racebut black women are being oppressed due to their race and gender. Black meneventually received their liberation and rights, whereas today black women arestill fighting. M4 In order for the feministmovement to advance in liberation for women, feminists need to fight for therights of all women. Feminism needs to move marginalized groups from the marginto the center of feminist discussion. In FeministTheory: From Margin to Center bell hooks states, “white women who dominatefeminist discourse today rarely question whether or not their perspective onwomen’s reality is true to the lived experiences of a woman as a collectivegroup” (3).
Since white women are only oppressed by their gender and not theirrace, they cannot relate with black women, as well as other women of color.Therefore, their experiences do not account for all women. Additionally,because black women are viewed separately as being black and as women, they knowwhat it means to be a part of a dominant group while still being an outsider. Sincethey can evaluate both sides, their epistemic privilege can be used to informfeminists on “the formation of a liberatory feminist theory and praxis” (hooks,15), thus enhancing the feminist movement as a whole. M1Define/unpackhegemonic supremacy M2″twiceas much” = oppression Olympics.
Find a quote to support or take out &replace M3Howdoes this support my argument? How does this relate to my thesis? M4Unpack,explain, justify. Find example?