Your Feminism Ain’t Like Ours, Because We Are Raising Quvenzhané

April 23, 2013
By

Michelle ObamaBy Duchess Harris

In Lonnae O’Neal Parker’s January 18 Washington Post article “Four Years Later, Feminists Split by Michelle Obama’s ‘Work’ as First Lady,” she includes a provocative quote from Leslie Morgan Steiner, author of  Mommy Wars: Stay-at-Home and Career Moms Face Off on TheirChoices, Their Lives, Their Families (2007).  Steiner asks, “Are fashion and body-toning tips all we can expect from one of the most highly educated First Ladies in history?”  Steiner then writes that she had “read enough bland dogma on home-grown vegetables and aerobic exercise to last [her] several lifetimes.”  But is this expectation skewed by the lens of a second wave feminism that, for the most part, enjoyed the political clout of its Black sisters without giving them the voice and power to address the additional impact of racism?

Rebecca Walker, who writes about culture, identity and motherhood, touched on this in her response. She notes that her mother, Pulitzer-Prize winning author Alice Walker, told her of white female writers: “We read them, but really, they do not read us.”  Additionally, she adds, “That feminist notion of being on the same team is often absent when it comes to issues affecting women of color and their communities.” Walker, who is biracial, finds the intense questioning of the first lady’s choices “tedious.”  She asks, do we really think “that [Michelle Obama] would have more power as a hospital administrator than she would as first lady?”

I agree.  Mrs. Obama has more influence in the public sphere than in the private sector.  White women would understand this if they read Black feminism.  And in a society infinitely more comfortable with the Black maid/slave/nanny raising white children instead of her own, the choice for a Black woman to focus on her family is not some kind of reversal; it’s an important assertion of value, part of a Black feminism that white women historically have never understood or supported.

This semester I am teaching Black Feminist Thought.  My syllabus includes Angela Davis, Michele Wallace, Audre Lorde, Psyche Forson-Williams, Gloria Hull, Patricia Bell Scott, Barbara Smith, Patricia Hill Collins, Patricia Williams, Beverly Guy Sheftall, Paula Giddings, Anne duCille, Adrienne Davis, Cathy J. Cohen, Evelyn M. Hammonds, Joy James, Stanlie M. James, Carol Boyce Davies, Cheryl A. Wall, and the late great June Jordan.  This list isn’t exhaustive, but even my students who are majoring in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies are unfamiliar with these luminaries.  If white feminists were familiar with these texts, they might understand that Black women have been able to define our own feminism within the context of U.S. racism for two hundred years.  People think the “Mommy Wars” started in the 1970s when white women entered the pink-collar work force, but white women like Susan B. Anthony have been ridiculing Black women like Ida B Wells-Barnett for choosing Black men and raising their children since the 19th Century.

In 1895, Wells married Ferdinand L. Barnett.  She set an early precedent as one of the first married American women to keep her own last name along with her husband’s.  The couple had four children: Charles, Herman, Ida, and Alfreda.  In her autobiography, A Divided Duty, Wells-Barnett describes the difficulty she had splitting her time between her family and her work.  She continued to work after the birth of her first child, traveling and bringing the infant Charles with her. Instead of supporting her, Susan B. Anthony said she seemed “distracted.”

Like Ida B. Wells-Barnett, my experience as a Black woman in the academy has been that my choice to be committed to supporting my Black husband and raising Black children has been interpreted as a “divided duty,” more than 100 years after Wells-Barnett blazed the trail. I entered the tenure-track 15 years ago when I was five months pregnant. I have taken three parental leaves, which were all met with resentment. This is not unusual, but what I am confident of is that if I had chosen to stay home, I would have faced as much hostility, if not more. America is comfortable with Black women raising white children (The Help, To Kill A Mockingbird, Clara’s Heart, I’ll Fly Away…need I go on?), but the minute we try to take care of our own, we’re reduced to “letting down the team,” which is what white feminist Linda Hirshman is claiming about Lady “O.” I’m confused. Just because I have five letters behind my name (Ph.D. and JD) and a substantive career does not mean I am, ever have been, or ever will be on their team.

Wallis

Why?  Because I am raising a daughter the same age as Quvenzhané Wallis, and it’s not the same as raising Dakota Fanning.  After receiving an Oscar nomination for her role in Beasts of the Southern Wild, Wallis, the youngest Best Actress nominee ever, landed the leading role in Sony Pictures/Overbrook Entertainment’s upcoming Annie.  Despite this, as many people know, The Onion degraded her childhood  by calling her a “cunt.”   This is where there is a divide between white Moms and “Mocha Moms.”  Leslie Morgan Steiner is not raising Quvenzhané, but we are.

Recently, Steiner was on Michele Martin’s “Tell Me More” with the founders of Mocha Moms, a support group for mothers of color who have chosen not to work full-time outside of the home in order to devote more time to their families and communities.  While many of their members have eliminated employment altogether, others work part-time, flex-time, night shifts, have home-based businesses, consult or freelance from home or have chosen alternative, less demanding career paths so that they are more available to their families.  The goal of Mocha Moms is to support the decisions made by its members.  They will never pass judgment on mothers who choose to make or are forced to make different decisions for their families.  Mocha Moms welcomes people of all religions, races, educational backgrounds and income levels.  While the exchange between Steiner and the Mocha Moms was amenable (no interjections about the invalidity of choosing family and motherhood in person), Steiner noted that her own mother went to work when she was 15.  Steiner’s take away message was that she would never be happy as a stay at home Mom, which is fine.  But that’s the point: it’s a choice, not a mandate.  Steiner is unable to acknowledge that Black women haven’t always been able to choose and that our choices, regardless of what they are, are rooted in different circumstances.

Mocha MomsAlthough Mrs. Obama did not stay at home until being married to the President, she knows that she is not entirely different from the Black women who stay at home for other reasons.  She is also trying to protect her daughter from being “satired.”  When Malia was only 11, she was ridiculed  for wearing natural hair and a t-shirt promoting Peace.  Lady “O” knows that Malia is Quvenzhané, which is why she invited the Mocha Moms to the White House.  It’s an ethos Black feminists have understood all along; we need to support each other, value each other, and not degrade a sister whether she goes into the workforce or not. That’s what being on the same team is all about.

That said, the lessons of Black feminism can be taught to willing white students.  One of my own, Lucy Short, was inspired by the work of Brittney Cooper, and wrote:

In “A’n't I A Lady?: Race Women, Michelle Obama, And The Ever-Expanding Democratic Imagination,” Brittney Cooper attests that Obama’s role as mother is expanding the existing definition of motherhood to include Black mothers. In promoting positive ideas about Black women’s ability to be mothers, Michelle Obama is still battling stereotypes about Black motherhood (50). By embodying an ideal mother and wife, Cooper asserts, “Michelle Obama has used her public platform to expand notions of womanhood and ladyhood and open the White House to communities of color” (41) […] In being recognized as not only a lady, but a “fashion icon outside the realm of fashion modeling…she is actively transforming beauty discourses among all Americans” (53). Thus, Cooper suggests that Obama’s adoption of Euro-centric ideals of femininity (i.e. ladyhood) can be considered feminist and progressive when viewed through a lens of race and history.

Encouraging young white women to learn about Black feminism is one of the best parts of my job, because they’re hungry for a different path than the one outlined by Steiner, one which doesn’t ridicule the path they take—career, family, or a blend of both.  It’s a road well-traveled by Black feminists.  We made that map.  And it’s up to the Black women of my generation to pass this map down, teaching the daughters of our contemporaries that the feminism they grew up with ain’t like ours, but it can be.  There’s always room for another on our team.
_________________________________________________________

HarrisDuchess Harris is Associate Professor and Director of American Studies at Macalester College, where she is also an affiliate in the Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.  She earned a PhD in American Studies with a minor in Feminist Studies from the University of Minnesota, and recently earned a JD in Law from the William Mitchell College of Law.  Professor Harris authored Black Feminist Politics from Kennedy to Clinton (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009) and its second edition, Black Feminist Politics from Kennedy to Obama (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011).  She has also published in Touro Law Center’s Journal of Race, Gender, and Ethnicity, JENdA: A Journal of Culture and African Women Studies, The Scholar and Feminist Online, Womanist, Theory and Research, and Sisters in the Struggle: African-American Women in the Civil Rights-Black Power Movement, among other texts.  Professor Harris is the founder of Voices from the Gaps, a member of the Shirley Chisholm Presidential Accountability Commission, and serves on the Board of Directors for the Minnesota Women’s Foundation and the Model Cities Family Development Center in Minnesota.

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136 Responses to Your Feminism Ain’t Like Ours, Because We Are Raising Quvenzhané

  1. jana everett on April 23, 2013 at 8:56 am

    Thanks Professor Harris for a thoughtful piece on these issues. I agree that all students benefit from reading Black feminists. I teach international gender courses and try to make sure that my students read scholars/activists from the various countries and movements that we study.
    I do think white women and women of color, despite profound differences in historical experiences, share many common experiences today (especially those women who are not rich) in the struggles to combine family and work responsibilities (given the lack of state support for parental leave and childcare) and sometimes in the lack of support of colleagues. The media does often demonize women of color in the lack of empathy shown toward low income women. Much of the American feminist movement has been weak on race and class analysis. I have a great deal of privilege as a tenured professor, while the majority of undergraduate students at my public university are taught by low paid, contingent faculty. However, I think sniping at women faculty, not hearing them, taking them for granted goes across race and age lines. I just think professors feel insecure and devalued today, and women faculty are a convenient target.

  2. jana everett on April 23, 2013 at 8:56 am

    Thanks Professor Harris for a thoughtful piece on these issues. I agree that all students benefit from reading Black feminists. I teach international gender courses and try to make sure that my students read scholars/activists from the various countries and movements that we study.
    I do think white women and women of color, despite profound differences in historical experiences, share many common experiences today (especially those women who are not rich) in the struggles to combine family and work responsibilities (given the lack of state support for parental leave and childcare) and sometimes in the lack of support of colleagues. The media does often demonize women of color in the lack of empathy shown toward low income women. Much of the American feminist movement has been weak on race and class analysis. I have a great deal of privilege as a tenured professor, while the majority of undergraduate students at my public university are taught by low paid, contingent faculty. However, I think sniping at women faculty, not hearing them, taking them for granted goes across race and age lines. I just think professors feel insecure and devalued today, and women faculty are a convenient target.

  3. jana everett on April 23, 2013 at 8:56 am

    Thanks Professor Harris for a thoughtful piece on these issues. I agree that all students benefit from reading Black feminists. I teach international gender courses and try to make sure that my students read scholars/activists from the various countries and movements that we study.
    I do think white women and women of color, despite profound differences in historical experiences, share many common experiences today (especially those women who are not rich) in the struggles to combine family and work responsibilities (given the lack of state support for parental leave and childcare) and sometimes in the lack of support of colleagues. The media does often demonize women of color in the lack of empathy shown toward low income women. Much of the American feminist movement has been weak on race and class analysis. I have a great deal of privilege as a tenured professor, while the majority of undergraduate students at my public university are taught by low paid, contingent faculty. However, I think sniping at women faculty, not hearing them, taking them for granted goes across race and age lines. I just think professors feel insecure and devalued today, and women faculty are a convenient target.

  4. jana everett on April 23, 2013 at 8:56 am

    Thanks Professor Harris for a thoughtful piece on these issues. I agree that all students benefit from reading Black feminists. I teach international gender courses and try to make sure that my students read scholars/activists from the various countries and movements that we study.
    I do think white women and women of color, despite profound differences in historical experiences, share many common experiences today (especially those women who are not rich) in the struggles to combine family and work responsibilities (given the lack of state support for parental leave and childcare) and sometimes in the lack of support of colleagues. The media does often demonize women of color in the lack of empathy shown toward low income women. Much of the American feminist movement has been weak on race and class analysis. I have a great deal of privilege as a tenured professor, while the majority of undergraduate students at my public university are taught by low paid, contingent faculty. However, I think sniping at women faculty, not hearing them, taking them for granted goes across race and age lines. I just think professors feel insecure and devalued today, and women faculty are a convenient target.

  5. Fanon Wilkins on April 23, 2013 at 9:42 am

    Wow!!! I really enjoyed this super insightful piece Professor Harris. Yes Black women have been defining the terms of their feminism for a long time and transforming the country and the world in the process. Thank you for this timely piece.

  6. Fanon Wilkins on April 23, 2013 at 9:42 am

    Wow!!! I really enjoyed this super insightful piece Professor Harris. Yes Black women have been defining the terms of their feminism for a long time and transforming the country and the world in the process. Thank you for this timely piece.

  7. Fanon Wilkins on April 23, 2013 at 9:42 am

    Wow!!! I really enjoyed this super insightful piece Professor Harris. Yes Black women have been defining the terms of their feminism for a long time and transforming the country and the world in the process. Thank you for this timely piece.

  8. Fanon Wilkins on April 23, 2013 at 9:42 am

    Wow!!! I really enjoyed this super insightful piece Professor Harris. Yes Black women have been defining the terms of their feminism for a long time and transforming the country and the world in the process. Thank you for this timely piece.

  9. Vidhya Shanker on April 23, 2013 at 10:49 am

    This is so, so, so true and I’ve come across it a million times in teaching Women’s Studies classes of overwhelmingly young white women. White women’s “success” in a patriarchal, white supremacist capitalism DEPENDS on the labor of women of color worldwide and yet they think they need to give us the gift of feminism.

    The choices women of color make with respect to the men and children in our families and communities are inherently radical acts in a world that functions by labeling our families and communities dysfunctional and profiting accordingly.

  10. Vidhya Shanker on April 23, 2013 at 10:49 am

    This is so, so, so true and I’ve come across it a million times in teaching Women’s Studies classes of overwhelmingly young white women. White women’s “success” in a patriarchal, white supremacist capitalism DEPENDS on the labor of women of color worldwide and yet they think they need to give us the gift of feminism.

    The choices women of color make with respect to the men and children in our families and communities are inherently radical acts in a world that functions by labeling our families and communities dysfunctional and profiting accordingly.

  11. Vidhya Shanker on April 23, 2013 at 10:49 am

    This is so, so, so true and I’ve come across it a million times in teaching Women’s Studies classes of overwhelmingly young white women. White women’s “success” in a patriarchal, white supremacist capitalism DEPENDS on the labor of women of color worldwide and yet they think they need to give us the gift of feminism.

    The choices women of color make with respect to the men and children in our families and communities are inherently radical acts in a world that functions by labeling our families and communities dysfunctional and profiting accordingly.

  12. Vidhya Shanker on April 23, 2013 at 10:49 am

    This is so, so, so true and I’ve come across it a million times in teaching Women’s Studies classes of overwhelmingly young white women. White women’s “success” in a patriarchal, white supremacist capitalism DEPENDS on the labor of women of color worldwide and yet they think they need to give us the gift of feminism.

    The choices women of color make with respect to the men and children in our families and communities are inherently radical acts in a world that functions by labeling our families and communities dysfunctional and profiting accordingly.

  13. Patricia aka BoomerWiz on April 23, 2013 at 12:09 pm

    Beautiful and enlightening.

  14. Patricia aka BoomerWiz on April 23, 2013 at 12:09 pm

    Beautiful and enlightening.

  15. Patricia aka BoomerWiz on April 23, 2013 at 12:09 pm

    Beautiful and enlightening.

  16. Patricia aka BoomerWiz on April 23, 2013 at 12:09 pm

    Beautiful and enlightening.

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  21. Sarah on April 23, 2013 at 1:13 pm

    Interesting, insightful piece. I really enjoyed the quote from your student, inspirational to see young, white women thinking about this issues in such a thoughtful way.

  22. Sarah on April 23, 2013 at 1:13 pm

    Interesting, insightful piece. I really enjoyed the quote from your student, inspirational to see young, white women thinking about this issues in such a thoughtful way.

  23. Sarah on April 23, 2013 at 1:13 pm

    Interesting, insightful piece. I really enjoyed the quote from your student, inspirational to see young, white women thinking about this issues in such a thoughtful way.

  24. Sarah on April 23, 2013 at 1:13 pm

    Interesting, insightful piece. I really enjoyed the quote from your student, inspirational to see young, white women thinking about this issues in such a thoughtful way.

  25. L.Alleyne on April 23, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    I’m interested in a lot of what this piece has to say, but I am in the camp of women of color who are disappointed in the mothering role that First Lady Obama has adopted for her public persona precisely because it is a historical moment for women of color, and let’s face it, we can be mothers–nurturing and mammying is the role we are often given, so as a black academic, I longed for her to also make room for the intelligent, public black woman. She MENTORED the PRESIDENT in the private sector, SHe is smart, credentialed, and I wish she chose to use that side of her more. Especially since there’s been backlash about her “not knowing her place” and “thinking she’s an advisor” as if (as always) nothing worth listening to can come from her brown mouth. The garden and kids soften her because, well, okay, she’s a mom, there’s no denying her expertise (the children exist and are adorable!), but the resistance to her intelligence, well. It’s there, and I support her right to make her choice, but I’m entitled to my disappointment that she chose the easier road…

    • Vassie Welbeck-Browne on April 27, 2013 at 3:29 pm

      I don’t agree that the road the First Lady took was the easier one. Afterall, lifting the black woman’s image in the minds of citizens who hold(knowingly and unknowingly) negative ideas and images about and of black women is not at all easy.

    • KK on April 29, 2013 at 7:46 pm

      Great article! I think I am in a similar boat as you. I don’t think either road is easy, nor is one easier than the other, but I too am disappointed that she is less of a public figure as far as her intellectual side is concerned. As I read though I wondered if it was my own bias that was leading me to think this way.I personally don’t believe women can do both family and career equally well. Something gives at a certain point, unless of course there is a partner who is sharing everything down the middle. Bias or not I guess like you, I am entitled to my disappointment.

  26. L.Alleyne on April 23, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    I’m interested in a lot of what this piece has to say, but I am in the camp of women of color who are disappointed in the mothering role that First Lady Obama has adopted for her public persona precisely because it is a historical moment for women of color, and let’s face it, we can be mothers–nurturing and mammying is the role we are often given, so as a black academic, I longed for her to also make room for the intelligent, public black woman. She MENTORED the PRESIDENT in the private sector, SHe is smart, credentialed, and I wish she chose to use that side of her more. Especially since there’s been backlash about her “not knowing her place” and “thinking she’s an advisor” as if (as always) nothing worth listening to can come from her brown mouth. The garden and kids soften her because, well, okay, she’s a mom, there’s no denying her expertise (the children exist and are adorable!), but the resistance to her intelligence, well. It’s there, and I support her right to make her choice, but I’m entitled to my disappointment that she chose the easier road…

    • Vassie Welbeck-Browne on April 27, 2013 at 3:29 pm

      I don’t agree that the road the First Lady took was the easier one. Afterall, lifting the black woman’s image in the minds of citizens who hold(knowingly and unknowingly) negative ideas and images about and of black women is not at all easy.

    • KK on April 29, 2013 at 7:46 pm

      Great article! I think I am in a similar boat as you. I don’t think either road is easy, nor is one easier than the other, but I too am disappointed that she is less of a public figure as far as her intellectual side is concerned. As I read though I wondered if it was my own bias that was leading me to think this way.I personally don’t believe women can do both family and career equally well. Something gives at a certain point, unless of course there is a partner who is sharing everything down the middle. Bias or not I guess like you, I am entitled to my disappointment.

  27. L.Alleyne on April 23, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    I’m interested in a lot of what this piece has to say, but I am in the camp of women of color who are disappointed in the mothering role that First Lady Obama has adopted for her public persona precisely because it is a historical moment for women of color, and let’s face it, we can be mothers–nurturing and mammying is the role we are often given, so as a black academic, I longed for her to also make room for the intelligent, public black woman. She MENTORED the PRESIDENT in the private sector, SHe is smart, credentialed, and I wish she chose to use that side of her more. Especially since there’s been backlash about her “not knowing her place” and “thinking she’s an advisor” as if (as always) nothing worth listening to can come from her brown mouth. The garden and kids soften her because, well, okay, she’s a mom, there’s no denying her expertise (the children exist and are adorable!), but the resistance to her intelligence, well. It’s there, and I support her right to make her choice, but I’m entitled to my disappointment that she chose the easier road…

    • Vassie Welbeck-Browne on April 27, 2013 at 3:29 pm

      I don’t agree that the road the First Lady took was the easier one. Afterall, lifting the black woman’s image in the minds of citizens who hold(knowingly and unknowingly) negative ideas and images about and of black women is not at all easy.

    • KK on April 29, 2013 at 7:46 pm

      Great article! I think I am in a similar boat as you. I don’t think either road is easy, nor is one easier than the other, but I too am disappointed that she is less of a public figure as far as her intellectual side is concerned. As I read though I wondered if it was my own bias that was leading me to think this way.I personally don’t believe women can do both family and career equally well. Something gives at a certain point, unless of course there is a partner who is sharing everything down the middle. Bias or not I guess like you, I am entitled to my disappointment.

  28. L.Alleyne on April 23, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    I’m interested in a lot of what this piece has to say, but I am in the camp of women of color who are disappointed in the mothering role that First Lady Obama has adopted for her public persona precisely because it is a historical moment for women of color, and let’s face it, we can be mothers–nurturing and mammying is the role we are often given, so as a black academic, I longed for her to also make room for the intelligent, public black woman. She MENTORED the PRESIDENT in the private sector, SHe is smart, credentialed, and I wish she chose to use that side of her more. Especially since there’s been backlash about her “not knowing her place” and “thinking she’s an advisor” as if (as always) nothing worth listening to can come from her brown mouth. The garden and kids soften her because, well, okay, she’s a mom, there’s no denying her expertise (the children exist and are adorable!), but the resistance to her intelligence, well. It’s there, and I support her right to make her choice, but I’m entitled to my disappointment that she chose the easier road…

    • Vassie Welbeck-Browne on April 27, 2013 at 3:29 pm

      I don’t agree that the road the First Lady took was the easier one. Afterall, lifting the black woman’s image in the minds of citizens who hold(knowingly and unknowingly) negative ideas and images about and of black women is not at all easy.

    • KK on April 29, 2013 at 7:46 pm

      Great article! I think I am in a similar boat as you. I don’t think either road is easy, nor is one easier than the other, but I too am disappointed that she is less of a public figure as far as her intellectual side is concerned. As I read though I wondered if it was my own bias that was leading me to think this way.I personally don’t believe women can do both family and career equally well. Something gives at a certain point, unless of course there is a partner who is sharing everything down the middle. Bias or not I guess like you, I am entitled to my disappointment.

  29. Yvonne Asad on April 23, 2013 at 6:46 pm

    Great article! One correction: I am sure you meant the preeminent radical black feminist scholar,Beverly Guy-Sheftall, instead of Gloria Guy-Sheftall.

  30. Yvonne Asad on April 23, 2013 at 6:46 pm

    Great article! One correction: I am sure you meant the preeminent radical black feminist scholar,Beverly Guy-Sheftall, instead of Gloria Guy-Sheftall.

  31. Yvonne Asad on April 23, 2013 at 6:46 pm

    Great article! One correction: I am sure you meant the preeminent radical black feminist scholar,Beverly Guy-Sheftall, instead of Gloria Guy-Sheftall.

  32. Yvonne Asad on April 23, 2013 at 6:46 pm

    Great article! One correction: I am sure you meant the preeminent radical black feminist scholar,Beverly Guy-Sheftall, instead of Gloria Guy-Sheftall.

  33. [...] asked for a reading list and I went looking. It just so happened that feministwire published a post that addressed the kind of alienation I was feeling on another equally compelling topic.   It [...]

  34. [...] asked for a reading list and I went looking. It just so happened that feministwire published a post that addressed the kind of alienation I was feeling on another equally compelling topic.   It [...]

  35. [...] asked for a reading list and I went looking. It just so happened that feministwire published a post that addressed the kind of alienation I was feeling on another equally compelling topic.   It [...]

  36. [...] asked for a reading list and I went looking. It just so happened that feministwire published a post that addressed the kind of alienation I was feeling on another equally compelling topic.   It [...]

  37. The Feminist Grandma on April 23, 2013 at 10:18 pm

    I’m dismayed to read that these prominent feminist writers were unknown to your students. When I taught feminist jurisprudence about20 years ago, a good number of these were on our reading list.
    Very pleased to discover your essay.

  38. The Feminist Grandma on April 23, 2013 at 10:18 pm

    I’m dismayed to read that these prominent feminist writers were unknown to your students. When I taught feminist jurisprudence about20 years ago, a good number of these were on our reading list.
    Very pleased to discover your essay.

  39. The Feminist Grandma on April 23, 2013 at 10:18 pm

    I’m dismayed to read that these prominent feminist writers were unknown to your students. When I taught feminist jurisprudence about20 years ago, a good number of these were on our reading list.
    Very pleased to discover your essay.

  40. The Feminist Grandma on April 23, 2013 at 10:18 pm

    I’m dismayed to read that these prominent feminist writers were unknown to your students. When I taught feminist jurisprudence about20 years ago, a good number of these were on our reading list.
    Very pleased to discover your essay.

  41. Oscar vega on April 24, 2013 at 2:39 am

    Hi I was referred to this article through FB very fascinating point of view and I just have to say in a internship I did while goin to college a fellow organizer who is also an immigrant told me white feminists thought that they were not racist because they were feminist — I at my young age just heard her out, but did not forget her point of view. Now after briefly working for Texas organizing project (formerly acorn) I lived the hierarchy created by white feminist directors and I was let go in less than to months that’s not the issue just the fact that later i found out at in different times how this organization used then forced out Mexican, chicana, Colombian,Venezuelan who were organizers to resign and the. made me realize just how true and INTENSE this reality is for non white feminists and this article just leaves me at awe of the dynamics that go so deep that the First Lady has to defend herself and her accomplishments amongst the realm of white american feminism that decides what is important and what is not without stepping out of a certain zone that does not include all points of view

  42. Oscar vega on April 24, 2013 at 2:39 am

    Hi I was referred to this article through FB very fascinating point of view and I just have to say in a internship I did while goin to college a fellow organizer who is also an immigrant told me white feminists thought that they were not racist because they were feminist — I at my young age just heard her out, but did not forget her point of view. Now after briefly working for Texas organizing project (formerly acorn) I lived the hierarchy created by white feminist directors and I was let go in less than to months that’s not the issue just the fact that later i found out at in different times how this organization used then forced out Mexican, chicana, Colombian,Venezuelan who were organizers to resign and the. made me realize just how true and INTENSE this reality is for non white feminists and this article just leaves me at awe of the dynamics that go so deep that the First Lady has to defend herself and her accomplishments amongst the realm of white american feminism that decides what is important and what is not without stepping out of a certain zone that does not include all points of view

  43. Oscar vega on April 24, 2013 at 2:39 am

    Hi I was referred to this article through FB very fascinating point of view and I just have to say in a internship I did while goin to college a fellow organizer who is also an immigrant told me white feminists thought that they were not racist because they were feminist — I at my young age just heard her out, but did not forget her point of view. Now after briefly working for Texas organizing project (formerly acorn) I lived the hierarchy created by white feminist directors and I was let go in less than to months that’s not the issue just the fact that later i found out at in different times how this organization used then forced out Mexican, chicana, Colombian,Venezuelan who were organizers to resign and the. made me realize just how true and INTENSE this reality is for non white feminists and this article just leaves me at awe of the dynamics that go so deep that the First Lady has to defend herself and her accomplishments amongst the realm of white american feminism that decides what is important and what is not without stepping out of a certain zone that does not include all points of view

  44. Oscar vega on April 24, 2013 at 2:39 am

    Hi I was referred to this article through FB very fascinating point of view and I just have to say in a internship I did while goin to college a fellow organizer who is also an immigrant told me white feminists thought that they were not racist because they were feminist — I at my young age just heard her out, but did not forget her point of view. Now after briefly working for Texas organizing project (formerly acorn) I lived the hierarchy created by white feminist directors and I was let go in less than to months that’s not the issue just the fact that later i found out at in different times how this organization used then forced out Mexican, chicana, Colombian,Venezuelan who were organizers to resign and the. made me realize just how true and INTENSE this reality is for non white feminists and this article just leaves me at awe of the dynamics that go so deep that the First Lady has to defend herself and her accomplishments amongst the realm of white american feminism that decides what is important and what is not without stepping out of a certain zone that does not include all points of view

  45. Amber Jones on April 24, 2013 at 10:46 am

    Can I just say that The Feminist Wire continues to connect me to amazing women that are just a stone’s throw away? Excellent post!

  46. Amber Jones on April 24, 2013 at 10:46 am

    Can I just say that The Feminist Wire continues to connect me to amazing women that are just a stone’s throw away? Excellent post!

  47. Amber Jones on April 24, 2013 at 10:46 am

    Can I just say that The Feminist Wire continues to connect me to amazing women that are just a stone’s throw away? Excellent post!

  48. Amber Jones on April 24, 2013 at 10:46 am

    Can I just say that The Feminist Wire continues to connect me to amazing women that are just a stone’s throw away? Excellent post!

  49. Pamela on April 26, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    “enjoyed the political clout of its Black sisters without giving them the voice and power to address the additional impact of racism.”

    Do white counterparts have to “give” Black women voice and power?

  50. Pamela on April 26, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    “enjoyed the political clout of its Black sisters without giving them the voice and power to address the additional impact of racism.”

    Do white counterparts have to “give” Black women voice and power?

  51. Pamela on April 26, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    “enjoyed the political clout of its Black sisters without giving them the voice and power to address the additional impact of racism.”

    Do white counterparts have to “give” Black women voice and power?

  52. Pamela on April 26, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    “enjoyed the political clout of its Black sisters without giving them the voice and power to address the additional impact of racism.”

    Do white counterparts have to “give” Black women voice and power?

  53. Tonya Ladipo on April 26, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this article! This is one of the reasons that I dropped the title feminism from my identity 15 years ago. I felt betrayed when I realized that many of the feminists I had learned about in college were not fighting for Black (and brown) women like me.

  54. Tonya Ladipo on April 26, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this article! This is one of the reasons that I dropped the title feminism from my identity 15 years ago. I felt betrayed when I realized that many of the feminists I had learned about in college were not fighting for Black (and brown) women like me.

  55. Tonya Ladipo on April 26, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this article! This is one of the reasons that I dropped the title feminism from my identity 15 years ago. I felt betrayed when I realized that many of the feminists I had learned about in college were not fighting for Black (and brown) women like me.

  56. Tonya Ladipo on April 26, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this article! This is one of the reasons that I dropped the title feminism from my identity 15 years ago. I felt betrayed when I realized that many of the feminists I had learned about in college were not fighting for Black (and brown) women like me.

  57. Bonnie on April 27, 2013 at 2:45 am

    Wow. How impressive that Duchess Harris has such insight into the minds and hearts of “white women”. And how interesting that we all think and act in such perfect unison.

    She claims Alice Walker said of white female writers: “We read them, but really, they do not read us.” How interesting, I guess I imagined buying and reading Walker’s books. (I should really get my money back.) She continues… “White women would understand this if they read Black feminism.” “If white feminists were familiar with these texts, they might understand that…” There are many more examples, it’s too tedious to copy and paste them all.

    The point is that Ms. Harris feels quite comfortable claiming to know what white women think, have read and how they will behave. She also feels comfortable suggesting that they all feel and think the same way. (And she is quite unimpressed with the thoughts, feelings and actions she assigns to “white women” en masse.

    Fundamentally, this is a racist, rude and unhelpful way to talk about people. There is always so much diversity of thought and opinion within any group that it’s absurd to characterize them all any one particular way.

    • Friday Foster on April 27, 2013 at 5:10 pm

      Please stop with your knee jerk white women’s tears for a moment. Dr. Harris never said anything about “all white women.” You should read some of the authors listed in this article that eloquently discuss how white feminists marginalize women of color. This has been a well documented practice for centuries, from kicking them out of the suffrage in 1890 to the insulting FEMEN topless protests that in no way helped the cause of Muslim women a few weeks ago. It is extremely arrogant and narcissistic to ignore the concerns of women of color and make this all about you. You need to do better.

      • J on April 28, 2013 at 6:34 pm

        thank you. i concur.

      • Bonnie on April 28, 2013 at 7:28 pm

        I disagree with your interpretation of the author’s intention, Friday Foster. I have full confidence in Ms. Harris’ ability to say what she means. She didn’t say “certain white women,” or “some white women,” she said “white women” again and again. Her meaning is quite clear and her dislike is palpable.

        It is divisive language and intentionally so. Ms. Harris has controversy to dredge up if she wants academic attention. Unimpressive and unimaginative.

        If you or Ms. Harris think attacking other women (other feminists to be precise, because no one else would even care) to get attention and get ahead academically is a worthwhile pursuit, then you are thinking small and I hope the world and its’ possibilities open up for you and for her.

        And incidentally, Ms. Obama is off-limits for criticism? Because criticizing her is deleterious to women of colour? Really? This is a woman who distracts the press with her imitation of June Cleaver while her husband enacts targeted assassinations of MANY people of colour, or oversees a war in which hundreds of thousands of women of colour have suffered and died. He supports African dictatorships like the one in Equatorial Guinea under which women experience horrible human rights abuses. Ms. Obama shows no concern for these women of colour. She smiles through it all on the Today Show.

        Maybe YOU need to do better.

        • Montclair Mom on April 28, 2013 at 11:19 pm

          This white woman who really wants you to stop clutching your pearls and just “listen” (ie: read) for a moment. When a WOC says she feels alienated or disrespected by mainstream white feminists, you don’t get to tell her that she shouldn’t feel that way because you once bought some books by Alice Walker. And you don’t get to make the discussion all about your hurt fee-fees. Its not about you, and you are just proving your point by making this all about white women and whether we are ALL the same in our lack of support of WOC. In the end she says very clearly that there is always room “on our team” and that she enjoys teaching young white women, who thirst for another way other than the mainstream, divisive feminism that polices women’s choices. She’s not trying to be divisive, she is giving a perspective, widely felt, that white feminists do not seek out or listen to the perspectives of WOC. Aren’t you just proving her point by going on about how she is being a race baiter? You aren’t engaging with the article’s premise at all. You are proving that despite identifying as a feminist and reading the work of WOC, you have never really confronted your privilege as a white woman.

          • Bonnie on April 29, 2013 at 12:50 pm

            It’s not OK to make nasty comments about people based on their skin colour. Not ever, not about anyone.

            I don’t do it to people and I expect them not to do it to me. That is the basis for civilized discourse.

            BTW, pearls, hurt fee-fees, privilege? Ad hominem attacks are the refuge of those without a good argument. I won’t do the same to you.

            My feelings aren’t hurt. I have the luxury of knowing that negative comments about white women are inaccurate and I know they won’t be given credence by a wide group of people anyway. That’s a real white privilege and I recognize it.

            My hope is that one day everyone will have this privilege. I don’t think we will get there by engaging in name calling or assumptions about character based on skin colour.

  58. Bonnie on April 27, 2013 at 2:45 am

    Wow. How impressive that Duchess Harris has such insight into the minds and hearts of “white women”. And how interesting that we all think and act in such perfect unison.

    She claims Alice Walker said of white female writers: “We read them, but really, they do not read us.” How interesting, I guess I imagined buying and reading Walker’s books. (I should really get my money back.) She continues… “White women would understand this if they read Black feminism.” “If white feminists were familiar with these texts, they might understand that…” There are many more examples, it’s too tedious to copy and paste them all.

    The point is that Ms. Harris feels quite comfortable claiming to know what white women think, have read and how they will behave. She also feels comfortable suggesting that they all feel and think the same way. (And she is quite unimpressed with the thoughts, feelings and actions she assigns to “white women” en masse.

    Fundamentally, this is a racist, rude and unhelpful way to talk about people. There is always so much diversity of thought and opinion within any group that it’s absurd to characterize them all any one particular way.

    • Friday Foster on April 27, 2013 at 5:10 pm

      Please stop with your knee jerk white women’s tears for a moment. Dr. Harris never said anything about “all white women.” You should read some of the authors listed in this article that eloquently discuss how white feminists marginalize women of color. This has been a well documented practice for centuries, from kicking them out of the suffrage in 1890 to the insulting FEMEN topless protests that in no way helped the cause of Muslim women a few weeks ago. It is extremely arrogant and narcissistic to ignore the concerns of women of color and make this all about you. You need to do better.

      • J on April 28, 2013 at 6:34 pm

        thank you. i concur.

      • Bonnie on April 28, 2013 at 7:28 pm

        I disagree with your interpretation of the author’s intention, Friday Foster. I have full confidence in Ms. Harris’ ability to say what she means. She didn’t say “certain white women,” or “some white women,” she said “white women” again and again. Her meaning is quite clear and her dislike is palpable.

        It is divisive language and intentionally so. Ms. Harris has controversy to dredge up if she wants academic attention. Unimpressive and unimaginative.

        If you or Ms. Harris think attacking other women (other feminists to be precise, because no one else would even care) to get attention and get ahead academically is a worthwhile pursuit, then you are thinking small and I hope the world and its’ possibilities open up for you and for her.

        And incidentally, Ms. Obama is off-limits for criticism? Because criticizing her is deleterious to women of colour? Really? This is a woman who distracts the press with her imitation of June Cleaver while her husband enacts targeted assassinations of MANY people of colour, or oversees a war in which hundreds of thousands of women of colour have suffered and died. He supports African dictatorships like the one in Equatorial Guinea under which women experience horrible human rights abuses. Ms. Obama shows no concern for these women of colour. She smiles through it all on the Today Show.

        Maybe YOU need to do better.

        • Montclair Mom on April 28, 2013 at 11:19 pm

          This white woman who really wants you to stop clutching your pearls and just “listen” (ie: read) for a moment. When a WOC says she feels alienated or disrespected by mainstream white feminists, you don’t get to tell her that she shouldn’t feel that way because you once bought some books by Alice Walker. And you don’t get to make the discussion all about your hurt fee-fees. Its not about you, and you are just proving your point by making this all about white women and whether we are ALL the same in our lack of support of WOC. In the end she says very clearly that there is always room “on our team” and that she enjoys teaching young white women, who thirst for another way other than the mainstream, divisive feminism that polices women’s choices. She’s not trying to be divisive, she is giving a perspective, widely felt, that white feminists do not seek out or listen to the perspectives of WOC. Aren’t you just proving her point by going on about how she is being a race baiter? You aren’t engaging with the article’s premise at all. You are proving that despite identifying as a feminist and reading the work of WOC, you have never really confronted your privilege as a white woman.

          • Bonnie on April 29, 2013 at 12:50 pm

            It’s not OK to make nasty comments about people based on their skin colour. Not ever, not about anyone.

            I don’t do it to people and I expect them not to do it to me. That is the basis for civilized discourse.

            BTW, pearls, hurt fee-fees, privilege? Ad hominem attacks are the refuge of those without a good argument. I won’t do the same to you.

            My feelings aren’t hurt. I have the luxury of knowing that negative comments about white women are inaccurate and I know they won’t be given credence by a wide group of people anyway. That’s a real white privilege and I recognize it.

            My hope is that one day everyone will have this privilege. I don’t think we will get there by engaging in name calling or assumptions about character based on skin colour.

  59. Bonnie on April 27, 2013 at 2:45 am

    Wow. How impressive that Duchess Harris has such insight into the minds and hearts of “white women”. And how interesting that we all think and act in such perfect unison.

    She claims Alice Walker said of white female writers: “We read them, but really, they do not read us.” How interesting, I guess I imagined buying and reading Walker’s books. (I should really get my money back.) She continues… “White women would understand this if they read Black feminism.” “If white feminists were familiar with these texts, they might understand that…” There are many more examples, it’s too tedious to copy and paste them all.

    The point is that Ms. Harris feels quite comfortable claiming to know what white women think, have read and how they will behave. She also feels comfortable suggesting that they all feel and think the same way. (And she is quite unimpressed with the thoughts, feelings and actions she assigns to “white women” en masse.

    Fundamentally, this is a racist, rude and unhelpful way to talk about people. There is always so much diversity of thought and opinion within any group that it’s absurd to characterize them all any one particular way.

    • Friday Foster on April 27, 2013 at 5:10 pm

      Please stop with your knee jerk white women’s tears for a moment. Dr. Harris never said anything about “all white women.” You should read some of the authors listed in this article that eloquently discuss how white feminists marginalize women of color. This has been a well documented practice for centuries, from kicking them out of the suffrage in 1890 to the insulting FEMEN topless protests that in no way helped the cause of Muslim women a few weeks ago. It is extremely arrogant and narcissistic to ignore the concerns of women of color and make this all about you. You need to do better.

      • J on April 28, 2013 at 6:34 pm

        thank you. i concur.

      • Bonnie on April 28, 2013 at 7:28 pm

        I disagree with your interpretation of the author’s intention, Friday Foster. I have full confidence in Ms. Harris’ ability to say what she means. She didn’t say “certain white women,” or “some white women,” she said “white women” again and again. Her meaning is quite clear and her dislike is palpable.

        It is divisive language and intentionally so. Ms. Harris has controversy to dredge up if she wants academic attention. Unimpressive and unimaginative.

        If you or Ms. Harris think attacking other women (other feminists to be precise, because no one else would even care) to get attention and get ahead academically is a worthwhile pursuit, then you are thinking small and I hope the world and its’ possibilities open up for you and for her.

        And incidentally, Ms. Obama is off-limits for criticism? Because criticizing her is deleterious to women of colour? Really? This is a woman who distracts the press with her imitation of June Cleaver while her husband enacts targeted assassinations of MANY people of colour, or oversees a war in which hundreds of thousands of women of colour have suffered and died. He supports African dictatorships like the one in Equatorial Guinea under which women experience horrible human rights abuses. Ms. Obama shows no concern for these women of colour. She smiles through it all on the Today Show.

        Maybe YOU need to do better.

        • Montclair Mom on April 28, 2013 at 11:19 pm

          This white woman who really wants you to stop clutching your pearls and just “listen” (ie: read) for a moment. When a WOC says she feels alienated or disrespected by mainstream white feminists, you don’t get to tell her that she shouldn’t feel that way because you once bought some books by Alice Walker. And you don’t get to make the discussion all about your hurt fee-fees. Its not about you, and you are just proving your point by making this all about white women and whether we are ALL the same in our lack of support of WOC. In the end she says very clearly that there is always room “on our team” and that she enjoys teaching young white women, who thirst for another way other than the mainstream, divisive feminism that polices women’s choices. She’s not trying to be divisive, she is giving a perspective, widely felt, that white feminists do not seek out or listen to the perspectives of WOC. Aren’t you just proving her point by going on about how she is being a race baiter? You aren’t engaging with the article’s premise at all. You are proving that despite identifying as a feminist and reading the work of WOC, you have never really confronted your privilege as a white woman.

          • Bonnie on April 29, 2013 at 12:50 pm

            It’s not OK to make nasty comments about people based on their skin colour. Not ever, not about anyone.

            I don’t do it to people and I expect them not to do it to me. That is the basis for civilized discourse.

            BTW, pearls, hurt fee-fees, privilege? Ad hominem attacks are the refuge of those without a good argument. I won’t do the same to you.

            My feelings aren’t hurt. I have the luxury of knowing that negative comments about white women are inaccurate and I know they won’t be given credence by a wide group of people anyway. That’s a real white privilege and I recognize it.

            My hope is that one day everyone will have this privilege. I don’t think we will get there by engaging in name calling or assumptions about character based on skin colour.

  60. Bonnie on April 27, 2013 at 2:45 am

    Wow. How impressive that Duchess Harris has such insight into the minds and hearts of “white women”. And how interesting that we all think and act in such perfect unison.

    She claims Alice Walker said of white female writers: “We read them, but really, they do not read us.” How interesting, I guess I imagined buying and reading Walker’s books. (I should really get my money back.) She continues… “White women would understand this if they read Black feminism.” “If white feminists were familiar with these texts, they might understand that…” There are many more examples, it’s too tedious to copy and paste them all.

    The point is that Ms. Harris feels quite comfortable claiming to know what white women think, have read and how they will behave. She also feels comfortable suggesting that they all feel and think the same way. (And she is quite unimpressed with the thoughts, feelings and actions she assigns to “white women” en masse.

    Fundamentally, this is a racist, rude and unhelpful way to talk about people. There is always so much diversity of thought and opinion within any group that it’s absurd to characterize them all any one particular way.

    • Friday Foster on April 27, 2013 at 5:10 pm

      Please stop with your knee jerk white women’s tears for a moment. Dr. Harris never said anything about “all white women.” You should read some of the authors listed in this article that eloquently discuss how white feminists marginalize women of color. This has been a well documented practice for centuries, from kicking them out of the suffrage in 1890 to the insulting FEMEN topless protests that in no way helped the cause of Muslim women a few weeks ago. It is extremely arrogant and narcissistic to ignore the concerns of women of color and make this all about you. You need to do better.

      • J on April 28, 2013 at 6:34 pm

        thank you. i concur.

      • Bonnie on April 28, 2013 at 7:28 pm

        I disagree with your interpretation of the author’s intention, Friday Foster. I have full confidence in Ms. Harris’ ability to say what she means. She didn’t say “certain white women,” or “some white women,” she said “white women” again and again. Her meaning is quite clear and her dislike is palpable.

        It is divisive language and intentionally so. Ms. Harris has controversy to dredge up if she wants academic attention. Unimpressive and unimaginative.

        If you or Ms. Harris think attacking other women (other feminists to be precise, because no one else would even care) to get attention and get ahead academically is a worthwhile pursuit, then you are thinking small and I hope the world and its’ possibilities open up for you and for her.

        And incidentally, Ms. Obama is off-limits for criticism? Because criticizing her is deleterious to women of colour? Really? This is a woman who distracts the press with her imitation of June Cleaver while her husband enacts targeted assassinations of MANY people of colour, or oversees a war in which hundreds of thousands of women of colour have suffered and died. He supports African dictatorships like the one in Equatorial Guinea under which women experience horrible human rights abuses. Ms. Obama shows no concern for these women of colour. She smiles through it all on the Today Show.

        Maybe YOU need to do better.

        • Montclair Mom on April 28, 2013 at 11:19 pm

          This white woman who really wants you to stop clutching your pearls and just “listen” (ie: read) for a moment. When a WOC says she feels alienated or disrespected by mainstream white feminists, you don’t get to tell her that she shouldn’t feel that way because you once bought some books by Alice Walker. And you don’t get to make the discussion all about your hurt fee-fees. Its not about you, and you are just proving your point by making this all about white women and whether we are ALL the same in our lack of support of WOC. In the end she says very clearly that there is always room “on our team” and that she enjoys teaching young white women, who thirst for another way other than the mainstream, divisive feminism that polices women’s choices. She’s not trying to be divisive, she is giving a perspective, widely felt, that white feminists do not seek out or listen to the perspectives of WOC. Aren’t you just proving her point by going on about how she is being a race baiter? You aren’t engaging with the article’s premise at all. You are proving that despite identifying as a feminist and reading the work of WOC, you have never really confronted your privilege as a white woman.

          • Bonnie on April 29, 2013 at 12:50 pm

            It’s not OK to make nasty comments about people based on their skin colour. Not ever, not about anyone.

            I don’t do it to people and I expect them not to do it to me. That is the basis for civilized discourse.

            BTW, pearls, hurt fee-fees, privilege? Ad hominem attacks are the refuge of those without a good argument. I won’t do the same to you.

            My feelings aren’t hurt. I have the luxury of knowing that negative comments about white women are inaccurate and I know they won’t be given credence by a wide group of people anyway. That’s a real white privilege and I recognize it.

            My hope is that one day everyone will have this privilege. I don’t think we will get there by engaging in name calling or assumptions about character based on skin colour.

  61. K on April 27, 2013 at 8:45 am

    Interesting article. I appreciate the perspective and I agree that the leadership of the feminist movement really has become offensively lily white over the years.

    A small correction – you assert that the “mommy wars” began for white women in 1970, but has been an issue for black women for centuries. The “mommy wars” have been an issue for all women since any women chose to have a career. It is the central theme of fiction writing in the 1920′s (Gaudy Night, by Sayers) or earlier still (in Canterbury Tales the Wife of Bath mentions the division). Or if we go back further you can see reference to it in the Bible with a woman named Phyllis who chose to work dyeing cloth instead of staying home with her children.)

  62. K on April 27, 2013 at 8:45 am

    Interesting article. I appreciate the perspective and I agree that the leadership of the feminist movement really has become offensively lily white over the years.

    A small correction – you assert that the “mommy wars” began for white women in 1970, but has been an issue for black women for centuries. The “mommy wars” have been an issue for all women since any women chose to have a career. It is the central theme of fiction writing in the 1920′s (Gaudy Night, by Sayers) or earlier still (in Canterbury Tales the Wife of Bath mentions the division). Or if we go back further you can see reference to it in the Bible with a woman named Phyllis who chose to work dyeing cloth instead of staying home with her children.)

  63. K on April 27, 2013 at 8:45 am

    Interesting article. I appreciate the perspective and I agree that the leadership of the feminist movement really has become offensively lily white over the years.

    A small correction – you assert that the “mommy wars” began for white women in 1970, but has been an issue for black women for centuries. The “mommy wars” have been an issue for all women since any women chose to have a career. It is the central theme of fiction writing in the 1920′s (Gaudy Night, by Sayers) or earlier still (in Canterbury Tales the Wife of Bath mentions the division). Or if we go back further you can see reference to it in the Bible with a woman named Phyllis who chose to work dyeing cloth instead of staying home with her children.)

  64. K on April 27, 2013 at 8:45 am

    Interesting article. I appreciate the perspective and I agree that the leadership of the feminist movement really has become offensively lily white over the years.

    A small correction – you assert that the “mommy wars” began for white women in 1970, but has been an issue for black women for centuries. The “mommy wars” have been an issue for all women since any women chose to have a career. It is the central theme of fiction writing in the 1920′s (Gaudy Night, by Sayers) or earlier still (in Canterbury Tales the Wife of Bath mentions the division). Or if we go back further you can see reference to it in the Bible with a woman named Phyllis who chose to work dyeing cloth instead of staying home with her children.)

  65. Vassie Welbeck-Browne on April 27, 2013 at 3:41 pm

    I am grateful to find such an insightful and honest article on this topic! For too long, as is the case with racism alone, issues of gender and/or sex are rarely examined, spoken of or dealt with from the context of how these issues connect and play out in the body and life of the black female. Thank you Dr. Harris!

  66. Vassie Welbeck-Browne on April 27, 2013 at 3:41 pm

    I am grateful to find such an insightful and honest article on this topic! For too long, as is the case with racism alone, issues of gender and/or sex are rarely examined, spoken of or dealt with from the context of how these issues connect and play out in the body and life of the black female. Thank you Dr. Harris!

  67. Vassie Welbeck-Browne on April 27, 2013 at 3:41 pm

    I am grateful to find such an insightful and honest article on this topic! For too long, as is the case with racism alone, issues of gender and/or sex are rarely examined, spoken of or dealt with from the context of how these issues connect and play out in the body and life of the black female. Thank you Dr. Harris!

  68. Vassie Welbeck-Browne on April 27, 2013 at 3:41 pm

    I am grateful to find such an insightful and honest article on this topic! For too long, as is the case with racism alone, issues of gender and/or sex are rarely examined, spoken of or dealt with from the context of how these issues connect and play out in the body and life of the black female. Thank you Dr. Harris!

  69. Friday Foster on April 27, 2013 at 5:02 pm

    Black women throughout the centuries have rarely have the choice to stay home and raise their children. Second wave feminism would have been very different if middle class white women did not black and brown women doing their housework and caring for their children. Most white feminists are extremely narcisstic to the point of insulting or harming the struggle of women of color. The topless FEMEN protests and the “n**ger” signs at the NYC slut walk. It will take a lot of work to educated them out of their self-centeredness, I would rather spend my time working for the betterment of women of color

    • Bonnie on April 28, 2013 at 7:41 pm

      I too think that your energy is much better channelled into working for the betterment of women of colour than “educating” “most white feminists” on the evils of their “narcissistic” ways and out of their “self-centredness.”

      You don’t know “most white feminists.” You haven’t met them, you don’t speak for them. Accuracy in language is important, otherwise it just looks like you are race baiting.

      • Grigoriguardian on April 29, 2013 at 1:19 am

        I will say, it is pretty brazen, not to mention narcissistic of you to tell someone where their energy is “better channeled.” If what is written does not apply to you, ignore it. If it does, maybe you should look to your own “betterment.”

        • Bonnie on April 29, 2013 at 11:37 am

          I will say, it’s pretty brazen, not to mention self-important and bossy of you to presume to tell me what I should and shouldn’t post on. I won’t do the same to you, post away :)

          Making racist remarks about white women – ascribing negative or positive characteristics to them based on the colour of their skin – is morally wrong and moreover is inaccurate. Just the way it is when it is done to people of any skin colour.

          Anyway, I guess you missed the sarcasm in the first sentence of my post to Friday Foster. I was making the point that “educating” people by calling them names and putting them down is never going to work.

          • Sharon M on May 15, 2013 at 10:19 pm

            Making racist remarks about white women – ascribing negative or positive characteristics to them based on the colour of their skin – is morally wrong and moreover is inaccurate. Just the way it is when it is done to people of any skin colour

            Because of white women like you, WOC have no reason to trust us and I don’t blame them. And yes, I agree about second wave feminism.
            A bunch of upper class women climbing the corporate ladder? The same system responsible for the exploitation of humans and the environment?
            You got some ill white privilege.

  70. Friday Foster on April 27, 2013 at 5:02 pm

    Black women throughout the centuries have rarely have the choice to stay home and raise their children. Second wave feminism would have been very different if middle class white women did not black and brown women doing their housework and caring for their children. Most white feminists are extremely narcisstic to the point of insulting or harming the struggle of women of color. The topless FEMEN protests and the “n**ger” signs at the NYC slut walk. It will take a lot of work to educated them out of their self-centeredness, I would rather spend my time working for the betterment of women of color

    • Bonnie on April 28, 2013 at 7:41 pm

      I too think that your energy is much better channelled into working for the betterment of women of colour than “educating” “most white feminists” on the evils of their “narcissistic” ways and out of their “self-centredness.”

      You don’t know “most white feminists.” You haven’t met them, you don’t speak for them. Accuracy in language is important, otherwise it just looks like you are race baiting.

      • Grigoriguardian on April 29, 2013 at 1:19 am

        I will say, it is pretty brazen, not to mention narcissistic of you to tell someone where their energy is “better channeled.” If what is written does not apply to you, ignore it. If it does, maybe you should look to your own “betterment.”

        • Bonnie on April 29, 2013 at 11:37 am

          I will say, it’s pretty brazen, not to mention self-important and bossy of you to presume to tell me what I should and shouldn’t post on. I won’t do the same to you, post away :)

          Making racist remarks about white women – ascribing negative or positive characteristics to them based on the colour of their skin – is morally wrong and moreover is inaccurate. Just the way it is when it is done to people of any skin colour.

          Anyway, I guess you missed the sarcasm in the first sentence of my post to Friday Foster. I was making the point that “educating” people by calling them names and putting them down is never going to work.

          • Sharon M on May 15, 2013 at 10:19 pm

            Making racist remarks about white women – ascribing negative or positive characteristics to them based on the colour of their skin – is morally wrong and moreover is inaccurate. Just the way it is when it is done to people of any skin colour

            Because of white women like you, WOC have no reason to trust us and I don’t blame them. And yes, I agree about second wave feminism.
            A bunch of upper class women climbing the corporate ladder? The same system responsible for the exploitation of humans and the environment?
            You got some ill white privilege.

  71. Friday Foster on April 27, 2013 at 5:02 pm

    Black women throughout the centuries have rarely have the choice to stay home and raise their children. Second wave feminism would have been very different if middle class white women did not black and brown women doing their housework and caring for their children. Most white feminists are extremely narcisstic to the point of insulting or harming the struggle of women of color. The topless FEMEN protests and the “n**ger” signs at the NYC slut walk. It will take a lot of work to educated them out of their self-centeredness, I would rather spend my time working for the betterment of women of color

    • Bonnie on April 28, 2013 at 7:41 pm

      I too think that your energy is much better channelled into working for the betterment of women of colour than “educating” “most white feminists” on the evils of their “narcissistic” ways and out of their “self-centredness.”

      You don’t know “most white feminists.” You haven’t met them, you don’t speak for them. Accuracy in language is important, otherwise it just looks like you are race baiting.

      • Grigoriguardian on April 29, 2013 at 1:19 am

        I will say, it is pretty brazen, not to mention narcissistic of you to tell someone where their energy is “better channeled.” If what is written does not apply to you, ignore it. If it does, maybe you should look to your own “betterment.”

        • Bonnie on April 29, 2013 at 11:37 am

          I will say, it’s pretty brazen, not to mention self-important and bossy of you to presume to tell me what I should and shouldn’t post on. I won’t do the same to you, post away :)

          Making racist remarks about white women – ascribing negative or positive characteristics to them based on the colour of their skin – is morally wrong and moreover is inaccurate. Just the way it is when it is done to people of any skin colour.

          Anyway, I guess you missed the sarcasm in the first sentence of my post to Friday Foster. I was making the point that “educating” people by calling them names and putting them down is never going to work.

          • Sharon M on May 15, 2013 at 10:19 pm

            Making racist remarks about white women – ascribing negative or positive characteristics to them based on the colour of their skin – is morally wrong and moreover is inaccurate. Just the way it is when it is done to people of any skin colour

            Because of white women like you, WOC have no reason to trust us and I don’t blame them. And yes, I agree about second wave feminism.
            A bunch of upper class women climbing the corporate ladder? The same system responsible for the exploitation of humans and the environment?
            You got some ill white privilege.

  72. Friday Foster on April 27, 2013 at 5:02 pm

    Black women throughout the centuries have rarely have the choice to stay home and raise their children. Second wave feminism would have been very different if middle class white women did not black and brown women doing their housework and caring for their children. Most white feminists are extremely narcisstic to the point of insulting or harming the struggle of women of color. The topless FEMEN protests and the “n**ger” signs at the NYC slut walk. It will take a lot of work to educated them out of their self-centeredness, I would rather spend my time working for the betterment of women of color

    • Bonnie on April 28, 2013 at 7:41 pm

      I too think that your energy is much better channelled into working for the betterment of women of colour than “educating” “most white feminists” on the evils of their “narcissistic” ways and out of their “self-centredness.”

      You don’t know “most white feminists.” You haven’t met them, you don’t speak for them. Accuracy in language is important, otherwise it just looks like you are race baiting.

      • Grigoriguardian on April 29, 2013 at 1:19 am

        I will say, it is pretty brazen, not to mention narcissistic of you to tell someone where their energy is “better channeled.” If what is written does not apply to you, ignore it. If it does, maybe you should look to your own “betterment.”

        • Bonnie on April 29, 2013 at 11:37 am

          I will say, it’s pretty brazen, not to mention self-important and bossy of you to presume to tell me what I should and shouldn’t post on. I won’t do the same to you, post away :)

          Making racist remarks about white women – ascribing negative or positive characteristics to them based on the colour of their skin – is morally wrong and moreover is inaccurate. Just the way it is when it is done to people of any skin colour.

          Anyway, I guess you missed the sarcasm in the first sentence of my post to Friday Foster. I was making the point that “educating” people by calling them names and putting them down is never going to work.

          • Sharon M on May 15, 2013 at 10:19 pm

            Making racist remarks about white women – ascribing negative or positive characteristics to them based on the colour of their skin – is morally wrong and moreover is inaccurate. Just the way it is when it is done to people of any skin colour

            Because of white women like you, WOC have no reason to trust us and I don’t blame them. And yes, I agree about second wave feminism.
            A bunch of upper class women climbing the corporate ladder? The same system responsible for the exploitation of humans and the environment?
            You got some ill white privilege.

  73. Ms. Browne on April 28, 2013 at 11:52 pm

    This is the first piece I’ve ever read that links Michelle Obama to black feminism period and I’m grateful for it. The critiques of Michelle O are filled with extra expectations and do not do nearly enough to congratulate her for being the most influential first lady to date and, more importantly, the most present first lady to date. We see footage of her in our media and we get excited when we see her. She takes the hands of young black girls and say “I am one of you” when she dances with them and speaks to them. That is way more valuable and important than her meeting quota set by over scrupulous white observers

  74. Ms. Browne on April 28, 2013 at 11:52 pm

    This is the first piece I’ve ever read that links Michelle Obama to black feminism period and I’m grateful for it. The critiques of Michelle O are filled with extra expectations and do not do nearly enough to congratulate her for being the most influential first lady to date and, more importantly, the most present first lady to date. We see footage of her in our media and we get excited when we see her. She takes the hands of young black girls and say “I am one of you” when she dances with them and speaks to them. That is way more valuable and important than her meeting quota set by over scrupulous white observers

  75. Ms. Browne on April 28, 2013 at 11:52 pm

    This is the first piece I’ve ever read that links Michelle Obama to black feminism period and I’m grateful for it. The critiques of Michelle O are filled with extra expectations and do not do nearly enough to congratulate her for being the most influential first lady to date and, more importantly, the most present first lady to date. We see footage of her in our media and we get excited when we see her. She takes the hands of young black girls and say “I am one of you” when she dances with them and speaks to them. That is way more valuable and important than her meeting quota set by over scrupulous white observers

  76. Ms. Browne on April 28, 2013 at 11:52 pm

    This is the first piece I’ve ever read that links Michelle Obama to black feminism period and I’m grateful for it. The critiques of Michelle O are filled with extra expectations and do not do nearly enough to congratulate her for being the most influential first lady to date and, more importantly, the most present first lady to date. We see footage of her in our media and we get excited when we see her. She takes the hands of young black girls and say “I am one of you” when she dances with them and speaks to them. That is way more valuable and important than her meeting quota set by over scrupulous white observers

  77. Ms. Browne on April 29, 2013 at 12:29 am

    Oh, and one other thing, and I’m probably going out on a limb here, but I would also argue that Michelle O is an epic feminist for women of color by virtue of her emphasis on health and fitness when you look at staggering numbers of obesity and diabetes in black communities. She’s telling the tale of taking care of self first so you have what it takes to take care of family.

  78. Ms. Browne on April 29, 2013 at 12:29 am

    Oh, and one other thing, and I’m probably going out on a limb here, but I would also argue that Michelle O is an epic feminist for women of color by virtue of her emphasis on health and fitness when you look at staggering numbers of obesity and diabetes in black communities. She’s telling the tale of taking care of self first so you have what it takes to take care of family.

  79. Ms. Browne on April 29, 2013 at 12:29 am

    Oh, and one other thing, and I’m probably going out on a limb here, but I would also argue that Michelle O is an epic feminist for women of color by virtue of her emphasis on health and fitness when you look at staggering numbers of obesity and diabetes in black communities. She’s telling the tale of taking care of self first so you have what it takes to take care of family.

  80. Ms. Browne on April 29, 2013 at 12:29 am

    Oh, and one other thing, and I’m probably going out on a limb here, but I would also argue that Michelle O is an epic feminist for women of color by virtue of her emphasis on health and fitness when you look at staggering numbers of obesity and diabetes in black communities. She’s telling the tale of taking care of self first so you have what it takes to take care of family.

  81. M on April 29, 2013 at 1:59 pm

    “embodying an ideal mother and wife”? O.O

    I’m all for making your own choices about how you spend your time, but arguing that being a stay at home mom is the ideal (with no call out to shifting those ideals or the issues with that value structure) is more than a little problematic.

  82. M on April 29, 2013 at 1:59 pm

    “embodying an ideal mother and wife”? O.O

    I’m all for making your own choices about how you spend your time, but arguing that being a stay at home mom is the ideal (with no call out to shifting those ideals or the issues with that value structure) is more than a little problematic.

  83. M on April 29, 2013 at 1:59 pm

    “embodying an ideal mother and wife”? O.O

    I’m all for making your own choices about how you spend your time, but arguing that being a stay at home mom is the ideal (with no call out to shifting those ideals or the issues with that value structure) is more than a little problematic.

  84. M on April 29, 2013 at 1:59 pm

    “embodying an ideal mother and wife”? O.O

    I’m all for making your own choices about how you spend your time, but arguing that being a stay at home mom is the ideal (with no call out to shifting those ideals or the issues with that value structure) is more than a little problematic.

  85. A pro-feminist man on April 29, 2013 at 4:30 pm

    Choice feminism like this is incompatable with feminism’s stated purpose of bringing about gender equality. Ask this question: why can’t we support the choices of MEN who choose to stay home with their children, work part-time, or work full-time? Choice feminsm wants women, but not men, to have that choice. The first- and second-wave feminists advocated equality, not female privelige.

  86. A pro-feminist man on April 29, 2013 at 4:30 pm

    Choice feminism like this is incompatable with feminism’s stated purpose of bringing about gender equality. Ask this question: why can’t we support the choices of MEN who choose to stay home with their children, work part-time, or work full-time? Choice feminsm wants women, but not men, to have that choice. The first- and second-wave feminists advocated equality, not female privelige.

  87. A pro-feminist man on April 29, 2013 at 4:30 pm

    Choice feminism like this is incompatable with feminism’s stated purpose of bringing about gender equality. Ask this question: why can’t we support the choices of MEN who choose to stay home with their children, work part-time, or work full-time? Choice feminsm wants women, but not men, to have that choice. The first- and second-wave feminists advocated equality, not female privelige.

  88. A pro-feminist man on April 29, 2013 at 4:30 pm

    Choice feminism like this is incompatable with feminism’s stated purpose of bringing about gender equality. Ask this question: why can’t we support the choices of MEN who choose to stay home with their children, work part-time, or work full-time? Choice feminsm wants women, but not men, to have that choice. The first- and second-wave feminists advocated equality, not female privelige.

  89. Chimene Jackson on April 30, 2013 at 8:09 am

    Thank you for this piece, Dr. Harris. I’ve been intrigued by the general lack of education on the “Mocha” side of issues like feminism and this piece is an insightful introduction and platform opener for the subject between African American and white women.

    There should be more education and dialogue that permeates the higher education system and equalizes the exposure to both sides’ heart on the issue. There are so many different stories being told of feminine identity shaped by in patriarchal history and its a detriment to not see how the qualitative strengths of womanhood have molded and shaped women of all races in curriculum, media, etc.

    Chimene Jackson

  90. Chimene Jackson on April 30, 2013 at 8:09 am

    Thank you for this piece, Dr. Harris. I’ve been intrigued by the general lack of education on the “Mocha” side of issues like feminism and this piece is an insightful introduction and platform opener for the subject between African American and white women.

    There should be more education and dialogue that permeates the higher education system and equalizes the exposure to both sides’ heart on the issue. There are so many different stories being told of feminine identity shaped by in patriarchal history and its a detriment to not see how the qualitative strengths of womanhood have molded and shaped women of all races in curriculum, media, etc.

    Chimene Jackson

  91. Chimene Jackson on April 30, 2013 at 8:09 am

    Thank you for this piece, Dr. Harris. I’ve been intrigued by the general lack of education on the “Mocha” side of issues like feminism and this piece is an insightful introduction and platform opener for the subject between African American and white women.

    There should be more education and dialogue that permeates the higher education system and equalizes the exposure to both sides’ heart on the issue. There are so many different stories being told of feminine identity shaped by in patriarchal history and its a detriment to not see how the qualitative strengths of womanhood have molded and shaped women of all races in curriculum, media, etc.

    Chimene Jackson

  92. Chimene Jackson on April 30, 2013 at 8:09 am

    Thank you for this piece, Dr. Harris. I’ve been intrigued by the general lack of education on the “Mocha” side of issues like feminism and this piece is an insightful introduction and platform opener for the subject between African American and white women.

    There should be more education and dialogue that permeates the higher education system and equalizes the exposure to both sides’ heart on the issue. There are so many different stories being told of feminine identity shaped by in patriarchal history and its a detriment to not see how the qualitative strengths of womanhood have molded and shaped women of all races in curriculum, media, etc.

    Chimene Jackson

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