The Power Of Self Definition In Feminism Of The African Diaspora

2426 words - 10 pages

It is generally believed that feminism originated in the West, for over time, it has assumed the role of ‘science’ (Mangena, 2003). As a science, western feminism insists that it should be adopted by women all over the globe and used to deal with their specific and foundational problems. However, women of the African diaspora have come to deny such universality and define their own struggle. Uprooted from their motherland and sent to lands in Latin America and the United States, Black women experience unique intersection of racism and sexism. Furthermore, it is through self-definition and assertion that women of the African diaspora come together to fight for freedom, justice, and equality.
Whether through colonialism or feminism, White people have always insisted on their way of living as the correct way. Moreover, Whites often travel to other worlds in order to bring civilization and to save the savages from themselves. Traditionally, many White feminist scholars have not included Black women voices in their circles. This historical suppression of Black women’s ideas has had a pronounced influence on feminist theory (Spurlin, 2010). With this said, one pattern of suppression is that of omission. This is evident through Black women having been silenced in their struggles. Another pattern of suppression lies in what Hill-Collins describes as “paying lip service to the need for diversity” (2009). This occurs while changing little regarding to one’s own practice. In this instance, White women admit that they are not qualified to speak of Black women’s experiences because they are not black. However, they often include safe, “hand-picked” Black women’s voices to avoid or counteract criticisms that they are racist (Collins, 2009). Either means of suppression illustrates the basic unwillingness by Western feminists to share the floor with women of color.
It is important to note that African sisters do not reject the process of fighting for women’s self-definition and self-assertion. However, they do have problems with the terminology and ideals of Western feminism and its presumption that women’s issues are universal and identical globally. African women have been depicted in western feminist circles as mute, rural beings with no mind of their own. As Ogundipe-Leslie pointed out, “Women of European descent are most prone to these ventriloquisms, frequently calling on African women to play the role of ventriloquists’ puppets, speaking to other people’s agendas” (Kolawole, 1997). Time after time, white women’s actions have illustrated that they do not wish to be a part of a feminist movement – they want to lead it (Hooks, 2000). After years of suppression, African women have grown tired of White women speaking for them. Furthermore, in order to be heard, Siga Jajne suggests that African women must force their viewpoint on existing discourse through “voice-throwing” (Kolawole, 1997). In the words of Audre Lorde, “the master’s tools will never demolish...

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