Pay Attention To This Gloria Steinem Quote About Black Women Inventing The Feminist Movement
Such an inspiring photograph! Gloria Steinem & Maya Angelou. pic.twitter.com/tCIR6W5oTC
— Peace Francis (@Peace_Francis) July 14, 2014
Let it not be said that feminist icon Gloria Steinem is complicit in “white feminism.” No one’s feminism is perfect, of course, but Steinem said something pretty crucial at Black Enterprise’s Women Of Power Summit about the importance of black women to the feminist movement:
I thought they invented the feminist movement. I’ve learned feminism disproportionately from black women. I realize that things being what they are, the white middle-class part of the movement got reported more, but if you look at the numbers and the very first poll of women responding to feminist issues, African American women were twice as likely to support feminism and feminist issues than white women.
Steinem’s often been held up as one of the leading heroes of second wave feminism. And there’s damn good reason for that, and she’s backed that position up and earned it. But as she herself noted, there’s always a reason when any certain person gets held up as a movement’s hero, and in her case her face and body happened to coincide with the white middle class face of the second wave that was pushed forth the most. And therein lies a key to the third wave: Acknowledging that intersectionality has always been crucial to the movement but that women of color, non-cis women, and other categories of non-white non-middle-/upper-class women have historically been pushed to the fringes and left out of the record of their own achievements and struggles.
— Levo League (@levoleague) March 4, 2015
This isn’t something that requires the validation of white women, but it is beautiful and refreshing to see someone as iconic as Steinem talking about the importance of remembering these things and reminding us that this has been an issue since the very beginnings of the movement — which of course extends far past Steinem’s feminist origins. It remains a problem that women of color are routinely marginalized in the very movement they helped create. And here’s another moment I loved from this interview with Steinem: When asked what she’d say to the women of color who don’t feel that the feminist movement includes them or is about them, she says “I wouldn’t say anything, I’d listen.”
That stands perfectly on its own in my opinion, but she continues nicely as well:
The point is that we help each other to get dignity, and autonomy, and freedom. We’re here to help each other.
And while we’re talking about black women in feminism, please share your favorite moments of black women in the history of feminism. Maya Angelous (above), Dorothy Pitman-Hughes (above), Angela Davis, Sojourner Truth — you know they’ve been all over the place from the very beginning. Let’s celebrate them. And yes, any other variety/intersection of women in the history of feminism also welcome in the comments sharing.