Feminist Theories: Community

A number of years ago I attended a presentation by a women who worked in inner-city elementary schools. This presentation was of a project she ran with the kids. She’d asked them to draw themselves as they would look if they were a member of a different race. One black student drew a homeless person. When asked why, he explained that he saw white people as having no home, no community, no support network like he did with his family and neighborhood.

In Black Feminist Thought, Patricia Hill Collins, when paralleling white and black feminist epistemologies, brings up the idea of a supportive community: “While white women may value the concrete, it is questionable whether white families—particularly middle-class nuclear ones—and white community institutions provide comparable types of support” (212). Later, she says that “white women may have access to a women’s tradition valuing emotion and expressiveness, but few Eurocentric institutions except the family validate this way of knowing” (217). In contrast, “Black families and churches… encourage the expression of Black female power” (217).

This is an idea that white feminism has not, to my knowledge, ever considered. Is this because the privileged, that cannot see the ways in which the oppressed lives’ are more difficult, also cannot see the positive qualities of marginalized communities? Will white women always assume that we will never have the support of our men, or else get frustrated when we don’t, because we do not understand why?

A similar idea Collins brings ups is that “gender oppression seems better able to… intrude in personal relationships via family dynamics and within individual consciousness. This may be because racial oppression has fostered historically concrete communities among African-Americans and other racial/ethnic groups” (226). Going back to Wollstonecraft, women are in one marginalized group that is personally dependent on its oppressor: We need men to have babies (for the moment; I may become a geneticist and speed along the technology for ovo-ovo reproduction) and, historically, to support us financially. Other marginalized groups—e.g., people of color, people of a lower social class status, and queer people—while clearly dependent on their oppressor in many ways, are not as personally and individually dependent; therefore, perhaps, support for rebellion and ways of thinking and living that go against the oppressor can more easily flourish.

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