Feminism vs. Black Feminism

Feminism is a collection of movements and ideologies aimed at defining, establishing and defending equal political, economic, cultural, and social rights for women. It includes seeking to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment. A feminist advocates or supports the rights and equality of women. Feminist theory, which emerged from feminist movements, aims to understand the nature of gender inequality by examining women's social roles. It has developed theories in a variety of disciplines in order to respond to issues such as the social construction of sex and gender. Some of the earlier forms of feminism have been criticized for taking into account only perspectives of the white, middle-class and educated women. This led to the creation of ethnically specific or multiculturalism forms of feminism.

Feminist activists campaign for women's rights – such as in contract law, property, and voting – while also promoting bodily integrity, autonomy, and reproductive rights for women. Feminist campaigns have changed societies, particularly in the West by achieving women's suffrage, gender neutrality in English, equal pay for women, reproductive rights for women (including access to contraceptives and abortion), and the right to enter into contracts and own property. Feminists have worked to protect women and girls from domestic violence, sexual harassment, and assault. They have also advocated for workplace rights, including maternity leave, and against forms of discrimination against women. Feminism is mainly focused on women's issues, but author Bell Hooks and others have argued that, since feminism seeks gender equality, it must necessarily include men's liberation because men are also harmed by sexism and gender roles. (First Wave)

Alice Munro moved from 'rural roots through education to middle class marriage to motherhood, divorce, economic displacement and remarriage', and Rasporich observes: “her solution to the problem of artist-as-female was quit naturally and bravely to become the female-as-artist, and as an interpreter and puzzling critic of the roles of woman and codes of sexual conduct she knew and witnessed, a quiet revolutionary” (Jain 263).

History of Feminism:

Charles Fourier, a Utopian Socialist and French philosopher, is credited with having coined the word "feminism" in 1837. The words "feminism" and "feminist" first appeared in France and Netherland in 1872, Great Britain in the 1890s, and the United States in 1910, and the Oxford English Dictionary lists 1894 as the year of the first appearance of "feminist" and 1895 for "feminism". Depending on historical moment, culture and country, feminists around the world have had different causes and goals. Most western feminist historians assert that all movements that work to obtain women's rights should be considered feminist movements, even when they did not (or do not) apply the term to themselves. Other historians assert that the term should be limited to the modern feminist movement and its descendants. Those historians use the label "proto-feminist" to describe earlier movements. (First Wave)

In this way we find the differences in the opinions of different historians and theorists. In the west also the word “Feminism” has been considered in various ways. In the western history of feminism we find three waves:

The history of the modern western feminist movements is divided into three ‘waves’. Each wave dealt with different aspects of the same feminist issues. The first wave comprised women's suffrage movements of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, promoting women's right to vote. The second wave was associated with the ideas and actions of the women's liberation movement beginning in the 1960s. The second wave campaigned for legal and social equality for women. The third wave is a continuation of, and a reaction to, the perceived failures of second-wave feminism, beginning in the 1990s and Louise Weiss along with other Parisian suffragettes in 1935. She founded an association in 1934 i.e. ‘La Femme Nouvelle’ (The New Women). The newspaper headline reads "The French woman Must Vote. (First Wave)

In the government policies also there is a clear discrimination between male and female as a citizen and their rights. The female have to struggle for their fundamental rights which the male were enjoying. The governments gave the rights to the female step by step and some times the rights were withdrawn also.

The Iranian Constitutional Revolution in 1905 triggered the Iranian women's movement, which aimed to achieve women's equality in education, marriage, careers, and legal rights. However, during the Iranian revolution of 1979, many of the rights that women had gained from the women's movement were systematically abolished, such as the Family Protection Law. In France, women obtained the right to vote only with the Provisional Government of the French Republic of 21 April 1944. In May 1947, following the November 1946 elections, the sociologist Robert Verdier minimized the "gender gap," stating in Le Populaire that women had not voted in a consistent way, dividing themselves, as men, according to social classes. Wars (both World War I and World War II) had seen the provisional emancipation of some, individual, women, but post-war periods signaled the return to conservative roles. (First Wave)

Elaine Showalter describes the development of feminist theory as having three phases.

The first she calls "feminist critique", in which the feminist reader examines the ideologies behind literary phenomena. The second Showalter calls "gynocriticism", in which the "woman is producer of textual meaning". The last phase she calls "gender theory", in which the "ideological inscription and the literary effects of the sex/gender system are explored". (First Wave)

Feminist critics agree that woman thinking including creative work, ''has tended to be received as if it appeared from nowhere...has been made to seem sporadic, erratic, orphened of any tradition of its own'' (Morner 82). American and British, honours certain earlier pioneers in Verginia Woolf The Room of once own (1929) and Simone de Beauvoir in The Second sex (1949), these works that came to known as 'Images-of-Woman' study. (Baldick 128) Simone de Beauvoir put it, “One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman …..It is civilization as a whole that produces this creature...which described as feminine” (Abrams 122).

A basic problem for feminist theorists is to establish the very possibility of a woman 's language that will not, when a woman writers, automatically be appropriated into complicity with linguistic feature that impose on female a condition of marginality and subservience, or even of linguistic nonentity. (Abrams 125)

Feminist analyses of nationalist movements have tended to begin from the assumption that woman are universally subordinated in all nationalist movements, that “…no nation in the world gives women and men the same access to the rights and resources of the nation-sates” (Sharma 35). Virginia Woolf in her novel overtly makes psychoanalytic study of the hidden motives and reaction of woman. She depicts woman characters with profound feminist perspective and she primarily concerns with the relation of woman with woman and woman with man. Woolf in her significant essay “Men and Women” “analyzed the men-women relationship in a historical and literary context” (Patel 254).

“Alice Walker, a black feminist's substitution of the word feminist 'womanist' has altered the situation only marginally by rendering the term non-elitist and more widely applicable” (Jain 12). This time with a contemporary setting in an India poised on the verge of its globalization powered take-off, “A Married Woman' suffer and lower sex than man” (Patel, 57) for example in Indian novelist Kudanica Kapadia's novel Seven Step in the Sky we find character of 'Vasudha' and in English novelist we find Virginia Woolf's famous essay “The Room of Once Own” when she discusses the feelings of woman in the stream of consciousness technique. In African American or Black literature we examine that Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye the character of Pecola Breedlove was the reflection of racism in America between Black and White, thus we find that in all literatures woman's suffering is the part of the Feminist Movement.

“Most of feminine writers in Indo-Anglian fiction have portrayal the individual woman's struggle to get free from male dominance in everyday affairs. Feminism in Western countries has an enlarged framework. The institution of marriage, family and society are not only challenged by these feminine writings but also replaced” (Ray 94). Feminism in traditional Hindu society has many dimensions. A woman is daughter, sister, wife, niece, aunt, grandmother beside in-laws of different kinds. In Western society woman is thought of in relation to a man and not in relation to various roles. “Their concerns are limited to their 'men' only. Hence, their idea of independence covers limited ground” (Ray 96).

Dr. Pashupati Jha has a point when he says, “That woman is not crude imitation of the western libber, but a lifelike figure whose sufferings win sympathy, whose victory instills courage” (Ray 96). Shashi Deshpande says, “If I were a man and cared to know the world I lived in, I almost think it would make me a shade uneasy -the weight of that long silence of one-half the world” (Ray 165). In Shakespeare’s Othello Emilia says to Desdimona:
“Tis not a year or two shows us a man:
They are all but stomachs, and we all but food;
They eat us hungerly, and when they are full,
They belch us.” (Sanders 148)

Shashi Deshpande’s own reluctance to get attached to the term 'feminism' also requires clarification. She says:
It is a curious fact that serious writing by woman is invariably regarded as feminist writing-A woman who writes of woman’s experiences often brings in some aspects of those experiences that have angered her, roused her strong feelings. I don't see why this has to be labeled feminist fiction. A male critic once said about a novel of mine,'' She can be quite brilliant when she is not raising her banners of protest.'' What banners of my protest was my thought! Any woman who writes fiction shows the world as it looks to a woman-to apply the tag of feminist is one way, I realized ,of dismissing the serious concerns of the novel by labeling them ,by calling the work propagandist….When a man writes of the particular problems a man is facing, he writing male propaganda. Nobody says that; why is it said only about woman writers? (Ray 203-204)

Manju Kapur writes in her famous work Home, “When you marry, you can do anything your husband permits.” Manju Kapur, like Shashi Deshpande, Arundhati Roy, Gita Hariharan, Anita Nair or Shobha De, is one of the groups of Indian woman writers in English who live and write in India itself. In novel Difficult Daughter Virmati, as she herself recognizes, “I am not like these women. They are using their minds, organizing, participating in conferences, being politically active, while my time is spent being in love” (Patel 60). Kamla Das was crazy, critics observed, “She was a bad influence on the 'Pativratha', the traditional Indian woman. What would happen if the woman whose role in society was to stay in kitchens and prepare food and raise children were to go out in the streets and write about what happened in their bedrooms?” (Patel 68)

A feminist Larrington points out:

Women need to know the myths which have determined both how we see ourselves and how society regards us. Feminist anthropologists and literary historians in recent years have discovered new evidence about how woman have been perceived; they have illuminated mythical patterns and re-examined historical traditions from a feminist perspective.” (Patel 190)

In the Ramayana, Sita overpowered with anger impugned Rama, “It’s your pride that hurts you to take me back. Even if it's true that Ravana violated me, if you truly love me, don’t deserve your love and comfort now more than ever? If you loved me, wouldn't your love be great enough to wipe away my humiliation and pain?” (Patel 193)

'Feminism’, a pain woman concern, is an omnibus title. In literary historiography, it means digging at the past a new from the woman's point of view. There has been writing in India since times immemorial, as early as 1000 B.C. on holy themes mainly in the form of poetry. Much later we have quite a few “‘Bhakti Women poets’ like Jana Bai and Meera in different parts of the country. Virginia Woolf calls 'Shakespeare a masculine mind' and regrets the fact that Lady Winchilsea who could be equally great a poetic talent was not allowed to grow because of gender -bias of the Elizabethan period. …Gordon remarks, ''Feminism is an analysis of woman’s subordination for the purpose of figuring out how to analyse it.”(Patel 246-247)

Jane Austen in Persuasion also remarked: “Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story. Education has been theirs in so much higher a degree: the pen has been in their hands” (Patel 248). Today, in reality, the feminist movement is still going quite strong all over the world with the prospects of attaining stronger in near future. As Liz Stanley and Sue Wise remarks, “The essence of feminism for us is its ideas about the personal, its insistence on the validity of woman’s experience, and its argument that an understanding of woman’s expression can be gained only through understanding and analyzing everyday life, where oppression as well as everything else is grounded.” (Patel 249-250)

Black Feminism:

Black feminism argues that sexism, class oppression, and racism are inextricably bound together. The way these relate to each other is called intersectionality. Forms of feminism that strive to overcome sexism and class oppression but ignore race can discriminate against many people, including women, through racial bias. The Combahee River Collective argued in 1974 that the liberation of black women entails freedom for all people, since it would require the end of racism, sexism, and class oppression. One of the theories that evolved out of the Black feminist movement was Alice Walker's Womanism. Alice Walker and other womanists pointed out those black women experienced a different and more intense kind of oppression from that of white women. They point to the emergence of black feminism after earlier movements led by white middle-class women whom they regard as having largely ignored oppression based on race and class. Patricia Hill Collins defined Black feminism, in Black Feminist Thought (1991), as including "women who theorize the experiences and ideas shared by ordinary black women that provide a unique angle of vision on self, community, and society".

Black feminist theory has argued that black women are positioned within structures of power in fundamentally different ways than white women. Black feminist theorists such as Angela Davis, Bell Hooks, and Patricia Hill Collins have argued, for example, that black women, unlike many white women, are marginalized along lines of race, class, gender, and sexuality. As such, mainstream white feminist theory has both comprehensively accounted for the economic, racial, and gender exigencies of black female experience, nor, in many cases, tried to. As black feminist legal studies scholar Kimberle Crenshaw notes, “black women are sometimes excluded from feminist theory and antiracist policy discourse because both are predicated on a discrete set of experiences that often does not accurately reflect the interaction of race and gender” (The Black Feminist Reader, Crenshaw 209). Black women's exclusion from feminist and antiracist discourses became especially clear in 1960s and '70s social movements for racial and gender equality.

One of the foundation texts of black feminism is An Argument for Black Women’s Liberation as a Revolutionary Force, authored by Mary Ann Weathers and published in 1969. Weathers states her belief that "Women's Liberation should be considered as a strategy for an eventual tie-up with the entire revolutionary movement consisting of women, men, and children," but she posits that "(w) e women must start this thing rolling" Other black feminist activist in early second-wave feminism was civil rights lawyer and author Florynce Kennedy. Black women began creating theory and developing a new movement which spoke to the combination of problems they were battling, including sexism, racism, and classicism. Angela Davis, for instance, showed that while Afro-American women were suffering from compulsory sterilization programs, white women were subjected to multiple unwilling pregnancies and had to clandestinely abort. The black feminist movement had to contend with civil rights movements that wanted women in a lesser role. Men who believed the black women would organize around their own needs and minimize their own efforts, losing reliable allies in the struggle for civil rights. The black feminist movement not only had to contend with racial prejudice but also the structure of our patriarchal society that making their struggle much harder.

Alice Walker pointedly compares the situation of the slaves to a reconquest of the United States by Great Britain, and then reapplies the logic of the American Revolution to Black Women: “Possess the spirit of independence. The Americans do, and why should not you? Possess the spirit of men, bold and enterprising, fearless and undaunted. Sue of your rights and privileges. Know the reason that you cannot attain them. Weary them with you make the attempt: and we shall certainly die if you do not.” (Sharma 57-58)

Black males upset at James Horton's sharp exhortation: “Black women who spoke on behalf of abolition and civil rights were applauded by their men. There were limits, however, to the public chastisement that these men were willing, to endure, especially from a woman who questioned their manhood, even one whom they admired in other respects.” (Sharma 60)

“In her introduction to the 2000 reissue of the 1983 black feminist anthology Home Girls, theorist and author Barbara Smith states her opinion that "to this day most Black women are unwilling to jeopardize their 'racial credibility' (as defined by Black men) to address the realities of sexism." Smith also notes that "even fewer are willing to bring up homophobia and heterosexism, which are, of course, inextricably linked to gender oppression” (Black web). “Blacks hardly agreed among themselves. Alice Walker, in her recent immensely popular The Color Purple, has attempted a middle ground between standard and black English” (Boris 566).

“Ellison's Invisible Man while reflecting America in the 1950 yet distinguishes this experience for the black man” (Boris 572).With that “Baldwin 's novel Go Tell It ,to begin there , has affinities to both black and white” (Boris 573). “John Williams and Harold Cruse are black male writer after that for a variety of cultural reasons the mantle was passed to black woman : Toni Morrison , Alice Walker ,Toni Cade Bambara” (Boris 575) and Indian Female writers : Anita Desai , Anita Nair ,Shashi Deshpande, Kundanika Kapadia, Manju Kappor, Arundhati Roy. “To assert that 'female fiction' exists is to suggest that human experience bifurcates into two distinct stream; so those fears, pity, terror, sympathy, love, not to speak of language itself. While black female novelist such as Toni Morrison and Alice Walker are concerned with black life and experiences” (Boris 578). “All that suggests creates a bond among American writers; that inevitably any categorization as black writers and black woman writers is artificial and nonbinding” (Boris 582).

Toni Morrison instead of underlining woman’s oppression of the blacks in a position that is presented as the extremist point of the colonial situation Morrison herself states, “I think woman do write out of a different place. There’s some difference in the ways they approach conflict, domination and power...It is not so much that woman write differently from men, but that black woman write differently from white woman” (Gupta 63). In this regard Jane Kunez remarks:
The disallowance of the specific cultures and historians of African-American and black woman especially in The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison as a consequence of or sideline to the more general popular forms and images by an ever-more all-pervasive and insidious mass culture industry. This industry increasingly disallows the representation of any image not premised on consumption or the production of normative values conducive to it. (Gupta 64)

“I am a Black Feminist. I mean I recognize that my powers as well as my primary oppressions come as a result of my blackness as well as my womaness, and therefore my struggles on both of these fronts are inseparable.” – Audre Lorde (12 Great)

Feminism Vs. Black Feminism:

Dina Mehta, Anita Desai, and Ruth Prawer Jhabvala have urban orientation. Their novels show the psychological traits of the women. “Individual problems like alienation, unemployment, sexual exploitation, rapes, arising out of expanding of these writers. They advocate independence but also the independence from man as an opposite sex” (Ray 95). “With contemporary interest concentrating increasingly on the diasporic situation, the trauma inherent in the African-American situation has received special attention. The American black finds himself in a desperate situation. Toni Morrison says emphatically that all writers “Write out of where they come from” and “it just so happens that, that space for me in African-American” (Gupta 61).

“The family and the society always looked at them as secondary citizens. Recently, there is a change in the public outlook. Fifty years of Indian independence, continuous fight of the woman’s organization against their subordinate status, political gambit for reservation of seats of power, free education to girl” (Ray 95). “Jane Austen, in her novels, depicts only the problems of marriageable girls looking for worthy husband of their choice. The themes of her six novels are identically the search of the mothers or aunts for groom for their daughters and nieces, in her novel center round the affairs of love, engagements, festivities, picnics, frustration and disappointment in marital life” (Ray 159). At the beginning of 20th century Harlem, New York was the center of African-American Renaissance. Fakrul Alam writes: “Once literature begins to serve as a forum illuminating female experiences, it can assist in humanizing and equilibrating the culture, value, system, which has served predominately make interests. A literary work is capable of providing role séance of models; instill a positive sense of feminine identity by portraying women who are not dependent on men” (Gupta 153-154).

Caroll Smith Rosenberg argues,>em> “The emotional segregation of woman and men, which brought about led to the development of a specifically female world”

(Gupta 154-155). Today, many versions of feminism as liberal, radical, socialist, post-colonial have cropped up, making a body of literature worthy of research and enquiry. A feminist ideology stems from ‘individualism’, which stormed the west, but in India its impact was silent but steady. Sahgal point out, “Feminism in India is making a tremendous impact with less noise and drama than in the west” (Patel 257).

In The Bluest Eyes by Toni Morrison we find a myth that the, “White skin color brings with it superiority” and that “the white is more intelligent, more virtuous” (Gupta 227). In her A Room of One's Own Virginia Woolf writes “Women and fiction remain, so far as I am concerned, unsolved problems.” “I think I may boost myself to be, with all possible vanity, the most unlearned and uninformed female who ever dared to be an authoress” – Jane Austen (Woman Writers Web)

About Woman being the focal point of her writings Shashi Deshpande stated:
Most of my writings comes out of my intense and long suppress feelings about what it is to be a woman in our society: it comes out the experience of the difficulty of playing the different roles conjoined upon the society, out of my consciousness of the conflict between my idea of herself as a human being and the idea that society has of me as a woman. (Myles 65)

Shobha De says, “The Women in my books are definitely not doormats. They are not willing to be kicked around” (Myles 86). To quote Shobha De as she writes, “I write with a great deal of empathy towards woman. Without raising a feminist flag, I feel very strongly about the woman’s situation” (Myles 87). Bharati Mukherjee a feminist writer firmly stated, “The immigrants in my stories go through extreme transformation in America and at the same time they alter the country’s appearance and psychological makeup” (Myles 108). It is on account of this speculation that, “Black woman define themselves and their goals beyond the sphere of a sexual relationship.” and think to being “Any endeavor the realized focus of a completed empowered individual” (Gupta 231).

Deborah McDowell's essay “New Directions for Black Feminist Criticism” states,
I use the term here simply to refer to Black female critics who analyze the works of Black female writers from a feminist political perspective. But the term can also apply to any criticism written by a Black woman regardless of her subject or perspectives book written by a male from a feminist or political perspective, a book written by a Black woman or about Black women authors in general, or any writings by women. (12 great Web)

Thus at the end researchers find that Feminism and Black Feminism are totally differ from each other. They are found in different circumstances. Feminism is the movement for Women in all countries rather than only in India, America, Europe, China, Japan but Black Feminism is only a European movement. We find that the White consider the Black as their slaves and the Black want freedom from them. The Black women are treated as slaves in their own homes and so they found double exploitation. The Black feminists and Black writers especially Black women writers wrote about this black feminism. From all about quote we find that the different ideas for feminism and Black feminism. There is a big difference in feminism and Black feminism and these are two different movements of two different societies but both are for Women either black or other woman.


Works Cited
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Dr. Narendra K. Patel
Assistant Professor, Department of English
Shri P. K. Chaudhari Mahila Arts College,
Vora Vanshi Manojbhai
M.A Sem.- 3 (English)
Shri P. K. Chaudhari Mahila Arts College,
Sector-7, Gandhinagar