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Still Brave Introduction

Still Brave Introduction

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Published by The Feminist Press
Cheryl Clarke, Angela Davis, bell hooks, June Jordan, Audre Lorde, and Alice Walker—from the pioneers of black women’s studies comes Still Brave, the definitive collection of race and gender writings today. Including Alice Walker’s groundbreaking elucidation of the term “womanist,” discussions of women’s rights as human rights, and a piece on the Obama factor, the collection speaks to the ways that feminism has evolved and how black women have confronted racism within it.
Cheryl Clarke, Angela Davis, bell hooks, June Jordan, Audre Lorde, and Alice Walker—from the pioneers of black women’s studies comes Still Brave, the definitive collection of race and gender writings today. Including Alice Walker’s groundbreaking elucidation of the term “womanist,” discussions of women’s rights as human rights, and a piece on the Obama factor, the collection speaks to the ways that feminism has evolved and how black women have confronted racism within it.

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Published by: The Feminist Press on Jul 21, 2010
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05/02/2015

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Stanlie M. James
Frances Smith Foster
Beverly Guy-Sheftall
Editors
THE EVOLUTION OF BLACK WOMEN’S STUDIES
introduction to
 
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Merely to use the term “Black women’s studies” is an act charged withpolitical signicance. At the very least, the combining o these words toname a discipline means taking the stance that Black women exist—andexist positively—a stance that is in direct opposition to most o whatpasses or culture and thought on the North American continent.—Gloria . Hull and Barbara Smith, 1982
Some of Us Were Brave
Te creation in 1969 at San Diego State University o the rst Womens Stud-ies program marked the emergence o Women’s Studies as a distinct entity within higher education in the United States. Some two decades later Clark and Emory Universities pioneered the Womens Studies Ph.Ds. In the all o 2002 representatives o doctoral programs in the United States, along withothers interested in establishing such programs, met at Emory University or the rst national conerence on the Ph.D. in Women’s Studies.According to the National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA), by 2009, there were more than six hundred departments and programs andover ten thousand courses in Womens Studies in the United States, with thelargest number o students in any interdisciplinary eld. Women’s Studiesas a discrete area o study has also expanded internationally with programs,departments, and courses now ound in Arica (Uganda, South Arica, Sen-egal, and Nigeria or example), Europe, Canada, Mexico, Argentina, CostaRica, the Caribbean, India, Indonesia, China, Korea, and Japan. Doctoralprograms continue to emerge in the U.S. and other countries.During the 1970s Phase I o the evolution o Women’s Studies in theacademy ocused on the establishment o the eld as a separate discipline.Te 1980s ushered in Phase II, which could be considered the coming-o-ageo the Womens Studies movement as programs and eventually departmentsbecame acknowledged and even respected units within more colleges and
Introduction
Still Brave
published by the Feminist Press
 
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universities. However, Phase II was also marked by critical disagreements.Some agreed with leaders such as Florence Howe who wrote in 1982:
Te major thrust o the second decade will be toward directing the move-ment outward, toward “mainstreaming.” Despite a decade o new scholar-ship, Women’s Studies has so ar made little progress toward its “ultimatestrategy” o transorming the established male-biased curriculum.
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Tis process o bringing about a gender-balanced curriculum was anattempt to “de-ghettoize” Women’s Studies and to incorporate it into therest o the academic enterprise. Te objective was to include eminist schol-arship and other new scholarship on women within all o the disciplinesby initiating curriculum transormation projects in diverse academic set-tings throughout the country. Curricular transormation was complicated,however. Gatekeepers (not always male) o the established curriculumcreated obstacles, but oen the more serious challenges were within theWomen’s Studies movement itsel. Some declared that the goal was to bal-ance, mainstream, and integrate Women’s Studies into the academic cur-riculum. Others rejected this as an “add-and-stir” approach and espousedradical paradigm shis that would “transorm” the institution itsel.
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MostWomen’s Studies advocates argued, however, that it was not “either-or,” butrather “both-and.” Separate Women’s Studies courses, they believed, mustexist alongside gender-balanced courses within the disciplines.Despite the important, even transormative, work o the Women’s Stud-ies movement during both phases, many advocates, particularly women o color, were marginalized and increasingly rustrated by unexamined claimsabout a universal sisterhood in eminist theorizing. Lesbians critiquedinstitutionalized heterosexism and the relative invisibility o lesbian experi-ence within the emerging scholarship on women and gender. Black womencritiqued Women’s Studies scholars and curriculum integration projects ortheir relative lack o attention to questions o racial, ethnic, class, or cul-tural dierence in denitions o womanhood almost rom the very incep-tion o the women’s movement. Johnnella Butler, who co-directed the rstcurriculum integration project between Women’s Studies and Ethnic Stud-ies, asserted: “Women are separated rom each other by race, class, ethnicgroup, religion, nationality, and culture so that they appear to share moreo a common identity with men o their own immediate group than withwomen outside that group.
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 One o the hardest-hitting critiques o the insensitivity o Women’sStudies to race, class, and ethnicity can be ound in the pioneering work o Black eminist theorist bell hooks, who declared:
Introduction
Still Brave
published by the Feminist Press

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