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Zaire Hagans-Jackson

English 101
Professor Cuddy
November 21st, 2016
The Importance of Black Feminism in Today's Society
Kimberlé Crenshaw is a Black scholar was the first to use the term intersectionality, and
create the intersectionality theory. Intersectionality, as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary,
is how race, class and gender affect an individual or group. (OED, adj. 2.d.) Crenshaw
introduced this theorem in her essay, "Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black
Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics"
(1989). (Crenshaw) According to Sharon Smith in "Black Feminism and Intersectionality",
intersectionality is a description of the ways different oppressions are experienced by a people.
(Black Feminism and Intersectionality) Throughout her career, Crenshaw steadily argues that the
discrimination against Black women was not always a choice between racism, or sexism, but that
Black women distinctly faced both.
In Patricia Hill Collins's "Black Feminist Thought", Collins quotes famous Black
supporter and believer in Black Feminism, Maria Stewart, in her advisement of Black women to
"Turn your attention to knowledge and improvement; for knowledge is power." (Hill Collins 2)
Black feminists like Stewart believe education and knowledge to be a major part of Black
feminism, as like other educated Black feminists such as Tori Neal Hurston, believed education
and knowledge to be the key to high levels of achievement for Black women for generations to
come. According to new reports, Black women are now the most educated group of people in the
United States. As Collins continues in her book, "suppressing the knowledge produced by any

oppressed group makes it easier for dominant groups to rule because the seeming absence of
dissent suggests that subordinate groups willingly collaborate their own victimization." (Hill
Collins 3) The institutionalized systems such as racism and sexism that have prominently
plagued our country since its founding, keeps Black women especially from attaining viable
knowledge and receiving valuable educations that would not only serve individual Black women
and their predecessors, but would also aid them in serving as truly useful members of societies.
For centuries, Black women were denied education, which implemented years of ignorance and
all the negativity and destruction ignorance brings such as self hate and self doubt.
In this essay, the importance of the Black Feminist movement will be assessed by using
current day events like the women of the Black Lives Matter movement, and the Natural Hair
movement to help us assess why the original Black Feminist movement is still vital to the lives
of Black girls and women today, as the movement is responsible for inspiring and motivating
current day action taken for the collective progression of Black women. Black women carry the
heavy burden that is the struggles of being Black in an anti-black society, as well as carrying the
load of being demonized for being a Black woman. The claim made by Kola Boof, a Egyptian,
Sudanese author, asserts that “The Black woman is the most unprotected, unloved woman on
earth…she is the only flower on earth…that grows unwatered” reigns quite accurate. (Harith
There are many who happen to oppose the new aged Black feminism movement such as
Black and white men who wished to control Black women's sexuality, closed-minded white
women and racists, disapproving of the movement because of misogynistic and discriminatory
attitudes that have been rooted in our society for ages. These people neglect to understand that
the Black Feminist movement was created to simply give Black women a direct approach to

overcoming intersectionalities forced upon them by their oppressors. As illustrated by Malcolm
X "The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman, the most unprotected person in
America is the Black woman, the most neglected person in America is the Black woman.” (X)
During the Civil Rights movement, Black feminists at the time were not neglecting or
abandoning movement, but remaining true to themselves and their beliefs by being sure to attack
all of the pressing issues that faced them. Those issues included not only fighting against the
oppression of the Black community due to their racial ties, but also facing and fighting against
the specific oppressions that only women are prone to experiencing. We see this controversy
being almost repeated in modern day society regarding the Black Lives Matter movement, as
Black women are being accused for not appropriately supporting Black Lives Matter, by abiding
to the male Black lives being stolen by those who demonstrate injustices upon Black people. In
order to draw public attention to women like Sandra Bland, a Black woman who's life was lost
unjustly, Black women have implemented popular social media demonstrations like the popular
hashtag "SayHerName, with the purpose of bringing focus to Black women. These same women
are being shunned for speaking on the importance of the sometimes less focused on fact that
Black Women’s Lives matter. Say Her Name was developed by the African American Policy
Forum, the Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Student, and Andrea Ritchie to "shine a
spotlight on forms of police brutality often experienced disproportionately by women of color."
(The African American Policy Forum) Major media demonstrations are not being used to say that
Black women do not give regard to the injustices against Black men that is already widely
addressed by mainstream media, but are only adding to the amount of coverage that is given to
issues existing within the Black community.

Movements like the The Natural Hair movement has become highly favored amongst the
Black community. It is no secret that women of color who do not fit into the molds of
withholding beauty standards held and bolstered by western civilization, have been pressured to
succumb to methods that were made to impel unnatural and impossible beauty standards. These
methods don't only include products that permanently straighten the kinks and curls naturally in
Black women's hair, but permanent surgeries that make the common brown eyed Black women
blue or green eyed, as well as makeup tricks and tips like "contouring", that help slim the nose
and cheekbones. In Keyezua’s Afrocentric Faces: Keyezua’s Attempt To Save Beautiful Black
Women From Western Ideals, she argues that, "In a world with mixed humans, using methods
that were made to whitewash beauty standards and make women of color feel less attractive
means that we are mentally colonizing ourselves and letting writers, specialists and scientists
continue to carry the worth of our existence by letting them write articles that our children read
to reshape their mind into the mind of a contemporary slave of eurocentric beauty standards."
(Keyezua) Black women have working hard to undo the historically induced pressures women of
color faced that make them perceive what naturally grows from the bodies of Black women as
unappealing, or somehow incorrect.
In American contemporary society, being Black is inarguably difficult. What is even more
difficult, is falling under the circumstance of having to deal with an entire other set of prejudice,
stereotype, and discrimination. That is precisely why a movement designated specifically for the
advancement of Black women was and is necessary. Those who attribute to negative stereotypes,
bias, discrimination and general mistreatment of Black women, must cease negative criticism of
the Black feminist movement, as it only exists to serve the purpose of demarginalizing the
intersection of race and sex. We should all embrace the movement by looking at what ways we

can help the women of the world who face major adversity. Giving effort to not only being
yourself, but your friends and family out to march in one of the walks in the name of Black
women's lives lost unjustly. Finally, a solution that is not expensive or complex at all, is when
you happen to hear a Black woman speaking about an issue she faces because of her skin color,
sex, or a product of both, instead of shutting her down, sit down and try listening to understand
and not hearing to respond. By not perpetuating ignorant stereotypes and bias of Black women,
we help to discontinue what feeds the system that tries to keep Black women down.

1. "Intersectionality", Def. 2.b. The Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd
ed. 1989. OED Online. Online 19 November 2016
2. Crenshaw, Kimberli, Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and
Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory
and Antiracist Politics, University of Chicago, Legal F., n.p. 1989, Online, 15
November 2016
3. Smith, Sharon, "Black Feminism and Intersectionality",
International Socialist Review, Issue #99, n.d. Print
4. Hill Collins, Patricia, Black Feminist Thought, New York and
London: Routeledge, 2000, Print
5. Harith Bint, Naima, Power, n.d. 2006. Online 19 November 2016
6. Springer, Kimberly, Living for the Revolution: Black Feminist
Organizations 1968-1980), World, 2005. Online 15 November 2016
7. X, Malcom, Who Taught You Self Hate, Los Angeles
8. The African American Policy Forum, #SayHerName: Resisting
Police Brutality Against Black Women, July 2015. Online 15 November
9. Keyezua, Afrocentric Faces: Keyezua’s Attempt To Save Beautiful
Black Women From Western Ideals, Farable Weekly, 25 September 2016, Online
15 November 2016