Thursday, October 20, 2016


I had begun to imagine that black feminism was born in slavery before the word "feminism" came to exist because slavery broke us down to the essentials. I imagined that there was no time for "I am more important than you because I am male."  

My reading of history tells me that male dominance is a worldwide phenomenon. And I used to think it went back to when man first came to exist. Therefore, I was thinking that something must break it down from time to time.

But then I read this book called Calaban and The Witch which describes how the status of women changes as the European feudal system goes and wage earning and capitalism arrives. This book made me realize that poor people have to do what they have to do without AS MUCH reference to gender roles and ranking who is worth more than who.

 Who is counted as most important came, in this book, when the man stopped working at the home on the farm, close to the wife, and started earning a wage away from home instead. When both had labor contributions, under the feudal system, both were counted equal. When he woman continued to work in the home and the man worked outside the home for wage, the money became the thing that gave you value in the household-- according to the men who could withhold the wage from the household if he chose.

This may not be where ranking man above woman is created but this theory certainly describes how it may have been exacerbated.  And slaves were in a parallel situation.

During slavery slaves didn't earn a wage either. Slaves were forced to trade their labor for subsistence.
When slavery is over both man and woman are working, and a lot of times both the husband and the wife are working outside the home. That makes for more equality between the black man and black woman than there would be for white people, who value the woman staying at home.

As black men coming out of slavery measured their rising equality and masculinity by what white men have and do, they too wanted to make sure they were the only ones bringing a wage into the house, be the only one with a say in how things go.

This may have worked with white women, being home with no say. But Black American Women had already had masters. And they weren't about to trade white ones for black ones.

That's why I think black feminism predates everybody else's in America. But I know I don't know enough of world history, especially of the history of all the countries in Africa, to be sure this is true.

The author of the article below has given me another idea, the idea that feminism might be something black women brought to America from Africa.   

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Feminist activism has always been a part of African society and in a radical way.

By radical, I don’t mean the strand of the western feminist movement that very necessarily revolutionized western societies in the 1960s and 1970s, but rather, I mean the mobilized commitment to uprooting patriarchy, imperialism and human injustice to women.

In much of pre-modern Africa, there were women who possessed economic, political and spiritual power. To name only a few there were warrior women like the Amazons or Fon women of Dahomey. Or royalty who used their powers to demand justice like Makeda of Ethiopia, Nzinga of Angola or Mnkabayi of Zululand.
However, it is also true that women who weren’t lucky to be born into spiritually empowered clans or who weren’t wealthy traders or chiefly women, would face subjugation due to their gender. They would, for example, often be married off at a young age. Contrary to popular belief, monogamy was as common in many African societies as polygamy was. Not by choice necessarily but because only wealthy men could afford several wives. This is an example of how men also are marginalized by patriarchy, and why we must always remember that patriarchy is a system not a person.
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