As a student of the arts, it is necessary to develop a critical understanding of the societal structures that frame our existence including theories about race, class, and gender. Considering the contemporary art world is rife with artists using these concepts to make relevant and poignant artwork, you would be remiss to not explore them. This guide aims to outline resources that will help you develop a basic understanding of how race, class, and gender intersect and how that has spawned Black feminist theory.
A basic concept to understand when discussing Black feminism is the word 'Intersectionality.' The term was coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1993 as a concept that posits you cannot divorce race and class from any discussions around gender equality. Historically, the first wave feminist movement dealt exclusively with issues of gender, and did not address issues affecting women of color and working class women. The initial push for womens' voting rights is a great historical example of how Black women in particular were sidelined in this great feminist undertaking. But even as the movement grew to begin acknowledging and taking on the issues of Black women and women from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, an exclusive type of feminism-- now defined as 'white feminism' -- remains. Therefore, the need for intersectional feminism and Black feminism persists.
Today, champions for Black feminism are becoming more present as issues of sexual violence, police brutality, and reproductive healthcare access -- issues that disproportionately affect women of color -- are worsening or being ignored by the presidential administration of Donald J. Trump. Despite being recorded discussing sexually assaulting women, having several women accuse him of sexual assault, and making so many racist outbursts there is a running list, Trump received the support of 53% of all white women voters. These facts are why a present day rallying cry for many women of color is: "If your feminism isn't intersectional then it's not relevant." Many see the term "feminism" progressing into a trendy idea to put on a t-shirt rather than an action that challenges the structures of inequality for ALL women.
In this guide you will find articles, fiction/prose/non-fiction, and art books that will introduce you to the ideas behind Black feminist theory. Feel free to e-mail me with any other suggestions to add to this guide. [Please read the embedded links for more background. ]
By no means is this an exhaustive list but it highlights a few artists whose work can be seen as working in a black feminist thought.
Crissle West on Marsha P. Johnson
The following women created important work that has shaped Black feminist thought. Each name links to an article or biography from different publishers and sources. Please check out the different sites as they all have reputable information.
Combahee River Collective -- Demita Frazier, Beverly Smith, and Barbara Smith