Gloria Steinem & Dorothy Pitman-Hughes

While at the Black Enterprise’s Women Of Power Summit Gloria Steinem (a noted feminist) made some important comments on race and feminism.  Back in the 1970s Steinem made some “courageous” moves to place a black woman (Pam Grier) on the cover of her Ms. Magazine and published work by Alice Walker, eventually making her one of the first black editors at the publication. However, in a quick interview at the Summit, Steinem is clear not to paint herself as a savior of these women.  Instead, she says:

I thought they [black women] invented the feminist movement. I’ve learned feminism disproportionately from black women. I realize that things being what they are, the white middle-class part of the movement got reported more, but if you look at the numbers and the very first poll of women responding to feminist issues, African American women were twice as likely to support feminism and feminist issues than white women.

The article discussing her interview (theMarySue) explores the importance of this viewpoint in the following sentences:

But as she [Steinem] herself noted, there’s always a reason when any certain person gets held up as a movement’s hero, and in her case her face and body happened to coincide with the white middle class face of the second wave that was pushed forth the most. And therein lies a key to the third wave: Acknowledging that intersectionality has always been crucial to the movement but that women of color, non-cis women, and other categories of non-white non-middle-/upper-class women have historically been pushed to the fringes and left out of the record of their own achievements and struggles.

To conclude the article/interview, Steinem is asked what she would do to help address this issue, to address the women of other races or backgrounds that feel left out of the feminist movement.  Her reply is wonderfully sincere and insightful:

I wouldn’t say anything, I’d listen. The point is that we help each other to get dignity, and autonomy, and freedom. We’re here to help each other.

I am curious how Steinem’s point of view fits in with the current realm of the HeforShe movement spearheaded by a very beautiful, white Emma Watson.  Perhaps before we spend energy redefining what “feminism” is to gain the support of males, we should spend more time unifying and/or acknowledging the complexities of the female gender… the countless races, sexual orientations, disabilities, and differences that it wonderfully encompasses.

Catch her interview in the video at the MarySue site.

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