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  • Alice Justo

The Feminist Movement and black women

"That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or

over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man - when I could get it - and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman?"

The speech above was given by Sojouner Truth, as an intervention at the Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio, United States, in 1851, being a hallmark of what we call black feminism. But after all, what is black feminism? What is the importance of it in the movement? And how is it any different from white feminism? To answer this and other questions I wrote today's text.

Black feminism is nothing more than a part of the feminist movement that makes an ethnic cut, aiming to meet the needs of black women, who in some ways differ from white women. Guidelines such as hypersexualization and the loneliness of black women are two of their main struggles. The first refers to the stereotype that black women are more "fiery" and their body can be considered a product. An example of this is Globeleza, in which a light-skinned black woman dances the samba half-naked, with her body objectified. It's important to notice, though, that lighter-skinned women are always chosen as a sex symbol, and darker-skinned women's loneliness is more common, and I'll tell you why. Phrases like "black skin is the color of sin" (sin as in sex, it's a common Brazilian Portuguese expression) and "black women's bodies are warm", refer to an extremely cruel past with black women, based on rape and dehumanization, and should be abolished from our vocabulary. Loneliness then, which is the opposite extreme and is often overlooked in debates, is based on data from the IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics) that says 56% of black women have never dated or even had a stable relationship.This phenomenon is more common in black women with dark skin, as they are far from Eurocentric standards of beauty. They end up being neglected in affectionate relationships, since they are rarely associated with love. They are always the "cleaning lady" or the archetype of "Aunt Anastácia" (a character from 'Sítio do Pica Pau Amarelo', an extremely famous book by Brazilian author Monteiro Lobato). That is, someone who is supporting and compassionate who cares about others but no one cares for her; they're always "the cool one" in the group, but she's no one's favorite.

The importance of black feminism within the feminist movement is precisely to help voice black women's feelings and experiences. To show diversity and respect the individualities of each woman, since we are different and we are born in different starting points, because while the suffragette movement was fighting for their vote and to have jobs and education, the black women were still being dehumanized in slavery. When analyzing the difficulties suffered by some groups, we are sharing their voice, since misogyny affects each group in a different way.

It is necessary for us to understand that the feminist movement is not uniform, because we live in a society with ethnic, social and gender inequalities. The starting point of a white middle class woman is one way, a black woman's is another and a transgender woman's is another. In this sense, the movement's subdivisions are necessary so that all women feel represented. Currently, the part that discusses these "starting points" is called intersectional feminism, and it respects their individualities. This idea that we are all the same, unfortunately works only on paper, because racism still runs through our minds, though sometimes silently.

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