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African Americans Doing Feminism

Putting Theory into Everyday Practice

Aaronette M. White

Publication Year: 2010

African American women and men share their stories of how feminism has influenced their daily lives. How might ordinary people apply feminist principles to everyday situations? How do feminist ideas affect the daily behaviors and decisions of those who seek to live out the basic idea that women are as fully human as men? This collection of essays uses concrete examples to illuminate the ways in which African Americans practice feminism on a day-to-day basis. Demonstrating real-life situations of feminism in action, each essay tackles an issue—such as personal finances, parenting, sexual harassment, reproductive freedom, incest, depression and addiction, or romantic relationships—and articulates a feminist approach to engaging with the problem or concern. Contributors include African American scholars, artists, activists, and business professionals who offer personal accunts of how they encountered feminist ideas and are using them now as a guide to living. The essays included reveal how feminist principles affect people’s perceptions of their ability to change themselves and society, because the personal is not always self-evidently political.

Published by: State University of New York Press

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p. ix-ix

Three chapters in this book are reprinted. An earlier version of chapter 2, Mark Anthony Neal’s “Bringing Up Daddy: A Black Feminist Fatherhhood,” is reproduced from Neal’s book New Black Man (Routledge, 2005) with permission from Taylor Francis. Pearl Cleage’s chapter 8 essay, “The Second Time Around,” is reprinted here with her permission. Gary L. Lemons’s chapter ...

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Introduction: African American Feminist Practices

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pp. 1-7

Abstract political and moral statements, however inspiring they may be, do not in themselves produce social change. Real change requires real-life action. This collection of first-person narratives provides much-needed examples of the concrete ways in which contemporary African Americans, both women and men, live by feminist principles, not just as beliefs or theories but by our ...

Part I. Family Values

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pp. 9

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1. Mother Work: A Stay-at-Home Mom Advocates Breastfeeding

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pp. 11-30

The freedom to work at any job for which one is qualified should be everyone's right. However, that freedom has not been available to most workers, particularly Black women and other working women of color.

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2. Bringing Up Daddy: A Black Feminist Fatherhood

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pp. 31-49

My wife, Gloria, and I were heartbroken. I was at a conference in Houston when she finally got through to me by cell phone to tell me the news that all potential adoptive parents dread. Folk privy to the adoption process are all too familiar with the possibility that at the last hour, a woman, who months earlier agreed to give her unborn child up for adoption, will take one look at her ...

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3. Tubes Tied, Child-Free by Choice

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pp. 51-70

The term child-free has been reclaimed by people like me who contend that not having children can be an active, positive, and fulfilling choice. I am a child-free and voluntarily sterilized African American woman.

Part II. Community Building

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pp. 72

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pp. 73-81

I’m from the Bronx, in New York City. I grew up in a mostly Latino/a and African American neighborhood that was like an extended family. I identified myself as both Latino and Black by the time I started high school—partly because of the brown face I saw staring at me in the mirror every morning. I have always had to struggle with the way people separate Latinos/as and ...

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5. “Sister Outsiders” How the Students and I Came Out

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pp. 83-99

Being “out” is vital to my well-being, and using words such as lesbian and feminist to describe myself is as natural as breathing! I don’t use the phrase same-gender loving or even womanist, because I am not trying to make my life more palatable for Black folks or anyone else. My efforts to develop a scholarship fund for “out” Black lesbians was considered by some to be groundbreaking, but I ...

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6. Feminist Compassion: A Gay Man Loving Black Women

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pp. 101-112

How can I be gay and love Black women as a man in a society that defines manhood by violence against women? African American women gave me the answer to that question. Black feminism, or what I synonymously refer to as “womanism,”¹ helped me to see how I could cease being a problem and become a part of the solution. Getting involved on behalf of my sisters, I grew to see ...

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7. Gay, Gray, and a Place to Stay: Living It Up and Out in an RV Park

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pp. 113-126

Aging lesbians are more likely to lack support from friends and family if they are open about their sexuality. They tend to live in isolation with their partners and to have fewer children, if any. If and when they or their partners die or fall ill, they become especially vulnerable, given the small size of their support circles.

Part III. Romantic Partnerships

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pp. 127

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8. The Second Time Around: Marriage, Black Feminist Style

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pp. 129-134

When I met my first husband, I was running for my life. So was he. I was hiding from a former fiancé whose charming attentiveness—which had earned me the admiration of my dorm mates when we started dating—had segued into violent possessiveness. His determination to control my comings and goings culminated in a terrible act: he stripped me naked and tied my hands ...

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9. “Every Goodbye Ain’t Gone”: Why the Feminist I Loved Left Me

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pp. 135-150

You might call this chapter the “Diary of a Black Man’s Struggle to Attain Feminist Manhood.” While contemporary African American movies like Diary of a Mad Black Woman, Waiting to Exhale, and The Women of Brewster Place are popular at the box-office, films titled Diary of an Angry Black Man, Waiting to Leave Jail to Exhale, and The Men of That Hurting, Lonely Place have yet to ...

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10. When the Hand That Slaps Is Female: Fighting Addiction

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pp. 151-171

We were sitting in the car. Fiona, my romantic partner, was telling me she was an active crack cocaine user, and I was reeling from the shock. My thoughts were jumbled, “I am living with a crack-head, who is this person I thought I knew? What am I going to do?” I don’t “do” addicts—most of my friends knew not to introduce to me to any—so how did this woman—someone I ...

Part IV. Healing Practices

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p. 173-173

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11. Resistance as Recovery: Winning a Sexual Harassment Complaint

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pp. 175-188

Consider these statistics: in a sample of 100 Black women university students, 52% had experienced at least one sexually harassing act that was perpetrated by a professor during their academic careers.

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12. Learning to Love the Little Black Boy in Me: Breaking Family Silences, Ending Shame

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pp. 189-210

Over the past decade, the question of domestic violence against women— including black women—has emerged as a major concern in the fight against women’s oppression. This is a controversial subject because, unlike other aspects of the subjugation of black women that target racism and economic exploitation, the burgeoning problem of battered women at ...

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13. I Took Back My Dignity: Surviving and Thriving after Incest

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pp. 211-225

At a bed and breakfast nestled below the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, I sat quietly with other women at a spiritual retreat, listening to one woman's testimony about her experience of sexual abuse in childhood. Tearfully, she told us the perpetrator was a man she had initially trusted. The abuse was traumatic, she continued, and negatively distorted the way she felt about herself. I was ...

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14. Diving Deep and Surfacing: How I Healed from Depression

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pp. 227-242

Feminists focus on depression largely because, for several decades, both researchers and mental health professionals have repeatedly identified depression as a problem that particularly affects women.

Part V. Career Dilemmas

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p. 243-243

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15. Mary Don’t You Weep: A Feminist Nun’s Vocation

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pp. 245-257

My ministry as a nun entails the search for truth and justice in order to liberate society. How can I call myself a nun today—and a feminist nun—given the crimes of the Catholic Church? I speak as a sojourner who takes the risks necessary to expose hidden truths and the full range of societal injustices.¹ I understand that everybody can’t bear to hear the truth and that many people ...

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16. Becoming an Entrepreneur

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pp. 259-270

When we dare to live feminist principles, we are challenged to “feel the fear and do it anyway.”¹ That’s called “courage,” and it takes courage to expose your life to an audience of strangers, too. Still, I hope to help others by describing my “discovery decade,” during which I learned to “surprise my fears” and then “go on about my business,” as my mother would say. My mother’s wit, along ...

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17. Light on a Dark Path: Self-Discovery among White Women

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pp. 271-281

Before I begin my own narrative, let me first share a brief history of Black feminist foremother Mary Church Terrell (1863–1954), whose narrative I have embedded in mine.¹ Mary Church was one of the most remarkable women of the late 19th through mid-20th centuries. Her parents were former slaves who became prominent in Memphis’s Black community as successful business ...

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18. The Accidental Advocate: Life Coaching as a Feminist Vocation

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pp. 283-292

The past several decades have seen increases in the number of women who are entrepreneurs.¹ What made me decide to become an entrepreneur? That question stumps me every time, because the answer varies according to the circumstances and the audience. To be honest, I don’t really call myself an “entrepreneur.” I refer to myself as an “accidental advocate.” Why? Because a series of seemingly ...

List of Contributors

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pp. 293-295


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pp. 297-303

E-ISBN-13: 9781438431437
E-ISBN-10: 1438431430
Print-ISBN-13: 9781438431413
Print-ISBN-10: 1438431414

Page Count: 313
Publication Year: 2010

Edition: 1

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Subject Headings

  • Feminism -- United States -- History.
  • African American feminists -- History.
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