Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Response to the Combahee River Collective and Lorde

Reading the Combahee River Collective's Statement reminded me of Sojourner Truth's speech, Ain't I A Woman?, in which she reflected on the divide in the women's movements along racial lines when, in order to possess the most resonance and power, they should have been united under the same cause.  Additional comments brought up in the statement regarding lesbian separatism reminded me of a statement made in The Future that Never Happened: sects of the feminist movement went in an anti-sex direction, which not only ran contrary to the notion of a heightened bodily connection promoted in the early stages, but also perpetuated an anti-heterosexual-relationship sentiment. The Combahee River Collective, on the other hand, want to reject lesbian separatism and address an extremely wide range of oppression including the lives of women, Third World citizens, working class issues, etc.

The statement discusses the group's difficulties in rallying African American men around their cause. Because of their racial oppression, black men fear losing the only other level of power they possess, succeeding as the dominant male in a patriarchal society. As discussed by Johnson, the ingrained social system that shapes our definitions of success, happiness, desire, contentment, to revolve around dominance over others, accumulation of wealth/goods, rejection of weakness/nurturing/domestic roles, places African American men, already in a state of racial oppression, in the position to accept the status quo and ensure their improvement on the ladder of privilege. They are reluctant to give up the stability they now have in their lives to fight for the feminist cause; it seems as if the only way to ensure African American unity around women's rights is for them to reject patriarchy and capitalism. By making common causes outside of the "Master's House," or the white-male-dominated structure, the African American community as a whole can hopefully, as Lorde says, define and empower rather than be divided.  The community would have to universally admit that they can no longer comfortably and equitably exist in the "Master's House" and participate in a new societal structure.

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