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Engaging With Critique: Feminism and classism - Essay Example

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The issue of class and its relationship to feminism is one such intersection, and one deserving of specific examination as to its nature and history. Ultimately, that history shows that feminism responds to criticism from within, and as a movement has learned to engage with class issues more constructively than in the past. First- and second-wave feminism were movements born largely out of middle-class white culture, and as such concerned themselves with the problems that were visible from where they were sitting, if you will: employment, reproduction, self-actualization, and so on. These battles were, of course, worth fighting, but they tended to minimize or ignore the problems facing many women, and many men, who weren’t the kind of people to get invited to the drawing rooms of early feminists. This rank classism began to draw serious criticism during the second-wave period. The Combahee River Collective statement is a creation of the late 1970s, and speaks the political language of its time. It is generally thought of as a seminal document in the development of black feminism, but it can also be seen as a seminal document in the history of feminist self-critique. ...
Thus, when they say “We are socialists because we believe that work must be organized for the collective benefit of those who do the work and create the products, and not for the profit of the bosses” (Combahee River Collective) we see advocacy on behalf of the working class, which might at first blush seem like a separate priority for a group focused on racial and feminist issues, but in fact the authors saw the issues as intimately intertwined. In their view, a movement benefiting those who work hard for minimal pay would, by definition, benefit women and racial minorities. This is essentially putting into action the quote often attributed to Mahatma Gandhi, “No one is free when others are oppressed.” The expression of this sentiment is very clear in the Collective statement when they say “The inclusiveness of our politics makes us concerned with any situation that impinges upon the lives of women, Third World and working people” (Combahee River Collective). In expanding their view beyond the narrow concerns of the feminists they “felt the necessity” of separating themselves from, they come to address all those whose work is devalued or whose life is reduced to an economic token. Women’s concerns become a part of a larger set of concerns, those of all the people marginalized by the white male economic power structure. The consideration of class in a feminist context is more than a statement of solidarity, however; it is a statement that systemic change is necessary for any true social justice to emerge. To simply alter one aspect of society without addressing the complex and interlocking structures of privilege and oppression that connect to that aspect is ultimately futile. Equal pay for middle-class jobs usually held by ...Show more


The critique most often leveled at second-wave American feminism, apart from specious and absurd lines about bra-burning, is that it was essentially a movement for the liberation of middle-class white women…
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Engaging With Critique: Feminism and classism essay example
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