story 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. Truly resonant and enduring ideas and ideologies are not created fully-formed, do not spring like Athena full-grown from the brow of a god. Inevitably, the new will carry much of the baggage of the old, or have exciting ideas about implementation that prove untenable, or for whatever reason need a good second draft. The Combahee River Collective statement can be seen as feminism’s red pencil, going through the pages of feminist thought and writing in the margins, “We’re not all Mary Tyler Moore, you know.”
The Combahee River Collective clearly took race and class to be intimately interlinked, so that addressing one must of necessity involve addressing the other. 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 ...Show more