‘A New Politics of Sexuality’ by June Jordan

June Jordan is a writer, activist, and professor of black and woman’s studies. She has written an essay entitled ‘A New Politics of Sexuality’ that addresses politics of bisexuality and attacks heterosexism. June Jordan addressed this speech at the Bisexual, Gay, and Lesbian Student Association at Standford University in April of 1991.

‘A New Politics of Sexuality’ discusses the oppression that comes from sexual politics. June Jordan describes the oppression of sexuality as “the exploitation of the human domain of sexuality for power” (Jordan 407). She discusses that the politics of sexuality dictates one’s rights and privileges in society. Sexual politics also allows the oppression of people by sexual hierarchy, which is viewed in many different ways. She views these oppressions as male vs. female, heterosexual vs. homosexual, and also homosexual vs. bisexual. She says that no matter what your sexual orientation is, the politics of sexuality places male domination above it all.

June Jordan also expressed that she does not find it disrespectful to compare the oppressions of sexuality to the oppressions of race. She argues that all oppressed should work towards their freedom to gain civil liberties, but without this freedom no one will be really free. She also discusses that ‘keeping yourself in the closet’ is a means of destruction. She argues this idea by comparing it with suicide. She explains that you can only survive if you stay true to yourself about who you really are. Hiding who you are made lead a life of sorrow and unhappiness. June Jordan also compares this to black and “non-white” people hiding their own culture and having to assimilate to white people’s culture.

June Jordan’s initial request is for all people to be free from sexual oppressions. She wants all people to be comfortable with their sexual preference and to be treated equally.

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“Rape and the Inner Lives of Black Women in the Middle West: Preliminary Thoughts on the Culture of Disemblance” by Darlene Clark Hine

Darlene Clark Hine’s essay “Rape and the Inner Lives of Black Women in the Middle West: Preliminary Thoughts on the Culture of Disemblance” focuses on reasons that influenced black women’s migration to the Midwest. The combination of rape, domestic violence, and economic oppression are said to be the motivations that influenced the migration movement.

Many black women migrated to the Midwest to find suitable jobs that wouldn’t subject them to sexual exploitations. Even though they moved to a better area, black women still faced “economic discrimination and had fewer employment opportunities” (Hine 381). Many of the black women were “unskilled and semiskilled factory operatives” (Hine 381), which subjected them to continue working as domestic servants.

Another motive that propelled the migration of black women was to gain their own sexual freedom. Darlene Clark Hine believed that many black women left the South to “achieve personal autonomy and to escape both from sexual exploitation from inside and outside of their families and from the rape by white as well as black males” (Hine 381). The most common reason for the migration of black women was to reclaim and take control of their sexual beings for themselves and their children.. Despite the hardships they encountered, black women were dedicated and determined to change the way society viewed them.

Black women created positive images of their sexuality by forming clubs and through performing church work to overcome the perceptions of sexual exploitation. The National Association of Colored Women’s (NACW) was formed to “attack the derogatory images and negative stereotypes of black women’s sexuality” (Hine 384). The NACW established boarding houses and domestic service training centers for unskilled and unemployed black women. These clubs protected black women from sexual exploitation and provides them with the means to be employed. The NACW “enabled the creation of positive alternative images of their sexual selves and facilitated black women’s mental and physical survival in a hostile world” (Hine 386).

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“Hearts of Darkness” by Barbara Omolade

“Hearts of Darkness” is an essay written by Barbara Omolade that focuses on the exploitive sexual actions of white males on black women, that started with Europeans in Africa until after slavery. It also discusses how sexual exploitation effected the black communities and the long-lasting effect sexual exploitation had on African-American women.

The “Heart of Darkness” mainly focuses on white men or “masters” sexually dominating black women. Omolade reveals that on of the reasons black women were sexually oppressed is because “black women all too often filled the gap for both recreational and procreational sex.” (367) White men satisfied their sexual needs by having sex with black women and seen it as a way to increase their slave property. “Her vagina, used for his sexual pleasure, was the gateway to the womb, which was his place of capital investment.” (366) White men used the bodies of black women to make a profit and produce children to work in the fields.

Most black women were forced to have sex with their masters, and some did it voluntarily. Black women who refused to submit themselves were punished, tortured, brutally beaten or sold off to the south. Most black women did not accept traditional subordination to their masters. Eventually black women who resisted this tradition fought back and defended themselves. “The black women that resisted racial patriarchy by escaping, stealing. killing, outsmarting, and bargaining with her white master while she had sex with him.”(363) Black women used the misconception of sexual promiscuity to her advantage, which allowed her some type of freedom.

In the “Heart of Darkness”, Omolade meticulously describes the conditions black women encountered while being sexually oppressed by white women. This essay shows how black people have survived yet another oppression that has greatly effected our communities.

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“The Social Construction of Black Feminist Thought” by Patricia Hill Collins

Studying the consciousness of oppressed groups, black women challenge two approaches: (1) The first approach claims that “subordinate groups identify with the powerful and have no valid independent interpretation of their own oppression”. (2) The second approach assumes that “the oppressed are less human than their rulers and, therefore, are less capable of articulating their own standpoint”.

This means that the oppressed have an incorrect consciousness of their own subordinacy. They comprehend the caliber of the dominant but are not psychologically able or equipped to understand their own oppression. The oppressed are not able to affirm their own position, because society has labeled them as “less human than their rulers”. They are incompetent to completely define their oppression but they understand how they are defined by society and accept it for what it is.

However, according to Patricia Hill Collins, this approach does not apply to African-American women even though she is categorized into an oppressed group. In her essay, Collins provide different aspects as to how black women have a “self-defined standpoint on their own oppression”. First, black women’s status provides them with a distinctive set of experiences offering them a different view of reality that is not offered to other groups. Second, these experiences that are mentioned provoke a distinctive black feminist consciousness concerning the material reality.

Black feminist thought justifies the belief that black women can think independently and provide a different view of their standpoint than the one society has established and defined to them. If this awareness is constantly expressed, black women can think of ways that will allow them to become more powerful against society.

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“Age, Race, Class and Sex: Women Redefing Difference” by: Audre Lorde

Audre Lorde was a Carribean-American writer, poet, and activist. She was a very influential black feminist lesbian writer. Audre Lorde wrote a collection of essays entitled, Sister Outsider, which includes her essay “Race, Age, Class, and Race: Women Redefinig Difference”. This essay is an explanation of black feminism and a critique of the difference among white feminist and black communities. In her essay, Audre Lorde discusses many topics such as, racism, classism, sexism, and heterosexism. According to Lorde, these subjects are used as many reasons for change among social movements.

In the beginning of the essay, Audre Lorde discusses the struggles that people encounter during everyday life. She explains that there are the oppressors and the oppressed, the dominant and the subordinate. According to Lorde, in this society, it is the job of the oppressed to teach and explain to the oppressors their mistakes. This reveals the magnitude of the oppression, because the oppressors aren’t recognizing their own mistakes, but having the oppressed reveal the oppressors’ mistakes for them. This action has come from the fear of difference engraved in history. Since there is a fear of difference, people must determine the difference between dominant and subordinate and either copy it, destroy it, or attempt to ignore it. Lorde continues to explain that the fear and destruction of difference isn’t limited to a specific group and it could happen within a group. Audre Lorde’s example was the black community. She argues that women are also being discriminated against within the black community despite the homogenous appearance the black community wishes to portray. For black women and many other women, there is an everyday struggle against those who judge them as inferior.

I think Audre Lorde had a great vision for equality. She didn’t want anybody to be considered superior or inferior, but to come together and use each other’s struggles as inspiration to fight a common cause.  Forming a group of women with several differences, but all sharing a common goal is the best way for voices to be heard and provide a new life for themselves.

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“A Black Feminist Statement” by The Combahee River Collective

The Combahee River Collective was a black feminist group that began in 1974 as a chapter of the National Black Feminist Organization (NFBO). Barbara Smith, Beverly Smith, and Demita Frazier, three members of the Combahee River Collective of the collective , wrote a statement recording the actions and expressing their philosophies. The Combahee River Collective was one of the most important black feminist group af all time that focused on the prejudices that faced African-American women such as racism, sexism, class oppression and homophobia.

In the paper, the women talked about four major topics as follows: (1) the genesis of contemporary black feminism; (2) what we believe; (3) problems in organizing black feminists; and (4) black feminist issues and practice. One topic in the essay that is entitled, ‘What We Believe’, where the Combahee River Collective says that they believed that all black women were linked together by their personal relationships with those looking to oppress them. They also made a statement that other movements and organizations had never made a commitment to work towards the liberation of black women, except for black women themselves. The Combahee River Collective also argued that in order for the United States and different communities to really consider and take seriously the lives of black women, they had to examine how black women’s lives were affected and impacted by the oppression of racism, sexism, and class.

In another section named, ‘Problems in Organizing Black Feminists’, the Combahee River Collective discusses some reasons why there was difficulty  organizing black feminist. They stated that the biggest problem was because they were fighting against a wide range of oppressions. They also express that there was very low value placed on black women’s mind in society. Even though they had to overcome many obstacles, the Combahee River Collective fought and struggled to change the conditions of all black women.

The Combahee River Collective was dedicated to working on struggles such as sex, race and class which are all factors contributed to oppression. The women of the Combahee River Collective dedicated their lives to obtain justice for all black women from their oppressions and were an inspiration for many other women. The Combahee River Collective portrayed dedication and hard work  which was very affective in raising awareness and making a historical impact in the history of black feminist.

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“Double Jeopardy: To Be Black and Female”

Francis Beale was a journalist, civil rights activist, and a founding member of the SNCC’s Black Women’s Liberation Committee. “Double Jeopardy: To Be Black and Female” was written in 1969 by Frances Beale, but was first published in Sisterhood Is Powerful by Robin Morgan in 1970. Frances Beale’s essay became the most assembled essay in the early year’s of women’s liberation publications, which addresses a double hardship of race and gender that black woman encountered.

Beale’s essay talks about the misconceptions and troubles which came about when one tried to analyze the role of a black female in society. The essay covers many different aspects of life and how they pertained to “non-white women” and black women compared to how different aspects applied to white women, white men, and “non-white men” or black men. One section in the essay is named ‘Economic Exploitation of Black Women’, where Beale discusses the economics of black women and how non-white women made three times less than white men did. Beale expresses that the awareness of, and end to the super exploitation of black workers, especially women, should be most important in the flight against capitalism leading to the liberation of all oppressed people in the country.

In another section entitled ‘Bedroom Politics’, Frances Beale makes claims that the campaign for birth control in both black and non-white neighborhoods was a ‘surgical genocide’. Birth control was being promoted to prevent those of non-white backgrounds and in black communities from reproducing and increasing in numbers.

Frances Beale wanted justice for ultimately everyone that was facing oppression, in particular black women. She wanted black women’s main focus to be to fight against capitalism and the racist exploitation of black people. Beale says that the total contribution of each individual is necessary to conquer the liberation of black people and other oppressed people around the world.

Frances Beale had a significant vision of a new world free of oppression and capitalism. She wanted to continue to influence younger generations keep fighting against and be relieved from the pressures of racism and capitalism. I believe her message was very affective and brung more awareness to the hardships of black women.

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‘Accentuating the Similarities Of the Societal Position Of Women and Negroes by Florynce Kennedy

Florynce Kennedy was an attorney, civil rigths activist and a black feminist.  She organized many committees and organization to figth against the injustices of women. Kennedy was a prominent activist against the oppression of Black people and women. While atteneding Columbia University, Kennedy wrote an article named “Comparititve Study: Accentuating The Similarities Of The Societal Position Of Women and Negroes”.  In this essay, she drew links between the oppression of black people and women. She makes a statement in the essay that both women and balck people are economically dependent on the dominant group.  This stament is true because women depended on their husbands wages for survival and black people depending on white people to employ them to provide for their families. Women and men were deprived of equality and independence economically. Black people and women were less likely to be hired , but most likely to be fired than a white person with the same amount of skills.  Both men and women were given low wages and usually worked at the lowest positions of work. These problems is what Florynce Kenedy wanted to change.  She knew women and black people could rise up and overcome racism and sexism.  Her message was to say that no one should feel that they have the right to be dominant or superior over another group.  It is the ‘inferior’ group to show their worth and independence.

Florynce Kennedy did a phenomenal job raising awareness about the inequality of women and black people.  She spent her life fighting and never gave up.  Her fight for equality made major contributions to the women’s movement and all the success that women have contributed to the world.

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Lynch Law in America by Ida B. Wells-Barnett

Ida B. Wells emerged in the 1890s as the leading voice against the lynching of three of her friends.  Shortly after the death of her friends, Ida B. Wells became an editor and part owner of the Memphis Free Speech, in which she furthered investigated the history of lynching.

Ida B. Wells wrote several articles related to her opinions of lynching, but I will be focusing on her article”Lynch Law in America”.  Wells wrote this article in the 1900s and it appeared in an issue of Arena, a Boston-based magazine with an audience of predominantly white people.  “Lynch Law in America” overviews the arguments of Wells, known as the nation’s leading antilynching activist of the nineteenth century.  In the article, Ida discusses the deceiving information about lynching that mislead the public.  She also provides evidence that reveals the accurate ambition and horrific process that is involved in lynching.

In “Lynch Law in America”, Wells declared that lynching had become a national crime, in which all areas across the country were involved in.  She begins the article by discussing that lynching was originated in the far West, where the settlers didn’t have access to courts or a legal system.  The townspeople found justice in their community by referring to the “unwritten law”.  This practice was cruel and usually resulted in immediate hanging from a tree.  Ida B. Wells continues to acknowledge the development of lynching in the United States and the transformation of the custom used as a form of racial horror in the South.  She described current situations and incidents of past lynchings and the different excuses made for those incidents.  Later, Ida B. Wells encouraged Americans to take action against lynching.  She wanted white people to reconsider the motion of violence against blacks across the country and recognize America’s standing and new rule against lynching.

Ida B. Wells succeeded at raising awareness across the country through her work.  She fought for what she believed in, and for that she deserves great credit.

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Woman’s Rights by Sojourner Truth

Sojourner Truth, born Isabella Baumfree in 1797, was most known for linking women’s rights and abolition.  Sojourner Truth spoke publicly about her rights to be apart of the women’s movement, as an African-American female.  For the first time, African American women were coming forward and speaking out thier thoughts, rights, and responsibilities as American citizens  and human beings.  Overcoming experiences in America as a black woman gave Truth understanding and the platform to speak on the subject.

Sojourner Truth gave her famous “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech in Akron, Ohio at the Women’s Right Convention in 1881.  Truth’s speech addresses the struggle for women of color to find a place in society during the women’s movement in the nineteenth century.  She also investigates the equality between black and white women being that they were both oppressed.  She wanted to prove that oppression is oppression and woman is woman., despite the different circumstances they should’ve been treated equally. 

Sojourner Truth delivered another speech in 1867 at the American Equal Rights Association.  Throughout the speech she compared gender rights with recently won civil rights of African-American males.  Truth assured her audience that women of color would not be satisfied with equal rights for only black men.  She stated, “There is a great stir about colored men getting their rights, but not a word about colored women; and if colored men get their rights, and not colored women get theirs, there will be a bad time about it.”   Sojourner Truth wanted everyone to the matter at hand very seriously.  Sojourner Truth put up a great fight and encouraged women to be strong, courageous, and faithful that one day they will overcome!

Sojourner Truth was a phenomenal woman.  She had the courage to speak up for what she believed in, which many women didn’t.  She was the voice for all women of color around the world.  I believe if she hadn’t made her voice be known, women wouldn’t have received civil rights when they did.  Sojourner Truth inspired many other feminist to find their voice and fight for their rights.

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