Notes on: Hill Collins, P. (1990). Black Feminist Thought. Knowledge Consciousness and the Politics of Empowerment. London: Routledge

Dave Harris

Inspiring stuff politically. Not sure about the Afrocentric heritage bit -- I think all oppressed groups develop this kind of marvellous resilience. It made me think of EP Thompson's The Making of the English Working Class, Anzaldua, and also Guattari and Rolnik  on contemporary identity politics and how it ought to get back to solidarity. Head and shoulders above most Black feminist stuff in CRT]

Preface [how to write a proper counter story!]

She enjoyed her childhood. In a school play she felt important but as her world expanded she realised that she was a member of minority the only African-American female and working class person. In various settings she experienced 'painful, daily assaults' (XI) She was virtually silenced but then decided to regain her voice, developing her own self defined standpoint. She realised that these experiences were far from unique and that the voice she sought was 'both individual and collective, personal and political… Reflecting the intersection of my unique biography with the larger meaning of my historical times' (xii).

She wanted to make this book 'intellectually rigourous, well researched and accessible… To the vast majority of African-American women' to deny educated elites their privilege. It had to explore complex ideas. The book reflects diverse theoretical traditions such as 'Afrocentric philosophy, feminist theory, Marxist social court, the sociology of knowledge, critical theory, and post-modernism' and yet she does not use standard ways of citing or referri[polo0kng to these arguments. At the same time Black women's experiences and ideas at the centre of the analysis. White feminist thought is relatively marginalised although she is familiar with. No single theoretical tradition is prominent.

African-American women's ideas at the centre of analysis and others should be encouraged to explore the standpoints and the similarities and differences with their own. She sets out to explore diversity and richness in the range of Black women's ideas rather than can analysing a few spokespersons. She pursued 'a distinctive methodology' (xiii) instead of alienating herself from her community and background to enter the world of theory. She did not gain grants or release time or fellowships anyway but wrote the book 'while fully immersed in ordinary activities that brought me into contact with a variety of African-American women'.

She did present Black feminist thought as 'coherence and basically complete' (xiv) although she acknowledges that it is rarely so smoothly constructed, and has far more internal instability, contestation and competing emphases and interests. She is not stressed these, but welcomes additional volumes that do.

She is persuaded of the need to reconcile subjectivity and objectivity in scholarship, moving between training as an objective social scientist and experience as an African-American woman. This was jarring at first, but she tried to resolve it by writing in the text in the first person occasionally, and found she could be both objective and subjective. She still to overcome an initial reluctance to write, but rejected the idea that she was somehow representing the whole group, and now sees herself as 'one voice in a dialogue among people who have been silenced' (xiv--xv). She hopes to encourage others to find their voice.

Chapter 1 the politics of Black feminist thought

Black feminism found its spokespersons early, in the 1830s, arguing that racial and sexual oppression caused property [Maria Stewart], and urging self-assertion, especially by using their role as mothers and building relationships with one another. Stewart was aware of sexual abuse and insisted that Black women were not inferior, partly because so much White blood flowed in their veins [nice one!] (4). There were many others who have been largely neglected and only recently recovered. There were discontinuities in this tradition, but overall a 'thematic consistency' (5).It has been virtually invisible although. It has been suppressed. Some individuals have emerged nonetheless [a list on page 5].

Slavery shaped all subsequent relationships affecting Black women. They were exploited in being turned to domestic labour as slaves and later as free wage labourers. They were denied rights and privileges including the right to vote and equal rights in the criminal justice system, denied literacy, offered segregated schools and so on. There was an ideological dimension that attached 'certain assumed qualities' (7) to them, found in symbols such as Mammie's, Jezebels… Breeder women… smiling Aunt Jemimas… ubiquitous Black prostitutes… welfare mothers' Black female intellectuals were particularly likely to be excluded although they have long existed.

Feminist theory also suppressed Black women's ideas, denying them full participation in White feminism [main critics page 7], and bringing about a false universalism — examples are sex role socialisation and the moral development of women both of which 'rely heavily on White middle-class samples' (8) [Chodorow and Gilligan respectively]. While Black women have often been included in social and political organisations, those organisations have not stressed Black women's issues, one example is civil rights organisations in the south, which were still led by males. Black thought still had a 'prominent masculinist bias', where 'racial progress [was equated] with the acquisition of an ill-defined manhood'. These biases have been taken on ever since 1970 especially, despite an early 'virulent reaction… by some Black men' (9). There has been slightly less hostile resistance among White feminists.

Nevertheless resistance persisted, because oppression did, and contradictions did — 'people who are oppressed usually know it' (10) [oppression takes place 'at the intersection of race, gender and class']. All Black communities provided a suitable space to articulate 'an independent Afrocentric worldview'. This apparently originates from 'classical African civilisations... diverse West African ethnic groups' retained by slaves [lots of references]. Black women were central to the 'retention and transformation' of this worldview in their extended families and communities, using Afrocentric conceptions of self and community.

They also had a distinctive position in the political economy. Domestic work helped them see White elites in an up close and critical way. They sometimes formed strong ties with White kids and even White employers. This helped them see White power as 'demystified' (11) although they knew they could never belong, they will always remain outsiders producing 'a curious outsider–within stance'. This in turn produced 'a unique Black women standpoint on self and society', a particular view of contradictions displayed by the dominant group, in particular seeing how White families were really patriarchal despite official egalitarianism.

They are also able to question official ideologies of womanhood and how Black women were actually treated. Passivity and fragility for one group of women, but heavy cleaning chores for another led to 'potent alternative interpretations' [and this was picked up by the marvellous rhetoricitian Sojourner Truth-- below -- Ain't I a Woman]. Alice Walker thinks that this marginal stance had a particular influence on developing a critical position, although reconnecting with an 'extant'  tradition also helped.

Reclaiming the tradition becomes particularly important, going back to rediscover earlier Black feminist intellectuals, to honour them, to regather earlier writers. Enter Sojourner Truth, an activist speaking in 1851 at a women's rights convention, taking on the view that women were fragile, and pointing out that no one ever treated her as fragile — she had ploughed and planted, worked and had been beaten, borne thirteen kids -- 'And ain't I a woman?' (14). An intellectual in construction, insists Collins, although she 'never learned to read or write' (15).

The issue is who is legitimated to do intellectual work and its connection with politics [and she cites Mannheim and Gramsci here]. A lot of Black women intellectuals were not located in the Academy, but in experiences and ideas, in groups outside, not licensed as intellectuals, mothers and extended families or 'othermothers', musicians, conveying ideas through the 'Afrocentric oral tradition', artists.

So in this book she wants to show some of the works in this tradition, to produce a new angle, 'one infused with an Afrocentric feminist sensibility' (16). Although this tradition addresses race class and gender, she wants to focus on Black feminism, and work on the interlocking factors 'remain scarce'. This is 'her own independent analyses of themes'(17). She wants to develop a suitable 'epistemological framework' to delineate Black feminist thought, to show its essential features and the criteria to limit it, whether it has alternative standards, how it arrives at truth. She wants to apply the standards to this book itself, partly by recognising her own personal experiences and how they might clash with her training as a sociologist, [which she begins to think of as to 'identify my position as a participant in a observer of my own community'], which runs the risk of being rejected by both camps.

Chapter 2. Defining Black feminist thought

Maybe all Black women are feminists? NB 'being of African descent is 'a questionable biological category' (19). Some feminist consciousness is required. Maybe men and women might be included, and Dubois is one example. Experience and ideas seem essential. The most non-restrictive definition denies biological determinism and stresses capitalism as the main source of oppression and political activism is a distinguishing feature of feminism. However biological determinism lingers as a criterion for the term Black, or for that matter radical feminism that says that only women can be feminists [different writers are listed pages 20 – 21]. There is clearly a complex relation between biological and social constructions, material conditions and consciousness. One solution is to identify a Black women's standpoint, providing 'a unique angle of vision on self, community and society' (22), and this is her preferred definition 'specialised knowledge created by African-American women which clarifies the standpoint of and for Black women'. That includes theoretical interpretations.

There are core elements. Common experience of being Black women in a society that 'denigrates women of African descent', producing 'a legacy of struggle', vulnerability to assault which has stimulated 'independence and self-reliance, especially of vulnerability to sexual violence, irrespective of age. This theme appears in most feminists right from the first, although there are variations according to different concrete experiences, dealing with stereotypes for example. There are also social class differences influencing how racism is experienced, although a common one is that African-American women are less intelligent, and Black lesbians experience particular surprise and prejudice. Nevertheless there are different standpoints.

There are different experiences for African-American women as a group producing a distinctive Black feminist consciousness, although this does not develop among all women. Many have, over the years, and this common experience is found widely in the work of Black women activists and scholars, and novels.

Expressing this collective self defined consciousness is a problem, however, because there is an active attempt to repress it, by 'those who control the schools, media and other cultural institutions of society' (26), again as a number of Black women have testified. Some articulation of experience into some 'self defined collective standpoint' is the key to Black women's survival, based on 'every day unarticulated consciousness'. There is also 'an Afrocentric worldview' [some references here 26, including Omi and Winant] different from Eurocentric ones, and this has continued as resource, helping people cope with racial oppression. However, it is often unarticulated, not fully developed.

The same goes with feminist ideas, which requires self-conscious struggle to articulate them. More women than men identify themselves as feminists because this 'reflects women's greater experience with a negative consequences of gender oppression' (27). Race and gender are both social constructions but biological criteria which are clearer for gender than for race [debatable these days!] . The unity provided by racial groups are different, constructed in a different way. Afrocentric feminists need both an Afrocentric worldview and a feminist sensibility.

Activism can stimulate resistance and develop from this resistance [again lots of women are quoted]. The two seem closer than is common with the usual divisions between theories and activism 'which are more often fabricated than real' (29). Instead Black women 'should embrace a both/and conceptual orientation'. They have been denied positions as classics scholars and writers, which have enabled people to specialise in purely theoretical concerns, and so they been influenced by a 'merger of action and theory' [giving some examples of 19th-century intellectuals]. Contemporary feminists like bell hooks want to write books that make the lies of Black women better, understand them as creating communities and culture.

These efforts are not always appreciated by African American women themselves, and Black women intellectuals have to work with them in a special relationship, working with taken for granted knowledge growing from everyday thoughts and action, shared on an informal basis 'about topics such as how to style our hair, characteristics of "good" Black men, strategies for dealing with White folks, and skills of how to "get over"' (30). Then there is a more specialised type of knowledge of Black feminist thought. These are to be shared, used to articulate taken for granted knowledge. There are been women's club movements designed to do this [almost hinting at organic intellectuals], alternative institutional locations. Black women studies did finally emerge during the 1980s and African-American women did form communities in them, based around Black women's history and Black feminist literary criticism.

Specialised intellectuals still risk isolation from other Black women and from their communities, and the tendency to separate thought from action and activism. Contemporary Afrocentric feminist thought offers 'an unresolved tension' (31). It is about creating collective identity, a Black women standpoint with different dimensions, a new consciousness that 'utilises Black women's everyday taken for granted knowledge', not raising consciousness but affirming and re-articulating it. Feminism can offer basic tools to resist individual and group oppression.

There is a danger that Black feminism will be undermined by being restricted to those who are biologically Black and female. This is a special tension between biological materialism and idealism that denies background and interests. It offers a central place to Black women intellectuals and the importance of coalitions with Black men, White women, POC and other groups. The standpoint of Black women is not neutral. Black feminist thought therefore has definitional tensions. African-American women have a unique standpoint unavailable to other groups, which include 'critical insights into the conditions of our own oppression' (33 [with a reference to a novel]. Others can participate, but the primary responsibility for defining their own reality 'lies with the people who live that reality'. Black women intellectuals offer unique leadership, based on the empowerment of African-American women, self defining. '...using an epistemology that cedes the power of self-definition to other groups, no matter how well-meaning, in essence perpetuates Black women subordination' (34).

Not all Black women exert such leadership, because not all experience experiences the right conditions to be articulated — what is required is 'a self-conscious struggle to merge thoughts and action' (35). Black feminist thought depends on a certain autonomy granted to Black women intellectuals. This is not exclusionary politics, not separatism, but an autonomy based on a base of strength, helping them examine the usefulness of coalitions, both scholarly and activist. Such coalitions are not only of interest to African-American women, nor analysing just their own experiences [with a rather strange claim that they can lead to universal experiences]. The experiences of other groups are needed, other women who are concerned about feminism, other political movements, and other groups who support them, dialogues [compare with Guattari on transversality]

Exploring common themes is an important first step, as is handling internal dissent, not just maintaining a united front, but also feeling 'free to criticise the work of other Black women' (36). The 'outsider – within stance' is also useful to explore relations of domination and subordination. Alice Walker believed there was a drive towards the truth as a sum of quite different meanings, although another thought that Black people would never get White people to open up about their truth.

Some Black women intellectuals think that Black women struggles are part of a wider struggle for the whole of humanity, human empowerment itself — Alice Walker is one of these, who defines herself as '"womanist"' (38) and insist that all people are POC. This helps her focus on individual struggles as [universal singularities]. There must be a commitment to human solidarity, a commitment against domination in general, against stereotypes which buttress ideologies of domination. This expresses itself in a more global concern for Black women outside of the USA.

So overall, Black feminism is 'a process of self-conscious struggle that empowers women and men to actualise a humanist version of community' (39).

Core themes

Chapter 3 Work, family and Black women's oppression

[really good discussion of proper intersectionality]

Labour market victimisation is central with the dehumanisation that goes with it. This takes the form of concentration in specific niche strategies such as domestic work, or during eras such as slavery or in the urban South, where they served a servants. African-American women were actually often empowered, sometimes even important in unions, but this was not realised at first. There is a connection between race and gender oppression, although untangling the relationship was difficult.

Work on unpaid labour within families is less developed, and instead there is an emphasis on keeping families together and teaching children survival skills. Unpaid domestic work is more seen as a form of resistance rather than exploitation, but this does obscure the family as a contradictory location. Proper Afrocentric feminist analyses investigate the link between oppression unpaid labour and the 'dialectical nature' (44) of unpaid labour.

They can also shed light on social class and status, where the conventional models again failed to adequately explain Black women's experience. There is the usual reason that status research has depended on the prestige of male jobs, but given increased unemployment, this limited the proper nature of Black women and their experiences, and obscured the full range of their work. Such women have often worked outside the traditional industrial jobs. Overall there is a different intersection of work and family.

Labour markets have been racially segmented and gender ideology has been at work in both these and family units as well as the overall class structure. It would be wrong to rely on research developed from the experiences of middle-class and European American families, which often takes a split between public and private, economic and family, paid and unpaid, and defines the normative family as the heterosexual couple living with their kids in an economically independent household. The female sphere is usually subordinated, or at least credited with a separate moral/expressive function.

However there is considerable variation crossculturally, with the nuclear family as a rather particular example, especially unlikely in 'the family life of poor people' (47) which often depend on family networks rather than privatisation, fluid public and private boundaries, a far more instrumental attitude towards work. Black women's work can be alienated, but it can also be empowering and creative even if physically challenging, and even exploitative wages that women themselves keep can be empowering.

Historical context of course includes slavery, where there was difficulty maintaining private households and Africans were property. African notions of family helped them resist, extended kin units, and a general notion of '"blood"', an extended family or community of brothers and sisters. The important split was between Whites and Blacks rather than public and private. African women 'combined work and family without seeing a conflict between the two' especially in West African societies [with a couple of references here] and agricultural societies, where children contributed to family-based production and working was combined with mothering. In slavery, there were two fundamental changes. Work benefited the owners, and women did not regulate their own time or work. Gender roles also changed. Black women perform the same work as men, which is partly a continuity of West African tradition — and racial oppression also provided for a kind of 'general equality' (49), but of course no Black people got to keep what they produced. Black people were kept away from '"head work"'.

So Black Americans were not against work as such, not lazy, but opposed the exploitation of their kind of work. They never embraced the idea that domestic work was some sort of equivalent to public work, but preferred communal childcare. They were affected by attempts to control their sexuality and fertility, including notions of racial purity. The children were slaves. Black men were forbidden to have sex with White women. Race was constructed involving sexual control. Mothers also were expected to reproduce a sense of inferiority in their children, although they often fostered cultures of resistance. African female slaves were themselves valuable commodities, and efforts are made to increase the fertility — they were bred, and pregnant ones treated better. Some refused, and some committed infanticide 'as acts of resistance' (51). One result was to elevate motherhood over marriage, and make it central to Black family life — Black slave families were not matriarchal or female dominated, because no Black people ruled their own families.

As the system moved to free labour, Black people found themselves in capitalist market economies, still controlled by White males, allegedly with individual rights, although very unequal ones. They became wage labourers. Men were still dominant and oppression was revitalised, but notions of community persisted, either as 'a remnant of the African past' or response to the new forms of disenfranchisement and collective effort (53). The point was to maintain the family income rather than developing specialist female occupations. Racial divides hardened. However, 'social-class-specific gender ideology' also developed within Black communities.

Most Black families still worked in southern agriculture, and women worked either in the fields, working rather as they had done as slaves, or in domestic work, which had added threats of sexual harassment. Some were able to withdraw to concentrate on domestic duties, but this drew severe criticism from White people, for emulating White women's notions of domesticity, but it was more escape from exploitation and sexual harassment, and it was rare to be able to survive on male wages alone.

The eventual move to cities in the 1900s brought changes in labour market activities. There was still racial segregation, but an increased gender separation in terms of space. In the early days, domestic work was still the major destination (60% in 1940). Urbanisation did bring some better conditions, like limited hours rather than living in, but there were still negative features, including economic exploitation, and fragile employment opportunities. Deference and submission were still important, and the employers still had considerable power to insist on various kinds of deference, special forms of address, or wearing uniforms, confining domestics to areas of the house.

Some Black women found work in manufacturing, at first some of the dirtiest jobs. They faced discrimination, including 'Jim Crow unions' (58). Nevertheless, there was more time to devote to family and community. And 'African-Americans recreated the types of communities they had known in their southern rural communities' (58) partly because they were segregated in Black neighbourhoods. They were able to network and sometimes even attempted to unionise. Churches are also important.

After World War II, urban labour markets were restructured and changes included the usual deskilling, a shift to service occupations and suburbanisation. African Americans became increasingly marginalised in urban economies and experienced high unemployment rates and dependency on welfare. One result has been more stratification by social class (59) with a comfortable Black middle-class separating out — maybe between 25 and 30% of African American families, with one third of families below the official poverty line. Racial oppression has remained stable, however, as indicated by median Black incomes compared to median White incomes, and differences in job security. There are gender differences too terms of wages, although Black men are more vulnerable to layoffs — different forms of disadvantage rather than compensations for Collins.

The growth of managerial and professional positions did enable 'sizeable numbers of African-American individuals and families to move into the middle class' (60) between owners of capital and labour. It is 'a genuine class with interests in opposition to the working class'. It occupies a contradictory location, involving subordinate relations with owners of capital and a dominant relation with labour, economic, political and ideological control, over conditions of work and knowledge, but in different ways from the White counterpart. Black middle-class people are less economically secure, more ambivalent about controlling working class Blacks, more interested in opposing oppression and poverty, more likely to challenge ideologies.

Both women and men are more vulnerable, although more women work in the lower paid professional and managerial occupations, and enjoy more social class mobility. They also find it more unsettling. They are marginalised, they experience '"incongruities"' (61). Such employment patterns can have effects on Black middle-class families. The smaller number of Black men in professional and managerial positions presents an issue and may be a contribution to the increase in female-headed households in this class. Separation, divorce increase. Black women professionals are also less likely to remarry. Other factors might help produce single-parent households among this group, including the possibility of all women households, including some Black lesbian ones [there seems to be a 'likely decline in marriages between Black women in professional managerial jobs and Black men in other segments of the labour market'].

Tensions also emerge in working class families where Black women are heavily concentrated in clerical work as opposed to Black men in factory work. However factory work is declining, especially well-paid manufacturing jobs, while clerical work is growing. We need more studies to look at the impact. Clerical work often 'involve deference relationships' (62) [shades of Bulmer again] reminiscent of Black domestic workers. The possibility of dual income working class families is 'becoming less of an option' (62) and this may introduce [a status discrepancy].

In low income Black families, gender differences seem less pronounced. Low paid jobs are growing rapidly. The jobs parallel traditional ones in domestic service, with similar relations of domination. There also seems to be an informal labour market, and combinations of low-wage jobs in government transfer payments. Again female-headed households seem to be increasing, and may now have reached 70% of low income Black households, most of which live in poverty, especially for young Black women. The argument here is not that poverty has been feminised, but rather the increasing numbers of working class and minority women are becoming impoverished as the economy transforms and state welfare is dismantled. One indication is the increase in unmarried Black adolescent parents. Rates of adolescent pregnancy are apparently 'decreasing among young Black women' (64), but marriage has also decreased and there is now 'a sizeable proportion of Black female-headed households' created by unmarried adolescent mothers. The old communal childcare networks seem to be eroding, and a recent study finds that this has definitely affected hopes and ambitions and morale generally, with a relative absence of strong Black mothers and an increase in powerlessness. There are more 'potentially negative relationships' (65) among Black women of all social classes as racial solidarity declines [an interesting aside says that lots of poor Black women in service industries now serve Black middle-class individuals as well as White ones]. Overall there is far less uniformity and a need to re-articulate. 'If this does not occur, each group may in fact become instrumental in fostering the other's oppression' (66).

Chapter 4 Mammies, matriarchs and other controlling images

There needs to be powerful ideological justifications, negative images to counter challenges to inequality. They include the ones above and welfare recipients and hot mommas. They're based on already existing symbols or specially created new ones. They serve to disguise or mystify objective social relations, making racism, sexism and poverty 'appear to be natural, normal, and an inevitable part of everyday life's' (68).. They are tenacious, because they interlock. White people rarely encounter Black people sufficiently to challenge them.

They define otherness, and reflect dichotomous thinking, categories based on difference which are characteristic to '"all systems of domination in Western society"' [citing hooks]. Differences involve inherent opposition, fundamental difference, objectification, with a right to manipulate and control the other. This also links with Western thoughts and objectification, the despiritualisation of the universe, or a Marxist variant. Women are often identified with this other nature.

Objectification lies behind treating Black women as animals, or as mere girls or children, or as simply invisible. It has been met with everyday resistance. There are tensions and instabilities despite an attempt to develop a series of subordinations — Whites over Blacks, men over women and so on [race trumps gender?]. Black women are allegedly more emotional and passionate and therefore open to sexual exploitation, lacking judgement and therefore less likely to be literate and so on.

One image emerging from slavery was the mammy and the bad Black woman. These are compared to the cardinal virtues of proper women — 'piety, purity, submissiveness, and domesticity' (71) to which White middle-class women aspired. The mammy was the 'faithful, obedient domestic servant' who could be exploited and subordinated, and knew her place [although later there are Black slave narratives about the mammy revealing she is '"cunning, prone to poisoning her master, and not at all content with her lot"' — A fantasy?] This image has been challenged by a number of Black women intellectuals [references page 71] but it persists even with current Black women executives and in current popular culture. It is a domesticated version of the female body, a way of dealing with White fears of Black physicality, 'an asexual woman' (72). There are still kept poor, cheap labour, even in paid work, although deference behaviour at work is not reproduced at home .

A second image is needed to add layers of control — the matriarchs. These were initially seen as an outcome of race and poverty, but in the 60s, a more positive meaning was apparent, as American patriarchy was coming under attack. Nevertheless, the first images were negative, of bad motherhood, inadequate supervision, school failure and emasculation, 'a failed mammy'(74). Black women found a different picture — strength and complexity, a series of relationships with men and offspring, sometimes struggles to raise children in homophobic communities. Nevertheless the image still does ideological work in blaming Black women 'for the success or failure of Black children', detracting from poverty and linking gender to class subordination, and holding an example of what can go wrong if patriarchal power is challenged and women are allowed to be aggressive and assertive.

These notions have been incorporated into things like the Moynihan Report of 1965 which argued that slavery had destroyed Black families by weakening men and challenging patriarchy, which meant that Black women were not able to develop as proper women, but remained dangerous and deviant, '"castrating mothers"'. These images mean that Black women workers still meet contradictory demands on their time. Domestic work means time away from the family. Employment when Black men are unemployed exposes them to the charge that they are emasculating Black men and have become matriarchs.

The welfare mother emerged with increasing dependency on the welfare state. This updated the breeder woman in times of slavery. Black women were seen as better at having children than White women, having children 'as easily as animals' (76). A basic level of welfare has enabled Black people to reject subsistence level jobs, so they are no longer cheap labour. Now they are 'a costly threat to political and economic stability'. Their fertility needs to be controlled, and mothers are dangerous. They are not controlling enough, another version of failure as a mammy, too lazy, lacking a work, and a male authority figure. Currently 1/3 of African-American families is 'officially classified as poor' (77).

The image of the Jezebel, whore or sexually aggressive woman is also central, a continued effort to control Black women's sexuality. In slavery, Black women were '"sexually aggressive wet nurses"' (77) or temptresses justifying sexual assaults by White men. They can also be fertilised more frequently. Overall, Black sexuality is the theme — mammies are desexed, an unsuitable sexual partner and thus free to be a surrogate mother; matriarchs and welfare mothers are sexual and this shows best in their fertility and this is the main reason for their negative images; matriarchs are more sexually aggressive, while the welfare mother has low morals. All these images help link race class and gender oppression and thus provide 'effective ideological justifications' (78).

There are everyday experiences which reinforce these ideologies too [with an early example of micro-aggression where a Black woman reports her White friends as saying they never think of her as Black] (79). Matters like skin colour, facial features and hair are all used to 'denigrate African-American women', no matter how intelligent or educated those women might be. White skin and straight hair convey privilege. Black men are penalised by Blackness but are not so penalised by physical unattractiveness [!]. Women can never live up to external standards of beauty applied by White men, Black men and even 'one another' (80). Popular culture reveals the deep feelings about skin colour and hair texture and beauty [references page 80 included Maya Angelou, and evidence of colour gradient — 'the "Brights" and the "Lesser Blacks"', with implications for opportunities in employment]. Black women inflict pain on one another [more references to film, novels and personal stories, 80 – 82].

There is and has been some resistance to these ideological justifications, in literature by Black women writers, for example, which feature 'positive self definitions' (83). There are also themes of escape into drugs or religion, or denial, desire to separate from — '"niggers"' , newly arrived people of an inferior class (84). Some have escaped into other oppressed identities including lesbianism. There are stories of slave revolts and escape [quite a few of them].

There are some 'institutional sites for transmitting controlling images' [fancy!] Including 'schools, the media, corporation's and government agencies' (85). They include Black institutions, for example 'sexism in African-American communities' [examples page 86 — showing the tensions between uniting the Black race, and actually keeping Black families together, subordinating 'our interest as women to the allegedly greater good of the larger African-American community' (86). Many Black men themselves see Black women as matriarchs and demand the retrieval of Black manhood [see Crenshaw on this].

The church has African-American women as the bulk of its membership, but often keeps women in the background. African-American women are also subordinate in many Black colleges, with an example of an elite one trying to turn its students into '"ladyhood"' (87), cultivating 'the cult of true womanhood'. Some families also objectify Black women, and White feminists have been more critical and vocal. Black feminists need to open up about the role of fathers and mothers and how daughters might have been taught to resist, but so far this is best expressed in women's fiction, and the emphasis still seems to be on the pain of being told that Black girls are undesirable.

Beauty must be redefined, to favour African-American women and classical African features — '"thighs and arms and flying winged cheekbones… hallowed eyes"' (88) [we are much further forward with this than we were, of course]. This must not preserve dichotomous thinking with White women being deemed ugly as a consequence. Instead all existing standards of beauty need to be deconstructed, all standards that commodified women. Such aesthetic standards are already present in music, dance and language and 'quilt making offers a suggestive model for Afrocentric feminist aesthetic...several methods of playing with colours… Unpredictability and movement' (88 – 89). 'Rather, symmetry comes through diversity', and bits and pieces are transformed into a work of functional beauty. This is an alternative to Eurocentric aesthetics and it can break the oppositional dichotomies. Women's beauty is not just physical, because mind spirit and body are not separate. Beauty is functional, 'it has no meaning independent of the group' and it relates to participating in the group and being a functioning individual, yet still retaining 'individual uniqueness that enhances the overall "beauty" of the group'. Beauty always relates to context.

[Interesting notes page 90: note 3 says that elaborate rituals of subordination often involve cutting hair and that differences in hair type became critical as a mark of civility in the USA, a clear and 'more powerful badge of status', a more marked difference between Whites and Blacks than skin colour, which 'persists much longer with miscegenation'. Hair type was the real symbolic badge, although calling it Black hair style '"nominally threw the emphasis to colour"' {citing Patterson}. Note 4 describes African aesthetics a bit more. For the Yoruba, the taste of food and the quality of dress and the deportment of women or men are all seen as important aesthetic qualities, and beauty is seen as something found in the mean, not too tall or short, not too beautiful or ugly, and there is an appreciation of freshness and improvisation].

Chapter 5. The power of self-definition

Some people say that Black people have always had to be alert, adopting some of the habits of the oppressor, hiding their own self defined standpoint and thus constantly acting, playing a game, living two lives. This has sometimes concealed acts of resistance, certainly a sense of self worth, rejecting employers' definitions, even for domestic workers, a certain irrepressibility. The stereotypes were rejected and there is evidence that 'a distinctive, collective Black women's consciousness exists' (92) right from the early days, 1831 and the early resistors. Silence was not submission [nor was it with agricultural workers]. A private hidden inner space was preserved to oppose objectification and sometimes this found a voice in early resistors [including Maria Stewart and Sojourner Truth].

This forces 'a rethinking of the concept of hegemony' [!] (93) certainly that objectification was complete and that Black women were willing participants in oppression. Both work and family life provided conditions to expose contradictions in these images and subsequent demystification, as in Truth's speech. People did not always express these insights of course.

It was a struggle to find their voice. Women often communicate more equally with Black men, but striving for self-definition is still a major theme, overcoming the struggle of living two lives, finding one's true self, a fully articulated standpoint. Black women are particularly visible as a category and therefore open to objectification, although this also makes them outsiders-within and gives them strength. Nevertheless self esteem is elusive and controlling images overwhelmingly negative.

So hegemony does not reach into all social spaces for Black women, there is a 'realm of relatively safe discourse' (95) in community and family, although they have to also deal with sites controlled by the dominant group, schools, media and popular culture. Sometimes apparently African-American institutions can perpetuate dominant ideology, as in churches producing a complexity, 'crosscutting relationships' (96). This has produced '"a certain secrecy...a culture of dissemblance... A self-imposed invisibility"' [citing Hine].

There are three main safe spaces where Black women can relate to each other, often informal and private, but sometimes in various organisations, from Black churches, especially important in slavery, to more formal organisations. Mother-daughter ties are important as revealed in various autobiographies. Sisters and friends affirm each other again as in Black women's fiction. There are also easy relationships with other Black women, for example domestic workers encountered as fellow travellers on a bus (97). These are often explored by Black women writers like Toni Morrison or Alice Walker, or music, especially the blues tradition.

The significance of blues was not properly grasped by the dominant group in the USA. It offers 'an oral mode of discourse' relating to a group context, a way of dealing with pain, transcending trouble, solidifying community and commenting on Black life, a kind of philosophy. Black women have been central. Blues are both analytic and personal, individual and collective [examples 100]. There is lots of call and response and thought linked with action, poetry, but expressed through Afrocentric oral traditions. The lyrics are often challenging, reflecting different notions of beauty and sexuality, sometimes overtly political like Billie Holiday on lynching. The blues have been commodified, and a more useful voice might have been developed in Black women's literature.

Increased literacy provided a market and Black women writers have emerged since 1970 in particular, accompanied by Black feminist literary criticism [examples 102]. Black literature often breaks sexual and personal taboos. Some critics say it has abandoned political protest and too readily occupied fringe positions, however. Collins sees links with Afrocentric traditions of struggle and progressive art, with an emancipatory potential.

These three safe sites have nurtured a specialised thought occupied by Black women intellectuals and other Black women to articulate experiences and provide new tools to resist. One important theme is self-definition, based on 'an independent Afrocentric feminist consciousness' (104), again noted by Black women writers. It is not narcissistic, but it is focused on individual journeys, and again expressed in music as well as writing. The self-definitions 'foster action' (105), but in a way that is characteristically female, 'personal psychological forms' which do not pick up on the themes, say, of Black men who travel across the country, for example. Women are tied to children and community and find liberation in complex relationships, turning inside. Self is not seen as increased autonomy arising from separation from others but in terms of developing '"continuity with the larger community"', being accountable to others, being more human, less objectified, developing a larger self.

This is obviously significant politically, focusing on how personal lives have been shaped by social systems and intersections, challenging the defining images and stereotypes, stepping outside simple inversion of those images and reasserting the power to define. These self valuations can still be distorted in the form of new controlling images — strong mothers become aggressive matriarchs.

A major theme is for respect and self-respect, dignity, grace and courage, the right to grow and not be belittled, to be just as good as anyone else, to get respect especially from Black men [with Aretha Franklin's song Respect cited] (108). Independence and self-reliance become important and are widely supported in research and women's writing, and songs again.

We can never use the master's tools to dismantle the master's house, says Lorde (110). We need Afrocentric feminist consciousness rejecting the images altogether, while living in the real world, employing multiple strategies of resistance, which might be relatively passive like withdrawing from work, 'ostensibly conforming to the deference rituals', protesting against male bias, creating progressive women's blues, changing in private and personal space, including in consciousness only, with self-knowledge, re-articulating, not reconciling. Black literature contains many examples of how changed consciousness empowers Black women, as a 'journey towards empowerment' (112), even in writing, acquiring a voice. It requires persistence and hope, a continuing belief that being Black and female is valuable, that everyday life is in process and amenable to change. [If only -- recuperation is chronic]

Chapter 6 Black women and motherhood

We need a new Afrocentric conception to combat the usual stereotypes of Black mothers as bad mothers developed by mostly White males, and even White feminists [citing Chodorow again — they have rarely challenged Black stereotypes}. Black male scholars have by contrast glorified Black motherhood seeing the most devoted self-sacrificing offering unconditional love, '"superstrong"' (116), but praise for their own mothers does not spread to praise for the mothers of their own children or a realistic grasp of the problems of poor single mothers. Black male views have been generally unaddressed, partly because of the wish to present a united front to White people: some Black women have been 'perceived as critical of Black men', but dialogue has been stifled, and bogus images tolerated. We need to debunk the image of the happy slave, the superstrong Black mother, and focus more on Black women's actions and ideas, partly through explorations of their consciousness in autobiographies or Black feminist literary criticism.

Black motherhood involves 'constantly renegotiated relationships' (118) with each other, with the Black community, with children and with self, in specific locations such as individual households, community institutions and families. There is tension between efforts to mould Black motherhood and efforts to define and value their own experiences, oppression, and an opportunity to self define. For some women motherhood will be burdensome, for others a base for self-actualisation and even 'a catalyst for social activism'. There are nevertheless enduring themes.

There are biological mothers, blood mothers, but also 'othermothers'(119), continuing West African values and acting as functional adaptations. Men may be physically present with well-defined roles or not, although they can still be important. Kin can act as othermothers and take on childcare responsibilities, sometimes leading to longer term arrangements. They can include '"fictive kin"' (120) [traditional working class families too]. Neighbours often shared childcare. Othermothers can serve a critical function, in raising orphans, or children in extreme poverty or those in dysfunctional families; they can help young women become othermothers.

Black men can also value community-based childcare 'to a lesser extent' (121). They are taught to care for children and were especially so during slavery, where children were not strongly differentiated between the sexes. Male labour patterns probably produce more differences rather than cultural factors. It was common to refer to each other as brothers and sisters, and although biological mothers might have a particular bond in African societies, othermothers also had the right to discipline children and childcare arrangements were cooperative. Slavery did have an impact, but cooperative approaches to childcare remained, especially among older women.

This survived into emancipation southern society where children were supervised by othermothers, although the structure is under assault in many inner-city neighbourhoods, especially with the corrosive effect of illegal drugs. But the system still persists in some areas and can still serve as a form of opposition and resilience. [Collins insist that it is rooted in African origins]. It opposes the idea that children are private property and that childcare should reflect the relations of political economy, for example in the exclusive parental right to discipline children.

Black mothers have a dilemma. They have to teach their children to fit in to an oppressive system, to explain Black ill-treatment, and to accept it, to work and be able to take care of themselves, to accept limited opportunities even though this is to participate in their own subordination and to risk 'emotional destruction' (123). Strong opposition might mean a risk to even physical survival. A delicate balance is required. Mothers typically help daughters to go further than they were allowed to go, passing on their particular perspectives to their daughters.

This departs from the 'cult of true womanhood' which separates work from motherhood, and stresses economic self-reliance and mothering, and offers a new take on working for White people as domestic workers, including opportunities for Black girls to [download at the end of the week]. They had to learn how to fill their place and yet reject it. Education seemed important, and social mobility, transcending the boundaries. The balance had to be struck between overworked protection of children and also raising daughters who were self-reliant and assertive [Collins cites a blues song as an example of how Black girls were taught not to rely on their conventional good looks].

Autobiographies and fiction reveal multiple ways in which this has been achieved. Black girls were told they would face an uphill climb, that they needed to be protected at first, even isolated, and made overdependent on their family, sometimes overprotected in private schools, sometimes over coached in, say, literacy. Devotion often dominated over affection [in tough love]. There is little time for 'idealised versions of maternal love extant in popular culture' (127), and most daughters gradually became aware of the costs their mothers paid, and saw their mothers' strictness as a way of coping with oppression. Othermothers helped here by being more affectionate and explaining tough love.

Experienced othermothers sometimes would 'provide a foundation for Black women's political activism' (129), stimulating a more generalised notion of caring and accountability, a broader notion of community, often using family language, taking responsibility for other people's children as their own sons and daughters. Again the theme is found in Black women's writings, especially of othermothers who are not themselves biological mothers. There was some sociological work on the link between othermothering and community activism, for example through realising that summer programs were required for Black kids. This can extend to students, '"mothering the mind"' developing a 'shared sisterhood' (131).

This helps form [organic] communities, not separated into individuals, different value systems, Afrocentric, she insists. In this way motherhood becomes 'a symbol of power' (132) a basis for community power and activism, even 'transformative power', intended to '"uplift the race"'. Individual examples can illustrate the power of this approach, for example in domesticating deviants [example on 132].

Nevertheless motherhood brings costs and remains contradictory, valued but still involving oppression that is not always transcended. There are still unwanted pregnancies and the inability to care for children [one example has a Black woman who is unable to avoid being pregnant]. This has led to self-medication and self-harm, one of the factors that led to the original Roe versus Wade decision on unsafe abortions. At the same time, African-American communities may well preserve 'strong pronatalist values' (134), with motherhood being seen as an essential step towards maturity, despite the costs [again Black literature is the major source of evidence for this]. Consequences are still dreadful. Black children are still at risk. Black mothers receive less prenatal care, and Black infants are more vulnerable [evidence 135], Black mothers have to make sacrifices for them, and did so from the days of slavery.

Nevertheless 'motherhood remains a symbol of hope for many' (136) and is 'an empowering experience for many African-American women'  [seen in many novels] the route to self-definition and empowerment, creativity. Black children affirm their mothers.

Chapter 7 Rethinking Black women's activism

Activism can occupy different levels. At one level, it involves just rejecting ideological justifications of oppression and maintaining self valuations, resisting, struggling for group survival, This has been the basis for further struggles to transform institutions of various kinds, and to combat racism. Experience is important and should be studied, although this is not been done very well: the usual focus is on public visible political activity, for example Unionism or political parties, and here, conflict models have ignored Black women and their forms of guerrilla warfare, including, in the slave era, '"maroonage"' (141). There is a context of resistance in everyday life.

Survival does not necessarily directly challenge oppressive structures via confrontation. Rather there is an intent to undermine. There is also a drive to transform, to challenge rules, via Civil Rights, unions, feminist groups, boycotts. Black domestic workers are not usually officially organised nor do they confront their employers but they do find other ways to resist even while appearing to conform. They might pretend to be 'childlike, obedient servants', but this is 'acting'(142), which may involve deliberate alterations of physical appearance, concealing the achievements of their children, not actually using handouts of clothing [case study, 143 of 'deliberate misunderstanding' ]. These tactics are both 'conservative and radical'. They had the effect of preserving African culture and customs and this did undermine oppressive institutions.

There was a distinctive feminist element which helped women's self-worth, and this did take some radical forms, combined with apparent agreement to function in existing institutions — one example is a woman who was forced into radicalism because she continued to protest against discrimination and thus became a troublemaker. Some realised the limits of this kind of coping strategy and how it might lead to separatism.

Participation in organised political activities have been severely limited by racism, sexism and poverty, requiring a number of strategies in different settings. For example maroon societies were established on the fringe of slave communities, and often involved women as leaders and major food producers. After the Civil War, women were often independent food producers. Domestic workers also tried to control the conditions of their work. In extended families, Black women 'are key to transmitting an Afrocentric worldview' (146) even though they were officially disenfranchised. Female spheres of influence and authority were created, transmitting '"folkways, norms, and customs… shared ways of seeing the world"' (147) and this did involve resistance and group survival. One sphere which reveals this is education, where there has been vigourous campaigning for Black women, extending far beyond simply gathering the skills necessary for White acceptance, aiming at '"race uplift"'. Gaining an education was an expression of activism, beginning in the slave days, with attempting to read and write, reading the Bible. Race uplift was a dominant theme. Many activist Black women were teachers or lobbied for educational opportunities, or were cultural workers, leading the struggle for group survival, in informal ways as well.

Black women pressed for college entrance and the first one gained it in 1862. College attainment was always seen 'in broadly political terms' (149), representing the whole African race. This persisted well into the 20th century, and struggles around education 'have politicised Black women' (150), although the struggle is now called 'Black community development'. There are always close links with the community. While White women saw themselves as following some sort of mission to pursue the cult of womanhood, Black women talked of duty, of race uplift, and expressed a life long commitment.

Again these were Afrocentric conceptualisations linking 'mothering, family, community and empowerment' (151), an expansive view of human relationships, viewing the child as offering great potential, itself a form of political activism. This also spilled over into Black churches and their support for Black communities, which often again follow female leadership. The prophetic tradition aimed at maintaining communities of sisterhood were important, and sisterhood offered an alternative structure of authority and career — some Black women refer to each other as sisters, and were biblical authorities, stressing education. They were not dependent on men, and they taught younger and less experienced women.

The same cultures affected Black women's clubs, some of which were organised under the National Association of Coloured Women (153) who discussed suffrage, patriotism, education, music, business, the railroad, child welfare and others. There were some class differences, however and some middle-class reformers thought that uneducated and skilled women lacked refinement and could not be full members, leading some segregation with the less educated in churches, with them as female auxiliaries.

Nevertheless, Black women have always rejected limited definitions of education, including higher education as leading to social mobility into 'a White middle-class worldview' which they saw as '"pacification and mystification"' (153) [citing a sociological study]. Working class Black women might have been more instrumental, focusing on qualifications needed for specific communities, but even middle-class ones saw themselves as engaging in race uplift, finding their voice as Black women.

Institutional reform also involved Black women, after a period of initial exclusion or suppression. Strategies to challenge the rules included individual protest, over Jim Crow, for example, eg protesting by sitting in prohibited areas. Some worked through formal organisations lobbying for reforms. Some built coalitions with groups affected by similar issues like labour movements. Some ran for office, and often 'made greater gains than White women' (155). In the slavery era, some were involved in violent resistance. Because of [intersection] they were better able to see interrelationships between forms of oppression and able to challenge diverse rules, see more widespread rules: although not identifying as feminists, for example there were 'high levels of support for feminist issues' (156). There may be implicit support for a general  'humanist vision' but not explicitly. Specific strategies to advocate African-American causes lead through seeing the interconnections to a perceived need for broad-based political action — some started to address racial inequality and then found themselves protesting gender inequality as well (156), and vice versa.

The conception of power is distinctively Afrocentric feminist. Black women have been active in movements like Black civil rights from the abolitionist movement, anti-lynching struggles and civil rights movements more recently, with clear hints of 'an Afrocentric feminist sensibility' (157). The same might be said about their organisational style, shaped by the power of community othermothers, and the tradition of creating and conserving culture, or education as empowerment. There is a rejection of hierarchy, including a rebuke for Dr King on one occasion. Instead, leaders were to be recruited and developed, community leaders. People were to be taught to be self-reliant and empowered, rather than to follow, to think things through and make their own decisions, to lift other people — '"lift as we climb"' (158).

A case study shows how Black company secretaries were organised in a hospital, drawing them together based on Afrocentric conceptions of family and community, turning into workplace networks sharing 'a family idiom by celebrating one another's family and life cycle events and referring to themselves as "family"'. 'Centrewomen' developed, people central to networks, central families, growing from the mothering tradition, fostering group solidarity [they also had successful spokespersons negotiating with management — these were men]. The general strategies to work through institutions, use the model of Black women domestic workers, see the Black community as a group of relatives and friends. Try not to rely too much on the organisation but gain 'a degree of "spiritual independence"' (159) and see their work as 'acquiring a focused education by moving through jobs', which also expanded webs of affiliations and built coalitions. There were ideological differences but connections helped further collective goals.

Both men and women do this, but Collins thinks that women are more likely to engage in this sort of thing via strategic affiliation and the rejection of ideology. Black women have ideology but experience offers a more distinctive form of activism, 'based on negotiation and a higher degree of attention to context' (160). Changes in social class are affecting this activist tradition, not least because 'more than 70% of Black college students attend predominantly White institutions' so racial uplift seems to be fading, and specialising in teaching is also diminishing as other managerial and professional careers appear. There is also 'the suburbanisation of the Black middle-class'. Indeed the Black middle-class female seems particularly in need of encouragement since they are relatively unacquainted with '"the immediacy of oppression"'. The continuity of the activist tradition, based in open oppression is therefore in some doubt.

[CRT is new petite bourgeois Black activism, based on cultural politics]

Chapter 8. The sexual politics of Black womanhood

[weakest one really -- very large generalisations about sexual behaviour and porn, apologetic about Black rape despite being brave enough to mention it]

We start with Alice Walker and The Color Purple, and a story of sexual abuse. The victim finds her own voice and the character is used to talk about sexual politics, rape and how it is linked to oppression, including 'compulsory heterosexuality' (164). However, analyses of domestic violence especially links to Black masculinity and Black femininity, 'remain rare', as do the increasing presence of Black women in pornography and prostitution. It is not enough to show the links with oppression: we need to re-conceptualise sexuality itself.

Collins see sex as a biological category, while gender is socially constructed and there is a sex/gender system where biological categories are marked with socially constructed gender meanings. These can vary from relatively egalitarian systems to hierarchies [drawing on Foucault]. For Black women, 'inequalities of race and social class have been sexualised' (165). Their sexual practices have been defined as deviant compared to the White middle-class family and monogamous heterosexual couples. American culture is sexually repressive generally, this has affected Black Americans who have engaged in self-censorship when it comes to repressing their own erotic tendencies, 'a source of power in women' (166), energy, 'the domain of exploration, pleasure and human agency'.

We saw one form of control in slavery. Pornography, prostitution, rape have also been important. Black women have served as the primary outlet for White men in Europe and America, as sex objects, first as breeders, as sexual animals, as rape victims and as the subjects of  passive, or violent pornography. Current pornographic images are 'iconographic', symbolic of their time and the conventions they represent. Black women icons emerged in 19th-century Europe and were included from the beginning in pornography. The actual bodies were put on display. One example is the Hottentot Venus. There was a belief in physiological differences including a large penises and buttocks. There is now a full-scale industry — 'African-American women are usually depicted in the situation of bondage and slavery, typically in a submissive posture and often with two White men' (169) [these days?], examples where racism has been included in pornography. Apparently White women in pornography have had their images 'intertwined' with these [weird examples 170], but the sexuality of White women is seen as cultural, while that of Black women is animalistic, connecting to racial stereotypes and biological notions of degeneracy. [Pretty far-fetched interpretations here] There are also clear economic advantages.

Publicly exhibiting Black women helped to objectify them and treat them as animals. Slaves were sometimes juxtaposed with captive animals. Observing the sexual behaviour of animals is popular too. Animalism is apparent in 19th-century scientific literature too, where Black women were likened to apes. Black women were even suggested to copulate with apes, given the '"predominance of rear entry position photographs"' (172). [Massive assumptions again]

Becoming aware of the racial dimensions can offer 'possibilities for change', however, certainly with Black men, who come to realise that their enjoyment of pornography is degrading, and therefore has implications for Black people as a whole.

There is a controlling image that all African-American women are sexually promiscuous and therefore potential prostitutes, and this is commonly reported in everyday life , even by respectable Black women like lawyers. Manipulating sexuality has been essential to domination, again reducing humans to animals. Sometimes domination can coexist with affection, where Black women become pets, mistresses. Negroes were often taken as pets. Prostitution implies being a pet, to some extent. Black prostitutes are seen to be better at sex as animals, rather than White women who are mere objects. White prostitutes represented 'disease as well as passion' (175), while Black people still had deformed genitals but as a result of freaks of nature, demonstrating some 'interlock' between class and race. When Black women were forced to be prostitutes, White women could become the opposite, pure, virginal, true women.

Force and rape was also important, beginning with slavery, or with economic power to dismiss domestic servants who refused sexual advances. Resisting rape has long been a theme in Black women's writings [examples 176], and in familial advice to be careful around White men. Sexual violence can be seen as 'the visible dimensions of a more generalised, routinised system of oppression' (177). All Black people 'experience distinctive forms of sexual violence', never simply an expression of White peoples' sexual urges, always a weapon of domination and repression. Black rapists were met with lynching, and the construction of a dominant myth. Black women were seen as pornographic objects, sexualised animals, justifying rape. The rapist and the promiscuous woman go together — '"the entire race is invested with bestiality"' (178).

As with pet animals, African-Americans were treated in particular ways. They were subject to population control, like selective breeding or deliberate genetic engineering, deliberately keeping slave women for groups of White males  breeding 'mulattos, a group that at that time brought higher prices' (178). Some Black men were castrated. Rape victims were twice victimised, seen as responsible for their own rape, and so became less likely to report them, less likely to seek support, less likely to gain convictions, less likely to join antirape movements. In particular they are still silent about 'a troubling issue: the fact that most Black women are raped by Black men' (179). White racism might have created the larger social context, but 'the unfortunate current reality is that many Black men have internalised the controlling images of the sex/gender hierarchy and condone either Black women's rate by other Black men or their own behaviour as rapists. Far too many African-American women live with the untenable position of putting up with abusive Black men in defence of an elusive Black unity'. [apologetic still]

Principled coalitions with other groups are required, but first, a thorough examination of how institutions have invaded relationships and individual consciousness, and understanding the dynamics of sexual politics in order to empower Black women, 'how social structural factors infuse the private domain'.

Chapter 9. Sexual politics and Black women's relationships

[same sort of problems. Acknowledges neglected issues of Black men's sexual exploitation and violence but still wants to absolve them as inheriting Eurocentrism etc]

Toni Morrison's novel shows how slavery distorted Black people's emotions, and made them unable to love, as they chose, and to express full desire. Black sexuality also limited it and the consciousness of Black women. Once domination is rejected, this becomes a flow of energy, and it is a source available to subordinate groups.

Black feminists have often written about tensions between Black men and Black women, especially their lack of response to racism directed at women. Black women have long devoted themselves to loved ones, even in slavery, and this is reflected in popular song, but love and trouble are often combined. Eurocentric gender ideology has had an influence here especially with its dichotomous way of thinking of sex roles as normal — this leads to demanding that Black women must change to support their men. There is a more general view of real womanhood as discussed. Black men have been more susceptible to it, but there is a reluctance to challenge them, except, arguably in the blues tradition — the demand for respect and all that.

Evidently, some Black men see it necessary to dominate Black women, as in literature like The Color Purple, where men strain for mastery. There are situational elements as well as general ones, however, again expressed in novels [186 – 7]. It is sometimes difficult to talk about this because of a 'bond of family secrecy' (187) which can turn into a conspiracy of silence. Male violence is still often seen as routine and acceptable, and has become 'a standard within our communities, one by which manliness can be measured' (188) although it is rarely seen as a crime [Collins still sees it as 'exacerbated by racism and powerlessness']. She cites a novel in which a Black man beats his woman to reassure his possession of her and to fight off competition from another man. This shows an acceptance of 'Eurocentric sex roles of masculinity and feminism… [And using] force to maintain them' (189). It's an example of how gender and class oppression 'has managed to annex the basic power of the erotic'.

[cf Crenshaw's second article]

Relationships between Black women and White men are different often often based on exploitation and objectification, and rejection, with few illusions. Black women are often bitter against White women for excusing racial transgressions in slave households, and suspect that this helps them ignore current racist episodes. White women might also benefit from such Black labour and White privilege [which makes an appearance here as 'an invisible package of unlearned assets'] (190). One aspect of this is a casual stance towards interrelationships with Black men, often partners of Black women, and attraction to White women.

Black women see freedom as avoiding White men not choosing them willingly, and when they have chosen willingly they have often been 'severely chastised' by the Black community for selling out or being like prostitutes [again reference to novels], which can even be exported to Europe. There are undertones of bestiality, unrestrained animalism. Many Black women do have 'close loving relationships with Whites' despite the traditions, but Collins implies they are in the minority.

Black lesbians offer another challenge to counter homophobia, which is extensive in Black communities, again largely as a reflection of the wider homophobic culture (193). For lesbians, it is another major form of oppression, but serious analysis of it has been largely ignored, although it is not just '"the White man's fault"'. There's been a literature exploring Black lesbian relationships [193]. The homophobia of Black women is less well examined. Perhaps heterosexual privilege is the only privilege that Black women have [an interesting hint that it might be that everyone needs to victimise somebody, 194, White feminists men, Black men women and so on]. There is a Eurocentric tendency to treat lesbians as 'the ultimate Other' (194) and it challenges mythical definitions of women at a deep level.

There has sometimes been a linkage with the image of the prostitute and therefore with Black women, with the excessively mannish appearance of Black lesbians, with the supposed abnormalities of Black women and their tendency to sexual deviance. This has produced a deep fear of being labelled as lesbian, and attracting male bias 'in the Black intellectual community' (195) especially towards self-directed strong Black women.

Black women may need to be homophobic as another legacy of Eurocentric masculinism — they have deep feelings of their own for women just as Eurocentric males fear femininity.

All oppressions must manage any power that might challenge them. Pornography, prostitution and rape can challenge and manage love especially between the races. There is a mechanism that shows that 'Whites fear in Blacks those qualities they project onto Blacks that they most fear in themselves' (196) [citing Hoch]. Sexual domination reduces anxiety about impotence; homophobia represses strong feelings for your own gender. Sexuality and power at the personal level gets joined to the sex/gender hierarchy on the social structural level. This also opens new possibilities for change [rather romantically described as the constant search for love (197)]. There are core humanist values held by people such as Martin Luther King [!] or Howard Thurman, leading to support for community, love and justice. This is the basis for 'a distinctive Black womanist ethics' [still Afrocentric? Breaks with traditional values here surely?], moving towards a policy of loving anything you choose, not seeking permission for desire.

Chapter 10. Toward an Afrocentric feminist epistemology.

[Pretty unconvincing. Usual paradox of using academic argument to critique academic argument. Lots of references cited in support which I have not followed up so I should be cautious. Some odd bits though -- a general 'sociology of knowledge' line says people develop community resources to survive in the face of oppression -- women and Black people are included, but not working class ones; social factors are somehow mixed up with weird biological ones about female brains; 'positivism' highlighted even after acknowledging other traditions in Eurocentrism; dangerous validation of sincerity over rationality. Did get more than one hint of Habermas and the ideal speech act though]

There are clear traces between Black feminist thought and the group who created it [with a reference to Mannheim] (201). Black women's experiences have been excluded from traditional academic discourse, but Black feminist thought reflects the thematic content of their experiences. However it is still 'subjugated knowledge ', and has therefore been expressed in music, literature, everyday behaviour and so on. This requires a different sort of research with conventional training inadequate.

Epistemology is also different. The relation of language to experience is different — the pronoun 'our' is preferred to 'their' when referring to African-American women because this 'embeds' her in the group instead of distancing. Her own experiences also placed in the text. Few statistics are cited and instead there is reliance on 'the voices of Black women from all walks of life' (202) [an informal version of sampling theory?]. These are 'conscious epistemological choices' to explore Black feminist thought without violating its 'basic epistemological framework'.

There is also the issue of adequate justifications for knowledge claims. Here there are often two distinct epistemologies, one which represents elite White male interests and the other 'Afrocentric feminist concerns'. Choosing between them is [a political matter] that shapes thought and action.

There is a validation process controlled by elite White men via various institutions and paradigms, and this represents 'a White male standpoint' (203) [in the singular]. There are other specific interests represented by scholars, publishers and experts but their claims must satisfy the general criteria [Kuhn and Mulkay are cited here, but they do not support racialised analysis surely?]. There are definite political criteria. Knowledge claims are evaluated by a community of experts, a scholarly community, itself located in a larger group providing 'basic, taken for granted knowledge' (203).

[Then a classic and circular assertion] 'When White men control the knowledge validation process, both political criteria can work to suppressed Black feminist thought'. The wider culture which shapes the community of experts has widespread prejudicial notions of Black and female inferiority and any claims that violate these fundamental assumptions are likely to be viewed as anomalies [with another misplaced reference to Kuhn]. Any specialised thought which challenge notions of inferiority is unlikely to appear within 'a White male controlled academic community' who would be unfamiliar with the reality of Black women. There are many examples of how Black feminist thought has been suppressed, and Black women excluded, especially that Black feminist thought 'is not credible research'(204) [underlying micropolitical grievance. That it is, is asserted of course].

Sometimes a few safe outsiders helped legitimated the whole process [weird reference to Berger and Luckman here], a few Black women come to positions of authority, although they often face personal cost. Material realities of the powerful and dominated also 'produce separate standpoints' so there are necessarily distinctive epistemologies. Black women may be 'unwilling or unable' to use Eurocentric masculine criteria to justify their claims, but new knowledge claims must be consistent with a body of knowledge acceptable to the controlling group, and so must the methods used to validate methodological claims.

We can see this by thinking of positivism [!] Eurocentric masculinist approaches do include 'many schools of thought or paradigms' (205) and even a focus on positivism should not mean that all dimensions of it are 'inherently problematic for Black women nor that non-positivist frameworks are better' [real hedging of bets here,but on with the straw man]. Most traditional frameworks are oppressive to women [they would say themselves, apparently] but are not positivist; Eurocentric feminist critiques of positivism may be less politically important than for White feminists. [Nevertheless, on with an easy target]

Objective generalisations of the problem, based exclusively on rationality and eliminating all other values or emotions, decontextualising and detaching observers, following strict rules. However the objects of study are also removed from the contexts and the result is 'often the separation of information from meaning'. The researcher has maintained distance from the subject. There is an absence of emotions. Ethics and values 'are deemed inappropriate' as a reason for enquiry or as part of the process [really?]. Adversarial debates become the 'preferred method of ascertaining truth' [very idealistic here. Where is Kuhn when you need him?]. This is to ask Black women to objectify themselves, devalue their emotions and displace their motivations, and to engage in adversarial relationships with those with more power. This makes positivist epistemology unsuitable. They want an approach that uses different standards that are more consistent with their own criteria for knowledge and for adequacy.

An Afrocentric standpoint seems central [with lots of references  206] there is apparently 'a core African value system' predating racial oppression (206) and a common experience of oppression through colonisation and slavery. Shared Afrocentric values developed as a results, permeating families, religious institutions, culture and communities in 'varying parts of Africa, the Caribbean, South America, and North America' [lots more supportive quotes]. This 'Afrocentric consciousness permeates the shared history of people of African discontent through the framework of a distinctive Afrocentric epistemology' [just like a dominant ideology then].

There is a similar argument in feminism, where experiences transcend divisions of race, class, religion and ethnicity and produce a shared women's standpoint, feminist consciousness and epistemology [surely denied just above]. Black women can access both Afrocentric and feminist standpoints [they never contradict? Over lesbianism, say?] and their  epistemology can reflect elements of both. Often the values and ideas are quite similar between African and feminist scholars, which 'suggests that the material conditions of race, class, and gender oppression can vary dramatically and yet generate some uniformity in the epistemologies of subordinate groups' [yet working class epistemologies are not mentioned of course] (207).

Does this add an extra intensity for Black women as opposed to Black men or White women? There may be unique features, although there can also be similarities, but then being a member of the group and standing apart from it [surely not?]'forms an integral part of Black women's consciousness' and Black women are used to negotiating these contradictions. Examining Black women's experiences shows the contact between Afrocentrism and feminism. This is not just a matter of adding oppressions, however. It is difficult to quantify and compare oppressions, although it is often claimed that the more subordinated groups develop a purer vision. This could be a legacy from the origin of standpoint approaches in Marxist theory [interesting issues here of course -- the proletariat were the truth of history, but Black people are what -- another pressure group?]. The danger is that quantifying and ranking oppressions invoked positivism.

Everyday experience is the root. Quoted stories show that living life as a Black woman requires substantial knowledge about the dynamics of race, gender and class oppression, or rather knowledge and wisdom [lots of references again]. This can take the form of particular insight into the limitations of apparent freedom, or of the limits of mere book learning which lack wisdom, the disdain for '"educated fools"'.

Concrete experience is a major 'criterion for credibility' (209 when making other knowledge claims, including those based on statistics and formal education [lots of quotes from Black women offering the usual reservations about statistics or formal education as camouflage, as inferior to actual experience and common sense — a grain of critique of course]. Some Black scholars have mastered White epistemology but have still invoked their own concrete experiences, say in choosing particular topics to investigate [a reference back to Sojourner Truth], family crises, developing empathy with communities and the traditions they embedded. Black women sometimes invoke traditions, 'complex relational nexuses where contextual rules versus abstract principles govern behaviour' (210), and this kind of socialisation has produced 'characteristic ways of knowing'. It is sometimes thought of as a form of knowing located in the body. Other forms of knowing are also available to these women.

There may be social class differences among them. One study shows that working class women, both Black and White, 'rely on common sense and intuition' (211), another form of concrete knowledge informing their daily lives. In another example, a Black woman rebukes intellectuals who have been to university who have an abstract view of industrial conflict and use terms like '"the bourgeoisie, the rich and the poor and all that"', while she had to focus on surviving. Concrete experience is strongly supported institutionally, by things like families and churches, sisterhood, probably more so for Black than White women and families. Black men may also be 'supported by Afrocentric institutions' but do not have an equivalent of sisterhood. Black women find it easier 'to recognise connectedness as a primary way of knowing, simply because we are encouraged to do so by a Black women's tradition of sisterhood' [sounds like mechanical solidarity] (212).

Knowledge claims are worked out and developed through dialogues with other members of the community, another aspect of connectedness with Afrocentric routes, a worldview that is 'holistic and seeks harmony'. This is in contrast to adversarial debate [lots of references again, including long investigations among slaves to try to identify a lie]. Call and response discourse is an illustration of dialogue, and requires active participation — refusing to join in is cheating. Black English itself reflects the need to insist that Black people exist and so '"there is no passive voice construction possible in Black English"' (213) [the example replaces 'Black English is being eliminated' with 'White people are eliminating Black English', so it nominalises and deepens racial paranoia all at once]. Novelists have been interested in these oral traditions [examples]. There is an Afrocentric element and also a possible feminist dimension as well — 'feminist scholars contend that men and women are socialised to seek different types of autonomy — the former based on separation, the latter seeking connectedness — and that this variation in types of autonomy parallels the characteristic differences between male and female ways of knowing' (214) [among the references for this extraordinary statement, she includes Chodorow]. Rejecting visual metaphors, women typically use vocal ones, hence the importance of finding their voice [real bollocks]

There is an importance of 'talking with the heart… the ethic of caring' (215) as opposed to the empty promises of preachers and politicians [or cold rationalists]. This implies 'individual uniqueness… Rooted in the tradition of African humanism, each individual is thought to be a unique expression of a common spirit, power, or energy inherent in all life'. [Again examples in literature]. We see this in polyrhythms in African music, or the relation between individuals and others in Black women quilters. Black people will never develop herd instinct but are '"profound individualists with a passion for self-expression"''. It follows that emotions are important, as an indication 'that a speaker believes in the validity of an argument' [weird], unlike White people who can be quite out of touch with other people and yet still remain respectable [Billie Holiday and the song about lynching]. There is a capacity for empathy [in literature]. Again call and response in traditional Black church services indicate this, and the sound of what is being said is as important as the words, 'a dialogue of reason and emotion', and it is 'nearly impossible' to separate the elements (216). Again we find this in women and their epistemology of connection and personality, the '"inner voice" identified by some feminists (217). Black women have long had supportive institutions for these traditions, however. Black men face more contradictions, encountering 'abstract, unemotional notions of masculinity imposed on them' [Hoch again]. So Black women are denigrated [sic] within academic institutions, but they are heavily supported by their own institutions.

The final dimension is 'an ethic of personal accountability', resulting from the days of slavery, where it was apparent that every action had an owner, an individual with characteristics, values and ethics, personal viewpoints. These have always been included in discussions. Everyone has views and these are 'thought to derive from a central set of core beliefs that cannot be other than personal' (218). [although she has already said it is the result of a tradition, socialisation -- shows how successfully it has interpellated its bearers.How does she get on teaching them about Mannheim?] Asking questions about [sincerity in the Habermasian sense] is crucial in respect.

Collins has her own example where she asked the student to evaluate a Black male scholar's analysis of Black feminism. [I wonder if it was hostile and what a non-hostile one would have generated in the form of a student response?] Her students demanded facts about his personal biography and concrete details of his life, his relationships with Black women and its social class background. These would be routinely excluded 'in positivist approaches' but were 'a criterion of meaning' for her students and they used it to assess whether 'he really cared about his topic'. [They used it to disrespect him] This was further used to discuss knowledge claims about his work. They refuse to discuss rationality the ideas without indications of personal credibility [and this is good educational practice?]. This is an example where a solid enough community had developed 'to employ an alternative epistemology' [the dangers are clear — did Einstein beat his wife, was Freud a lapsed Jew, does Himmler's undoubted sincerity mean his Jew hating ideas were right?]. Personal accountability is Afrocentric and feminist as well and again there is argument that women like to link morality to responsibility in relationships.

An Afrocentric feminist epistemology has all four of these dimensions. We have here 'a metaphor for the distinguishing features of an Afrocentric feminist way of knowing' (219). It's more than just a scholarly dialogue between rationality and emotion. There must be an ethic of caring. Neither emotion nor ethics 'is subordinated to reason', but all are seen as interrelated 'essential components in assessing knowledge claims'[does sound like Habermas]. Values lie at the heart of Afrocentric feminist epistemology. These claims are routinely ignored or discredited, however, all are 'absorbed and marginalised in existing paradigms'. [what about qualitative slop from Indiana?]. However they do offer a challenge to the ways in which the powerful legitimated their knowledge claims — they would lead to suspicion about all prior knowledge claims — 'an alternative epistemology challenges all certified knowledge… calls into question the content of what currently passes as truth'. [Blimey -- so we start again with...?]

Chapter 11. Knowledge, consciousness, and the politics of empowerment

[Mixed -- idealism but also some good sociological bits return. Best bits read like Guattari on singularity]

A Black feminist thought Black women are 'self defined, self-reliant individuals confronting race, gender, and class oppression' (221). Knowledge is important to empower them and for changing their consciousness. Past objectification fostered their subordination and Eurocentric masculinist worldviews were responsible. Putting experience at the centre of analysis offers fresh insight and new 'concepts paradigms and epistemologies'. Race, class and gender oppression operates with a 'simultaneity' and you can perceive it through 'a both/and conceptual lens' based on 'a humanist vision of community' [sounds reductive]. 'Many Black feminist intellectuals have long thought about the world in this way because this is the way we experience the world' [social determinism] (222). [Later, the epistemological debate seems to be aimed at feminist theory specifically, as well as subordinate groups themselves].

Race, class and gender are 'interlocking' systems of oppression, requiring coalitions that operate with all of them, but not in an additive way, not starting with one and adding in the others. They are all 'one overarching structure of domination' [although they seem to be structured according to different socio-historical contexts]. 'Each system needs the others in order to function'. Social science therefore needs to be rethought and 'Afrocentric feminist notions of family' reflect this, rejecting the nuclear family with its conventions, for example, and placing women at the centre of analysis. It also changes definitions of community, which is no longer arbitrary or fragile, threatened by competition and domination, but instead based on connections, caring and 'personal accountability', and Afrocentric conceptualisation. Black women do not bother to theorise about alternative conceptions, they simply create alternative communities that empower themselves.

Black women's power resembles feminist theories of power emphasising 'energy in community' (223), but they would want to add the need for resistance to conventional power, not just as respite and sanctuary, but something creative. The idea is not to just replace elite White male versions with benevolent Black female ones, but to develop 'an alternative vision of power based on humanist vision of self-actualisation, self-definition, and self-determination' (224). Any analysis faces a creative tension between specificity addressing particular historical circumstances and generalisations based on cross-cultural and transhistorical research.

There are 'immediate practical applications', for example in criticising existing legislation [Title VII], which has problems with the precise category of Black women [cf Crenshaw on intersection]. There is a lag in understanding 'the rapid growth of female-headed households in African-American communities' in intersectional terms — labour markets might be racially segmented, but family images might still be Eurocentric and masculinist. A new inclusive analysis is required.

There is a need to reject 'the either/or dichotomous thinking of Eurocentric, masculinist thoughts' (225) [including dichotomous racial categories? Those with 'ambiguous racial and ethnic identity' are mentioned for the first time here]. [Back to intersection] — people of colour, Jews, poor White women and gays and lesbians are also subordinated, and there are other categories of Others [not including animals here, though]. The result is to suggest that 'all groups possess varying amounts of penalty and privilege in one historically created system' [unusual] — White women are penalised by gender but privilege by race. 'Depending on the context, an individual may be an oppressor, a member of an oppressed group or simultaneously oppressor and oppressed' [very unusual if it includes Black people].

This does not mean that types of oppression are interchangeable. Gender oppressions are better able to manage the erotic and personal relationships. Racial oppression operates with historically concrete communities including community resistance. 'Social class may be similarly structured — communities opposing 'capitalist political economies' (226) [another 1st] there may be overlap between racial and social class oppression and community structures can 'provide a primary line of resistance' against both kinds. Gender crosscuts these structures and therefore 'finds fewer comparable institutional base strategies to foster resistance' [institutions within capitalism, she means — secondary labour markets? Domestic work?].

We can see race class and gender as 'axes of oppression'. They affect Black women 'within a more generalised matrix of domination' which may offer different dimensions to different groups. Activism differs accordingly as well. Matrices may share ideological grounds. They need to be opposed by new methodologies which are nonhierarchical, refuse any [foundationalism] and work with matrix interactions. 'Race, class, and gender may not be the most fundamental or important systems of oppression' (227) but they have been the most effective for Black women. Other axes also need investigation — 'religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and age', but if we starts with the particular experiences of a Black women we might get to 'the more universal process of domination' [the argument about singularity again].

There are similarly three levels of domination — personal biography; group or community where we are talking about race class and gender; systemic levels, social institutions. All three levels are important as sites of domination and of resistance.

So each of us has a personal biography which is unique. The ties that connect us to other human beings can be freeing and empowering as in [hetero, she specifies here] love relationships or Black motherhood, but they can also be confining and oppressive as in domestic violence. Things look different 'depending on the consciousness one brings to interpret it'. At this level new knowledge can generate change. The old idea that domination forces or controls unwilling victims fails to account for consent, in cases where women stay with abusive men or slaves do not kill their owners more often. It also fails to explain resistance even if the chance of victory is remote. Consciousness is important as a sphere of freedom and Black feminist thought emphasises this. They say that domination not only works top-down but requires the harnessing of energies of those on the bottom, which can be re-articulated.

There are several cultural contexts which overlap [as in intersections again]. These cultural components contribute different concepts and offer different validations of concepts, '"thought models" used to acquire knowledge and standards [citing Mannheim again] (228). Sometimes they achieve a particular cohesion and an identifiable history and location — African American communities provide such locations, even though they are controlled by oppressed groups and struggling with dominant groups attempting to replace subjugated knowledge with their own thought. However domination is not so easy. In one case, trying to apply externally derive standards of beauty has led African-American women to dislike their skin colour or hair texture, and 'internalising Eurocentric gender ideology leads some Black men to abuse Black women' [!]. However community relations, the blues tradition and Black American women writers all show the difficulties of domination. Resistance also takes place in schools, churches, the media and other formal organisations. Here, Black people do get exposed to dominant thinking, 'docility and passivity' (229) combined with literacy and other skills. However, strong Black women have been excluded and marginalised but have continued to produce theory that 'effectively poses this hegemonic view', and the resurgence of Black feminist thought even within these institutions shows the same trend.

There is a pressure, including seduction, to force Black women and other subordinated people to acquire specialised thoughts of the dominant group, and this can be '"planted deep within each of us"' [citing Lorde]. This requires some self-examination first, to identify your own oppression . This can proceed with 'little difficulty' [indeed], but it is sometimes difficult to connect personal experience to a system of oppression and to someone else's subordination. White feminists find it difficult to see how 'their White skin privileges them'. Black women can analyse racism but 'often persist in viewing poor White women as symbols of White power'. The radical left insist that there are true interests of class that might connect both. Each group has its preferred oppression which it sees as more fundamental. However the 'matrix of domination contains few pure victims or oppressors'.

We need to see that we are all members of multiple dominant groups and multiple subordinate groups, to see how this matrix of domination is structured, how it works at the different levels. We have to reject any knowledge that perpetuates 'objectification and dehumanisation' [I don't see why — an objective stance can help grasp a matrix of domination I would have thought] (230). Black women use their own understandings to develop a broader understanding of humanity. This is like C Wright Mills, who 'identifies this holistic epistemology as "the sociological imagination"'. This empowers people [I am not sure it always does lead to sociological understanding, though, instead of some soggy humanist holism].

Life as a Black woman is necessary to produce Black feminist thought because experience validates it and anchors knowledge claims. Traditionally Black thinkers were 'blues singers, poets, autobiographers, storytellers and orators' (231). Only a few have defied the weight of Eurocentric masculinist epistemology to explicitly develop feminist epistemology — someone called Zora Neale Hurston is one example who did progress through academic institutions early. For most Black women there is a tension, and many had to adhere to Eurocentric masculinist epistemologies, sometimes as a framework for their own Black feminism, for the work to be accepted. There is also  a tension with Black culture and some of its traditions [at last]. There are traditions that 'foster early motherhood among adolescent girls', or that downplay self-actualisation and do not call out emotional and physical abuse. Even in Black women's literature, 'a curious silence exists concerning domestic abuse' (232).

Black feminist work is increasing, based on a creative use of marginal status. Such women are quite able to demonstrate that they've mastered White male epistemology although they still find it hard to resist its hegemonic nature. They may face conflict. Ordinary Black women may expect them to do personal advocacy, to be accountable, to have 'lived and experienced their material in some fashion, and be willing to engage in dialogues about their findings with ordinary everyday people' [similar demands among the Maori for Smith]. They must be accepted 'by the community of Black women scholars, who may stress to different extents Afrocentric feminist epistemology. They may have to confront residual Eurocentric masculinist 'political and epistemological requirements'. A knowledge claim that meets one set of criteria 'may not be translatable' into the terms of another group. Moving between epistemologies is as difficult as translating between Standard and Black English.

Black women experience marginality as both a matter of frustration and creativity. Sometimes they 'dichotomised their behaviour and become two different people' (233) although this can produce unbearable strain. Others reject their cultural context and enforce the dominant group's thought. Others inhabit both domains but try to remain critical — again there is usually 'substantial personal cost', loneliness at least. The whole project of translating from one epistemology into another might seem fruitless, and it might be tempted to turn from the universal back towards the concrete, still with the hope that '"the universal comes from the particular"'.

This is a popular view with female novelists, to work from specifics toward the universal, remaining within contexts to situate knowledge, producing individual insight which is also embedded in communities. The situation is also characterised by domination and suppression, and resistance. Black feminist thought is a subjugated knowledge in Foucault's sense, and as a result is better able to perceive connections between ideas and the vested interests of their creators. However, 'subjugation is not grounds for an epistemology' (234) [and she cites Haraway here — compare with Kennedy].

The standpoint of Black women is still 'only one angle of vision… A partial perspective… [within]… the overarching matrix of domination'. There are other experiences and perspectives and situated knowledges. 'No one group has a clear angle of vision. No one possesses the absolute truth or can proclaim a universal norm. Dominant groups try and suppress subordinate knowledge, however. Can we judge whether one approach offers more promise?

In the Western tradition, positivism claims the absolute truth exists [really?], and objective and unbiased methods will get to it [this is scientism]. This has been unmasked as the 'vested interests of elite White men'. Early versions of standpoint theories were 'rooted in a Marxist positivism, [which] essentially reversed positivist science's assumptions concerning whose truth would prevail' (235). The claim was that the oppressed have a clearer view of truth because they are not blinded by ideology. But this is positivist because it still believes in one true interpretation of reality. Relativism is the second approach. All groups produce specialised thoughts and all are 'equally valid'. This approach also minimises the importance of specific location 'in influencing a group's knowledge claims' and the power inequities [Haraway cited again]

Black feminist thought has a better alternative to objective science and relativist indifference. Subjectivity is at the centre of analysis, and it is interdependent, shared with the group, 'and the social conditions shaping both types of thought' (236). So sociological conditions influence both, in a 'creative tension'. And ideas can shape those conditions. Black feminist thought is already in a context of domination, not a free-floating set of ideas[ fuck Mannheim then] . It is subjugated knowledge. It is therefore 'a partial perspective on domination'.

Black women can bring their standpoint to larger epistemological dialogues about domination and its matrix, showing other people how they might be able to do the same, to decentre, and re-centre in another experience. If ideas are validated by a range of people, Black and POC, [listed 236]  and they are all using epistemological approaches growing from their own 'unique standpoint' [really? They don't read or watch TV?] we arrive at 'the most "objective" truths'. Recognising your standpoint is partial means your knowledge is unfinished and you are better able to consider other group standpoints without relinquishing the uniqueness of your own. We need to seek the larger perspective. 'Partiality and not universality is the condition of being heard'. Dialogue is crucial [transversality is better] and there is a long tradition of it in: responses. Dominance has to be undone by de-centring, and privilege relinquished, and this will involve struggle — 'but still the vision exists' (237) tolerance of a variety of experiences and understanding.

Black women have been victimised but they can actively work to change their circumstances. There are not just heroic individuals who show the resilience of the group. Interplay between oppression and activism should be traced to the matrix of domination itself, exposing the [micro-politics] of choices and powers. Eventually only collective action can guarantee lasting social transformation, however. [It all ends with an idealistic quote from Maria Stewart who has a dream... about how one day we will overcome...]