Thursday, December 05, 2002

Real Women

A student commented about Ruby Doris Smith Robinson that African-American women in the civil rights movement didn't see feminism as an issue because society didn't see them as "real" women, they suffered the same harsh treatment as African-American men.

The student's point was about what issues African-American women might feel should be their highest priority, but that term "real" women caught my eye. That's part of the trap we are struggling with. Most of my students want to be real women, not feminists. We feminists thought we could change what it meant to be a real woman, but it hasn't changed as much as we thought it would. We made ourselves more freedom to be real in different ways, but when you are 20 it is scarier to try to define for yourself what it means to be a woman.

In Soon We Will Not Cry, Cynthia Griggs Fleming writes that even though Robinson died young of cancer, she "had still achieved a victory of monumental proportions. She had defied all of society's efforts to categorize her and circumscribe her ambitions. Ruby Doris Smith Robinson had made her own decisions, charted her own course, and ultimately invented herself."

No comments: