On the Question of Feminism

October 22, 2016

#BPP50 Dispatch

Questions about feminism and women’s roles have danced around the margins of the BPP50 gathering. The question of how Black women activists in the 60s and 70s understood feminism has vexed scholars and intrigued activists because, although they were not part of explicitly Black feminist organizations, they embodied strength, battled patriarchy and were in conversation with feminist ideology. Yet, this is an urgent question at this contemporary moment where pop culture icons like Beyonce, authors like Chimamanda Adiche and activist organizations like Black Women’s Blueprint have raised the profile of Black feminism. The many organizations and individuals who have coalesced under the banner of #BLM have called for leadership from Black women and publicly proclaimed their commitment to feminist ideas.  

When openly asked about their embrace of feminist ideas twice, the Panther women on the international politics panel distanced themselves from feminism and eschewed labels for their views on gender. One might walk away from the panel thinking that Black Panther women rejected feminism in one voice. However, that would be a mistake. The reality was that there was a diversity of understandings of feminism within the organization. IPHP is planning an extended analysis of how feminism operated in the BPP as part of our commitment to #changingthenarrative. Stay tuned!

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