Blogging the Theoretical

“Feminism” in Black Feminist Thought through the lenses of Patricia Hill Collins and Jennifer Nash by Star-Quana J.

September 16, 2011 · 3 Comments

Both Jennifer Nash and Patricia Hill Collins are feminists whom have very contradicting view points on Black Feminist thought and theory. Hill Collins theory is more closely related to the dialectical relationship between conditions (political economy, segregation, and ideology) and everyday life, in other words, the structural versus the individual. Hill Collins believes that that the key to moving away from controlling images (ideologies) is self-representation. She says it is important to realize that these conditions in which we live create a different understanding dependent on where you are positioned within and because these conditions are human creations, they can change. Nash questions if “self- representation” would do anything in helping to take back the negativity surrounding black women’s supposedly deviant sexuality. Since self-representation would still be effected by “race/ a social institution” how could it truly be a self- representation when someone else dictates how you should represent yourself and thus would further oppress black woman because of the demand of visual proof of difference. Hill Collins would also argue that all “cultural production” by black women is theoretical production while Nash would argue that it is not. Nash would also argue that racial iconography is to blame for the ideologies that still exist today.

There is a huge difference between anti-pornography feminism implicated in Nash’s essay and Black feminism described by Patricia Hill Collins. Anti-pornography feminists feel as though pornography was debauched and degraded all women. Whereas in Black Feminism especially from Patricia Hill Collins point of view she focused more on “the ways” in which Black Women in particular were portrayed and degraded more than every other woman especially when it came to bondage and domination. Black Feminists such as Hill Collins views black women’s struggles as a wider struggle for human dignity and social justice not just for the advancement of Black women (Hill Collins 294). Black women’s experiences challenge U.S. Class ideologies claiming that individual merit is all that matters in determining social rewards. The sexual politics of Black womanhood reveals the fallacy that gender affects all women in the same way-race and class matter greatly (Hill Collins 246). However, Nash is arguing that Black Feminist always only use the Sarah Baartman aka the Hottentot Venus idea and re-tell this story without looking at the new ways in which these imaginary/ fictitious sexual differences are portrayed. Nash is saying that we no longer live in that time period so it is time to expand our intellectual horizon. However, there are no other challenging images other than Sarah Baartman. She seems to be the only staring place. Hill Collins argues that all viewing and representations are the same while Nash argues that there is a multiplicity and not everyone views the same images in the same way therefore they can have different thoughts and interpretations. Black Feminist uses the Sarah Baartman story as the foundational groundwork for the “hidden racism” in contemporary pornography today. Hill Collins is saying that contemporary porn re-enacts the ideologies that a black woman’s sexuality so deviant. Intersectional paradigms make two important contributions to understanding the connections between knowledge and empowerment. African Americans confinement to domestic work revealed how race and gender influenced black women’s social class experiences. Similarly, the sexual politics of black womanhood that shaped black woman’s experiences with pornography, prostitution, and rape relied upon racist, sexist, and heterosexist ideologies to construct black woman’s sexualities as deviant. Intersecting oppressions also shape the experiences of other groups as well (Hill Collins 245). Intersectional paradigms make an important contribution to untangle the relationships between knowledge and empowerment (Hill Collins 246). Anti-pornography feminists are saying that if porn were to be taken away that it would truly demystify the “imagined beliefs” of difference between black and white women. Eliminating porn would not only be for the greater good of all women not just black women. For Patricia Hill Collins, the controlling images served a social purpose which is to provide a justification for the state’s continued disciplining of the black female body (Nash 57).  There is a structured system in place so that black women cannot move up the social ladder argues Collins. A matrix of domination describes this overall social organization within which intersecting oppressions originate, develop, and are contained. Social institutions regulate the actual patterns of intersecting oppressions that Black women encounter (Hill Collins 246).The display of Sarah Baartman’s body was only the beginning of the humiliating search for “biological indicators” between black and white women and because the dominant group (elite white men) controls schools, media, and other social institutions that legitimate what counts as truth (Hill Collins 248).


Categories: Group Three

3 responses so far ↓

  •   vsbatc08 // Sep 18th 2011 at 2:23 pm

    This blog does a good job incorporating the views of Nash about feminism for comparison. I think using more direct quotes instead of always paraphrasing could be useful if you can find some of relevance.

    Since this is a blog that’s primary focus is to discuss the term “feminism” in regards to Hill Collins I think it could be beneficial to frame how Hill Collins defines feminism in the beginning. The structure is a little jumbled so it becomes unclear what the main topic you are discussing is.

  •   esmarv09 // Sep 19th 2011 at 10:58 pm

    I got very lost in the transition from Collins to Nash in the beginning- I didn’t realize which one you were talking about. I think your comparisons throughout the paper were good but could be structured a bit better to be clearer. If you could incorporate another Nash quote I think that would help support your argument for her. You did a good job of showing both Collins’ and Nash’s arguments for each aspect of your paper.

  •   jeshul08 // Sep 21st 2011 at 5:30 pm

    When I first started reading this I thought I was with you on who you were talking about when but then realized I was completely off. I would just make sure that when you are transitioning for person to person you make it very clear.

    I thought you did a good job at outlining both Collins’ and Nash”s arguments. I would have to agree with Violet I would like to see another quote from Collins that helps to frame her definition of feminism in the beginning.

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