Blogging the Theoretical

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September 23, 2011 · No Comments

In this paper I will talk about what feminism is according to Patrica Hill Collins.In Hill Collins theory of feminism, Black Feminism to be exact she argues that Black Feminist Theory itself is based on knowledge or experience rather than text because black women historically were not allowed to be educated in a formal setting or even allowed to be educated. Although, many of the ideals surrounding this theory were not formulated in a classroom does not mean that it is not knowledge, other scholars and intellectuals would beg to differ. Hill Collins argues that all controlling images contribute to the “new” racism in the same way because they are perceived in the same way. The main point that this paper will focus on is one aspect of controlling images which is porn.

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). Similarly, the sexual politics of black womanhood that shaped black woman’s experiences with pornography, prostitution, and rape relied upon racist, sexist, and hetero-sexist ideologies to construct black woman’s sexualities as deviant. Intersecting oppressions also shape the experiences of other groups as well (Hill Collins 245). Inter-sectional 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.


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 “racial or 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 women.

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. The biggest contrast between Patricia Hill Collins and Jennifer Nash is that Nash believes that not all images are perceived in the same fashion. It is not always the white man audience glued with his eyes to the television “eye- raping” the black woman. What about the black man that’s watching porn? Nash would argue that Hill Collins was not taking this into account. Nash also argues that not all women are depicted in porn the same way either. While some are depicted as being subordinate, others are empowered and take charge of their sexuality. Hill Collins argues not only are all black women degraded in the same way in porn but their images are also perceived in the same way by all viewer(s). There is “assumed” to be only one consumer of porn which is the elite dominant white male.

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. Inter-sectional 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.

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