The Politics of Studying Black Women’s Representations, 09/03/2019, #1
Dayo Olopade’s “Why Are There So Few Black Women Politicians?” partially attributes women’s minimal presence in Congress to a combination of inner feelings and external pressures and influences (e.g media bias). I thought it was particularly telling that our culture has socialized women to feel less entitlement than men, even in circumstances in which women are more qualified. I think this also applies to the intersections, where it is evident that Black women are socialized to claim less space than white women. The ideas put forth in “Speaking for Ourselves: Feminisms in the African Diaspora” reinforced what I was thinking, as it highlighted the erasure of Black women from feminist movements and the simultaneous tension with the “masculinist nature” of Black Studies. I always notice this identity clash, where black women’s presence in both movements was never fully accepted or validated as a “mainstream” experience.
Upon reviewing Olopade’s article, I immediately recalled another article, Why Women Don’t Apply for Jobs Unless They’re 100% Qualified”, published by the Harvard Business Review, which highlighted the trend that men are more likely to apply for jobs they are not qualified for: in other words, they apply for the job when they meet 60% of the qualifications, while women typically only apply when they meet 100% of the qualifications. I was reminded of this statistic, because the agency it takes to engage in social “rule breaking” almost requires a sense of entitlement that marginalized groups may not possess.
The fact that women remain underrepresented in Congress calls for a concerted effort to reorganize power structures. In “Bringing More Women into Leadership,” Williams calls this distribution of power “gendered social apartheid.” I thought it was interesting how Williams connected the fact that much of what women do is unpaid, unrecognized, or undervalued to ‘invisible’ work. The first time I was introduced to the concept of invisible work was in a different class at Cornell, INFO 3561: Computing Cultures, where we discussed how social processes create roles that relegate people to statuses of lesser importance, even if they contribute greater value. The AAUW site provided a lot of statistics on women’s lack of representation, especially women of color, but what I thought was more interesting was the online quiz that tells you whether you have gender bias against women. I took the quiz, and it actually concluded that I associate women with leadership roles and men with supporter roles. This might be due to the fact that I have generally had more positive experiences with women, I am a black woman, and that normative gender roles were reversed in the household I grew up in.
Returning to the idea of invisible work, I was able to connect that to McFadden’s piece, “The Challenges and Prospects and for The African Women’s Movement,” which discusses the resentment that occurred within African politics as women began to reject traditional roles and participate in anti-colonial struggles. This was a powerful read to me, as she expressed how African women have an obligation not to derive their Africanness from male identity and also how African women should request and expect that African men change themselves. As nurturers and givers, the role and burden of educating and reforming men is usually placed on women and constitutes unrecognized invisible emotional and physical labor. At the same time, I valued the idea that McFadden put forth about how the personal aspects of our private lives should become political when we become leaders. This places a reasonable responsibility on black women to bring dynamic experiences and perspectives into politics and movements. I am looking forward to exploring this later on in the semester.
AAUW, “Barriers and Biases. The Status of Women in Leadership” (2016)
Dessima Williams, “Bringing More Women Into Leadership,” (Boston Globe, March 8, 2000).
Dayo Olopade, “Why Are There So Few Black Women Politicians?” (Griot, March 9, 2010)
Beverly Guy-Sheftall, “Speaking for Ourselves: Feminisms in the African Diaspora” from
Decolonizing the Academy: African Diaspora Studies, 2003.
Patricia McFadden, “The Challenges and Prospects and for The African Women’s Movement.”
Women in Action, issue 1, 19
Silvercloud, Johnny. Nov. 2015, https://www.flickr.com/photos/johnnysilvercloud/22285333984/in/photostream/.