Black Women Writers @ Southwestern University

An English / Feminist Studies / Race & Ethnicity Studies Course Blog

The intersection space and its visiblity

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A theme we’ve touched on in class and I’ve noticed is named multiple ways in our readings is this “othering” of black women and black women writers. Ann duCille right out calls it this and asks why black women are always Other. She goes on to explain it through the fetishizing black women, how black women are inherently at odds with those in power and privilege, and the confusion of where black women writer’s and their writings stand in the “traffic jam” of other people’s opinions and critiques. It seems that by the system and society we live in and the people who live within, there is this place black women sit in that is on some different axes than the rest of society, some different space. This image is repeated by Barbara Smith and the Combahee River Collective in different words. They speak about intersection and explain how the Black movement (mainly in the direction of black men’s goals,) feminism (mainly in the direction of white women’s goals,) and class issues all miss the mark for black women simply by using only one “lens” to view this issues through.

Once again black women end up in a separate space all together from the people around them, where their issues sometimes get touched on but never fully developed or seen correctly. It reminds me of how we imagine different dimensions appear, visually. From, say, the second dimension, everything looks like just line segments: you need that extra view point, totally separate from the first to see the whole image.

This idea, though, of a space where black women are separate leads to many questions all our authors have asked or struggled with: what to do about it and how to get people outside the Other to understand it. Another theme I noticed among the essays gave at least a starting point for an answer. The Combahee River Collective says that there needs to be a movement for black women, separate from the intersecting groups’ movements. Barbara Smith also talks about how a movement would give room for black women writers to be seen, read, and critiqued. I liked this idea of a real movement because it seems to fit well with the imagery of this different space black women are in already. A movement would bring that space to light where previously no one in power or privilege seemed to even realize it existed, no one seemed able to see that place where black women existed as their own entities.

In class we’ve explored this idea of intersection often, probably because it’s so key and so interesting to those of us who never heard the term or saw the intersection ourselves. I like the idea of seeing more practical examples of the movement in which black women and black women writers made their space visible and tangible to others. Even more interesting is the question, which is discussed in Ann duCille’s piece, that once the space is visible and everyone jumps in, what does the space look like and how do we navigate it?


One thought on “The intersection space and its visiblity

  1. Thoughtful analysis about space and separation. I like how you’re imagining an intersection as kind of space; have you read Gloria Anzaldua’s Borderlands? She speaks to what it means to live at the point of intersection, and while she’s thinking literally about the U.S./Mexico border, she’s also imagining other kinds of metaphorical border spaces. I think there’s some resonance with what you’ve written here. Let me know if you’d like an excerpt.

    This may be only tangentially related, but in a couple of weeks, we’ll read some of Alice Walker’s In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens, and in it she makes a claim that black feminists/womanists are “not a separatist(s), except periodically, for health.” I like her wording here, and the flexibility it offers for reflecting on when it’s useful to keep separate space and when it’s useful to engage with others.

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