Angels Davis here considers the questions of race and class that have stalked the feminist movement since its inception....



Angels Davis here considers the questions of race and class that have stalked the feminist movement since its inception. Though her answers are clearly charted (by comparison with Gloria Joseph and Jill Lewis' Common Differences, p. 663), they are seldom particularly original or revealing. Her central aim is to show that 19th-century stances have continued to have a divisive effect up to the present. Thus, while early abolitionists, such as Lucretia Mott and the Grimke sisters, ""consistently linked the issue of slavery to the oppression of women,"" other leading feminists, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton, manifested their middle-class origins and latent racism, indicatively, the 1848 Seneca Falls Rights of Women declaration represented a ""rigorous consummation of the consciousness of white middle-class women's dilemma""; yet it ""ail but ignored the predicament of white working-class women, as it ignored the condition of Black women in the South and North alike."" The separation widened as suffragettes began to employ racist arguments to gain the vote; for Carrie Chapman Catt, the ""ill advised haste [which] enfranchised the foreigner, the negro, and the indian"" was one of the obstacles to achieving women's suffrage. Such manifest racism may be untenable in feminist circles today; but latent racism exists, Davis contends, in white feminist attitudes toward rape and what she terms ""the myth of the black rapist."" Susan Brownmiller is heavily censured for evincing ""an unthinking partisanship which borders on racism""; and white feminists in general are exhorted to situate the anti-rape movement ""in a strategic context which envisages the ultimate defeat of monopoly capitalism."" Similarly, middle-class women preoccupied with control over their bodies are accused of not comprehending black fears of sterilization: ""what was demanded as a 'right' for the privileged came to be interpreted as a 'duty' for the poor."" And, in a final attack on the supposed middle-class bias of contemporary feminism, Davis argues against the wages-for-housework campaign; once again rejecting reformist solutions, she insists that ""the socialization of housework. . . presupposes an end to the profit-motive's reign over the economy."" All in all, old ideas and old rhetoric that will appeal to the old converts, but may not necessarily attract new ones.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1981

ISBN: 0394713516

Page Count: -

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1981

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