Yours in struggle: Three feminist perspectives on anti-semitism and racism

Download Yours in struggle: Three feminist perspectives on anti-semitism and racism

Post on 30-Dec-2016

212 views

Category:

Documents

0 download

TRANSCRIPT

84 Book Reviews sciousness within the context of the intifada and the na- tionalist movement, and examined feminist conscious- ness, among women at the grass roots level (p. 207). A long-standing opponent of Zionist expansionism, she endeavors to educate the feminist public in the United States on the Palestinian question (p. 206). In conclusion, Womens Words admirably achieves its purposes: documenting the need to record womens life stories; and demonstrating the effectiveness of vari- ous approaches, informed by a feminist perspective and rooted in such disciplines as anthropology, history, folk- lore, literature, psychology, sociology, linguistics, and speech communication. MARCIAG.SYNOTT DEPARTMENTOFHISTORY UNIVERSITYOFSOUTHCAROLINA COLUMBIA,SC,USA ABORTION:A POSITIVE DECISION, by Patricia Lunneb- org, 194 pages. Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc. Westport, CT, 1992. Cloth, $19.95. Patricia Lunneborg has written a well-researched, easy- to-read book that provides a new perspective on abor- tion and its impact on women. Her positive approach to the issue is energizing and highly recommended for ev- eryone involved in the pro-choice movement. The author dedicates her book to three audiences- women who have faced the abortion decision; those who work with women seeking abortions; and women seek- ing information to make a decision about having an abortion. I would highly recommend the entire book to the first two groups and add anyone in the pro-choice movement, but I would only recommend chapters 3-10 to those women currently facing a decision about an unplanned pregnancy and seeking a self-help counseling book. The other three chapters in the book would not be relevant to their decision. The author weaves together research findings, her own experiences, and most importantly bits of 100 inter- views she had both with women who have had abortions and with abortion providers. She interviewed a wide cross section of women from a variety of races, ages, and socio-economic backgrounds who had experienced legal and illegal abortions. Her extensive use of quotes from these women provides a very personal and positive per- spective on one of the most important issues in a wom- ans life-whether or not to carry an unplanned preg- nancy to term. Each of the books 11 chapters could stand alone as a wealth of information and new perspectives on the is- sue of abortion. Chapter 1 contains the basic premise of the book told through the personal stories of a wide vari- ety of women. The author makes a compelling case that the primary reason women seek abortion at any age is simply because they didnt want to bring an unwanted child into the world. She also found that having an abor- tion is often a positive milestone in womens lives be- cause it is often the first time they made a major decision about their lives; the experience gives them new strengths and perspectives. Chapter 2 makes the point that despite legislative and judicial anti-choice attacks women continue to seek abortions as they have throughout time. Chapter 3 is highly recommended for women seeking to make a decision about whether to have an abortion. The chapter outlines the reasons why women have abor- tions and contains excellent advice about how to make a good decision. Chapter 4 is the most thought-provoking and useful chapter and should be read by all pro-choice people. Entitled Abortion is Something to Talk About, the au- thor makes the powerful argument that we need to talk about abortion and not be afraid or ashamed of it if we are to counter the anti-choice rhetoric we have come to fear. She states that talking about abortion as a positive decision will help women to share their own experiences and realize they are not alone. Lunneborg states this is the most effective tool to change societys attitudes, gar- ner public support, and educate society about the real reason women seek abortions-so they wont bring un- wanted children into the world. Chapter 5 uses detailed quotes from women to de- scribe the self-evaluation process that occurs in counsel- ing prior to and after their abortion. The emphasis is on how women in making the decision to have an abortion reassess their life plan and future. Chapter 6 focuses on the positive consequences of abortions for womens mental health and explodes the post abortion syndrome myth. Citing the results of re- search conducted by the former U.S. Surgeon General and interviews with over 100 women she found that the vast majority of women had feelings of relief and a sense of control of their lives after having an abortion whether it was months or years ago. Chapters 7 and 8 discuss family planing and abortion and make two very important points: (a) half of the women who had abortions were using contraception that failed; and (b) a major theme in interviews with women who had abortions was that they felt a strong sense of responsibility towards having healthy and stable families for their future children; since they could not provide that option at that point in time they sought an abortion. Chapter 9 focuses on education and careers as the two most given reasons for why women were not yet ready to have an unplanned child. Chapter 10 makes a compelling case for social sup- port for women seeking or who have had abortions. Women interviewed by the author share their experi- ences of having achieved improved relationships with important people in their lives after they have broken the bonds of silence and secrecy regarding their own abor- tions. Chapter II describes the work and experiences of three abortion providers- an administrator, doctor, and nurse, with the hope that sharing their experience will re- cruit new workers to the field. Hopefully, the authors uniquely positive approach to this vitally important topic will be only the first of many more. COLLEENDONALDSON STATEUNIVERSITYOFNEWYORKCOLLECEAT BROCKPORT BROCKPORT,NY, USA YOURS IN STRUGGLE:THREE FEMINIST PERSPECTIVES ON ANTI-SEMITISM ANDRACISM, by Elly Bulkin, Min- nie Bruce Pratt, and Barbara Smith, 230 pages. Fire- brand Books, Ithaca, NY, 1984, US $8.95. Book Reviews 85 As I finish reading the final essay in Yours in Struggle for the second time, I am relieved to be reminded that it took Elly Bulkin 1 year and 9 months to write her essay. It has taken me 2 months to write this review. This speaks to the complexity of issues and emotions which the book raised for me, a white, Jewish, heterosexual, middle class, North American woman, an identity which embodies one of the books themes: Privilege and op- pression can and do exist simultaneously. (p. 76) This short book is written by three women coming from three different perspectives: Minnie Bruce Pratt, a white, Christian, Southern bred woman; Barbara Smith, an African-American; and Elly Bulkin, a North Ameri- can Jew. Each identifies different ways in which she has been both privileged and oppressed. I was most touched by Minnie Bruce Pratts essay entitled Identity: Skin Blood Heart. Of the three, I found this essay to be the most poignant, most forth- right, and least defensive. Pratt takes us through her struggle with her white, Christian, Southern heritage. As her feminist consciousness evolves, she begins to recog- nize her own oppression as both a woman and a lesbian. However, it is not until the murder of five individuals (includina Jews and Blacks) bv members of the Ku Klux Klan, in The name of protecting white women, that she begins to question what else has been done for the sake of protecting her and her white skin privilege. As she re- searches her family history, she learns that her family had owned slaves, that what place and money [her] family had got . . . had [been] stolen from the work and lives of others (p. 34). As Pratt unravels her heritage, she shares with us her feeling of vertigo, of having a body with no place to be, a falling through space . . . as she learns that [her] foundation, [her] birth culture was mortared with blood (p. 35). While I do not believe that my own birth culture has been mortared with blood in the same way, reading Elly Bulkins essay forced me to deal with the treatment of Palestinians in Israel in the name of providing me with a homeland. Bulkin provides two definitions of Zion- ism: a desire for a Jewish homeland, a refuge from op- pression and, simultaneously, a movement which has displaced large numbers of dark skinned, non-Western people who were already inhabiting the land (p. 157). As does Bulkin, I identify with the first definition and recoil at the second. Similar to Pratt, I find myself caught between the tissue of lies which feed oppression in my name and a need to connect with my heritage, my people. At core, as a Jew, I find terror over the possibil- ity that Israel might cease to exist. My Jewish conscious- ness has been too much tinged by the reality of the Holo- caust. While this reality haunts me and exists as the meta- phor for Jewish oppression, Barbara Smiths essay re- minds me that my oppression is different from that of people of color-at this moment, in the country in which I presently live, I do have white skin privilege. I can un- derstand Smiths explanation for Black anti-Semitism: Black women cannot help but resent it when people who have these privileges try to tell us that every- thing is everything and that their oppression is every bit as pervasive and dangerous as our own. (76) Part II examines feminist involvement with the aboli- tionist movement. Discriminated against within the abo- litionist communities of both Britain and the United States, women abolitionists became active in the cause of suffrage: They saw a clear analogy between enslaved Blacks and disenfranchised women. However, after abo- lition, the interests of white women were pitted against the interests of freed male slaves, and the suffragist movement distanced itself from its roots. Unexamined racism and pressure from the patriarchal strategy of di- vide and conquer made this response almost inevitable. Bulkin expands upon the need to recognize the simi- Part III shows how both racist and anti-racist politics larities between Black otherness and Jewish other- within the British Empire enlisted feminists. Feminists ness while simultaneously addressing the differences. were drawn to the empire for two different reasons: It She adds that constructing a hierarchy of oppressions (whose oppression is worse) is divisive and only benefits the rich, white Christian men who run the country (p. 100). For this reason, she also disagrees with radical fem- inist theory which posits patriarchy as the ultimate op- pression. Rather, her analysis focuses on an interlocking system of oppressions, of which one piece is patriarchy. Yours in Struggle is an important yet uncomfortable book to read. It raises questions about how each of us is complicit in this system of oppressions. It does not pro- vide easy solutions to dismantling this system. Rather the authors call upon us to confront our own racism and anti-Semitism, to hear each others stories and to tell each others stories in the face of our own groups prejudice. To borrow Bulkins closing sentence, there is much work [yet] to be done. Reading Yours in Struggle is a piece of that work. ANNL.SALTZMAN DEPARTMENTOFPSYCHOLOGY DREWUNIVERSITY MADISON,NJ, USA BEYONDTHEPALE: WHITE WOMEN,RACISMAND HIS- TORY, by Vron Ware. 263 + xviii pages. Verso (New Left Books), London and New York, 1992. UK f12.99. At a time when morale in both Britain and America is dominated by the politics of division and exclusion, and when the discipline of Womens Studies has begun to re- flect these political tensions, Vron Wares study of femi- nist history makes an essential contribution to assessing our situation. Ware analyzes the anti-slavery, anti- imperialist, and anti-lynching movements and outlines their points of conflict with various feminist movements. Identity is both racialized and gendered, and the con- flicts between these two aspects of identity which are re- pressed by patriarchal thinking become for feminists one of the most treacherous points on the way to justice. Ware begins by narrating her own experiences as a journalist in feminist and anti-racist venues. The benefi- ciary of a family fortune accumulated in colonial enter- prises and the heir to a socially responsible family ethic, she has found that her work with anti-racist politics is sometimes perceived as anti-feminist, especially when she defends a culture which seems more patriarchal or misogynous than Anglo-Saxon cultures. On the other hand, her feminist work has sometimes been interpreted as white-centered. Ware demonstrates that such con- flicts have been a hazard of political activism since the 19th century and that such accusations have too often been justified.