Ms. Magazine
The F Word
The word "feminist" still raises hackles. Is claiming this word all about age, race, and class?

MS.CELLANEOUS:
-What?
-Just The Facts
-Word: Impossible
-Women to Watch

Zero Balance
Those entering middle age are discovering--sometimes too late--that women get the short end of the stick when it comes to retirement benefits.
YOUR HEALTH:
-Healthnotes
-Women's Bodies are Finally Being Studied
The Abortion Pill
Making mifepristone available in this country took decades of struggle and remains fraught with controversy.
-Editor's Page
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-The Guerilla Girls
-No Comment
-Poetry
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Portfolio: Romaine Brooks
Lesbian society in Paris at the turn of the 20th century is captured by this groundbreaking portraitist.
Uppity Women: Rosario Robles' Bold Agenda

Books:
-The Serpent Slayer by Katrin Tchana, Illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman
-Desirada, Maryse Conde
-Glory Goes And Gets Some, Emily Carter
-The Moon Pearl, Ruthanne Lum McCunn
-Kiss My Tiara, Susan Jane Gilman
-Motiba's Tattoos, Mira Kamdar

-First Person: By Any Other Name
-Columns: Daisy Hernandez, Patricia Smith and Gloria Steinem
 

Over 800 people, the majority of them women, attended our Millennium Conference here in New York City. They came from as far away as Japan and India. There were student groups and girlfriend clusters, entire families, mother-daughter pairs, and more than a few grandmother-daughter-granddaughter trios. I was particularly pleased, not only by the age mix, but also by the racial diversity. It still didn't look like the U.S., but I know from experience that not enough of the conferences organized by feminist groups attract or feature significant numbers of women of color. And as one of the few women of color in the room, I've heard organizers and participants bemoan the lack of diversity and detail their attempts to reach out, and I've been asked countless times for advice about what to do.

Like it or not, color and class are this movement's Achilles' heel. Although the women's movement has never been just a white girl's party, all too often that's the way it plays in the public's perception. Was Sojourner Truth the only woman of color advocating for women's rights in the nineteenth century? Not hardly, but unless you've taken a good women's studies class or done your homework, she's the only one you've heard about. The same is true when it comes to this movement's recent history. In this country, "herstory" like his tends to be told as a white story, with the spotlight focused on white women and everyone else relegated to minor parts. It's a situation exacerbated by the mainstream media who routinely marginalize, dismiss, or demonize feminism, go for the most famous name or face, and treat women of color as window dressing. But it's also fostered by folks within this movement, who seek diversity but not necessarily when it comes to leadership and power-sharing or deciding the agenda, issues, or actions.

Just as lesbians have had to fight to ensure that this movement acknowledged their presence, included their voices, issues, and sensibilities, so too do women of color struggle--and many have decided to go their own way. Change can't come without a willingness to own up to some difficult truths. Like the fact that this movement avoids confronting the race/culture issue and divisions. Instead there is this fiction that gender is race neutral and is the only factor that matters in our quest for equality and that there's no racism within our movement--as if we could live in the belly of the beast and remain unscathed. That's what happened at our conference in the panel about race, but thank the Goddess, in a separate discussion about the current state of feminism, that myth was blown away.

One young Latina woman told the group why she and her sister activists don't call themselves feminists. Paula Rojas's comments rocked that room and elicited strong, emotional responses that reverberated throughout the conference. Had we not invited her to be one of the leaders of the discussion, that conversation might never have caught fire. But that fire has been ignited many times before only to be snuffed out by those who want to deny that we have a problem or avoid conflict at any cost.

We can't afford to avoid this, any more than we can avoid addressing classism and heterosexism within our movement. So to help keep the fire burning we asked some of the women who were in that room and others to continue the discussion in these pages. We are asking the same of women who visit our Web site, and we intend to continue to raise these and other questions about how we walk the talk in these pages in future issues.