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

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-Word: Impossible
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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:
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-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.
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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
 

I recently had a conversation with a young woman of color, a high-school student. She was asking, isn't there a history of racism within the women's movement? And I said, yes and no: proportionally, there have been more black women who have identified as feminists than white women. So, in that sense, women of color have been central, in some ways dominant. But there have been betrayals of women of color. Like when we were getting the vote. And in terms of media leaders, they have been white, although the real leaders have not always been white. And white women, too, often think that women of color should join "our group"--without even being aware of what's behind the "our." White women haven't been thinking about what women of color are doing--which is plenty--and then seeing if they could work with them. That takes a lot more work.

There is a lot of discomfort on the part of white women about doing that. It has to be confronted. I call myself out on this. I haven't worked in a majority women of color group before, and I think that's a problem. If most people are like me, that's a problem for the movement. Women of color are right to call us on it. Also, it's important not to be defensive even though it's painful to be talking about race. Be willing to take a leap of faith. I wonder what would happen if the leader of a group that was primarily white should reach out to the leader of a group of women of color? If she said, could we meet? Meet as people, instead of, We're interested in reaching out to women of color, and we need to be more diverse. You paint yourself into a corner right away by doing that. The issues will emerge from a real relationship as opposed to an "Add color. Stir." approach.

Even though feminism has this history of not being conscious enough about race or class, it is still the most diverse, race-sensitive, and class-sensitive social justice movement I have ever observed. But people are so tough on women--including women ourselves. We assume that because we're not perfect, we've really screwed up. But I think we have been confronting these issues and just need to keep reaching to do more.

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photograph by henry leutwyler