By Michelle M. Wright

About Michelle M. Wright

Michelle M. Wright is the Augustus Baldwin Longstreet Professor of English at Emory University. She is the author of Becoming Black: Creating Identity in the African Diaspora (2004) and Physics of Blackness: Beyond the Middle Passage Epistemology (2015).


While variously understood, “feminism,” in its Western contexts, usually means a belief that all human beings should enjoy the same political, economic, and social rights. As a “keyword,” feminism is a concept often misunderstood as signifying a genealogy solely of women’s rights and social, political, and economic advancement. This brief essay lays out the distortions that often attend initial or superficial engagements with feminism, specifically in African American studies, enabling a definition of feminism that ably skirts and negotiates those false avatars that seek to contain feminism to its least accurate meaning: a movement wholly about and for women.

Like all other ideologies and movement, the history of feminism is most often structured and analyzed as a linear progress narrative; in the white Western context, twentieth-­century white feminist history has been organized as a series of generations, defined as “waves” (we are currently in “third wave” feminism). White U.S. feminism …

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