It seems a particular problem for women to find a way to formally organize. Again and again, the exceptional women whose words made it into Available Means end up being the words of exclusionists. Even as the Grimke sisters tried to include women’s issues in the abolitionist cause, they wouldn’t have dreamed of including black women’s issues. The Combahee River Collective was comprised of doubly and triply marginalized women: black, female and lesbian. Each of those identifiers would necessarily exclude them from other marginalized groups, like black men, white feminists or heterosexuals of any flavor.
“The Combahee River Collective Statement” has four sections, each explaining a concept which the collective felt important to their formation and identity. As a document it demonstrates the effects of the marginalization that the women felt. These women have managed to organize, but it is, in part, due to the way that they have been marginalized by other groups. And they take that as a strength. “We believe that the most profound and potentially most radical politics come directly out of our own identity, as opposed to working to end somebody else’s oppression” (295). These women are drawing from their own experiences to try and forward a politic that will benefits more than themselves.
Often, the idea of feminism is rejected in favor of a humanism that seems to be more inclusive. If one feels that feminism necessarily excludes the betterment of men from its goals, then it makes sense to reject feminism in favor of humanism. But the goals of feminism are not necessarily to destroy or even negatively affect men, but rather to bring women up to the level where they may be regarded equally with men. “We reject pedestals, queenhood, and walking ten paces behind. To be recognized as human, levelly human, is enough” (295). If all people are recognized as human, and equally accorded privileges and voice, then humanism is a noble goal. When a class of people are, instead, considered, consciously or unconsciously, horribly or blandly, below another class, then action needs to be specifically aimed. To paraphrase our instructor in this class, yes, we all bleed red. But some of us bleed more.
There is a certain amount of humility in the statement of the collective, in that they assume that they are at the very bottom of the social heap. Humility and also a sense of determination. “If Black women were free, it would mean that everyone else would have to be free since our freedom would necessitate the destruction of all the systems of oppression” (297). They are willing to work towards the end of all oppression, even though all other oppressed people would be freed before them.