The F-Word’s position on racism

Objectives

The F-Word is committed to the eradication of racism, recognising this as a central part of the feminist project. We aim to create content that dismantles, in the words of the late bell hooks, “the imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy”. We abhor all forms of racism and seek to contribute to work that challenges and divests from white supremacy. We are working to make sure this is reflected in our content, our hiring practices and the language we use. 

We acknowledge the historical exclusion of women of colour, working-class women, sex workers, queer women, trans women and disabled women by mainstream feminism. We aim to contribute work and content that platforms these underrepresented groups and highlights the links between them. We understand that in order to create a truly feminist publication, we have to include critiques of racism. This is an integral part of feminism.

Racism in feminist movements throughout history

We acknowledge the following historical instances of racism in feminist movements:

  • the active exclusion of Black women from the movement for universal suffrage in the United States
  • the racism of UK suffrage movement members, such as Emmeline Pankhurst
  • the imperialism inherently intertwined with the suffrage movement
  • the Windrush generation coverage focusing largely on men
  • the underrepresentation of Black and brown British women in the media.

We acknowledge that racism is an umbrella term, and can refer to multiple different kinds of discrimination, including:

  • anti-Black racism, referring to the discrimination of Black people
  • misogynoir, a term coined by Moya Bailey, referring to the particular discrimination of Black women
  • orientalism, first used in this way by Edward Said, referring to the subjugation and discrimination of people from Asian countries
  • antisemitism, referring to the specific discrimination of the Jewish people
  • Islamophobia, referring to discrimination against Muslim people and those that are perceived as Muslim.

These are all different forms of racism and intersect with feminism in their own unique ways. However, they all share the commonality of being discrimination that is defined by a person’s race and existing outside of whiteness as a category. 

Definitions 

The F-Word acknowledges the often limiting nature of certain language around race, and we will encourage specificity and clarity in all writing on the site (see also ‘practical commitments’ below). We understand that the use of ‘women of colour’ can sometimes be too broad. This moniker should not, for example, be used to refer to Black women. Similarly, we acknowledge that phrases like ‘non-white’ can be problematic, as they centre whiteness, which is why ‘women of colour’ is preferable to ‘non-white women’. We will continue to interrogate these issues and improve where we can, taking into account new arguments for language use – for instance, those put forward by Inc Arts in their #BAMEOver statement, where they suggest that “people who experience racism” could be a better alternative in place of umbrella terms such as BAME. 

It is also worth noting that The F-Word recognises the argument that the word ‘Black’ should be capitalised when used in racial, ethnic or cultural contexts. As a site, we have opted to follow the Guardian ‘rule’, which is essentially that usage of ‘black’ or ‘Black’ can be decided on a case by case basis, and contributor preference should be respected when it comes to this particular style element.

The F-Word will always strive to recognise the work of Black women, both historically and presently, in the feminist movement. We will also ensure the definitions and ideas they have established are used in the correct manner in all writing on the site. We will clarify some of these here:

  • The term intersectionality is frequently misused, with ‘intersectional’ often being mistaken as another word for ‘diverse’ or ‘inclusive’. Correctly defined, intersectionality describes a theoretical framework through which to examine how certain characteristics such as race, sexuality, gender, nationality and disability can overlap or ‘intersect’ to create distinct systems of oppression and privilege. The term was first coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989, and in a 2020 TIME interview she re-clarified the definition:[Intersectionality is] basically a lens, a prism, for seeing the way in which various forms of inequality often operate together and exacerbate each other.”
  • White feminism is sometimes misunderstood to refer simply to feminism as expressed by white women. This is not the case – as Reni Eddo-Lodge explains in her book Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, white feminism is “not about women, who are feminists, who are white. It’s about women espousing feminist politics as they buy into the politics of whiteness, which at its core are exclusionary, discriminatory and structurally racist.” In other words, white feminism refers to a certain type of ‘politically white’ feminism that excludes (intentionally or not) women of colour and their experiences.
  • Black feminism emerged as a response to white supremacy, patriarchy, imperialism and capitalism. It also came out of the need for feminism that engaged with the unique struggles of Black women living at the intersection of race and gender, while acknowledging the possible additional impact of heterosexism, disablism, cissexism and other oppressions. Additionally, it recognised that racism, sexism and classism are often intrinsically linked for Black women (reflected in Claudia Jones’ “triple oppression” theory). This is still the case in Britain, where Black women are paid less and are more likely to be employed in insecure work than their white counterparts, and so are more likely to experience the associated classism. For this reason, Black feminism is characterised by its focus on dismantling class hierarchies, as well as racist and sexist structures, and has at its core the belief that Black women’s liberation cannot occur under capitalism.
    The 1977 statement set out by the Combahee River Collective (a Black feminist socialist lesbian organisation) is a useful historical resource to understand the fundamental aims of Black feminism, with its call for the end of “political-economic systems of capitalism and imperialism as well as patriarchy”, and its focus on solidarity and community activism. While it needs to be noted that the Combahee River Collective were African-American feminists, who would have had different experiences to Black feminists living in the UK, both at the time and today (and, also, that Black feminism’s roots go back much further than 1977, namely, to slavery and the anti-colonial movements in the Caribbean, Africa and the Indian subcontinent), it is clear from the aims outlined in the statement that many Black feminist ideas have influenced contemporary socialist/feminist thought.
  • Womanist is a term that was developed by Alice Walker in 1983 as an alternative to the word ‘feminist’. Womanism was initially a response to the alienation and racism many Black women and women of colour experienced when attempting to involve themselves in ‘mainstream’ white feminist movements. The focus of womanism is on recognising and celebrating the unique everyday experiences and cultural traditions of Black women, often relating to areas such as community, family, spirituality and activism. In her book In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens: Womanist Prose, Walker explains: “I just like to have words that describe things correctly. Now to me ‘black feminist’ does not do that. I need a word that is organic that really comes out of the culture that really expresses the spirit that we see in black women.”

Transparency 

Please see here for our latest transparency data.

What we will do: practical commitments  

According to the most recent census (2011), 13% of the UK’s population is of colour. In line with this and as part of this policy, The F-Word commits to:

  • making sure that at least 13% of its articles are about women of colour and their work 
  • making sure that at least 13% of feature images that include people include people of colour and
  • making sure we use terminology that is specific, rather than euphemistic. So, if an article relates to Black women specifically, we will use this term and not erase that detail with the wider term “women of colour”.

This will be monitored through an annual review (to be completed).

Additionally The F-Word will:

  • seek to feature more writers of colour
    • In making this commitment, however, The F-Word recognises that, as we cannot pay writers, those who experience discrimination – including racial discrimination – are less likely to have the time and resources to volunteer for the site.
  • always describe an individual’s ethnicity as they wish
    • Where this isn’t possible, such as if we don’t know or we are writing about a group of people, we will carefully consider the most appropriate language. 
  • actively support anti-racist liberation movements, communities, organisations, activists and initiatives
    • This is regardless of whether they are feminist-specific because we believe in fighting for the liberation of all. We will do this by writing about them and promoting them on our social media channels.
  • take our lead from women within a culture when writing about that culture
    • For example, when writing about Islam we will centre the voices of Muslim women.
  • seek to be transparent and able to be challenged at all times
    • We will ensure that The F Word readers have easy access to our internal anti-racism policy documents and will provide a contact email address.
  • update our transparency data annually
  • challenge racism even when it is uncomfortable and
  • work to ensure that the views of all members of the team are taken into account in internal decision-making processes.

Further reading

Black Lives Matter UK

Black Lives Matter Carrd – Educate yourself, including a Twitter thread on misinformation, anti-racism for beginners, 75 things you can do for racial justice and more 

10 steps to non-optical allyship, Mireille Cassandra Harper 

Data on Black people and the police in England and Wales, In Your Area 

What does Black Lives Matter look like in Scotland, Ireland and Wales?, Tomiwa Folorunso, gal-dem

Abolitionist Futures – UK-based organisation for social and transformative justice and against prisons and policing 

Why are Black women and girls still an afterthought in our outrage over police violence, Professor Brittney Cooper, TIME

#BAMEover – a statement for the UK – statement from Arts Inc making the case for alternatives to BAME

What To Do If You Witness Racist Abuse In Public – And How To Report It 

The F-Word’s suggested list of BLM reading and resources a list of resources and articles related to the current Black Lives Matter demonstrations, but also contains other useful resources, such as an anti-racism reading list and online mental health resources for Black women and non-binary people

You can read our internal anti-racism policy here.

If there’s something you think we should be doing, or an area we’ve not included please email Genevieve at [email protected] Genevieve will update this page and is responsible for evaluating The F-Word’s progress in this area.

Image descriptions:

  1. bell hooks speaking in March 2010. She is wearing a black top or dress and a turquoise scarf. She wears glasses and her hair is tied back. She is holding a microphone in her left hand. She is holding up her right hand as if pointing upwards. Image used with permission by Esther via Flickr.
  2. A group of people at a Windrush protest on 5 May 2018. Diane Abbott MP is in the centre of the frame speaking into a megaphone. She wears her hair short and straight and has a fringe. She is wearing a dark blue top, black cardigan and shimmery skirt. There is a  young Black woman to her left holding signs that read: “Stand up to racism: Solidarity with the Windrush Generation. Create a ‘hostile environment’ for racism.” Image used with permission by Steve Eason via Flickr.
  3. Kimberlé Crenshaw, who coined the term intersectionality, giving a speech in July 2018. She is wearing an all-black outfit, silver necklaces and her hair is in dreadlocks and piled on top of her head. She is standing in front of a group of signs in different colours. They read: “Intersectionality in Europe”, “Celebrate Differences!” and “Complexity Rules”. Image used with permission by Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung via Flickr.
  4.  A stack of books related to the intersections of race, gender and class. From top to bottom they are: The Things I Would Tell You by Sabrina Mahfouz, Women, Race & Class by Angela Davis, Women & War in the Middle East by Nadje Al-Ali & Nicola Pratt, If They Come In The Morning… Voices of Resistance edited by Angela Davis, The Essential by Nawal El Saadawi, Ain’t I A Woman by bell hooks and The Good Immigrant edited by Nikesh Shukla. Image by team member Jenny Williamson and used with permission.