Professor lectures on feminism at Snell

By Kerry Cardoza

Racism and the feminist movement was the topic of discussion at Snell Library last Wednesday, as Professor Winifred Breines spoke to students and faculty about the “uneasy” history.

Breines, a sociology and women’s studies professor, leads courses such as “Race, Class and Gender” and “Feminist Perspectives on Society.” The talk centered around her new book, “The Trouble Between Us: An Uneasy History of White and Black Women in the Feminist Movement.”

At the lecture, Breines said she was interested in writing the book because she was curious about why the feminist movement was being labeled racist, a theme she later incorporated with its title.

“The reputation of the women’s movement and of feminism is of being a racist movement in the early years,” she said.

Breines said she was curious why the “discrepancy between radical white women, many of whom had been very influenced by the civil rights movement,” existed.

This topic is important because race has been a major theme in the history of feminism, she said.

“I think it’s very important that feminism and all other social movements for social change work out issues of race, gender and class so that different kinds of people can work together,” she said.

Breines said she was interested in the work done by early feminists, which she said often goes unnoticed by many historians.

“I think [feminists] did important political work; they’re not often credited with the work that they did,” she said. “I mean the obvious things you know about in terms of struggling for legalizing abortion and equal pay for equal work and equal rights but they did do a lot of work on racial issues.”

Breines said the work done by feminists is relevant to activists today. It has leveled the playing field in a number of ways, she said.

“It’s a good case study or model or a useful, interesting one, helpful of radicals and people in social movements who want social change, trying to understand race and work out how to work together,” she said.

Women’s studies Director Debra Kaufman said many feminists think the book has the “cornerstone” of good feminist literature.

“I want to point out that in many ways Winnie Breines was in the forefront of helping us to analytically understand whiteness as a racial category,” Kaufman said. “In this sense, Professor Breines has turned the tables in our usual understanding that only blacks and people of color have race.”

Kaufman said the book addresses important issues that are pertinent to race and gender equality.

Senior sociology major Tara Doran said she thought the book’s topic is very relevant.

“We should learn from history things like this, people who have been through it before, and use their experiences to fix our own,” Doran said.

Breines is the author of several other books on similar topics, including “Takin’ it to the Streets: A Sixties Reader” and “Community and Organization in the New Left, 1962-1968: The Great Refusal.”

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