RACISM AND SEXISM : THE SAME ROOT

(Carol Anne Douglas - november 1979)

 

I would use " racism " as almost synonymous with " white supremacy ", the belief that whites are superior to other races and the innumerable institutions enforcing white domination, or the attitudes and actions that foster white supremacy. By " sexism ", I mean the attitudes and actions that foster " male supremacy ".

I think (who knows for sure) that racism and sexim come from the same root hatred of those different from oneself, willingness to see them as less than human and desire to enslave and use them. I am a slightly dogmatic radical feminist who believes that the oppression of women is what might be called " the primary oppression or contradiction ", but that does not mean that i think women necessarily suffer more from their oppression as women than Blacks from their oppression as Blacks or workers from their oppression as workers.
This is not a question of who is hurting most, but a theoretical question, a question about the origin of oppression and how the oppressions are connected. (It is not only marxists who can talk about " connections ").

I do think that the oppression of women was the first oppression, the means by which human beings learned to oppress one another. First, men learned that they could control the women who were their mates and relatives. They learned that it was useful to be able to own somebody else’s body and their work. They told themselves that women’s different bodies were inferior to their own. Later, they saw other people, who in some cases also were physically different. The men, from their experience with the women, figured that they could enslave these other men and women too, use their bodies sexually and for their labor. Other groups of men seemed frightening because they might take the oppressors own women, their nearest and dearest slaves. The possibility that women might reclaim their own bodies, their own lives, was too remote, the dominant men believed. Their sexism became racist and their racism became sexist.

To me, the psychological foundation and bolster of oppression is the use of power in even the most intimate aspects of life. (...) If you can oppress even those who you claim to love the most, you can oppress anyone.
Since sexism and racism have been interconnected historically, a thorough, effective opposition to sexism, that strikes sexism at its roots, also will be antiracist, striking at the roots of racism, and a thorough, effective anti-racism ultimately will be anti-sexist. Possession of other people, defining other people as biologically inferior, must be opposed by opponents of both sexism and racism. (...)