To Be Female and Black in a Country Founded upon Violence and Respectability
A pressing call to an accessible, nonconformist feminism for Black women
Beginning with their forced introduction to American soil, Black women have relied on maverick-like characteristics to survive. And yet, these liberating characteristics have been repeatedly disparaged by the masses in favor of an elitist politics of respectability. In Maverick Feminist: To Be Female and Black in a Country Founded upon Violence and Respectability, scholar Kemeshia Randle Swanson examines the extent to which the politics of respectability diminish joy and increase sorrow throughout the lifespan of Black women. By rejecting this damaging standard in society, Black women can wholly and attentively assist in the obliteration of racist, sexist, classist, and ableist oppression. But first, they must work towards becoming self-identified, self-actualized, and self-sexualized.
Bridging the gap between women in both the streets and the academy, Maverick Feminist expands the traditional understandings of activism and enlarges discussions about Black female sexuality. Swanson emphasizes sexuality’s significance to the literary and sociopolitical success of Black women of the past and in this contemporary climate. Through close readings and critical analyses of fiction, nonfiction, and popular culture, Swanson argues that #blackgirlmagic and racial progression require rejecting respectability politics and developing an intimate appreciation of self. Maverick Feminist examines texts by and about bold Black women, including Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, Sister Souljah’s The Coldest Winter Ever, Brittney Cooper’s Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower, Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, Sapphire’s PUSH, Roxane Gay’s Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body, Terry McMillan’s Getting to Happy, and Michelle Obama’s Becoming.
Maverick Feminist offers hope concerning the growing divide between scholars and the communities about which they theorize. The book celebrates centuries of agency and control that Black women have mustered and maintained in a world that seems to want nothing more than to see them prone and powerless. Ultimately, maverick feminism provides a freer means of living out, evaluating, understanding, and improving the lives of Black women.
"In a style that echoes the fearlessness of maverick feminism, Swanson takes a unique approach to theorizing and analyzing historical, nonfictional, and fictional texts from visionaries like Audre Lorde, Toni Morrison, and Zora Neale Hurston."- Aneeka Henderson, associate professor of American studies at Amherst College