Feminist TIG Week: Nicole Clark on Reflective Ways for Evaluators to Raise the Voices of Women and Girls of Color in Feminist Evaluation

Hello! I’m Nicole Clark, a licensed social worker and independent evaluator, specializing in working with nonprofits and city agencies to design, implement, and evaluate programs and services specifically for women and girls of color.

Women and girls of color face many intersectional issues connected to race and gender. When it comes to mainstream feminism, all too often the voices of Black, Latina, Asian/Pacific Islander, and Native/Indigenous women are not always heard compared to their white counterparts.

Hot Tip: Avoid the “white feminist savior” complex. Feminist blogger Anne Thériault, wrote “The White Feminist Savior Complex. In the post, Thériault reacts to Teju Cole’s essay, The White Savior Industrial Complex, in which she began to understand that, in order to raise the voices of communities of color, people of color have to be the decision makers in how the issues they care about are addressed. Thériault shares, “…[T]he best and most important work that we can do is to listen to marginalized people, give them a platform from which they can reach a wider audience, and use our platforms to help amplify their voices. This is the real work that we should be doing. Anything else — any other way of ‘freeing’ women of color — is at best condescending…”

Lesson Learned: Recognize the ways in which you hold privilege. As a person of color, I am intentional in choosing which evaluation projects to work on because I am invested in all communities of color, especially women and girls of color. But I also have to recognize the ways in which I hold privilege. This is especially important when conducting evaluation work overseas. When we don’t recognize our privilege, it can affect our perception in ways that are hurtful to other can hurt the communities were are trying to help.

Rad Resource: Check out this poetry slam performance called “Feminism” from the 2014 Brave New Voices Festival, the nation’s first youth-centric poetry slam, and the most diverse spoken word event in the world. The performance features young poets as they tackle the topic of mainstream feminism, and highlights how race should not prevent women and girls of color from being a visible part of the movement for gender equality. While there is a long way to go towards fully realizing gender equality, the young women say in unison, “Feminism isn’t just for white women any more, and it never was. Even when we disagree, we are burning the table, [and] building a new one. No one is invited because everyone is already here.”

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Feminist Issues in Evaluation (FIE) TIG Week with our colleagues in the FIE Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our FIE TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

1 thought on “Feminist TIG Week: Nicole Clark on Reflective Ways for Evaluators to Raise the Voices of Women and Girls of Color in Feminist Evaluation”

  1. Good Evening Ms. Clark, 

    I hope this message finds you well. I was directed to your article through my studies in the Professional Masters in Education program at Queen’s University, and I wanted to share my thoughts with you. 

    As a student and Aboriginal woman in education, I have held a special interest in the gender disparity in academic achievement, as well as barriers to education for minority groups. I think your article has contributed to a global conversation on women’s place in education, navigating gender barriers and prejudice. As well, I agree with you that intersectional issues are part of this dialogue. For example, we must acknowledge that the Black woman’s experience is different from the Aboriginal woman’s experience. For women to find their voice, we need women to stand up for other women, and we need men to be allies in creating positive change. 

    One of the issues of inequity is the paternalistic attitude of our educational institutions. This means behaving with the intention to give people what they need, but not giving them the freedom of choice. I think that listening to marginalized people, giving them their voice, requires creating (safe) space for the minority group’s self-determination. I think our school systems can do a better job seeking out minority educators and leaders. Regarding Aboriginal teacher staffing in particular, I am aware that there is a lack of educators who can competently teach Indigenous topics. 

    Questions for you: do you think that our teacher education programs are producing leaders who are culturally competent and who can tackle these social issues in their classrooms? What can organizations do to create safe spaces? 

    Thank you for considering my thoughts, and any feedback is much appreciated

    All the best,

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