Unpacking the Impostor in Feminist Community Activism: A Memorial of a Detroit Snob

Individuals possessing minority status(es) often struggle with the issue of authenticity, asking, Am I good enough? Am I an expert? Am I a fraud? Here, we explore how this process of minimizing one’s contribution to social change is manifest in what we refer to as the feminist impostor phenomenon. This project began as a bio-ethnographic sketch of the authors’ feminist mentor, stalwart feminist activist and self-proclaimed “Detroit Snob,” seeking to detail the triumphs and pitfalls of frontline feminism in Detroit, Michigan in the 1960s and 1970s. We adopted a narrative-reflexive analytic framework and conducted a series of narrative interviews in July 2014. Our initial goal was to draw on these interviews in order to explore the complex social constructions of community, focusing specifically on the relationship between being both a Detroit activist and a feminist activist. However, in the process of analyzing the qualitatively coded data and member checking our findings, we identified two additional insights, thus expanding our original inquiry. In addition to interrogating the complexity of frontline feminism in Detroit, we explicate the concept of feminist impostor phenomenon and further problematize the issues embedded within the telling of narrative lives.

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