Culture August 4, 2017
Oh, does that term make you uncomfortable?
Feminism is an ever-growing force against the tide of oppression of women globally. However, it is an unfortunate reality that women of color often find themselves shut out of the conversations regarding equality. White women pervade the arenas of conversation regarding workplace treatment and economic oppression.
But some of the same women who would call themselves feminists advocate against policies like Affirmative Action. Which they incorrectly perceive to be benefiting people of color. (When the truth is, it’s a policy from which white women benefit the most.)
The prevalence of these inaccuracies and the racial obscurity of the movement is tied in historical racial entitlements. White women are worried about being equal to white men, following their example of advocating for themselves and silencing others. It can be an unconscious lack of consideration for Women of Color or a blatant attempt. So we made a list to help you avoid the pitfalls of white feminism.
When you’re in a position of privilege, you’re in a position of power. And the systems by which our society is operated is inundated with policies that allowed you to gain and maintain said p and p. So it stands to reason that when these policies are challenged, you may feel that your existence is threatened. Be aware that the sought after change in policy is equity. No one is seeking to put you at a disadvantage. We just don’t want to be at a disadvantage either.
AND, LGBTQIA+ women, WoC and LGBTQIA+ WoC get to feel uncomfortable ALL the time. So like, idk, get over it. Learning new things is hard, you’re going to make mistakes. Be vigilant though. You’re responsible for your own behavior.
Often the problem is that non-minority individuals feel the need to “advocate” for PoC. Because they “don’t have spaces to speak.” If you are interested in being an ally to WoC in the feminist movement, shut the hell up and listen to what they have to say. You are not equipped to determine what their needs are.
Or what should be said on their behalf. If you have a platform you’re interested in using for allyship – all you need to do step down from it, give your PoC counterpart a boost up and pay attention. Make the space for us to speak if you’re able. But don’t speak for us. We’re not mute.
After years of being silenced and belittled by an unwelcoming white feminist movement, a great deal of WoC are alienated. They remove themselves from the ranks of the feminist movement at large, because it only seeks to benefit the majority and not minorities.
This separation weakens the movement by making it smaller. The more voices that we add to the ranks demanding equity in our societies, the stronger we are. But until WoC feel like they’re being heard, that’s unlikely to happen.
Obviously, gender and sexuality within the feminist movement are also points of contention. The members of minorities within those communities are silenced often as well. And members of the intersecting communities often feel like afterthoughts in the footnotes of women’s rights.
Transgender Women of Color experience some of the most extensive and tolerated histories of violence within their community. Trans Women deserve space within the feminist movement. It’s not just about economic equity, it’s about life and death.
This is extremely, extremely important. (No your one Asian friend, or your one Black friend aren’t enough. You should strive to have the most diverse circle possible.) Who we are and the views we hold are reflected in the company we keep. If you have no (LGBTQIA+) WoC in your circle of friends, it’s a problem. And us just “not being around” isn’t an excuse. It’s like films that have no PoC characters and claim they just “weren’t around” — flat out wrong. And saying you “can’t identify” with us is even worse.
As a Bisexual cis-WoC, I can say that I have friends of many races, sexualities and socio-economic statuses. I extend myself outside of my confront zone on a continual basis and make friends with all kinds of people. I cannot afford to separate myself from the community at large.
But when you’re able to resign yourself to an insular community of like individuals, you’re doing yourself an ideological disservice. You can read all the books about intersectional feminism you want, but if you can’t attach those words to people, lives, you’re going to lack emotional investment in change.
If you’re not meeting any (LGBTQIA+) WoC at your country club or your after work Thirsty Thursday, sorry to break it to you, but you need to put in some leg work. And to your benefit, there are a plethora of organizations working toward our advancement. So get up and go.
DO NOT get up and go to a meeting of a group of (LGBTQIA+) WoC and expect them to teach you everything you’ve missed on last week’s episode of Intersectional Feminism. You are going to go there to widen your friendship circle, open your mind and shut up and listen. You’re not there for a history lesson. But rather to gain insight into the experiences of those living lives outside of your own.
DO go get yourself some books to read. Learning about policy and history is an important component of intersectional feminism. So go on Amazon, or a library, and pick up some titles with which to educate yourself on race and gender. But after you’ve read them, remember life’s subjectivity. You’re not an expert on the black experience in America.
“Ain’t I A Woman: Black Women and Feminism” by Bell Hooks
“Negroland” by Margo Jefferson
“Stone Butch Blues” by Leslie Feinberg
“This Bridge Called My Back” by Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa
“Dragon Ladies: Asian American Feminists Breathe Fire” by Sonia Shah
“Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love and So Much More” by Janet Mock
But don’t stop after these. There’s a pantheon of wonderful books on feminism from different perspectives. Read as many as you can!
Often, among white feminists there’s an atmosphere of “you shouldn’t expect me to” when it comes to being aware. But consider this: (LGBTQIA+) WoC have no choice but to be. It is life and death and everything in between. We grow up being expected to identify with heteronormative non-minorities in our books, television and movies. Injustice and inequality pervade and perpetuate our very existence. Why are we expected to tolerate this?
And consider this as well: Progress is impeded by division. Together we are strong. But we cannot stand together if there is no room for us on the stage, and no time for us at the podium. #ReclaimingMyTime
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