The feminist movement has long been criticized for its exclusion of women of color. Based on history, America’s feminist movement was not a movement that included women of color due to slavery and segregation. The feminist movement has been one that focused on healthcare and reproductive rights, the right to vote, sexual harassment, and other pertinent issues. What separates white feminism from black female feminism, is the battle against structural and institutionalized racism.
We are living in a very serious political time, where women are coming together and realizing that old ways of protecting women’s rights must be inclusive of all women of all nationalities which means taking on the plight and struggles of women of color.
We are seeing stories break on shows and websites like Access Hollywood about prominent figures like our President caught on tape from a studio bus, saying that he, “grabs them by the pussy,” and that he just kisses (female) celebs without asking.
“I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there, and she was married. Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony tits and everything.” (It’s not clear who Trump was talking about.) (NBC NEWS Trump on Hot Mic: ‘When You’re a Star … You Can Do Anything’ to Women Oct 2016)
“I’m automatically attracted to beautiful [women]—I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything … Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.” (NBC NEWS Trump on Hot Mic: ‘When You’re a Star … You Can Do Anything’ to Women Oct 2016)
Trump and Bush remark on the attractiveness of Days of Our Lives actress Arianne Zucker while she’s waiting outside the bus. When they exit the bus, Bush asks Zucker to give both of them hugs.
These alarming comments, not only led to Billy Bush being fired from the TODAY show but they have brought Trump under fire from all feminists’ groups in such a way that we have not seen in the past.
These comments along with the recent shootings of black people by police, as well as the hand slap judgement that has convicted rapist Brock Turner now free, has led to women realizing we must get over our past divide and come together to bring change to the women’s movement to make it even stronger than it was before. Racism must be addressed in order for the women’s movement to thrive with an inclusive membership.
When asked why feminism needs to prioritize the unique issues facing women of color, Terri Kempton, co-founder of White Nonsense Roundup stated, “For far too long, feminism in America has meant white feminism, and the ways in which white women fight and benefit from cultural changes while leaving sisters of Color behind. But misogyny affects different women differently, and in combination with other forms of oppression like racism. As white folks, we need to take a back seat and listen to women of Color to support them in justice and liberation. Our feminism must be intersectional or it is nothing.” She continued with an action plan, “Listen. Believe women when they tell you about the challenges they face. Apologize when you’re called out. And practice expanding your world view to honor people with experiences you’ll never have.”
We saw many women of all colors coming together for the global Women’s March which drew over five million people worldwide. As Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said at the TEDxEuston 2013, “We should all be feminists.” The march drew men and women from around the world. Post march, it left many with questions on if the movement launched by pink uterus hats, really did embrace all women. Some said no, and that there is still a lot of work to be done on inclusivity. Among some attendees, there was even the critique that pink knitted “pussy hats” that became part of the march’s unofficial uniform represented a color palette associated primarily with white women’s anatomy. Doubts about inclusive feminism have little to do with the Women’s March. They’re rooted in history.
Some women held signs that read, “Woman is the ni**er of the world.” This had some questioning what role race played at the Women’s March. While trying to stand up for women’s rights, we saw a blatant disregard for black female rights. Attitudes such as this make it clear that we must prioritize racial injustices against women of color.
The official policy platform for the Women’s March — titled “Guiding Vision and Defining Principles” — was released the week before the march. Progressive feminists of diverse backgrounds were happy to see that it made efforts to be inclusive of all racial groups, economic classes, and gender identities. The policy emphasized that sexism can be harmful to women of color especially and named black, Latina, and Native American leaders, whom the event would honor.
Angela Davis can be heard telling the crowd during the march on Vox Women’s March Live Stream 2017, “Inclusive and intersectional feminism … calls upon all of us to join the resistance to racism, to Islamophobia, to anti-Semitism, to misogyny, to capitalist exploitation.” She listed “resistance to the attacks on Muslims and on immigrants, disabled people,” “state violence perpetrated by the police and through the prison industrial complex,” and “institutional and intimate gender violence, especially against trans women of color,” among her priorities for action.
An image of activist Angela Peoples holding a sign that read, “Don’t forget, white women voted for Trump,” has become one of the iconic images of the event in some circles. It has been noted that white women were the leading group who voted for Trump. According to the NY Times, “Ninety-four percent of black women voted for Hillary Clinton. Sixty-eight percent of Latina women did so. But 53 percent of the white female voters in this country voted for Donald Trump.” This and similar signs sparked needed dialogue on how we can come together from all backgrounds and races to lead in the new “resistance” to the threats to women’s health, the pay gap, sexism and racism that is permeating our society. As long as we can have open and honest discussions about racism, classism, and sexism, we are off to a good start.
In a 1981 article, “The Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism,” Audre Lorde said, “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.”
Starting a discussion is the first step to healing. Let’s discuss feminism. Let’s redefine it, and come together for one common cause.