Privilege, Intersectionality, Feminism, & Beyoncé
Seems simple enough right? Well you would think so. However when subjects like feminism get brought up people's minds immediately go to the most extreme examples they can possibly think of. So here are some things that feminism is not:
- Women who hate men.
- Women who burn their bras ( a total myth) and never shave their legs (not that there's anything wrong with body hair!)
- Women who do anything and everything in their power to eliminate men and oppress them.
- Comparable in any way to Nazism.
The ideologies and movements behind feminism is that it is supposed to benefit EVERYONE. Feminism benefits men because it calls for the societal restrictions that shape the ways we think about gender roles, sexual norms and sexist practices to be changed. When women and men are given equal opportunities across all domains, society as a whole is strengthened. People are free to be who they are as individuals, not how society deems they should be because of what's between their legs.
One of the ways traditional feminism has been shortsighted is that it has left out women who aren't white, wealthy/middle-class, heteronormative, and able-bodied. This is also sometimes referred to as "white feminism". This is feminism that privileges whiteness, while ignoring the ways that an individual can face multiple forms of discrimination based on their different, interlocking identities. Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term "intersectionality" in her 1989 essay, “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color”.
For example as a black woman my experience is shaped by both of these identities. I experience sexism differently than white women because of my race, and I experience racism differently than black men because I am a woman.
Although I will never benefit from white privilege, I still hold a lot of privilege. I am cis-gender, heterosexual, able-bodied, attractive, thin, educated, and come from an upper-middle class background. I do not have to worry about facing discrimination based on who I choose to one day marry, or my socioeconomic background, and my reproductive choices are not limited because I am not physically/developmentally disabled. I'm occasionally cat-called when walking down the street, but it's not at the level of threat that trans women of color face. They not only suffer high levels of discrimination, but also the highest threat of violence within the LGBTQ community.
The focus of the wage gap discussion is often how much White women earn which is 78% of what White, Non-Hispanic men earn. However Black women made 64% of what White, Non-Hispanic men earned in 2013, Native-American women earned 59% of that and Hispanic women 54%. That doesn't even take into account disabled women, who not only earn less but also face lower employment rates.
In the discussion of reproductive freedom the conversation is usually reduced to simply focusing on abortion. This ignores how in an historic context, motherhood for women of color can be a revolutionary act of resistance, especially when considering how the eugenics movement forcibly sterilized thousands of black and brown women, and policy makers still punish women of color for choosing to become mothers.
Issues like police brutality, and how pop "feminist" figures are often transphobic, racist and appropriate other people's culture are swept under the rug.
This article is not intended to place blame on anyone, or demonize white women or white people. We all have to be aware of the privilege we hold. As I stated above I am constantly checking my own privilege and because I know that in many ways I'm closer to what society deems as "normal" I can use that position to support people who aren't. Supporting people who do not hold the same privileges that you do means first LISTENING to what they have to say about their experiences, and then using your position of privilege to make sure their stories and concerns are better able to be expressed and heard.
I am no means an expert. Though I was fortunate enough to be able to take classes in areas of social inequality and justice, it is mostly through taking my education outside of the classroom that I am able to deepen my understanding of these different issues. There are so many resources available to begin educating yourself. Here are some that I have found helpful and some that I plan to read in the future!
- Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty by Dorothy Roberts
- Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More by Janet Mock
- The Combahee River Collective: A Black Feminist Statement
- We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics by bell hooks
- Ain't I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism by bell hooks
- Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lourde
- Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay
- Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America by Melissa Harris-Perry
- Women, Race & Class by Angela Y. Davis
Thank you so much for visiting and please leave any comments if you feel I've left anything out, or you would like to start a dialogue. As always you can connect with me by clicking any of my social media links at the bottom of the page!
Thank you so much for visiting!