Feminism embraces difference
March 13, 2018
Feminism is changing. Passing by are the days that white women decide what rights are important for a whole movement. The rights of African Americans, the working class, and transgender people were sidelined, but the mainstream movement is trying to change now.
From its creation in 1848, the women’s rights movement primarily focused on issues as they pertain to white women.
Feminism traditionally aligned itself with a patriarchal view as it advocated for women’s rights, and it fought only for rights that benefited the middle to upper class, heterosexual women.
Issues were framed by racism and classism, such as when educated women wanted to work outside the home but the only jobs available were unskilled and low paying.
The feminist movement fought for higher skilled jobs, ignoring the bad work conditions and low pay the other classes received.
In contrast, African American women, many of whom had to work from the home, were blamed for social ills that supposedly grew when women were not there to be the moral base of the household.
Ignoring other forms of oppressions women face created a polarizing movement that did not advocate for the equality of all.
This white women feminism has been controlling what gets done. Even renowned feminist Betty Friedan presented anti-gay themes through one of her books and in her leadership of the feminist movement in the 1970s.
During that time, there were women of color who were critical of the movement’s ignorance/unwillingness to fight for all women. The Combahee River Collective comprised of veteran Black Panther (and other anti-racism organizations) members lead the growth of intersectional feminism. They stated that no one form of oppression is more important or difficult than another.
Meanwhile, white privilege is something more and more feminists are trying to reflect on. Instead of saying “I am not racist,” women are thinking about what privileges they receive due to their background. This is identifying nurtured racism, which society enforces in people.
White women cannot speak for women of color’s struggles but can stand together in solidarity, as intersectional feminism teaches today.
However, the movement for gender equality is publicly growing to include the struggles of other oppressed groups.
The Women’s March is lead by women of color. Signs for the Women’s March protest the ways in which this presidential administration deals with immigration.
Overall, the issues feminists are concerned about are opening to realize the different ways in which women are oppressed, and how they all combine to produce injustice.