Yesterday was International Women’s Day. When I was younger I didn’t really understand the importance of the day and yearly themes surrounding it, like some of the posts I saw yesterday, I felt the need to ask why don’t men have their own day too (We actually do it’s November 19th).
As I got older, I began to better understand the society I live in and the complexities surrounding gender equality. As I became more familiar with male biases, conventional structures and concepts that hid gender from the forefront, I became more interested in Feminism and its attempt to tackle hegemonic masculinity. While I was fascinated by the attempts to remove andocentric values, assumptions and “universal truths” about both women and men, I couldn’t help but notice that mainstream feminism is really a champion for white women. Even as we celebrated International Women’s Day yesterday a majority of the figure heads celebrated in mainstream media were white.
Mainstream feminism seeks to improve the position and life of women in society. But ultimately fails as they ignore and do not address issues that affect women that are not white. By failing to acknowledge the duality in identity carried by women that are not white, the entire approach fails to bring to light race-related ways in which women can be oppressed. The lack of intersectionality and inclusiveness is quite alarming and creates quite the discussion, is mainstream feminism actually white feminism? Is this the result of white privilege and do they not recognise that they are in fact marginalising these other groups of women or is it simply a case of white ignorance and if it does not affect us, its not our problem.
The struggles of white women and women of colour are not the same. However, mainstream feminism’s singular approach fails to take that into consideration and seemingly rejects any ideas of breaching women and oppression as a complex and multi-dimensional issue. How can you claim to be representative of all voices when you fail to publicly acknowledge issues as discrimination, xenophobia, Black Lives Matter, and institutional racism which affect those of the same gender as you. You as a white woman are seeking equality. While your non-white counterparts, like a black woman, are battling injustices that you will most likely never experience. To be black and female – is like starting off with both hands tied behind your back.
Another thing I noticed about mainstream feminism is the hypocrisy. In 2014, we saw the growth of people using using various platforms on social media to express the achievements and success of those that were not white, especially black people. Tired of being marginalised, across both genders a new type of social movement began. Hash tags such as #BlackGirlMagic #BlackBoyJoy #BlackExcellence etc. were born and were actively used. However, I noticed that there was some anger at tags involving black women and why they felt the need to state that they were black and not just women. White women complained that by doing this, they are not taking other women into consideration and thus pushing a group within a group aside…… sounds familiar, I know. We later saw hash tags appear such as #WhiteGirlsDoItBetter #WhiteGirlMagic. I mean, was it that being on the highest pedestal when it comes to women as a whole (economically, politically, socially) wasn’t enough or the fact that global standards of beauty that historically and still in the present day are based on you were changing ever so slightly that sparked your ire? It was as if the whole reason for the movement was lost on them. This was a response to years of feminist history being whitewashed, achievements of women of colour being pushed to the side and the prominence of white women representing mainstream feminism for their own needs.
As a result, many individuals have distanced themselves from mainstream feminism and been specific in the type of feminism in which they support and will advocate for. Feminism like any other theory or approach is an umbrella term and has so much more to it than “Women rights”. The growth of so many types of feminism – Intersectional, Black, African, Queer, Asian, Islamic and the list goes on is quite impressive and shows that everyone should have a part in making feminism as a whole seem more inclusive.
While all men can do better in understanding the struggles of women. Men of colour, we need to be better and respect the duality of our female counterparts. It is easy to point at out the flaws of mainstream feminism but we also need to question are men of colour an adequate support system for their female counterparts. Women of colour cannot freely fall back on race when they are not included in mainstream feminist movements because largely men of colour purposely choose to ignore their problems or even add more problems to their plate. Do not ignore their plight because when your screaming black lives matter, they’re screaming with you too. When you scream say no to islamphobia, we hear their echo. When you say no to walls and immigration biases, they are right there, sharing the same sentiments.
Why did I decide to write this post? Although I have always noticed these slights against women of colour and spoken against mainstream feminism, an incident on the bus inspired this. A black woman was reading multiple stories to her daughter, I noticed that all the books had images of a various young black girls. I was not the only curious person on the bus, another black woman asked her about them and their obvious race and gendered theme, her response was “in a society like this, its the best thing for her”. I realised she was attempting to install not only a female but pro-black rhetoric into her daughter. I remembered my aunt, who always went to great lengths to ensure that my female cousins were proud of their natural selves. That beauty and strength was universal – from their background and history to their skin and their hair. I remember my aunt always used to tell them, being a women does not not necessarily mean all women will stick up for you or even acknowledge your plight, but at least if you have the knowledge of your blackness, culture and history, you can stick up for yourself.