Feminism is Just White Feminism

Opinion Unflitered

Happy Women’s History Month! Well, by the time you are reading this, Women’s History Month is probably over, but I’m writing this during Women’s History Month, so I think it still counts. I was raised a feminist; both of my parents are feminists who don’t belive in the confines of gender and gender roles. So of course I am (or was) a feminist or am a feminist. I don’t really know anymore. My first interaction with the feminist movement was when I read “We Should All Be Feminists” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I loved it because we should all be feminists, and in an idealistic world we would all be feminists. However, the world isn’t a utopia and America isn’t a shining crown jewel. 

In this world, feminism is white feminism, and if you are darker than a paper bag, you don’t deserve a seat at the table. For those of you who don’t know what white feminism is, in lay terms it is feminism sans the intersectionality. White feminism ignores all of the stuggles of non-white cisgendered straight women. You don’t have to be white to be a white feminist nor are all white people white feminists.

 One of my friends sent me a clip from one of comedian Hoodo Hersi’s stand up routines. She was talking about why she wasn’t a feminist. She explained it like this: Being a minority is like having to climb a mountain, and she climbed the “Black” mountain and then she climbed the “Muslim” mountain, then she looks up at the “woman” mountain, and at the very top of the mountain she just sees white women skiing. 

I see it kind of differently. I want to climb the woman mountain, and there is a ski lift to get to the top, but after hours of waiting I notice that only white women are allowed on the lift. I came prepared with the skis, helmet, goggles, ticket, all of it but they still won’t let me up. Then I look up, and they’re having an apres ski party and shouting “girls support girls.”

I’ve always taken issue with the term “girls support girls” because I feel like there is always a “but” after it. Girls support girls but only if you’re white. Girls support girls but only if you’re thin. Girls support girls but only if you act, talk, look and think like me. To me, feminism looks like an elite club that only some women are eligible to enter. And of course, Black women’s issues are not feminist issues, because most feminist groups are run by white feminists, and to them, the issues of Black women aren’t women’s issues, they are Black issues. If we truly want to achieve gender equality, if we want all women to feel empowered and confident in their own skin, shouldn’t we empower all women? Shouldn’t we fight for all women? 

And I’m not just talking about an occasional Instagram post or going to a protest. I’m talking about respect. We don’t have to love everyone or even like everyone but it is our job to treat everyone with respect. I don’t believe in the term “respect is earned.” I believe that everyone deserves respect until proven otherwise. Respect means not treating someone like they are below you. Respect means that you are not interrupting, ignoring, or insulting other women for no reason.

I am not going to waste my time waiting for my turn at the bottom of the ski lift, nor am I going to claw up the mountain myself. I want to go up the mountain, but I know once I get up there, I’ll be met with the “you’re not supposed to be here” glances and all of my problems will be ignored. I don’t blame white feminists for being white feminists; they just aren’t exposed to issues of other marginalized groups, which is why representation and diversity are so important. 

If we really want to change things, we are going to have to start listening to women, all women, and start treating all women with the respect they deserve. After years of being denied from white feminists groups, intersectional feminists are standing up for themselves. They even created their own inclusive movement called womanism. Hopefully womanism will be more inclusive than the prequel, and all women can respect and learn from one another to create a more welcoming world.