It’s been a month since the Women’s March, an event that made history. It was the largest march ever organized for the advancement of women, and the messages that were sent did not go unheard. In photographs, pink “pussy hats” and signs that embrace the female body go as far as the eye can see. The march was a bold clapback to Trump’s disrespectful comments about women and sent him a strong message: “You cannot control us.”
However, it was saddening and unfortunate to see the scarcity of women of color at the march. The whole event was tremendously white washed and exclusionary, a perfect example of white feminism. To me, white feminism is the consistent dismissal of women of color that are supposed to be included, a problem that isn’t new.
Since the mid 1800s when some of the first women’s suffrage movements began, Black females were largely excluded from conversations about equal rights. This is partially because white women benefitted from the Jim Crow laws that were enforced at the time to oppress Black people. According to an article published in Bustle, “White women leading equality campaigns in Washington, DC blatantly requested that Black suffragists walk at the back of their parades. As a result, some Black women chose not to march at all, refusing to participate in yet another form of segregation.” A century later, we are still dealing with the effects of racism and oppression within the fight for true equality.
Using the term “gender equality” in feminism can be dangerous. By using this broad, general phrase, we create this ideology that all men have opportunities available to them, and that all women share one common ‘oppression.’ However, ‘oppression’ is subjective, so there are many different levels of oppression even among women. Personally, I wouldn’t want to achieve gender equality to a Black man because I recognize that their position in society isn’t much better in comparison to mine. Socioeconomic and racial status are all factors in the amount of choices women have. When upper-middle class white women led their suffrage movements to be granted “equal rights,” they completely ignored the Black women working as their nannies and maids. Even today, Black women continue to be exploited and forgotten. The work of a Black woman is worth 65 cents to the dollar a white man makes, while white women are paid 82 cents to a man’s dollar. These are just a few of many barriers we face in our battle to true equality.
There is a lack of support from white women in causes that affect women of color such as the Black Lives Matter Movement, the continuing fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline which affects many Standing Rock Sioux women, the separation of Mexican women from their children through the process of deportation, or the religious persecution of Muslim women in America. White women shouldn’t ignore social injustice until it affects them because we can never be truly equal until the playing field is leveled for all people. Am I not as important? Is my unique suffering not as “relevant” in feminism? Yes, I am a woman. But I am also Black.
It is quite frustrating to see people parading around calling themselves “woke” or “activists” when all they do is go to one march for instant self gratification, and afterwards remain afraid to confront the harsh reality: Women of color are suffering from oppression that all white women benefit from, also known as white privilege. These white feminists don’t speak up against bigotry in their workplace or at school, and they don’t recognize that their white privilege affects almost every racial minority around them.
Privilege is an advantage granted to a particular group of people and not others. Privilege is something that all people should have because they aren’t even privileges, they are basic human rights.
Some people have said race shouldn’t have been a part of the women’s march, but these people are part of the problem. They need to stop telling people of color how they should feel. A lot of women feel excluded by white feminists even if white feminists are “trying to help.” Not only did the Women’s March exclude women of color, but due to the abundance of “pussy power” signs it was also exclusionary to transgender women who may not have female genitalia. If you are offended by being called out and grouped with all white people in the discussion about systematic exclusion of minorities, then you need to re-evaluate yourself. Many white people aren’t used to being grouped the way minorities are, but it’s time that white people start taking responsibility for each other, especially since they all benefit from oppression of minorities.
If you are really interested in hearing what people of color have to say, come to Common Ground meetings on Fridays during STEP. You will better understand why we are so frustrated by not only the march and you can help us find tangible solutions to our racial issues within the Wilson community, the DC community, and our larger, global community.
Wilson is very diverse, and we have many intersectional feminists that actually defend the rights of all people, not just themselves. This is the way feminism should be, and moving forward, feminists should aim to include women of color, transgender women, indigenous women, immigrant women, and disabled women. This article is not an attack on white women, rather it is a cry for the help and support that we lack but so desperately need. •