[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he word feminism has a dirty connotation; with ‘man-hating’, with ‘female supremacy’, with ‘oppressing’ (as if you could) the male population of our world. But more often than not, feminism does not have the connotation of being inclusive, or intersectional. The feminism that is present in the modern world, particularly in the world everyone sees now, the white upper or middle class of first world countries, is “white feminism.”
White feminism found its roots in the early days of the feminist movement; in the 70’s. As women were fighting for the right to vote, white women were still degrading and downgrading the plight of women of colour in their personal fight. Throughout history the world has seen waves of feminism which has lead to an increase in many forms of equality and equity for women, however, POC, particularly WOC, have long been pushed to the side to accommodate for the predominantly white plight for equality.
In the contemporary world, we see this in all media we ingest, as white women are being heralded as feminists, while they continue to appropriate and disintegrate the WOC fighting for equality. We see this in the “feminists” which are paraded in Hollywood and featured in all media; Lena Dunham, Taylor Swift, Chloe Grace Moretz; the list goes on and on. These are “feminists” who speak about issues facing women only in their own narrow view. While this is an achievement that should be appreciated, any woman having the freedom to speak out is an achievement of feminism, but the way white feminists speak only about themselves as if that were the circumstances of all, is extremely damaging to those who do not have the same privilege.
These “feminists” do not receive constructive criticism well, particularly shutting down WOC if they call them out on not being inclusive of their narrative.
While it is not their responsibility to speak about things they can’t, it is their job as privileged women in a place of power within the world to give a voice to the voiceless. To use their platform as a way to express the plight of all women, particularly WOC who do not have the opportunity to speak to the world in their current situation. Even WOC who have the increased privilege of being famous and in the spotlight, able to speak to a plethora of adoring followers; still get downtrodden by white feminists who disregard their claims, and make the situation about themselves.
This was evident in the Twitter fight that occurred between Nicki Minaj and Taylor Swift in 2015 when Minaj called out the MTV Music Awards for not nominating ‘Anaconda’ for Best Video. She was calling out the misogyny that is focussed on women, particularly WOC, in the music industry who are deemed “ghetto” or “inappropriate”, while the same behaviour in white women is celebrated, or accepted. Taylor Swift took this as a personal attack and used her voice to silence the claims of Minaj by making it about herself and painting Minaj as “pitting women against each other.” While this is not the only instance of a white woman jumping to conclusions and speaking over the top of WOC, it is one that contains two women within the spotlight and showcases how detrimental it can be.
The thing about famous white women speaking over WOC, means that instead of using their platform and their audience to make the world more accepting and understanding about the varying forms of inequality and sexism faced by women of different races, sexualities and genders, they instead make it about the white, straight and cis feminist plight.
Another instance is Miley Cyrus, who I will appreciate as a woman who uses her platform to support LGBTQ+ youth and does participate in using her fame to help minorities, culturally appropriated black culture and was celebrated for it and given praise for it, while black men and women are being oppressed and discriminated against for partaking in the same culture. This included, but is limited to, twerking, having dreadlocks, wearing grills, and using African American women in her videos as props.
This fascination with black culture without the love for black people is extremely detrimental and found throughout the white feminist movement. The white feminists put onto pedestal’s as representative of all feminists, often are celebrated for “trends” that have been appropriated from black culture, whereas black people are told not to have the same things as the “trendy” white people, even though it originated with them. This is another form of the immense privilege white people, white women, have over the WOC in the world, who are treated poorly just for partaking in things natural to their culture.
Painting feminism with a wide brush and saying all women face the same misogyny and sexism is increasingly troublesome, as it completely strips away the forms of sexism that affect people of different privilege levels. I’m not saying, nor will I ever say, that white women aren’t oppressed in some ways, they still are facing wage gaps and inequalities in society, but saying that their oppression is the same as WOC is very dangerous. Not only is it untrue, it also devalues the plight of WOC within the world.
POC, and indeed WOC who face the sexism and racism, (and let’s not even get into LGBTQ+ women of colour), are valid in their complaints and their protests. Intersectional feminists give voices, and they should, to the WOC who are voiceless, who do not have platforms or audiences that can hear the varying tales of inequality. Let’s stop putting white feminists on a pedestal within our society, and labelling them as the only feminists to look upon, or look up to. Because within themselves, they are partaking in their own forms of sexism and oppression.
It’s extremely difficult to live a life in a perpetual state of intersectional feminism, as each person can only speak about their own experiences, but it is the role of each woman, especially in the limelight with a platform and voice that can reach millions; to use that to highlight how each woman, particularly women of colour, experience misogyny, sexism, racism. The media, and the world, focusses on the “white feminists”, but they are not representative of all feminists, or all women, nor do they even make an effort to represent or allow for the women of colour to be heard.
Intersectional feminists are out there, in the limelight and not, fighting to be heard and to use their platforms to support all women. And they are the ones who should be on a pedestal.