Last year I went to the Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC) in San Diego, California. While I was there I found out that you can’t fight against just sexism or just racism; if you fight against one system of oppression, you fight against them all.
Throughout the history of feminism, feminists have typically been white middle class women fighting for women’s rights, but have excluded the rights of brown, LGBT, and low-income women. This was the case because many white women felt that their oppression was superior to that of others.
One of the most memorable quotes, in my opinion, was when Susan B. Anthony said, “I will cut off this right arm of mine before I will ever work for or demand the ballot for the Negro and not the woman.” This highlights the fact that although this was an accomplishment for the black community, she felt that women were more deserving of the right to vote. This also suggests that she was specifically fighting for the equality among white men and white women.
Feminism is supposed to be more inclusive than that.
Another example of the divide between white and brown women is Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party. This piece is supposed to be a representation of all of the accomplished women in history’s past, but in the piece there were only two women of color present. Does this mean that the only important people in women’s history were white? It surely seems so.
I cannot become too angered with these examples of our history, but I would certainly expect more in the 21th century.
The first feminism conference I ever went to was in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of Barnard College.
Present, were a series of about 15 speakers and only a few were black. Also looking into the audience there were only a handful of black people, including myself. How could we say we have come so far in the feminist movement and if not all kinds of women are a part of the feminist movement?
As a young feminist, it is hard to feel as though I am an essential part of the feminist movement when I am underrepresented.
We are divided not only racially but also by age. The people present at the Barnard Conference were White and Latino and in their 30’s or older. With the SPARK conference, however, my classmate told me that there was only a handful of white people present and the majority of the people were 25 and under. Why is there such a divide between race and age?
Despite what people may think, Occupy Wall Street is beneficial towards the feminist movement. It is a fight for economic equality and women receive a lower income so the the ones in the middle and low-income classes. Like the feminist movement, Occupy Wall Street is divided.
There are little to no brown people present at Occupy Wall Street, but are instead found in a movement called Occupy the Hood. So when brown people want to make a difference, they have to be a part of Occupy the Hood instead of being included in Occupy Wall Street.
There is also inequality in age. When a teenager wants to make a difference they must be a part of Occupy High School. This is the same idea as first, second, and third wave feminism, when there is too much of a divide to make any real progress. Pretty soon people will be saying, “Occupy Wall Street is still going on? Why don’t they give it up already?” Just like when people say, “Feminism is done, right?” and “There are bigger problems in the world.”
I have been speaking of “feminism” this whole time, but what does it really mean?
If we are just fighting for women, then we exclude men who are oppressed. Is feminism inclusive of all people oppressed, or is it inclusive of all women oppressed? Does feminism mean fighting for equality between black women and black men? Or does it mean fighting for equality between black women and white men and then completely disregarding the inequality between black and white men?…I believe it would be more practical to fight for egalitarianism. If feminism is exclusive towards men, than I believe “feminism” is hypocritical.
“Feminism,” since the beginning, has been divided by various identifications. This is because, naturally, as people, we think the only way to win is if everyone else loses. We must change this mindset and feel that an accomplishment for one person, even if it doesn’t benefit you directly, is an accomplishment for all.