Written by guest contributor Becki Fernandez
The needs of those who are not white, cis, neurotypical, non-disabled, heterosexual, or belong to the upper-middle class are often ignored or forgotten. Mainstream feminist dialogue, for the most part, excludes how inequality and oppression is experienced differently by varying classes, races, abilities, and sexual identities, among other things. Mainstream feminism is often referred to as “white feminism.” and this is feminism that mainly focuses on the advancement of white women. That may sound racist, because it is. Criticism of this does not mean that white women do not experience inequality and oppression themselves (though they do not experience oppression because they are white, but due to other factors such as sexism or ableism); rather it indicates that the problems of women who are not white are just as important, and sometimes more urgent.
So what are some examples of mainstream feminism? Well, pretty much any Lena Dunham speech or piece of writing for one, Taylor Swift’s defensive response to Nicki Minaj’s tweets on racial injustice in the music industry, as well as the constant focus on issues that only effect white, heterosexual, cis, and non-disabled women as a whole.
Women make approximately ¾ of what men make, which is not cool. But the fact that women of color make even less than 75 percent of their male counterparts is usually left out of this important conversation until an intersectional feminist killjoy brings it up.
Mainstream feminism focuses on the importance of abortion remaining legal. For some women, however, this is simply not an option. Funds for the procedure as well as travel expenses are just not feasible for some women. And then these women end up with a child they did not want and cannot afford, and are spiraled into deeper money troubles. Interestingly enough, one can analyze the Republican fight against birth control and see it as a way to keep the lower class in poverty, as they have very limited options.
Transgender immigrants face horrible conditions when they are detained. Transgender women of color have a nearly 50 percent chance of getting murdered just for being a trans women of color. Black women are being killed in jail at disproportionate rates. Dealing with sexist Halloween costumes in October is not as bad as being dead.
Race and class can be an uncomfortable topic for many, but it needs to be addressed. In layman’s terms… get over it. You are not “colorblind;” you are avoiding discussion.
For those who avoid such discussions, it shows a damaging complacency and lack of empathy that really needs to be addressed. When talking about issues of race and class, if the feminist in question becomes uncomfortable or defensive, then it is probably because there are certain aspects of our life that we’re not willing to admit are privileged. Privilege in itself is not a bad thing, but letting it blind you certainly is.
Many feminists out there have been afforded the privilege to eat, to go to school, to not use a turn signal and get arrested because of it, to not have our job application rejected because of the name on it, to say what we want to say, to say what we need to say, to go to the doctor when we need to, to call 911 when we need to, to wear a hooded sweatshirt in public, to not be subject to a “random” search at the airport, to be ourselves in public without getting murdered, to follow our dreams.
We need to accept it and use this privilege to our advantage; use it to open up discussions on race, class, gender, and disability, not just on cis female empowerment. Use the financial privilege to fund projects that will empower every person of which feminism can help. Use our vocal privilege to let our voices be heard on the more obscure issues. We can all do this if we accept that feminism wasn’t created solely for our own individual benefit.
Accept it. If feminism is supposed to be about equality, we must come to terms with the fact that for many, equality is a lot farther of a reach and reality.
[Image via Flickr]