Leave White Feminism at The Door

Feminism must be, truly, for all women.

It’s time to celebrate Women’s History Month in the best way we can, by recognizing all women. It’s unfortunate that so often in our attempts at equality we ignore intersectional issues. Blinding privilege has, for too long, stalled and limited progress.

 

Intersectional feminism is not a new concept, for years minority women have been fighting against racism and sexism, often having their plight ignored by fellow feminists. In 1982, Gloria T. Hull, Patricia Bell Scott and Barbara Smith published All Women Are White, All the Blacks are Men, But Some of Us Are Brave. The book was a study on black women and, as suggested by the title, analyzed the tendency of ‘progressive groups’ to ignore black women in the fight for equality.

 

In 1989, Kimberlé Crenshaw, in her paper Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory, and Antiracist Politics, conceived the term intersectionality.  In her paper, Crenshaw asserted that “this single-axis framework erases Black women in the conceptualization, identification, and remediation of race and sex discrimination by limiting inquiry to the experiences of otherwise-privileged members of the group.”

 

While much has changed, the patterns of ignoring intersectional groups persist today. ‘White feminism’, as it’s called, is a disparaging brand of feminism that highlights the struggles of white women while ignoring the specific oppression of women of color, women with disabilities, LGBT women, and women who lack other privileges.

 

So many elements of modern feminism ignore women who are not straight, white women. For example, most people are familiar with the .79 cent figure that is cited as the amount women make to the man’s dollar; however, that is actually the amount white women make to the man’s dollar. Women of color, in fact, make even less than this. Women of color also experience partner violence at significantly higher rates than white women. LGBT women also experience violent crimes at higher rates. Per the CDC, lifetime rates of physical violence, stalking and rape are 43 percent for lesbians, 61 percent for women who identify as bisexual, as compared to 35 percent for women who identify as heterosexual. Transgender women are 1.8 times more likely to experience sexual violence, and the number is even higher for transgender women of color. The default to exclude women of color and LGBT women tells them that the discrimination and violence they experience is not as important as what straight, white women experience.

 

This Women’s History Month, and every month, it is important to celebrate true intersectional feminism that includes all women.

 

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