News Flash to White Feminists: Women of Color Are Women!
From the “think before you speak” and “white feminism is part of the problem” files comes today’s Big Thought – offered up to Madonna and Patricia Arquette, and all the White Feminist rallying to their defense; Women of Color are people too. Queer Women of Color are people.
The perhaps first-ever request for an intersectional approach to feminism came from Sojourner Truth. IN 1851! We’re a bit behind the ball, White Feminists.
by Sojourner Truth
Delivered 1851 at the Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio
(Emphasis mine. Excerpted.)
Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that ‘twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what’s all this here talking about?
That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?
(End of excerpt.)
When a White Feminist (Madonna, in this case) says that women have it worse than “gays” and “the African-American community,” she is forgetting about/erasing black women, queer women, and black, queer women.
White feminists, how does this keep happening? Come on! Women of Color ARE WOMEN. Queer Women of Color ARE WOMEN. Conversations about equality cannot happen without the concept and language of intersectionality and make any sense at all.
In 1986, Marie Shear write, “Feminism is the radical notion that women are people.” Let’s remember that ALL WOMEN are women when applying this logic. This means talk about the grid of wage gaps instead of the (white female) .74 on the (white male) dollar. This means talking about race, sex, gender, ageism, and gender every time we talk about the wage gap. This means not making statements about gay people of People of Color that erase non-white, non-straight, non-cis women.This means remember (why do I even need to write this, White Feminist sisters?) that Women of Color are women. Queer women are women. Trans women are women. Poor women are women. Disabled women are women.
This means constantly working to decenter the White Feminist agenda in favor of a collaborative approach to intersectional equality.
White Feminism does not get to define feminism for everyone. And every time a White Feminist unthinkingly – or worse yet, consciously, as in cases of ethnocentric qualifiers for “liberation” – makes statements that make it clear that she does not think of Women of Color as women she is adding to the patriarchal, racist, Eurocentric/white centered, hierarchical stratification of women.
Arguments about “infighting” and pleas for “us” to “work together against oppression” from White Feminists are merely compounding the problem of exclusionary feminism. White Feminist need to stop thinking it’s OK to ask Women of Color to put aside their anger, to change the tone of the argument to cut white women some slack.
If it’s so hard to keep in mind that Feminists and Womanists of Color are women, White Feminists may have more ease if we remember Sojourner Truth’s famous speech. Perhaps the context of intersectionality was actually taught to us at a young age, and White Feminists just need to remember these powerful words. Perhaps then we’ll stop saying things that destroy any work being done toward true solidarity within the feminist movements.
Or maybe, White Feminists can listen to the strong Women of Color whose voices are rising up today, and honor their humanity by remembering that they exist.
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