On Feminism And The Fight For Racial Equality
If you consider yourself an advocate for equality, you don’t get to pick and choose whom you want that equality for; that defeats the point. You can’t say you long for equality in this world, then only fight for people who look, talk, dress, and live like you. In Erika Sánchez’s article, “How Feminism Continues to Fail Women of Color,” she writes, “Feminism without intersectionality is simply self-serving. Women who fret about climbing the corporate ladder and shattering the class [sic] ceiling, but who are indifferent to the violence, poverty and discrimination that women of color face on a daily basis are looking out for themselves—or at most, trying to protect people just like them.” This is such an important message. Feminism is taking over our culture, and that is such a wonderfully empowering thing. However, feminism means equality for all, not simply equality for those who are heard the loudest and seen the most. The majority always has the power, always has the most prominent voice, and that is the danger. We see feminism almost everywhere now, and while that is a huge step, we are mostly seeing a middle-class white woman’s views on what equality would look like, and we are mostly hearing a white woman speak about injustices she has faced. When I think about feminist celebrities, I immediately think of Taylor Swift, Emma Watson, and Zooey Deschanel, for when they speak, their words are broadcast and effortlessly enter into my world. I know women of color speak out against gender and racial discrimination, so why don’t I hear those words equally as loud or as frequently?
Sánchez shares her own experience talking with “a very accomplished older white woman….While I sympathized with her struggles as a professional woman, she was unwilling to see how my identity as a daughter of Mexican immigrants would pose obstacles for me. I grew exasperated trying to explain myself to her. How could I prove a lifetime of challenges based on both my race and gender?” If we claim to care about hardships women face, we can’t sympathize with them only when it comes to issues related to gender, for she is far more than her gender. That is exactly the message feminists are trying to get across to society: we are more than our gender. So why can’t we acknowledge struggles beyond gender gaps? Would it be so difficult to hear stories from women who have struggled, yes, because they are women, but have faced further struggles still with poverty, discrimination, and violence? Sánchez continues: “The kinds of activism that ignore issues of race and class seek to protect and advance middle- and upper-class white women rather than promoting the well-being of all women.” If, in the support of one gender being equal to another, we are supporting one race over another, have we really gotten anywhere at all?
As a feminist, I long for equality. I long for equal pay, equal opportunity, and equal say. This world I envision is not a world of equal white women, but a world of equal human beings, one where every voice can be heard not in spite of, but empowered by her or his gender, race, social standing, and age. Every experience in this beautiful world is different; therefore, we all have something unique to say. In a time and age of brightly-burning, widely-spreading feminism, instead of only hearing the single voice that Sánchez heard, that of a “very accomplished older white woman,” it would be all the more pleasing to hear an entire chorus of voices representing and celebrating together what it means to be human.