Today was the Women’s March on Washington, and after seeing the worldwide effect this one event had, I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud to be a woman. And while I could not be at any of the marches happening near me, I wholeheartedly feel joy and respect and strength for those men and women who were able to fight for the rights of all.
A couple days ago, my friend Naomi posted an article from Bustle asking white women not to forget their privileged position. It features a letter written by ShiShi Rose who, in summation, addresses the fact that white women are just now afraid because of the outcome of the election, while black women were born afraid because of the color of their skin. I personally have seen a number of statements released online from white women saying they felt left out or unwelcome at the March because they were asked to recognize their different position. And I strongly believe this is a dangerous thing in the feminist movement. When looking from an outside point of view of feminism, there is an extremely clear divide, some even saying there are two completely separate groups, Black Feminism and White Feminism.
Feminism has been criticized for decades because of the lack of inclusion. Feminism is supposed to be about fighting for equal rights for all, so why do so many women of color feel unwelcome? Because those who do not understand their privilege see their struggles as the only struggles. Sure, I will deal with the wage gap when I start working, but black women are paid even less than white women. Sure, I fear for my safety when walking home from class, but black women fear the officers who are supposed to keep them safe. Sure, I deal with the systematic inequality against women, but black women deal with systematic inequality against women and blacks. Here I am just comparing the struggles of mine to those of black women but I could do the same with Muslims, Hispanics, Latinas, and so on and each group of women would face not only different instances of inequality, but more of them.
We also see this when men do not or cannot acknowledge the fact that their life is easier than women’s simply because they are men. But this inequality between women is systematically ingrained in the feminist movement. The 19th Amendment, supposedly allowing all women to vote was passed in 1920, but black women were not able to freely exercise their right to vote until the 1960s.
The Women’s March on Washington was one of the first events of this scale to truly make an effort to represent all women. When women of color brought up the lack of representation in the organization of the event, those in charge made an effort to include more women of color. Intersectionality is essential in an increasingly diverse country.
White women, straight women, Christian and non-religious women, we must be aware of our privilege at all times. We must not leave the marginalized sisters behind us. We must use our privilege to their advantage. They have more to fight to than us. We must remember that in a lot of cases, their lives are at more risk than ours. They inherently live a more dangerous life because of the color of their skin, the language they speak, who they love, etc. Why are our lives more important than ours?
To disregard privilege is to deny different experiences.
To disregard privilege is to ignore other’s struggles.
To disregard privilege is to prevent change.
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