Be a feminist
I have seen far too many of the locals agreeing with these articles about unapologetically being a woman and not a feminist, but they should be apologizing. It makes me so sad to think that people are really uneducated enough to believe that, to be a stay-at-home mom, you cannot also be a feminist and support women’s rights. It’s silly. So I would like to debunk some of the (unfortunately) common misconceptions of feminism and address why everyone should believe in it.
A trend today among young women who do not side with the resistance is to spew fallacious arguments for why they don’t find it necessary to practice feminism while preaching about how they “just want the simple things back” like chivalry and not having to work. But the reality is, girls like this, and men who agree with them, have been far too privileged to see just how much feminism has done for women today; because without feminism, none of these women who dream of being house-wives would even have the freedom to express their wish to do so. The cute little posts that claim they pay homage to the feminism that brought them their right to vote along with various other civil rights, but say that “we have now come far enough,” must have been written by white, financially stable girls. And yes, I, as a white woman, see the irony here. But as a person benefitting each day from my white privilege, it is my responsibility to recognize it and use the power for good, as all white people should do. Thus bringing me to my conclusion that it could only be a white woman acting blindly out of privilege to say that we “as women” have enough and advocate against their own interests by discrediting feminism.
How can one be against something that is fundamentally for them? It would be like a diabetic purposefully skipping their insulin injections or a doctoral candidate plagiarizing their dissertation. In short, it doesn’t make sense. I am not sure where people got the idea that a boy holding the door open is not permissible under the code of conduct of feminists, but they’re wrong. Common manners are very much welcomed and are in no way a violation of feminist ideals. Hell, a man can still pay for my meal once in a while without me compromising my belief in equality of genders. It’s not about abandoning all “tradition,” you can still expect your significant other to occasionally treat you to a nice dinner (if that’s your thing). But what we should expect is to be held accountable for our beliefs with the understanding that not everyone operates under the same assumptions. This also holds true in the sense that one person’s particular brand of feminism does not always account for another’s. White feminism, especially, refers to the subgroup of feminists that focus only on the trials and tribulations of white women, disregarding the privileges that being white entails. Minority women and those who lack certain advantages are overlooked in this form of feminism that exclusively views the world through the lens of white privilege. With this being said, there are other types of feminism that cater to different audiences, but feminism in general must be inclusive of all womxn.
Perhaps the greatest issue regarding feminism today is the topic of intersectionality. And for those of you who may not run into this word on a daily basis, intersectionality is a term coined by civil rights advocate and professor of law Kimberlé Crenshaw that essentially gives a name to the phenomenon of possessing multiple facets or identities that create intersections of discrimination or oppression. These unique combinations of social categorizations culminate in the effects of interdependent systems that are universally acknowledged as individual, despite becoming entirely new angles when converged. And what is important about these new intersections is that they embody larger institutions of oppression that women within these categories face. For example, someone who is of low socioeconomic status may face certain disadvantages, while on another hand, a minority individual faces other disadvantages. But the place where the lines of being both a minority and of low socioeconomic status cross creates a new experience of resonating with both simultaneously, so that disadvantages and oppressions due to one particular identity cannot be discerned from another. This creates major disparities in correlational data, as these intersections are overlooked and people are put into dichotomies of one category at a time. And as we know, all dichotomies are false dichotomies.
In terms of feminism, intersectionality most often refers to being a woman (one disadvantaged identity) and also being a minority (the second disadvantaged identity). One of the easiest ways to observe this inequality as it splits on the intersections of gender and race is to review women’s earnings compared to men’s. The chart below indicates that, overall, women made 81.8% of the income that men made in the year 2017 (adjusted to reflect equal employment positions). This only gets worse when race is added to the equation. When pitted against the majority (white men), Asian women rank the highest, making 93% of a white man’s income. But for Black and Hispanic women, the numbers just surpass 60%, meaning that for every dollar a white man makes, they only make around $0.65…
To clarify, this exemplifies intersectionality because of the way in which a white woman’s experience of the gender wage gap is far different than the way a minority woman experiences the “same” phenomenon. For Black and Hispanic women, the gender wage gap is even more detrimental, illuminating the need for intersectionality in feminist movements. But intersectionality is applicable to much more than just the quantitative measures of income; intersectionality means inclusion and acknowledgement of the different understandings of womanhood that each woman presents.
Intersectionality is all-inclusive and does not only apply to race and gender. Other social identities that form intersections with womanhood include, but are not limited to: class, sex, ethnicity, ability/disability, religion, sexual orientation, and age. Taking these various identities into consideration, it is easy to see how individual experiences diverge, creating a vast range of social perspectives that should be accounted for.
It is because of this that a white woman’s opinion on the status of all women being “just fine” with the rights they have today, can hardly be taken seriously. Which is why I was so surprised at the support these frivolous, context-absent articles garnered. So if you’re reading this wondering how to still pursue your dreams of being a child-bearing house-wife without dragging feminism, do just that. Feminism gave us as women the ability to say and do whatever we want (to an extent, of course), so don’t stop now just because you’re satisfied enough with the luxuries afforded to you. Have a little sympathy even if you cannot empathize. For far too many women, the reality of being forced into motherhood, not allowed to work or without adequate education to obtain a job, is not enough for them; but they can’t do anything about it. So as the privileged ladies most of us are, we must be the ones to speak up and never stop advocating for the feminist movement that aims to benefit all women. You may feel that we have come far enough, but I can promise you that our work will never be done. Even when you don’t feel that you need to have a say on an issue, lets at least make sure that other women still can one day when they need to.
Everyone should be a feminist. Feminism does not just work for women, it promotes social, political, and economic equality for all genders. And even if you aren’t a woman or don’t have a sister or daughter, I am fairly certain that your mother was one, and what better way to show respect than by being an ally?
Picture from: Her Campus