Dear White Feminism,
With your fluffy pink pussy hats and meticulously crafted signs quipping about the power of vaginas and cutting puns about crooked politicians, you proliferate the media spreading a voice for “women’s rights” with buzzwords like “pay disparity” or “equality”. But something most of you, as a group, tend to forget or perhaps ignore is that there are whole communities of people that you are excluding from your conversation. While there have indeed been a number of you to come forward and speak about your own inclusiveness and/or the shortcomings you have experienced in the field there has been too much of an influence on the mainstream “feminist” community with issues that exclude women of color, trans-identifying people and non-binary communities and most importantly those whose identities intersect with all those mentioned.
After 2017’s Women’s March on Washington there was a large controversy widely ignored by the media. Arguably the staple symbol of the 2017 march was the brightly colored pink “pussy hats” that adorned most protestors.
The issue is that this emphasis on a sect of feminism that focuses on the representation of a vagina as traditional female genitals seemed to exclude the active trans people who have made the choice not to have genital reconstruction surgery. The normalization of a gender binary through genital normalization inherently excludes those who do not fall within that binary. Not all female-identifying people have vaginas and to normalize that cis-normative idea weakens your own stance of equality by excluding members outside of that “norm”. Its this type of strong symbol linking that the pussy hats bring to feminism that make the trans-communities feel excluded by cis-het-mostly white feminists.
The lack of language discussing the death of trans people, especially trans women of color, is also astounding. You would think a movement geared towards the protection and equality of all would take the time to speak about the increasing violence against trans people. Unfortunately this number has only risen so far in 2018 and how much time do you think was spent at the 2ndannual Women’s March discussing such issues? None. You cannot claim to be there for the protection of all women when you neglect to speak about your brothers and sisters being murdered on the street with their culprits serving less time than the average cis homicide with less harsh sentences if they serve anytime at all. Like the case from last October of the trans teen Ally Lee Steinfeld whose murderers were not prosecuted as a hate crime. Intersectional feminists speak the names of those we have lost due to hate crimes, we don’t ignore their issues for the singular goal of a few cents on our paychecks or to advocate for the sexual harassment of cis white women. Don’t get me wrong, these issues still need to be addressed but we don’t have to sacrifice or ignore entire communities in the pursuit of those girls.
To make matters worse, for those of you that love your hats, in this year’s Women’s March there was an incident where a pussy hat was placed on a statue of Harriet Tubman.
While I feel like it should’ve been common sense to see the issues with this it pains me tosay that common sense is not so common these days. You can NOT compare the struggles of a former black slave woman who risked her life every day to free people to a march where the majority of participants are white middle class people with no threats to their lives whatsoever as it pertains to the march itself. The women at this march most likely had the privilege of taking off their hats and returning to their jobs the next day. Tubman, on the other hand, spent her entire life on the single issue of freeing people from slavery unable to take off her identity and go to safe spaces. The erasure and devaluation of Tubman and all she stood for, whether intended or not, is a good mirror to how the white-hetero-cis-feminist community seems to treat women of color and women of different classes.
When most feminist activists speak of the pay disparity you usually hear about the 80% of every white man’s dollar which is, to be fair, an accurate estimation…if you’re talking about white women. The issue with this number and its pushers is that they completely negate the fact that the same studiesthat show the 20% gender pay gap for white women also show a 37% pay gap for black women, almost double and an even larger disparity of 46% to the white man’s dollar for every Hispanic female worker. Why are these numbers not talked about? If we put the base income for these numbers at the NC minimum wage, $7.25 per hour, with Hispanic or Latinx women making the minimum we see that black women make nearly $8 per hour while white women earn about $8.50. That is a total difference of a dollar and a quarter between Hispanic women and white women yet this disparity is hardly ever discussed.
It’s been a criticism of the feminist movement for years that it is not inclusive enough to people who are not cis, white or heterosexual. Intersectionality focuses on how these issues relate to one another and it seems like a lot of the time there are too many women in the feminist movement ready to plug their ears instead of opening up to the un-comfortability that is facing issues that are, most of the time, far worse than your own. But this is what is necessary so that everyone is represented and the exclusive club of white feminism is dismantled leading to an inclusive, all-encompassing form of feminism that recognize and deal with a variety of issues.
My hope for you, white feminist is that you see that there are more than just one set of feminist issues. And please, throw out the pussy hats.
A white cis gay man who is learning just as much as you are.