Just had this article, “How Can White Women Include Women of Colour in Feminism?” Is A Bad Question. Here’s Why., come across my news feed and I don’t understand it. I do and I don’t, just as I agree with it, and also I do not.
First of all I do absolutely agree that women of colour shouldn’t be included in feminism. It’s not just a white woman issue, so it’s demeaning to try to figure out how to better include women of colour. I also agree that women of colour face more challenges, limitations, and oppression than their white counterparts in general. I also agree that challenges among the different women of colour groups are varied. So, the African-American woman will have different things happening than the Asian American women. I also agree that if something is pushed through for a white woman, there is not really a trickle down effect. But, if something is pushed through for women of colour, then it expands to all women no matter the colour.
The things I disagree on are these:
01. Women of Colour have been doing feminism since forever. That they’ve been doing feminism since before feminism was a thing. While I agree with that, I also have to disagree. To say since forever, implies basically since forever; as in the beginning of humans and civilizations. It’s only been about three hundred years since multiple groups of people have seen the cohabitation of the same spaces. Before then it was two different groups would meet and live in the same space. Before that, it was centered on one. So, since the beginning of forever it was just the Chinese women in China, the African women in Africa, the Indigenous Women in the Americas, the Celtic women in North Eastern Europe, etc. Women have always been fighting for equality. Women have always been doing feminism. The same fights happening in China for Chinese women were happening in Europe with Celtic women, as was for Roman women in Rome, and African women in Africa, etc.
So, to me, it short changes everything to only say that one group has been doing feminism since forever, even if we were talking only about Caucasian women. From the very beginning it was only ever about having ovaries; being a women in a mans world; striving to have some dignity and equality.
02. There is no feminism without Women of Colour. I understand why they are saying this, at least on a general level. That it’s the women of colours fight that actually does the changing in society today. I also understand that society in general rather sucks in terms of anyone seen as less than. I also understand that most white women that I meet actually meet the “perfect” criteria of society, though still have grievances. But I have met white women who do not meet the “perfect” societal criteria at all. I’m not saying that a woman of colour doesn’t have it worse, she does. And I’m not saying that a woman of colour with added societal “imperfections” such as LGBT, trans, or disabilities doesn’t have it worse, she does.
I understand that this leads down a road similar to countering with #All Lives Matter when faced with the #Black Lives Matter campaign. But there is a difference. Intent. I understand then when white people want to counter with All Lives Matter. They don’t mean it. It’s a deflection, a defense, and a shield. They don’t fully understand (or else do not want to understand) the world that people of colour live in and encounter on a daily basis. They only see their own little world and assume it’s like that for everyone (or in some cases, I’m sure they don’t even care). I can’t begrudge these people too much. Every child that is born grows up in its own tiny community. That’s all they see and all that they know. Some people do not have either the fortitude, the knowledge or the means to actually gain knowledge outside of their own community; most don’t even realize that it is an option.
Initially I want to begrudge them. While I was not born with the means of money for education or travel, I was born with a strive to know. I always yearned to see what was beyond my front door. I never thought not to question or to ask or to know. I found ways around my societal limitations to learn. But not everyone is born with that strive or desire. And a lot of people, no matter their colour, simply do not have the monetary means to seek it, nor the opportunity. I always have to remind myself that while people are the same, we are all also very different. No one’s life will exactly mirror another’s.
So, I do certainly understand that women of colour, since the introduction of multiracial regions and cities that came along with the expansion of the Old World into the New, have had it worse than white women; continue to still have it worse, and their fights are what bring about change. I also know that women have been doing feminism since the beginning. I also realize that white women jumped onto the band wagon when what we know as feminism today even became a thing in the 1960s. A movement, that in these recent of times, was started by women of colour. But also a movement that’s been fought by all groups of women since the dawn of people.
I have also never understood this superiority that the general population of white people hold. I simply can not fathom, can not wrap my head around the fact that people who aren’t up to this certain level somehow don’t count. That if you’re somehow not this “perfect” colour, “perfect” body, “perfect” love interest, etc. that you somehow don’t matter or are less than. It really baffles me. What I do understand, is not the “ethics” behind that, but that it is the way our society has evolved after groups met other groups all that time ago in history. This is the code of society today. I don’t like it, but when that is the wall you are faced with, I understand fighting against it the only way that you know how, what seems to work, what will get the attention focused where it is needed.
I do not think we should be fighting amongst ourselves, as humans, but then there really is sort of a need to do so, right? It’s not that I want people of colour to be women vs men, but I often wonder, when it’s not really pointed out, if people of any colour understand how history has constructed itself.
My example is current President Barack Obama. People of all genders and all colours touted this as being a huge stride and unprecedented when he was elected to office. While it is true, it’s also untrue. White man has ruled Europe since they started forming empires and have ruled the America’s and the rest of the world, as it seems, since the age of exploration in the 1500s. White man has also been our first 43 presidents since our break from England and the formation of the United States in 1789. So, it is a huge deal that a black man finally has the office of the Presidency. However, history shows us that in colour and gender rankings this is not unprecedented. White men owned land, voted, and were basically the only people in power. The next on the list were black men. Then came white women. Then it trickled out to other men of colour and finally to the varied women of colour groups.
Then you have white men running all the businesses. They are the bosses, they get hired to the better jobs. The next people to see this were black men. I’m not saying their treatment in the current profession world is ideal, but black men fought to gain jobs only held by white men in the 1950s and 1960s. It wasn’t an easy task, but black men were eventually given better jobs and better wages. Next came white women, then other men of colour and then women of colour.
Just about any event in America’s history sees this exact same pattern of power handed down in this exact manner. So, while it was absolutely a great stride and a fabulous thing that a black man became the President of the United States, what would have been unprecedented however is if a Muslim American man had become president or an Indigenous woman, or hell even a white woman, as any of those would have been out of the normal, and seemingly accepted pattern. According to America’s track record, a black man would have always been president before any other man of colour, or any woman at all.
I rarely see people mention this. From what other people say or write, it appears that their knowledge of events is white men, then white women, then all men of colour, then all women of colour. But that isn’t correct. Again, we shouldn’t be fighting, so that’s not what I’m trying to say, and I’m not trying to say that one group is better than another, but black men have seen greater strides and in a shorter amount of time than any other man of colour or any woman no matter the colour.
I think I’m getting off topic. I do see the need for groups to segregate themselves in order to have an advance foothold in having their concerns heard, but it also bothers me that we are segregating ourselves. To me it seems more destructive. There was something I read a few years ago on the problem of bullying. So, the LGBT community set up a group to end the bullying of LGBT youth. I completely agree that the bullying of the LGBT youth should end, but what about all the other kids? I’m sure you’ll say that the fat kids or the black kids or the handicapped kids or the Asian kids all have their own groups against bullying… but all I can think is why? Wouldn’t it be stronger and more unified and have more power as a movement if we just wanted to eradicated bullying… period? It feels like if they took MAAD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and separated it into racial factions. To me, it wouldn’t be as strong of a movement. To me, it would seem like no one could agree on anything and split itself into smaller groups. To divide is to conquer. It’s a strong military tactic, but I believe that it sees its way into society. If you were a big power person would you listen to a divided group fighting for the same basic thing? No. Would you be more willing to listen (or couldn’t easily ignore) something huge; one group, standing together fighting for the same thing? Yep, that would be really hard to ignore.
So, while I get that women of colour are always last in terms of everything compared to white women, it seems a shame that as an issue that any and all women can and should get behind, there seems to be this separation. It is ridiculous for white women to think it’s all about them, but then feel we should include the “little” people, whether that is their intention or they just don’t know any better in thinking that or phrasing that. But it also seems awkward for this writer to state it in such a way that women of colour own the feminist movement in its entirety throughout history and that white women should figure out how to be worthy enough to be allowed to enter the ranks. There is a right way and a wrong way to say, “Hey, us women of colour get a lot of shit and have a harder time here, we want recognition for all the shit we’ve had to go through, everything we do, and everything we’ve accomplished.” than “you need to be deemed worthy.”, which just seems juvenile and petulant. Though it is sad that women of colour even have to exclaim, “goddamnit what is wrong with you, don’t you know all that we’ve done and brought about.” All colour of women should know what all other women have gone through and the strides that they have made. It is wrong that women of colour get left out of that. It is also wrong that women of colour are always left out and excluded, so that there is even a need to fight against society to make change.
But where I think #Black Lives Matter differs from Women of Colour own the feminist movement, is that black men and women are not separating themselves into different factions. They are not #Black Men Matter and #Black Women Matter. They have banded together to be one group, to make their movement stronger, instead of weaker. But with feminism, we should be all Women fighting for the same cause, instead of Women of Colour vs White Women. Or even smaller factions of Black Women, Asian Women, Muslim Women, White Women, Indigenous Women, etc.
However, I admit that I could be over thinking the points in this article. I’m quite a literal person and take things very literally, which is not always a good thing as it makes something very confusing to me. It is not even an ideal world, far from it. Some my wonderful ideals of all people banding together for one cause to make a great and strong movement might simply be as much of a pipe dream as Miss America contestants always hoping for world peace.
I admit I didn’t understand when people were really discussing the topic of white privilege a few years ago; not because I couldn’t see past my community, but because I was taking all of the articles that I read too literally and therefore they became confusing and I did not understand. Then one article came out about it and it wasn’t one you could really take literally and it was laid out well and I understood the entire message and wasn’t over thinking it. I admit this could be the case here. I never try to counteract something by simply arguing to cause strife or to hide. I really want to understand what you, the writer, are saying. I want to know, to understand, to expand my boundaries.