From the beginning, the fight for women’s rights always excluded Black women and women of color. White feminism constantly ignores marginalized women's needs, making intersectional feminism necessary to serve ALL women.
White feminism is a racist form of feminism that upholds and supports equality for white women while dismissing the needs of women of color.
The origins of white feminism can be traced back to the first wave of feminism in 1848 with the women’s suffrage movement. Many white women considered heroic feminists during this period were racist and white supremacists.
White women in history perpetuate white supremacy and racism.
“I will cut off this right arm of mine before I will ever work or demand the ballot of the Negro," said Susan B. Anthony, a first wave white suffragette still considered a feminist icon.
In 1955, a white woman named Carolyn Bryant falsely accused Emmett Till, a fourteen-year-old Black boy, of harassment. Bryant's husband, Roy, and his brother, J.W. Milam, then kidnapped Emmet from his home before brutally beating and shooting him.
Bryant never went to jail for the false accusation.
Her lie reflects the historical tendency of white women painting themselves as victims to incriminate Black people.
White women continue to put their needs at the center of mainstream feminism while suggesting all women experience the same oppression.
Not all women have the same needs.
There is a difference between equality and equity. Equality means each group or individual receives the same resources and opportunities, while equity means each person's unique needs are recognized and resources are allotted accordingly to ensure equal opportunities.
Women with multi-faceted identities experience multiple forms of oppression. Black women, for example, suffer from racism and sexism due to the duality of their identities. Kimberlé Crenshaw, an American civil rights activist and leading scholar of critical race theory, coined the term “intersectionality” to describe the oppression that Black women face.
“Intersectionality is a lens through which you can see where power comes and collides, where it interlocks and intersects," Crenshaw said. "It’s not simply that there’s a race problem here, a gender problem here, and a class or LBGTQ problem there. Many times that framework erases what happens to people who are subject to all of these things”.
In today’s society, white women persist as the biggest oppressors beside white men. The majority of white women back white supremacist politicians (55% of white women voted for Trump in 2020) and, themselves, perpetuate white supremacy, racism and anti-Blackness.
Time and time again, white women weaponize 911 against Black people.
Amy Cooper, a white woman known as the “Central Park Karen,” called police on Christian Cooper, a Black man bird-watching in Central Park, after he asked her to leash her dog in May 2020. “I’m going to tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life," she said before dialing 911.
Not only are white women just as bad as white men when it comes to white supremacy and all it encompasses; they are worse. White women must use their privilege to highlight the needs and concerns of Black women and women of color, not to exclude them.
“Whether it is the centering of white women even when women of color are most likely to be at risk or the complete erasure of issues most likely to impact those who are not white, white feminists tend to forget that a movement that claims to be for all women has to engage with the obstacles women who are not white face,” said Mikki Kendall, author of Hood Feminism: Notes From the Woman That a Movement Forgot.
Feminism which excludes Black women and intersectional identities is not feminism at all.
By JOSHUA WEEKS
Image courtesy of Chicago Tribune.