If someone so much as gives the side eye to Hillary Clinton, one can be certain that it will appear on feminist blogs repeatedly. Hillary is continually championed and this is deemed a necessary action to help fight sexism. Even Sarah Palin, who is clearly no friend to progressive women, has been defended by feminists. I have no worry that when it comes to White, able bodied, class privileged women who appear to be gender conforming, that feminism will rush in with a battle cry of vengeance, against those who would dare challenge their right to participate. My concern is for women that fall outside of this very narrow category. When I wrote about the overt sexualization of Michelle Obama by Tracy Morgan, I knew that Womanist Musings would be one of the few blogs to do so. Despite claiming that fighting sexism is a concern of feminists, attacks against Michelle Obama continually get ignored. It is left to women of colour to point out the link between sexism and racism that combine to oppress her.
Hearing about sexism aimed at Hillary Clinton does not rile me up or encourage me to wage battle, because I know that she will be defended ad nauseum — instead — it causes me to think about women that are daily being erased while promoting the idea of female unity. Until feminists can dedicate as much time as they spend defending Hillary Clinton, to women who exist on the margins, I see no reason to feel inspired. This is not to say that the sexism aimed at Clinton is not harmful, but the erasure of the experiences of multitudes of women needs to be recognized, otherwise we are simply continuing the marginalization and oppression of women, based on a desire to uplift a small elite group. How can marginalized women be expected to continually rush to the defense of this small elite, when daily we are erased to promote the idea that we all experience sexism in the same way?
Womanist Musings posted yesterday about feminists persistently neglecting to come to the defense of any woman who is not white, able-bodied, or class-privileged.
Feminist history in the United States is infected with overt racism. Racism and other -isms in US history aren’t particular to the feminist movement, but considering the purposes for the existence of this movement, it is especially shameful. White suffragists used racist arguments to fight for the right to vote. The reproductive rights movement with the agenda of eliminating through compulsory sterilization those who were seen “unfit” to have children–basically poor women, women of color, and women with disabilities.
No doubt that there’s more. There’s probably an inconceivable amount of untold stories and frantically buried histories, because it’s certainly something to be ashamed of. I’d like to say that history is history and we’ve moved on–but we haven’t. Marginalized women in the feminist movement may not be fought against as actively today, but what’s almost as alarming is that for the most part they are silenced and erased, but are conveniently pushed to the front when the validity of the movement is called into question. We may still be struggling to define what feminism is today, but the silencing of underprivileged voices and women in marginalized bodies is absolutely inexcusable.
I can’t explain the frustration I feel when a non-Muslim woman, claiming to be a feminist, tells me I’m not as familiar with my own religion as she is, and then proceeds to explain for me using her own terms. The first time this happened, it amazed me. It took all my self-restraint to keep from telling her to shut the fuck up and sit the hell down. We live here, in the US, with a history that tells us that white women began the feminist movement, worked hardest in the feminist movement, are here to thank for the feminist movement, and are ideal icons of feminism–when in reality, not only was this achieved by actively shutting out Other Women, but there are countries, with women of other religions and other histories, who actually fought for their rights before American women, and obtained those rights even before the existence of America.
You did not invent feminism, white American women. You hijacked it. It already existed, and you didn’t join it, you took it.
It hurts me to write this, because I’m categorizing myself in a way with which I don’t identify–saying that I’m not white implies that I am something, and I don’t want to be anything that I feel is useless as an identifier. But it doesn’t matter if I don’t identify with a race, because race doesn’t concern the individual. Race erases the individual. People actively look for a race when they see me, and as long as they must have it it won’t matter what I say. When the rest of the world pushes me into a category, it doesn’t matter.
I hate talking about race. I am so sick of it. But I have to live in this world, with other people, and Womanist Musing‘s post is a reminder that racism hasn’t left us. I’ve experienced it in my life, subtly, but until I read this I didn’t fully realize that that’s what it was, because it felt ridiculous to wonder if the reason I didn’t feel that those with whom I am acquainted in real life don’t rush as quickly to my defense, or that even if they know me well enough to know that my daily pleasures are dreaming and long walks and long showers and nothing any different from how they spend their time there is always a degree of suspicion, because I don’t look like them, either with not being white or not being the model minority. That would just be me being paranoid right?
Except this can’t just keep being a coincidence.
It’s so subtle that I rarely pick it up. It exists in the subconscious without any real applied occupation.
But I wish it were gone entirely.