Lee: Feminism is not my priority

BY ASHLEY LEE | OCTOBER 11, 2013 5:00 AM

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The mainstream feminist movement works to end sexism and challenge patriarchy. While those who participate in this line of activism wish to defend gender equality, race is almost always an afterthought.

The agenda of the feminist movement often excludes the experiences and needs of brown and black women. Unfortunately, this also means men and women in the movement fail to confront the racial hierarchy that persists even among females.

This summer, #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen was a popular trending topic on Twitter. Its purpose was to point out the hypocrisy of white feminists advocating for gender equality yet failing to address racism among females.

Mikki Kendall, the mastermind behind the hashtag, tweeted, “#SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen when being a white mother at 19 is applauded, but being a brown mother at 19 is denigrated.”

Another user said, “#SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen when pink hair, tattoos, and piercings are “quirky” or “alt” on a white woman but “ghetto” on a black one.”

The lack of dialogue about women in the criminal-justice system was challenged when a person said, “When it takes a white woman going to prison for us to start the convo about women in prison #OrangeIsTheNewBlack.”

Cultural and racial inclusion has to be a priority in women’s liberation. The white female perspective is so engrained in feminism, it has become the norm. I often wonder if feminists even want to improve race relations.

It’s important for all women to be allies in the fight for gender equality. This means acknowledging and appreciating minority voices that are often muted.

White women have the privilege of being widely represented in the media, pop culture, and education. Historically, white women have been placed on a pedestal when it comes to beauty standards. Women of color have been considered subpar because of our darker hue and hair texture. Even today, the inherent belief in “white is right” is not forced, rather, encouraged as we are socialized to believe white women are the prime example of what every woman should aspire to emulate.

Living as a racial minority in both a patriarchal and Eurocentric America is challenging. My experiences as a woman are unique because of my race. If minority women do not conform to Eurocentrism — as in, the Western values and physical traits assumed to be universal — we are questioned and seemingly incapable of being “real” Americans.

Not only are black and brown women misrepresented or excluded in the dominant culture, but we are also bound to experience completely different, and arguably, even worse ramifications of racism and sexism than white women because of this country’s history and the dominant culture that still operates for the benefit of white women.

Therefore, feminism is not a priority for me. I wish to confront racism and advance the rights of underrepresented women before I even engage in feminist work at large.

What we really need are anti-racist feminists—men and women who not only advance women’s rights but actively challenge the system of white supremacy that has continued to hurt women of color and relentlessly deem white women superior.

Feminists must be willing to confront and eliminate America’s racial caste system because color-blindness ignores racism and its consequences.

Only when the mainstream feminist movement becomes more racially inclusive will be a firm supporter.

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