The rights of women are fought for and maintained by feminism. However, many white female celebrities often speak up about feminism in a way that only acknowledges the rights of white women and ignores those of colour. This is problematic because a woman of colour is often doubly oppressed and faces prejudice based on her race and sex. While feminism focuses on gender equality at its heart, it also basically translates to equality between the sexes which means that it should relate to everyone. Yet, a lot of the mainstream media’s perceptions of feminism are that of straight, white and able bodied women which which seems to neglect women of colour, women who are disabled and women who are living in third world countries. Moreover, when feminists of colour do speak up on these issues, they aren’t listened to or respected in the same way. In my opinion and many others’, feminism doesn’t just exist to cater to the needs of the middle class, caucasian woman. Feminism is a brand of social activism that exists to help anyone who is oppressed by the patriarchal ties that limit the control they have over their own lives. For example, according to the patriarchy, men are labelled as effeminate for expressing genuine human emotions must feel a certain way and when they express genuine human emotions and, consequently, male suicide rates are high due to this oppression of feelings. So, it’s important to acknowledge that everyone, in some way, is oppressed by the patriarchal culture we live in but this happens to varying degrees.
According to the New Republic, women earn 78 cents to every man’s dollar. However, for women of colour this figure is even lower with Native American women earning 65 cents to every dollar earned by men, black women earning 64 cents, and Hispanic women earning just 54 cents per dollar. White women cannot deny that, even with the oppression based upon our gender, we do not face oppression in any way based upon the colour of our skin and this is why feminism should and will always be intersectional in my eyes. It doesn’t make sense to me that so many women died to create this incredible cause that fights for women’s rights for it only to exist for a few? Feminism is for all and the more that people that realise that, the better.
Many people ask me how feminism can be divided into sections like this if it’s supposed to represent everyone and I explain to them that there are differences that need to be considered which are based upon the levels of prejudice certain people experience. For example, a black woman who is also disabled demonstrates how many levels of marginalisation can operate at one time which therefore requires more focus and liberation than a white woman who is able bodied.
But what can we do about this? If you find yourself reading this and realising that maybe you’ve been a white feminist neglecting the rights of women of colour, don’t dismay. I grew up in an incredibly white area in the middle of the countryside and so my knowledge of the rights of people of colour was lacking to say the least. But ignorance’s only solution is education. Educate yourself by following accounts on social media that talk the struggles of women of colour, watch videos and interviews detailing the lives of disabled women. Surrounding yourself with these narratives will change your entire perception of these issues, I promise. It’s important to understand that other people suffer with far greater problems than you do simply because of their life circumstances and personal characteristics. Whilst their problems may seem dark and unclear to you as somebody who isn’t familiar with them, turn on that light and look into them. You won’t regret it.