Immersing myself into blogging has given me unfettered access to a wide variety of viewpoints, writing styles and people I’ve come to admire for their expertise. It’s also given me a chance to solidify my belief that everyone deserves a chance to live a happy, healthy life.
However, over the past three years, I’ve grown disappointed at the rejection, appropriation, elimination and arrogance exhibited by traditional feminist spaces with regards to women of color, our opinions and life experiences. I’ve watched how feminists silently sat by and allowed conservative white men to ruthlessly attack First Lady Michelle Obama and other prominent black women, rush to the aid and defense of Hillary Clinton and other white female leaders who’ve come under verbal assault from the right.
I’ve watched feminists, who are the main proponents of female solidarity and alliance, routinely fall silent as black women come under the attack by well-crafted media campaigns that question why we haven’t gone the traditional route women are encouraged to take by getting married and having babies.
I’ve watched feminist remain mum on the viral attacks on Amber Cole and other black girls whose bodies are commodified and exploited by society at large–and the black community on a smaller scale–for profit.
I’ve even watched white feminists foolishly appropriate racial injustices black women are faced with each day, minimizing or erasing a woman of color’s experience in a society that values whiteness and white womanhood.
White female, cisgendered, able-bodied, straight feminists have effectively sealed off their arena from fellow women who do not fit into their box of who they believe should benefit from the advancement of feminism.
Recognizing this tragic exclusion of other women, I can no longer align myself with a movement that seeks to minimize and erase women who look like me. After years of performing what amounts to a life-changing, soul-searching quest for answers, I feel comfortable and secure in my values to liberate myself from the shackles of feminism. I am no longer a feminist.
Feminism as it stands is unwilling to accommodate, reach out and consider itself an effective ideology for women of color and other women who don’t identify as cisgendered, straight and middle-to-upper middle class white women. Visit after visit to feminist-oriented blogs leaves me frustrated, shut out and relegated to the sidelines. Attempts to engage in discussions with feminists about women of color and our perspectives leaves me with not only a sense of hopelessness and rage, but with a mind-numbing headache that not even the strongest dose of Oxycontin can subdue.
Feminism isn’t for me as it assumes all women, no matter what our race, ethnicity, class background, sexual orientation or disability status, should rally around the cause of eradicating gender discrimination. While this sounds innocent and harmless on the surface, women of color, trans-women, lesbians, bisexuals and disabled women do not experience gender discrimination the same way cisgendered, straight able-bodied white women do. Feminism has a one-track mind when it comes to addressing women’s issues–and that one size fits all policy is too rigid to consider the perspectives of other women.
Women of color continue to be silenced by feminists, our issued brushed aside and labeled as to divisive. Black women in particular are criticized for focusing too much on race and , according to feminists, should all unite behind the cause of fighting gender discrimination, as lifting up the mantle of white women will bring success and prosperity to all women.
This sort of mind game employed by the traditional feminist movement has routinely been proven not to be true. White feminists have been all too willing to utilize their own privilege and position of power to trample on the backs of women of color and enforce harmful racist, sexual stereotypes that continue to hold black women in bondage.
Women of color have had to sit back and watch our research and documentation of our lives and experiences appropriated without proper acknowledgement for the grunt work we’ve done in advance. Women of color have had to watch feminists play white savior whenever they believe an act of racial injustice (ironically, it’s usually the mistreatment of a black man) was too horrific for them to ignore for political gain. Women of color have had their ideas and thoughts ignored by traditional white feminists only to be “rediscovered” when another so-called enlightened white female academic presents her findings on women of color to her fellow feminists.
Elements of radial feminism have been open about their unapologetic transphobia and trans-hatred, something the feminist movement on a larger scale has refused to address as one of many problems cramping its style.
Feminism is not and probably won’t ever be a safe space for me as feminism as a whole does not address the impact of white supremacy, white privilege, racism and whiteness has had on my life. Granted, patriarchy is a bitch and works to actively suppress women across the board. However, white feminists refuse to acknowledge patriarchy also works to protect their status as the model woman female POCs should emulate. Feminists continue to hide behind their frustration of patriarchy, but continue to deny or refute any attempts by women of color to address the impact of whiteness on our lives.
Women of color entering feminist spaces routinely have to negotiate racism, homophobia, transphobia and ableist sentiments in order to not rock the boat. Women of color in feminist spaces routinely have to play the magical Negro for white women who refuse to learn the basics of what it means to be an ally and explain why certain comments, assumptions and stereotypes are indeed racist–only to have their reasoning fall on deaf ears as white women just can’t acknowledge their privilege.
Women of color entering feminist spaces are forced to play mammy and reassure white women, who somehow always learn the true errors of their ways through a faux epiphany, that they are indeed good people after their fellow feminist confirms hypocritical racist behaviors women of color initially point out. Women of color in feminist spaces are rarely allowed to hold white women accountable for reinforcing and promoting whiteness as it’s one of few spaces in which white women are capable to dominate due to the racist belief that our otherness deems us unworthy of respect and incapable of leadership.
This black woman is tired of trying to squeeze my ideas and activism into the narrow definition of feminism, only to feel belittled and disrespected by what is initially promoted as a safe space that turns out to be a hostile environment. The struggle for women’s equality and women’s rights existed well before feminism and will continue to be a thriving form of activism as long as patriarchy’s roots remain deep in society.
Woman of color have advocated for women’s rights and female quality long before feminism entered history and I don’t need the stamp of approval from white feminists to fight for women’s advancement.