Hey White Feminists: Don't Forget About Women Of Color
To those who bother with the matter at all know that it’s not really a secret that feminism has an exclusion problem. Pauline Terrelonge Stone writes in “Feminists Consciousness and Black Women” that racism is so ingrained in American culture and so entrenched among white women that black females have been reluctant to admit that anything affecting the white female could also affect them.” The cries of exclusion and marginalization are prevalent even while they are ignored. We need to acknowledge that uncomfortable fact and work within that discomfort to create change.
If you’re wondering why this has come up again during a recent presentation at Netroots Nation 13 (NN13), feminist icon Amamda Marcotte fell into a pattern that is all too commonly occurring in white feminism — namely in a very white-washed presentation where she seemed to have forgot to mention or portray the existence of women of color in feminism. While the marginalization of women of color is a systemic problem that stretches back all the way to the white supremacy view of the suffragettes and Marcotte is not the whole problem it is insulting and problematic to think that she would use a stock photo of an "African American woman holding keys" rather than a real picture of a feminist of color such as bell hooks, Audre Lorde, or Kimberlé Crenshaw the creator of intersectionality. This problem as I have said before is not new, and not the fault of a specific person but an entire social structure that remains as Margaret Simons once wrote, a schism in the sisterhood.
Jenifer Daniels attended the NN13 conference and spoke on a panel Called #AskASista. She also watched Marcotte’s presentation. In an email interview she says she wasn’t surprised by it. “not a few hours before (at NN13) Zerlina led a session with the speaker of the house, #AskaSista trended #2 (only behind a promoted tweet), and black women really stepped up to the plate to show their collective power. Yet, when Amanda spoke: not a mention.” Daniels mentions that despite the visibility of #femfuture there is still a lot to be desires. Says Daniels, “we just need feminist to understand that there is an intersection and many WOC see themselves as womanists — still fighting for the right to be heard and included.”
Feminist theorists have drawn extensively on racism as an analogy to sexism and often borrowed language from the Civil Rights era. There’s an assumption among theorists that to struggle against sexism means to struggle against racism. Yet there is often a noticeable lack of minority members. Racialicious pointed out that no matter how successful women of color are, like the First Lady Michelle Obama, or Rihanna, or Beyonce, society will remind you that you aren’t good enough — and feminism will pile on using policing behavior. Beyonce was flamed because of her "provocative dress" and some indignant white feminists declared her not a feminist.
It is in this context which Marcotte’s assertions and outrage at being critiqued for lack of inclusiveness are problematic. A certain amount of conscientiousness is needed in mainstream feminism that is lacking, and it only further alienates members of the sisterhood when the criticism falls on deaf ears.
Daniels speaks only for herself of course but her words ring profoundly, “I am new to the online world of feminism. I grew up in Detroit with a mother who loved Angela Davis and typed 'young, gifted and black' on a dot matrix printer to tape up on my wall. I always knew who I was and whose I was. I didn't even know that feminism was a term until college but I always knew that I was that. [Growing up] my role model was Linda Carter because I thought wonder woman was so bad ass. Why can't we all be wonder woman together?”