An Outlook on a Radical Future
As much as we want to say that feminism has come “so far,” its major milestones still only serve a select number of women. Often, when people refer to the Feminist movement, suffrage and abortion rights typically come first to mind; however, the imagery of these movements are often indicative of white cisgender women. So, ask yourself, who do you see when you think of who is a Feminist? What does a Feminist look like?
Feminism has painted and plagued the movement to fit a certain niche. Mainstream feminist icons include Lena Dunham, Sheryl Sandberg, Tina Fey, and other white women who use Feminism to make money and assert their white, cisgender, and heterosexual privilege, in turn maintaining the monolithic oppression of Women of Color and Trans Women. Lena Dunham often has been the acclaimed voice of the millennial generation through her HBO series Girls, featuring an almost all white and wealthy cast living in New York City. A proud self-proclaimed feminist, Dunham has infamously made racist comments against Black celebrities and committed transgressions against the LGBTQ community. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and award-winning writer of Lean In, suggests that women must cater to those in power and to play respectability to those in Corporate power, which is almost always White Men. Sandberg fails to recognize the systemic obstacles and consciously chooses to ignore race and class when saying women can have it “all”. By having it “all” Sandberg means becoming part of the United States’ 1% of wealth holders. Instead of calling on the support of male spouses for assistance on traditional gender roles made for women such as child rearing, Sandberg suggests to her readers to rely on nannies, who, more often than not are women of color. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, two recognized female comedic pioneers, made a similar message with their skit entitled “Dope Squad” in which both of these wealthy White Women rely on their nannies of color Dawa and Esmena to fulfill the roles in which wealthy White women no longer are obliged to do.
What do all these laureled feminist have in common? Money and power, and all these women use feminism as socio-economic capital granted by white privilege. They use white feminism to focus on the struggles of the few wealthy white women to benefit themselves rather than the majority of women with intersecting identities, which include poor women, women of color, queer women, trans women, disabled women, and all possible combinations and layers of marginalization.
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is often quoted “there is a special place in hell for women who don’t support other women,” a quote which women like Amy Poehler and Lena Dunham love. It’s on Starbucks cups, sold on stickers and baby tees, yet none of these white feminist icons have shown a spotlight on #BlackLivesMatter, violence against the LGBTQ community or other issues that many women face. Where white women make 79 cents to a white man’s dollar, Black women make 64 cents and Latinx women make 56 cents. So where are these feminists supporting other women? What does a woman who supports other women look like?
On January 21st millions of women across the country organized to protest the inauguration of a rapist. To me the feminists in that crowd looked like Black women, trans women, all women resisting together, standing up for those at the bottom. It was not for the white women who used “pussy hats” to benefit from the exclusion of trans women. The uniting factor of Feminism is not a denial of our differences but a celebration of our intersecting identities and focusing on those who need the empowerment the most. So what does the future of feminism look like? What does a feminist look like? A feminist is an ally in all ways, a feminist believes in all forms of social justice and paves the way for a radical future.