By Grace Broad
I had always assumed feminism was one of the world’s most inclusive movements: its primary aim is to create an equal society, for all genders. However, I had never registered the more restrictive barriers that existed within the movement. After reading Reni Eddo-Lodge’s best-selling novel, Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race I took some time to reflect on the first chapter she wrote; The feminism question. It really made me ask: does feminism actually represent all women?
Last week, I had a virtual conversation with Pat Black, who is a member of Soroptimist International. We discussed feminism in great detail but we kept coming back to the crux of any issue – inclusivity. Or lack of.
After my discussion with Pat, the unfortunate reality became clear to me: when we strip back the surface of any group in society, each is guilty of segregation – or opposed to the idea of joining “unfamiliar” groups together. In this case of feminism, an unfamiliar group seems to be any not made up of white, able-bodied, cisgender women.
Despite intersectionality being so common, our law still denies its existence. Legally, you are not protected from racism and sexism together. All issues regarding multiple cases of prejudice must be separated. Much like how we live in society. Particularly in Scotland, which remains a very segregated country. Although many multi-cultural groups live in Scotland, this diversity is still not translated into society. We are happy to indulge in the culture of other countries through food, dance, fashion and cinema but we remain closed off to genuine interaction and conversations with “other” people. Our tendency is to sit among the groups that feel most familiar and relatable.
The irony behind saying we can’t relate to other groups, is that underneath everything – gender, race, sexuality, religion, class – we are all the same. Although the daily routines may vary; we all struggle in the same way. So why do we still not join together?
When we address inclusivity within feminism, it is evidently clear how restrictive it is. Although we have made real progress in the UK, feminism still does not achieve full support from our government – mainly because the majority in power is still white men. The current system implemented works against equality of any kind. This system allows us to form an unconscious bias before we even begin campaigning for change and, inevitably, this trickles down into groups, such as feminism. Although this is a movement driven by equality, it is still typically made up of white women – who historically have more access to power. If you are unsure of how this works, google systemic racism.
In order to push past this, members of the feminist community must reflect on their whiteness. What politics are associated with being white? What privileges do white women have access to? How is power vested in white women? If, hypothetically, the patriarchy was dismantled now, how would this affect white women? Would the power imbalance still exist? (The simple answer is yes: if anything, it would increase the power imbalance between ethnicities). These feminists must also recognize the strong feminists and matriarchy groups in continents overseas, where they are still perhaps the minority or do not receive large levels of support. Feminism cannot carry on to be considered a “western concept”.
Without strong women across the globe, there would be no progress. To be strong has no dominant skin colour, sexuality or ability. There are no successful characteristics adorned to you by nature, that will ultimately create a successful feminist. We must engage with all women (and men) to make feminism the strongest movement it can be. Otherwise, what are we campaigning for?
Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Hood Feminism: Notes From The Women White Feminists Forgot by Mikki Kendall
Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
Can We All Be Feminists? by June Eric-Udorie
Ain’t I A Woman: Black Women And Feminism by Bell Hooks
Women, Race And Class by Angela Y. Davis
To My Trans Sisters by Charlie Craggs
Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice by Leah Lakshmi Pirpzna-Samarasinha
It’s Not About The Burqa by Mariam Khan
Revolting Prostitutes: The Fight For Sex Workers’ Rights by Juno Mac and Molly Smith