I have had a long standing problem with labeling myself a feminist and the Feminist Movement in general, primarily its treatment of people of color. That is not to say that I do not embrace many of the tenets of feminism, but my main problem has always been its unsuccessful inclusion of ethnic minorities in the struggle. Specifically the dismissive attitude, mostly on the part of some feminists, regarding the real issue of continued racial disparity within our society.
The Feminist Movement for me has always been a movement primarily concerned with meeting the needs of privileged white woman and not one sufficiently concerned with addressing the needs of marginalized people. The rhetoric has always been one of inclusion, but there has been little or no acknowledgement of the fact that ill treatment towards women in our country is not uniform. Disparities do exist among women and women of color in fact, do have a harder time than others. Additionally, many white feminists like to talk about things like pay inequity but do not want to discuss the fact that although White woman on average make less than White men, they still make more money than Black men, Black woman, and Hispanic woman in this country.
So these are just some of the reasons I have never been able to embrace feminism fully as a social/cultural ideology. Taking Woman Studies classes in college didn’t help to sway my feelings either. If anything the classes solidified my inability to identify with a movement that I believe to be ill-equipped to adequately acknowledge or address my needs. In short, the Feminist Movement has historically allowed women of color to sit at the table but they haven’t been allowed to eat.
The terms womanism and feminism are not so far removed from one another but I do think that womanism does consider some critical areas that feminism does not. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, in her 1983 work, In Search of Our Mother’s Garden’s, Alice Walker describes womanism as, ” simply another shade of feminism. It helps give visibility to the experience of black women and other women of color who have always been at the forefront of the feminist movement yet marginalized and rendered invisible in historical texts and the media.” This ideology more closely mirrors my views because it first acknowledges that women of color have always advocated for the fair treatment of all women despite not having their own needs met. Furthermore, it gives women of color permission to advocate for women in their own manner rather than waiting for acceptance/recognition from a movement that historically has not treated their concerns equally. I must say, I wholeheartedly concur.
Interested in learning more about the Womanism check out the article below by Fatema Hayat:
Also check out the article by Marjorie Romeyn-Sanabria:
I think she explains why many woman of color do not feel included in the feminist struggle:
Pearson Education. (2007). The wage gap by gender and race. Retrieved from the Information Please website: http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0882775.html
Walker, A. (1983). In search of our mother’s gardens: Womanist prose. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich: San Diego, CA