Certain second-wavers would have it that I don’t use the word “feminist” too much because I am weak, or afraid to use it, or have given in to some sort of societal pressure not to stand up for women’s issues.
Wouldn’t you know that my fraught relationship with that word is the result of self-education, listening to the voices of marginalized women, and a large amount of introspection? You see, I was able to use my own brain power to autonomously decide “feminist” is problematic, just like any normal human being!
To wit, “feminism” has become so closely allied with, and claimed by, women of privilege that to claim it would be a vote of support for privileged (mostly Western, white, middle-upper class, heterosexual) women and against the repeatedly expressed concerns of the rest of us: trans women, queer women, poor and low-income women, women of color, non-Western women, differently-abled women.
I haven’t just seen this on the blogosphere, in the various wars where WOC critique white feminists’ passive racism, and a bunch of white self-described feminists leap into the breach to try and silence the WOC voices and validate the white ones. I have seen this in real non-computer-mediated life. I have literally observed white feminists deliberately push women of color back to the margins just as the WOC are trying to push to the center. I have seen queer women’s specific needs regarding sexuality, relationship formation, and child-care sidelined as less important. And etcetera.
I have seen white feminists get angry at the suggestion that power within this supposedly all-inclusive women’s movement be shared. Race is a separate issue, a distraction from the sisterhood, they say. So is disability. So is recognizing the very different life experiences of women from different social classes.
It is almost too painful to even discuss what cisgendered feminists say about trans women. Let’s just say that the majority of cisgendered feminists aren’t at all convinced that trans women’s issues are worth a modicum of their time.
I can’t use the word feminism anymore without thinking about all of this. The liberation of privileged white women has little to do with my liberation. Until feminists realize that “[their] liberation is bound up with mine” I don’t have much motivation to join their exclusive movement.
Please read this article at the Guardian to get the perspective of a woman of color on this matter.