White feminism. You've probably heard this term recently, but may not fully understand what it means. The first time I read a headline calling someone a "white feminist," I assumed it meant a person who happened to be both a feminist and white. It was only after some research that I learned that "white feminism" is, in fact, a pejorative term meaning the kind of feminism that blatantly excludes the issues of women who are not white, cisgender, and straight. It's important to look into ways we as moms can fight against white feminism so that no woman feels excluded from the feminist movement.
Ideologically, it should be a no-brainer to identify as a feminist. Shouldn't everyone be on board with equality and equal opportunities for all people? Unfortunately, those publicly representing feminism have historically been middle- to upper-class white women with access to higher education. The injustices represented by white feminists don't even begin to touch on the surface of what women of color, LGBTQ+ women, low-income women, or women with disabilities face. Nor does it take into account that although some issues may affect all women, for example, the gender-wage gap, the experiences vary greatly from woman to woman depending on the color of her skin.
According to Fem Magazine, UCLA’s feminist newsmagazine, white feminism constricts the boundaries of what it means to be a “woman” and it is time to move beyond white feminism and begin a brand a feminism inclusive to all women. Here are some ways moms can help fight against white feminism.
1. Strive For Intersectionality
Intersectionality, or intersectional feminism, is understanding that a person's identity and experiences are defined by more than just gender. In addition to gender, a person's race, ability status, and class are connected, and according to Bustle, these connections inform how structures of oppression operate. In other words, being a feminist means that you actively care about issues of injustice that don’t necessarily apply to you. This is something moms can teach their children from a young age by teaching them to stand up for those around them.
Ijeoma Uluo wrote in Ravishly that, "Feminism must be intersectional if we want it to truly help all women."
2. Examine Your Privilege
Laci Green, host of MTV's YouTube channel Braless noted that privileges are places where a person holds more power in society than others. "For example," Green says, "I'm white, I'm cisgender, I'm able-bodied, I have a roof over my head and food on the table. These are privileges that not every woman has, and that shapes my experience of the world." By examining your privilege you are then able use that privilege to empower those around you whose voices are not being heard. Moms can start this early by teaching their children to act as a voice for classmates who are being bullied.
3. Allow Women Of Color To Have A Voice
Women of color – and all women with fewer privileges – want the opportunity to speak for themselves and discuss the issues that they face. Although it is important to stand and fight together for causes, the voices should represent the people who are oppressed. Uluo suggested that many women of color do not identify as feminists because they don't see themselves nor their issues accurately represented among the spokespersons for feminism. Give all women the opportunity to express their concerns.
4. Don't Claim To Be Colorblind
Many parents claim that they've taught their children to be "colorblind." Although it's wonderful to love and respect everyone equally regardless of race and ethnicity, the reality is that a person's identity and experiences are inherently related to the color of their skin. Many people of color, myself included, are proud of their heritage. As a Latina, I am often mistaken at first glance as being Caucasian, which I realize gives me some privilege. However, I make it a point bring up my ethnicity (which also includes some Middle Eastern and Sephardic Jewish ancestry) because my personal life experiences are different than a person raised in a white family. Everyday Feminism noted that "viewing someone completely devoid of racial context actually ignores the very real lived experience of the person standing in front of you."
5. Listen And Learn
Part of the problem with white feminism is that privilege often prevents a person from truly listening to the plight of others. You may hear stories about racial profiling or police brutality, but unless it directly affects you or a loved one, it's likely you aren't truly listening. Culture writer Zeba Blay and senior women's editor Emma Gray of The Huffington Post note that "the most important thing any white feminist can do is educate herself, and listen and engage with the experiences of women of color without silencing them."