12 April 2010

Feminism/Womanism and The Cracks In My Movement

Ever since I was 17, I've called myself a feminist. Feminism, as a matter of fact, has been central to my concept of myself. Absolutely, the way that identity has manifested and focused itself has shifted with time - as I became more aware of my own privilege and power and unpacked my knapsack, much of the focus I had as a young feminist seems, at best, naive and often actually offensive.

But that process was still important - the transition from one concept of feminism to a more justice-oriented feminism that included awareness of and pushing against oppression of all kinds was an important part of my identity formation and, therefore, something that I hope to see feminists of all walks of life going through.

But they don't. WE don't. And I have no choice but to admit that my chosen identity, the people that I call my people, have issues.

We have long-standing issues with race, as well as with sexuality, ableism, with tokenizing transgendered and intersexed individuals, and with a host of other issues of intersections of power and privilege. Like it or not (and I don't), I have to admit that this movement is still largely for and of white, middle-class, straight (or straight-appearing), traditionally attractive, able-bodied cisgendered women.

I am not all of those things, but I am enough of them that I blend. And, absolutely, there are people within the feminist movement who have found their home there without fitting into those identity categories. But there are plenty of women who feel the way that Renee Martin does, that feminism has no room made for her or her life.

And ignoring that, engaging in some knee-jerk "nuh uh! no no no, we HAVE BLACK FRIENDS, TOO" bullshit doesn't fix the fact that we feminists, we've got issues in our own movement. And plugging our ears and saying "No no no" doesn't solve it. It makes it worse.

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