A common criticism of feminism is that it mainly represents middle class white women and their interests, without taking into consideration the needs and views of women of color. Feminism is about addressing oppression, power, and privilege, and it’s time we started an honest conversation about truly including the concerns of Black feminists and other feminists of color in the movement. White Feminism has often disregarded the intersectional experiences of feminists, particularly when it comes to race or ethnicity. It’s time for White Feminists to acknowledge their privilege and start listening.
When addressing gender-based oppression, we should not alienate people from feminism based on color and race. Emma Watson recently answered a question from one of her fans asking if she was a White Feminist. Watson said her “involvement with feminism is from the perspective the movement is universal and global.” Watson acknowledges that women of certain ethnic and racial backgrounds experience significantly more discrimination than White people. Watson believes that feminism should be an interconnected movement that lifts up all women, regardless of sexuality, race and levels of privilege. Watson has been criticized for not sharing more about the advantages of being White and wealthy, and for not doing enough to prove herself as a feminist. Most feminists claim Watson is re-teaching century’s old feminism that is nothing new or earth-shattering. I disagree with this notion—I think she addresses the elephant in the room regarding some of the problems with the contemporary feminist movement. Watson wants to talk about privilege, overcoming oppression, and integrating feminism as a unified cause.
To become a unified feminist movement, both White women and women of color should focus on centering the mission of feminism. Without mutual advocacy, a clear mission, and a willingness to relate and communicate, feminists of color and White feminists will continue to clash due to differing perspectives regarding privilege and social status. Centralizing the mission of feminism requires looking at feminist issues from a different perspective, and including issues of race, color, and ethnicity. Feminism is undermined when we focus on difference rather than commonalities. Feminists need to evaluate their privilege and social status, like Watson did in an article published in the British news publication, the Belfast Telegraph. Watson implies that she was not at first aware of her own privilege but instead mentions her luck and good fortune. Watson wants all feminists to address the unique characteristics and qualities that make up their diverse experiences regarding their place in the movement. Watson also wants all feminist women to have access to the same opportunities she has had. Watson called attention to the lack of inclusivity in feminism, asserting that it should not be only for White women. This is a step forward. Watson wants everyone to speak together when thinking about everyday challenges in society, making feminism a dual cause and mission for both men and women of all races and ethnicities.
Issues of social privilege and access can pigeonhole feminism into sub-categories, such as Latina Feminism, Black Feminism, and White Feminism. Once Feminism separates, the potential danger becomes the possibility that it works in opposition to its mission to empower women and challenge discrimination and misogyny. Once this occurs, White Feminists fail to hear other racial groups’ concerns regarding feminism. When I first read about White Feminism, some of the blog posts made my stomach turn. I felt like my race was being attacked, because not all feminists embrace White Feminist viewpoints. But I realized that the only reason I felt uncomfortable was because my own privilege was being challenged. Being White definitely puts me at some advantage: I was fortunate to grow up in a financially stable and open-minded household. These privileges are functions of my race, because financial well-being and growing up in a supportive household are often more accessible for Caucasian families in America. I felt challenged when researching this article, because during my childhood, I was never expected to evaluate my privilege when comparing myself and my life circumstances with those of other people. Of course, it is also possible for a non-white family to be well-off and open-minded about feminism. However, I have to work two jobs to pay my bills and college tuition. I think all Feminists should be more aware of the different categories of socioeconomic privilege and people’s intersecting identities, because privilege does not always come down to race. Caucasian families and black families can be both poor, and intersectional identities are needed to diversify and strengthen the Feminist movement. I agree with Emma Watson that I can’t speak on behalf of other ethnic and racial groups, because I have never had to face the kinds of problems they do. However, I can speak about my own personal experiences and allow members of the marginalized groups I belong to, to use my platform in the media to raise awareness in society, so that feminism is not a divided cause. Feminism is about equality, regardless of skin color and ethnicity.
Progress will be made as soon as all feminists make an effort to listen and include all voices to help change society, so all women feel that feminism is a movement that will help them overcome both racism and gender discrimination. Preconceived assumptions about the nature of feminism and race just serve to hinder the movement .When White Feminists refuse to address their White privilege, they are blocking out critical perspectives from feminists of color that are essential to the continued growth and progress of the movement.