Women of color and disabled women both have a long history of forced sterilization. Our fight is to have the right to give birth, raise our children, as well as the right to have an abortion. Our right to mother is constantly under assault and we are deemed either incapable of raising our own children, or irresponsible breeders. Similarly, it is common to hear Latina women accused of having anchor babies. The explicit racism and sexism in this term goes unchallenged.
The gender gap in terms of wage is under constant debate, but what continues to escape discussion is that those who occupy the poorest percentile are women of color. According to the Fairness Initiative on Low-Wage Work, women make up 60 percent of the low wage workforce; however, African American women make up 35.8 percent of that figure, compared to 26.2 percent who are White. Equalizing labor between men and women will not necessarily equal subsistence wage for Black women, but you wouldn’t know that from feminist conversations.
Women of color and trans* women are still struggling in 2012 to be understood as full women. Trans women of color are subjected to extremely high rates of violence. In 2010 The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs released its annual report and it revealed that 70% of the hate-based violence was aimed at LGBT people of color, and of the overall total, 44% of the victims were trans.
Despite being in the so-called third wave of feminism, we have seen no advancement in respect to transphobia. Feminist Mary Daly called trans women Frankensteinian necrophiliacs. Germaine Greer who was recently glitter bombed by The Queer Avengers said that “the existence of trans women is morally equivalent to murder.” In 2009 Greer penned a piece regarding South African middle-distance runner and world champion Caster Semenya for The Guardian, in which she wrote about men passing as women and declared this to be a ghastly parody. There is also Julie Bindel, who famously wrote, “I don’t have a problem with men disposing of their genitals, but it does not make them women.” Feminism has a long history of anti-trans hate. A trans woman deciding to avoid the label of feminist, could rightly be seen as an act of self preservation.
There isn’t a single social justice movement that has managed to avoid problematic elements, and feminism is no different in that regard. When it comes to feminism, the issue is the denial of the various problematic elements, while declaring a refusal to identify as feminist as an internalization of right wing rhetoric. Feminism needs to be honest about its past and its ongoing problems. It’s not fair to ask young people to identify as feminist without making sure that those who do take on the label are aware of what they are associating themselves with. How many marginalized women have to go through the heartbreak of disillusionment with feminism, before feminist organizations decide to be truly intersectional or honest about their stated goals?