The Oxford English dictionary defines feminism as the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social and economic equality to men. All of this I can support. However, human error and bias always tends to muddle good intentions.
Advocacy for the equality of minority women in the US on the grounds of political, social and economic equality to men, seems to always be put on the back burner. I do think there is much better effort in at least mentioning intersectionality, but is much more talk than action.
I began to more deeply ponder my discomfort in labeling myself a feminist this past week because of articles like Megan Murphy’s that argued that marriage is anti-feminist. It piqued my interest and although I understood several of her points, I was blatantly reminded that intersectionality was again pushed aside to argue feminist points.
Yes, marriage can be accused of engaging in patriarchy, but it can also be a radical political statement. A pushback. It wasn’t too long ago that the marriages between African-Americans were not even recognized or legal. It wasn’t too long ago that interracial relationships were illegal and resulted in immense violence. It was not too long ago that a young black man could be beaten to a pulp and/or lynched if accused of even whistling at a white woman.
So maybe marriage is accepting patriarchy but it could also be an act that rejects many racist and classist laws, policies and beliefs that litter American history. (See Emmitt Till, a 14 year old boy murdered for supposedly flirting with a white woman.)
I am not of the belief that feminism is only for extreme people that love to burn their bras and hate men. If anyone was burning bras, I would toss mine in there, I hate bras. They actually suck. I also know that feminism is very much needed, but I do feel that some feminists isolate themselves from the plight of men of color.
Yes, men are privileged from birth. The world is literally their oyster. But with the not-guilty Zimmerman verdict haunting my dreams of future motherhood, it is hard to separate myself from my brothers. And I mean literally my two brothers, who could have been walking around a Floridian neighborhood with skinny jeans and a hoodie on and unfairly profiled and even killed.
It is hard for me to label myself a feminist and even complain about the gender wage gap when black and Hispanic men make less than their white female counterparts. Black and Hispanic women also make less than their white male and female counterparts. I just do not see these concerns represented in the larger feminist movement or much discussed the way I would like.
Can the concerns of my faceless friends and me be better addressed in the feminist movement?
The origins of feminism also somewhat disturb me. Of course I am aware that it was born from the oppression and maltreatment of women. Of course I know that women were once and still are, viewed as inferior to men and were once just mere property.
However, certain iconic figures of feminism and the reproductive rights movement rub me the wrong way. Take Margaret Sanger, for instance. I know that humans, including many celebrated heroes like Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., are complex and may not be great at marriage or even have tolerance for South African blacks. I know that TJ (Thomas Jefferson) was an incredibly intellectual guy despite his incredible racism.
Margaret Sanger did many great things for women but also many awful things to women she did not deem worthy. As a supporter of the negative eugenics movement, she believed the unfit, or minority, “retarded” and poor women, did not deserve to reproduce and instead worked to decrease their reproduction. She also supported coerced sterilization of the people she labeled the most unfit, the “mentally retarded”. How can I support a movement that endorses the face and philosophies of a complicated woman like Sanger?
Me continuing to debate this topic after everyone has abandoned me.
So now that you know some of the reasons why I will not call myself a feminist. What do I consider myself? I am unsure. Although I have looked into Womanism and it addresses many of my concerns, I wish there was one movement that catered to every type of women.
There is feminism and then there is black feminism, Chicana feminism, Asian feminism, Native American feminism and on and on. Can we segregate less and include more? For now, the answer to that question is no, but perhaps in the future with more inclusion I will work my way into a feminist movement. Or I will just continue to do what I have always done, and side-eye labels or any form of classification.