When I was younger I always considered myself a feminist and went along with the belief that it was a movement for the equality of women that prioritized assimilation in overarching power structures, such as the patriarchy and capitalism.
However, this girl boss, glass ceiling type of feminism is the whitewashed version that is mainstream liberal feminism. It excludes all women, except white CisHet women who already have a leg up. Individualistic or choice feminism, liberal feminism, does not attack or dismantle the systems that oppress people. As my worldview shifted so did my political ideals. I no longer agree with mainstream liberal feminists but rather the radical, abolitionist feminist views that I hold today. Frankly, I am tired of mainstream feminism.
First-wave feminism back in the early 20th century fought for women’s right to vote and own property. The suffragette movement was racially motivated by white women believing that they deserved the right to vote before black men, who were gaining more rights at the time, blurring the lines between women’s rights and white supremacy.
This women’s rights movement also excluded women of color because suffragettes believed that the oppression they were also feeling was due to race, not gender.
Women of color and other marginalized individuals were excluded from the beginning so it makes sense as to why they are still being excluded today.
True feminism is not about individual freedom and equality but rather the liberation of all people from the systems that oppress people. Choosing to ask myself why society has such an aversion to progress, lead me to critique the systems that oppress people like the state, capitalism, the family, sex and education, as well as white supremacy, and that is what real feminism is about.
Dismantling the systems that are oppressing women rather than achieving gender equality within the framework of liberal democracy is what true feminism is about. The liberation of women will never happen unless the systems that are responsible in the first place are knocked down, especially not for marginalized women.
In relearning what I thought it meant to be a feminist, I was able to learn about intersectional feminism. This theory describes how different forms of inequality operate within feminism to make each other worse.
This theory was coined by Kimberle Crenshaw, an American civil rights advocate, and this new wave of feminism includes all types of women; women of color, disabled women, lqbtqia+, working-class, poor, sex workers, religious women and any others. Everyone has a unique experience when it comes to discrimination and oppression and no matter what that is, you are included.
With white mainstream feminism only focusing on individualistic ideas rather than the systems that oppress us, we will lose sight of any real change for the future. This is because under capitalism individual power or advancement comes at the expense of someone else.
As a white woman, even though I experience gendered oppression I still have far more privileges than many marginalized people. I need to be aware of this every day and I have a
responsibility to check these privileges because white women can not keep using misogyny to separate ourselves from whiteness. Instead, we need to recognize our privileges at all times and actively include everyone to help dismantle systems of oppression.
Angela Davis, a political activist, once said, “feminism that privileges those who already have privilege is bound to be irrelevant to poor women, working-class women, women of color and trans women. White women need to take a step back and stop centering ourselves in a movement that should be for all women and help amplify marginalized voices to even begin to see change.”
If you do not include sex workers, women of color, poor or houseless women, disabled women and trans women as well as analyze how poverty, racism and disparities in healthcare, education, public services, policing and prison systems severely stunt the possibility of progress then I believe you should not call yourself a feminist.
Real feminism is intersectional. The root of intersectional feminism is making room for, listening and advocating for all women.
“A feminism that seeks power instead of questioning it does not care about justice,” Lola Olufemi, author of Feminism Interrupted, said.