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Saturday, August 18, 2018

Columns

Women’s March unified us, but movement falls short of intersectionality


At the 2017 Woman’s March, signs and banners showed the serious issues women had with our current society. | Jasmine Davis/The Cougar

 

 

This year’s Women’s March, in Houston and worldwide, was filled with powerful testimonials and speeches that brought women together, but it also brought to light the missing aspect of intersectionality within the movement.

From pop singer Halsey’s free-verse poem about harassment to actor Scarlett Johansson calling out predators who have used their titles as shields, there has been statement after statement about the issues riddling our nation with women’s rights.

Yet despite everything feminist activism has achieved throughout the years, the lack of intersectional feminism poisons this unity. White feminism and black feminism are exactly what they sound like, very narrow attempts at equality for those specific categories. The intersections of these attempts are the most unified forms of advancing this platform. 

Privilege is not being used to lift up those entrenched within systems of injustice, and this is turning what is supposed to be revolutionary change into poster competitions and a show of who was the most “feminist feminist” of the month. 

It’s not easy being a woman. It never has been, and who knows if it ever will be.  But with movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp, women are not allowing themselves to be silenced any longer and are going straight for the kill.

As college students, our generational perspective and access to unique resources provides us a unique advantage of achieving this platform of equality. The obstacles, such as education and discrimination, that hindered us in the past have loosened their grip on the most diverse and educated generation.

Yet all these benefits are lost on a group of people that is not unifying but rather pursuing individual civil rights agendas. We are all to blame, but those who possess the privileges of affluence and true representation have a greater share.

Social media, especially Twitter, can be a nasty place. Sometimes I catch myself deleting the app from my phone from time to time because of how toxic it can get. While the platform is a great place to share experiences and shed light on issues that would otherwise be ignored, it is also common to find individuals invalidating the experiences of others.

Saying negative and problematic things while hiding under the guise of feminism not only taints the movement’s image, it steers people from understanding the main goal of advancing the rights and easing the trials of womanhood today. 

Public figures and people with influential social media presences also exploit feminism by using it to glorify themselves, further hindering the movement.

When it comes to exploitation, however, Hollywood takes the cake. Like every trend, celebrities have partaken in their fair shares, partially by showing up at the Women’s March and pretending to care, when many of those actors, musicians and comedians are the real subjects of the march’s protests.

James Franco, for example, was recently accused of sexually inappropriate behavior by five women and was removed from Vanity Fair’s cover. Selena Gomez, a self proclaimed feminist who has given speeches about empowering and protecting young women, is recently working with child molester Woody Allen. Miley Cyrus, another known feminist, believes in equal rights for women and has publicly supported the movement while exploiting black women and culture in her music career at the same time.

Hearing things like this are disheartening and makes you wonder: How many people are actually fighting for the cause, and how many are just showing face?

We cannot focus our attention on different parts of identities, of genders, sexualities and races that must be liberated, because this is inherently unequal. To satisfy the goal of feminism, which is equality across a broad platform of femininity, intersectionality is a mandate.

At the 2018 Golden Globes, many actresses wore all black to stand up against sexual harassment in Hollywood. Oprah and Viola Davis were two of many who gave powerful speeches that filled the audience with hope for a future where a woman doesn’t have to stay silent when being harassed just to keep her job.

According to National Election Pool exit polls, 52 percent of white women voted for Trump. Out of this 52 percent, 44 percent were college educated. It’s like white feminists are enraged about injustice and fight for equality, but only when it affects them.

As Tina Fey said in 2017 during a Facebook Live fundraiser for the American Civil Liberties Union: “You can’t look away because it doesn’t affect you this minute, but it’s going to affect you eventually.”

When it comes to feminism, there will always be a white and black feminism, both literally and figuratively, but it doesn’t have to be that way. With intersectionality, we can fight for equality together, creating true unification and not just visual feminism.

With everyone fighting together and standing up for all races, religions, and genders, we can focus on the main challenge of destroying a system built on the backs of others who weren’t white and male.

Opinion columnist Bethel Biru is a broadcast journalism senior. She can be reached at [email protected]

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