“Aint I a Woman?”- Feminism, the Illusion of Inclusion, and Historic Betrayal of White Women
I am not a feminist. I used to identify with the ideology and the movement because I (mistakenly) believed that it was the only way to achieve gender equality. Now, I wholeheartedly reject and scorn feminism. I am not anti-gender equality. I am not pro-sexism or pro-misogyny. I support women’s rights; I just do not support feminism. Why? Feminism is inherently integrationist, but it is not inherently intersectional.
Intersectionality was term coined by legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989. The term was originally used to depict the combined experiences that Black women had with racism and sexism. In other words, intersectionality describes the multiplicity of experienced oppressions, at once, and NOT identities. (please see: Crenshaw, Kimberlé. (1989). Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex…)
At the first organized women’s rights conference (The Women’s Convention of 1851 in Akron, Ohio), Sojourner Truth gave her famous “Aint I a Woman?” speech. This Black History Month, as I was reading the speech back to my five-year-old daughter (as a part of a curriculum I prepared for her based on Vashti Harrison’s book, “Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History”), so many of her words then ring true, even today.
Frances Gage who transcribed the speech noted a debate on whether Truth should even be allowed to speak among the (white) women.
Truth explains the standards for womanhood that have long been afforded to white women (being lifted into carriages, helped over puddles, lifted over ditches, general human regard, and chivalry), have never been afforded to her as a Black woman. She laments over the fact that while she endured slavery, beatings, and had her children sold, no one, including white women, heard, or cared about her pain. Truth continues, pointing out that she worked as hard in the field as (Black) men and harder than white men too, and thus, was deserving of just as much benefit. She goes on to state that white men use “intellect” to dispirit and silence Black women, in this case.
Truth also acknowledges the privilege and basic freedoms both white men and women have, while mentioning that allowing other people basic freedoms is not a detractor from one’s own freedoms.
She ends her speech by citing religious origins of sexism in stating: “Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.”
As a freed slave woman who could neither read nor write, Sojourner Truth plainly articulated the status of the Black woman in American, white, patriarchal society. Particularly in relation to white women and white men. White women are and were the direct and indirect beneficiaries of the labor of Black women. They are no better than their counterparts (the white man) in their racism; white women are direct beneficiaries of the societal effects of misogynoir.
We will delve into that later in this piece.
From its inception, the feminist movement has been ran by white women. They are rich, educated, wealthy white women, seeking to shut down, talk over, and overall, dismiss and ignore the specific issues of Black women.
In its early stages, the feminist movement began with Suffrage Movement. Black women were inherently and purposely excluded from the right to vote because of their Blackness. Susan B Anthony, famed and celebrated suffrage activist, is quoted saying the following:
- I will cut off this right arm of mine before I will ever work or demand the ballot for the Negro and not the woman” (Because black women are not a thing, amirite?)
- “What words can express her [white woman’s] humiliation when, at the close of this long conflict, the government which she had served so faithfully held her unworthy of a voice in its councils, while it recognized as the political superiors of all the noble women of the nation the negro men just emerged from slavery, and not only totally illiterate, but also densely ignorant of every public question.” (Because since US slavery began to the start of the Suffrage Movement, it is okay to call Black people stupid after denying them basic humanity, and the right to receive an education for about 229 years, right?)
- “The old anti-slavery school says women must stand back and wait until the negroes shall be recognized. But we say, if you will not give the whole loaf of suffrage to the entire people, give it to the most intelligent first. If intelligence, justice, and morality are to have precedence in the government, let the question of the woman be brought up first and that of the negro last.” (Again, erasing the fact that Black women fucking exist and would like the right to vote as well.)
Susan B Anthony considered Black people and Black women to be “less intelligent” than white women and was willing to throw the Black women’s labor in the movement under the bus to do so (Sojourner Truth spoke about this in her speech). This is the beginning of feminism and has been the continued story of feminism.
Feminism is not inherently intersectional. It never has been and it never will be. Susan B Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were both abolitionists, but when the opportunity came for white women en masse to support all women, they chose to be selfish. The 15th amendment gave Black men the right to vote and white women organized and fought for suffrage on the basis that they deserved it and that Black people did not.
White women, including white feminists, always pick white supremacy over any opportunity to not be racist.
They do not desire equality for all women. They want to be equal in their opportunity and resources to be oppressors, like their men.
To further illustrate this point, let us address other white feminist icons and movements.
The Christian Temperance Movement, Frances Willard, and the Attempt to Crucify Ida B Wells
On the heels of white liberal abolitionists, and gaining steam from the Suffrage Movement, came the Christian Temperance Movement in 1874. The Temperance Movement was a movement against the consumption of alcoholic beverages, particularly hard spirits, and beer. The Movement was popular among feminists at the time because it was believed that alcohol consumption was a major contributor to domestic abuse of women, and thus, a feminist issue.
It was popular among some black activists of the time because of the tendency of white men to get drunk and go lynching innocent black people.
Frances E. Willard was the president of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) in 1879. Ida B Wells-Barnett (a black woman, anti-racism/ anti-lynching crusader, and writer), very publicly drew issue with and criticized the methods the WCTU used to gain support.
In her autobiography, Wells-Barnett calls out Willard for gaining support among Southern white women because she “unhesitatingly slandered the entire Negro race in order to gain favor with those who are hanging, shooting and burning Negroes alive.” Wells-Barnett was correct in this assessment. Willard’s stance to gather the support of white southerners was playing on the racist fear that drunken Black men were going to rape white women. This fear became the entire premise of white supremacy — the protection of the sexual purity of white women and homogeny of the white race. This fear was very successful in gaining support, and in contributing to the lynching that Wells was fighting against.
Growing frustrated with white liberal willingness to be racist or look over racism and racist violence in the US, Wells-Barnett eventually moved to England and continued to call out racist violence in the US, while also criticizing the Temperance Movement and its leadership. The British were more open to listening to and acting on the social issues that Wells-Barnett wrote and spoke about. Yet, they found it hard to believe that leadership of “equality” movements like Willard’s, were willing to work with the perpetrators of racist crimes.
This is where things get interesting: the white women of the Temperance Movement leadership actively sought to slander and invalidate Wells-Barnett as a person, activist, and writer, to justify their liberal racism. In 1894, Lady Henry Somerset (leader of the British Chapter of the WCTU) and Willard invited Wells-Barnett to speak as an attempt to discredit her. However, Wells-Barnett came to the event armed with a copy of a magazine interview in which Willard claimed that alcohol caused “Negros to multiply like locusts,” and that Black population growth was a threat to white people. The interview was reprinted and enraged Somerset, who threatened Wells-Barnett with black listing if the words were printed in Europe.
Somerset also wrote a letter to Frederick Douglass asking that he publicly reprimand Wells. He did not.
Somerset and Willard continued to try to use the press as a weapon against Wells-Barnett and painted her in London and American media as an “angry black woman” and harlot. Their smear campaign was not successful. Wells went on to found the London Anti-Lynching Committee, which Somerset and Willard joined, as influential members of Parliament. In her autobiography, Wells-Barnett stated that this moment “was not only a boomerang to Miss Willard. It seemed to appeal to the British sense of fair play. Here were two prominent white women, joining hands in the effort to crush an insignificant colored woman who had neither money nor influence — nothing but the power of truth with which to fight her battles.”
In summary, white feminists have always been willing to overlook racism for their own personal gain- even at the cost of Black women.
Stopes is considered a feminist icon because she wrote a book called “Married Love,” which the feminist movement considers the “world’s first sex manual.” This shit here had me scratching my head for many reasons. The first being, have you fucking heard of the Kama Sutra? And the second, Marie Stopes supported Hitler and eugenics. Yes. She. Supported. Hitler.
Feminists have an ‘icon’ that is a Nazi sympathizer, whose claim to feminist icon fame is not even valid because she was not the first to do the shit. Sounds about white.
So… we have erasing the accomplishment of a person of color and rebranding it for white credit? Check. Willing to overlook the literal murder of Jewish and Black/ “non-Aryan” folks to do it? Check.
Stopes was a truly disgusting human. She supported forced sterilization. “Sterilisation of the unfit raises a hornet’s nest, but no one worries at all about the daily sterilisation now going on of the fit. Young married men of the professional classes are today often forced by conditions to remain sterile, though they passionately desire the healthy children they could have if they did not have hordes of defectives to support in one way or the other” (1922). In 2011, a white feminist writer named Zoe Williams had the nerve to write this bullshit in her defense in a Guardian article “Marie Stopes may have held distasteful views on eugenics, but her legacy and influence in the birth control debate is what matters” — bitch what? But white feminist fuckery.
In Nazi era Germany, there was a group known as the Rhineland Bastards, a derogatory term meaning ‘Black Disgrace.’ They were the children of African men (particularly African soldiers occupying Rhineland) and German women. Hitler forcibly sterilized many from this group, including an estimated 500 children; all in line with the thinking of Stopes. But at least white women got some birth control pills… amirite? What really matters in feminism is what benefit comes to white women.
I do not even know where to start with this one. Clinton is an accomplished politician. She is also a systemic racist, imperialist, and opportunist. When I say that Clinton is a systemic racist, I mean that her actions have sustained systemic racism against Black people in this country. She benefited from the slave labor of Black bodies imposed by our racist judicial system and mass incarceration. She supported the War on Drugs that targeted Black drug users and criminalized them tearing apart Black families (the heroin epidemic is being treated as a public health issue instead because it is affecting white people). She called Black people “Superpredators.” She served on the cabinet as Secretary of State of the administration that bombed African countries more than any other administration (Thanks, Obama). The Clinton family robbed Haiti of money intended for aid. And although it is not exactly fair to blame Clinton for the crimes of her husband on the Black community, I will do so anyway because her entire political career after her husband’s presidency hinged on his legacy as a “friend” to the Black community.
So here is the legacy of the Clinton family to the Black community:
- Making of a 100:1 sentencing disparity for crack cocaine (popular in Black community because it is cheaper) than cocaine (a more elite version of the same drug popular among white communities).
- The “Three strikes” law that mandated life sentences for certain offenders; most of them non-violent drug offenders, like the ones in possession or sale of crack.
- Billions of dollars into expanding federal prisons (which enforces a lot of overcrowding due to the making of new felonies, life sentences, and longer sentences for crack versus cocaine).
- Highest unemployment rates for Black men in history.
- Welfare reform that slashed funding by $54 billion (but put $46 billion into criminalizing and imprisoning us).
- Reducing funding to public housing.
- Allowing people with criminal records to be denied shelter.
- Allowing eviction from public housing for any kind of criminal activity (whether arrest, or trial, but not guilty).
Black people were 80–90% of the people convicted for drug related crimes. The Clinton legacy is transforming Black slavery for profit, tearing apart Black families, and further criminalizing Blackness in a nation that already over-polices, under-provides resources for, and under-supports us. And Black people were fooled because Bill’s ass played a saxophone for Arsenio. The effects of mass incarceration and sentencing increases are still plaguing Black communities. The Clintons are no friends of the Black community. And I am glad she didn’t win. I’d rather have a known enemy than an enemy that pretends to be a friend. And considering that the DNC conspired WITH Hilary over Bernie when she was down in the polls, is a conspiracy against Black people, immigrants, and everyone who isn’t rich… like the Clintons.
To review, the Clintons benefited from prison slave labor in their Arkansas mansion. The Clintons both wrote and supported crime bills that contributed to over-policing and over-sentencing of Black people. The Clinton slashed programs that supported Black families, then made it impossible for those returning from prison (due to their over-sentencing) to receive any manner of support, to be denied housing, and to get a job. Then, Hilary Clinton had the nerve to call upon the mothers of victims of police brutality (caused by over funding, militarizing police — some shit they’ve contributed to) to bolster her support among Black women. Hilary is fucking gross, but Black women should look past all of this and support her because… woman — right?
Hilary Clinton, like Margaret Thatcher, is one of the reasons I say that white women do not desire equality of all women. They only desire to be equal oppressors to white men. They do not care if the board room is deciding which community of color to shit on and tear apart, so long as they get a say so in it.
Rosie the Riveter
Rosie has always bothered me. She was a symbol for working white women during WWII because she encouraged them to be beautiful, strong, and to work in typically ‘non-feminine’ roles, while the men were gone. Fuck Rosie tho… why? BECAUSE BLACK WOMEN HAD ALREADY BEEN WORKING FOR CENTURIES WITHOUT ANY REGARDS TO THEIR HUMANITY, RIGHT TO FAIR PAY, OR ‘FEMININITY.’ But because this was something ‘new’ to white women, Rosie encompassed their unfamiliarity with having to financially contribute to their household. What pisses me off most about this is that when the white men returned from the war, the white women could return home (where Jim Bob paid all their bills and a Black maid was used, abused, and underpaid to raise children to grow up and treat them the same). Fuck Rosie and the white women who see her as a symbol of female progress. She has always been for YOU because WE [Black women] have never had the option of not working.
Atwood is the writer of “The Handmaid’s Tale” which is a ‘dystopian’ novel in which “the progress of women is reversed.” It is now the basis of a very popular series that streams on Hulu. It is premised on a world where there is a plummeting birth rate and so the women become property and breeders. Basically, the white feminist nightmare and “dystopia” is to be treated like Black women were during literal and actual slavery. Women are named after their masters, like slaves; women have their children taken from them, like slaves; women fight for their freedom and independence…. Like. Fucking. Slaves. It is fucking gross that white women have the nerve to be disgusted by the idea of them being the slaves when by and large, white people benefitted and continue to benefit from slavery. A common theme among white feminist art work is being disgusted by the horror of being treated like slaves. And it is fucking gross.
Reminder: white women, you were there during slavery. Your sons, fathers, husbands, brothers, uncles, grandparents, etc. were our owners, overseers. They were the police that caught us and brought us back to the plantation. They were the Klan members that lynched us. And you were okay with this as long as they kept a Black woman to nurse your baby, clean your house, pick and cook your food, and direct the sexual and violent aggression that you felt they should not inflict on you. They raped us to preserve your purity. They beat and bruised us to preserve your beauty and youth. They worked and bred us to death to feed you and give you all the things that you wanted. And yes, it was a horrible fucking reality… but it is not your reality and it never will be. Using a slavery metaphor for your white feminist nonsense is fucking insulting to intergenerational ancestral trauma experienced by Black women that you witnessed and did nothing about. Y’all need to fucking stop. Even in ancient history, white women have never been subjected to the horrors of slavery if there was a non-white option available. White patriarchy serves for your protection and provision. As long as white patriarchy is a thing, you will never be treated as less than anyone but white men. And considering that you bear and rear white men, I have to question your commitment to not raising sexist and racist patriarchs in this first place.
According to a Washington Post Poll, 70% of women identify as feminist. Fifty three percent of all white women voted for Donald Trump: a racist, elitist, classist, capitalist, rapist, sexual abuser, domestic abuser…. I could do this all day, but the point is, he is the antithesis of all the things that white feminists claim to despise. Yet, 70% of these feminists did not vote for Hilary (if they cared enough to vote at all given the stakes for anyone who was not a rich white man). If white feminists cannot be called upon to vote for a person whom is within their demographic, whom is literally everything they claim to want in a candidate, whom panders directly to them, whom is not a fucking rapist, why do Black women believe that white women can be trusted or counted upon to show up for our issues? They cannot be. And we should stop expecting them to pretend to.
Let their asses throw their tantrums ’cause they’re mad at their daddy (the oppressors are their daddies, after all), in their dumb ass pink pussy hats, and look stupid.
The “Gender” Wage Gap
It is true that women earn less than men. Feminists like to cite this number as “Women make 72 cents on the dollar for every dollar a man earns in the same field”. This is a false and non-inclusive number. What feminists NEGLECT to mention when citing this number and gap is that white women out earn Black women for the same work. That’s right. For every dollar a white man earns, a white woman earns 82 cents, a black man earns 73 cents, and a black woman earns 65 cents, according to the Pew Research Center. For every $1.82 a potential dual income white family earns, a black family will earn $1.38. And because of the War on Drugs, mass incarceration, police brutality, over-policing, and lack of economic opportunity in poor communities of color, Black women are much more likely to be raising a family alone on that $0.65 compared to the $1.82 a white woman will have to raise her children.
It does not fit into the white feminist agenda to discuss the ways that they are more privileged, protected, and provided for than any group of men.
There is no clearer example of their skewed statistics and selective outrage than their centering of their own gap and not the ways their privilege further affects communities of color, but especially Black women. White women are the major beneficiaries of affirmative action, a legislative measure intended to introduce and maintain racial fairness in hiring and recruiting practices. This disadvantages communities of color, regardless of gender. White women are second to none, but the white man.
The Body Positivity Movement
The Body Positivity Movement is the latest and most trendy feminist cause. It calls for women to embrace their body, no matter the shape and size, and to love their curves. This is a great thing; however, I cannot help but to notice the very convenient timing of white women. You see, Black women have always been “curvier” than the white standards of beauty with bigger lips, wider hips, bigger butts and bosoms, and fuller shapes, whereas white standards favored a thinner white woman.
When European men colonized African nations, they were cultured shocked by the different standards of dress, the embracing of nudity, and the fullness of African women’s bodies. They used this as justification for forced breeding of Black women and for the sexual abuse of Black women. They claimed that Black women’s bodies were better fit for sexual consumption and breeding than white women’s bodies. This is known as the Jezebel Stereotype. Many plantations had slaves who’s only role was to provide sexual satisfaction to the master or his guest as bed wenches. Many slave women were subject to additional cruelness by white women because of their rape by their husbands. If a Black woman had a “fatter” body then she was Mammy and fit only as a maid and child care provider. If a Black man had a fit body and a big dick, he was subject to being a Mandingo or Cabin buck.
Black people’s bodies have been the decider of which form of dehumanization, abuse, and rape they would be subject to.
So, after millions of African slave women have been raped and forced to breed children they had no say or control over because they were curvier, white women now want to embrace being a bit bigger because their shitty American diets have made them a bit wider. Fuck that. There is no comparison between the bullshit and trauma Black women have endured for our bodies and you being called fat because you ate McDonald’s for every meal this week, especially if you don’t even live in a fucking food desert.
As a person whom rejects white patriarchy, I whole heartedly reject its response- feminism.
Feminism is not a solution for Black women’s liberation. While Black women may receive some trickle-down effects of its work, a movement that claims to benefit all women should strive to do better than claim all women benefit equally. Feminism has had many opportunities and way too much time to address the specific issues of Black women, but it has chosen to uphold white hegemony and homogeny. This is because white women are aware that they, in lots of ways, benefit from white supremacy. No, they do not benefit as much as white men, but they benefit nonetheless.
For Black women who want to fight for Black women’s rights, I beg that you do not let white women benefit from your labor, whether it is intellectual or physical. They will only tokenize it to give you the illusion of inclusion, while still not providing individualized results. Feminism is not the only women’s rights movement. There are other movements that inherently address the concerns of Black women. Black women should be devoting their intellectual and physical labor to causes and movements that are exclusive to us, instead of expending that labor and additional labor into trying to get white women to legitimize and rally behind us. They have not done it in the hundreds of years that we have given them to do so and they are not doing it now. We need to stop rallying behind their struggles with their men because they are not fighting for true equality, only the equal right and opportunity to oppress us (and then they do not even show up at the ballots for equality either).
We do not need them or their movement. We never did.
White society is collapsing against itself and we should let it. For too long, we have allowed our love and compassion for humanity to be taken advantage of by those who do not have the same motives. Instead of trying to save them from themselves we should be protecting ourselves from the ways their eventual demise will affect us, and protecting each other. The labor and support of Black women is invaluable, and we should value it enough to only expend it with promise and follow through of both personal and collective benefit. It is 2018 and Black women are STILL where Sojourner Truth was at the first feminist convention, begging to speak, begging for our words to be heard, begging for our individual intersectional issues to be acknowledged. It is not fucking okay.
Decolonize your resistance.
Black women matter.
Black labor matters.
Black intellectualism matters.
Black lives matter.