I am a Feminist of Color. I Am a Sister. Who Are You?
The English Oxford Living Dictionary defines person of color as: a person who is not white or of European parentage. Both of my parents immigrated to the United States from the Philippines with their families during the 1970’s, making me a second generation Filipino-American. I identify as a woman of color.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines feminism as: the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes. I do believe that women and men should be considered equal on an political, economic, and social platform. I believe that I identify as a feminist.
I have experienced my share of responses to both “women of color” and “feminism”. When I state that I am a women of color, people typically do not disagree as they can see for themselves. Take a look at me and you can clearly see that I: a) am a woman; and b) am not white. Being a woman of color is the surface truth that I walk with everyday. However, when I state that I am a feminist, most people commonly respond with negativity. Sadly, I have been met with negative responses even from those close to me including, but definitely not limited to: my sister, my current roommates, my past roommates, my past partners, most of my family, and most of my family friends. Do not fret, your girl had explained to them why she identifies as such and proceeded to delight in the fazed look that glossed over their eyes. The exact negative responses had at first been biting at the legs I stand on became a type of fuel to propel me forward against those who do not understand. Well, not yet at least.
Roaming through the internet, it is all too easy to find people arguing about feminism and what is means to be a feminist. When viewing the display of what feminism is as of now, there are too many divides within this group that should be standing in solidarity. It is clear that while there are those who proudly claim that they are feminists, many of those feminists may still not fully understand the depth of feminism and its purpose, which then sets off other feminists to lash out against them. Women, despite their differences, have the power to change the world by helping each other…like sisters…as described in the song below…kind of…
Feminist author and activist bell hooks explicitly explains that women have something that men do not have. bell hooks lays out that women have this bond of true sisterhood, therefore women have that ability to stand in solidarity. As she continues, bell hooks herself points out how there is one group within the female community that must step up. She is quick to call out how it was indeed the bourgeois white women that instigated this idea of how all women should be bonding over their common oppression during this sexist time. The problem bell hooks has with bonding as victims of oppression is that it encouraged this continuation of victimization, which is something that still stands as an issue today, which is about thirty years after bell hooks had published this piece in the 1980's. The idea of being a victim does not equate to using your victimization to support all of your actions, including to be continuously passive against taking your situation and moving beyond to help yourself and other women and even men that have been victims of oppression. To me, I see two types of people who claim victimization: people who have been created into victims by the harm inflicted against them and people who have placed themselves into the mould of being a victim and use that to keep shaping the narrative around themselves. Today’s most popular example of the latter is Taylor Swift, a woman who has identified herself as a feminist with a very solid platform. While I do not want to doubt Swift’s feminist claim, she takes her point of how women should not be pitted against each other and used it against her fellow women.
Along with the notion of victimization and being a root for female solidarity, bell hooks reminds us that it is time not just of sexism, but also of racism. From a historical and a personal perspective, bell hooks highlights how white women had also played a part in being connected to white supremacy. She reminds us of how there is a level of privilege white women claim that dulls the sense of urgency to stand up in solidarity with the women of color that are being oppressed from both angles as sexism and racism boxes them into a darker corner. As bell hooks explains further, it makes perfect sense that the movements originating from the bourgeois white women would never work for those who are not white. The interests of the poor and working class women would not be met as the poor and working class women were in mainly black and were unable to be heard due to discrimination against them even by white feminists. Today, there are many who criticize white women in the celebrity light of still not doing enough to stand with feminists of color. During the 2016 summer blockbuster season, comedian and actress Leslie Jones was subjected to racially charged cyber bullying, which sparked a question from Medium user Creighton Leigh: “where are any and all visible white feminists with a platform[?]”
In shadow of January’s Women’s March and with the nearing future of the International Women’s Day’s A Day Without A Woman Strike, let us remember a few things moving forward: female solidarity can only work if we are all involved. That is called sisterhood.