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Pussy, the Women’s March and Intersectionality

As wholeheartedly as I loved the show, “Girls” was often critisized for it’s blatant white feminism.

 

White Feminism is not feminism based on your race.

It’s how intersectional your idea of gender equality is.

Before you start reading, I’d like to point out that I am a straight, white woman and therefore am the perfect candidate for falling into the trap of “white feminism”. But I would like to consider myself an ally who is always learning, growing, making mistakes and working to understand intersectionality and feminism in a more inclusive, understanding and empathetic way. So when I read this article from them it sparked a small beacon of recognition in me; of my privilege and the rather insensitive language of the Women’s March on Monday.

Even among cisgender women who don’t believe that someone needs to be born with a vagina to be a woman, we continue to be seen not as potential leaders with unique knowledge, but either as victims or as tokens to include, as long as our opinions don’t stray too far from the majority. Meredith Talusan in them

I recently released a clothing line called “Power Pussy”. But my intention with the use of the word pussy isn’t an anatomical, biological reference to a womb, uterus and vulva combination exclusively. Rather, I wanted to reclaim the word. Pussy has become a derogatory term that aims to bring womanness, femininity and basically everything that isn’t masculinity down. Being a woman is (wrongly) linked exclusively to having a pussy. And to be a pussy is to be weak. To have a pussy is to have a weakness. And therefore to be anything other than male is weak and weakness. It’s not a coincidence that transgender women receive some of the worst violence from society. Often transgender women say that they believe this violence (almost exclusively coming from cisgendered men) stems from feelings of outrage and insecurity. Cisgendered men can see, subconsciously or not, being male as a privilege, and to choose to give up that privilege and live as a woman is blasphemous. So for me, reclaiming the word “pussy” was about rejecting the idea that the only strength is masculine strength. That femininity, gender fluidity, or being a woman is powerful.

However when it came to the Women’s March, that wasn’t the case. On a very simple level, the link between the use of the word “women” and the “pussy” hats that everyone was wearing was very trans exclusionary. Not every woman has a pussy. This phrase in particular stood out for me from the article in them.

Being an immigrant trans woman of color, I’m used to adapting to the mood of the majority. But from both collective and personal experience, I’d learned that comfort and despair are emotions that must be deferred out of necessity in times of grave crisis, and to be wary of protests that don’t engage in confrontation, because people in power have no motive to change their ways unless they feel threatened.

Meredith goes on, in an incredibly articulate and quite mind-blowing piece, to compare Hilary Clinton’s loss in the election to that of the transgender experience in feminism. That a candidate with superior experience is sidelined and ignored is reflected in how trans women have more common and greater experience in battling oppression than most cis-gendered white women, and yet are largely ignored in the conversation. Should this not, then, encourage us to have transgender women, women of color, less able bodied women and all people outside of the straight white norm leading the Women’s March, rather than being delegated to token positions?

Standing in a sea of pink pussy hats for the second year in a row I’m struck by how many well-intentioned women are still missing the mark. We have to start using our voices and our outrage to protest more than just misogyny. Whether you voted for trump or not, you benefit from white supremacy on the daily. So ask yourself, what are you doing to actively dismantle it? Do you show up for Black Lives Matter the way you do for the Women’s March? Do you defend the rights of immigrants as much as you do your pussy? Do you call out racism with the same fervor that you proclaimed #MeToo? White women are oppressed, but we are also oppressors. And if we truly want to dismantle this system, we must first hold ourselves accountable. ✊🏼 (update: to all those feeling massive outrage against this post – ask yourself why. Why does me acknowledging our privilege, and asking you to think about ways you can better serve WOC, upset you so much? If you are doing tons to help the marginalized then why aren’t you supporting this post, and demanding the same of others? Sitting in discomfort is how we grow. If this makes you feel attacked, then it probably means that you are the one who needs to hear it the most. And if you don’t want to listen to my words then, listen to Angela Davis. Read Women, Race + Class to learn more about accountability and how all oppression is connected.)

A post shared by Whitney Bell (@kidd.bell) on

The Women’s March, and indeed the #metoo movement, are powerful forces that have emerged in a post-trump era in America. But both of these movements feel exclusionary and are microcosm examples of the greater issues within feminism and the fight for equality. Look how Harvey Weinstein gave no comment to his sexual harrassment accusations until he was accused by a black woman, Lupita Nyong’o; see how Lena Dunham defended her male friend who was accused of raping the 17 year old Aurora Perrineau – who is mixed race; these examples show that even when you are talking about the oppression of women through sexual violence from men, other issues are also at play – and it’s vital to point, call and air them out. Harvey Weinstein’s sexism was racist. Trump’s “grab ’em by the pussy” was transphobic and trans exclusionary – and also racist. We cannot address one issue of inequality and oppression without tackling them all, because they are interlinked within a system of support.

So please join me in broadening your feminism and making a conscious effort to make your fight for equality in 2018 as intersectional as you can! And support your sisters, not just your cis-ters.

 

Extra reading for the learning intersectional feminist:

https://www.them.us/story/weve-always-been-nasty

https://www.bitchmedia.org/article/trans-exclusion-womens-march-intersectionality

50 Examples of White Privilege in Daily Life

http://bellebrita.com/2014/08/feminism-101-learning-lingo/

 

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