My Feminism Isn't A Brand
Listen, I’m a feminist, or to precise, an intersectional feminist. Unfortunately, it’s still necessary to make this distinction because the term feminism or feminist has been conflated with White Feminism. Most people already know what I’m talking about but just to be clear, you do not need to be white to take part in White Feminism…
“It is the type of behavior that rests under the guise of feminism only as long as it is comfortable, only as long as it is personally rewarding, only as long as it keeps "on brand.”[...] If there is not the intentional and action-based inclusion of women of color, then feminism is simply white supremacy in heels.” - Rachel Elizabeth Cargle
This is one of the major reasons I struggle with identifying myself as a feminist, because I don’t want to be associated with the privileged, whitewashed mainstream that only bears similarities to what should be a universal understanding of feminism. It makes me uncomfortable the same way telling people I’m muslim makes me uncomfortable. A muslim girl who believes in feminism?! What a walking contradiction.
Its 2019 and I still feel like it's something I need to strategically pitch in my encounters with strangers. When someone makes a snide comment about feminism, or attempts to slide in a sexist joke into a conversation as some sort of liberal litmus test, I still struggle to find the balance between sounding angry and ‘passionately’ informed. Despite attempts to calculatively share my views, it's hard to downplay when it is quite literally your job.
“Intersectional Feminism? What does that mean?”
I dictate the same definition I’ve rehearsed for the 1000th time. Sometimes I feel guilty that I dislike telling people I’m a feminist. My peers remind me that I have THE dream job, that I’m making a difference to people’s lives, and that I’m raising awareness. I honestly love my job, but I hate how the painstaking groundwork is often only recognised when its corporate. When feminism is ‘sellable’ because it is carried out by the powerful, beautiful, elite white woman. Trying to make it in the third sector as a woman of colour is HARD when everyone you’re competing with is this cookie cutter activist. Having to work harder to prove why you are diverse enough, why your voice is important, and having to use your traumas to stand out to these organisations is degrading.
It also frustrates me that people fail to recognise that feminism exists beyond Instagram and celebrity speeches. When I first started seeing feminism in the headlines, I can name you a few people who were closely associated with it: Lena Dunham, Emily Ratajkowski, Amy Schumer, Jennifer Lawrence, Emma Watson…
Feminism online has also come in the form of fast and high fashion brands with bolded F E M I N I S T across the front of t-shirts as well as celebrities sharing liberating photos of their perfectly sculpted naked bodies. White Feminism imposes an aesthetic, and this aesthetic is a barometer of empowerment and/or progression that overlooks a huge majority of women across the world. However, to me, and most people who work hard to foster a future of justice and equality, we recognise that feminism really exists on a huge spectrum beyond the instagram aesthetic- it exists in the spheres of education, humanitarianism, environmental justice, law, health & medicine and politics.
When you claim to be a feminist, you cannot just pick an intersectionality, (in this case, gender) and run with it. You have to take responsibility for the intersectionalities you are overlooking, unlearn your biases, then learn how you can be an ally. I have been in too many spaces, including “woke” professional spaces, where a company’s dedication to diversity and inclusion manifests as tokenism. If you really cared about centering and protecting these voices, then why do we still find ourselves as one (or if we’re lucky, two) of the only PoC in the room? We have a responsibility to decolonise our spaces if we really want progression. We should not be expected to our their faith, our sexuality, our race, our economic struggles at the door simply because we are women and that is enough.
Throughout the social and political movements of history, it is clear that being part of something that fights to uphold human rights and provide those who have been neglected by the system the opportunity to live as equals will continue to be a challenge. So when I feel like I have to compete to have my voice heard with women who still control the “brand”, including justifying my own beliefs because they have ruined the “brand” for their black, brown and differently abled peers, it is something I try to avoid. But I just have to remind myself, who am I trying to serve? Because it's definitely not White Feminists or White Supremacy, and since they are running the game and the plays, PoC have been their assisting players. When they finally decide to step off the court and give space to us to genuinely listen and learn from our experiences, I’ll start feeling comfortable about playing.
Article by Social Media & Content Manager Yaz Omran