Feminism: a word that simultaneously scares and empowers millennials. The exact definition from Merriam-Webster is “the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.” It’s a civil rights movement.
Unfortunately, like all other civil rights movements, there’s a chance of gaps within. In this case, there’s an argument on the “types” of feminism.
Ever heard of white feminism?
A Huffington Post video defines “White feminism” as “feminism that ignores intersectionality.” Intersectionality in feminism is the recognition that some women must fight racism or homophobia (for example) simultaneously with sexism. As the video says, “It assumes that the way white women experience misogyny is the way all women experience misogyny.” Sometimes that means forgetting Muslims, Asians, Hispanics, lesbians, or disabled women too.
This isn’t to say some of the strides that women like Gloria Steinem made should be ignored. But the goal of feminism is to allow all women equal rights and opportunities, not just some of them.
Why is recognizing white feminism important?
A division in this equal-rights movement hinders the cause. This split makes the platform of the movement unstable; therefore, people become less inclined to support something that’s already broken.
Feminists already get a bad rap for supposedly being misandrists. Popular sitcom Black-ish called feminists “hairy-legged man-haters” in the nineteenth episode of their second season; however, they still touch upon the issue of white women and black women fighting for rights in the 1960s: “Black feminists and white feminists had a little bit of a different path. […] It wasn’t as simple for black feminists because they had to choose between civil rights and feminism.”
Now we have to deal with the fact that saying “equality for women” doesn’t always apply to all women, thus defeating the original intention.
Rowan Blanchard, a queer teenage feminist on Disney, said, “Unfortunately a lot of white feminists forget that feminism means equality. It means equality for trans women and equality for black women.”
Not to mention, we allow unqualified icons to represent all feminists, putting the issue in an even worse light.
There are famous icons like Tina Fey, Taylor Swift, and Lena Dunham who appear to push for feminism, but they’re really advocating for “white feminism.” The good thing is that can tell women gain equal opportunities/treatment. The bad thing is they forget that non-white women don’t get to be as equal as they do.
Tina Fey’s newest hit “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” offensively portrayed Asians by having one of her characters, a Vietnamese immigrant named “Dong,” whose best tool to learn English was watching “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.” In one episode, Fey mocked her critics by creating an activist group called “Respectful Asian Portrayals in Entertainment” (anyone else see the acronym?).
Taylor Swift’s music video “Shake it Off” is known for controversy on her objectification of black women and romanticizing struggles women of color are forced to deal with. Also, her music video for “Wildest Dreams” takes place in “Africa” but it romanticizes European imperialism and it doesn’t even have any women of color in it.
Lena Dunham’s show “Girls” doesn’t have any women of color playing main characters (and if they do appear they represent the help). She even credited them as the following: “Sidné Anderson as Jamaican Nanny/ Jermel Howard as Young Black Guy/ Moe Hindi as “Roosevelt Hotel Bellhop/ Jo Yang as “Tibetan Nanny.”
These women are the ones that first pop up when you hear about “feminists,” and they are probably the last people you want representing a movement striving for equality.
So if someone says that there’s been tremendous progress in the feminist movement, keep in mind whom that progress really applies to. There’s still a long way to go.