Senior Susannah Mitchell is the Online Co-Editor of the Harbinger with her soulmate, Julia Poe. She enjoys sweaters, feminism, collaging and actor Ezra Miller, whom she believes is a total fox. Read Full »
There is one central belief I have about feminism, and it’s one I have written about before: feminism is whatever you want it to be. Every feminist lives by their own definition, but the basic belief is that women should be equal to men.
My personal brand of feminism is based off of several ideas. The first and most obvious is that women and men should have equal rights. The second is that women should support other women and fight for their rights, even when they disagree with them. The last is that every woman deserves to be fought for, despite her sexual orientation, gender assigned at birth, race, nationality, background, disability, socioeconomic status and so on.
For many, this seems obvious. However, when writing and speaking about and portraying feminism, women of color and transgendered women are often forgotten. Most commonly women who live anywhere outside of the Western world, especially those in developing countries, are blatantly ignored.
Feminism has become popular among middle- to upper-class white women living in some of the world’s most powerful countries. Speaking as a middle class white woman, it is clear to me that because there are certain feminist issues that are more prevalent in a white-washed middle-class America, it is easy to disregard issues that are outside of what we know. Mainstream feminism has become parochial.
In Indonesia, female police recruits are required to undergo “virginity tests” before they are allowed to join the force. This practice is outrageous and degrading. I can’t imagine what circumstances would allow this kind of violation to ever be okay. And I’ve barely heard any backlash from American feminists about issues as abhorrent as this.
This ignorance about, or rather lack of attention to, women’s issues abroad is what is harming the feminist movement. We need inclusivity before we can truly say we advocate for all women, and that includes women outside of the world’s most powerful countries. And even in America and Britain, there are large groups of women that are overlooked by feminists.
Women of color, LGBT women and disabled women have stories to tell that are not shared as often as they should be. The voice of the fortunate white woman has been shared enough. While I understand that adding my own voice only supports this, the fact that I am pointing out the need for change can instigate it to a certain extent.
I consider myself a tolerant person. To me, all lives are equally valuable. No one gets to choose where they are born or what their situation in life is. We are all surviving and trying to make something out of our lives. And sometimes, we are born into less-fortunate situations that don’t allow us as much opportunity as others.
I acknowledge my privilege. If I were born a woman of color, my life would be different. If I were living in a less wealthy part of Kansas City, my life would be different. If I were disabled and needed to use a wheelchair, my life would be different. My life is the way it is, and I am the person I am today because, in terms of the other 3.5 billion women on the planet, I have been ridiculously lucky. Chance defines who we all are.
I am a feminist, but I acknowledge that feminism has many faults. The more feminists work to improve these faults, the better organized and more effective feminism as a movement can be. When we leave women out of the movement, we cannot call ourselves feminists. When we don’t support each other, when we don’t fight for each other, we fail. Intersectionality in feminism is imperative, and it is only when we realize this that feminism can continue moving forward.