Disclaimer: I’m putting this baby right up top here. This is my blog; this is me unlearning. I want to make change, and I want to help. But first — I need to unlearn some massive concepts, things that have simply been my way of life until now. So if you come to my blog, and if, while here, you see something that I’ve written that is offensive or blatantly wrong, please help me to unlearn. Yes, I understand this is my own duty, ultimately, but if you find yourself here on my blog, please help me to unlearn.
A lot has happened in the last week. We got a new president in the United States, and then millions of people from around the world protested the day after. I myself did not march in the Women’s March on January 21. As much I wanted to be out there with a sign, cheering and chanting and fighting for my rights as a woman, I wasn’t.
But in the days following the march, in the soaring joy and hope I felt at the massive success of the march, it was quickly apparent that I, as a WW, I have a very narrow, limited experience in the issues that face women in this country and around the world.
Yes, I need feminism because sexist comments are common in my workplace. Yes, I need feminism because my maternity leave at my job just isn’t long enough. Yes, I need feminism because men’s voices are continually considered more important than my own. Yes, I need feminism because I want my reproductive rights. But, as I said, it’s become quite clear that my struggles are laughably simple in the face of what women of color (WOC) experience in the United States.
There are few things in my life that are absolutely certain. Two of those things are that I am white, and that I am a woman. I am a white woman (WW). I can’t help that, and I can’t apologize for that. And so I am trying to unlearn what that really means.
To be sure: I am privileged. I have read a lot of people around the internet talking about all the “hard work” they have put in to being successful, but — let’s be real — working an after school job for 12 hours per week in high school, studying real hard for your college midterms, going on a couple unsuccessful interviews is not the kind of struggle that is relevant here. Hey, I’m happy that you’re successful in life, but guess what? If you consider the above examples (and other similar examples with slight variation) “hard work,” you’re not really the targeted demographic of the recent Women’s March.
You’re not really the targeted demographic, and you may not really understand why such a fight is necessary. You may make the above “hard work” argument, you may state that there is no “problem,” that you’re able to take care of your family, and that your rights are not trampled upon day in and day out. You may even be a woman who mocked and belittled the Women’s March and its participants.
The Women’s March, and feminism in general, is about ensuring human rights are honored for women the same as they are honored for men. The Women’s March, and feminism in general, is about equality across the spectrum of the sexes. It’s about all women: Black women, Native women, poor women, immigrant women, disabled women, Muslim women, lesbian queer and trans women. It’s about LGBTQIA rights, worker’s rights, civil rights, disability rights, immigrant rights, and environmental justice (see the Women’s March’s principles here). Feminism is about you and your rights, whether you believe that you, and this country, this world, need it or not.
There are articles and activists around the internet blatantly calling out WW on our obvious lack of concern about such issues until November 8, 2016. Of course, there were WW activists prior to trump’s election, however, if I’m using a blanket statement, I might as well just do it: white woman are just not politically and social justice motivated. Why would we need to be? I just outlined my experience as a WW and it sounds pretty fluffy compared to the extreme experiences of WOC. Bottom line is that I have never been scared for my life because I am a white woman. So, yeah, I’m in a position to do more work here.
There are articles and WOC activists around the internet stating how tired they are of carrying WW on their shoulders during political and social justice fights. And I don’t blame them. I am woefully under-educated in this sphere. I’m quick to post something to social media, I am quick to make comments and calls — but beyond that, I have no idea what I’m doing. Am I supposed to rely on WOC to show me the way? How is that any better than before.
And that’s about where I am in my unlearning. I am a white woman, and I’m trying to figure out what this means in this new political nightmare. Stay tuned to this space for more unlearning.
What are your experiences with feminism and the Women’s March? How has this changed since November 8, 2016? And, most importantly: can you recommend me any reading to help with my unlearning?