I have a great career. I’m strong, independent and smart. I have a bachelor’s degree from Boston College and will soon have a master’s degree from Georgetown University. I can do anything I put my mind to. But I’m not a feminist.
Before all the spear-chucking, torch carrying members of the feminist movement try to hunt me down, let me start with this: suck it.
First off, the feminist movement isn’t about me. It’s about white America (as most things in this country are). Care to tell me the history of the feminist movement? If I recall from history class (and no, I’m not even gonna bother Googling it), it started with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and company almost 20 years before the end of the Civil War. Hell, the Emancipation Proclamation (which didn’t do anything to free the slaves, but that’s a story for another day) hadn’t even been signed yet. So your fun-loving, women-promoting time is all about white women. And that’s enough for me.
Having had a similar conversation in one of my grad school classes last semester, I know there are waves of feminism that have looked at different issues. But like an institutional organization, the origination is where the real basis of the group lies. The Klan and the Nazis could tell you that they’re now focusing on creating policy that will protect the white Anglo-Saxon man, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t the same terrorist organizations that they’ve been for the last 100 years.
But I won’t stop there. Let’s bring it to the 21st century. For those of you who don’t know, I went to a really upper crusty, all-girls private school in DC from 9th-12th grade. An experience that, as a woman, I can’t say I’m against. It was nice to be able to become comfortable with having a vagina in the years that it can be the most difficult to have one. But a lesson we’ll all learn is your experience in a place is most often defined by the thing that makes you stand out, not the one that helps you fit in. So my empowerment came not from being a girl in an all-girls school, but being black in white school; being lower middle class and on scholarship in a school full of upper middle class (or just upper class) girls whose parents could pay their tuition.
So at the National Cathedral School for Girls, I didn’t learn to be a feminist. I learned to love being a person of color in a world dominated by white people. I learned that there were certain things that I could not change about rich, white privilege. I learned that rich, white men were no more the enemy than rich, white women.
In my world, feminism was never more than an extra-curricular activity for women who had nothing better to do. It wasn’t about including groups of women who are oppressed in more ways than just the organs between their legs. Though the struggles of those women greatly contributed to the forwarding of white women’s rights.
Don’t believe me? Here’s a recent article by American Progess talking about the very real difference between the struggles of white women and women of color when it comes to pay. And in case you decide not to read the link, here’s a snippet from the article that says just enough to prove my point:
Closing the wage gap is crucial for women of color. The racial wealth differences in the United States are consequences of disparities occurring over a lifetime and result in a median wealth of only $5 for women of color between the ages of 35 to 49—virtually no wealth at all. Conversely, white women in that age cohort have a median wealth of $42,600, and white men in that age group enjoy a median wealth of $70,030.
Sure, it sucks to be a white woman. But only if you’re comparing that to the life of a white man. I’m not particularly interested in fighting for a movement that never really took the time to stop and worry about the concerns of black, Latino, Native American, or Asian women. The feminist movement is a white movement. It is run by white women and continues to benefit them. It does nothing for me.
But let’s move past the racial disparities for a minute. Let’s talk about the general wants and needs of an individual and how it fits into the feminist agenda.
My mother stayed at home with me and my brother while my dad went to work every day. She taught me how to speak and read and write. When I got hurt, I called out for her, not some nanny who took care of me all the time while she slaved away at some job. She dropped me off at school and picked me up in the afternoons (except for those years I went to public school and took the bus). If I was sick, I waited no more than 20 minutes for her to come get me. My brother and I were her sole focus, while my dad kept a roof over ALL of our heads, put food on our collective table and put clothes on each and every one of our backs. My parents had their problems, like all couples do, but that was our reality.
One day, I want to be a stay-at-home mom. I want my kids to have the same love and support that I did. I had plenty of friends whose moms were too busy working to help them with homework or pick them up after school or whatever the case may be. And that’s fine. Feminism grants them the option to do that without being judged. But you know what it doesn’t do? It doesn’t give me the option of leaving behind 20 years of school and however many years of professional work to do the one thing that I was given the ability to do the second I was born: devote myself completely to being someone’s mom.
I have nothing against feminists. Do your thing. I ain’t mad at you. But you just won’t catch me joining you. Granted, sometimes your accomplishments will benefit me. And I’m not stupid, so I’ll make sure to take full advantage. But for the most part, your life isn’t about me, and that’s ok.
You’ll see people say things like “This is what a black feminist looks like.” Cool. Good for you. But the fact that you have to say that you’re a “black feminist” is enough to prove to me that feminists don’t really want me around.