Taking the street en masse, hundreds of thousands of women in the U.S. participated in the 2018 Women’s March with the mission of mobilizing women to vote and empowering them to the polls.
Although not as large as the 2017 Women’s March, a distinct event of political unity following President Donald Trump’s election, this year’s march did evoke last year’s exact concerns: the seemingly-ignored concepts of intersectionality and inclusivity. Many assert that the march cherrypicks the social issues it wishes to illuminate and in the process, deliberately takes little notice of other societal disadvantages many women simultaneously experience.
The march espouses a collective fight for all women’s rights, inclusive of all backgrounds, races, religions and sexual orientation, yet critics of the movement label the recognition and support for intersectional identities as insufficient and even non-existent.
Such critics claim that the movement aligns with the ideals of “white feminism”—a form of feminism that centers solely on the disadvantages facing white women—and fails to address the perspectives and struggles of women of color.
This brand of “one-size-fits-all feminism” has faced enormous pushback and as Jarune Uwujaren and Jamie Utt appropriately from Everyday Feminism, a feminist online magazine highlight, “a one-size-fits-all feminist movement that focuses only on the common ground between women is erasing rather than inclusive.”
Further supporting that a movement that can’t address all issues can’t begin to reform the injustice against women, the march’s critics point out an air of exclusivity – one which leaves women of color out of the conversation.
But those opposed to conflating intersectionality and the movement’s purpose claim that the movement will only become fragmented and that an already tenuous struggle for women’s rights will become weaker. Yet, those who can’t fully comprehend the importance of inclusivity moving forward solely jeopardize the march’s mission to represent all women.
These opponents advocate for the immediate mission of the Women’s March; that is, motivating as many women as possible to join the cause. But, comprehensively shining a spotlight on women’s issues can’t be accomplished in a matter of weeks. On the contrary, the hurt feelings and lengthy time required to make the march truly inclusive – and to vocalize the circumstances faced by all women – is worth it.
After all, the movement isn’t about the number of marchers but rather addressing the trials and tribulations of U.S. women and celebrating the distinct sense of unity and compassion that links us all together. But how exactly do we go about celebrating who we are and what we face?
It goes without saying, awareness is key.
As a young woman of color, I have witnessed first-hand the ignorance and insensitivity clouding the social drawbacks I personally face. To avoid fomenting further argument inside the movement, we have to spark discourse within the women’s community. Encountering differences in awareness and harmful misconceptions is unavoidable but it’s necessary in order to introduce a space that is inclusive and welcoming to women of all color, whether that be white, black, or brown.
That said, here’s a brown girl’s call to action: Don’t be afraid and don’t be deterred.
I’ll be the first to say that exclusivity goes both ways. Women of color have been continuously prohibited from entering certain spaces such as media, politics, or even social activism. Yet, people of color tend to exclude historically privileged individuals from important dialogue due to fear and distrust.
Although understandable, preventing outsiders from entering a space, and potentially gaining valuable insight into an issue rarely thought about, only largens the level of disconnect among communities.
We have to take the first step and fight for issues that don’t directly affect us or our communities. The struggles of one woman are the struggles of all women and we must continue to remind ourselves of this. Let’s understand—and fight—for each other.
This article was previously published on NYAToday.com