“White feminism” is easy to hate. Its perpetrators protest in “the future is female” shirts sewn by women in overseas sweatshops, claim women are paid 79 cents for every man’s dollar – overlooking the fact that black women are paid 60 cents for every man’s dollar, and Latina women are paid only 55 cents for every man’s dollar – and overwhelmed the most recent Women’s March on Washington (originally termed the “Million Woman March,” a name taken from the 1997 protest for black women’s unity in Philadelphia).
The term “white feminism” first appeared following the Women’s March on Washington to describe the kind of feminism that only focuses on straight, white, cis-gendered women. While its name is polarizing, it is understandable – after all, 53 percent of white female voters filled in Donald Trump on their ballot this past election.
What distinguishes modern feminism from other forms of feminism is the urgency for it to be intersectional, meaning that it addresses how institutions of oppression have fostered inequality among multiple social dimensions. As long as white men and white women choose to protest oppressions only unique to white people, or black men and black women choose to protest oppressions only unique to black people, feminism in America will remain exclusive. It is fine and sensible to protest institutions that oppress you, but it is equally as important to protest institutions that oppress others as well. Each struggle is just as valid as the next. Unfortunately, while women of all colors face their own unique battles, white women will always have a degree of supremacy to their minority-race counterparts, and as such, have the unique responsibility to advocate on their behalf as well.
Protesting in local Women’s Marches is just as admirable as attending a Black Lives Matter sit-in or A Day Without Immigrants protest.
Finally, while the exclusivity that embodies so-called “white” feminism is markedly bad, it is important to remember that associating any “bad” quality with one particular race is just as bad. Race branding a segment of feminism will only further divide the progressive movement and impede future progress. Women have been at the forefront of social change throughout all of American history, but our ongoing fight for equality across all intersections cannot be won without unified protest.
We should acknowledge the black woman’s struggle and the white woman’s struggle, but to separate black feminism from white feminism is to separate and pit the movement against itself. At the end of the day feminism has no color.