THE BLOG

Piers Morgan, As a White Man, You Know Diddly Squat About Being a Woman Of Colour

26/04/2016 12:49 | Updated 26 April 2016

Until a few months ago, I didn't really connect with the idea of intersectional feminism, despite the fact that it pretty much summed up my entire experience of living in the world as a British Indian woman.

Firstly, the word itself is off-putting and sounds like something you might have during a difficult birth. Secondly, I wondered whether it was too navel-gazing. Surely feminism is feminism, right?

Well, it's not. My experience of gender inequality is not the same as a white woman. And the reason why it's not the same is because white women don't have to deal with racism, and all the additional problems that it brings when it comes to shaping your identity.

So when I read Piers Morgan's derogatory column about Beyoncé's new role as a "born-again-black woman with a political mission", I groaned. Not at the endless comments saying how right he was (he isn't), but because as a white man, he doesn't know what he's talking about.

I'm not saying that to talk about race you have to be a person of colour. Or that to talk about feminism, you have to be a woman. You can be Barney the fucking dinosaur, for all I care.

But what I do care about is whether you understand or know the journey that women of colour have been on, and continue to go through every day. And you write about it in a way that demonstrates intelligence rather than reactionary fodder.

For instance, Piers, your statement that you prefer the "less inflammatory, agitating" Beyoncé shows you know zero about how important it is that we have such a high profile woman taking this on as her mission statement.

Who gives a flying flap about her commercial agenda when she's cutting through years of silence and empowering multiple generations of women of colour?

Women who've been too afraid to speak out in the past because they've been branded - by people like you from a position of racial and gender privilege - as 'inflammatory'?

Because the biggest problem is that we haven't had enough high profile women talking about this because they were afraid of rocking the boat. Hell- even today black models are afraid to talk about the blatant racial discrimination that goes on in the fashion industry because they won't be hired for jobs.

We certainly didn't have anyone like Beyonce when I was growing up. Had there been, I might have been less ashamed, less apologetic about embracing my own femininity and skin colour.

Let me be clear: I'm not a diehard Beyonce fan. But when I saw Formation on my train ride home, I almost cried. And this is from a woman who can be so emotionally stony people wonder if I've botoxed my tear ducts.

One reason I teared up was because it made me so proud to be a woman of colour, because I recognised the bravery that it must have taken for her to put all of her chips in this corner and say 'enough is enough'.

It made me feel beautiful because I was brown, not in spite of it.

But the biggest reason is because of all that power she is giving to all of those little brown girls who will have to run the same racial, gender-skewed gauntlet that we all did. She's giving them strength and armour because they'll need it - women of colour are not often in positions of power to change the way the world thinks.

Because it's not the same for all girls. For instance, we talk endlessly about negative body image and the impact it is having on young women.

Try factoring the basic idea of whether your beauty is even recognised when you are the only brown girl in your group of friends, and almost every boy thinks you are invisible because of your skin.

Or that in addition to catcalling, you have to deal with guys saying 'Mmm, I love me a bit of exotic' as you walk past (this actually happened to me two months ago). Or nonsense assumptions about whether or not you're getting an arranged marriage.

Or that while you thought you were at the bottom of the ladder because you don't get paid the same as men, there's a rickety, dodgy rung even lower than that which is that black and ethnic minority women get paid less than white women.

I'm fed up with trying to fit in. I'm tired of having to be polite about it and tuck my race behind my agenda as a woman. Both are equally important because they make up the fabric of who I am.

They doubtless make up the fabric of who Beyoncé is. And asking her not to make that a part of her work is exactly the same as telling her to get back in her box.

Comments

CONVERSATIONS