I've been active in the feminist movement now for about 3 years. I had a rude awakening to the effects of patriarchy on the world when young women in the periphery of my life were suffering from domestic violence. As many others still think, I considered this a non-issue until that point, domestic violence only happened (if it did) to older women in marriages with kids. Wrong, but you've evolved since then Kate.
Still, my feminism didn't begin in one form and stay stagnant. The following weeks, months and years I immersed myself in feminist literature and culture to truly understand the cause I'm fighting for; and also to be armed with a barrel of inequality-proving facts when a women-have-achieved-equal-rights-already-stop-moaning nitwit comes along. I believe I'm fairly well-versed in the campaign against the patriarchy now, or at least I did until my intersectional awakening this month.
I've never been a feminist who didn't believe in intersectionality. Which, to outline now, is essentially the belief that the feminist movement must be enriched by all of the different experiences of the vast demographic of women; one woman's experience is never the same as another's, and it is crucial to embed this understanding into the movement. For example, my experience as a white woman will be completely different to that of a black women and as a white woman, I need to be actively aware that I am culturally more privileged than my feminist friend because of my race.
So, I always agreed to broaden the scope of my activism to ensure that all women's voices were heard, or rather not just heard, sought out. But we've all been in that position where we, of course(!), morally agree to something but don't quite grasp the understanding of it. This was where I was at in my war-against-sexism evolution. Until November 9th 2016.
I could poor my heart and soul into this page about the dire and unyielding pain I have felt since the US election results, but nay, I have another job to do. So lets just all agree right here that President-Elect Trump *vomit* is a crisis for the modern world.
After scrolling panic-stricken through my social media liberal feminist echo chamber, I began to get more and more infuriated that the US electorate would rather choose *him* to be President over a woman. That statement still stands, but is somewhat far from nuanced.
Delving more into the deep pit of despair over this result, I realised that this wasn't a sexist issue. I mean, don't get me wrong here, Trump is a raving misogynist and the media embodied a patriarchal monster during the campaign, but the result was way more telling about another issue. Race.
In my fairly blinkered view as a privileged, white, western feminist (can I shorten that to PWWF?) I could not comprehend how any woman could vote for that wig over an extremely qualified woman. I honestly could not compute that prospect in my head. ERROR. ERROR. ERROR. But, thankfully, the feminist community came galloping to my aid in the form of The Guilty Feminist podcast (a MUST listen). What I realised was that this election result was far more racist than sexist and that this battle needs my forces just as much as feminism does. Allow me to expand:
White women still voted for Trump. Why? Because they consciously or subconsciously chose to side with their race team, instead of their gender team. Trump's rhetoric surrounding immigration and multiculturalism hooked them in, despite his treatment of women. Cherry-picking his policies was crucial and easily done so that they heard what they wanted to hear - things that were were inherently racist. Selective hearing and confirmation bias closed off anything which made out that Trump would have a negative impact on their life because of their gender. Instead, what they voted for was the idea that he would have a positive impact on their race.
And this is where it all clicked. This is when I truly understood intersectionality. It was naively racist of me to be outraged that the election result was down to sexism; it was far more down to racism. So how can I truly be fighting for equality of the sexes, if I do not fight for equality in all other aspects? Bluntly, I cannot.
But it's all well and good me saying all of this. I have a voice as a white woman, more so than my black sisters, my trans sisters, my disabled sisters etc. etc. So where do I go from here? Well, I've not got it all figured out yet. I know that I've still got a long way to go to be truly intersectional. I now vow to fight equally against all types of oppression to the best of my ability, whilst maintaining the position of supportive ally, rather than accidental suppressor. I will seek out more diversity in my feminist voices and where possible, encourage feminists who intersect with different groups to make their voices heard and help as I can. But I need help too. Please can everyone who is not a PWWF tell me how I can help you. I'm here and I'm ready, just say the word.
This is where the feminist movement needs to be heading. And I do think it is. We must be all-encompassing and greatly sympathetic to our diverse memberships (not that feminism is a club, bad elitist language!). Every single one of us needs to push for equality in all aspects. Maybe then we might have a chance at making the world a more tolerant and understanding place.