Why the Feminist Movement Isn’t Always for Black Women
Why the Feminist Movement Isn’t Always for Black Women
Feminism seems to be the new fad. The feminist movement has been around since the late 1700s and has resurfaced in waves over the years. With a push from pop culture and nudge forward by pop stars, feminism has become 2015’s new “it” thing. Feminist is the word to say and the woman to be. Ever since the 2013 release of Beyonce’s self-titled album, the word has morphed itself into a pop-approved badge of honor for women of all colors, shapes and sizes. Beyonce said she was a feminist. That she, a mother, a millionaire, a wife and conqueror believed in equality for all women and women all over who aspired to be mothers making millions alongside their millionaire hubbies ﬂocked to the movement. …But wait. Feminism isn’t always best suited for the Black woman. I mean, just because Bey says it’s so, doesn’t mean it is. Yes, women should believe in equality for all women, but the traditional feminist movement isn’t really advocating for Black women or other women of color. The issues the feminist movement are combatting didn’t and don’t always apply to the majority of Black women. So pause “Partition” for a sec and let me tell you about why Bey jumped the gun …
There exists another pay gap. White females are still paid higher than women of color. While white women earn 77 cents to every dollar a white man earns, Black women earn just 64 cents to every white man’s dollar. Latina women only earn 55 cents to every white man’s dollar. If that’s not enough to make you go hmm, let’s also put it out there that Black women only make up 1 percent of corporate ofﬁcers. It would make way more sense for feminists to ﬁght for equality among themselves by having white feminists and feminists of color push to close the pay gap between the two ﬁrst. Then they could go forward as a united front to close the pay gap between themselves and men. But as it is now, the feminist movement has enlisted women of color to ﬁght to close the white female pay gap, not to close the pay gap of all women because minority women are paid way less than 77 cents for every white man’s dollar. Where was Bey at with those facts?
Working outside of the home is a cornerstone of the feminist movement. From the ’60 to the ’80s, feminists fought for their right to enter the workplace. They no longer wanted to be conﬁned to the role of stay-at-home mother and pushed to be considered equal to men in the workforce. But here’s the thing, Black women never had the luxury of staying at home and mothering their children from 9 to 5. Black women have always been a part of the workforce because we had no choice but to be. In most Black families across America, both parents have always worked. Think about your grandmother or even your great-grandmother … did she nurse, clean someone’s house, keep kids, work as a secretary? Most of our grandmothers did because our households couldn’t be sustained on a single salary. The feminist ﬁght to step out of the home and into the workforce is not the Black woman’s ﬁght. We’ve been working since we stepped foot off the cotton fields.
Which leads me to my next point … even when our white female counterparts were stay-at-home moms, they weren’t the ones doing the cooking, cleaning and raising of children, we were! You’ve seen the ﬁlm The Help, right? Viola Davis’ character practically runs the household she works at and spends more time raising the white family’s child than she does raising her own. I think the stay-at-home mom who is present today is not the one who was a reality in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s when the movement began. Many of these white women were not solely in charge of running their homes and raising their children. They had Black women, as hired help, to do most of the hard housework for them. Bey missed that point, too, huh? Just because Bey gets to globetrot with her child while working outside the home, doesn’t mean that was or is a reality for most Black women.
Lastly, the feminist movement’s ﬁght against patriarchy doesn’t apply to Black people. Our Black men have little to no patriarchal power to exercise over us. Forty-nine percent of Black men are arrested by age 23, and Black males ages 18 and older only make up 5.5 percent of all college students. Black women are graduating at higher rates. Black women are the heads of more households and are employed at a higher rate than Black men. Many of our Black men are locked away in prison. One in ﬁve Black men ages 16-24 are inactive in the labor force. So, for Black women to say that we are ﬁghting against patriarchy via the feminist movement almost makes no sense. What patriarchy, boo? You’re better off than your Black male counterpart. In fact, up until the ’70s, Black men and Black women shared the same struggles and same triumphs. We were freed from plantations together; we worked in the factories together; we struggled to put ourselves through school together, but now Black men are worse off than we are, and instead of reaching back to help them go forward … we tell them that we are going to ﬁght some “mystiﬁed” patriarchy that they have to exercise over us? Now, this is not to say that no Black men are in a better position than Black women. Sure, there are many, but the majority of Black men are worse off than their sisters. And yes, there should be a ﬁght against white patriarchy, but it should be clear that white patriarchy is what should be diminished. Again, white feminists have enlisted women of color to ﬁght a battle that’s not wholly ours to ﬁght.
Ah! But there is something out there for us. It’s called the Black Feminist Movement, which was birthed by a woman named Alice Walker who believed Black women experienced a more intense type of oppression that needs to be combatted by a movement tailored to the needs of Black women. Feminism is great, but we should make sure we are ﬁghting a cause that ﬁghts against oppression speciﬁc to us. Bey probably had good intentions when she charged women to support and uplift one another through feminism, but she left out the part about how Black women have a separate set of issues that require a movement of their own.