Feminism has continuously molded and transformed for centuries, as ideals have been fought for and societies have adapted to the growing desires for a new future. Women’s rights have changed. Hundreds of years ago, women were deemed “witches” and hung or burned alive for practicing spiritual beliefs outside of Christianity. ‘Witch’ in this case meant wise woman turned condemnatory. A hundred years ago women fought for the right to vote. Decades ago, they banded together to create the Women’s Rights Movement, fighting for equal pay and equal rights. Today, the Feminist movement has taken a second wind and has attracted international attention. However, there is a crucial element that has been lost over deaf ears and Mikki Kendall shed light upon it with her latest book, “Hood Feminism.”
Kendall has received some backlash for creating hashtag #SolidarityIsStillForWhiteWomen, with people arguing that she sparked “infighting” among the feminist community. However, if while reading her book you pay close attention to the argument and statistics she connected so beautifully, you too would understand and agree with the validity in her arguments. While feminism truly has evolved and taken on a new role in this century, Mikki Kendall argues that we’ve left behind a fundamental right in this fight, and that’s survival. Although the fight for women’s rights is all encompassing, women across the country live strikingly different realities and for as long as we are blinded to each other’s stories the more the theme of infighting will stay alive and the movement internally divided, while some people get left behind in the dark. The basic needs we have to address with the feminist movement include food insecurity, quality education, safe neighborhoods, living wage and medical care. Kendall speaks on this in her book stating, “For a movement that is meant to represent all women, it often centers on those who already have most of their needs met… instead of a framework that focuses on helping women get basic needs met, all too often the focus is not on survival but on increasing privilege.” She further exemplifies the divide, addressing that while white feminism may be fighting for equal opportunity of being a CEO with equal pay, women of color face the struggle of even getting hired on in the first place. Or young girls get penalized for hairstyles in schools, which deters them from focusing on receiving a proper education.
Women fighting for fundamental means of survival do not lack it for reasons regarding insufficient work effort. Rather, the fight for equal pay starts with young girls of color having access to quality education and opportunity. Out of the 42 million Americans struggling with hunger, half are women, 66% are households headed by single mothers, and women and children account for 70% of the nation’s poor. Being a woman with the right connections and in a place of power, proudly proclaiming to be feminist and not addressing the hunger issue in communities due to lower incomes, is missing a huge piece of the puzzle. It’s also understanding that young women of color living in cash-strapped municipalities are more likely to experience violence, adversity, abuse and deprivation of protection. Historically speaking, white men raping women of color was done for sport. Sadly, this still remains prevalent today. These days, one in three Indigenous women will be victims of sexual abusers who are more than likely a white male. Kendall addresses that this is largely indebted to the image painted of women of color being less than pure next to their white counterparts. “Portraying Black women and Latinas as promiscuous, American Indian and Asian women as submissive, and all women of color as inferior legitimizes their sexual abuse.” Not to mention domestic violence differs from community to community. “A Black woman is far more likely to be killed by her spouse, an intimate acquaintance, or a family member than by a stranger.” Human Rights Project for Girls drew the correlation between home life and school, addressing that women of color that have a history of having been sexually abused, plays a key role in their likelihood of being thrown into the school-to-prison-pipeline. In our era of mass incarceration and aggressive retributive criminal justice system, it’s difficult to avoid recidivism once you’ve been entered into the system and in many communities it is a fight from a young age.
A fundamental concept to understand in being a proud feminist in today’s fight is intersectionality. There are layers and nuances to the fight for women today and even if you aren’t fighting the same fight daily as your counterparts, their fight is still yours to speak up for. “There’s nothing feminist about having so many resources at your fingertips and choosing to be ignorant. Nothing empowering or enlightening in deciding that intent trumps impact. Especially when the consequences aren’t going to be experienced by you, but will instead be experienced by someone from a marginalized community.” Mikki Kendall suggests that working together will always be the answer. We all do better when we all do better. However, it’s everyone’s responsibility to do their own research and starting with Kendall’s statistic-rich book puts you on the right path.
The fact that 53% of Trump voters were white women inherently displays the discrepancies within the community. It highlighted that feminism could ignore police brutality as it affected women of color, the lack of equality women face due to race or religion (or both), and how it was okay to turn a blind eye to all of it as White women at the expense of others. Until we all take personal responsibility and recognize that everyone’s fight is our own, we will continue to be fighting ourselves. In the words of Dr. King, “…all life is interrelated. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality; tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. As long as there is poverty in the world, no man can be rich even if he has a billion dollars.” Read Mikki Kendall’s book, be involved in the conversation, and let’s rework banding together to make a stronger movement than we’ve ever seen before.