Yesterday I was on my way to the women’s march in NYC to advocate equality, excercise my first amendment right, and to be around women who shared the same beliefs as I. I was with my friend Ana who was very avid and excited to go to the women’s march, but we were stuck in non-moving traffic. I told her that I don’t feel like a “feminist” per se. I still feel undecided on the label “intersectional-feminist” as I feel it has been falsely used as a way to pretend to be “woke”without really doing the work. I am very comfortable however, with the term womanist. Womanism is a term coined by Alice Walker to make the distinguishment between white feminism and black feminism- and described it as the difference between purple and lavender. Part of me felt that maybe I was thinking negatively, and what I was feeling was counterproductive and divisive to the entire movement. But part of me still felt that people didn’t understand what it means to be intersectional, and they just use this buzzword as a means to be “politically correct”, but their activism is not actually intersectional, and their lack of education/awareness confirms that. It was hard to explain how I felt to Ana, because I couldn’t really sort of my thoughts.
When I finally arrived to the women’s march, I saw a lot of anti-trump signs which was to be expected following the inauguration. There were signs that read “this pu**y grabs back”, and “impeach the cheet-o”. At first glance, I was like “yeah!”, all for it, you guys are cool, but something still felt uncomfortable. I couldn’t wrap my head around what was so uncomfortable about it, like here I am with all these powerful amazing women who are using their voice to protest injustice and inequality.There were points where I stopped chanting and just stared into space trying to understand why I felt a little out of place. Then I seen a woman with one of those temporary gold tattoos on her face that pictured a uterus. And in my mind I’m like why do I keep seeing these uterus illustrations and signs, like oh that’s what makes a woman?
I’m all for being positive, so I’m talking to myself in my head like “this is great, wtf is your problem Lakota?”. Then I seen these two little girls standing together, chanting, one was black the other was white. I was just like ” Oh my gosh! this is amazing” and the mom was standing there with her cardboard sign that so boldly said “BLACK LIVES MATTER”. In that moment I was so hopeful and filled with joy for our future.
But then that’s when it hit me. I knew she understood that it was more than a movement about “grabbing pu**ys”, and “nasty women”. I felt like among the sea of all these women they didn’t understand. They didn’t understand that a poster of a uterus is transphobic, and non-inclusive and counterproductive to feminism, and also not to mention women who are born without a uterus or had to undergo surgery to have it removed. I also felt like the anti-trump signs were giving him way too much energy. Then I seen multiple signs saying “ I’m with her” as a respect paid to Hillary Clinton, and as black woman I wasn’t enthusiastic about having a woman who has agreed on policies that would encourage mass incarceration that jailed black men disproportionately as a result of racism. And I never felt ecstatic about electing a woman, just because she was a woman- whilst simultaneously ignoring her support for racist policies. As a womanist, my first concern, and first thought when it comes to feminism is not Donald Trump and his comments, it just isn’t. My thoughts are with Sandra Bland, my thoughts are with socio-economic racial and sexist inequality, and the creation of platforms that will create hypervisibility for women of color. It just doesn’t work like that for me, my blackness, my sexual orientation, economics, and education all play into my feminism- and even outside of myself, I see the issues that disabled women face, and women who are immigrants, trans-women, and women who are not upper or middle class. I felt heavily that something was wrong here- where were these “intersectional” feminists at for black lives matter protests? We are here standing in solidarity with them, but they are not here for us. I felt like the “bond” that I was supposed to feel there, felt pressured and falsified. I felt deeply that these women did not understand or care to understand issues that do not directly affect them – especially if they are white, middle-class, able-bodied, and cis-gendered. Overall I just felt like trivial issues were spotlighted, while there are women who are really suffering and weren’t just offended by the speech of an unfortunately ignorant president. It’s just that when I think of women’s empowerment, I don’t think of it as a reaction to what a man has to say about us. Feminism, and the work towards equality of the sexes has to have transparent priorities. If there are women who cannot use the public restroom because they are not cis-gendered, I think that holds more weight than wanting to free a nipple. And I think if a woman can be killed by law enforcement because she is a black woman and there is no justice is served- then that also holds more weight than being upset that men view body hair as a masculine feature and now suddenly I should rock a bush under my arm. I hate that we don’t fight the same fight because I do feel that it is divisive- but I feel strongly that black women have been fighting for our lives, without the support of most white women, and their fight is generally trivial and economic-based without priority. Also, I kept seeing on the news how it was a peaceful protest and there were no arrests, and it felt like shade to the black lives matter protests. That also didn’t sit well with me. The difference was clear- the mode of policing was much different because of privilege. I also felt like these women don’t have anything to be genuinely enraged about. Immigrants, Muslim women, disabled women, Black women, women of color, women in the LGBTQ community, are all at risk significantly greater than women of the majority. They are endanger of having their civil rights and liberties taken from them under the new presidency. Not only are they at risk, they are outrightly being threatened just for who they are. I just cannot stand comfortably next to a woman in the march who has on a pink wig with a sign that says “this pu**y grabs back”, and take her seriously, when there are women who are genuinely suffering and being killed. For us, racism and sexism work collectively together, and they are not separate issues.I think in order for women to be able to come together- and actually stand in true solidarity, more white women need to practice intersectional feminism, and unite with women whose lives are vastly different from their own. They would have to actually care about injustices, and discriminations that happen outside of themselves.
Overall, I enjoyed the women’s march by appreciating those who were intersectional, and just being hopeful for the future- and that hopefully in this age of information, people who have the resources will do the work to educate themselves, and we can genuinely come together.