Even in the 21st century, the feminism movement continues to evolves, transforming into a more modern and inclusive approach.
First Wave Feminism Flaws
In July 1848, a group of women, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton, gathered in Seneca Falls. Their ultimate goal was the right to vote among women, or more specifically, white women. Not a single black woman was invited to the convention. Only one person of color, American abolitionist Frederick Douglass, had participated in the convention.
Perhaps the most notable leader of first wave feminism is Susan B. Anthony, who is often praised in history textbooks. Although her efforts in first wave feminism were admirable, they were overshadowed by her backward beliefs.
“I will cut off this right arm of mine before I will ever work or demand the ballot for the Negro and not the woman,” declared Susan B. Anthony in one speech against the patriarchy.
Anthony represented white feminism, the belief that only white women should be included in the war against the patriarchy. For the rest of first wave feminism, black women were continually excluded, and even forced to walk in the back during demonstrations.
Yet, suffragettes such as Susan B. Anthony continues to be praised for their valiant efforts in the movement, spurring the white savior complex.
What is Intersectional Feminism?
It wasn’t until 1989 that the term “intersectionality” was coined by law professor Kimberle Crenshaw.
The term became popularized two decades later, after black women began speaking out about how disconnected they felt from the feminism movement. Most of them found it difficult to connect with the movement.
Presently, intersectional feminism is a common term often found on social media. It creates an inclusive environment for all women- no matter their ethnicity, race, religion or sexual orientation while striving to understand their experiences as feminists.
Why Some Women Don’t Consider Themselves Feminists
“I don’t feel included,” said Olivia Broomes, 18, an active member of the Black Lives Matter community. “When it comes to women of color, our issue doesn’t feel intertwined. I’m all about equality but I think when it comes to feminism, there needs to be more intersectionality. There are too many issues that need to be addressed before I can count myself in.”
Aye Bah, 18, who has taken courses on feminism among different groups of people at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, agrees. “Personally, I think being a feminist in today’s day and age means much more than it did before. I took a class on Islamic Feminism last semester and realized that Western Feminism isn’t as inclusive as people think and can become toxic when women from different backgrounds, cultures, religions are involved. It’s definitely something to think about.”
Despite the presence of such compelling terms, it’s clear that society has a great deal of polishing to do before all women are comfortable enough to align themselves with the movement.
FIND OLIVIA AND AYE ON INSTAGRAM!
- Olivia Broomes: @olivia.broomes
- Aye Bah: @ayee.zb