Recently, rich white women have been demanding that other oppressed groups drop our respective struggles and help uplift them. In an interview with Out, pop icon Madonna revealed that she feels women rights have been stagnant since 1983, while other marginalized groups have made substantial social and political gains.
“It’s moved along for the gay community, for the African-American community, but women are still just trading on their ass. To me, the last great frontier is women.”
Here we go again.
I’m not hear to play Oppression Olympics, and I do not compare plights of one subjugated demographic to another. But I feel both uncomfortable and frustrated when rich white women tell me that I’m doing better than them. It was only weeks ago when Patricia Arquette uttered the same nonsense at the Oscars. In a stark sense of irony, a woman with both race and class privilege, stood before a predominately white audience of millions, in a room full of other wealthy white people, and spoke to white-focused media and said:
“It’s time for all the women in America, and all the men that love women and all the gay people and all the people of color that we’ve all fought for to fight for us now.”
The backlash, especially from Black feminists, was swift and insightful. Mainstream feminist talking points regularly center on equality and the wage gap; 77 cents has become synonymous with the modern feminist struggle. But the fact that this figure represents white female wages to those of white men is usually left out of the conversation. Black women make 65 cents to a white man’s dollar, and Hispanics and Latinos make 54 cents.
Literally left out of the mainstream feminist conversation, feminists of color and womanists were rightfully upset with Patricia Arquette’s comments that demanded our precious labor in their struggle–a struggle that routinely fails to take our issues into account.
But we’re busy. We have a lot to do. We live at the intersection of race and gender, and our stories, labor, and struggles are either whitewashed to fit into a mainstream narrative, or suppressed within the confines of Black masculinity.
Gazi Kodzo said it best:
Black women are too busy fighting for justice, not equality. And there are many injustices for us to choose from.
We seek justice when affirmative action programs, despite being championed as a hallmark in racial justice, benefit white women the most.
We seek justice for 64,000 Black women who are missing, both in body and media presence.
We seek justice for Aiyana Jones –who was 7 when police shot her as she slept– Rekia Boyd, Yvette Smith, Tyisha Miller and so many other Black women who are sexually assaulted or killed by law enforcement and vigilantes, but spark no global outrage.
We seek justice for the souring number of Black women trapped in prisons and sterilized. We seek justice for the Black girls who are funneled into the prison industrial complex through the educational system — a system that’s supposed to protect and enlighten young minds, not criminalize them.
We seek justice for Black queer and transgender women are culturally, systematically, and politically ignored.
We seek justice for our bodies that are culturally appropriated, mocked, violated, disregarded, and brutalized.
So when Madonna says that the African American community has moved along, but woman are the last frontier, it shows a grave lack of intersectional understanding. When Patricia Arquette demands that our labor is best served advancing a cause from which we receive little benefit or consideration, it shows a deaf ear to current Black female issues that look a lot like systematic and cultural genocide.
I do believe it possible for white and Black feminists to work together in advancing women. But without a comprehensive, intersectional understanding of how race and class privilege drastically alter the nature and severity of our struggles, I can’t waste time holding a vapid 77 cent banner.
Editors Note: A reader brought to my attention that the word “transgendered” is culturally and grammatically erroneous. I have since corrected the language, and will be especially mindful in the future.
*Featured Image Credit: www.forbes.com
Suggested Reading: “Black America’s Hidden Tax: Why This Feminist of Color is Going on Strike” Dr. Brittney Cooper, Salon.
“New Series: Voices from the Inside — Breaking the Silence: The Cost of Cramps.” Pamela Baker, Crunk Feminist Collective.