I have always considered myself to be a feminist. As a third-grader I wrote to George W. Bush, an infuriated letter regarding an injustice I found pertaining to the Olympics. A young woman and her brother were both training to participate in the ski jump. Equal amount of skill and effort put in by both athletes. When the time came for Olympic qualifying, it was determined that the brother could participate in the event, but the sister could not on the basis that it was too dangerous for women. This shook my little body to the core. I was a girl. I was capable of doing the same things that the boys in my class were doing, why was this different?
Fast forward to my late adolescence when I came across my very first copy of the Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan. I knew Betty Friedan as “the burning bra lady,” thank you high school history, and that was definitely something I could get behind. Housewives rising up against the patriarchy and burning their bras? How excellent! I quickly pulled the weathered copy from the shelf of a beloved used bookstore and hurried to the register. I then proceeded to keep this book in my bag for weeks just for the sheer excitement of proving dedication to feminism to anyone who may happen to see this.
One afternoon I was sitting in a coffee shop, when an older friend of mine appeared and she sat down beside me. I quickly whipped out my book, ready to impress her. She kind of shrugged and shook her head. I was so confused. Isn’t Betty Friedan the shining star of feminism? She encouraged women to flee their homes and strike out to do whatever their hearts desire. Why is this friend, who teaches women’s studies courses, disappointed in my book? She looked at me and asked if I had ever read anything by Gloria Anzaldua. I had not. Audre Lorde? Nope. Leslie Feinberg? Who? This was the beginning of a painful realization that I was stuck in the trap of white feminism. It’s a dangerous place to be. Thinking that you are the epitome of a brilliant activist, when really you are stuck in a limited world view–a privileged view.
After that incident, I quickly decided to stick my Betty Friedan in a corner on my bookshelf and I was able to open my mind to Boderlands: La Frontera, Zami, and Stone Butch Blues. Thank you to courses like “Black Sexualities” and “Latina’s Life Stories”, I was about to converse and be questioned regarding how I was contributing to the problem. Forced to recognize this privilege that I carry, encouraged to recognize it daily. I was introduced to the word “intersectional.” No longer merely a feminist, but an intersectional feminist.
Despite what textbook history says, feminism was not built on the backs of white women. White women were responsible for creating spaces for other white women, and it is time for that to change. Quoting a post from Tiger Beatdown: “My feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit!” Feminism is no longer strictly about gender. It is about creating and holding space for any marginalized person who is facing inequality and oppression. I refuse to succumb to white feminism. I will check my privilege. I will hold other feminists accountable, other people accountable. I recognize that white moderates are the problem, and I will not allow myself to become stagnant.