Following Trump’s inauguration a series of Women’s Marches occurred throughout North America. The protests erupted to preserve the female liberties seemingly threatened by a “conservative” president who boasted of sexually assaulting women. As a female, I empathize and even support the initiatives that foment this March. However, although a woman, I know that I am inevitably black first. Thus, I can’t help but feel that by supporting the women’s march is to support the very means of my oppression.
On my a tri-weekly journey to a previous job, I recall seeing a number of protestors outside of Planned Parenthood at the wee hours of the morning seeking to shame female patrons. One protestor stood out from the others—an elderly white man surely north of seventy-five. He stood hunched over, holding an oaktag with a message written in ballpoint pen. I did not bother to read the poster, but judging by the stoic expression on his face, he was there to cast the stones of white male privilege onto the female body. Standing at the intersectionality of race and gender, the black woman knows this gaze all to well. While the literal gaze casts itself onto the black female body countless places throughout North America, the figurative gaze consumes black femininity in its entirety. The women’s march solely speaks to the “woman” component of this gaze, eliminating the most defining characteristic of black female identity.
Reproductive rights in general proves controversial to the black female trajectory. A quick glance at history reveals that the black female endured sheer deprivation in terms of reproductive rights—her body used as means for mayoral economic franchisement. White women too encompassed an existence that also regarded them as property, however their fair skin warranted privileges denied to the black female body. These exclusive liberties afforded to white women illustrate the concept of “woman” as a privilege solely applicable to non-male whites. Consider the phrasing “black” woman. The label “Black woman” illustrates that black female intersectionality separates black females from the term’s initial meaning. For any “woman” of another marginalized faction, their race or ethnicity always precedes the term woman—proving their genitals deem them female but their race and ethnicity is first and foremost. Femininity is also a privilege extended exclusively to non-male whites. This exclusivity persists as the black female body only earns femininity when adopting western aesthetics and behavior.
Given the exclusivity of the term “woman,” I find it quite disturbing that white women ( and other oppressed groups) call on the black women for support in their times of distress, yet alienate the black female body when their children, brothers and fathers lay slain on the streets or untagged in the morgue. How many white women “said her name” after Sandra Bland was murdered? How many white women were overtly outraged after the Trayvon Martin verdict was rendered?
To take a trip down memory lane, how many white female feminists supported Tawana Brawley in her 1988 trial? If autonomy over the female body is right every woman deserves- why was their no feminist congregation when this young, black girl was sexually assaulted by a number of white men? The answer is simple. Issues that engage both blackness and femininity become “black” issues instantaneously. This fact reveals that feminism is simply not built to encompass intersectional identities and thereby is not equipped to extinguish black female disenfranchisement.
It seems that former President Barack Obama’s victory disgruntled feminists, who supported this victory as long as it was a symbol of the feminist victory to follow. It seems feminists felt that history would repeat itself. Namely, black male voting privilege preceded white female voting liberties. Thus, feminists deemed Clinton’s victory inevitable following Obama’s 2008 victory. Dr. Angela Davis expressed a similar sentiment in the following excerpt from her book Women, Race and Class,
“The representative women of the nation have done their uttermost for the last thirty years to secure freedom for the negro; and as long as he was lowest in the scale of being, we were willing to press his claims, but now, as the celestial gate to civil rights is sIowly moving on its hinges, it becomes a serious question whether we had better stand aside and see ‘Sambo’ walk into the kingdom first.” (Davis 70)
Now that it seems that the black collective has something that the white female collective does not, the bells of white privilege right loudly under the veil of feminism.
Feminism functions to afford white women the same liberties as white men. The main component of these liberties is racism—deeming black female participation in any feminist activity injurious. Thus, to participate in a woman’s march as a black woman is to march along to the stagnant beat of white supremacy. For the black woman is a queen, but to the western world she will never truly be a woman.