It’s women’s history month and while many women enjoy more rights than they have ever had in the past because of feminist movement, the reality is that feminism has become white-washed on account of my own less open-minded and ignorant counterparts who have pushed, whether unknowingly or knowingly, marginalized women to the background and subsequently fostered a significant divide in the advancement of women and thus global progress.
As seen time and time again in society, the divide created continues to deepen and widen between those of marginalized communities and those in whose hands the power predominantly rests because of their unwillingness use their privilege for the betterment of others.
Beyoncé’s album “Lemonade” featured a portion of Malcom X’s famous speech where he said, “The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman.”
The word “feminism” by nature channels its focus on gender, while the word “womanism” coined by author and activist Alice Walker focuses on race, class, and gender. While feminism has done some good work, it has clearly pushed its largest population to the side, rather than follow the advice of activist and author Angela Davis, “When black women win victories, it is a boost for virtually every segment of society.”
Alice Walker wrote the following in her book “In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens: Womanist Prose”, “Womanist: 1) From womanish. A black feminist or feminist of color…wanting to know more and in greater depth than is considered ‘good’ for one…Responsible. In charge. Serious. 2) Also: A woman who loves other women, sexually and/or nonsexually. Appreciates and prefers women’s culture, women’s emotional flexibility (values tears as natural counterbalance of laughter), and women’s strength…committed to survival and wholeness of entire people, male and female. 3) Loves music. Loves dance. Loves the moon. Loves the Spirit. Loves love and food and roundness. Loves struggle. Loves the Folk. Loves herself. Regardless. 4) Womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender.”
According to the National Partnership for Women & Families, black women who are Georgia resident only earn 62 cents for every dollar earned by Caucasian men, even though Georgia and Texas have the largest population of black women working full time and year-round compared to any other state. The reasons given for this wide disparity are numerous, including gender and racial discrimination, harassment, and a lack of family caregiving policies as many women fulfill the caregiving role in the home regardless of their employment status.
In U.S. urban areas, black women find the least disparity in Washington, D.C., Boston, M.A., and Baltimore, M.D., while Clevand, O.H., Pittsburgh, P.A., and Augusta, G.A. have been shown to have the greatest, according to a CityLab metro area analysis analyzing U.S. metro cities called “Best & Worst Metros for Black Women’s Overall Outcomes”. While Savannah did not make the list, both Jacksonville and Charleston fell below the median line.
Without the furtherance of the success of black women, the state of Georgia, the United States, and the world will halt in its progress. With all the statistics above, however, it may seem as though it would be easier to give in, believing that change at this stage is impossible as racism continues to be alive and well.
In the words of Corinne Purtill, reporter for Quartz, a global news and business insight news source, “It’s not fair, nor is it even possible, to separate gender from race and class and say, ‘We’ll get to those later—but first let’s settle this.’ Women of color fought the battles that brought society to this point, where even the faint hope of change seems possible. To use that work without ensuring that this broken system is replaced with one inclusive of race, in addition to gender, is not partial victory. It’s complete failure.”
Elections are coming, the world is changing every day, and it’s waiting for you to use your voice. It is the responsibility of those women like myself to take only the supporting role and allow the women whose voices must be heard above the others to take the place at the table we have held onto for too long with white knuckles in fear of change and out of our own self-important strategies.
“Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possible, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.” –Maya Angelou