Intersectionality in the Face of White Feminism
African women, and black women in general, are subjected to intersectional treatment that denies them opportunities and leads to unfriendly policies that continue to discriminate against black women. Intersectionality is when multiple forms of inequality work together to discriminate against people. Intersectionality among black women is still embedded even in the face of white feminism that purports to champion the rights of women as a group. Ideally, intersectionality in the context of black women is when racism and other forms of social inequalities work together to oppress African women or black women in general. White feminism remains irresponsive concerning the subject of intersectionality because white women historically dominate it. This essay argues that intersectionality against black women remains deeply embedded even in the presence of white feminism and gives examples of how intersectionality works to discriminate against black women.
The concerns about rights and substantive equality for black women have not been taken into keen consideration and remain a vital issue in Black studies. Regarding social and economic policies, white feminism argues that incremental and delayed realization of social and economic rights is unacceptable. Recently, feminists have fought for women’s rights in employment and leadership to help women rise into leadership positions. In the United States, where employment is usually conducted on egalitarian precepts, black women are lagging, not only in higher positions of leadership but also concerning salaries and benefits. Hitherto, black studies have recognized the failure of white feminists to advocate for the rights of black women (Hoskin, 2022). For white feminists, it seems that the concept of African women is complicated, constantly shifting, or even contradictory. Feminists lack the stamina to engage in conversations that uplift African women owing to their white privilege history.
When white women are exposed to unemployment or lack post-natal and prenatal care, Marxist feminists consider it a conflict between the male-dominated society and vulnerable women. However, when African women are exposed to climate change by European companies that run mines in Africa, feminists do not seem to respond. In the United States and Europe, black communities have created black feminism to fight against intersectionality. However, in Africa, women have come up with African Womanist, which includes women and the entire family of black women’s families (Molehe et al., 2020). This way, intersectionality has taught black women that it could be used as a prism for understanding multiple things that conventional ways of thinking cannot merely understand. Unlike the United States and Europe, black feminism works to eradicate both gender-based discrimination and racial prejudice. Still, the main difference between black women in other cultures and black African women is that the culture of African women is more of a priority before social issues.
African Womanist is anchored in culture and is focused on their experiences, needs, and desires. Among African women, intersectionality is not examined in the realms of prejudicial history, as black feminists consider it. African women recognize that their colonial history does not play a significant role in the stabilization of racism. However, it can be a starting point regarding the removal of insulation that protects white women from racism. In white feminism, intersectionality is considered male-orchestrated. In other words, women cannot get jobs because men have taken control of the labor market. African women believe that men have a role in their struggles. Constantly blaming men for intersectionality does not work because men have also been culturally deluded in Africa for years on end. For example, machismo has made African men irresponsible over the years, as most of them have only viewed women as sexual objects and servants (Molehe et al., 2020). Therefore, African Womanism removes the mask of racial and gender discrimination that feminists have espoused and recognizes that outcomes must be evaluated to construct how they come about.
For African women, intersectionality is usually propagated when men are overly blamed for social atrocities that they have done because they have a lack of awareness. Furthermore, African women argue that feminists scapegoat men to preclude women from seeing the main issue, which is racism. This reality is a phenomenon that was observed by Kimberlé Crenshaw, who coined the word intersectionality. Crenshaw observed how a black woman was treated in court when she litigated about being denied a job opening because of being black. Crenshaw argued that the black woman could not get justice because the jurors were white males who were biased about blacks and women in general. Therefore, feminism, or specifically Western feminism, usually downplays the impact of racism on gender issues and purports to want to eradicate sexism and classism (Thomas, 2020). Accordingly, black studies have observed that there is no way that classism and sexism can be eradicated before racism.
African women have experienced colonialism, while black women in other cultures have experienced slavery. However, the lessons learned during slavery and colonialism are different. Even then, black studies have affirmed that black people cannot rely on those who have a legacy of injustice against them to champion their rights. Black people in different places have to devise unique avenues where they fight intersectionality among black women because of cultural and even policy differences. Racism is not as deeply embedded in Africa as it is in Europe or the United States. Nevertheless, black studies have also revealed that black people have to help women eradicate racial slurs and vocabulary that inhibit women from advancing (DiAngelo, 2018). In Africa, black women who manage to break the glass ceiling are called determined, while black women who manage to rise to positions of power in the United States and Europe are called strong.
Intersectionality among black women is also propagated when black people consider themselves inferior or challenging to socialize. However, white feminism cannot address socialization or inferiority for black women. Therefore, black women must find ways to eradicate racial slurs that they use among themselves. For instance, determined is used to associate Africans with the fight against colonialism, while strong is used to depict the fight against slavery. In many ways, white feminists also benefit from black inferiority because it makes white women rise and maintain dominance over the hierarchy that has existed in their communities (DiAngelo, 2018). By using terms such as determined and strong, white feminists romanticize the terrible experiences of black women rather than discuss the negative impacts of oppression. This way, white feminism can help propagate intersectionality by making black women ignore the realities that they are facing because enduring cannot be confused with transformation.
Moreover, intersectionality also prevails because black people have been fixated on racism, classism, and sexism only. This way, when black women do not rise to offices of power, they are said to be afraid of scrutiny. Similarly, black women who rise to positions of power are also portrayed as celebrities and are deified instead of being recognized for who they are. This analysis means that black feminists and African Womanists still decide to pick up some things from white feminists to advance in their quest for emancipation (Molehe et al., 2020). Black studies have argued that white women are not good at analyzing racial politics, and black feminists risk falling behind if they are to copy what white feminists are doing. Specifically, black studies reveal that the discourse must be widened to uncover the areas where black women are oppressed and discriminated against. Black movements must champion the creation of favorable policies for black men, women, and children. After championing such policies, they would see the ripple effect of their struggle on other areas and social justice movements.
In summary, intersectionality among black women exists even in the face of white feminism because the struggles between black women and white women are unique and because white women would still want to maintain racist systems. Black studies reveal that black women must be wary of vocabulary that is meant to oppress them and should regard them as racial slurs. Intersectionality among black women exists in multiple levels of social hierarchies, and black women must widen their lenses to perceive racism and social discrimination. International laws have failed to protect black women against intersectionality and still allow atrocities like climate change to continue the legacy of injustice that has been leveled on black women. When women cannot see problems, they cannot fix them; therefore, recognizing that men cause their challenges is false. Hence, their efforts must not only be concerted but must also concentrate on protecting black men and children.
DiAngelo, R. (2018). White Fragility: Why it is so hard for white people to talk about racism. Beacon Press.
Hoskin, M. N. (2022). Is There a Place for Black Women in White Feminism? Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/maiahoskin/2022/03/27/is-there-a-place-for-black-women-in-white-feminism/?sh=3b498f3a7113
Molehe, R. C., Marumo, P. O., & Motswaledi, T. R. (2020). The Position of Womanism Versus Feminism in A Contemporary World: The African Philosophy Perspective. Sociology Compass. https://doi.org/10.1111/soc4.12025
Thomas, K. B. (2020). Intersectionality and Epistemic Erasure: A Caution to Decolonial Feminism. Hypatia, 35(3), 509-523.