By Mali Collins
“Groups of women who feel excluded from feminist discourse and praxis can make a place for themselves only if they first create, via critiques, an awareness of the factors that alienate them.” -bell hooks, Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center
Feminism and her “waves” are responsible for the voting rights of women, much of our Affirmative Action policies, and equality in the work place. However, throughout history, feminism has been the tool of white, middle- to upper-class women to solve their own personal problems, and has rarely turned an eye to women of color, gender issues, or working class peoples. Simply put, feminism is a broad, sweeping idea, and one that has not worked to advance all marginalized people’s rights, but those belonging to a very limited group.
Black feminist bell hooks posits that this is because feminism has, for the last century, been used to advance the rights of white women only. In so doing, it has ignored the needs of other sub-groups and rendered them neglected. However, coming into our fourth wave, I believe that feminism has her intricacies, her nuances, perspectives to explore and niches to be found. Employing a common language and blanketing us all as simply “feminist” ignores the struggles of black feminists, trans folk, and the lot that all queer people have endured throughout our nation’s history. We must reorganize, recreate, and question what it is about feminism that represents us, and then personally tackle our problems head on. Our new wave of feminism has allowed us to employ feminism as an all inclusive term: the aforementioned people have found their way into the discussion and are finally being represented, with the formation of organizations like the ACLU and GLBTAQ centers across America. However, I urge you all to not take this for granted. We must all find our place in feminism; find those who we identify and align our values with to truly serve the advancement of all marginalized people.
Feminism was an ideology created to include those who were oppressed and excluded. Contemporarily, we must look to see who else we can include, develop our own feminist sub-cultures, and empower ourselves so to give different feminisms the closer look they deserve. This, in turn, will empower all feminists and strengthen the feminist movement as it moves forward.
All for one, and one for all!