12/12/2017

Feminism and Me: The Road to Solidarity

Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in the pursuit of social justice by our 2017 Mike Honda Writing Fellow, Amanda Ong. Read her first piece on identity, second piece on Tam v. USPTO, and third piece on power.

Who Needs Feminism?

With the Women’s March being an international and highly diverse event, the value of solidarity between communities was more apparent than ever. For many women who came, their presence at the Women’s March was emblematic of their daily struggle for basic rights. For many other women, their presence at the Women’s March was a one-time event—as soon as they went home they were no longer affected: The fight can be over for them. It is those women, the ones who can go home to safety, for whom it is the most crucial to make sure to keep fighting this fight for all women.

This issue of divisions within activism is not new. Throughout history, instances can be seen of similar situations. Susan B. Anthony, for all she did to help gain women’s rights to vote, once said, “I will cut off this right arm of mine before I will ever work or demand the ballot for the Negro and not the woman.” Susan B. Anthony is seen as a champion of women’s rights. Yet, her words only prove that racism and division have existed within feminism for years, and they are things we must continuously and actively combat. Western feminism has historically been centered on white women, but for women of color and LGBTQ women, there is often more at stake in addition to gender equality. They must fight for their basic rights, and for their survival. These are the issues of many women, and are as much feminist’s issues as any others.

When these issues are not included as feminist issues it results in division in the feminist community, or as it has been dubbed, white feminism. White feminism is a term used to describe feminism that doesn’t take into account what equality means for all women in the context of their identities, i.e. their race, sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnicity, etc. This does not mean white women who are feminists are white feminists. Rather, to be a white feminist means to be a feminist who supports the problems that pertain to themselves, but who is unwilling to support the problems of women of color and/or LGBT women, and to do that is not to participate in real feminism. This division only hurts us more, and we need to consistently make sure we are listening to and supporting others who are marginalized in ways that we are not.

To truly engage in the activist community, we must continually and actively dispute our own internal prejudices. I come from a very privileged position and community—I am one of those women who can go home and, for the most part, feel safe. I know it is difficult to do, but we have to acknowledge our privilege, and do everything in our capacity to fight for the people who have been stripped of their rights. Consistently having conversations about privilege can be uncomfortable, but it is also a part of opening up and strengthening activism between individuals, and creating solidarity between communities. 

For Asian Americans, we must continue to strive for this solidarity. We must ask ourselves—are we fighting for the rights of all? Will we choose to stand for those who cannot if we are not in the same line of fire? If we are really working for equality, and not semi-equality or sudo-equality, but equality, we have a responsibility to stand for all of those who are marginalized. We are all fighting the same beast, even though the problems that face our individual communities may be different.

This means facing the misogyny that exists in our community. It means facing the anti-blackness that exists in our community. It means facing the anti-undocumented sentiment that exists in our community. It means facing the classism that exists in our community. It means facing the homophobia and transphobia that exist in our community. It means facing the prejudice that exists in our community. As individuals, it means confronting the misogyny, anti-blackness, anti-undocumented sentiments, homophobia, transphobia, and prejudice that exist within ourselves. Our pursuit to gain greater media representation, to disavow the stereotypes we face, and to prevent violent acts against us means nothing if we do not also fight for the safety of the bodies, souls, and humans alongside whom we fight.

As famed Asian American activist Yuri Kochiyama said, “Keep expanding your horizon, decolonize your mind, and cross borders.” This open perspective is necessary for all individuals to have in order to find true solidarity among our communities. Superficial statements won’t work as well as heartfelt, deep, and true affiliations with all in and around our cause.

The Women’s March was a fantastically executed event with worldwide support. We should not forget that, and also that, in part, women of color organized it. It should remind us: Who do we fight for? What do we fight for? At different times the specifics vary, but the answer is always something like this: For equality. For justice. For love.

Thank you to all who organized or participated in the Women’s March or any of the many since, including ban-related ones. Please, for the sake of all, go out and keep working for our freedoms.

Note: The AAA-Fund welcomes a diversity of views and voices. In that spirit, the views expressed in this article are the author's own. Unless an article states that it was written by the AAA-Fund or its Board of Directors, it does not necessarily reflect the views of the AAA-Fund.

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