Feminism is defined by the dictionary as the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men. The problem is, I don’t label myself as a feminist.
I understand that without the feminist movement, millions of women around the world would not have been provided the rights they have today, and even more so the opportunities we have today. The need for equal rights as men is important, this I understand, but what good is it to provide these rights when we, as women, do not provide ourselves the same equality within the same gender.
To put it simply, even we as fellow women are not equal.
I know that after seeing the title of this post, I probably pissed off quite a bit of feminists, but if I may, let me explain my reasoning.
The feminist movement is largely focused on providing women the same rights as men, stated above in the fields mentioned. I believe that that’s a wonderful thing to aim for and accomplish, but what about the disparity between different groups of women in differing backgrounds?
Regarding the wages earned by workers, according to the AAUW, Asian-American and White women earn the highest percentage of wages compared to an average White man’s wages than any other race of women. I understand that although Asian-Americans are non-Whites and earn a high percentage as compared to other races, women of other ethnicities earn a lot less than these two races, and it shows the disparity between women in how much they are earning.
To further this argument, according to this article, “One of the report’s most grim findings is that while single white women between the ages of 36 and 49 have median net assets of $42,600, their non-white counterparts have only $5.” That’s a difference of thousands of dollars! What difference does equality to men make when we can’t have equality within different races. I guess my argument is that we can’t have gender equality until we account for the racial inequality that plagues us first and foremost.
Going off of this point, I would like to point out the continued political disparity within different groups of women. According to Think Progress, “women of color are 19% of the population, but hold only 4% of elected offices. White women are proportionally slightly better off: they are 32% of Americans and 25% of elected officials.” Again, White women are still better off than women of color when it comes down to political representation as well.
Regardless of the statistics, my experience dictates the opinion I’ve shaped about how feminism affects me specifically, and other girls who feel similarly. Being a Muslim girl who also happens to be brown, I experience discrimination from my own gender. I’m told that I’m “oppressing” myself by wearing a headscarf. I’m not allowed the same educational opportunities as women who have a higher income than my household. I’m not allowed the same economic and political representation because I am a woman of color. I am told I am backwards by some to want a husband and a family. And to think I already had the same rights and representation as other women.
I know that this does not apply to all women, as not every label or group does, but somehow I feel that the discrimination I face from other women, other girls, is what makes me feel so strongly against feminism as what it has manifested itself as in our society.
To get to the jist of what I’m trying to say. What good is it to advocate for equal rights on a gender-to-gender basis when we haven’t gotten past the hurdles of the race issue? Until I am guaranteed the same rights and opportunities as the average, well-to-do White woman, until all women are guaranteed the same rights as each other, I will not feel it possible to advocate for the same rights as men and expect results.
What we don’t realize is that we are divided within our own gender, and until we get past those hurdles, we can’t do much to change the patriarchal structure that dictates the economic, political, and sometimes even the social aspect of our lives, and what we often forget, is that even men face the same disparities, perhaps even more so than women in their own gender as well. I mean do you want the same rights as a Black man, White man, poor man or rich man? This is one of the biggest reasons I feel like we can’t have feminism before egalitarianism, there is no way of gauging what rights you want as a woman when even men don’t treat each other as true equals economically, politically and socially.
One thing I can call myself is an egalitarian. Such a strange word, I know, but to be an egalitarian means to be a person who advocates or supports egalitarian principles. Principles of equality. If we were to simply look at the societal structures we have built up for ourselves, and thought about disparities as a whole, then we would be able to recognize the need to be equal, the need for egality.
To all the feminists out there, I don’t disagree entirely with what you advocate, and what you have achieved for our gender and the human race as a whole, I just feel that there is a different, and perhaps a better way of looking at the issue of equality when looking at how it affects different people.
I am not a feminist, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want equality.