• S. Parris

But, what about us?

fem·i·nism /ˈfeməˌnizəm/

noun noun: feminism

I took an elective course in college called "Psychology of Women", which, contrary to its simplistic title was a very deep & thought provoking course. My professor allowed the class (made up of 27 women of all ages and 2 men) to debate and express on womens' issues for most of the semester. After 4 months of arguing my contrasting points with privileged women who referred to themselves as feminists, I knew that was the absolute furthest thing from what I was.

When I asked about topics that threatened the rights of Black women (emphasis on Black, because this post is specific to my experience as a Black woman, not a "WOC"), I had blank stares and dissociated peers. I felt if this movement is not including Black women, why or how would I possibly relate? Often, feminist movements contradict the well being of Black women & our best interests and truth be told; I don't think it was made with us in mind. The ideologies many women describe as "feminism" mostly pertained to women of similar race (White), socioeconomic class, body type, sexuality etc.

If you are a non-Black feminist, curious about why many Black women have a disconnect with the feminism movement, keep reading while I put you on to my perspective:

From my personal experiences as a Black woman, I was raised & molded into associating with my skin color first. I am Black, before I am anything else. I realized very early on in life that others' associated me with my skin color before anything else also. 4th grade, 8 years old, is when I discovered I was not just another little girl but a little Black girl in the eyes of my classmates. Because my skin color, hair type, and "slang" was different than those of my peers, they grouped me into a different category & treated me much different. That experience shaped the rest of my life from Black girlhood to womanhood. As I matured, and the values that meant most to me did also, I realized the feminism movement was somewhat shallow in comparison to my values. As a Black woman, my fight includes working against the desexualization of Black children, the higher death rates of Black women in healthcare, the police brutality against unarmed Black people, and much more. Our struggles as a community are much wider than gender equality or breast-feeding in public. That isn't to minimize these issues, but before I can even imagine equal pay I have to hope my resumé doesn't get tossed when they see "Shatina Parris" in bolded letters.

The feminism movement had plenty opportunity since its arrival in the 20th century to become more inclusive of Black women. Instead, our problems became minimized and dismissed. Now I understand some feminists may say they aren't aware of our struggles as Black women to be able to include or advocate for them, but the resources are there. Ask that "Black friend" you tell everyone you have, what her concerns are. Communicate with your supportive Black Lives Matter peers about what it actually means to them and why we advocate for it. Or, if you're afraid of rejection or confrontation, Google & the library have many books and articles that can bridge the disconnect between feminism and Black feminism.

In order to be inclusive of the concerns of Black women, you must first acknowledge that those concerns exist.

Recommended books: