Education

White Privilege in the World of Feminism

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by Contributor Hailey Ferguson

Last Saturday, January 20, 2018, women came together for the second year to participate in the Women’s March. Many wore pink pussy hats, held signs that said, “My body, my choice,” “Girls just want to have fun…damental rights” and other pro-feminist sentiments.

What Happened at the women’s march

Women discussed stories of sexual harassment, domestic violence, and being treated as less than human. It was powerful to see women come together to tell their stories. However, historically, white women have controlled the narrative of feminism and drowned out the voices of women of color and trans women.

White privilege is not something that is exclusive to powerful white men. White privilege is something that all white people have and receive many benefits from.The issues that plagued the suffragettes are still prevalent today.

Although there has been progress in the Women’s Rights movement, white women’s rights activists have also taken steps backward by not being inclusive, to the exclusion of women of color and trans women.

Many white women are offended by the term “white privilege,” and they do not like being called out for certain behaviors.

As a white woman, I can confirm that my whiteness has helped me in the realm of activism. For example, I can criticize the government without being seen as a cultural outsider. I am never asked to speak for my entire race, and I can worry about racism without seeming self-interested. If white women choose, they can move throughout their lives without considering the plight of women of color and all their sacrifices for feminism and social justice.

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The Plight of Women of Color 

Women of color and trans women face copious amounts of discrimination, and it affects their quality of life.

  • According to NPR, Black women are three times more likely to die in childbirth. There are some studies that suggest this is from years of enduring discrimination and racism.
  • The Center for American Progress claims that Latin American women are more likely to lack health coverage among America’s uninsured women and that they are 17 times more likely to die from diabetes than white women.
  • According to the CDC, Native women experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence of any other racial or ethnic group in the United States.
  • A report from the National Transgender Discrimination Survey stated that transgender women face high poverty rates, discrimination in public accommodations, extreme rates of violence, and discrimination in housing.
  • Lora Jo Foo at the Ford Foundation states that many Asian American women live well below the nation’s poverty level with very few resources devoted to improving their situation. Furthermore, Asian American women are often denied access to job training and educational opportunities.

Intersectional feminism needs to be the centerpiece of all feminist rallies, protests, and conversations.

What White Privilege Affords

Race plays a part in every aspect of American life, and white privilege affords the privileged the option to ignore racial injustices in society.

  • White privilege allows white people the option to ignore, deny, or get offended at the mention of their privilege.
  • White privilege affords white people the option to stand up against government injustices without their race being a factor.
  • White privilege allows white women the privilege of wearing a pink pussy hat without thinking about how women of color and trans women often feel excluded from the feminist conversation.

Rather than deny that white privilege exists within the world of feminism, white women must accept these undeniable facts, and they must adopt the mentality of intersectional feminism.

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unnamedHailey Ferguson is a guest contributor for the Black Wall St. Times and is a proud ally for People of Color, an advocate for Women’s Rights, and is a member of Aware Tulsa‘s Vision Team. She currently studies Social Work at Northern Eastern State University. 

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