Feminism

The Second Women’s March and The “Pussy Hats” Relating to White Feminism and a Lack of Intersectionality

Marking one year since Donald Trump took the oath of office, a second Women’s March took place all over the United States. While the purpose of last year’s march couldn’t be missed, the reason so many Americans took to the streets this year was a bit confusing to say the least. Was it to protest the government shutdown? Was it to protest Trump and his bullshit (again)? Was it to advocate for impeachment? It’s hard to say at this point.

One of the biggest buzz items from last year’s march was the overwhelming presence of the pink, “pussy” hats. These hats were intended to be seen as marks of female empowerment and the unity of feminists all over the country. When I saw these at the first march, I really thought they were clever and cute; however it has been brought to my attention and I have been educated on the fact that these hats are incredibly lacking in the intersectionality department, even going as far as being transphobic. First of all, for those of you who might not know what “intersectional feminism” is, its essentially the cross involvement and advocacy between groups that might not otherwise be related or affect the advocate. For example, a white, transgender woman who advocates for Black Lives Matter, people with disabilities, and for immigrants as well as issues that affect her makes her an intersectional feminist. The definition can get a little bit more complicated at times, but for all intents and purposes this example applies. Now back to the hats-

So what could possibly be wrong with the hats?

For starters, the “pussy” being the uniting symbol between women who were marching pushes the notion that trans women, who might not have the same genitalia as a cis (not trans) woman, aren’t a woman to the same degree as a woman who is not trans. All the struggles that women endure collectively, don’t all have to do with the fact that we have vaginas. A woman’s genitals aren’t what makes her a woman.

But what’s wrong with the “pussy” hats isn’t really what’s wrong with the hats themselves. It’s what’s wrong with who is wearing them. So many march participants’ activism only goes as far as showing up in a hat with a clever sign. The purpose of the march was never about who could have the cutest hat, or the snarkiest sign. It was supposed to be about uniting together and then continuing your activism. The march was never intended to be the “end all be all” of feminism. I didn’t get this sense during the first march, but this second march seems to push the notion that to be a “good feminist” you have to go and that without posting your picture on social media with your hat and your sign, you aren’t doing enough. This general theme aligns with something known as “white feminism”. Now just because you are a feminist who is white/Caucasian, doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re a “white feminist”. White feminism refers to white “feminist” who only focus on issues pertaining to themselves. Since we’re a big fan of examples in this post, a white feminist might be a big advocate for birth control and reproductive rights, while slandering POC (person of color) feminists for being outraged against police brutality or racism and failing to recognize their own privilege. They usually preach that “love” can conquer all of the injustices in our society but fail to recognize the complexity of the oppressive system that they benefit from. Keep in mind that most white women voted for trump in the first place (52% to be exact), which brings attention to the fact that white women are capable of being oppressors as well. If you fail to recognize this, you may see yourself falling into the label of “white feminist”.

If I had to name someone to be the face of white feminism, a perfect example, it would be Lena Dunham. While the actress claims to be a feminist, most of her “advocacy” is just lip service and many of her actions have been downright problematic, racist, and she has even fabricated stories to contribute to her “activism”. She has been public about her disdain for a lack of diversity in Hollywood, but she herself is the director, writer, and producer of one of the LEAST diverse shows on air. This really drives the fact that activism is only activism when it is genuine and from a place of hope. Publicity stunts just don’t cut it anymore.

Don’t get me wrong, I think that the march is a wonderful opportunity to network with other feminists and to get inspiration to continue your activism. When I participated last year, I was in awe at the camaraderie and how inspired I felt. However, it shouldn’t be used as a way to get your “feminist” card just because that’s what’s expected. Feminism wasn’t designed to be a trend. It was a movement that has begun to be capitalized off of, which pushes it farther and farther away from it’s original intent.

If you’re a fan of the hats, go for it! But just remember that a hat is not going to save the world. You can though.

Until Next Post,

Bekah

 

photo credit: Duluth News Tribune

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