I count myself lucky in many ways – I grew up in Manhattan, went to the United Nations School, was part of a diverse swim team, and have traveled a fair bit. I get to write about those experiences and, for the most part, I have my voice. I was raised very, very well. I am privileged in many ways. When I was 10 my best friend was Joelle. We spent almost every afternoon at each others apartments. We did our school projects together, rode the bus together, and had dinners with each others families. As we grew, we fell apart – as a lot of kids do – but have managed to retain a friendship via Facebook (we are in different countries, now, so Facebook is one of the only options). She recently posted this on her Facebook:
“Feminism is not solely based on gender based oppression. Women of different races, social classes, and sexual orientations are included in this conversation. To be a feminist requires a great deal of fine tuning of what you think you know. Alice Walker describes it as a struggle and ultimately a transformation. White women that want to be down with feminism really and truly need to think about why they’re doing it and who they’re doing it for. No one is free when others are oppressed. Y’all need to see the forest and not just the trees that have catchy sayings on them.” – Jessica Covington YASSSSSSSSSSSSSS HUNNI PREACH
I liked it – of course – but did I keep thinking about it? I like to say I did, but I don’t write about it as often as I should. Today I stumbled across Buzzfeed’s Why Is Onscreen Romance So Rarely On The Cards For Black Women and it got me thinking more critically about films I love (like their mentioned 27 Dresses don’t judge me). I haven’t seen any of the films they mentioned that feature black women (and men) in the leading roles, which is absurd. (They’re next on the list.) That narrative, which is so lacking in Hollywood, is one that all people need to see. I’ve written about this before, but now more than ever it needs to be discussed. Representation is something everyone deserves.
Feminism needs to be universal, it needs to be inclusive and not CiS-gendered or whitewashed. I’m lucky in that I will always have Joelle’s voice, whether directly or indirectly, to check me, to balance me out. More women need to speak up, need to defend planned parenthood, need to write their own stories, need to express themselves. Women are so often precluded from major hollywood roles, not only as actresses but writers, directors, producers, etc., that of course our stories aren’t told. It’s a systematic problem, but only fixing it for white women doesn’t even fix the problem. It’s like putting a bandaid on a severed limb. When I speak, I can only speak for myself, but I can do my best to mention and be thoughtful of the rest of the people feminism includes. I can read and watch and, above all, listen.
So while we’re all ranting and raving about JonVoyage, Donald Trump’s flat out insanity, the whitewashing of the new Stonewall film, or rolling our eyes at the Daily Mail’s hatred of Great British Bake Off’s inclusivity (I refuse to link to the article because I don’t want to give it any more traffic), let’s not forget about these women who’s voices are neglected on so many levels. Instead of getting angry when some say white women shouldn’t wear dreadlocks, why not think about it for a little. Do some research, read some more about it. If you agree, fine, if you don’t, that’s your prerogative too – but we’re all trying to scratch out a corner for ourselves in a male dominated world, and shutting down each other’s voices isn’t going to help.
I write for myself – and while that may sound bad, it’s the only way you can go about it. Writing for others never turns out well, and if you measure your success by it then you’re beholden to the whims of the masses, or discouraged by a lack of readership. However, I am also writing because I can. It’s something I can do to be part of the fight, to eke out acknowledgement that there is a power imbalance to which all oppressed people have the right to speak out about. I can’t speak, or write, for anyone but myself, but I can hopefully open a door for others to speak too, and know when to step off the soap box and let a sister on.