DEAR EXCLUSIONARY MAINSTREAM FEMINIST
A COMMENT BY ELLA ACHOLA
Oppressed groups are frequently placed in the situation of being
listened to only if we frame our ideas in the language that is familiar to
and comfortable for a dominant group. This requirement often changes
the meaning of our ideas and works to elevate the ideas of dominant
groups. Patricia Hill Collins
Dear exclusionary mainstream feminist,
Once again I sit up at 3am, heart racing and frustrated, as I read about
you, another self-proclaimed feminist, hijacking a conversation that was
not meant to be centred around your feelings (for once) and turning it
into a lament of how white mainstream feminists feel discriminated too.
Thing is, I am tired. I am tired of the fact that every time I leave my
intersectional* feminist bubble I read about yet another mainstream socalled
feminist who decided it was once again time to liberate herself
and herself only. I am tired that despite continuous and conscious
efforts by intersectional feminists to engage in dialogue and criticise
mainstream feminism constructively, many mainstream feminists still
turn a blind eye to issues that they feel are irrelevant to them. To clarify,
“privilege is when you think something is not a problem because it’s not
a problem to you personally” (David Gaider). However (surprise!), this
does not make it less of a problem. In this context, using the pronoun
‘we’ when referring to your feminist movement is problematic because it
is often used in a non-specific way to gloss over the exclusivity that
many liberation groups reinforce, painting a picture of inclusion when
really it is not.
Frustration and boredom overtake me every time I see the voices of
women of colour silenced once again to accommodate the feelings of
mainstream feminists who legitimise this silencing as a necessary
means to reach some sort of liberated utopia that will supposedly
benefit us all. Turning all conversations back to you, dear exclusionary
mainstream feminist, is reinforcing the oppressive structures you
experience in this patriarchal world we live in and it is not helping.
Discussing intersectionality on a recent StudentFems panel, Kesiena
Boom was right in pointing out that intersectionality needs to be at the
core of feminism, not just an afterthought. This does not mean that we
need to be experts on all different sorts of feminisms (yes, plural) and
speak for other women (who are mostly perfectly capable of speaking
for themselves) but rather that we need to reflect on our actions. In the
same panel, Ginger Drage emphasised that merely asking the simple
question of “how is this intersectional?” can be very powerful. We need
to get away from this idea of feminism as one unified ideology and
acknowledge the different struggles that run under the umbrella term of
‘feminism’. Otherwise we perpetuate old stereotypes by reinforcing the
narrative of the single story.
Engaging in the invisibilisation of women of colour and erasing our
stories will not lead to a liberated utopia. If you believe sexism to be at
the top of some constructed hierarchy of systems of oppressions, I
suggest you read Audre Lorde’s ‘There is no hierarchy of oppressions’,
an easily accessible one-page article that will break it down for you: “I
simply do not believe that one aspect of myself can possibly profit from
the oppression of my other part of my identity”.
Dear exclusionary mainstream feminist, you have now robbed me off
my voice and my sleep. Well done.
*Intersectionality is a term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw and refers to the
way we have different identities (gender, race, class, etc.) that intersect and
provide the basis for intersecting oppressions.