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The Overthrow of White Western Feminism: The Importance of Diversity in Modern Feminism

Since the dawn of feminism, there was a predominant sense of white leadership in organizing events for feminists such as various United States suffragette rallies and protests in D.C. And while historical white feminist role models are honorable for their dedication to the cause, there has been a lack of representation of leaders of color even in modern-day feminist events and organizations who fight for feminism.

Role models such as Gloria Steinem and Susan B. Anthony is often overhyped in their accomplishments because they were able to put together large groups of women at a time where people of color trying to do such things would be thought of as sparking a riot rather than simply protesting. When other role models such as Sojourner Truth and Audre Lorde are mentioned people have to be reminded of what they did for the cause rather than knowing off the top of their head what they did. Coretta Scott King and Shirley Chisholm were leaders that were often overlooked despite a quick moment of recognition. Most educated people when hearing about Anthony can tell you a general gist of what she did, but mention many of the other heroes of the Women’s Liberation Movement or the Women’s Suffrage Movement, especially those of color, and there will likely not be a known person amongst those same educated people.

This concept that white women in the feminist movement are overpowered with their race privilege stems from the idea that white feminist leaders tend to use their recognition to fulfill their personal needs, not taking into account the needs of women of color. This is derived from the book Against White Feminism by Rafia Zakaria, published Aug. 17, 2021. Zakaria’s book discusses how white feminists have been using the power and privilege they have to be the leaders of feminist movements globally, and while this is beneficial for women to be acknowledged, the benefits women are receiving from this are not always helpful, especially to women of color. The needs of different women around the world will continue to be different than those of white women in the U.S. and Europe. The book suggests it is time for a change, so that white feminists can learn to help people of color by not only requesting their needs to be met but by stepping down and allowing people of color to hold their nations accountable for what they need.

An important point Zakaria makes in her book is that white feminists are not every general white female wanting to ensure and protect their rights as a human that is equal to a man. She says, “From the very first page of the book, I felt it was necessary to point out that when I talk about white feminism, I don’t mean it as a racial description, as in any white woman who’s also a feminist. Instead, I mean very particularly white women who are feminists, but who do not want to confront the fact that white racial privilege has infected feminism as we find it today. Essentially, it’s a white woman who could even purport to be an intersectional feminist, who could say all the right things, but who, in practice, is not willing to cede space to women of color. You also can be brown or Black and still be a white feminist, in that you can still be supporting the larger systemic architecture of racism.”

For those who are looking to learn more about how to help adjust the power pattern of feminism, the book is available on Amazon or on Google for purchase, as well as in digital format. The book does not only help to teach white feminists how to allow women of color to be introduced to their needs, but it is also empowering to feminists of color so they can learn how to approach a situation and display their needs and how they can become a figurehead in feminism.


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