ON Saturday, thousands took to the streets of London, as they have done all over the world, to protest against President Donald Trump and the sexism, racism and bigotry he stands for.
The turnout for the Women’s Marches was nothing short of incredible. Friends whom I had never even heard say boo to a goose were photographing themselves proudly with their handmade signs and bright pink hats.
As a self-proclaimed feminist and notoriously outspoken individual, it may, therefore, surprise some that I was not present at these marches.
I don’t really have an excuse, and frankly, I didn’t think I needed one, until reactions to Taylor Swift’s tweet sending her support to those marching, made me think otherwise.
The response was far from positive.
I realise Taylor Swift and I are two very different people. Firstly, because she is a public figure that has claimed the word ‘feminist,’ she not only has to carry around that status with her but also has to demonstrate that she lives up to the role in every aspect of her private and professional life, which are both essentially public property.
I am not saying that in comparison, I can pick up and drop the feminist label whenever I please, I am just saying that I am unlikely to get scrutinised for it in the same manner and volume as a global superstar.
Semantics out of the way, I have one question that demands to be answered: since when did you have to be present for something to believe in it?
If we see feminism as an ideology, i.e. one way of looking at the world, then it is the practices that we engage in which give the ideology its existence. For example, those that believe in God go to church; those that believe in Justice uphold the law. In a similar manner, physical protesting is the dominant manifestation of feminist status.
My main issue with this is that it pressures women into fulfilling certain ‘roles’ if they are to label themselves a feminist. Furthermore, it assumes that by all feminists engaging in one singular practice (i.e. protesting), they can achieve a universal goal, which, by the very diversity of women and their rights and needs, is unfortunately simply a pipe dream.
“Since when did you have to be present for something to believe in it?”
Although I would usually decline to define what type of ‘feminist’ I am, I suppose my views mostly lend themselves to intersectional feminism. This means I refuse to see ‘feminism’ as an umbrella term that proclaims liberation for all women, because one only has to look at the history of feminism that has often been a.) white and b.) middle-class, to understand that feminism in its holistic sense has continually neglected women of colour, lesbian, bisexual and trans women, disabled women and working-class women. Obviously, it would be ignorant of me to say that I understand all of their situations, but as a coloured woman, I do recognise their experiences of “double-oppression.”
Such intersectionality is something mainstream feminism is still failing to grasp. To all the women who tore down other women like Taylor Swift for not attending the Women’s March, I ask where were you at LGBTQ and #BlackLivesMatter marches where women were fighting for so much more than feminism in the vanilla sense of the term. You’re not pissed off at Taylor Swift for not attending the Women’s March, you’re pissed off at her for letting white feminism down. Maybe now you can begin to understand how it felt when women of colour were force-fed the ‘feminist icon’ of the Hillary Clinton narrative when we were still being haunted by the phrase “superpredators” that she had previously used to describe black people.
My words are my protest; whether I chose to shout them from the rooftops or construct them within a 140 character tweet. This freedom of choice is what feminism means to me. If the whole aim of these Women’s Marches is to protest against patriarchal figures telling women who they should be, then please do not risk destroying everything you have fought for by turning around such a twisted ideology on other women who do not march to the exact same beat as you- because we all lose.