by Jamie Crow
The danger of a single story is something that we have repeatedly discussed in class over the course of the semester. When we watched the film “Real Women Have Curves,” our discussion began to hover over the question of the “right” way for Ana to feel empowered and beautiful. Questions arose regarding her relationship with Jimmy, and whether or not it was alright to have Ana experience feeling beautiful in her relationship with him. Was Ana’s grandfather actually that great or did he feed into the stereotypes (women should cater to their families and their main purpose is to get married) of women that Ana’s mother was delivering? These questions centered on one aspect: our single story of feminism.
All these questions regarding women and how they operate were entirely justified, and they got me thinking about the Women’s March on Washington, D.C. on January 21, 2017, the day after the Donald Trump’s inauguration. I participated in the sister march in Pittsburgh, which I initially saw as a day of inclusion, diversity, and hope.
When I was at the march, I was surrounded by signs that vocalized concerns for different issues such as climate change, the wage gap, and the ever-controversial issue of abortion rights. Many signs proclaimed the popular mantra of “my body, my choice,” a claim that I saw as perfectly harmless. The event, in my mind, was simple: we all had different things that we were marching for, but we had all come together to march for one reason.
What was that reason, though? On the official Women’s March website, the march on Washington, D.C. and all of its sister marches was an event for those “who [believe] women’s rights are human rights.” We all have different ideas of what our rights could be, and what they should be, based on our backgrounds and our morals, which is what makes the need for intersectional feminism so crucial.
Intersectional feminism needs to extend to those who may not agree with the mass majority of women. Just as we cannot exclude skinny women from the category of “real women,” we cannot exclude those who are pro-life from the progress that feminism can make in fighting for women’s rights. Men do not have the right to dictate what a woman does with her own body, and neither do women. Her body, her choice. No matter what that choice may be, women have the right to their choice.
The question of intersectionality was brought up following the march due to some people’s claim of the lack of inclusivity for all beliefs and all women’s rights. The idea of the march on Washington, D.C. and its sister marches began on Facebook, and original organizers were white women. While the march that occurred had a more diverse group of women on the organizational board, concerns of white feminism washed over the well-intentioned march, and for good reason.
At the Pittsburgh sister march, I was surrounded by women who passionately fought for the issues they believed in. That aspect of the march was inspiring, but what lacked in the march was diversity. While I was pleased to see women of various ages, races, and backgrounds, the majority voice being represented was one of white feminism. The march included chants like “This is what democracy looks like.” Yes, this is what democracy looks like: a majority voice towering over a minority opinion, a lack of representation of minority voices, and an influx of people who are well-intentioned, but often do not recognize that their privilege is what defines them, and therefore it also defines the democracy in which they participate.
What we all need to recognize is that we all come from various backgrounds, and that affects our worldviews. Our privilege, our lack thereof, has a great deal of influence on the way in which progress can be made. We as women all experience oppression differently, we all have different viewpoints on trial and triumph, and one idea of an idealized finish line for feminism isn’t going to cut it anymore. We need to do more, we need to think more, we need to see more, we need to learn more. A united front is a great start, and it can be inspiring. When a united front only speaks to one single story, though, the timeline of progress is stunted, its potential to grow halted.