In the wake of Women’s History Month and various female-driven campaigns of the past months, inspiring women’s stories are getting great exposure. But despite present passion, if we don’t also look at stories of past failings in feminism (as documented in the play The Heidi Chronicles) and what it really means to be feminist, we may be doomed to failure.
In spite of all the misogyny and threatened rights present in government recently, I’ve been so inspired by the way women have come together in recent months. The Women’s March and associated marches that took place all over the world on January 21 may have come together quickly, but there was enough time for a grassroots marketing campaign to gain ground.
My favorite image associated with the marches is the one above by Narya Marcille, which my mom and I used as temporary profile pictures to support from afar.
What I love most is the variety of women it depicts. The way the Washington March was marketed by the women who originally put it together, they wanted it to be inclusive of more than one type of woman, or, as Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw coined it, “intersectional.” Seeing all those crowds on TV seemed to reflect what was depicted in that image. For a moment, I thought maybe the next four years could be okay if we all showed up like this.
But then… things started to come out. Things that, from my privileged perspective, hadn’t occurred to me could happen. Transgender women who were inadvertently isolated by the hats tying womanhood to biological sex over gender. Native American women who felt they were silenced from voicing the issues of land rights that affected them specifically. Black women who wondered if the women around them would be so willing to fight for racial equality as they were for sexual and gender equality. And for good reason – it was white women, who might not be so different from me, who voted 53% for the administration now endangering women’s rights.
My heart plummeted. Another disappointment in a long line of disappointments in recent months.
I mean, let’s acknowledge there were plenty of stories of inclusion in the marches as well, that the fact it spread among women, allied men, children, elderly, and even beyond United States borders is something to be celebrated, especially considering how relatively quickly it all came together. No movement is perfect. But as much as we want unity, we can’t silence these stories of women let down by current efforts, women of color or trans women or women with physical and mental issues. If we do, it will eventually destroy us.
Because we’ve seen this happen before.