Feminism is not the unified, forward-thinking movement it once was. Simply defined, feminism is a doctrine that advocates gender equality, but the modern definition is somewhat different. It’s coming of age was the necessary aftermath of centuries of women fighting to escape from under the controlling thumbs of men. Those first, revolutionary feminist heroes held fast in solidarity for, at that time, a simple goal: equality.
From the era of the suffrage movement to the most recent #MeToo movement, feminism is continually evolving as time flies forward. As it evolves, like any surviving species, it adapts. Recent events have caused it to split and multiply into a range of beliefs of varying degrees and values that are so extreme, that defining feminism today is much more difficult than it used to be. There is a divide in the movement for equality now, and Feminists globally are torn apart because of their experiences, their race, and their place in society. They are no longer unified. They are enemies.
What Divides Feminists?
Feminists are found in all walks of life, in all countries and in a variety of social situations. It’s therefore only natural that they adopt varying views on feminist ideals and practices based on their life experiences. But what really divides feminists from accomplishing the simplistic, unified goal of equal rights for the sexes?
As it happens, lots of things.
Racial Divide of Feminism
Perhaps one of the most significant factors in the great feminist divide is race. Recently, Emma Watson, whose claim to fame was playing the part of the smart and sassy Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter saga and more recently as Belle from Beauty and the Beast, has grown up beautifully – and she has brains to boot.
She made a compelling and emotional speech as the UN Goodwill Women Ambassador in 2015, and feminists around the world applauded her on social media for her brave words – as well as her work in the HeForShe movement, and her feminist book club, Our Shared Shelf. Despite all her hard work, she has recently been accused of being a “white feminist.”
Watson admits to initially feeling offended and confused by this label, wondering why she was being singled out for being white, especially when she was working so hard for feminism worldwide. But she later realised the truth:
“I have since learned that being a feminist is more than a single choice or decision. It’s an interrogation of self…What are the ways I have benefited from being white? In what ways do I support and uphold a system that is structurally racist? How do my race, class, and gender affect my perspective? There seemed to be many types of feminists and feminism. But instead of seeing these differences as divisive, I could have asked whether defining them was actually empowering and bringing about better understanding. But I didn’t know to ask these questions.”
As is proofed daily, race is not a dead issue, and for women, it’s more alive than ever. In Canada, there is an ongoing investigation of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and it has been Nationally recognized that the race of a woman absolutely affects the number of victims of violence and crime.
Your average white woman can’t imagine being overlooked in the media as just another Indigenous women or being discriminated against due to the colour of her skin in everyday social transactions. As Ms. Watson asks, “how do my race, class, and gender affect my perspective?”
Feminist Religion and Culture
Indigenous Women face discrimination not only surrounding their race, but their culture as well, and they are not alone. Child marriages take place all over the world, in fact, more than 700 million women alive today were married as children thanks to their culture. Niger boasts the highest number of child marriages at 76% while in North America, it is illegal to even touch a young underage woman, let alone marry her.
Culture, therefore, has a significant impact on the feminist movement, especially considering that in some cultures, women weren’t even allowed to vote until 2015.
In Saudi Arabia, women were only recently permitted to drive, which was an unpopular vote among some religious men at the time. They also still require a male “guardian” to accompany them to keep them out of trouble.
A white woman in North America would have no concept of this kind of control and distrust – nor should any woman.
Feminism: A Creature Divided
While feminists are definitely divided by their own beliefs and even their own prejudices, to reach a common goal – gender equality – it’s necessary to set aside their differences. Jane Austen, who wrote a number of novels in her life decades before feminism was officially defined and adopted, worked for the cause long before modern-day feminists were even close to living. Through her beautiful words, women fought, even back then and against all odds, for something of their own. They fought for something real, for something that was authentic. Before feminism became the convoluted, divisive creature it is today, its roots were simple and precise – feminism was about equality.
If the feminist movement is ever to be respected and supported once more, women and men alike need to band together, regardless of race, religion, culture, or even gender, to help piece together the broken and disjointed creature, Feminism, and put it to good use.
Equality of the sexes. It can be as simple as that.
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