I am going to vote for Hilary Clinton, this is not another ignorant rant about how we should vote for the Green party or whatever. I support her because Donald Trump is a maniac, but that support is not blind to the clear fact that Hilary Clinton is the personification of white, corporate, privileged feminism. Her achievement, being the first female nominee of a major political party, is being heralded as a victory because she has broken the glass ceiling for all women. But for women of color, we know that narrative all too well. As white women break glass ceilings in tech, in academia, in TV and movies, we are often the ones left sweeping up those glass bits. We often push each other to support our black men, and support white women, yet we do not fight as strongly for what matters the most to us, to our mental health, to our bank accounts, for our families. It’s an age old tale which repeats itself generation to generation. White feminists identify a problem, and black feminists support them until they get the right to vote (suffragette movement), break into male dominated careers (1960’s second wave feminist movement), or break those glass ceilings in politics (Election year 2016).
White feminism has always stifled the African American woman in this country, and there is no better example of white feminism than Betty Friedan’s 1963 book, The Feminine Mystique. This book, which is widely credited with sparking the beginning of second-wave feminism, solely refers to (as auntie bell hooks put it) “the plight of a select group of college-educated, middle- and upper-class, married white women—housewives bored with leisure, with the home, with children, with buying products, who wanted more out of life.” This boredom, this discontent with suburbia is what Friedan called “the problem that has no name.” This problem could only be solved once women were able to break out of their lives of leisure and reproducing, and build the professional careers they knew would fulfill them. But when these white housewives moved on to use their degrees and push for equal pay at work, Friedan did not discuss who would be called in to take care of the children and maintain the home if more women of leisure were freed from their house labor and given equal access with white men to the professions. She disregarded the existence of all black women living in Jim Crow America, poor women, those who were left behind as privilege propelled a class of woman to the top.
This disregard for the plight of black women continues to stain the feminist movement, leaving many black women to re-visit womanism. Womanism is a concept that was first identified and defined by Alice Walker, in her book of essays In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens: Womanist Prose. She identified womanists as black feminists who refused to connect themselves to the racism and exclusion of some feminist movements. because when the concept of feminism evolved, most of their issues did not reflect that of African American women.
Womanism developed out of a need for black women’s issues to be valued, Delores Williams, one of the mothers of the womanist theology defined womanism as, “a prophetic voice concerned about the well-being of the entire African American community, male and female, adults and children. Womanist theology attempts to help black women see, affirm, and have confidence in the importance of their experience and faith for determining the character of the Christian religion in the African American community. Womanist theology challenges all oppressive forces impeding black women’s struggle for survival and for the development of a positive, productive quality of life conducive to women’s and the family’s freedom and well-being. Womanist theology opposes all oppression based on race, sex, class, sexual preference, physical ability, and cast.” Black women, have to juggle so many balls that depending on who asks for our political opinion, it appears as though our priorities and political alliances can waver. This election year is evidence of why intersectionality is so critical, because for black women existing within the nexus of race, gender and class, we can feel as though not much improves for us regardless of who is in the White House, and that feeling strips us of any socio-political agency. 2016 is not the year to let our hang ups on white feminism strip us of our agency, especially when ideologies like womanism and aunties like Angela Davis, bell hooks, and Alice Walker mobilize us to continue our fight for the black women. Vote (vote for Hilary) but do not be blinded by those shattering glass ceilings, black women still must learn to mobilize and act in our best interests.