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decentering wealth in feminist movement

Decentering wealth in the feminist movement

Like all movements, there are dichotomies between feminists and the feminist cause. Though the end goal aligns, there are specific variations among women that require specific attention to completely upend the present patriarchal structure. Women who are members of the LGBTQ+ community, fat women, dark-skinned women and poor women benefit from the feminist cause in its broadest sense but these women have specific needs and struggles that are sometimes neglected in feminist discourse.

Like the suffragettes who ignored race dynamics in their struggle for women’s rights, many feminist driven movements centre on wealthy, influential women. Women who have supposedly beat the system and accumulated obscene amounts of wealth are regarded as the poster of feminist success even when their politics is harmful to the generality of women. Prominent and wealthy women are at the helm of the feminist cause in many instances and sure, money makes mobilising easier, but sometimes privilege is blinding. This privilege and the absence of a lived experience can make it easy for classism and elitism to bleed into the feminist movement.

Feminist discourse that centres on domestic situations were said to be “dragging us back”; an unfair narrative. The truth is, in countries like Nigeria, the average woman’s need for feminism is domestic. The conversation around “who cooks” for example is one that many well-off feminists consider a non-issue and beneath them. However, for women like Mrs Sokari West, a refusal to cook meant death. The gender roles imposed on women such as the requirement that women cook can easily be outsourced by well to do women and so for many of those women, such topics do not even merit discussion. The unrealistic and arbitrary requirement of domestic service is the crux of the feminist cause for some women. That in itself makes it valid enough to be considered worthy of attention.

Classism also rears its head in the treatment of domestic workers by women – even slightly – above the food chain. Sure, the logical solution to your domestic needs is to outsource if you can afford it but how are these women who are paid to bear the burden regarded and treated? Where empathy and respect are absent from these service relationships, they almost mirror the treatment of women by their patriarchal overlords.

Feminist movements at the grassroots are as important as feminist movements in corporate spaces and maybe even more so. There can be no substantial change if the majority of the female population is excluded from discussions and their struggles undermined. Every woman is as important as the next and wealth should not be a precursor for rights and representation.

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