One of the major failings of any form of activism is the refusal of those at the helm to realise that their struggle is not the sole or ultimate struggle on earth.
A dogged refusal to acknowledge the oppression and struggle of others is a gateway to becoming an oppressor even in your oppression. The poster example of this is the suffragist movement driven by white women. They made it excruciatingly clear that they did not think black people deserved the right to vote and certainly not with or before them. Though they were oppressed and marginalised, their racism bled through their activism.
“We want rights that we are deprived of but, we also want to deprive others of their rights and we support systems that oppress people. As long as it’s not us, y’all be easy”. That’s how we sound when we neglect others in our struggles. It is as easy as recognising the humanity of people outside ourselves and our demographic. Unfortunately, many feminists refuse to do so and even parrot narratives our oppressors have weaponized against us in the past.
Black women particularly have experienced multifaceted oppression from white people and black men alike. Dark-skinned women are masculinised and accused of not being woman enough. Our features are demonised and we constantly have to defend our “femaleness” and femininity. Aggressive stereotypes,
We need to realise that oppression is intertwined. The problems women face can be broadly attributed to patriarchy and specifically misogyny, religious zealotry and harmful cultural practices, unethical practices and oppression under capitalism etc. The problems black women face are all these plus racism; trans women experience all these plus transphobia; lesbians experience all these plus homophobia and so on.
Women are constantly fighting the battle uphill for self-determination and to be identified outside of their bodily functions. The war against the patriarchy’s rigid definition of who is and who isn’t a woman is tainted with racism and oftentimes, black women don’t cut who qualifies to be a woman in the eyes of this sexist and racist society. Women’s bodies are also subject to legislation that denies us bodily autonomy and self-determination and rigidly impose decisions on us (re: abortion debate).
Similarly, trans women are denied the right to self-determination; to be who they are in their bodies. No, they will not take cis women’s jobs (a narrative held by racists and xenophobes now parroted by some women in the quest to exclude trans women). They can barely even access benefits or get jobs because of transphobia, and no, they will not plunder your lands and eat your children. Most of these irrational fears are born out of a refusal to see past our noses and the cruel desire to regulate, exclude and oppress those who are not just like us. A disparaging picture is often painted about people fighting for their rights by those determined to deny them those rights. We need to rid our minds and our activism of the notion that other people fighting for adjacent rights are usurpers and will deprive us of ours.
There are countless things wrong with the world outside of the patriarchy and the misogyny and violence against women that it spawns. Oppressive systems work in collaboration with one another to lessen our quality of life and fighting for the rights of others does not mean fewer rights for us; rather, it means a more balanced society for everyone.