Underneath The Cloak: How Feminist Is Your Feminism?

By Azeezat Okunlola | Mar 8, 2023
I believe I speak for some women when I say that there are occasions when, as a woman, you absolutely cannot help but shudder at the notions to which a handful of women have truncated the concept of feminism. It displays itself in the self-deprivation of romantic love and the expectation of the same self-imposed restrictions for other women, disdain for the male gender, and occasionally it manifests itself in the deprivation of familial love, stifling the desire to have children of their own, or fervently voicing what they believe is too un-feministic to be good for every woman, including disparaging women who have elected to live by values and principles they consider to be of intrinsic worth.
On the racial, cultural and religious front (in matters of inclusion), mainstream Western feminism, the model most feminists have adopted when examining matters of this nature, sees such beliefs as often entrenched in patriarchal systems, which over centuries has sought to strip women of their basic human rights. Since Western women and liberal feminism continue to be the normative standard whereas other women and different feminisms continue to be othered, women who voluntarily engage with these values are seen as "oppressed," "subjugated," and in need of "enlightenment" and "rescue," although many of these women are familiar with the tenets of universal modernity, independence, and values of rationality and professionalism. And so when others are restricted in this way, there is limited room to redefine one's identity sans reference to the popular norm. Thus, the hegemonic relationship between Western women and other women shapes the inward-turning gaze of those women as they theorise their otherness. 
Koa Beck writes that the purpose of this feminism, which she names 'white feminism,' is not to transform the systems that subjugate women—patriarchy, imperialism, and capitalism, but to prosper within them.
Thousands of women endure prejudice based on characteristics more than just their gender identity, such as their race, culture, and religion. For these women, feminism in the Western paradigm is meaningless if it does not actually address these problems while also recognizing personal choices and values, seeing as their struggles, victories, and tribulations are the culmination of their efforts to overcome all those disparities, not just their gender. Women of colour have been duped for far too long by false promises of equality of so called "feminists", who have tried to export their brand of feminism as a panacea for women's empowerment to the rest of the world, and I think now more than ever is the time to dissect the distinctions between "white feminism" and what I like to term "inclusive feminism".
Document Women covered the sad death of a young Iranian woman named Mahsa Amini, which spurred demonstrations and solidarity actions all across the world, especially among white feminists. In Tehran, the "morality police," who uphold Iran's orthodox regulations on hijabs and other forms of dress and conduct, imprisoned Amini, leading to her death. Following this, many so-called "feminists" praised the protesters for discarding their hijabs as a cultural victory against oppression (since the hijab is seen as diametrically opposed to the Western idea of feminism), rather than highlighting the Iranian feminist revolution as a collective action against discriminatory dissidence, not necessarily as a revolution against Islam. 
They viewed this action, instead, as a step towards embracing the Western template of feminism,  conveniently disregarding the reality that, for many Muslim women across the globe, the hijab can be both an assertion of their identity and a symbol of freedom.
So-called feminists have co-opted the feminist arena by emphasising gender and failing to acknowledge the impact of class, religion, culture and imperialism on gender parity. Hence, they claim to wear the banner of gender equality without aligning it with its parameters. So, here’s the BIG question- How feminist is your feminism? 
Do you have a current view of feminism that takes into account a nuanced view of women, an awareness of how gender works in diverse cultural and demographic contexts, and psychological and social theories that recognise the scope and influence of oppression even as they point to the agency of subjects, the potential for change in the communities in which you live, and the need for appreciating the values of every woman? Can it accommodate the diversity amongst women while still highlighting shared qualities and identifying commonalities? Or is it merely a double-edged dagger that slaughters members of the other gender and bleeds any woman whose worldview does not align with yours? Does your feminism favour fascism so long as it appears in feminine form? How can we transition from toxic feminism towards a model that benefits and is inclusive of all women?
I am positive that a significant step would be to revisit history and document women in such a way as to highlight the complexities and uniqueness of women's challenges while allowing women to control their own narratives. The overall goal should be to reconfigure feminism in a way that accounts for how issues of race, religion, class, and culture contribute to the subject. Unless this is done within an anti-colonial framework, the relationship will continue to reflect the viewpoint of the receding colonialist.  In other words, as Lisa puts it, when feminism claims to include 'others', two situations arise;  first, it reinforces its own dedication to inclusiveness, and second, it uses its influence to legitimise other conversations on women's equality. I imagine this is why Western feminists have been slow to recognise the many components of feminism, including the cultural and religious dimensions, as authentic feminism: if feminism is not linked to its European ideological framework, then it is likely not feminism at all.
In conclusion, it is crucial to be aware of the cultural, historical, and personality diversity among women, and to avoid lumping all women into a single cultural construct to legitimise one's own conception of what feminism means based on the notion of others who do not share the very same values. Fundamentally, feminists may gain a lot of insight from arguments for women's equality that emphasize the importance of acknowledging and including all women, while also giving due respect to the unique beliefs and experiences of each woman.