Many of you may remember the plethora of marches that took place after Donald Trump’s inauguration. One march that was highly successful compared to the others was the 2017 Women’s March on Washington. The protest was not only in response to Donald Trump’s election, but towards much of Donald Trump’s anti-woman rhetoric, sexist comments and proposed legislation and policies that would directly impact women. When pictures began to circulate of the event, I was surprised to find that three of the lead organizers were women of color: Carmen Perez, Linda Sarsour and Tamika Mallory. I began to question how women of color got drowned out in sea of white faces with floppy pink vagina hats. This was a pivotal moment in my criticism of the lack of intersectionality in the feminist movement.
Fast forward to October 2017 when the New York Times broke the Weinstein allegations. That same month, actress Alyssa Milano asked women on social media to use the hashtag #MeToo if they had ever been sexually harassed or assaulted, quickly propelling the #MeToo movement. However, many Black women gave the hashtag a major side eye as they were aware Tarana Burke, a Black woman, had originally coined the phrase back in 2006. The #MeToo movement was just another idea initiated by a Black woman only to be co-opted by white faces. While women of color were crying foul, white women were elevating themselves by way of Rose McGowan, Taylor Swift, Alyssa Milano and Ashley Judd as the official faces of the movement. Watching the rise of the #MeToo movement left me with the feeling that no one believes Black women unless white women regurgitate our opinions.
(Checkout The Chicago Tribune’s “timeline” of the #MeToo movement: https://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/ct-me-too-timeline-20171208-htmlstory.html )
And yes, I am specifying Black as opposed to “of color” because even other women of color have sought to silence Black women. Take for instance Salma Hayek’s trivialization of actress Jessica Williams.
In January 2017, the Sundance Film Festival held a celebration for women in film. During the luncheon, Salma Hayek and veteran actress Shirley McClain shifted the conversation towards politics and finding a core identity. Jessica Williams rebutted with the question “What if you are a person of color? Or transgendered?” The discussion quickly devolved into an outright dismissal of Jessica’s question with her being told by Shirley McClaine to change her point of view from “victimhood”. Jessica went on to explain that although she did not view herself as a victim, she felt that Black women were cast aside regarding conversations about feminism. Salma Hayek shot back that Williams needed to spend less of her time in anger and more of her time in investigating, as if Jessica had no right to be angry and worse yet, didn’t understand what she was angry about.
Not only did Salma completely dismiss Jessica’s point and miss a perfect opportunity for necessary dialogue, Salma spoke to Jessica in a condescending manner and disregarded her feelings altogether. Salma’s response did not come from a place of understanding nor sisterhood, it came from a place of entitlement. Salma essentially said that Jessica’s feelings were invalid and proceeded to “All Lives Matter” the conversation.
This debate served as a reminder that not all people of Latinx decent can identify with the struggles of being Black/afro-latinx, especially when they have been able to benefit from their ability to pass by societal standards.
Congratulations to Salma for being able to live in a world where she doesn’t feel race and gender are part of her identity. However, many of us are aware that how we are treated in non-Black and gender binary spaces is predicated on our physical appearance. Yes, we are more than the color of our skin and our gender, but we are also the sum of those things because our reality, experiences and identity are shaped by them.
All of this ties in with the third annual Women’s March that is happening this weekend. Although I have no intention of attending, I admire much of Tamika Mallory’s work and have seen her making her rounds promoting the event. I caught a clip of Tamika alongside one of her co-chairs, Bob Bland, on the popular daytime show The View.
Apparently, Tamika is in hot water for a photo she took with Minister Louis Farrakhan given his anti-Semitic and homophobic remarks. Tamika was asked to explain her support of Minister Farrakhan and whether or not she condemns his rhetoric. Tamika began explaining the photo and her support of Farrakhan when co-host Megan McCain bulldozed her way into the conversation, demanding that Tamika denounce verbatim Farrakhan’s ideals. Prior to McCain’s interrogation, Tamika had said several times throughout the interview that she did not agree with, nor support many of the ministers beliefs. Megan went on to state that she felt unwelcomed at the Women’s March because she was a pro-life, conservative Trump supporter and insinuated that the organizers needed to make her feel welcomed. Fortunately, Tamika stuck to her original points and by the end of the interview, I realized I had been holding my breath in anger.
What is maddening about the conversation is that Megan is very much the pot calling the kettle black. On one hand, Megan McCain is taking Tamika Mallory to task for supporting a man who has made controversial comments. On the other hand, Megan voted for a man who has been blatantly racist, sexist, and whose political agenda is currently impacting the wellbeing of this country’s citizens. Additionally, how dare any non-person of color make such a frivolous demand when they are barely capable calling out their own racist family members?
All of this is frustrating to watch as it unfolds because I have seen this song and dance before. The entitlement that women like Megan feels is infuriating and it extends beyond politics as both liberal and conservative women are guilty of it.
This display from white women leads me to believe that they view Black women as their mouth piece. They desire ownership of our emotional labor and our voices when convenient, but are absent when Black women need their support in return.
There’s a reason we’re screaming listen to Black women. Non-Black women need to do their work and acknowledge the backs on which they stand. Black women are not your mules. If you’re really committed to this movement, step down off of your pedestals and return home to your families. Before taking the streets by storm to preach to the choir, sing your hymns to your mothers, sisters and aunts who voted against our best interests. Stop using your megaphones to drown out the voices of Black women. Time and again Black women have proven to do the work that you slap your names on. It’s time for you to do your own homework. White women, #TimesUp for ya’ll too.
The third annual Women’s March takes place Saturday January 19, 2019 in Washington, DC.
Hear Tamika Mallory in her own words here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HO9Mwx4Eb6Q
My critique is nothing new, women who are far more eloquent have shared my sentiments. Listen to Black women here: