It’s 2020, and feminism still has a representation problem. When we think of a feminist, we think of one type of woman, many are massively underrepresented in this new age of feminism we’re living in. Mainstream feminist discourse is stuck in the past; and doesn’t begin to include feminists of colour, trans feminists, feminists with disabilities, gay and bisexual feminists, and so many more. What being a woman means today is very different to what being a woman meant 10, 20, or 30+ years ago. Feminism takes active work, and is a global movement calling for the liberation of women and equality for all. It’s time to break ties with entitled mainstream feminism, embrace modern-day values, and make it a movement where every feminist has a voice.
Feminism is one of the most powerful and oldest movements in history, and whilst feminism may have a dictionary definition – it doesn’t mean everyone agrees on what it means to be a feminist. It’s the 21st century, and what it means to be a feminist today is very different to what it meant for our ancestors fighting for social change decades ago. Times change and civilisation moves on, today people have different views on the word and what it represents. Society’s system of privilege means that mainstream feminism is cloaked in a veil of whiteness, and doesn’t reflect the world we live in and how feminism has changed since the movement began. As it stands feminism fails to keep up with ideas about sexuality, gender, and identity. There’s a lot wrong with the current feminist system. We speak openly about equality for all women whatever their background or situation may be, wherever they come from, whatever their place is in the world – yet the current feminist structure doesn’t practice what it preaches.
Every type of feminist deserves to have their voice heard. Feminism needs to get down and dirty, and not be afraid of supporting and representing all women equally. Why don’t we see more feminist commentary from queer women, lesbians, transgender women, women of different socioeconomic statuses and backgrounds, and women of colour? By keeping the mainstream feminist voice focused on the same issues that have been discussed for years, and allowing the same feminists to voice their prejudices and speak for the entire movement, we become distracted from what’s important. This belittles feminism, and the women who encompass it. Issues such as gender identification, trans rights, sexual violence, and humanitarian women’s rights fade into the background. Identifying as a feminist has gone from being taboo to being so familiar anyone can – but it doesn’t mean anyone should. Feminism needs to level its playing field, and allow women whose voices have been silenced to finally be heard.
In order for change to happen, it’s time to get uncomfortable. We need to steer society towards more complex feminist thought, and give feminism a rebrand. Will feminism be a movement that turns away from having one voice, to focusing on issues that affect the entire community? Will feminism confront its white superiority and bias? As long as feminist dialogue continues to speak from a place of privilege, there will always be work to be done. Look to places other than traditional forms of media to be educated on all things modern-day feminism; read, listen to podcasts, have open discussions, and learn from marginalised voices. Embrace your queer sisters, your trans friends, your disabled pals. Feminists from all walks of life need more visibility, it’s up to all feminists to make it happen.
Written by J’Nae Phillips