The Voice

If Not All of Us, Then None of Us

Kav Lakshmi, Reporter

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Recently, there has been an upsurge of survivors of sexual assault and harassment sharing their stories through the #MeToo movement. While this movement is important and those stories are important, the credit for this hashtag is going to a white celebrity when it was originally created by a black woman over a decade ago – Tarana Burke.

 

This erasure of women of color is not new. And though all women encounter difficulties due to sexism, the range of those difficulties depends on their different marginalizations, so it is important to understand where you have privilege and how you can support those who don’t have that same privilege.

 

In the conversation of intersectional feminism, women of color are the first to be brought up and for good reason. People often assume that because blatant racism is no longer visible that racism is not still prevalent and that women of color are no longer at a larger disadvantage than most.

 

However, racism is real — it is just better-hidden. Women of color are still paid less for doing the same job as white women. According to a study done in 2013 by the Center for American Progress, Hispanic/Latina women make 54% of what a white man makes while black women make 64% of that number, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander women make 65% of that number, and so on.

 

A group often disregarded in the discussion of intersectionality is LGBTQIAP+ women. The difficulties of transgender women and non-allocishet (non-straight and/or cis) women are rarely talked about. However, transgender women of color are still the people most in danger–they have the highest statistics of being attacked and killed.

 

According to the Human Rights Campaign, there were at least 23 deaths of transgender people in 2016 and at least 23 transgender people have been killed in 2017. The organization goes on to point out the following, “It is clear that fatal violence disproportionately affects transgender women of color, and that the intersections of racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia conspire to deprive them of employment, housing, healthcare and other necessities…”

 

Disabled women are also often disregarded. With issues such as Affordable Care Act being a hot topic, disabled people as a whole are in a hot spot themselves and it is naive to believe that gender does not play in that.

 

When women encounter either physical or mental disabilities, or both, they are immediately at a further disadvantage than able-bodied and neurotypical women. Finding work that will accommodate their individual situations is difficult, if not impossible at times depending on the field they are interested in, and the already institutionalized sexism of workplaces further hurts their chance at equal opportunity.

 

People often try to separate the different marginalizations a person is under, so they try to separate race from gender, disability from gender, and so on, but doing so implies that a person can separate their different identities when in reality they all intersect and affect an individual as a whole.

 

Women of color cannot just ignore being women of color in order to discuss their gender because their race affects their treatment as women. The same goes for disabled women, LGBTQIAP+ women, and any other marginalized combination a woman may fall under.

 

Although exclusionary feminist tactics are not prominent in our community, societal oppression of such groups is ingrained in our culture. It is important to be conscious of the statements you make and the actions you take because you may not be purposefully offending and excluding people, but you may be perpetuating societal biases.

 

The purpose of this article is not to play the “oppression Olympics,” but to emphasize the different difficulties women face and the importance of recognizing where you have the ability to help someone who may not have the same opportunities as you.

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