‘Not every community has the same goals or the same needs. This takes us back to Step 1. Listen to what is being said, understand that just because your community functions a different way that doesn’t make it better [… ]Frankly, I couldn’t care less about whether or not someone changes their last name, or who is shaving what. That stuff is all noise to me, but if that is what matters to you? Great. Just don’t expect my priorities to match yours.’
Our priorities are not the same. Earlier today I tweeted Mikki Kendall’s piece on xoJane entitled ‘so you want to be a good ally’. I called it the definitive piece on racism in feminism – because it’s a piece of writing I’ll continue to refer back to over the next few years when I’m asked the questions she addresses in the piece. As a black feminist, there wasn’t much that I hadn’t heard before, but I feel like I learnt from the paragraph I’ve quoted above. In particular, it helped me to understand and articulate the complete lack of sympathy I’ve been feeling for high profile feminist campaigns recently.
I’ve not always felt like this. Those who’ve known me for years will know that I’ve often been vocally supportive of plenty of feminist campaigns have been in the news. These campaigns are almost always headed up by white women, and if they are not, they are rarely branded as feminist. The recent win by anti FGM organisation Daughters of Eve, headed up by FGM campaigner Nimko Ali, is a very pertinent example of this.
The race dynamics in feminist campaigning is inherently unbalanced- we can’t escape the structures of a racist society unless we’re always vigilant of it. There comes a point in any unbalanced relationship when you realise that there is a lack of mutual support. So, though I might resonate with these campaigns in theory, in practice I can see the shiny veneer of white universalism, and I wonder if that campaign was ever really relevant to me at all.
And when it comes to black feminist campaigning, these women are not there. I’m expected to support you, but when I ask you to support me, you’re not there. Our priorities are not the same, and when it comes to intersections, we can’t split them up.
Feminist activism, work, and campaigning is a broad church. And this is why I like Mikki’s paragraph- she articulates my feelings on the most publicised aspects of feminist activism. But she doesn’t dismiss that those high profile priorities are important to some- she just says that it’s foolish to kid yourself that they’re priorities for all feminist women. We’re not a homogenous group. A host of our topics are important, but our priorities must not be surrendered to existing unjust power structures. I feel the same.