By now it is hard to believe that gender inequality is a major issue in the world political economy but it is an issue. We live in a world where gender equality has yet to be achieved, others seem to think otherwise but that’s because they are privileged due to patriarchy and are less likely to face discrimination when it comes to gender. The issues surrounding women’s pay is still prevalent considering the Equal Pay Act has been around for about 50 years. Furthermore, women’s experiences have always been invisible in this male orientated world; women’s issues were not considered important enough like politics or public events. (Paterson, 1992). However, that’s not the issue here, feminism is; well white feminism to be exact.
To begin with, women in the 20th and 21st century have achieved so much since the suffrage movement was formed back in the 1900’s, some examples include the right to vote, reproductive rights, and equal pay.
Feminism; the social, political and economic equality of the sexes, the definition alone should have all of us identifying as a feminist because surely everyone wants to be equal in the 21st century (Ngozi Adichie, 2013). Feminism has come under fire in the media recently, in this case specifically white feminism; from the 1970’s women of colour have always felt that social movement’s created by women failed to acknowledge their struggles as women of colour. (Breines, 2006). White feminism is the idea that feminism is exclusive to white women because the movement has been primarily focused on the issues that surround white women’s oppression. White feminists are often oblivious to race, they often believe that all women are equal and are equally oppressed by the patriarchy but in reality they are not, women experience multiple oppressions but women of colour experience oppression differently from white women. Women of colour are predominantly oppressed by the patriarchy and white supremacy, “The way black women experience sexism and inequality is different from the way white women experiences sexism and inequality” (Udorie, 2015). Gender equality becomes harder to achieve because white women hold a higher position than people of colour in society due to white supremacy which still exists today.
Racial diversity in women’s movements needs to be addressed in order for gender equality to be achieved. White women also hold privilege over women of colour and even men of colour in terms of the wage gap. A study conducted from 1970-2013 on the wage gap by gender and race in the USA has shown that white women earn 78% compared to white men who earn (100%); black men earn 75.1% and black women earn 64% and Hispanics earn an even lower wage. (Infoplease.com, 2015).
The right to vote was a breakthrough for women across the USA, Britain and the rest of the world because women were still perceived as second class citizens. However this is another example of white feminism in action; many seem to forget that white women were the first to receive the right to vote in 1920. Many have said that The Suffrage movement has been “whitewashed” and seems to erase the existence of minority groups that helped women get the right to vote, for example the Indian Suffrage Movement. The American Suffrage movement was exclusive to white women and often denied the presence of Black women within the group. When it came to voting African-American women living in the North could vote but women living in some Southern states were not able to exercise their right to vote until the 1960’s. In addition, Native American women began to vote in 1924, Asian women 1952; Asian Suffragettes they had their own Suffrage groups to secure their rights as women of colour living in the UK (Mann and Patterson, 2015).
The racial inequality in feminism needs to be dealt with immediately because it negatively impacts the society we live in as all women are not equal; gender equality therefore continues to be a struggle and only by understanding and advocating the struggles of women of colour can the fight to eradicate gender inequality continue. Therefore, individuals need to make their feminism inclusive and intersectional.
Breines, W. (2006). The Trouble Between Us, An Uneasy History of White and Black Women in the Feminist Movement. New York: Oxford University Press, pp.6-7.
Infoplease.com, (2015). The Wage Gap by Gender & Race Timeline History (White, Black, Hispanic, Men & Women). [online] Available at: http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0882775.html [Accessed 7 Nov. 2015].
Mann, S. and Patterson, A. (2015). Reading Feminist Theory: From Modernity to Postmodernity. Oxford University Press, p.399.
Ngozi Adichie, C. (2013). Watch “We should all be feminists – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie at TEDxEuston” Video at TEDxTalks. [online] TEDxTalks. Available at: http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/We-should-all-be-feminists-Chim [Accessed 6 Nov. 2015].
Udorie, J. (2015). The seven priorities for young feminists today | June Eric Udorie. [online] the Guardian. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/sep/29/seven-priorities-young-feminists-suffragette [Accessed 6 Nov. 2015].
Paterson, V. (1992). Transgressing Boundaries: Theories of Knowledge, Gender and International Relations. Millennium – Journal of International Studies, 21(2), p.192.