Feminism F.A.Q.s: What is Anti-Racism and How Does it Relate to Feminism?

by | August 1, 2012
filed under Feminism, Racism

Feminism FAQs Title Screenby Jarrah Hodge

It’s been a while since I posted a Feminism F.A.Q.s video but you can expect more in the coming weeks as I’ve just finished filming a handful. This video was the most popular response in the topic poll I ran on the Gender Focus Facebook page so I decided to edit it and get it posted first.

I did another version of this topic in my first round but decided to re-film the whole thing for audio and clarity. It’s a topic I feel conflicted about trying to address – as a white woman I shouldn’t be the one getting to decide what makes someone an ally. As someone I follow on Twitter said the other day, “The standards for allies are so low. Quote some bell hooks and you get a cookie.”

I don’t want it to seem like I’m asking for a cookie by just doing this video, but it’s a really important topic and I believe it is better for me to try my best to address it and to be open to critique rather than burying the issue and the responsibility white women feminists share to examine their racial privilege and be actively anti-racist.

I got a comment on the video where the person seemed to think I was implying feminism and anti-racism are the same thing. I just wanted to clarify that’s not what I was getting at. What I’m saying is that you can’t be feminist and racist at the same time because you would be implicitly supporting a system where not all women can achieve equality. I’m not saying that being anti-racist makes you a feminist – you need to have analysis of and support for gender equality for that to be the case.

Transcript after the jump:

Hi, my name’s Jarrah Hodge, writer and editor at Gender Focus, a Canadian feminist blog. Welcome to Feminism F.A.Q.s, where I try to answer questions and clear up myths about feminism.

Today: What is anti-racism and how does it relate to feminism?

Anti-racism is a broad term referring to movements that fight for an end to racism and racial inequality. Anti-racists see how racism in our society manifests at individual, group, as well as bigger social/structural levels and take actions and support policies aimed at ending racism.

Unfortunately, feminism has a mixed history dealing with racial issues. Western feminism has historically focused on issues around the equality of white women. For example, many leading suffragettes fought for the vote only for white women, not all women.  And in the 60s and 70s leading feminist organizations were called out for promoting a vision of sisterhood that was predominantly white.

Sadly many women of colour still experience barriers to full participation in feminist organizations, feminist media, and women’s studies departments at colleges and universities.

The reason this has to continue to change is that equality for women cannot be contingent on the race of the woman.

Without incorporating the voices of women of colour, feminism’s vision of equality will inevitably be limited. It’s not just about diversifying our organizations – feminists themselves need to be actively anti-racist.

Just as we ask men who want to be feminist allies to examine their male privilege, so too white women feminists need to look at their white privilege and the ways we continue to benefit from and perpetuate racial inequality.

We need to call out racism when we see it . And just as importantly we need to stop pretending we can speak for or fully understand the experiences of people of colour. We need to listen while not asking an individual to act as a token for their entire race.

And when we get called out on  racist actions, speech, or privilege, we need to try hard to listen without getting defensive.

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