Feminism is not All White

By Adunni Adams

Lexy Topping’s article in yesterday’s Guardian declared the advance of the feminist movement towards a world in which people are not ashamed of identifying themselves as feminists. According to the article, this advance has resulted largely from the activism of young people fighting back against the sexual objectification of women, leading to a growing coalition of ‘feminists who do not fit easily into stereotypical moulds’. Furthermore, UK Feminista is cited as the source of information about ‘dozens of new feminist organisations springing up around the UK’.

I assumed the inclusion of the phrase ‘feminists who do not fit easily into stereotypical moulds’ would lead to some mention of those organisations which do not fit into the white, middle-class heterosexual stronghold which has come to typify the feminist movement. As I continued reading, I assumed the scope of the article would include the Black, Working-Class, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender feminist organisations, most of which are not new, and most of which have so far managed to escape the attention of commentators on feminism.

The recent ‘three little pigs’ advertising campaign (promoting open journalism as a means of representing different perspectives) puts The Guardian at odds with the ‘one size fits all’ style of reporting typified by Ms. Topping’s article. The announcement that something (or anything) is happening at the grassroots level of the feminist movement – not to mention the fact that the movement has caught the attention of the mainstream media – could, and should, have reflected the true strength of the movement in its depth, dynamism and diversity at all levels.

The contact details of a representative of the Women’s Networking Hub were sent to Ms. Topping, but no contact was made, even after a follow-up e-mail was sent to her. No contact was made with Blackfeminists UK, an organization with over 1100 followers on Twitter and over 150 followers on Facebook, nor with Blackfeminists Manchester. Grassroots organisations such as these are a vital part in the advance of contemporary feminism – broad, multi-faceted and inclusive – and it is remarkable that The Guardian would overlook these, and many other important groups.

Given the emphasis in the article on ‘lads mags’, it is unfortunate that Ms. Topping does not take account of the way in which the sexual objectification of women has varying connotations linked to race. A prime example of this is the apology made by Cadbury to Naomi Campbell last year, which was also covered in The Guardian. Perhaps if Ms. Topping had made contact with any one of the above mentioned groups, she would have gained insight into the impact of this and many other issues which exist at the intersection of race and gender.

Ironically, the article ends with a reflection on the economic cuts. The brunt of the cuts is not only being faced by women but specifically black women, yet articles such as these ensure that we remain invisible. I feel that my response should be heard because the feminist movement, by definition, should not privilege the needs and contributions of one group over another, which is precisely the effect this article has had, regardless of any well-meaning intentions.


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