Today marks International Women’s Day, a celebration of the women’s rights movement. This year the holiday takes on heightened meaning amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Many women have felt the strain of gender dynamics play out during quarantine, and women of color, in particular, have felt the weight brought on by so many stressors of the moment. Last summer also marked a turning point in America’s racial justice movement, highlighting the role Black women play in the country’s politics and social progress. The feminist movement in the United States has long fallen short in terms of intersectionality, instigating a reckoning and reconsideration of the modern push for women’s rights.
Listen: Author Mikki Kendall on the modern feminist movement.
Mikki Kendall is the author of “Hood Feminism: Notes From The Women That A Movement Forgot.” She says the conventional conception of feminism often leaves a majority of women out. “When we say that feminism is only for the upper-middle class, people who will be ‘girl bosses,’ we’re leaving a lot of people behind,” says Kendall. She adds that history often depicts feminism as a gift white women gave to the world, but that isn’t the case. Kendall claims that the suffragette movement actually co-opted Indigenous ideas and social structures in their quest for equality.
The push for voting rights also excluded Black women, and Kendall says the suffragette movement was ultimately a tool in upholding white supremacy. “We celebrate the 100-year anniversary of women getting the vote, but we don’t talk about which women didn’t get the right to vote…the people who had to wait until the 1960s to get the right to vote,” says Kendall on the exclusion of Black women from the suffrage movement. To this day, Kendall says the majority of white women continue to support policies and institutions that hurt other women, especially women of color and trans women.