Four Types of Women Modern Feminism is Failing (as demonstrated by the women’s march)

Modern feminism has turned its volume up to 11. With the advent of this new administration, and a misogynistic force “on the throne,” women across America have attempted to join hands and remind our Congress and our White House that they work for us. But even as millions of women in our country and across the world marched in seeming solidarity for our rights, four very specific groups of women found themselves marginalized yet again. It’s time to take a look at where we might have blind spots in our feminism, and ask ourselves very seriously what we can do to create a feminism for every woman from every demographic and every walk of life.

Black women

We have all by now seen the iconic photograph on our Facebook newsfeeds: a gentleman with dark skin, holding a simple cardboard sign that reads “We will see you nice white women at the next #BlackLivesMatter march, right?” It’s not a rhetorical question. White feminism has a long excluded the needs and oppression of black women from its rhetoric and histories. Going as far back as Susan B. Anthony, black women have been relegated to the back of the parade, both literally and metaphorically.

What you can do about it:

Start by acknowledging your privilege, if you enjoy light skin. As difficult as it may be, resist the urge to get defensive when that privilege is addressed by our dark-skinned sisters. Black women across America are telling us how we can better support them. Listen more closely. Put your ego on the back burner, ask genuine questions, respect their safe spaces, and commit to relinquishing the megaphone when your black sisters have something to say. An important aspect of living within your privilege is knowing when to make yourself smaller so that someone else can be larger.

Indigenous and Native women

Many of us who walked in the women’s march also care enough about social issues to have followed the DAPL saga over the last several months. But despite our awareness of this social and ecological travesty, white feminism still has not closed the gap with our native sisters. Throughout the women’s march, women of Native American descent reported feeling like they were on display, being muted or dismissed when they brought up issues specific to American Indians, or being treated like a novelty or a prop. This is flat-out unacceptable. 

What you can do about it: 

Scroll up and read the “what you can do about it” from the last section. Study up on intersectional feminism, and learn about the psychological and social effects of colonization and disenfranchisement. Educate yourself. Ask respectful questions. Learn when to stop talking.

Transgender women

45’s egregious misogyny toward women, and the now infamous tape that has been so creatively dubbed “pussygate” led to a very intentional and empowering display of vulva-inspired artwork at the March. Empowering, that is, for women who own vulvas. What was seen as a demand for normalization of and the end of sexual assault against certain parts of cisgender female anatomy was taken by our trans sisters to be a point of separation and marginalization.

What you can do about it: 

First off, refusal to acknowledge transgender women as real women is an act of violence, full stop. White feminism does not do a great job of creating safety and welcome for women who once did not, or may still not, possess certain aspects of female anatomy. It’s not enough to just allow trans women to join our ranks. We must actively welcome them, and actively affirm their place in our society as equal in sisterhood. This means, for cisgender woman, more listening, and, you guessed it, more education.

Pro-life women

Stick with me here. Much of modern feminism focuses on a woman’s right to choose what is done with her own body. But whether you fall on the side of the line that says that life begins with a heartbeat, or the side that maintains that the development of a soul coincides with the introduction of brain activity, we can all agree that the goal, ultimately, is fewer and fewer abortions. No one at the march was in favor of killing babies. No one on either side of this debate thinks abortion is a fun-time entertainment activity like going to the movies or shopping for a new pair shoes. But pro-choice women are developing a nasty trend of allowing their emotion on the topic to dictate how they treat pro-life women. There are pro-life women in this world who are vicious toward pro-choice women. That’s a reality. But this reality does not in any way excuse violence in the other direction. When pro-life women are showing up to a march to support their fellow feminists and being heckled, shoved aside, and shouted down, we have taken a step back as a gender. 

What you can do about it:

Make peace with the reality that even with in our feminist ranks we will disagree with each other. Learn to put out fires, rather than throwing kerosene on the flames. Yes, we will disagree. We will debate. But initiating violence in the face of peaceful protest is the opposite of what we hope to accomplish. Pro-choice women don’t want pro-life woman yelling at them as we enter Planned Parenthood. And pro-life women do not deserve to be shouted down at a women’s march, or anywhere else, while they are exercising their right to peacefully protest. Let’s look for common ground, focus on education, and refuse to sink to the level of inciting violence.


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