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Feminism, collectivism, and justice

As noted in the previous article, women generally tend to be more collectivist, especially those from communities of color. To close out this series, below we discuss how feminist principles truly support care and justice for all.

Unfortunately, the public story of the feminist movement has historically been controlled by straight, white, cisgender, middle class, non-disabled women to benefit themselves—which is far from feminism’s premise to advocate for the equity of all. However, in her excellent book Hood Feminism, Mikki Kendall notes, “​​We rarely talk about basic needs as a feminist issue. Food insecurity and access to quality education, safe neighborhoods, a living wage, and medical care are all feminist issues. Instead of a framework that focuses on helping women get basic needs met, all too often the focus is not on survival but on increasing privilege. For a movement that is meant to represent all women, it often centers on those who already have most of their needs met.”

Throughout the book, Kendall makes cases for how true feminism must benefit all oppressed genders and includes racial, housing, education, queer and trans, indigenous, reproductive, class, food, economic, disability, and more types of justice. For if feminism only benefits already privileged white women, as it traditionally has, it is not true feminism - it is more oppression and white supremacy in disguise. Mikki Kendall is far from the first or only woman to make this assertion about feminism or call attention to the differing experiences of those with multiple, intersecting identities. Kimberlé Crenshaw, Audre Lorde, bell hooks, Sojourner Truth, and many other women experiencing other forms of oppression have been discussing this for ages.

Feminism, then, is concerned with other justice movements because those movements fight for equity for all, and women hold those other oppressed identities. It is concerned with collective care and mutual aid, as this model means supporting one another instead of the individual accumulation of resources at the expense of others. It is concerned with reproductive and disability justice, because it believes that all people should have autonomy and control over their own bodies. It is concerned with queer and trans rights, because oppression based on gendered social norms impacts us all.

Unfortunately, the principles of feminism are not embraced as frequently by men, who are more likely to see it as polarizing and outdated (Pew Research). While certainly not all women identify as feminists, investment in feminist principles could be one of many reasons for the greater number of women organizing for collective care and justice movements. We have women from all different identities, places, and cultures to thank for their past, present, and future world-changing work in advocating for the rights, justice, and lives of us all.

Ways to Help

  • Seek out and loudly support community and mutual aid efforts led by women of color, trans women, disabled women, and others who face multiple levels of marginalization. Donating time and/or money, sharing information about their work, and amplifying their requests and learning are just a few ways you can prioritize their work over the work of those who are often privileged and over-represented.

  • Explain to youth of all genders how important community solidarity is, and show them diverse examples of women leaders and the amazing things they do. School history books often focus largely on white men, and almost never highlight social movements outside of the most popular. Show marginalized youth good examples of how they can be a leader in their communities through examples from some of the women mentioned in this series.

  • Support the women behind the movements. Often they give incredible amounts of time, energy, and money to these causes and prioritize the needs of others in their communities over themselves. Send them a few dollars for a treat, offer to help them around the house or in their organizing, or check in on them and see what you can do to help.

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