Dedicated to Oluwatoyin “Toyin” Salau
The feminist movement is rapidly growing and is bringing awareness to everyday discrimination faced by women. Across the globe, women march in the streets of their cities demanding equal pay, equal accommodations as their male counterparts, and choice over their bodies. Movements like #bosslady swept Instagram. Conversations about keeping your last name after marriage, loving your body hair, acne scars, and stretch marks were found on every social media platform; however, the sad truth is feminism is still failing so many women.
I am a feminist, growing up in a household with a black woman as the head. I have seen the act of courage and sacrifice from women in my family daily. But as I became a teenager, I realized the conversations about feminism vary from race, economic background, and social standing. The truth is the feminist movement displayed on Instagram and TV only scratches the surface level of issues women face. This is the case with women of color, whose struggles are often pushed aside or unnoticed altogether. Women of color are likely to be kidnapped and sex trafficked at a much higher rate than white women. In 2014 the hashtag #Bringbackourgirls became a global awareness campaign with endorsements from Michelle Obama and Reese Witherspoon to show support to the 276 schoolgirls abducted in Chibok, Nigeria, by a terrorist group. Although the campaign’s pressure led to some of the schoolgirl’s release, 112 schoolgirls are still missing. However, the flame died down, and the global conversation of human trafficking of girls was once again pushed aside.
The lack of awareness and conversation from certain feminist organizations also extends out to immigrant women. In September of 2020, it was revealed that immigrant women in ICE detention centers were sexually abused by ICE officers and even tricked into getting sterilized. This came as shocking news to the general masses; however, the ICE sterilization story only revealed that the US government had been coercing women of color for decades into sterilization. Yet certain feminist organizations take to the streets to protest their bodies’ choice while actively leaving out immigrants and women of color.
The standards and attention also extend out to the workforce. Immigrant women often take on dangerous jobs or jobs where they face horrific abuse from their employers; they are threatened with deportation or further abuse if they step out of line. This is shown with houseworkers in the US and overseas in countries like Kuwait. Women who immigrated from South Asian countries to the Middle East are often abused physically, given long hours for little pay, and even threatened if they visit their families or seek refugees elsewhere. Yet, the conversation of equal treatment in the workplace seems to be limited to the corporate world.
The exclusion of women also applies to transgender women who are publicly abused and berated with little to no laws protecting them. Farmworkers in the west spend hours in horrible conditions for below minimum wage. Housewives who are abused emotionally by their spouses and inlaws. Children who are forced into marriage so young they don’t even have their periods. Women in jail are there for rehabilitation but are forced to live in terrible living conditions and abused by correctional officers. College girls who are sexually abused on campus and administrations that go out their way to sweep the issue under the rug to protect the school’s image and even sex workers who are shamed and outcasted for making a living.
The feminist movement isn’t just all about loving your stretch marks and body hair or tweeting a hashtag. The true embodiment of feminism is seeking change and fighting to the end for all women who are forced into silence by society. If the feminist movement continues to take this path of excluding certain women, we will continue to fail our girls. Period!
Links to help the movement: