Women of colour need their own feminist narratives

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Mainstream feminism’s advocacy for equal gender rights is important, but it lacks sufficient recognition that no two women share the same experiences. 
 
Today’s “white feminism” exists without consideration of the other forms of oppression impacting women, whether as a result of sexual orientation, race, culture, religion, or ability. It represents only the experiences of cisgender, middle-class white women. 
 
In Canada, white feminism dominates conversations about the gender wage gap. It highlights the discrepancies between men and women’s pay, but doesn’t discuss the fact that Asian, Black, and Latina women are paid less than their white counterparts. 
 
A 2011 study titled “Canada’s Colour Coded Labour Market” by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives reported that for every dollar non-racialized women make, racialized women earn 88.2 cents. 
 
Where women struggle to gain equality relative to their male counterparts, women of colour find themselves falling behind other women. This can occur because of their race, ethnicity, or religion—intersections of their identity outside of gender.
 
Full-time working women earned an average of 75 cents on every dollar earned by men in 2016. This is a problem in and of itself. An intersectional lens, however, accounts for the several identities, and, by extension, forms of oppression that impact women. 
 
It allows us to look deeper into pervasive feminist issues. 
 
For instance, women of colour experience harassment like white women—but that harassment can often also be racially motivated. This is an example of intersecting forms of repression, where the experience of being a woman is further complicated by racial identity.  
 
In 2017, Quebec’s Bill 62 banned individuals receiving public services from wearing the traditional niqab and burka. For Muslim women, this isn’t just a race issue—it’s a feminist issue. 
 
The National Post reported in 2017 that women wearing religious coverings in Quebec were subjected to verbal and physical abuse. They weren’t being targeted because they’re women. They were being targeted because they’re Muslim women.
 
For some women, issues of race and religious discrimination largely factor into their workplace experiences. Whereas a white woman’s ideas are often taken at face value, a woman of colour struggles to find a seat at the same table as her colleagues. 
 
This isn’t to devalue the experiences of white women. The experiences of all women need to be highlighted to effect change towards equality. 
 
But today’s dominant feminist narrative fails to account for the simple fact that women of colour, gay women, transgender women, and physically disabled women, among others, need their own narratives at the forefront of the conversation.  
 
For mainstream feminism to influence change, it must grow to encompass the experiences of all women—and from all intersections.
 
Jasnit is The Journal’s News Editor. She is a third-year Politics student.
 

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