Social Media Minds the Intersectional Gap

If you spent any time on Twitter the past couple of days, you probably noticed two popular hashtags in trending topics: #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen created by Mikki Kendall and #BlackPowerIsForBlackMen created by Jamilah Lemieux. The first addressed the racism black women face from some white feminists and the other spoke of the sexism they deal with from some black men. The stream of tweets pointed out the countless ways both of these groups, white women and black men, benefit from privilege, and how their refusal to acknowledge race or gender privilege throws black women under the bus. Some of the tweets are shown below:

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As a black woman involved in the feminist movement and in racial equality activism, I’ve been in a position to see how the intersectional gap is played out on both sides. The sexism I face is racialized. The racism I face is genderized. And both activist camps—white feminists and black male anti-racists—often have an internal bias that glazes over these nuances.

Black women are the ones who have been in the spotlight this week, but the intersectional gap doesn’t stop with us. Though I’m doubly marginalized because of my race and my gender I sometimes overlook my cisgender privilege, my straight privilege, my able-bodied privilege, the list goes on. It takes active self-vigilance to recognize your own privilege and how you unconsciously contribute to the oppression of other groups. The failure to do this results in black women, for example, being told to “not be divisive” by some white feminists or to “stop being bitter” by some black men when they dare to be vocal about the intersectional problem.

These two hashtags gave an overdue outlet for black women to express how white women and black men can be complicit in the marginalization of women of color.

The lack of intersectionality in social movements is why the names of Trayvon Martin or Oscar Grant will elicit an impassioned reaction from many but if you mention Rekia Boyd or Aiyana Stanley-Jones you’re likely to get a blank stare.

It’s also why, in the nationwide SlutWalks that started in 2011, a white protester in New York thought it would be a brilliant idea to display a sign that said “Woman is the N* of the world.” She did this without stopping to consider how using the “n” word would be incredibly offensive to black women who live in the intersection of racism and sexism, bringing blogger Flavia Dzodan to declare, “My feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit.”

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And why The New York Times could print the following photo of the Girls cast with this headline and not find it ironic.

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People most visible in movements for black empowerment are often men, and those most visible in the movements for gender equality are often white. Compare how many have heard of Gloria Steinem to how few are familiar with Audre Lorde. Compare Martin Luther King Jr.’s dedicated activism to Rosa Parks just being “tired” in the history books. Misogynoir (hatred of black women) is often the reason behind why some are remembered and celebrated while others are minimized or banished into obscurity.

There is no solidarity, no progress, no change unless social movements are inclusive, and it’s only fitting that social media became the platform on which this frustration was voiced on a large scale. Unspoken sentiments that had been simmering beneath the surface were finally pushed into the public consciousness. I was encouraged by the dialogue that was exchanged on Twitter this week and hope that it makes the jump from 140 characters into how we see our lives and our activism.

Comments

  1. I am sitting down, shutting up, and listening.

  2. It is a shame this blog doesn’t credit the #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen hashtag founder, Mikki Kendall (@Karnythia).

  3. If you’re going to write an article about these hashtags, why wouldn’t you credit the women who created them? Mikki Kendall started #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen and Ebony Magazine Digital News+Life Editor, Jamilah Lemieux started #BlackPowerIsForBlackMen.

  4. No credit to the creators of the hashtags? That’s the irony.

  5. Lem Ocean says:

    Hey, can you add the people responsible for starting the tags in your article? It’s extremely uncool that you didn’t. @Karnythia started the #solidarityisforwhitewomen tag, and @JamilahLemieux started the #blackpowerisforblackmen tag.

    I don’t understand when sites like these write articles highlighting something while not crediting where that something originated. I mean, journalism 101.

    Get it right, please.

  6. Credit who started the hashtags please.

    https://twitter.com/OHTheMaryD/status/368485949493100544

    Speaking up should be rewarded, not silenced.

  7. So, I appreciate your attempt to address this but there are some serious issues with your write-up here. First, there’s no mention of Mykki Kendall (@karnythia) who started the hashtag. Also, some of these “statements” appear to just be rewrites of tweets that appeared on that hashtag. In particular, the pictures and the descriptions of them are directly lifted from tweets off the hashtag. The “shades” of feminism being ironic should be attributed to @pushinghoops. One might argue that #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen when Ms. Magazine covers a hashtag and erases women of color who originated content and even started the hashtag itself.

  8. Carly Jackson says:

    It is about time white women “Shut up and listen”. White privilege has been going on too long. We need more WoC voices to be heard, starting 50% hiring for writers and staff!

  9. As a mixed race female, I was glad to see a piece that highlighted this social fail that is the intersectional gap. My male friends (black and mixed) seem so averse to opening their eyes to the sense of communion that should exist in the black, or any minority, community. At times it seems as though it’s easier for them to elect to jump on a bandwagon of fetishising black women (see just about ANY rap video) because that is what’s pop culture has accepted, profited from, and pays big bucks for. Alternatively, my white female feminist friends are naive to the added hurdles and obstacles faced by black women in just about every social arena. On one hand, they seem a bit afraid to delve into or acknowledge race in feminism (the ‘let’s all just be colorblind ‘ideal) . On the other hand, some even believe that being black AND female is some type of affirmative-action dream card to play. Precisely the opposite when it’s that exact narrow mindedness that everyone believes to be true!

    One thing that this article provoked in me is my additional qualm with the lack of receptiveness I feel exists amongst the black female and mixed female demographic. There’s definitely a bit of social malevolence, okay–cattiness, between black females, light and dark skinned. I hate using those terms, but I’ll be honest, that differentiation alone is the cause of the discord I’m talking about. This prevalence in the female black community is frustrating–no infuriating, and my hope would be that that barrier be completely broken down for more concentration on community within our demographic. If not, I fear that there may be an additional gap, further widening with time, that would be cause for concern.

  10. JP Fairfield says:

    I’m confuse as to why the creators of these hashtags were not included in this article.
    There isn’t any credit given to @Karnythia for starting #solidarityisforwhitewomen nor to @JamilahLemieux for starting #blackpowerisforblackmen.
    i hope this oversight can be remedied so these wonderful women can get the credit they deserve for helping to start this conversation.

  11. Why weren’t the women who initiated the hashtags, the conversations, and guided much of both discussions, namely @Karnythia (#solidarityisforwhitewomen) and @JamilahLemieux (#blackpowerisforblackmen) not mentioned in this piece? This is a key part of the story and they deserve the credit.

  12. Glad to see that the correction was made and that the creators of the hashtags were acknowledged. Recognize that this event was a profound moment in feminist history and so holding Ms. Magazine accountable for crediting Mikki Kendall and Jamilah Lemiex isn’t just about courtesies or professionalism. It’s also about keeping the historical record thorough and accurate, especially when there’s been a long history of erasing the contributions of women of color from feminist movement since Harriet asked, “Ain’t I a woman?”

  13. Lem Ocean says:

    Thank you for adding it to the post! :)

  14. Anita Little says:

    Hi everyone! The piece has been updated to recognize Mikki Kendall and Jamilah Lemieux as the creators. The omission wasn’t purposeful, and I apologize. Thank you for your comments.

    • Why wasn’t Flavia Dzodan mentioned by her NAME and NOT as “an infuriated blogger”? If you took the time to link to her Tiger Beatdown article, you could have exercised the same courtesy and used her name.

      • Anita Little says:

        Hi Mary, thanks for your comment. It’s our style to just link to the blog that the quote originated from, assuming that the reader will click on it to find out more about the author. However, I understand how it’s very important to name activists. The piece has been updated to mention Flavia Dzodan by name. I appreciate the feedback!

    • Very sweet of you, Anita! Thank You!

  15. Thank you for this article and the amendments. This is an issue that needs much air and discussion. I remember some years ago when I was interviewing for a job with a woman’s project, they asked me what I thought about racism. I answered that I had become aware of my own racism by understanding white privilege. I learned later that I did not get the job because I said I was a racist. I think today, that probably would not have happened, but we still have a way to go.

  16. Thank you for amplifying the voices of many with this article , Anita. I appreciate that your article distills issues of intersectional identity for those of us who are listening and learning — very informative.

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