Image: Kahu Kutia
When I was 15 I made myself a Tumblr. Tumblr for me was like a portal to the rest of the world. I grew up in a small town where there isn't a lot in the way of revolutionary thought or sub-culture. Tumblr taught me most of what I knew about social justice, art, music, sex and gender diversity. It was here that I first really became acquaited with the idea of feminism. I read about it, heard the stories of other feminists. I believe that the sexes are equal, I knew what sexism looked like. I knew I was a feminist.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie defined a feminist as "a person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes". Of course, this definition is one I heard in Beyonce’s song ***Flawless. There is nothing in this definition that I disagree with. With the amazing women I have in my life as role models, it would be pretty hard not to believe in our equality. But I am not calling myself a feminist anymore.
This is not an article to dismiss the people whose historical battles have made my life easier. Thanks to the efforts of women’s rights activists (my grandmother included), I have the vote, I have limited access to abortion, I can choose whether or not I want to get married, I can own a house, have a job, wear pants, drive a car. But in the time since I left high school and come into university, I have realised that far too often, feminsm as a movement is primarily occupied with the oppresion of white women.
I have been asked to perform pōhiri for art exhibitions. I have been asked to translate group names into Te Reo. I have been asked to contact Māori artists for exhibitions because the curator in charge didn't know of any. I was put in an executive position as ‘Māori Officer’ without my consent or knowledge. But when my colleague and I asked for koha to send to a tangi, we were completely shut down. So often I have been invited into a group because of my Māoriness, and so often I have left feeling unsatisfied and tokenised.
I feel tokenised because feminism loves to talk about intersectionality but very rarely puts in place the neccesary measures to achieve it. If your feminism is racist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist, classist, and xenophobic, then it is not feminism. If it does not include sex workers and trans men and uneducated women then it is not feminism. If you are not able to listen to people who are oppressed in other ways, and if you are passive in opposing the oppresion of these other people, then your feminism is problematic.
The fact is, that the individuals in charge of feminist movements are generally Pākehā women, and are unable to prioritise oppression that is outside their own personal experience. Equality for me is not just making sure that white women have the same pay as white men in business. I cannot help thinking of the people of colour who are citizens, residents, and refugees of this country and cannot even find a job in the first place because of their name, or their skin colour. Your wage increase is still important, but to let it dominate a conversation about equality is to dangerously silence the voice of another’s oppression.
I am a feminist at heart, and will always continue to put my energy and support towards kaupapa that is intentional when it comes to gender equality. But to be honest, I don't really need to label myself a feminist to do that. I am tired of putting my energy towards a movement that does not recognise all of the parts of me. I am a person who believes in the political, social, and economic equality of the sexes. But let us make sure that when we say that, we are acknowledging all women.Support Villainesse