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  • Mia

International Women's Day 🫶🏼

Updated: Oct 10, 2023

On this day, I always see so many posts from people sharing pictures of the women in their lives whom they admire, love and respect; and while I do think those posts are beautiful, I feel as though we sometimes miss the bigger picture.

The bigger picture being privilege.

From the 19th to 21st century, the feminist movement was represented by white, educated, middle-class women who focused on issues that pertained to them (and only them). The feminist movement began as a white, Western movement and did not consider nor include the voices and experiences of religious, ethnic and racial minority women, transgender women, women with disabilities and working/lower class women. This period in time, also called "white feminism," essentialized the experiences of women. That is, the experiences of white, educated, middle-class women constituted the experiences of all women. White feminists portrayed a view of feminism that was separate from issues of race, gender, sexuality, class, disability, and religion.

Today, fourth-wave feminism (which began around 2012) emphasizes intersectionality. Intersectionality is a theoretical framework that describes how different forms of social identity (such as race, gender, sexuality, class, disability, and religion) intersect and interact with each other to create unique experiences of oppression and privilege. The concept of intersectionality was first introduced by legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw in the late 1980s as a way of understanding the experiences of Black women who faced both racism and sexism in the workplace.

My experience of oppression, as a white, heterosexual, able-bodied woman will be different than the oppression experienced by a Black woman, transgender woman or disabled woman. The colour of my skin, sexual orientation and ability grant me certain privileges that not all women have. In her book, Enfleshing Freedom: Body, Race and Being, M. Shawn Copeland contends that Black women have experienced and still experience the most profound and enduring suffering in our society.

For example, in the US, Black women experience maternal mortality at a rate of 2 to 3 times higher than that of white women because: 1) Black women face racism and discrimination in healthcare settings, leading to delays in treatment, under-treatment of pain, and lack of access to quality care; 2) healthcare providers may have implicit biases that affect the way they interact with Black women, leading to suboptimal care; and 3) Black women are more likely to experience poverty, which can lead to poor health outcomes and limited access to healthcare. “For centuries,” says Copeland, “black female bodies have been defiled, used, and discarded, quite literally, as refuse—simply because they are female and black, black and female.”

I think it is incredibly important for women, like myself, to acknowledge the privileged position we hold in society—not to disregard or diminish the oppression we experience—but to bring awareness, understanding and empathy to the oppression experienced by the most vulnerable and marginalized women in our communities.

We have come such a long way in our fight for equality but work still remains to be done. As women, I hope we can continue to make an intentional and conscious effort to acknowledge our privilege and to create a space where the voices and lived-experiences of all women are heard. As Audre Lorde has said, “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.”



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