There is a new narrative among women that is empowering and troubling at the same time.
What seemed to begin as a push in the technology industry for greater inclusion at all levels of the ecosystem has now extended into a full examination around sexual harassment issues, particularly within the areas of entertainment and media.
This is about rattling the cage — everything from common decency and respect to startup funding, but just who is setting the agenda for all women?
One would have to be asleep at the level of Rip Van Winkle to miss the growing volume of the feminine voice today in America. Many are calling it Feminism 2.0. However, feminism does not often look the same for all ethnic groups, particularly for African American women in the U.S.
As Caucasian women barrel ahead with their demands based on a particular set of values and experiences, a very valuable voice is being trampled over.
Somehow white women have taken the lead in the modern conversation about women, and they seem to be unfairly setting the entire the tone and agenda without any sensibilities from other groups since there is little social intersection between such groups. It would seem that she who has the biggest megaphone wins. But is it right, and more importantly, is it accurate?
For example, concerning the cry for equal pay, the numbers are curiously skewed. According to cultural critic Ijeoma Oluo, white women do not make less than all men. They make less than white men but more than Black and Latino men on average.
As writers and journalists, every single one of us comes to every piece we write with an abundance of bias. But writers of color have had to be aware of their bias every day of their careers
— Ijeoma Oluo (@IjeomaOluo) November 26, 2017
White women are actually benefitting more from the diversity-in-tech movement than any other group that is crying out for inclusion, according to a recent article in The Guardian.
Similarly, venture capital — when it’s awarded to women in tech — is being awarded primarily to white women. Many companies seem to fiercely maintain the status quo of 1 percent-to-3 percent African-American hires within their offices.
Even with the sexual harassment focus, the Black woman’s voice was nearly co-opted out of that as well, had it not been for a few mainstream editors who picked up on the cry of the founder of the #MeToo movement long before Alyssa Milano tweeted it.
Looking at cultural patterns, I would say that one of the next disruptive narratives in our country will be that of analysis and critique within women. This will be due in large part to the strong-arm approach and narrow perspective of white women in this new movement in feminism.
It’s important to examine the factors at play that have allowed for such a climate in the first place.
“Although white women don’t actually dominate the U.S. workforce, they tend to be closest to power and so their concerns get much more play,” said Kim F. Hall, a professor of English and Africana Studies at Columbia University’s Barnard College, in a Moguldom interview:
“Many women of color resist white liberal feminism precisely because of the perception that it is anti-male,” Hall said.
According to Prof. Hall, right now many feminists of color are focused more on:
“Too often, these white women’s voices are not about feminist transformation, but about having access to the corridors of power in the same ways the white men they work and are partnered with do,” Hall said. “The whole faux-feminist corporate power genre by Sandberg and Ivanka Trump … feed into this.”
“Basing interventions and institutional change on the situation of white women does not change the fundamental values of the institution that is needed for full inclusion,” Hall said.
Historically the focus on white women’s lives and experiences has been the default for concern in feminism and popular media, Hall said. “This has been a problem from the beginning. To name one example, ‘work-life’ balance is not a new issue. Black women have had to balance labor and family since we were brought to the U.S. as chattel slaves. So too, most women, particularly women of color, are in the workforce without the option of being stay-at-home moms, yet most of the mainstream coverage is of white women’s struggles over this ‘choice.'”
Allowing white women who have no political analysis beyond their own experience to take the lead on change in any industry will not produce inclusive workplaces, Prof. Hall cautions. “Further, women of color have consistently pointed out how slow white women are to rally around women of color who come under fire,” Hall said. “Such are the conditions with which our culture is grappling and will no doubt soon surface as conversations around race and gender rise to even great levels in this country.
“The idea that it is individual bad (white) men who are the problem leads to simple solutions,” Hall said. “The harder work is looking at how the economy is built on hierarchized labor and power dynamics as well as laying out an intersectional analysis of these systems.”
Indeed, the current narrative around sexual harassment is extremely important. However when certain Google Groups for women in tech claim victory as the force behind the firing of certain men, it’s a missed opportunity.
There’s an opportunity here to put energy towards great social interaction between women of different races and a deeper understanding of various lifestyles.
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