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Hood Feminism

Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot

By Mikki Kendall
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Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall

Hood Feminism (2020) examines how feminism has often acted in the interests of white women, rather than all women. To be truly inclusive, feminism must also advocate for the most disadvantaged women in society, including women of color.

Key idea 1 of 9

Too often, feminism is for white women, and not for minorities.

Author Mikki Kendall’s grandmother was born in 1924, and insisted that her four daughters get a decent education. Dropping out of school was never an option, and college was encouraged, too. Kendall’s grandmother worked hard throughout her life – at first to earn money, and later around the home as she raised her children.

Was she a feminist? She wouldn’t have called herself one. When it first emerged, the feminist movement was dependent on people like the author’s grandmother, who covered housekeeping tasks when white women decided to go outside the home to work. But domestic work, which was badly paid and sometimes unsafe, had never been in short supply.

In fact, Kendall’s grandmother was not a fan of a lot of what feminists had to say. Her brand of feminism, which inspired Kendall herself, was centered around the issues that truly mattered to her.

The key message here is: Too often, feminism is for white women, and not for minorities.

Kendall’s grandmother wasn’t always in step with mainstream feminist thinking. For instance, she held tight to the ideal of being traditionally ladylike. For her, this was a way to stay safe in a world where she faced discrimination not just for being a woman, but also for being Black.

A lot of issues that remain central for many women of color still tend to get overlooked by feminism. For instance, while specific issues like reproductive rights are usually on the feminist agenda, overall health care often isn’t. The same goes for education, and even something as basic as food provision. In short, there’s far too little understanding of what life is like for women who are not privileged.

At the 2015 Academy Awards, Patricia Arquette won Best Supporting Actress, but it was her acceptance speech that made the biggest headlines. She called for equal pay for women – a worthy feminist cause, for sure. But she specifically asked for support from, in her words, “all the gay people and people of color that we’ve all fought for” – as if their rights were already assured beyond a doubt.

The reality, of course, is that marginalized groups still face huge amounts of discrimination, and for Arquette to ask for their solidarity was not a good look. But it was typical of the way in which white feminism often expects solidarity to travel in only one direction.

Solidarity can’t just be for, and among, white women. Feminism must start truly supporting women of color – it’s the only way to work toward true equity.

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