‘Women issues’ occupied every bit of the media this week; from Oprah Winfrey’s impassioned Golden Globe speech, to Carrier Gracie calling out the BBC on their illegal pay practices (not to mention Theresa May’s sham of a scam of a mockery cabinet reshuffle). I spent a good part of the week screaming at news interviews or giving standing ovations to people from all walks of life boldly declaring the end of abuse towards women and girls. But amongst all the inspired tweets and speeches it was clear that progress when it comes to ‘women issues’ has been slow and overstated.
I can’t speak exactly to the experiences of women like Oprah or Gracie. I’m inspired by how they use their platform to forward the cause, and yes we’re all women therefore face common struggles but we live in different worlds. This doesn’t stop me from fighting for their cause, because abuse of women anywhere = abuse of women everywhere! However, not all ‘women issues’ are the same. For example Kimberlé Crenshaw points out that,
“…Black women are discriminated against in ways that often do not fit neatly within the legal categories of either “racism” or “sexism”—but as a combination of both racism and sexism.”
I suppose that’s what makes Oprah’s speech all the more relevant – that women should speak THEIR story as a way of progressing the cause. So, hear is a snippet of my story. It doesn’t speak directly to male oppression or the subtle yet profound ways men use their power to belittle and control women. My story speaks about intra-discrimination – the way women issues can also be a result of women with issues.
I remember an old friend saying, ‘if I was darker I would be ugly’. The shock on my face must have made her realise after that comment our friendship would never be the same. She told me that my features were too big to suit a darker skin tone and that I’m ‘lucky‘ I have the complexion I do.’
I suppose my story is unique in some ways but again not that different to many other black women out there. Our blackness has become the precursor to how a good proposition of the world treats us. One day we can be at the top of the list of sexual fetishes for our ‘exotic’ skin, kinky hair, full lips and big behinds. The next, demonised for being aggressive, uneducated and unattractive.
I can bare the judgement on my blackness a little more when it comes from outside my community; but when a black woman turns and says to another black woman, if you were darker skinned you’d be ugly, that I can’t bear.
As a community of women, we need to openly challenge and take responsibility for the destructive aftermath of transferring our issues onto each other. We need to challenge the way we speak about each other and ultimately we need to challenge the way we think about each other.
As far as I see it, every woman is me but in particular every black woman is me; she is my mother, my sister, my aunty, my cousin. The way we treat each other sets the standard for how others think they can treat us. When we use oppressive language and behaviour in our day-to-day interactions, it makes it harder to forward the cause. However, if others experience how we hold our sisterhood in high regard, the way we esteem and love each other, they’ll soon have no choice but to do the same.
Women are so powerful, but the extent of our power won’t be fully realised if we don’t completely unit in our fight for ‘women’s issues‘.