Yesterday I realized the main reason why most young people and young adults have a hard time relating to feminism and the women’s movement is because they can’t tell why it’s relevant to them. In other words, they don’t know why they should give a damn. And that’s because the rest of us feminists are not doing a very good job of explaining it to them. (It’s not true that all of us are not doing a good job. I think 24 year-old itinerant feminist Shelby Knox, for example, is doing an amazing job.)
However, I’m frustrated and pissed off that the only feminists I see over and over again are the white nerdy girls. Nothing against them. White nerdy feminists are very sweet and extremely smart. But where are my sisters of color in the picture? Busy dealing with racism, that’s what. We need to figure out how to connect with other women out there that do not get good grades, that do not feel immediately comfortable in the usual “feminist scene.”
I’m frustrated that the Asian American community and blog scene seems to be dominated by pop culture or male culture. And the feminist spheres are not putting ending racism as their priority. They do not seem to know how to include, or are not interested in trying to bring, women of color to the table.
So how do we solve this problem? Well, slowly. I have lived long enough in my 31 years to know that real change takes time. Meanwhile I see this issue as three-prong:
1. We need to start talking about Young People’s Oppression*
It’s a problem when we in the feminist and activist circles are constantly talking about sexism, racism, gay oppression, classism and yet young people’s oppression and adultism are still strange, new terms and concepts to most people. If we explain young people’s and young adult’s oppression to students in their teens and twenties they will then have an awareness of what they’re dealing with in their daily lives, why they feel the way they feel, and have a foundation to base other oppressions, such as racism and sexism, on. But without that initial understanding and education of young people’s oppression they won’t care to hear about other -isms.
2. We need to have cross-race events
That means we need to hold speaking events across races. We need to have a Black and Asian activist speaking and traveling together to schools. Or white and latino. Whatever. But only in this way will it be drilled into people’s heads because they will tangibly see two people whom they originally thought were “different” and with “different” causes and goals actually working together on one cause. Hmm…
3.We need to speak out in white feminist spheres about sexism and racism. We need to speak up in our own people of color communities (Black, Asian, Latino, Native) that sexism—or male domination—is not OK.
We need to train our white sisters about what does the intersectionality of sexism and racism really mean in real terms in real life. It means realizing your arrogance, trying on humility and assuming that you know less than you think. And that it is your responsibility to undo your racism. At the same time we women of color need to take on the responsibility of training our white sisters how to do this. It’s not easy. But who else is going to do it? Fortunately or unfortunately, we’re the best ones for the job.
*Young People’s Oppression is the systematic discrimination of a group of people based simply on their age. Did you ever feel it was unfair that you had no say on most parts of your life simply because you were young? A friend of mine actually let her daughters push the grocery cart up and down the supermarket aisles and pick whatever it was they wanted to eat. But that’s the exception. Most of us didn’t get to choose much in our lives growing up. I know I was dying to move out after high school. Not because I was psyched to go through another four year learning institution, but because this was my ticket out of my parents’ fiefdom. I never wanted to be told what to do again. Or maybe you needed to be reined in and your parents had better judgment than you 99% of the time. But more likely there are also plenty of cases of neglect, physical or drug abuse, that we wouldn’t have chosen but had no choice to live with because we were two or five or ten years-old. Or even a lesser case of mom marrying a guy you’ve only met a few times and then suddenly he’s moved in and gets to tell you what to do? No wonder young people are absolutely furious. As adults we grow up and quickly forget how frustrating that constant powerlessness felt. We don’t want to look back. Soon we start doing the same thing to young people around us—and that’s adultism.