One of the biggest issues with mainstream feminist writing has been the way the idea of what constitutes a feminist issue is framed. We rarely talk about basic needs as a feminist issue. Food insecurity and access to quality education, safe neighborhoods, a living wage, and medical care are all feminist issues. Instead of a framework that focuses on helping women get basic needs met, all too often the focus is not on survival but on increasing privilege. For a movement that is meant to represent all women, it often centers on those who already have most of their needs met.– Hood Feminism
Summary and Thoughts
Today’s feminist movement has a glaring blind spot, and paradoxically, it is women. Mainstream feminists rarely talk about meeting basic needs as a feminist issue, argues Mikki Kendall, but food insecurity, access to quality education, safe neighborhoods, a living wage, and medical care are all feminist issues. All too often, however, the focus is not on basic survival for the many, but on increasing privilege for the few. That feminists refuse to prioritize these issues has only exacerbated the age-old problem of both internecine discord and women who rebuff at carrying the title. Moreover, prominent white feminists broadly suffer from their own myopia with regard to how things like race, class, sexual orientation, and ability intersect with gender. How can we stand in solidarity as a movement, Kendall asks, when there is the distinct likelihood that some women are oppressing others?
Kendall covers A LOT of ground in this great introductory text to Intersectional feminism (which she sometimes uses interchangeably with Black feminism, Hood feminism, and Womanism). Reviewing how housing, gun violence, motherhood and more disproportionately impact black women, yet are often ignored by Mainstream feminism (which Kendall uses interchangeably with White feminism and “Girl Power” feminism), Kendall explores how feminism must be inclusive of all people should it seek to create a more equitable and accountable world. Overall, I found myself agreeing with Kendall’s assessments of how White feminism does more to advance privilege to white women (and compound discrimination against women of color) than seek change for all women and non binary folks, though I did wish she included more insight from other Black and Indigienous feminists in her recounting of history (Audre Lorde, Angela Davis, Pauli Murray, and more have also fought against the intersectional discrimination of race, gender, and sexuality, and their fight is not a new one.). While their work may not be recognized by White feminists, I would have liked to see Kendall acknowledge that feminism has never been the sole purview of white women.
Which leads me to my next question . . . many of Kendall’s analyses are familiar to anyone versed in Black feminism, or any intersectional feminisms, so who is this book for? White, straight, middle-class ciswomen looking to do better? If that’s so – that’s awesome, please pick up this book! But for me, it personally wasn’t especially revolutionary. I have no problem recommending this text to others as an introduction to Intersectional feminism (in the US, that is), but if you’re already comfortable discussing the topics Kendall expands on in her book, then this book may or may not be impactful for you.
For Those Who Enjoyed
- White Tears/Brown Scars: How White Feminism Betrays Women of Color by Ruby Hamad
- Girl Gurl Grrrl: On Womanhood and Belonginhg in the Age of Black Girl Magic by Kenya Hunt
- White Feminism by Koa Beck
- Abolition. Feminism. Now. by Angela Y Davis, Gina Dent, Beth Richie, and Erica Meiners