Women’s Marches and white feminism

By Colleen Dehais

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/ Daily Collegian)

Femininity, in all its forms, is undoubtedly undervalued. For this reason, all displays or expressions of femininity are an adamant and powerful form of social disobedience. Still, the Women’s Marches were not overwhelmingly defiant or angry responses to the lack of autonomy and power that feminine-identifying individuals have in this oppressive patriarchal society. Instead, the tone of these gatherings were celebratory. The purpose of these marches seemed to be uplifting feminine identities on the basis of their being white and cisgender.

Altogether too often, the assertion of femininity by white, cisgender individuals is based in white supremacy and transphobia. These expressions of identity are invalidating to many marginalized communities – trans people and people of color have long been rejected by society because their bodies do not fit the norms of being cisgender and/or white. The gender binary, an invention of European origin, has long enforced whiteness as the norm along with other standards of beauty dictated by men, thereby marking deviant feminine bodies as other, even as disgusting.

These marches were particularly upsetting given the current state of affairs in this country and beyond. The Black community, for example, has been powerfully protesting racial violence since the era of slavery in the United States. These Women’s Marches did not express distress about the rates at which transgender people and people of color are murdered in this country; instead, they were about camaraderie between people whose genitals match up with the extremely popular pink pussyhats, a symbol that is representative neither of womanhood nor femininity. To define having a pink vagina as a prerequisite for being a woman is to invalidate the many trans women who do not necessarily have vaginas and the many women of color whose genitals are not pink.

To be certain, the general sentiment of “fascism is vaguely bad” that is extraordinarily common amongst white folks is being heard over the death cries of trans people and people of color in this country. This is not to say that many or even most of these white liberals were not well-intentioned; Trump and the atmosphere of conservative, misogynistic politics in general are a remarkable threat to the bodily autonomy of white, cisgender women among many other groups. Access to abortion, for example, has already been directly targeted by the new administration. But the violence against other marginalized groups is so blatantly ignored by the mass media, politicians and most of society that it seems unfair for white cis women to center themselves, especially when they do not even use their voices to fight for their own rights.

White, cis women holding tight to a type of femininity that centers whiteness and being born into a particular type of body with a vagina makes it so that people of color, trans people and people who identify as a part of both communities find it continuously impossible to be accepted and valued by society. In order to break this form of oppression, it is critical that we expand our definitions of femininity and beauty to include people of all types who desire to exude gentleness, compassion and sensitivity. After all, in order for our societies to become less violent and more free, we undoubtedly need more of all of those things.

Colleen Dehais is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]