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We Need to Create the Space for All Feminists

Last month, I had the privilege of attending the Women’s Convention in Detroit as a Global Youth Advisory Council member for The Representation Project. Linda Sarsour, National Co-Chair of The Women’s March, opened the convention with a simple statement: “Unity is not uniformity.” These words emphasize the importance of intersectionality in the feminist movement. Another Co-Chair of the Women’s March, Carmen Perez, declared, “I’m not willing to accept a win for my people if it comes on someone else’s back… I’m not willing to sacrifice anyone else’s rights for the sake of my own.”

As a white woman in social justice work, I want to be hyper-aware of my privilege in the feminist movement. My fight for feminism includes all other women and their own identities. My liberation as a white woman is tied to all identities, like the black women in America and their fight for racial justice. I need to utilize my own privilege as a tool to amplify communities that do not have the same opportunities as I do.

For example, as part of my training to become a facilitator with the Program on Intergroup Relations at the University of Michigan, I recently facilitated a dialogue on Race and Ethnicity. In trying to come up with questions for our dialogue activity that would speak to different racial groups, I realized that my logic was flawed. I was trying to draft questions as if I could separate the students’ racial identity from their whole person. Our social identities, personal experience, and biases exist in unison with one another and, it is impossible to separate our identity and experiences with privilege and oppression into pieces. So while I understand being treated unfairly because of my gender identity, I cannot separate my white racial identity from that situation. Whiteness is something I hold and something that I benefit from everyday, and I need to speak from that place.

In the feminist movement, we need to create the space for all feminists to bring their full selves to this work, honoring all of the other identities they hold, whether that be their ability status or race. My work will not be over until a white woman and a latina woman both make a dollar for every dollar a white man earns.
The feminist movement today must be led with intentionality and compassion. My feminism seeks the liberation of all identities, and my work will not stop until we are free.

Sierra Stephens
The Representation Project
Global Youth Advisory Class 2017-2018

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