Much has been made of Maria Grazia Chiuri’s appointment as the first woman to take up the creative helm at Dior. Chiuri, as artistic director of women’s couture, will now be a certified trendsetter and has wasted little time in putting an unmistakable female stamp on her debut 2017 Spring/Summer collection. The piece that’s got everyone and their parole officer talking is a t-shirt screaming the words ‘we should all be feminists’. It seems that feminism, like markets, sandwiches and food vans, has been repackaged by a pair of over eager marketing grads. Hoping to pounce on the vacuous masses, all too ready to trade in the burden of their own opinions for a little branded indoctrination. Chiuri’s designs are indicative of a West built on persistent assertions of self-manufactured delusion. A woman designing clothes for other women is ‘progress’. A $700 t-shirt means ‘empowerment’, apparently.
Since the 1960s, the West has meticulously tried to hammer home a sense that the material difference between the lives of Western women and those in the developing world lies in the idea of ‘Choice’. Apparently thanks to the West being the forward thinkers that they are, I am at perfect liberty to hold down a high powered job, while also being a full-time mother. I may drink as much as I please, with the caveat being that I must later willingly trot off to the gym for a work out. On the weekends I have the freedom to be a domestic goddess, and because I am such a deity, I do this all while looking good. Yes, we Western women are some lucky ladies! We really do get to have it all… Sorry I took a slight detour there, what I was actually getting at, is there is one choice I feel I’ve never been given; the choice not to be a feminist.
Now while I realise that this statement alone is enough to get me barred from the ‘International Ovary Committee’, it’s certainly worthy of discussion. For many years I unquestioningly (or perhaps naively) referred to myself as a feminist. I believed, erroneously, that feminism derived from the stand point of female equality and no other ideology (at that time) greater resonated with me. Joining the fight for the equal rights of women, seemed a no-brainer, and since this long and difficult war, seems so far from victory here in 2017, still does. The articles discussing the disparities in pay that still haunt women, along with those talking of our absence in fields such as Science and Tech are too numerous to go into. Paired with first hand accounts of the unfair weight given to our perceived good (or bad) looks, should provide enough confirmation to any sensible person that Sexism’s persistent and ugly head, has not quite been laid to rest.
But, I believe I first heard the sound of alarm bells ringing in my head, about the closeted cause of Feminism, in 2011, after reading Caitlin Moran’s How to be a Woman. Initially I felt the book would have been more accurately titled How to be a white woman, unhealthily obsessed with Lady Gaga. Admittedly the book is a patchwork telling of her own female journey and this being the case, would inevitably come from a Caucasian perspective. But the title of the book alludes to the shared experience of being ‘a woman’, which led me to ask if in fact Moran truly believed that her life as a white, middle class, journalist was in any way relatable to the vast majority of women across the globe? And worse could her concern for women, be extended to those, whose ethnicity and religion meant that they would automatically fail at ‘being a woman’ according to her own definition? My fears were later confirmed when she tweeted that she ‘literally couldn’t give a shit’ about the lack of diversity on the feminist favourite, television show, Girls. Apparently Moran, like many other mainstream feminists, adhered to the silent code, that the spoils of any women’s revolution, were not to be shared with the tawnier members of the sex. No surprises there then. The whole episode certainly ended any sepia tainted vision of ‘intersectionality’, and ‘women of all races uniting against the spectre of patriarchy’ that I may secretly have held.
I realised that I had been bullied, brow beaten and eventually co-opted into a fight that was not my own, I had been duped into supporting a movement that ultimately held no benefits for black women. Though cleverly concealed, Feminism is a symptom of the in-house, ongoing beef between the men and women of the First World. In short the facilitators of white patriarchy, want a larger piece of the pie. Feminism, it seemed to me, did not so much want to tear down male rule, it resented its continued exclusion from it. As Black women we find ourselves caught between the crosshairs of a foreign struggle. In allowing ourselves to become human buffers, through our continued participation in protests, marches and meetings, we enable mainstream feminists to use us in turn as a smoke screen, tattooed with the false motto ‘we are doing this for all women.’
A case in point, were the Women’s Marches that sprung up faster than a starving cheetah spotting its prey, in opposition of Trump. Apparently Big Ds comments about Blacks and Mexicans had been just about palatable to many women within the dominant society. But what they couldn’t stomach, was Trump’s breakdown of the art of ‘Pussy Grabbing’. I believe the words ‘Something absolutely must be done’ could be deciphered as the marching crowd stampeded over the abused body of Sandra Bland and the 13 victims of Daniel Holtzclaw. I am still awaiting the feminist outrage that should naturally have arisen from the blatant abuse of women of colour by the Police. Instead I heard only the painful sounds of crickets…
We should all be feminists… Really?