Feminist thought should come in all shapes, colours and sizes, and yet it doesn’t. For the most part, mass public attention is given to White Feminist issues while other, often more serious concerns, remain in obscurity
Controversial American rapper, singer and songwriter, Azealia Banks, recently took to Twitter to condemn ‘white feminism’ stating that ‘non-coloured feminists cloud the feminist sphere with sh*t like free the nipple and hairy armpits’.
In the above statement Banks refers to the ‘Free the Nipple Campaign’ started by filmmaker and activist Lina Esco. The movement demands equality and focuses on removing the double standards that surround the censorship of female breasts. Banks also refers to the feminist school of thought surrounding the removal of body hair.
Everyday Feminism writer Ellen Friedrichs explains that women should, ‘be able to freely choose to keep or remove their body hair without facing social pressure to get rid of it’. I believe that her statement is linked to a growing fear amongst people (women in particular) of colour, that far more imminent dangers to women, physically and mentally, are overshadowed by these campaigns.
For instance, ‘Bring Back Our Girls’, the social media campaign that ‘helped galvanize international outrage about the plight of 276 Nigerian schoolgirls who were kidnapped from the village of Chibok by the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram’, (Adam Chandler, Global News). It has been over a year and 219 of these girls still have not been found. Moreover, Chandler states that ‘according to Amnesty International, the group has kidnapped 2,000 women since the beginning of last year’, forcing many into sexual slavery or combat.
Whilst the statement may appear extremely bold and daring, Banks is not the first to blast ‘white feminism’ for its apparent blatant disregard for the deep-rooted issues faced by women of colour all over the world. Of course, Banks’ statement caused an abundance of mixed responses, some of which showed solidarity and support for her controversial viewpoint.
However, it was inevitable that for some, the statement was distasteful and offensive. Many criticized Banks for ‘pitting one group of women against another’ or downplaying the importance of campaigns like Free the Nipple. However, what these people don’t realise, is that by criticising those who share Banks’ view on the issue, they are only highlighting the fact that there is a serious case for a lack of intersectionality when it comes to feminism.
Not only that, but is it really sensible to argue that a campaign like Bring Back Our Girls is on an even footing with freeing the female nipple or body hair? The Independent even went as far as to have a blog headline that read: ‘Why body hair is on the frontline of feminist action’. I’d like to draw attention to the use of the word ‘frontline’; is it really fair to send our first line of defence to war on the topics of body hair and freeing the nipple, before we free our kidnapped girls? After all, these girls have nipples and body hair in equal need of liberation as for the rest of us women in the world, but how can that happen within the captivity of a terrorist army?
White feminism’s’ failure to acknowledge the depth of the variety of issues faced by women of different ethnicities, nationalities, abilities, gender sub-types and religions, leads to the drowning out of important causes, like the Bring Back our Girls Campaign, in the world of Feminism. It is easy for such causes to be overshadowed when you have high-profile celebrities like Miley Cyrus continuously advocating for the liberation of the female nipple on international television, (see Jimmy Kimmel live: ‘Miley Cyrus’ Boobs Made Paul McCartney Uncomfortable’ on YouTube), and shocking the public with outlandish and revealing outfits in order to make a statement about the female body.
While I do not disagree with the need for the censorship of the female nipple to be revisited, I do however feel that there is a desperate need for such movements to encompass the wider feminine sphere. For instance, when looking at issues like the over-sexualisation of the female nipple, it is paramount that we look at the multi-faceted nature of women in general.
After all the experience of, for example, a Muslim, transgender or African-American woman would be very different to that of a White-American, heterosexual woman and vice versa. Therefore, campaigns and movements need to recognise the complexity of experiencing all the wonderful different types of women that exist in our world; none should be shut out, none should be forgotten, none should be ignored.