Feminism has taught women to rise up and fight for their emancipation. It has taught us to be strong willed and focused on our dreams because they are valid. And, it has given women a taste of victory and power, which has been both a good and a bad thing. The initial struggle for the emancipation of women was against patriarchal systems that oppress and suppress women; systems that continuously put limitations and barriers for women. Fortunately, the struggle continues to bring desirable results as today women are recognized in politics even if has to be through affirmative action or quotas. In this era, more women are breaking through barriers into male dominated industries; women own big businesses and companies; and women command large work forces. The message is clear message: we’re here to stay. Now one begs the question, have we subsequently set ourselves on a path to replace patriarchy with matriarchy - where only a few women rise to the top and rule the rest of the female population with heavy hands? Or, are we holding each other’s hands as women and rising together without feeling the need pull and kick each other down?
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for matriarchy in its terms of giving power to she! I’m all for the growth of women and emancipation, so we can claim our rightful spaces. However, I’m also all for intersectionality. According to Professor Kimberle Crenshaw, The Director of the Center of Intersectionality and Social Policy at Columbia University and the author of the Intersectionality Theory, intersectionality is the idea that women experience discrimination based on the different identities such as gender, race, sexuality and religion, and it is an important tool in getting all women empowered regardless of their intersecting identities. For example, when women were given the right to vote it took another forty years for black women to fully enjoy this right as well whereas when we look at women as one then all rights would spread equally across all identities. Using an intersectional lens amongst ourselves will make us accountable for such internalized discriminations as colorism (favouring light-skinned black girls over dark-skinned black girls). We need to primarily look at each other as women, regardless the shade of brown, tribe, race, religion and sexuality, just to mention a few. I believe that the integration of intersectionality into our feminism is the beginning to the end of the pull her down syndrome! When you identify as a young black woman, the first to graduate in your family or the first to start a business in your generation, you’ve broken a barrier that many other women in different parts of black communities all over the world have not yet managed to break through. Not only is this a victory for yourself but it’s a victory for all women. However, in our generation victories have become subjective, it’s a dog eat dog world and women have joined the band wagon or maybe we’ve just been carried along.
Let’s look at it this way: when you’re in a position of power within an institution, the women below you rely on your support to get to the next level. Alternatively, in a world where you are not in a position of power because some man is sitting pretty on that position, this same woman may have to work three times over to prove herself; she may be vulnerable to extortion also known as sextortion; and this is just one of her vulnerabilities. A woman in a position of power is the next step of elevation for the next woman. It is important to not look at each other as competition but as allies that can do greater good together. So let’s not stand by and watch suppressive systems devour other women when we could elevate them because when we do that we give the systemic oppression and patriarchy a leeway to continuously take advantage of women and give us opportunities only as a form of glorified tokenism.
We are at a point in our struggle that it is important to end the pull her down syndrome, for which we are saying ‘NO’ to women discrediting other women and bringing down other women in order to achieve their own personal interests. When women start looking at each other as women first, it changes the narrative. We still have many battles to fight against patriarchy; and many inequalities still exist in society. The struggle for social justice is bigger than just you and me, it’s bigger than the five women that once looked down on you and now need your help. Feminism is the social engineer that re-constructs narratives - narratives that mold themselves into the corporate and political world as well as every other space that women might occupy. It is important that we stand together and unite without pulling each other down. Support another woman’s business; refer new clients and offer constructive criticism. Be another woman’s support system. Mentor another woman and use your position to empower more women after you. Future generations of black females will know the power of indifference to difference and value the outcomes of a collective rather than individual effort towards an empowered future black female. But first, it begins with you!