If we imagine today’s feminist movement as a huge, worldwide group project, the same principles apply. Women who are white, straight, middle-class, thin, cisgender, and able-bodied, whilst still oppressed for their gender, have the loudest voices of any women working on the project because of the privilege they experience. Women who are oppressed for other reasons than simply being women (such as race, sexuality, or class) are therefore often talked over or dismissed, despite experiencing unique problems from that of women with far more privilege, who focus more on what affects them and are often unprepared to listen to others. ‘Mainstream feminism’ today focuses largely on the wage gap or unfair beauty standards in Western countries, because these subjects affect even the most privileged women, who are often dubbed ‘white feminists’. The fact that these issues are being addressed is not a bad thing; the problem lies in how most popular media outlets seem unable to look past them.
The most read feminist articles in The Independent focus on unequal pay, the tampon tax, and Taylor Swift. They fail to include pieces on how women of colour are either fetishized or demonized in modern culture and face far lower wages than white women, as well as police brutality. Muslim women are perceived as either forced into their religion, or as dangerous fanatics, but are never considered to have autonomy. 30-40% of lesbian or bisexual women have experienced mental health problems, and 11/20 LGBT homicide victims in 2014 were transgender women.
‘White heterosexual feminists’, by only speaking and caring about what affects them, are becoming the self-centred and domineering ones in the group project. Because to create a world with full gender equality, we cannot only focus on gender, and as women with the ability to be heard, we cannot ignore those with less privilege whom we often silence. Nor can we speak for them; instead, we should amplify their voices.