Sex & Gender

“hood feminism”: feminism for working-class women

October 1, 2013

Middle-class, white women have always been the poster children of feminism, and regardless of a woman’s race it could always be a rich man’s, err, woman’s movement. Considering the wealth gap between families in the United States have been color-coded and broken down by race, let’s not forget that there is a certain privilege to having the availability and resources to fight for equal rights and battle social disparities.
Writers Mikki Kendall and Jamie Nesbitt Golden created the blog Hood Feminism with the mission to share their personal stories about financial struggle, and discuss the lack of progress there is in feminism for women who are not white, educated and middle class.

By Niesha Miller, AFROPUNK Contributor

“Hood Feminism” opens the discussion to what mainstream feminists are ignoring when fighting and discussing freedoms in education, wealth and sexuality.

In the blog’s introduction, Golden states “While Big Name Feminists are debating The End of Men, women on the margins–women like me–are sleeping at train stations and working double shifts for paltry wages. They are buying school supplies with rent money. They are fighting for citizenship because they aren’t the ‘right kind of immigrants.’”

Kendall later adds, “This site is a place for the other hood chicks, for the ones living in the inner city and navigating poverty, as well as the ones in the country making a dollar stretch.”

A few months ago, the New York Times reported that a study published by the Institute for Public Policy Research argued that feminism “failed working-class women,” suggesting that feminists are more focused on combating men in the boardroom rather than helping out their fellow women.

I like the term “Hood Feminism” because it creates an additional vertical to the movement towards gender equality. Not all women have the same social issues. The word “Hood” isn’t exactly synonymous with a specific race or ethnicity, but when used, people of color usually come to mind.

Women of color have to simultaneously combat racism and sexism. Not that fighting for women’s equality is easy, but many women have to battle the disparities that are caused by racism before having the luxury of solely worrying about how to make it in a man’s world.

The ideology of feminism stems from academia, and ironically many working-class women do not have access to education, especially many who are from the “hood.”

Education isn’t always an option, and not always a priority in many American households, but studies have shown that an education is the foundation to creating a better life for you and your family.

Attending the best schools are supposed to lead to the high paying jobs, that will create the financial stability needed to help a family prosper in a great community, and with all the resources needed to influence the next generation of stable adults.

Many individuals spend the early part of their lives preparing for college by attending the best prep schools, learning second languages, playing instruments and participating in other after-school activities.

While others help their parent(s) keep the household together by learning to be a family contributor at an early age. Working age students in lower-income families sometimes have to work to help pay bills, save for college and juggle after-school activities that sometimes have to be paid for out of pocket if they attend an inner-city school with limited resources. And that’s if students are afforded these “privileges.” Many children drop out of school to help take care of their families if that becomes a required sacrifice.

Women have come a long way fighting for equality in the home, and career and academic fields, however there is a group of young girls who will never get a chance to experience the progression because of these disparities.

Obviously, a group of mainstream feminists can not solve the issues that plague the women of the inner-city, and even if they could it would be a lose, lose situation.

If mainstream feminists continue to have little involvement in the progression of lower-income women, who have much more to lose in the sexist battle for fair pay and equal opportunity, there will continue to be a creation of sub-feminism categories from women whose issues aren’t being heard. But if there is such a thing as a caped, feminist crusade that fights for the equality of ALL women, especially those who might be brown, not the “right kind of immigrants” and/or living in lower-income communities, they’ll be looked at as guilted saviours.

Before any saving, or continued indifference can be given between the various feminists groups, dialogue needs to take place to bridge the gap. It’ll probably be long time before this happen, but communication will have a better chance at working once there there is a genuine concern for different problems that women face despite their individual struggle and background. Focused groups are great for combing through special interests, but unity for all women must be the main objective.