A Gender, Divided

By Zoe Pisierra

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If it was unclear prior to the election, it is not anymore: women are divided. As we women fight for our equal rights, we define the term equality—equal pay, equal opportunities, safety, security, and so on. However, there is another term that merits even greater importance: our. “Our” brings into view what so many that question the feminist movement fail to understand. “Our” signifies the fight for women’s equality as a whole, not personal success as a woman, not dominance over the other gender.

While women, rather than men, are often quick to support human rights, the fact that the majority of white women chose to vote for a man that promoted sexual assault illustrates the marginal importance of feminism and female solidarity in comparison to personal, economic, or otherwise political interests. This election, we witnessed 53% of white women vote for a self-described “pussy” grabber.

While women’s rights have seemingly progressed, the gap between the rights of white women and women of color is stark. This divide is not a recent issue. Reflecting on the origins of the feminist movement prior to the 19th Amendment, the complications of race decomposed the movement of equality for all women. Susan B. Anthony’s noncompliance with the admittance of African American women into the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) was an early crack in the ice, demarcating women’s rights by race. As a way to promote unification amongst white Southern voters, Anthony allowed for the continued division between white and African American women. Over one hundred years later, we not only still see this splintering of women along racial divides, but, as this election has so clearly shown us, we acknowledge the split when it comes to class and age as well.

 

Observing the female vote from a generational perspective, 63% of women aged 18-29 voted for Secretary Clinton (FiveThirtyEight), highlighting the ideals held by today’s younger women; could it be that, comparably, older women did not prioritize the push to break the infamous glass ceiling?

Where does this leave us? As I stood amidst protesters on Fifth Avenue, it was not just women fighting for women’s rights—men, too, stood chanting, “Her body, her rights,” followed by the women, who responded, “My body, my rights.” Today’s feminist movement is not a fight of women against men. Nor is it a fight that solely benefits women. It is a fight for full equality. Similarly, the fight for equality being waged by African Americans is not just a fight for black people. It, too, is a fight for total, unmitigated equality. The feminist movement, along with Black Lives Matter, does not look to downgrade the importance of white men, but rather illuminate their privileges and fight for those who are without them.

As our country erupts in protests and frustration at what we as a nation have caused, we hope that now, finally, we may be able to unite, and expand women’s rights, to a degree unforeseen by the earlier movements for equality. While each previous wave of feminism sought to advance the rights of women, they overlooked the overwhelming fragility that still exists within our gender. Now, in the post-election turmoil, it is vitally important that we understand the movement as a unification of women—women of all races, classes, those who are married and those who remain single—and more so, a unification of all people. While our sisterhood may at times be fractured, we must use these moments of social unrest and discord to seal the divide, to reunite, to establish the movement as “ours” rather than “mine.”

“If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, it is that human rights are women’s rights ... And women’s rights are human rights"

This is video footage of First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton delivering a speech to the Fourth Women's Conference in Beijing, China. This footage is provided by the Clinton Presidential Library.

 

Originally published Fall 2016

Kaylee WarrenComment