Intersectionality is the inclusion of people of all colors, races, backgrounds and abilities. Intersectional feminism and body positivity is something I staunchly support being that it embraces diversity within the movements- which can be marginalizing to oppressed people, even if unintentionally- and advocates for the representation of all people, not just privileged ones.
Intersectional feminism is an uncomfortable topic for many people, and it's easy to see why: to become a true intersectional feminist, you have to stop and examine your own place within the social structure by recognizing your privilege.
Personally, for example, I'm a white female. White females are the most represented group within both body positive and feminist movements. Just try searching Google images for "black body positive art" or "Asian feminist art" and hardly anything comes up, but when you just search under the umbrella terms of "feminist art" or "body positive art", a plethora of images of beautiful white females appears.
Honestly, this racial disparity isn't something I thought about until a black friend of mine pointed it out to me last year. It must feel very discouraging to have your race be so underrepresented in communities you want to support. I'm committed to bringing more diversity and equal representation to light as much as I can within the movements I'm a part of, because I feel like it's my duty as a privileged white person to do so.
At the same time, I'm also disabled. I have a rare bone disease called Avascular Osteonecrosis as well as high-functioning autism and a learning disability (I can't add, subtract, multiply or divide even single-digit numbers, but I can easily comprehend complex, abstract molecular or astronomical ideas pertaining to things like quantum physics). Being disabled, I know a bit about what it's like to feel underrepresented. People are uncomfortable with the idea of disability, so they'd rather not go out of their way to portray disabled people when advocating for feminism, equality, body positivity, etc. Essentially, if you're not an able white female, you're painfully marginalized by these well-meaning groups.
As such, it's important for able white females to recognize their own privilege and position within these groups and use it to bring repressed minority groups forward into the light.
Keeping this introduction to intersectional feminism in mind, the following content is a powerful open letter to white people addressing their privilege. It contains some harsh truths, but it's an important read for anyone looking to explore their position and learn how to help further the feminist and body positive movements in a way that celebrates diversity rather than perpetuating the domination of the white female majority and subsequent snuffing out of minority voices. Grace makes it clear in the piece that it isn't written with the intent to shame white/privileged people, but rather to make them aware of their position and encourage them to help others instead of continuing to unintentionally hurt them. Enjoy!
Spooky Fat Babe
The following content was written and submitted by Grace Mateo. Thanks, Grace!
I’m not gonna front and act like I haven’t said ignorant shit or made things about me before, but there is a point when you gotta wake up and make an effort. Even I’ve pulled a Dolezal – I used to wear braids, even had a short curly afro – I vibed on a “black card” a friend “gave me” because I “acted black.”
Yes, I know, I know. It gets worse.
In one of my most ignorant moments, I took a deep breath and let, “I am Black” crunch across my dry-ass tongue to a group of mixed women. It didn’t sink in until later what I'd done, and I apologized, and then sat my ass down and began to do my much-needed research.
I am not Black, I am Latina and White. I have black ancestry, yes, but at some point you've gotta stop digging through cultures and start learning and knowing the truth. I love and feel a closeness with the black culture I grew up with in Brooklyn. I appreciate the black body, the black mind, and know that I can feel a great affinity for blackness, but I will never know what it is like to truly experience the black experience. I am a self-identified queer mixed woman, and that experience I can attest to. I don’t completely know the Latina experience nor do I completely know the White experience, but I have attempted to know them and others on a self-discovery journey.
I came to realize three major things about myself –
1.) I don’t have to speak Spanish to know and feel my roots – language is a large piece of my culture, but it is not the only piece.
2.) I don’t have to hate my whiteness and feel guilty about it, that’s not what any of this is about
3.) I do need to take responsibility for who I am, my privileges and how I can make life even a little bit easier by respecting others and knowing and accepting how I am different from them. My feminism is intersectional, and that is the only feminism that should exist.
So, here is my letter to White Women who need to educate themselves, stop playing oblivious and stop pretending that being "color-blind” is something other than a deficiency:
Dear White Women, please, for the love of all humankind learn about intersectionality, all-inclusive feminism, womanism, your inner goddess, and learn to respect the goddesses that are other women. If you are mixed, yes, you are responsible, too.
Dear White Women, don’t just flip your hair and say sorry once you are told women of color aren’t speaking about you specifically – whether or not still listen to people and hear their perspective, I promise you will find truth in the words of others. Instead of making assumptions and becoming enraged, check yourself and check your world – if all you see are people like you and you’ve placed yourself above those who are different then you are part of the problem. You must learn to raise others up not just turn away at your convenience. Life is not that simple for others, so don’t act like your privilege has nothing to do with it.
Dear White Women, take note of your accomplishments. Look around and see what you have created and how you got there. How much of what you are doing is helpful to ALL women, and not just those who look like you? Learn the truth and know your truth. If you had to step over another woman to get where you are then you are a detriment to ALL women.
Dear White Women, you are the ideal – that is not a good thing, and I am not sorry for letting you know that.
There should be no ideal woman, all women are beautiful – skinny legs, fat ass, big and little bellies, pimples, flabby skin, bald, big ears, small and big lips, stretch marks, sunken eyes, dark skin, pale skin, short, tall, wide and narrow – every bit of every woman deserves to be represented, not just one type.
One of the reasons you have so many problems accepting yourself is because all you see is one version of yourself everywhere! Imagine how others feel who are not represented at all. Your voice has power in places that so many others do not, use that voice to help them. You have the power to make other people visible in a positive light – don’t just throw some black girls in your music video and act like you did your part, you did nothing but perpetuate the ownership and sexualization of black bodies for the pleasure of White consumers.
Dear White Women, you have the opportunity, the leverage, and the connections to change things for other women.
Use your resources to build a bridge, not a gap.
Take the time to listen, attempt to learn and understand lives outside of your own. Understand that you are more than your body, you are more than your looks and you are more than the desires of others – you are not here for the consumption of others, so what makes you think it is alright to treat other bodies that way? Make it a point to learn about appropriation, learn about how stealing parts of peoples cultures for profit and fun is wrong, and learn how you can be inspired through learning without stealing.
Dear White Women, nobody is perfect. Don’t turn this into a “woe is me” moment.
Take responsibility for your actions – or actionlessness.
Make it a point to learn from your mistakes and change what you can – how you speak about others, appropriation, and how you treat others. Privilege is not just about money, it is about so much more, and you can use that privilege to change things for others. Our sisters are being beaten, raped, they are missing, and being killed in jails. How is it even possible that we not move to strike? We must dismantle the system! Don’t rely upon others to make a change when the world is pitted against them, use your privilege to work with fellow women. Hear others’ stories without interjecting your experiences. Just because you think you know doesn’t actually mean you know. When you stop talking and listen, then you can hear and help.
Dear White Women, yes, we are all sisters, but you are not bigger or better and you don’t have to be. Please don’t misinterpret this as being mean or wrong, all of this is good and right because I have done and said stupid shit, too. That is not okay, but what is okay is to realize the mistakes one has made and take it upon oneself to learn and make changes inside and out.
Innately, we are all equal, so let’s make that fact a reality for all to know and see.
You can find more content from Grace Mateo on her blog, her art website or find her on Twitter @MateoGallery and Instagram @gproblematica. xoxo