Thursday, 23 August 2018

Concerned, meet terrified: Intersectional feminism and the Women's March

Women's Studies International Forum Volume 69, July–August 2018, Pages 49-55 Women's Studies International Forum Author links open overlay panelSierraBrewerLaurenDundes Show more rights and content Highlights • Historically, feminism has prioritized the agenda of white, middle class women. • Interview data from 20 young black women reveal disillusionment with white feminism. • Pussy hats at the Women's March detracted from issues deemed more pressing. • The march's focus on Trump was at odds with priorities of marginalized communities. • White women's credibility belied a commitment to sustained activism and inclusivity. Abstract The first US Women's March on January 21, 2017 seemingly had the potential to unite women across race. To assess the progress of feminism towards an increasingly intersectional feminist approach, the authors collected and analyzed interview data from 20 young African American women who shared their impressions of the Women's March that followed Donald Trump's inauguration during the month after the march. Interviewees believed that Trump's election and his sexism spurred the march, prompting the participation of many women who had not previously embraced feminism. Interviewees suggested that the march provided white women with a means to protest the election rather than a way to address social injustice disproportionately affecting lower social classes and people of color. Interviewees believed that a racially inclusive feminist movement would remain elusive without a greater commitment to intersectional feminism. Previous article in issueNext article in issue Keywords Women's MarchTrumpClintonWhite feminismIntersectional feminismPussy hatRaceGenderIntersectionalityAfrican American Introduction “If I see that white folks are concerned, then people of color need to be terrified.” In the above quotation, Women's March co-chair Tamika Mallory acknowledges that social locations shape reality (Cullen, 2017; Michaud, 2017; Tolentino, 2017), including how the intersection of race and gender relates to reactions to the first Women's March on January 21, 2017. The march occurred subsequent to the November 8, 2016 US election of Donald Trump, despite his blatant sexism (Darweesh & Abdullah, 2016). These events raise the question of whether a diverse group of women can unite and prioritize goals without making oppression specific to African American women invisible. Media coverage of the Women's March, which drew over two million participants around the globe (Przybyla & Schouten, 2017), featured women wearing woven pink “pussy hats” as a symbol of their outrage about a Trump presidency. Trump had been elected even after bragging that male celebrities can do anything they want to women with impunity, including, to “Grab them by the pussy,” a 2005 statement Trump dismissed as locker room talk. For many women, this comment that was taped on a hot mic and leaked by the media in October 2016 (Fahrenthold, 2017) seemed to be the tipping point to rally against the unacceptable treatment of women. News of the hot mic comment spawned t-shirts and pink “pussy hats” (Pussy Hat Project, 2017) that helped galvanize women, at least white women, in a way that other sexist revelations about Trump had not (e.g., Trump's body shaming of Latina Alicia Machado, crowned Miss Universe in 1996) (Chozick & Grynbaum, 2017). Indeed, the 2005 hot mic comment appeared to be a principal focal point of the march for white women galvanized by Trump bragging that fame allowed him to be sexually aggressive with women without their consent. Yet media coverage of the march left unanswered whether the causes célèbres for many white women had resonated in the same way for African American women whose goals were arguably at odds with the imperial feminism of the losing Democratic candidate in the 2016 presidential race, Hillary Clinton. Some believe that Clinton's approach to feminism constituted imperial feminism that centers on white narratives, depriving women of color of agency (such as ignoring how fair pay and child care affect women's reproductive decisions) (Eisenstein, 2016; Featherstone, 2016). Disproportionate attention to the voices of white women at the march (Hancock, 2016; Rose-Redwood & Rose-Redwood, 2017) exacerbated racial fault lines that were fueled by Trump's campaign rhetoric. Trump was well known for promising to protect Americans from Mexicans whom he labeled criminals, part of his election strategy in which immigrants were portrayed as threatening invaders who pose a financial burden (Ngo, 2017; Perez Huber, 2016), rhetoric that arguably warranted as much attention as Trump's pussy comment (as our data will reflect). The racial fault lines were clearly apparent in signs carried at the march that belied inter-racial cohesion. There was some media coverage of signs that women of color carried that revealed fissures in the feminist movement. Tag lines included, “Being Scared Since 2016 Is Privilege,” “White Women Elected Trump,” “White Lives Matter Too Much” and “I'll see you nice white ladies at the next #BlackLivesMatter march, right?” (Richardson, 2017, paragraphs 9 and 10). There were also media reports questioning the genuineness of white women's commitment to feminism given their palpable excitement surrounding participation in the march, as noted by Ijeoma Oluo (editor at large of feminist website The Establishment): seeing white women “so excited — buying plane tickets, knitting hats, doing all of these things, getting ready to get out and march in the street, and you're wondering, ‘Where was that need to get out and say something when we were being shot?’” (Richardson, 2017, paragraph 11). Oluo's comment about the urgency to act when Black people are “being shot” coincides with research showing that many African American women at the march prioritized issues of racial justice like police brutality (Fisher, Dow, & Ray, 2017). These examples suggest concerns that white feminists lack motivation to prioritize issues that disproportionately affect Black communities, including those spearheaded by the Black Lives Matter movement. This paper provides context for the dissension between white and Black feminists, including historical background about the role of race in feminism. We explore African American interviewees' perceptions that white women focused on Trump more so than on broader issues of social justice, views that highlight the importance of intersectionality. These viewpoints expose a lack of cross-racial unity that fuels distrust of white women allies which in turn suggests the need for a more inclusive agenda in the modern feminist movement. Historical basis of the divide between white and black feminists The racial divide in the perspectives of white and black feminists dates back to both first-wave feminism (that includes the women's suffrage movement) as well as second-wave feminism of the early 1960s to early 1990s. Hallmarks of second-wave feminism, Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique (1963), the founding of the National Organization for Women (NOW) (1966), and women's consciousness-raising in the late 1960s, reflect the movement's focus on the goals of middle-class white women seeking equality with men (Breines, 2006; Collins, 2002; Crenshaw, 1989; hooks, 1982; Roth, 1999; Silliman, Fried, Ross, & Gutierrez, 2004; Thompson, 2002). Nevertheless, women of color were part of second-wave feminism although their contributions are sometimes overlooked, e.g., the southern Californian multiracial feminist Califia Community, formed in 1975, that was committed to the education of all women, independent of their sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, race, or ethnicity (Pomerleau, 2013). Valk's (2008) exhaustive study of archival sources, publications, and oral history about activism in Washington, D.C. from the mid-1960s to 1980 details how Black Power organizations in the 1960s played an important role in the feminist and other social movements, documenting that the feminist movement involved Black women. Nevertheless, racial differences among feminists have been called hierarchical rather than interdependent, prompting an enduring sense of invisibility among women of color beginning in the second-wave feminist movement (Moraga & Anzaldúa, 2015). The way in which information about the feminist movement has been reported also complicates conceptions of feminism among people of color. For example, crucial achievements of women of color have often been incorrectly presented as occurring after the gains of white feminists or ignored completely (Roth, 1999; Thompson, 2002). White feminists portrayed black abolitionist Sojourner Truth as a “strong and folksy ex-slave” in violation of Truth's preference for self-representation as “a middle-class lady” (Craig, 2002, p. 7). The social construction of hegemonic second-wave feminist accounts became “the official stories” of the white women's movement (Sandoval, 1991, p. 5), prompting women of color to demand that feminism expand recognition of the implications of social class and race (Thompson, 2002). In particular, Crenshaw (1989) has brought attention to the legal system's failure to redress compounded discrimination based on both gender and race. Crenshaw developed the concept of intersectionality in her capacity as a Harvard Law School graduate and professor at UCLA and Columbia Law Schools. In particular, she decried an appeals court decision, Degraffenreid vs General Motors, 1977, in which five black women sued General Motors for both race and gender discrimination. Citing legal precedent, the court decreed that claims of race and gender discrimination must be examined separately. Crenshaw objected to the finding that race and sex discrimination must be assessed as separate entities, without consideration of compounded discrimination. She worries that overlooking how the intersectional experiences of Black women differ from both white women and Black men makes Black women invisible while in plain sight (Crenshaw, 1989). Although there has been great variation in the multilayered feminist movement, some white feminists have been unable to see their status as “both oppressed and oppressor.” As a result, a number of feminist women of color have viewed the politics of white women as bourgeois: “narrow at best and frivolous at worst” (Thompson, 2002, p. 342). This class and race “unconsciousness” among some white feminists (Roth, 1999, p. 99) resulted in second-wave feminist treatment of sexism as the ultimate barrier without adequate consideration of how it intersects with class, race and hetero-normative-based oppression, an insensitivity with lasting repercussions for a more racially united feminist movement. There have been many obstacles keeping white and black feminists apart, however the failure to recognize how race and class intersect was “the key obstacle” to more complete cross-race acceptance of second-wave feminism (Roth, 2004, p. 101) At times, instead of reaching across differences in race, class and sexual preference in order to bond over shared political beliefs, white feminists have controlled the movement to facilitate their entry into the capitalist patriarchal power structure, seeking to become part of the same system they decried as oppressive (hooks, 1982; Yancy, 2000). Some black women also feared that second-wave feminism would subsume the black movement (Breines, 2006; Newman, 1999). In response, groundbreaking movements like the Combahee River Collective, a Black feminist lesbian organization (1974 to 1980) that split from the National Black Feminist Organization, demonstrated the critical role of identity politics and multiple interlocking oppressions that revealed how the white feminist movement was not sufficiently inclusive (Breines, 2006). The Women's March provides a contemporary opportunity to examine racial solidarity during a time of socio-political tumult. The event has spawned calls for dialogue about the ability of women to unify despite divisive politics of difference (see Moss & Maddrell, 2017). To aid our understanding of the extent to which African American women felt excluded from the feminist movement, we analyze interview data from 20 young African American women asked to share their view of the 2017 Women's March in the month following the event. Methods Our study of African American women's perceptions of the Women's March was shaped in part by anecdotal observations of our Facebook newsfeeds in the days surrounding the march, and particularly the day of the march, January 21, 2017. Posts by numerous white women supporting the march sharply contrasted with an almost complete lack of commentary, positive or negative, about the march by either author's African American female Facebook friends. The first author, an African-American college student, conducted Institutional Review Board-approved interviews of a convenience sample of 20 of her African American female friends, most of whom were college students at several different colleges, the majority of which are located within 1 h of Washington DC, where the largest Women's March took place in 2017. These friends were contacted via text message and asked to reply to the first author if they were willing assist her in an independent study project examining African American women's views of the Women's March. Although no questions specifically addressed interviewees' political orientation or connection to feminism, the majority of interviewees did not reveal any connection to a feminist group. Two of the 22 friends contacted did not respond to the initial (and only) text message soliciting participation. Eighteen agreed to meet in person for an interview while two were only available to answer questions by phone. The in-person interviews were conducted in a private space by the first author alone and lasted about a half hour. All of the interviews were completed within one month of the January 21st march (in 2017). Interviewees replied to an open-ended question, asked in a neutral tone of voice to avoid any suggestion of a desired response: “What did you think of the recent Women's March?” All interviewees are anonymized in this paper with randomly assigned pseudonyms. While the original plan was to tape and transcribe the interviews, none of the interviewees were comfortable being recorded. Instead, the first author typed notes on her laptop. Although the response rate was 91% of those contacted, it is notable that the topic was sensitive enough to preclude recordings, despite that the interviewees knew that data would be anonymous, and despite them having a personal connection to the interviewer. The interviewees' unwillingness to be taped reveals the sensitivity of the topic and underscores the need for members of the African American community to document a perspective that might otherwise go unreported. Data analysis consisted of the first author transcribing all of the interviews and assigning pseudonyms. The second author then read through all of the interview data to compile a list of themes that were relevant to intersectionality. Emergent categories were extracted and honed until thematic saturation was achieved and no new themes could be identified. The authors then selected examples of statements illustrating each theme from among the interviewees (see Merriam, 2007). This technique allowed for inclusive representation of the views of the 20 interviewees in order to most accurately reflect the total sample. Results Overall support for the Women's March was tepid at best, with all interviewees expressing reservations about the progress that could result from the march; only two interviewees attended the march. Many were outright critical of white feminism and what they saw as insincere or self-serving efforts that white women considered feminism. A number of themes in the data relate to interviewees' concern about the lack of intersectionality and how black women must compensate for their marginalized status in society. These interview data point to race-based fissures in the feminist movement that reflect the need for a more inclusive modern feminist movement. The following themes are discussed: recognition of the importance of self-advocacy, racially-divergent reasons for attending the march, lack of cross-racial unity in priorities, distrust of white women allies and calls for a more inclusive and relevant feminist movement. Recognition of the importance of self-advocacy Interviewees expressed the importance of their identity not just as black women, but also as part of a group that cannot count on white women to promote their interests. Monique, one of the two women interviewed who attended the march, appreciated the chance to be part of the movement but with an acute awareness of challenges facing black women: I'm a big advocate for women's rights, so I was extremely happy as an African American woman to speak up about my oppression not only as a woman but as an African American woman. We are looked down upon most of the time by society. This march gave me a voice. Monique clarified that having a voice requires self-advocacy: Nobody can tell if you as a woman are struggling with something if you are unable to speak up and stand up for yourself. The march is only a platform for women, regardless of their race, to speak up about their issues. Monique appeared to see the march as only a platform to air issues but not necessarily as a likely means to prompt any action on those issues. Patrice echoed the view that black women can count only on themselves: As an African American woman, we need to stand up for ourselves. The white, Hispanic, or Asian race isn't going to help us for our own fight. Patrice's statement harkens back to first-wave feminism, in which the co-existence of anti-slavery and women's suffrage movements complicated the relationship between black and white feminists, especially after the 1870 enfranchisement of black men before women. Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton devoted themselves to women's suffrage, but then renounced their commitment to racial justice and excluded black women because they resented black men gaining voting rights before white women (that finally happened in 1920, 50 years after black men) (Stansell, 1992), foreshadowing a black man's ascendancy to the US presidency prior to a woman. Furthermore, interviewees' awareness of how the interests of women of color can be subverted support Crenshaw's argument that both antiracist and antisexist movements failed Black women. The other interviewee who attended the march, Quiona, recognized the impetus for the march was not related to black women per se, but was nevertheless welcoming of any gains, even if prompted by white feminism: I feel good about it. I think it's good women are standing up for what they believe in… The march was more white feminism but these issues can still apply to us. Her statement reflects optimism yet she still mentions that white feminism took center stage at the march. These data suggest that interviewees recognize the need for people of color to self-advocate. In particular, they are aware that as African American women, they cannot wait for others to embrace causes that are important to them, but rather must work against oppression that affects their demographic group in particular. Racially-divergent reasons for attending the march Many interviewees noted that Trump's win in the presidential race against Hillary Clinton spawned the march, even though the election of a white man who made flagrantly sexist—and racist–remarks is only a symptom of the disproportionate power held by white men. Quiona remarked: Trump was the cause of the Women's March. If Hillary Clinton had been elected, I don't think the Women's March would have happened. Sheila specifically noted how motivation to attend the march varied by race: Women of different races had different reasons for partaking in this march. Once racism, prejudice, etc. are no longer a serious problem, then maybe women of different races can come together and fight for the same goal. Sheila viewed racism and prejudice as a wedge between white women and women of color that stymies unity. Implicit in her statement is the expectation that only if racism and prejudice abate will it be possible to join forces, implying that white women will not fight alongside them for these goals that do not directly affect them. Even in the event that the problems of racism improve, Sheila's use of the word “maybe” connotes her uncertainty about cross-racial unity. Two other interviewees, Fia and Gladys, were also generally positive, but believed that Trump's disrespect for women had spawned the march and thus questioned whether it signified a commitment to ongoing feminist activism and issues of intersectional social justice or was simply a vehicle to protest Trump's election. Other interviewees emphasized that the march was not only more about white women's anger over Trump's election, but also provided a chance to re-direct attention to complaints prioritized by white women. For example, Chanelle said: I feel like it's pointless. They wouldn't have had the Women's March if Trump hadn't been elected president. So is that real feminism? Um, no– that's not real feminism. That was white feminism trying to take over the media spotlight. Consistent with critiques of second-wave feminism, Chanelle saw white women unduly taking credit for progress in the feminist movement and monopolizing media attention (Mellinger, 2013; Newkirk, 2002), a view echoed by Aria: A lot of news sources interviewed white women and not the black women, even if a black woman was in their group. And wearing the pussy hat. Interviewees were concerned that white women's attendance at the march was more about protesting Trump's election and did not signal a commitment to sustained activism. Furthermore, some believed that white women's credibility had resulted in the media's focus on their point of view, even though interviewees saw white women as lacking awareness of or solicitude about issues critical to African American women. Lack of cross-racial unity in priorities Some interviewees admitted to disillusionment with white feminism that made them dismiss the importance of the march. Ella: I really didn't keep up with it or look it up. I didn't see much of it on social media. I wasn't interested in it. I don't have a feeling towards it. You just saw bunch of white women marching. It didn't apply to me—it was white feminism. Tia also commented that race can prevent meaningful interpersonal connections, noting that both race and social class can create divisions: You can't really connect to someone of a different race on a deep personal level. Or you're not going to have things in common if you're poor and someone's rich. You won't have the same issues. Ophelia saw the march as reflecting white feminism but also recognized the need for more racial sensitivity across the board, including among black women: This march focused more on white women's issues and rights over your body rather than equality rights for all women. We're not listening to other women's issues. The white women probably don't know the black women's issues and black women don't know Latina women's issues. Another interviewee, Aria, cited transgendered women as those excluded, also noting the focus on Trump's crass statement: I think it's a good concept to have all different women coming together but I feel like the march excluded a lot of African-American and transgendered women because most of the signs were talking about Donald Trump's statement, ‘Grab her by her pussy.’ Darlene also acknowledged the exclusion of the LGBTQIA+ community: I would have liked to show my support to people that attended the march but it didn't apply to them. For example, trans people were at the march, but they kept talking about ovaries and vaginas a lot and I know they would have felt uncomfortable or didn't have a place. In addition, some interviewees thought that the pussy hat theme detracted from the event's credibility. Belinda believed that it trivialized feminism and contrasted it with Black Lives Matters protests that are monitored by police and constrained by restrictions. The Women's March was for white feminism because most of them just reacted to the Trump statement, “I'm going to grab her by her pussy.” It was just childish to me; the pussy hat makes fun of real feminism. It's a protest—not a fashion statement. They're saying, “He's not my president.” Meanwhile, you're still on that one phrase, with the focus on the pussy hats. The jovial mood of the “protest” as carnival-like (Hu, 2017) may have contributed to Belinda's disdain. Furthermore, resignation about the failure of the women's movement to make Black women equal partners underscored the plight of disenfranchised constituencies in general, triggering what Collins (2002) calls collective agency. This mindset is consistent with the commitment of feminist activists of color to “work for the common good and for a common cause,” in opposition to the US's culture of individualism (Roth, 2004, p. 229). For example, Nina opined: Women of different races can unify but it is up to those who have a platform to help those that don't. Neither black nor Latina women's issues were presented. Latina women are looked down on because most Americans believe they shouldn't be in America. They believe they all come from another country. It's really hard for them, especially since Trump is president with his idea of building a wall. These statements illustrate that respondents were concerned about not only about race-based divisions but also about sexuality-based marginalization. The focus on the pussy hat as a symbol of solidarity at the march was therefore alienating to some respondents. As a result, some dismissed the pussy hats as irrelevant to the serious issues facing disenfranchised populations. Distrust of white women allies Many of our interviewees noted the irony of white women focusing on Trump's pussy comment while at the same time, over half (53%) of white women who voted cast their ballot for him (compared to 4% of black women) (CNN, 2016), giving Trump the unanticipated advantage he needed to win. Darlene: I appreciated how many people come out and show their reactions about the elections. I wish people had paid attention to him while he was running. The majority of people there were white women and statistics show that they were also the main ones who voted for him. It was people that attended the march that voted for him and regret their decision. The fact that the subsequent Women's Marches in 2018 drew notably smaller (although still substantial) crowds more than a year after Trump's election (Talbot, 2018) potentially serves as a reminder that within the constituency of white women, some supported Trump in spite of his pussy comment while others were motivated only because of the crass comment. For the latter group, their commitment to “feminism” may have abated over time. In other words, the smaller crowds in the second year could have stoked concerns that feminist issues beyond protesting Trump's election lack the same urgency, calling into question white women's commitment to feminism. Channelle also shared her distrust of white feminists: If Hillary had been elected president, the people that was out there wouldn't have been out there. Some of them voted for Trump. Matter of fact, they wouldn't even probably have celebrated Hillary for making history. A lot of white women didn't even like Hillary. Meanwhile, they claim they're for feminism. Okay, if the people at the March was really for feminism, then Hillary would have been president. Chanelle's suspicions about white women's commitment to feminism and potential hypocrisy reveal an unwillingness to trust them. Although it is unclear how many white women who had attended the march were in fact Trump voters, Darlene's and Chanelle's statements nevertheless reflect distrust of white women who seemingly could afford to be lackadaisical about Trump when he was running for president. Belinda also speculated about white women's support of Trump: This march just focused on white women's issues, because I didn't see a sign like, “Equal rights” or “Same pay,” etc. And most of these women out here probably voted for Trump. Belinda's remarks coincide with complaints that second-wave feminists insufficiently prioritized issues critical to the most disenfranchised such as worries about employment and income (see BLS, 2014). These concerns are exacerbated by the belief, that several interviewees expressed, that white women “look down on” black women. These kinds of comments about white women's lack of respect for women of color likely drove distrust of white women and skepticism about their commitment to feminism: Hadia: Women came together and protested for a common right. I do feel like some people went there just to say they attended. I don't think that many white women actually believe or stand up for women's rights. White women supported Trump just couple months ago. The belief that women attended the march in order to pay lip service to feminist causes in the absence of a true commitment to effect social change reflects the view that White women can opt out of feminism at will in contrast to non-white and/or poor women's need to embrace the feminist movement as a matter of urgency (hooks, 2000; Roth, 2004). Some interviewees specifically articulated their sense of marginalization and disconnection from white feminists: Cicely: I do not think we can all fight for the same goal. I think it needs to be acknowledged that there are several extra walls that women of color have to overcome to get the same rights as a white male. Interestingly, Cicely does not demand that the walls be dismantled, but rather that they be “acknowledged.” Her choice of words reveal a certain amount of resignation about the slow speed of progress for women of color that underlies the historical and sociopolitical context for many Black women's lived experiences (Breines, 2006). Jackie was more direct about her lower expectations for the inclusion of issues important to Black women: Black women's issues aren't talked about in society. We just have to live with it. Interviewees were clear about their lack of confidence in white women's ability or motivation to fight for change. Disaffection resulted both from white women's lack of understanding about the experiences of Black women as well as their unwillingness to subvert the gender hierarchy, with its disproportionate impact on women of color. Calls for a more inclusive and relevant feminist movement On top of feeling alienated from feminism due to the legacy of historical exclusion of Black women, some interviewees were upset by what they saw as the modern feminist preoccupation with trivial matters in the face of pressing concerns of African Americans: Darlene: Feminism focuses on little petty events in America like, “I don't want to shave my underarms” or ‘I want to show my nipple.’ These things cater to a small group of women and in my opinion are petty things to decide to protest about. When we make others aware of a lot of issues that we're facing, these people try to make our concerns seem invalid. Regular feminism directly affects only white women, just as in the past when minorities were ignored and neglected when fighting for equality. Tia relates these same concerns to a lack of white commitment to the Black Lives Matter movement: The Women's March was a cardinal example of how the exclusive, predominantly white women's movement takes to the streets and protests issues that directly affect them [while] many of these same “nice white ladies” are nowhere to be seen or heard at Black Lives Matter protests or any other protest about important race issues. Tia's indignation is consistent with findings that compared to other demographic groups, African American college women are most upset about shootings of unarmed black people (Robertson & Dundes, 2017). Darlene asserts that the solution is promoting womanism, as opposed to “feminism,” a term associated with white women to the exclusion of women of color (Hudson-Weems, 1998): If we held a campus march for womanists, we wouldn't exclude any women of any color. That's the beauty of womanism—it's for everyone; anyone on campus can feel included. Darlene's highlighting of the feeling of inclusion was underscored by interview data about general problems interviewees deemed paramount (see Table 1). Interviewees most commonly cited microaggressions, manifested as the expression of negative stereotypes about Black people. Table 1. Six most pressing concerns. Concern Number of interviewees that mentioned concern 1. Negative stereotyping and stigmatization of black people (e.g., lazy, incompetent, less educated, loud, angry) 16 2. Raising sons and fearing for their lives due to police brutality against black people 4 3. Underrepresentation of black people in media and high powered jobs 4 4. Unemployment, drug abuse, pregnancy, divorce, survival on a single mother household income, lack of property ownership (and equity) 4 5. Wage inequality affecting both black women and black men 3 6. Limited job opportunities for black women and need to work harder than white women to prove worth 3 Discussion As conveyed in the epigraph at the beginning of this paper, what may be abstract concerns for some white women can be terrifying realities for women of color. Table 1 reflects that most the issues mentioned by the interviewees involve some combination of race, gender and social class. The intersectionality of the concerns connotes a specificity that suggests that they are less hypothetical and more immediate. More importantly, the table also demonstrates the disjunction between the focus of the women's march and issues of concern to the interviewees. The concerns in Table 1 also suggest that Black women are held responsible for the uplift of other black people in need. In concern 4, interviewees raise “survival issues” (Roth, 2004, p. 45), or problems that underlie the need for intersectional feminism. In fact, survival issues prompted Black female activists in the 1960s to prioritize the role of class more so than gender or race (Roth, 2004, p. 100). These survival issues drive women's dual commitment to group survival and institutional transformation that incorporates how schools, housing, employment, and government reflect intersecting oppression (Collins, 2002). The range of challenges indicates that Black women face significant pressure to extend their efforts beyond women's issues. Feminism that does not aim to emancipate every woman has been called mere “self-aggrandizement,” according to feminist Barbara Smith (Thompson, 2002, p. 340). In line with this characterization, many of our interviewees questioned whether white women who see themselves as feminists truly care about issues that do not directly affect them. Interviewees advocated intersectional feminism, but felt disconnected from the feminist movement. The need for white feminism to take into account the impact of race is critical, but bell hooks surmises that the racial hierarchy will persist because of its historical roots: “Prior to slavery, patriarchal law decreed white women were lowly inferior beings, the subordinate group in society. The subjugation of black people allowed them to vacate their despised position and assume the role of a superior” (hooks, 1982, p. 153). The sincerity of white women in their avowals of the need to fight inequality is seen as suspect, as they did not appear to recognize how spending money to travel to the march and missing work to do so was a luxury less available to women of color, especially single parents. White women posing for selfies in pussy hats (Obie, 2017) and posting self-congratulatory material on social media could come across as simply parroting rhetoric about changing the status quo or recognizing their white privilege, when in fact some seek to protect their own interests and social standing. Calls to recognize the need to work towards a more intersectional feminist approach in the 2018 Women's March (Dupuy, 2017; Solis, 2018) suggest that a racial divide persists, although there was reportedly some attention to the perspective of groups that felt excluded in the 2017 Women's March (Compton, 2018). There was a recurrence of this same uneasiness about white women's loyalties less than a year after the Women's March in the aftermath of an Alabama special senatorial race on December 12, 2017 in which a controversial Republican, Roy Moore, lost due partly to allegations of sexual misconduct (as well as suspected racism). Despite the election occurring in the midst of the #MeToo movement that highlighted the societal need to confront “a climate of serial sexual predation” and the recognition of the “Silence Breakers” in Time magazine's “2017 Person of the Year” (Gilbert, 2017, para 5; Zacharek, Dockterman, & Edwards, 2017), there was evidence of an explicit divide between African American and white women; any signs of intersectional feminism were conspicuously absent: 27% of white men and 35% of white women versus 93% of Black men and 98% of Black women voted for Moore's opponent, Doug Jones (making him the first Democrat elected to the Senate from Alabama since 1992) (Meza, 2017). African American columnist Dahleen Glanton credits Black women for defeating Moore, noting their perspective derived in part from knowing that: “knights in shining armor don't come for us [while]. . . White women have the choice to opt out whenever they choose” (Glanton, 2017, para 24, 26). Despite racial differences among feminists, it would be inaccurate to dismiss the efforts of white women in general, either historically or contemporarily. Feminist scholars have advocated for recognition that, “the struggles of some white women against racism does not belittle the contributions of women of color or undercut the need for white women to continually challenge racism, even if those challenges were pitifully small in relation to what needs to be done” (Kennedy, 2008, p. 511). In other words, despite conflicting positions on the meaning of feminism, the wish to effect positive change and to work through differences allows for progress towards unity, even in the presence of divisions by class, race, and sexuality (Valk, 2010). Laudable models for feminist action, however, can provide fodder for devising strategies to address inter-racial dissension (Mattsson, 2014; Smith & Dundes, 2016). Black Feminist organizations from 1968 to 1980 made headway with “constant negotiation between separatism from and coalitions with white feminists and black liberation activists and organizations” with most of their impact at the grassroots level, including neighborhood health fairs (Springer, 2005, p. 90). The feminist women's health advocacy group, the National Women's Health Network (NWHN), offers an additional exemplar that is extremely sensitive to issues of race and class. NWHN emphasized organizational support for activists of color from the outset as well as a critique of health care that repudiated racism, classism and sexism. While exposing such divides engendered deep disagreement, the dialogue within NWHN ultimately resulted in a more inclusive process designed to improve access to quality health care across race and social class (Palmer & Sass, 2013; Silliman et al., 2004). Its initiatives, such as Raising Women's Voices, demonstrate how feminist efforts that take into account race, ethnicity, social class, immigration status, disabilities and sexual or gender identity help ensure equitable health care access (Raising Women's Voices, 2017). Limitations Our sample consisted of a small group of African American millennials drawn from the first author's social circle and is therefore not representative of Black women; it is likely that 20 African American women who attended the march would have had different views. In addition, references in this paper to black or white feminists might incorrectly imply that each group comprises a unified or homogenous entity when in fact each group has variation in social class, educational opportunities, health issues, LGBTQIA+ considerations, etc. that play a role in the degree to which women feel connected to feminism. We cannot generalize the perceptions expressed by our interviewees to young women from different ethnicities, social classes, and sexualities, critical variables that merit attention in future research. Finally, fruitful initiatives like NWHN, Black Lives Matter, and #MeToo should be studied to determine their ability to attract women from a wide range of backgrounds. Conclusion Our interview data reveal that African American women did not see the Women's March as part of the feminist movement. Instead, the interviewees felt that Trump's election, and especially his pussy comment, spurred the march and the participation of many women who had not previously embraced feminism. Specifically, the march was perceived as a means to protest the election rather than a way to address social injustice disproportionately affecting the lower social classes and people of color. The subtext of many interviewee comments was that if the pussy comment galvanized white women, but longstanding inequality of African American women and police shootings had not, then a truly racially inclusive feminist movement remains elusive. These findings suggest that addressing these concerns requires a more visibly intersectional feminist approach to social issues. The need for visibility raises the question of how to make the movement more inclusive. These findings are also relevant to the #MeToo movement that was attributed in part to reactions to Trump's leaked mic comment. African American Tarana Burke, #MeToo movement originator, is one of a number of African American female voices calling for racial equality in the attention to and treatment of sexual assault survivors of color (Hill, 2017; Krischer, 2017; PBS News Hour, 2017; Zacharek et al., 2017). Although it may be unrealistic to expect the imminent elimination of racial divisions among feminists, it can only help to acknowledge and discuss differences in perspective and encourage mutual support among those seeking change. White feminists cannot afford complacency in cases where Black women's voices are marginalized, overlooked or appropriated. We urge attention to the disillusionment of young African American women whose energy can help invigorate a movement capable of bringing about imperative social change. Acknowledgements We are grateful to the editor and the reviewers for their extensive and helpful feedback. References BLS. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014 BLS. Bureau of Labor Statistics Characteristics of minimum wage workers, 2014 (2014) (Table 1) Breines, 2006 W. Breines The trouble between us: An uneasy history of white and black women in the feminist movement Oxford University Press, Oxford (2006) Chozick and Grynbaum, 2017 A. Chozick, M.M. 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