This past weekend saw protests and marches around the world in support of International Women’s Day, calling for an end to the exploitation of and violence against women. In the United States, Senator Elizabeth Warren ended her campaign for the presidential nomination, leaving Tulsi Gabbard as the only remaining woman in the race. Many liberal feminists mourned Warren dropping out as a horrible blow against feminism. Meanwhile, those same women nominees have begun to line up behind the Democratic establishment’s pick for president, Joe Biden.
This coalescence around Biden, a politician who has numerous allegations of inappropriate behavior toward women, has a decades-long record of being against abortion and famously led the Senate committee to silence Anita Hill, reveals the hypocrisy of liberal feminist ideology. Instead of a feminism that supports Biden and lifts up a few individual women to positions of power, we need a feminism that is intersectional and promotes the liberation of all women.
We need a feminism that is willing to stand up for transgender and non-binary people unconditionally. The rights of transgender people are under attack in the United States today, with legislation designed to deny trans children access to medical care, law suits to ban trans student athletes and trans women of color being murdered around the country. Trans-exclusionary feminists have sided with conservatives and the religious right rather than stand in solidarity with their fellow women. While trans-exclusionary feminists are upfront with their transphobia, even liberal feminists have the tendency to ignore the voices of trans people. This is why trans people need to be lifted up and centered, otherwise feminists risk leaving them behind.
Likewise, black, Indigenous and people of color must also be centered in feminist politics. Feminism in the United States has a dark history of ignoring BIPOC in their activism, from first-wave feminists excluding black people fighting for the right to vote, to second-wave feminists centering their movement around white, educated, middle-class women. We need an intersectional feminism that recognizes how black women face unique forms of oppression from both racism and misogyny and that recognizes the need not only to smash patriarchy but also to decolonize for Indigenous people.
Liberal feminists also need to reevaluate their position on the rights of sex workers. Groups like the National Organization for Women have come out against the decriminalization of sex work and have been working against sex workers, many of whom are black and trans, who want to be able to work in safety and with dignity. This paternalistic approach places the women who are directly involved with sex work as incapable of advocating for themselves and stands completely against what feminism should be about.
On Monday, thousands of women in Mexico went on strike for a “Day Without Women” to protest the skyrocketing rate of femicides in the country. Actions like the one in Mexico demonstrate how powerful feminism can be when it is combined with an intersectional class analysis. The “Day Without Women” is not about electing a female president or promoting more women CEOs; it is about coming together as a class to protest oppression. We need to embrace the radical socialist origins of International Women’s Day, reject the limitations of liberal feminism and realize that the tools of liberal democracy were never designed to end oppression. The only way we can dismantle patriarchy, white supremacy, colonialism and transphobia is by standing together in solidarity.
Zoey Turturino is a staff columnist for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.