Through different essays on issues such as gun violence, hunger, poverty, education, housing and much more, Mikki Kendall reiterates in each essay how the experiences of the marginalised are often ignored in regards to these basic needs. She conveys how it is time the feminist movement stopped focusing on the “issues of a few” and more on “larger issues” because that is how equality is secured for the entire feminist movement.
I would like to point out that I am a ‘Hood Feminist’ – this is where I stand where it comes to feminism.
“My feminism is rooted in an awareness of how race and gender and class all affect my ability to be educated, receive medical care, gain and keep employment, as well as how those things can sway authority figures in their treatment of me.”
I got this book after having a discussion with my friend about the feminist movement. I was unsure about where I stood with it, simply because I felt excluded from a movement that was meant to be reflective of my experiences as a Black woman.
“For a movement that is meant to represent all women, it often centres on those who already have most of their needs met.”
Whilst this book talks of experiences within the United States, I thought it was interesting how I could relate and understand to some extent despite living in the UK. It only goes to show how much of a universal issue this is.
I wasn’t sure how to do this review so I decided to pick out some of my favourite essays from this novel and explore why I like them.
1.Solidarity is still for White Women
2. Fast-tailed girls & Freedom
3. How to write about Black Women
4. Reproductive Justice
Solidarity is still for White Women:
I liked this essay because Mikki Kendall explores why women of colour are often skipped when it comes to solidarity. She gives examples of times when some white feminists have decided to ignore a Black or Latino woman being oppressed. She uses the statistic of the fact 53% of white women voted for Trump. It’s only a revelation of how it all comes down to race and how white feminists have a privilege that allows them to ignore situations of oppression, especially if it is something they would never experience themselves.
“White privilege sees no gender.”
Mikki Kendall explores how problematic this is and how it leaves the marginalised feeling excluded from a movement that is centred on the idea of sisterhood. Additionally, she emphasises how it also places white women in danger – they allows men like Trump who have degraded women as a whole, to be in positions of power. She addresses how white feminists need to stand up and actually be in solidarity with marginalised women especially during times of oppression.
“There is the distinct likelihood that some women are oppressing others. It’s rhetorical shorthand for the reality that white women can oppress women of colour, straight women can oppress lesbian women, cis women can oppress trans women and so on.”
However, at the end of the chapter she gives an example of Gail Simone, who tried to help Mikki Kendall gain entrance into a predominantly white male industry. She shows how this is an example of being a good ally.
She emphasises that when it comes to solidarity or sisterhood, you cannot pick and choose when you want to be a part of it. It’s for life. You have to stand up for every womxn there is, especially if you have the privilege to help the marginalised ones.
Fast-tailed girls & Freedom:
“To be fast-tailed is to be sexually precocious in some way”
I think the reason I liked this essay was because I had just finished watched Pocahontas just as I read this. I never realised just how problematic both Pocahontas 1 and 2 were until I watched it again recently and it’s safe to say I probably won’t watch them again.
Mikki Kendall address fetishisation and objectification in this essay and how it oppresses marginalised women.
In regards to Pocahontas, she talks about cultural appropriation.
“There’s the problem of theoretically feminist white women who think “Sexy Pocahontas’ is an empowering look instead of a lingering fetishisation of the rape of a child”
Yes, I even had to look up the true story behind Pocahontas and I was even more disgusted by it.
Mikki Kendall conveys how dressing up as a “sexy Indian” or objectifying a black woman only gives power to the hyper-sexualisation of marginalised women. This in turn makes it dangerous for them.
Whilst she addresses the hyper-sexualisation of marginalised women, she also discusses how trans and gender non-conforming people also face heightened risk of sexual assault. She argues that calling a young black girl “fast-tailed” is the wrong way to handle a situation. Victim blaming has to be eradicated completely. We need to start teaching boys about consent from a younger age.
These are all things that you would think wouldn’t need explaining in today’s society. However, I think it needs to be addressed more than ever.
How to write about Black Women:
I liked this essay because it talks about something I studied in a greater detail for my dissertation: the dangerous stereotypes given to Black women by society.
There’s four and often, they are perpetuated in the media, films and books. It’s irritating and frustrating because it’s harmful to black women.
Mikki Kendall mentions them briefly – “The Mammy, The Jezebel and The Sapphire tropes”
However, she really reiterates the issue with referring to Black women as the “Other”as it suggests that they are negative in every sense. These stereotypes make it seem as if they can’t be innocent and they’re in dire need of salvation whether it’s because they can’t look after their children or they rely on welfare. They are always loud, angry and uneducated.
These are all things that AREN’T TRUE but these stereotypes only serve to push this narrative to the wider masses. It’s misogynoir in it’s rarest form.
It’s an attempt to silence Black women at all costs – it’s disgusting quite frankly. This results in the black community does everything in their power to reject these stereotypes by forcing young black women to erase aspects of who they are.
“We love a Black accent on everyone but Black women… a Black girl who speaks with a “blaccent” is judged as less valuable and less intelligent.”
Which is why the way you write about Black women is incredibly important. If you find yourself slipping into these stereotypes, please check yourself. Mikki Kendall emphasises that we as a community need to shun this need to gain approval from white supremacy. She suggests that we need to break down this fear of rejection because it’s affects our mental state.
“We can come to a place where we embrace differences in instead of pretending that freedom comes from erasing them.”
This is a huge one and it’s one that’s been heavy on my heart for a while. Black women should not be in danger when they enter a hospital but yet they are five times more likely to die during childbirth in the UK.
Do you know how terrifying that statistic is?
At this point, you have to wonder why. How does that number get so high? And it stems from the ‘strong black woman’ narrative perpetuated through the media. Mikki Kendall addresses how there are persistent racial disparities in healthcare treatment.
We’ve seen it during COVID-19 especially in the UK.
Mikki Kendall also talks about how trans people are often denied the healthcare they need because of transphobia. Medical professionals can be ignorant and show prejudice towards trans people, which only places them in danger. She even talks of a study that shows doctors are aware that they do not know enough about the trans-gender community – which should be a huge red flag. Isn’t that a sign that more studies and research needs to be done? Quite frankly, it’s unacceptable.
Disability is also addressed in regards to the pro-life vs pro-choice debate. Mikki Kendall reiterates that disability should not be death sentence but abortion should most definitely be the decision of the pregnant person. She talks about how, in the US, there needs to be more resources and information about disability rights.
To put it bluntly, she argues that the feminist movement need to do more in regards to demanding equality for all womxn within the healthcare environment. Prejudice or discrimination should not have any power in a situation where someone’s life is on the line.
To conclude, there is so much to learn from this book. All women need to read this in order to gain clarity on where the feminist movement needs work. Personally, I now know that there is a place within the feminist movement for me and I can use my voice to speak up on issues that concern both my race and gender.
As women, we need to do more to help those around us. Quite simply, there’s so much to be done. If you have the privilege, reach back and help someone.
As a community, we need to do better.
To the white feminists out there, sisterhood isn’t a choice. It should be for life.
To the margnalised women, your voice matters. Keep speaking up on issues that affect you.
I promise you, we care.