For our series on the Sacred Feminine, we knew we needed to make space to talk about feminism, and how racism shows up within it. One biblical story offered us a lens through which to consider our topic.
The Genesis story of Sarah and Hagar shows two women struggling under the patriarchal system of the ancient Jewish tribes. Sarah, wife to Abraham, was part of the Jewish tribes. Hagar was of a different race, and also relegated to the level of concubine to Abraham. In one interpretation of this story, Sarah, in her effort to get ahead, betrayed Hagar rather than standing with her in solidarity. Sarah had Abraham send Hagar away into the desert with her son, which was a death sentence. Yet God shows up to ensure Hagar and her son Ishmael are cared for. This story is one of the more debated stories of the Hebrew Bible, and provided a rich theological framework for us to consider the intersectionality of feminism and racism.
Our guest teacher for the evening was PaKou Her, Principal of Tseng Development Group, LLC, a consulting firm that provides lectures, workshops, organizational development, transformative leadership coaching, and grassroots strategy development designed to build racial equity, create systems change, and shift the culture. PaKou co-founded The Community Alliance for Racial Equity (CARE), a new organization working to build a community of stakeholders, activists, organizers, trainers, and educators around a common vision of racial equity in Kansas City. She also served The Open Table’s lead trainer for our anti-racism project.
PaKou began with a video that examines how white feminism differs from feminism overall. White feminism is a form of feminism that combats patriarchy by only putting the experiences of white women in the center. Simply put it focuses only on the experiences of women who are white and cisgendered and forgets the diversity of ethnicity and sexuality as part of the feminist experience. In other words, white feminism neglects intersectionality.
A historical example of where white feminism was at work involves women’s right to vote. The suffragist movement focused on white women gain the right to vote which they successfully did in 1921. Women of color did not receive that same right until the 1940s and women of first nation descent did not receive that vote until the 1960s.
PaKou pointed out that this critique is not an attempt to silence women’s voices bur rather raise awareness about the racism that occurs within feminism. She pointed out that “Racism functions best when we don’t know it’s happening.” The rest of the night was spent unpacking definitions of racism and discussing examples of where racism and feminism intersect.
If you are looking for more information on this subject, check out the following videos, and don’t forget to check out our podcast.
Why We Need To Talk About White Feminism
Opinion: ‘Feminism looks very different to different people’