Thursday, February 8, 2018
Jessica Watters, Pink Hats and Black Fists: The Role of Women in Black Lives Matter, 24 William & Mary J. Women & Law 199 (2017)
On January 21, 2017, nearly five hundred thousand people, many cadorned in pink, cat-eared “pussyhats,” descended on Washington, D.C.—the flagship location for the official “Women’s March.” In total, 673 “sister” marches took place across the seven continents, including Antarctica. An estimated five million people participated worldwide, and the March was the largest single-day protest in United States history.
One photo from the March belies the purported unity. In that photo, Angela Peoples, a Black woman, stands unbothered in a crowd of smiling White women wearing pink “pussyhats.” Ms. Peoples’ cap reads “Stop Killing Black People;” her sign says “Don’t forget: White women voted for Trump.” . . . The picture vividly demonstrates the dissonance between America’s mainstream feminist and civil rights movements, a juxtaposition further illuminated by the success of the Women’s March.
This divide has a long history, and there is a wealth of scholarship examining how race shapes women’s experiences and discussing the importance of intersectional feminism. Feminism has historically been White-centered, while civil rights discourse largely pertains to men of color. The theories of “intersectionality” and Critical Race Feminism arose as a response to this discordance. These theories offer a critical perspective of the interplay of race, gender, and class for women of color in a patriarchal, racist system. For modern feminism to survive, it must adapt to include the significant group of people who are presently excluded by “White feminism”— those who are both women and members of racial and ethnic minorities, as well as those who are economically disadvantaged; it must fully embrace intersectionality.
This Comment does not offer a new justification of the importance of intersectional feminism, nor does it aim to highlight the shortcomings of the Women’s March. Instead, it uses the Women’s March as a case study to highlight the role of women in protest, and more specifically, the importance of White women’s future participation in intersectional movements.