By Fazia Rizvi
Friday, May 19, 2000
I am young, a minority and female.
I am a feminist.
I am invisible.
Or a least that's the way it seems sometimes. If I have anything I need to tell the women of the First and Second Wave of feminism it's that, consciously or unconsciously, you've contribute[d] to my invisibility and to the complicated state of my struggle.
I look around me and all the pictures of the great female social reformers--the feminists--are all white American women of the 1960s and 1970s. Occasionally, I catch a glimpse of an African American woman, but little is said about the uniqueness of her struggle. And nowhere do I see the women who look like me, or who share my childhood culture. Where are the Asian feminists? Where are the Middle Eastern feminists?
It's not that they simply don't exist. They do. But our ethnocentric American culture has had its effect on the second wave of feminism. The "ethnic " woman was used as the poster child for the downtrodden woman, and everybody conveniently forgot that the "exotic women" were ALSO fighting for their human rights. Instead, we became the poor noble (female) savages in the second wave feminists could "save". [The result is that no one seeks to identify and spotlight the strong ethnic feminist...]
I know this isn't what you intended. After all, you were proud of your goal of global sisterhood. But post-colonialism had its effect, and ethnocentric thinking runs rampant in feminism just as much as it does in American society as a whole. . . .
It is only NOW that we [non-western women] have had a moment to stop, catch our breath and roll up our sleeves to resume making changes for the better for women in our communities. We had to pause in our efforts and [now] we are catching up, just a few decades behind you, but that doesn't mean we're stupid or slow to learn or clinging to our cultures. You had the luxury of a post-war era and a high standard of living in which to further develop women's rights. In most cases, we didn't.
...When we call ourselves feminists, we're not just reclaiming a term of a movement. We're making a damn powerful and loaded statement. With that self-identification comes the complicated struggle of trying to balance our battles with racism, our love of the good and uniqueness of our cultures, with global sisterhood and the honesty to critique and change our "ethnic" cultures. We're called backwards and victims and blind by YOU if we fail to identify [with] YOUR middle-class, first-world struggles, and we're waved aside and ignored as "westernized" and out of touch with our OWN cultures by our OWN societies if we do. It's an incredible tightrope circus act we attempt, when we become feminist activists to bring our cultures into [this] century without destroying them. You often make the situation worse too, without meaning to. Western feminism often attacks our CULTURES instead of the stubbornness of our MEN to change with times, making our mainstream cultures defensive against anything "Western." And then you also claim that feminism is a western invention... I think you can see the problem we face.