The Inaugural Women’s March Convention took place in Detroit from Oct. 27-29. This landmark event included influential feminists like Nina Turner, a former state senator from Ohio, and Nomiki Konst, a reporter from the Young Turks. However, one feminist was driven away from the convention — Bernie Sanders.
This should be alarming for anyone calling themself a feminist. Even though Bernie was not the sole speaker of the evening, he still was ill-received by many participants. Most of these self-proclaimed feminists argued that Sanders had no place being at the convention because he was a man.
Bernie Sanders is a feminist, as seen through critiques of the wage gap and a pro-choice ideology being hallmarks of his political career. Despite this, many participants of the Women’s March Convention chose to ignore the fact that Bernie has promoted intersectional equality from day one.
While in most cases those not affected by policy should not have a say in what that policy entails, such as how men should not have the ability to legislate what reproductive rights a woman has, the reaction by some feminists to Sanders’ support of feminism raises a dilemma of whether or not men should participate in the push for gender equality. As a male intersectional feminist, I would argue that everyone, including men, has a role to play in the push for equality for all, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, class, disability, and any other attributes to a person that are beyond their control.
However, this includes a caveat: if men are willing to be vocal about their allyship to the feminist movement, then they must also be willing to actually listen to women. Men cannot fully understand the misogynistic struggles women face. Therefore, if they truly want to ally themselves with the movement, men must be able to speak up as well as listen to a woman’s point of view. Steps in this direction will lead feminism to be more inclusive, an issue currently pervading the feminist movement.
Many of the activists in the push for gender equality follow a “white feminism” narrative — an ideology that shines light on gender inequality for upper middle class, cisgender, straight, white women, rather than an intersectional feminism that uplifts women from all socioeconomic backgrounds.
It is this mainstream brand of one-sided feminism that hinders all progress of the movement. One can only be a white feminist if they come from a level of privilege where their gender is the only thing that defines them as a social minority. In sociopolitical movements, it is necessary to not leave anyone behind. When we address the issues of those who are most marginalized before our own, the statuses of everyone are elevated, achieving the end goal of equality. If we allow everyone to participate in the support of equality for all, then the movement for intersectional feminism has no other fate than that of success.
Feminism, at its core, is an equal-rights campaign that is of concern to everyone and requires the support of as many people as possible. This means that we, as feminists, cannot deny anyone the ability to ally themselves with our turn of the century equal rights movement. It is our job as concerned citizens to promote inclusivity in the struggle for equality. Because, without inclusivity, the feminist movement, along with all other grassroots movements, are doomed from the start.