A group by the name of “FemDems” held a panel about de-Westernizing feminism at the University of Michigan Ford School of Public Policy earlier this week.
The panel, titled “De-Westernizing Feminism: Varying our Viewpoints,” emphasized the importance of considering diverse opinions when discussing the intersectionality of feminism internationally. More simply put, white women overpower minorities in the feminist movement.
According to Michigan Daily, “student facilitators stressed white women are often portrayed as the majority in Western women’s rights issues and feminist theory, though they are actually a minority relative to the global female population.”
On this point, panelist and chemical engineering professor Lola Eniola-Adefeso drew a peculiar correlation present between that of white women and of men of color in our society.
“White women assume that women of color have shared experiences with men of color … and, of course, the men of color assume that white women have the backs of the women of color,” Eniola-Adefeso told the audience. “The voice that [gets] lost … is the voice of women of color.”
In addition to Eniola-Adefeso, panelists included transnational Women’s Studies professor Debotri Dhar, community organizer Sumaiya Ahmed Sheikh, and “Chicana feminist” scholar Maria Cotera.
Dhar explained her distinctive experiences as an Indian woman in a society in which “feminism is centered on white people.”
“The interesting thing was I became a woman of color when I came to the West, because in India I wasn’t a woman of color,” Dhar expressed. “That trajectory is very interesting, because … your self-perception changes based on how people are looking at you.”
Community activist Ahmed Sheikh told audience members that, contrary to common Western belief, wearing a hijab is solely an expression of aesthetics and by no means oppressive.
“What is more empowering than women who get to choose how to show their beauty?” Ahmed Sheikh asked.
“What is more empowering than women who get to choose how to show their beauty?” -@sumaiyaa23 on how Muslim women’s choice to wear Hijab is empowering at our De-westernizing Feminism Panel. pic.twitter.com/RMQv2FcrRm— FemDems at UM (@FemDems) December 5, 2017
The FemDems is a branch of the University of Michigan College Democrats, focused on women’s issues, including reproductive rights and feminism.
Isaiah Denby is a college freshman from Tampa Bay, Florida studying economics and political science.