By Rian de la Torre. Photography by Eric Michael Ward
The word "Feminist" used to make me cringe and confused in equal parts. On one side it felt like an exclusive club where I didn't belong, and on the other side I felt that I was a woman too, therefore, I earn the right to be part of a movement that was primarily created to foster gender equality and support women, but it was not into opening that door for women like me.
For so long I got the Sojourner Truth question, which ended up being a book and a “bible” for Black Feminists (Ain't I a Woman?) pending inside my head like the pendulum of a wall clock. Western Feminists somehow have made the word “woman” something not inclusive, that belongs to their domain putting women of color out of the feminine league. We could just sit on the dock and watch the game from the fence, but we couldn't play.
To be honest, I used to feel uncomfortable calling myself a Feminist, so I started calling myself an activist for the rights of women because it was easier to stay in that place where I felt I belonged. Later, when I discovered the view of Black and African feminists, I decided to move from my “no Feminist comfort zone,” and embrace the whole movement moving from the margin toward the front.
I would never forget when I saw Chimamanda Adichie's famous TED talk “We Should all be Feminists”. It was like a wake-up call for me; I felt her message—the words of her speech made me feel as though I mattered and that beyond my skin was a soul in need of expressing itself rawly and freely.
I felt more than a gender or a color, I felt free to name myself Feminist without feeling like an intruder.
Until that momentum, I thought that Intersectional Feminism wasn't an attainable goal as a Black woman. To me, it felt like a double-edged sword due to the fact that “intersectional” is often times a misused term used by Western gender studies to overlook our struggles, but now I see that it can also be properly used to widen the womanhood sight by making room for other women’s point of views from all different walks of life.
To find a safe space in the intersection, we need Western Feminists to acknowledge their vantage point in order to develop empathy towards women of other ethnicities. While White women talk about the glass ceiling, the barrier that prevents women from reaching the upper rungs of the corporate world, Black women would talk about the triple glass ceiling because many times we are discriminated for gender, race and class issues simultaneously.
It is said that the first step to solving a problem is to recognize that we have a problem. Whether we like it or not, White Privilege is real, so in order to move forward, the privileged ones must stop looking away and start looking through a marginalized lens to understand us and to stop deciding for us.
The term Feminist is not exclusive of Western culture realm; before the term was coined, there were already brave Black women, such as Harriet Tubman or Funmilayo Randsome-Kuti, honoring that name in their own terms.
There is an African proverb that says if you want to go faster go alone, but if you want to go far go together. This can be applied to Feminism in the sense that in order to bring it to the next level, we need to listen each other, to understand, and learn how to do it better and go far in this movement. At the end of the day, we all are women and we should fight to make a better world where women can thrive and also feel part of the sisterhood tribe.
For me, Feminism is a necessary tool not to liberate women, but to allow them to be what they are and develop themselves without conforming to externally imposed limitations that hold them from progressing and reaching true self-realization.
The world has already too many definitions in which many women don't fit and don't want to fit, because we have decided to be the captains of our souls and be who we really want to be without buying into the idea that others have made for us.
Womanhood has its nuances and is not static or standardized. One size does not fit all, so each woman should find her own definition and not allow others to define what femininity means to them in order to enrich the Feminist experience—to ultimately make this movement more diverse, inclusive and powerful for us all.
Rian De La Torre is a Holistic Heath coach and writer. She contributes to Om because I feel happy to become part of the holistic black sisterhood. For now, she spends half of the year in Uruguay in the countryside and the other half in Formentera (Spain) which is the last paradise of the mediterranean sea. Rian's go-to self-love practice consist of eating healthy (vegetarian) and hiking, yoga and journaling.