“It is not the intelligent woman v. the ignorant woman; nor the white woman v. the black, the brown, and the red, it is not even the cause of woman v. man. Nay, tis woman’s strongest vindication for speaking that the world needs to hear her voice.” -Anna Julia Cooper (1859-1964), African American educator and feminist. A Voice from the South, part 1 (1892).
Anna J. Cooper was a woman born into slavery in 1858, and one of four African- American women to earn a Doctorate of Philosophy at a young age of 67. Anna’s words are the focus of this piece. When I think of the Women’s March, I think of the collective voice of all. I hear Anna’s words in the wind echoing, “…tis woman’s strongest vindication for speaking that the world needs to hear her voice.” How can an organization be both a collective voice, yet allow for an independent voice? Perhaps Anna’s words will remind us when divisions arise that it is not a one v. the other, men v. women, or Trump v. the world; it is about what we as people are capable of when we come together. In this moment, the Women’s March must be first and foremost specific to ending sexism that is a cancer in our society. A cancer that slowly takes away from the wholeness we can experience. bell hooks (2000, p.viii) wrote “simply put, feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression.” bell hooks’ powerful words remind us feminism is a movement for all and not gender-specific, for it must be a collective goal to end those things which make our society inequitable. The movement is then by default all encompassing.
I have often been referred to as a feminist, a progressive, or a revolutionary, but I like to think I am a humanist. One who believes in equity and choice over, not parts of my body or existence, but my entire being, and that extends to our entire society with an added awareness of the very real levels of oppression. The Women’s March brings people to a place where this vision can be expressed because “the world needs to hear her voice.” Further, “to understand feminism it implies one has to necessarily understand sexism.” (hooks, 2000, p.1)
May we continue to actively work on our mindfulness leaving no one behind as was the case during the suffragette movement, leaving black women behind when confronted with race over gender. Let us not compartmentalize the levels of oppression women face–women of color, transwomen, and LGTBQIA+ individuals. Rather, face it all, and face it head-on. The movement must have leaders willing to step aside when need be, to allow others to move forward. The movement is not a race; it is a long marathon. Sexism oppresses all of us, so when we feel impatient, distance, divided, look back to Anna’s words. “It is not the intelligent woman v. the ignorant woman; nor the white woman v. the black, the brown, and the red, it is not even the cause of woman v. man. Nay, tis woman’s strongest vindication for speaking that the world needs to hear her voice.” I AM LISTENING. Are you?
Beatriz “Betty” Valencia is the Vice President of Operations, in Business & Finance, a member of the Santiago Canyon College Foundation (SCCF) Board of Directors, candidate in the city of Orange, and the Central Vice-Chair of the Democratic Party of Orange County. Betty is currently working on her PhD in Leadership Studies. Betty was named women of the year 2019 and most recently named one of the OC Register TOP 100 Influencers in Orange County for 2019. Betty was born in Mexico City, last of 13 children, and married her love Laura Villa. She is also a published author and motivational speaker on education and equity.
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