In the early parts of this movement, women of color were saying: where were the white feminists when we needed you? Tarana Burke, who started the phrase #MeToo in 2007, she’s a black woman. She’s working to empower women of color. Women of color don’t have a seat at the table, and while white women do more than we have before, we’re still not as present as white men. It’s going to make a difference when people begin realizing where they have a seat, and where they hold power.
I think it’s important for all of us to understand where our privileges are. Where do I have a seat at the table that somebody else doesn’t? As much as I identify as a Latina woman, I realize I have the privileges of a white woman: I have fair skin, and I grew up in a lower-middle-class family, where we didn’t have a lot but we didn’t lack for anything. I didn’t grow up as many Latinas grow up.
It’s frustrating, because our seat at the table feels so tenuous. We’re starting to make a little bit of ground here, but if you say something, it could be like a Natalie Maines [of the Dixie Chicks] situation, where you speak up and your whole community ostracizes you. We need to remember that our voice is important, it’s unique, it’s powerful. It gets carried on to each of our sisters and children and friends, and people that we touch.
That’s especially true if you have a stage. When you have credibility and a mic from which to speak, that comes with a responsibility. Having a woman onstage allows a girl in the audience to say, “Oh, I can do that.” A platform is an opportunity, and so is an audience.
But you can also live out loud without a stage, without saying much, in the ways you care for people. That’s our biggest gift: truly embracing who we are. And that’s what’s so dangerous about these experiences of harassment and discrimination. They can attack that very desire in us. These kinds of experiences make us feel less human, and make us want to retreat into ourselves. They make us think we’re not good enough, and that we’re not worthy of love. By living the exact opposite, by embracing who you are and telling your story, those are the ways that we combat this—by not being silent.
To see resources about female mentorship, getting involved in local issues, and what to do if you experience sexual harassment, read here.
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The Women’s Voices Project
In a series of as-told-to conversations, two dozen Texas women talk about gender, work, and what needs to change for women in their home state. Read their perspectives here.