On The Unity Argument

Good Morning FAM!

The admin team has decided to start introducing weekly social justice posts! On these posts, you’ll be introduced to a new topic, and have the opportunity to ask questions.

FAM is committed to working to make this a group that welcomes marginalized voices as equally as it does privileged voices. We realize we’re not there yet, but we’re going to keep trying!

Our first topic is The Unity Argument.

Throughout FAM’s history, we’ve repeatedly seen people make use of an argument for unity. While we can all agree that a unified front is far more difficult to tear down than a divided one, the way in which this argument pressures marginalized voices to silence is actually the opposite of unifying.

Throughout history, marginalized folks have continuously had to put their concerns and their fears on the back burner in an attempt to help further social justice. What this looks like is Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) often staying quiet and feeling excluded from movements that are centered around white folks and white experiences. One example of that is the pink pussy hat.

To understand why this is so problematic we have to acknowledge and agree on a couple basic facts.

  1. Trans women are women.
  2.  BIPOC women are women.
  3. Not all women have pussies
  4. Not all pussies are pink.

While the creators of the movement certainly didn’t intend for their hat to be exclusionary, it ultimately was because it ignored those basic facts. It isn’t enough to simply say that our intent is good, if we ignore our impact.

We have to consistently choose to listen to marginalized voices when we organize movements and engage in activism. We have to specifically ask ourselves “this feels like it is in line with my experience. Is it in line with the experiences of BIPOC? Does it make room for trans women? Non-binary folk? Does it make space for folks with various disabilities, including mental health issues? Is it accessible to the poor?

If it is inaccessible to the poor, it is neither radical, nor revolutionary. (source unknown) Click To Tweet

By not taking steps to make sure we are being inclusive, we become the real perpetrators of divisiveness – we end up excluding folks from a community where they actively belong.

I’m sure you’re thinking “But it’s just a hat! Why are we getting all up in arms about a hat when there’s other terrible stuff happening?!”

And you’re right. There’s lots of terrible things happening in this country and around the world that we need to fight. Perspective is important.

So let’s look at it from a trans woman or a BIPOC woman’s perspective for a moment:

Trans women and BIPOC women want to participate. They’re disproportionately affected by a lot of the policies we’re fighting against. They face the most discrimination, and the most violence. They’re more likely to face poverty, and to lose access to things like healthcare. Trans women and BIPOC are more likely to face things like sexual assault, police brutality, or murder. Their voices are not only important, they’re essential to the cause. They have an intimate understanding of the ways the current system is harmful in a way that white or cisgender folks don’t and can’t.

A movement that excludes them, but claims to be for them isn’t helpful, because it ignores the realities that marginalized folks face. It ignores the valuable insight that folks who have experienced the oppressions we’re fighting could provide.

Sure, there are other things we need to focus on. One person brought up the plight of undocumented folks fighting deportation as an example. Undocumented folks aren’t usually white. We can’t effectively fight for them without listening to, and including their voices in our movement. Oppression is often interconnected, and we can’t fight one without fighting them all.

At the end of the day, it is a hat. And wearing a different colored hat, or not wearing one at all, isn’t nearly as damaging as excluding those that we should be centering in our activism.


Featured image is “Come Together” By Karen Loew