With the release of our first issue of That's What She Said, some of you may be wondering; Why do we need an intersectional feminist newsletter? What even is intersectional feminism? To answer the second question- Intersectionality is a term first coined by activist and scholar , and refers to the intersections of one's identity such as gender, race, sexuality, and class in relation to oppression and discrimination. FemCo's goal with this newsletter is to not only center our weekly meetings around this topic, but also begin a schoolwide conversation about the complex social issues that touch every aspect of our lives. We hope that everyone can find inspiration and interest in the works submitted by their peers, and by the numerous articles and videos linked throughout the newsletter.
Every morning at 5 AM, my grandmother dons her bindi, a red dot Indian women wear on the center of the forehead. The bindiconsidered highly auspicious in Hinduismsymbolizes unity and harmony, my grandmother tells me. But when she visits Boston, she watches in horror as white women slap on the bindi, showing it off as the latest accessory. I'm sure some of these women think to themselves, "Well, if the bindi is so holy and auspicious, why shouldn't I wear one too? There's nothing wrong with celebrating other cultures!" But cultural appropriation, "the adoption or use of the elements of one culture by members of another culture," does not "celebrate" other cultures; it exploits them. When my grandmother walks around, say, Harvard Square, wearing her bindi and sari, people stare at her with clear confusion. She is an outsider to them, someone who doesn't fit into the American culture that they know and love. But when a white woman wears a bindi, American culture immediately redefines itself. Suddenly, bindis are a hit at Coachella; Selena Gomez wears one during her performances; the bindi no longer represents the "other" but rather the newest fashion trend. And in becoming so, it has lost all its meaning. The people who wear the bindi are wearing it because it's cool, not because they understand or appreciate any of the history or significance behind it. So the next time you're considering putting on a bindi, throwing on a kimono, or wearing your hair in cornrows as a chic summer look, think twice about the consequences of your decision.
So what is woke? What does it take to "get woke" and "stay woke"?
Unless you've been living in a wifi-less pit in Antarctica, you've probably heard the word 'woke'. Urban Dictionary defines 'Woke' as "being aware" and "knowing what's going on in the community." I like to think of being woke as being aware of social injustices, but simply saying "wow, the world is really messed up" does not make someone woke. 'Wokeness' involves actively educating yourself and participating in efforts for social justice. For me, there are two steps involved in being woke. First you have to "get woke," which for me involved binge-watching a bunch of documentaries and Youtube videos about different social justice issues, and finding topics like mass incarceration that really sparked my interest. Once you get woke, you have to #StayWoke, which is more about staying involved with issues of social justice. Just like saying 'yay women' doesn't make you a feminist, Googling 'intersectionality' or 'systemic oppression' does not automatically make you woke. In order to truly #StayWoke, one must actively engage in this "community" about which you know so much.
The phrase #StayWoke means different things depending on who you're talking to. Charles Pulliam-Moore explains that "Among black people talking about Ferguson, "stay woke" might mean something like: "stay conscious of the apparatus of white supremacy, don't automatically accept the official explanations for police violence, keep safe," whereas ""Woke" can also refer, mockingly, to (white) people whose perspectives on race change suddenly after learning about historical injustice. (e.g. "You talked to Brad recently? He read some Ta-Nehesi Coates and now he thinks he's woke.")". If you haven't already, I recommend readingon how "How 'woke' went from black activist watchword to teen internet slang".
The article explains how what is now a common slang word started off as an Erykah Badu song lyric and became more common following the death of Trayvon Martin, largely associated with the #BlackLivesMatter movement. The use of the word has become more and more ironic, and the originally encouraging phrase #StayWoke has lost its original meaning as "a legitimately useful word for black people reminding each other to be conscious of black struggles during a time of systematic injustice".
Dear White People
Dear white people,
The world thanks you for your dedication and your
Your history has influenced what America is
The world thanks you for your tenacity towards
You founded this country as different from others.
You wanted us to be united, as one.
You had a different future for America than other
countries did and for that, we will always be
You had a dream, whether you did a lot to
accomplish it or not.
This is not for those who are allies.
Not for those who truly believe in justice over
Not for those who believe that everyone is the
same despite the color of their skin.
This is not for the white people who believe there
should be no division.
This is for those who still think they are better
than us, that are constantly repeating history.
We are starting to have a problem again, or maybe
we always did it was just never as obvious as it is
There is a division.
Your dream of unity is becoming just that, a
There's a divide between blacks and whites.
There's a divide between authority and the people.
There's a divide because you don't know the
Between law and emotion,
Between knowledge and pressure.
This is for all of our fallen soldiers.
For most recently, Michael Brown.
Imagine being unarmed, being confused, and then
Imagine putting your hands up and following the
law, and getting killed for it.
Imagine your shooter not getting rebuked because
Imagine a world where this would be okay, because
you're living in it.
We shouldn't be scared to live in our own country
and to go outside on the streets.
We shouldn't be scared when there are police
around, they should be protecting us.
Yes, there has always been a divide but it is
prominent and it is real now.
This is our country just as much as it is yours, and
yet you make us feel like we have no voice, that we
can't speak on behalf of the United States.
There is very little justice in our country right now,
and you are just making it worse.
We shouldn't be retracing our steps in history, but
instead we should be making our own mark.
You should not be able to tell us who we are, or how
Nor should you make up lies about us to make
yourselves feel better.
We are the same as you are, and we don't want to
keep living in your shadow.
We are not a pet, not something you can parade
We are who we are, just as you are who you are.
It is time for the injustice to stop.
For the cruel murders, that are so easily slipped
through the system.
For most of the people in jail or prison to be us.
For you to stop thinking that you can control us the
way you do and not have us speak up about it.
No, we do not hate you.
We do not think that you are terrible people, but we
think that you are wrong in your ways and your
I am writing this because I am tired.
Tired of seeing how many black lives are being lost.
Tired of telling you time and time again that what
you are doing is wrong.
Tired of you fighting back against something that
you know is wrong.
Tired of you making up lies to cover yourselves.
Tired of you banning together to agree with each
other when you know what you are doing is wrong.
We all are tired.
We all are scared.
We ask you to not let history repeat itself.
We ask that you listen and change.
We just ask that this country can be united as one,
We ask for you to stop fighting, because we are
But for you to know, that we will never stop.