Feminist Activism Doesn’t Always Come Cheap

By Lisa Sendrow, Policy Intern

Being a feminist is expensive. Being a feminist means advocating for equality for everyone, but being an active feminist means driving or flying to often distant locations in order to attend a conference, rally, lobby day or any of the many other things we do. And if I may interrupt myself, you should go to Germantown, Md., July 30-Aug. 7 to help defend Dr. Carhart’s clinic.

I love being a feminist, and I love what we stand for, but I still feel a sense of exclusion due to the lack of resources that are at my hands as a poor college student and as someone from a fairly low-income, Mexican household.

I know this will sound totally cliché, but my mom is my hero. As a teenager she came from Mexico to the United States, where she has faced discrimination against women and Mexicans. She surprised everyone when she went to college, got her B.A., went to Wall Street, got an M.A., left Wall Street to raise yours truly as a single mother, and is now pursuing her Ph.D. That is the most brief summary ever of my mother’s accomplishments, but I promise you that actions speak louder than words in this case.

Without the financial resources and/ or time and/ or availability to lobby or rally or protest, her identity as a woman who believes in achieving equality was greatly undermined. She had a daughter to raise, a job to work, and other personal struggles to deal with, but by her actions she bred the feminist in me. Being an active feminist was not an option for her, nor to my uni-lingual aunts who still only speak Spanish and can’t defend themselves in the workplace. Nor to other Latinas I have worked with or know who are immigrants or migrants and deal with the machismo of their partners or bosses.

A talk I went to this week reflected those views when Monica Ramirez of the Southern Poverty Law Center spoke about migrant farmworking/laboring women. Ramirez was talking about sexual harassment in the workplace and the reasons these women are afraid of filing charges, many of which are the same reasons they do not have the resources to be active feminists — they do not have the money, they don’t know the language, they don’t have the time, and the machismo aspects of their culture makes them feel that their place is in the home.

I’m not suggesting this problem is limited to immigrant women; it just happens to be my experience. Women at the bottom of the socioeconomic hierarchy are least able to participate as feminists. Women who have multiple jobs, children to raise, are single mothers, don’t know English, can’t afford to go to school even if scholarships are available because they have other things to worry about. These women might not even have access to information that would help them identify as feminists, let alone take action.

How do we promote access to feminism to all women? I was lucky, but there are plenty of other women and girls who are not so lucky. There is still a lot of work to be done, and it hurts me to see how little opportunities many women have and how little work is done to fight for them. There are many fights we still need to win, but it seems like such common sense that women should be able to identify and express who they feel they are. Feminism should be accessible to everyone who might embrace it.

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