But First

Jessi Noel is the co-founder and Creative Director of Typical Magazine.   Photo by Ray Spears.

Jessi Noel is the co-founder and Creative Director of Typical Magazine. Photo by Ray Spears.

For me to have a healthy conversation about feminism, I have to first have a healthy conversation about race. 

This is not to diminish the work so many women have sacrificed and given their whole life for. As a woman, and a woman only, I am immensely grateful. I understand there is so much that I can now do because of the women before me. But I am not only a woman, I am a black woman, and there are layers upon layers on what that means. I would love to spend hours with you all to talk about the complexity and beauty it is to be a black woman, but for the sake of time I wont. Instead, I would like to talk about my own very personal thoughts on feminism and hopefully create a space for additional perspectives to be added to the conversation. 

Like being a black woman, feminism has its own set of layers that require too much time to discuss here, but I think we would agree that equality is the goal. What we want as women is to be treated equal because we were created as equals. But what about equality among women? This may seem like a no brainer, but if we all sit with this question long enough I feel we will come to a healthier conclusion. The reason I ask is because that's an area I see needs a lot of improvement. Yes, I want to see more women in positions of leadership but I also want to see women of color in leadership. And not just an employee of a company – no, I want to see white women come alongside women of color to not only support these women but also submit to minority leadership within the company, even if that means they are hired over you. 

Before some of you say "Are you kidding me? That is what I'm all about!", I want you to examine if you have catered to white supremacy among women. 

- What does your social media look like?

- Among your friends, is there diversity among race as well as diversity in culture?

- Do your friends have to learn to be comfortable with your environment more often than you have to be in theirs? 

- You go in for a job interview and the woman offering you the job is black. Are you shocked?

- Do you find it easier to connect with minorities in other countries more than you do in America?

- Do you feel minorities are in need of your help?

Are your friends allowed to communicate with you when you do or say something in a way that makes them feel inferior without you becoming defensive or dismissive? 

I have no idea what each of you will answer to these questions. However, I can break these questions down to hopefully help you answer more honestly. 

Does your circle of friends include a predominately white culture even in the midst of racial diversity? If so, does that even bother you? Say you do have friends from other cultures, how comfortable are you in their environments? Do you celebrate their interests and differences without the need for them to understand how "difficult" this is for you? Or do you appropriate the culture of minorities around you without any regard to how that makes them feel? In your mind, is your ideal work environment predominately white? Could you trust your boss to lead and better your place of business without question if she was a woman of color? Is it easier for you to travel to other countries and accept the beauty and customs of the people there but view the minorities of America as lazy, ghetto, uncultured, and dangerous? Is the only way you interact with people of color is through acts of service to them? And lastly, are you "over" hearing people talk about racism and feel strongly that you are incapable of having racist ways?



I ask these questions with a genuine hope that they will help others see the damage in their some of their best efforts. Maybe some of you read these questions and felt really positive about where you are. Maybe some of you read them and felt discouraged. Either way, I want the readers of this blog to keep in mind how white supremacy is everywhere and even when you are doing what feels like the right thing, it can be done through a white scope. And that my friends, is the problem. I am black female, I have two degrees, I live in Brooklyn, and make art for a living. Most of you might find it easy to connect with me, respect me, and form some sort of friendship. But here is the kicker. Even if I was black, uneducated, lived in the hood, and made no art you should still be able to connect with me, respect me, and if I was open to it, form some sort of friendship with me because I am a woman and I exist, dammit. Be mindful that your ways of including women of color in the feminist conversation is not based on what you can offer them , but frankly, what they can offer you. 

I know some of you will choose to empathize with me, but also know some of you will find this hard to accept. Both are OK places to be right now. The journey is long so all must pace themselves. But as we come to a close, I want to leave you with this. 

Is your fight for feminism equal on all parts? And if you say it is, would women of color believe you?