By Karla Casique
Sexism in social justice movements is often ignored, but for women who actively lead and participate in them, it’s a harsh reality.
“Usually women of color are the ones that are executing things, are working diligently behind the scenes, around the clock to get things done,” said Lauryn Froneberger, a senior broadcast journalism major and current president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) at the University of Maryland.
“While the men are like, ‘oh what’s the update?’… it’s like, wait where were you when we were literally staying up for hours trying to get things done or filling this out?”
On Nov. 12, Tara Houska, a tribal rights attorney who served as the Native American advisor for Bernie Sanders, responded to a tweet of a poster that showed the speakers and performers for a Standing Rock benefit concert.
“Not a single voice from the indigenous women leading the Dakota Access movement represented here,” she said.
This caused some discussion on Twitter, ending with Houska contacting the event’s organizers and adding indigenous women to the poster.
Historically, women have been robbed of their legacies and replaced with other men of their time or painted in a hypersexual light. The most well-known leaders of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s are Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Many are not aware of Fannie Lou Hamer, one of the founders of Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, or Shirley Chisholm, the first woman to run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination and the first black candidate up for nomination for the presidency.
The 2016 presidential election showcased the sexism throughout the nation with stereotypical and derogatory comments aimed toward Hillary Clinton, some from Presidential-elect Donald Trump, who was accused of sexual misconduct and rape by more than a dozen women and exposed through a video where he made vulgar comments.
Trump accused Clinton of having a lack of stamina and not having the “look” of a president.
The notion of not being taken seriously is one that women leaders have repeatedly mentioned they face.
“When I am talking about my advocacy to other people, I feel like they don’t really value what I am saying or they don’t take me seriously … They see me as if I am just complaining and crying about these issues, but then when a white man says the exact same thing, then they are like ‘woke bae,’” said co-president of the Asian American Student Union (AASU), Elizabeth Kim.
“We are expected to be caring for other people, thinking about the needs of others and things like that,” Kim said.
Women are conditioned to listen first and analyze their ideas before presenting them, while men learn to express their ideas. This mentality cascades to their actions in leadership roles and their involvements in organizing.
“I think men realizing that women of color are literally at the forefront in masses of these movements and for them to learn to respect that because we’ve been and we are the most effective leaders,” said Erica Puentes, a junior African-American studies major.
In order to combat toxic masculinity and change the narrative, some solutions are to talk about the issues at hand and demand the credit that’s well-earned.
Jessy Jimenez, a senior history major, said he has not seen many patriarchal tendencies because the social justice organizations he’s part of are a majority women. However, he acknowledged there is a problem in movements and interactions with women in leadership roles.
“We need to sit down and listen to women with what they have to say and check our own privilege. We are so marginalized that we don’t want to hear about us having privilege but we definitely do have some privilege,”Jimenez said. “We need to do more within our inner circles. We really need to check our counterparts if we want to move as a whole.”
“Oppression in all its forms, whether it’s racism, sexism, transphobia, heterosexism, ableism — it’s duplicated in our social movements whether we like it or not,” said Karina Hagelin, a graduate student studying library and informational science.
“We all need to take our own stance and say yes, I am part of the problem but I am also part of the solution.”
Featured Photo Credit: Jocelyn Nolasco, a sophomore government and politics major at this university, leads a chant during the UMD walkout on Nov. 17. (Joe Duffy/Bloc Photographer)
Karla Casique is a junior journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.