Admittedly, I’ve always kind of wanted to be on the cover of the CCP, to leisurely perch by the fresh stack of papers at my favorite bar on a Wednesday evening, warm with friendly congratulations and free tequila shots. However, though this week’s cover of a buxom blonde bears more than a passing resemblance to yours truly, the use of a Nordic superhero as the mascot of a new wave of feminist resistance isn’t exactly what I had in mind — and it certainly warrants no commendations.
The utilization of normative beauty standards in depicting what writer Stephanie Barna describes as a “new wave of feminist activism” undermines a core principle of feminism: inclusivity. Let me just start by pointing out the obvious. Our heroine is highly sexualized, with proportions that could confound even the doll makers at Mattel. The palette of her attire is soft, infantilizing, more at place in an Easter basket or on a nursery’s walls than on a grown-ass woman dressed for battle. It’s not that blondes or those with an affinity for pastels can’t be feminists. But should they (myself included) be the face of this new wave?
In the election, 94 percent of Black women and 68 percent of Hispanic or Latinx women voted for Clinton, and 53 percent of white women voted for Trump. While women of color held it down in their opposition to Trump, a majority of white women voted for a candidate who casually called Hispanic people rapists; denigrated the mother of a Muslim Army officer who died serving his country; used his wealth to lead a public crusade in the ’80s against the Central Park Five, innocent youth of color who were wrongly convicted (for which Trump has never apologized); and who openly bragged about sexual assault, an issue that, last time I checked, isn’t partisan. We need to accept this and take responsibility for what it is: a majority of white women in our country were willing to vote to undermine their own safety in order to uphold white supremacy.
A white woman as the symbol of resistance excludes the work of women of color who have been organizing for generations and whose everyday lives are revolutionary in that they take up space in a world that consistently aims to make them smaller. We must model our organizing on their contributions and learn from them. We must consider the message we project in organizing at places like Mercantile and Mash, a bastion of gentrification on our city’s East Side that once housed the Cigar Factory, where, beginning in October 1945, a five-month strike united workers across class, race, and gender, though Black women were a majority of strikers, and, by the end of the strike, the protesters who remained were almost exclusively Black. We must refrain from myopic and historically inaccurate generalizations of movement work, like using “the nascent women’s movement” to describe the organizing happening here in Charleston. As pointed out in the article, there are myriad organizations and grassroots efforts in Charleston already working to dismantle oppressive institutions, and activists have been doing this work here for decades. Though Trump may be our new president, the factors that led to his election are older even than this historic city. We must leverage whatever privileges we possess in our resistance, but we must also remember that this leveraging is only a means to an end, never the goal itself.
Look, this isn’t about shaming white women. This is about having radically honest conversations with ourselves so we can make radical change in the world. This is not meant to discourage women from organizing. We must organize and resist, but in doing so, we need to be careful of the language, imagery, and optics we use to ensure that they are inclusive and are tools to dismantle white supremacy, not to uphold it. That is the real problem with CCP’s “feminist” superhero cover, which exemplifies the larger issue of how a lack of inclusivity and a centering of the most privileged women impedes real change by promoting frameworks of thought that are counterrevolutionary and, therefore, counterproductive. Ultimately, we must work to detonate our own privilege if we are to truly be inclusive.
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