What Does It Mean To Be A Woman Of Colour?

By: Bilqees Mohamed


As social media has embraced “woke” culture, the term women of colour is not only used loosely, but often used to unify women who are excluded from White, mainstream culture and feminism.


When we associate race with feminism, we are conflating the way racism and sexism has merged our identities as cis women, trans and femme women with our racial identities. This isn’t new - white women were the pioneers of this when they centered women’s movements around their experiences as white, middle-class, cis-women.


It may seem that distinctively identifying as a woman of colour is an act of resistance to White feminism. But has the term made us eager in creating a race-inclusive feminist movement whilst complacent in addressing how different communities grapple with racism?


I know several intersectional feminists who have abhorred the term and have seen it as a means to erase the anti-blackness that runs deep in several communities. To them, anti-blackness is swept under the rug as we all wave the flag of inclusion under the term “women of colour.”


As a Black, Muslim, cis-gendered woman, I get it.


Identity politics is something I have never been able to avoid. When discussions of race come up in conversations, it’s a challenge to avoid pandering to the fears of people who believe we live in a post-racial world. In these moment’s, identifying more broadly as a "woman of colour” strikes the perfect balance between acknowledging whiteness and not exposing your fellow co-worker who definitely can’t be racist because she has Black friends.


I admit, it’s easier. But it has never felt right. It almost feels as if I am reducing the lose the rich histories, complexities and the opportunity to know what if feels like to advocate for my identity that often speaks before I do.


When we use the neutralize term women of colour is used, we place ourselves in a paradox of strategically and stealthy affirming our identities, whilst still living in a world where barriers, walls (both metaphorically and literally) are still reminding us our difference at every turn.


So what would happen if we named our racial realities as women? Would our bosses who have sought our racial perspectives no longer approach us? Will we become walking triggers of White guilt? Or deemed as social justice warriors that always bring up race at the dinner table?


Maybe.


But what I know is that language matters. Language captures histories, experiences and identities. Language transcends generations.


Whether we choose to identify as a woman of colour or a black, south Asian, East Asian, Indigenous woman, there is always power in the way we speak of ourselves.

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