The Myth of Shared Womanhood and How It Perpetuates Inequality

by Mia McKenzie

I’ve been thinking a lot about shared female identity. A lot of people seem to think that being born with female parts bonds you in some significant way to other people who are born with female parts. In order to get the most out of all that bonded-female-parts-ness, there are events and outings that welcome female-born people only, places where we can listen to the music “we” like and talk about our periods or something. It goes like this: “women” have a different experience in the world than “men” and therefore understand each other on some deep level and in some universal way because of that experience. While I agree, of course, with that first part, I find the last part really tricky.

I don’t feel any universal connection with all people who are born with female parts. I’m not sure I know anyone who actually does, not when you really break it down. Because, despite what mainstream (white) feminism and tampon commercials would have us believe, “shared” female experience isn’t really all that “shared” at all.

Let’s take for example a well-known issue that affects women–the issue of “equal pay.” We’ve all heard the statistic: in the US, women make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes on average. That sucks. But it’s not quite the shared experience it seems. A recent report by the National Partnership for Women & Families shows that black women only make 70 cents for every dollar a man makes on average, and only 64 cents compared to every dollar paid to a white, non-Hispanic man. And Latinas make only 55 cents for every dollar made by a white, non-Hispanic man. Well, damn. That 77 cents never looked so good.

Of course, it’s not just economics…