Women can be oppressors too

Rachel Saunders
4 min readNov 24, 2023
Photo by Liliana Drew: https://www.pexels.com/photo/housekeepers-changing-bedding-in-hotel-room-9462742/

One of Kimbele Crenshaw’s opening critiques of feminism was how feminists get wrapped up in one axis of identity, hence why she developed the idea of intersectional feminism for her work before the law. A central conceit that third and fourth wave feminists have built out from intersectional understanding is that women too are capable of oppressing other women. This is not a controversial idea, as any system of power where women hold power over other women can become inherently abusive. Many gender critical second wave feminists seem to forget this, attempting to paint all women as this homogenous whole subservient beneath the patriarchal yoke, forgetting that they only ever appeal to a very slim core demographic of white, middle class, middle aged feminists. Oppression is both an abstract concept and very much one grounded in the lived reality of women the world over, and by denying or refusing to account for women on women oppression gender exclusionary feminists fail to see the plank in their own eye.

While the fight against male oppression is very much needed and justified, there are plenty of women who would brush women-on-women oppression under the carpet for the sake of the movement. They take the broad tent conservative approach of ignoring the ill behaviour of those with power in favour of entrenching their own rights and benefits. If a garment maker in Pakistan or house maid from the Philippines in Dubai is ill-treated, then as long as I get to buy my John Lewis dress so be it. Reactionary feminists fight against anything that impinges on their right to take Tarquin and Saffron to their private school in the Chelsea tractor, allows trans women a modicum of rights to simply exist, and against the very notion that kids do have a decent understanding of self. Any woman who must toil away in the cold for a living, who does not have a book deal, is ignored.

Keyboard warriors on X like to make out that it is trans women coming to destroy women’s rights, yet there is a clear pipeline between the exclusionary feminist movement and the far right who are indeed eroding and stripping women of their right to exist. Women who ignore other women’s plight are not simply fifth columnists, they are actual collaborators in oppressive structures. Women who vote for far-right parties, who simp for Donald Trump, who celebrate when abortion bans come into effect…

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