Where was the community outrage? The opinion and news pages, radio airwaves, extensive television reports, Facebook feeds full of tributes to yet another female victim of a man’s hate? A young woman with a name, stories, a personality, a history. A young woman with a family, friends, a community who cared about her.
And where were the proud feminists marching the streets decrying the discarding of a woman’s life, like it was nothing? I thought feminism was a movement for all women no matter their skin colour, their sexual orientation or what they look like. I thought feminism was a much bigger movement of women standing in solidarity despite differences to fight for equal rights.
But last week, as a black woman, I felt disregarded and excluded by that movement. And I’m not alone – I have many friends who felt similarly dismayed and angered by this snub against Natalina, a woman of African descent.
This is part of a disturbing trend: the further a woman strays from whiteness, the less outrage her death will spark, the less attention from media she will attract. We saw this with Qi Yu, who died last year in Sydney, in the same week as Eurydice Dixon, and then Laa Chol, who was murdered not a month later.
If Natalina had been a white woman, I daresay Melbourne would be paralysed again by outrage and sorrow. The people we expect to stand up at these moments didn’t – the community at large and feminism failed Natalina Angok.
Feminism without intersectionality is on a slippery slope to irrelevance for an increasingly diverse community of women fighting for gender justice. All women deserve that justice: women of colour, women with disabilities, queer and transwomen. I’m perplexed and angered by this neglect.
Had this murder been committed by a South Sudanese man maybe more people would’ve noticed. Politicians would’ve risen up from their caves and declared the need to deport minorities – that much is certain. Instead it was a white man who killed a woman. A black woman to be precise. I suppose no one wanted to tread on anyone’s toes? Yes I had to bring race into this. Because this does come down to race whether you are afraid to admit it or not. This is about race.
What has happened to Natalina Angok, Qi Yu, Laa Chol, Aiia Masarwe, and Eurydice Dixon is heart breaking. They were women. Some of them received city stopping outpourings of grief and some of them were ignored. Some of them were used as political pawns to talk about ‘African gangs’ – and you can tell who they were by how fair their skin was. One thing is for certain, each murder was an attack on all women.
To the community at large, including white feminists: question why you have such a visceral reaction to some murders, attend vigils, mourn, and talk for weeks on end, but others you will tweet and move on. Consider how your race protects you from so much, and when it was not enough to protect you, how even in death you are so much more visible than people who look like me.
Womanhood has no race. It should just exist in its oneness. If feminism really is a movement for women’s rights, then no one woman is greater than the other.
When another woman’s life is taken by a man, whether she is black, white, Asian, disabled, Hispanic, trans, religious, gay or straight, her life will matter. Just like Natalina Angok’s life mattered.