When I Think Of Pussy Power, I Don't Think Of The Women's Movement
Jorge Bautista

Though she's best known for her role as Vee on Orange Is The New Black and currently stars on FOX's Rosewood as Donna, Lorraine Toussaint is also a political activist. In February, she wrote an article for The Huffington Post titled "Black Pussy Matters" to expose the racial divide within the women's movement. Unfortunately, it seems that months later, not much has changed. This is what "pussy power" means to Toussaint, and how it can be included in the women's movement, as told to Bustle TV Editor Samantha Rullo.

I voted for Hillary Clinton. But during her campaign, I found that there was something nagging at me. There was something about her that was not resonating with me and I was curious about why. Even though I was clearly going to vote for her, why didn’t I feel connected to her? Why didn’t I feel that she was necessarily speaking for me or on my behalf? It turns out, I wasn’t the only person who felt that way, and one of the biggest mistakes in her campaign was not reaching out to the disenfranchised, not specifically reaching out to minorities of a certain socioeconomic class.

Then Hillary lost and, oh my gosh, we are now in the pickle that we’re in with Donald Trump. America is facing some of its darkest, darkest hours. But because I’m a deeply spiritual woman, and an optimistic one, I believe in my bones that on some level, Donald Trump is the answer, because one of the things that this presidency is doing is it is revealing the putrid underbelly that has managed to remain relatively dormant in this country — in our country. It’s coming to the surface and it’s forcing people to choose. That’s the good news. We’re banding together across lines that will determine our survival, and I don’t think we’ve ever really banded together in these kinds of ways before. Not just across racial lines, but across gender lines, religious lines, where good people are standing up and will continue to stand up because that really is the hope of this nation.

I don’t feel like I’m part of the women’s movement, because it feels like the women’s movement is the white women’s movement.

I was looking at people standing up with the Women’s March and particularly the pussy hats — the pink pussy hats. Talking to my friends and colleagues who are white women, they all had a certain zealot enthusiasm around Hillary as the first woman to potentially become president, which frankly, I am proud of. But there was a rise in a kind of women’s movement around Hillary by white women who, in my experience, assumed, and it’s those assumptions that began to irritate me. They assumed that I felt the same way they did because I’m a woman, and to an extent I do, because I’m proud of the fact that Hillary could’ve been the first woman president. But within that, I still didn’t feel that she was necessarily going to be speaking for me as a black woman. I see those assumptions within the women’s movement, that somehow because I’m a woman, I’m in alignment and I’m part of your group.

Yet I don’t feel like I’m part of the women’s movement, because it feels like the women’s movement is the white women’s movement.

Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images News/Getty Images

That is a gross generalization and I’m aware of that, but I have to tell you that since I wrote "Black Pussy Matters," I’ve had so many black women reach out to me and say, “thank you, nobody is talking about this, nobody is speaking for us.” People are assuming that we’re the same, but when the women’s movement first started, black women were not a part of it. We have certainly benefitted from the women's movement, but our concerns and fears for our wellbeing and safety are very different from the dominant culture, from white women.

The current women’s movement needs to reach out to minority women and invite us to the party, and not assume — as the dominant culture often does — that their reality is everyone else’s reality, that their truth is everyone else’s truth; that's the hubris of the dominant culture.

As women, I don’t want us to make that mistake with all of this empowerment, around the march, around pussy power. By the way, I hate that word. I hate it. It’s just short of the c word. But this misogynistic, uncouth, ill-mannered, rude, sexist, vile, person is now the most powerful man in the free world, and he bandied the word pussy and has made it commonplace, so I decided to run with that. But if we want to talk about pussy power, it’s not a slogan and it’s not about rallying around a certain level of superficial empowerment.

When I think of pussy power, I think of my mother coming to this country as an immigrant and a single woman...

When I think of pussy power, I think of my mother coming to this country as an immigrant and a single woman, who was a pianist and a Montessori teacher, who came to this country on her own to work in someone’s home as a nanny for two years to get her green card so she could bring her child to America. She did this alone.

I think of my grandmother, who was a midwife and a nurse in the '30s, who went from island to island by boat, who would roll up on islands where the women would see her coming and gather on the beach and jump for joy because she was there. She did this alone.

I think of my aunt, my mother’s sister, who went to Canada with $50 in her pocket to study and somehow managed to get several degrees on her own. This is pussy power. This is not about slogans or wearing a pink hat.

Giphy

There’s a wealth of feminine power — and I mean the archetypal feminine power — that is unapologetically feminine. There are workers that have been in the fields and on the frontline for generations, quietly fighting this fight, who I don’t think the women’s movement is even acutely aware of, or who they value in the same way they do white women, and these are women of color. These are Latina women, these are black women, these are women that have come from other cultures, these are immigrant women. We have to be invited into this group or else we will go down the same road that Hillary went down and that will be a mistake. We can’t afford to not invite all women and not make assumptions about them.

The first step forward is for more people to have the courage to speak out and not be afraid. My household is multiracial — my daughter is biracial, I’m getting married to someone who is not black — so my observations, my concerns, are really about being part of the solution. And yes, I think it does mean that when we are staging national kinds of rallies that we make an extra attempt to go into communities where we can invite people of color to join us on these marches, to join us at the table, to assure that their voices are heard and equally valued.

It’s wonderful to be a woman at a time in history where I have choices, and although I am a black woman, very much like the dominant culture, there are some privileges that I’ve taken for granted. But this is not a time to take anything for granted for, so it behooves us all to stand up and fearlessly speak out.