113th Congress: The House May be More Diverse than Ever, But It Will Lead to Division

The new diversity in the U.S. House of Representatives is being wildly celebrated, especially in the feminist community. But is the triumph here really more diversity?

The word diversity is thrown around quite a bit, mostly to indicate variety and the co-existence of differences. However, what the general conversation should actually be about is the exchange of ideas between the people in a diverse group, and the melding together of these ideas into a common vision. Groups of people with diverse experiences and cultures attending the same college, working in the same work place or living in the same country are not particularly valuable when they are not interacting with one other. In order for these groups to be most advantageous, the people within them need to interact with one another and learn from each other.

Instead, division often occurs amongst members of these diverse groups, making them less effective — and in turn, less diverse. This occursregardless of what percentages are for each race within that college, workplace or country. Diversity means variety; there can be no variety when there is division. Feminist values of diversity are that type of indivisible variety. As taught in feminist academia, division is what created the need for feminism. The division of labor became the catalyst for the woman being seen only as the domestic worker and the child bearer. Division is exactly what feminism doesn’t want. And that’s why the wider variety of groups represented in the House might not be a feminist diversity, but more of the divided diversity that’s been seen in many circles already.

Of course, I would never argue that having more representation in our government of different groups is a bad thing. However, everyone should be conscious of the fact that the recent presidential election has shown us that our government is divided into two very distinct ideals and visions for the country. Democrats and Republicans, though always differing on how to go about it, have at the very least had similar hopes for the country. We’re moving further and further away from that, into differing both in vision and in proposed courses of action. Division like that does not promote diversity, or even equality, which are both important feminist ideals.

Right now, the House looks a lot like “women and minorities to the left and white men to the right.” Such a stark division does not reflect the fight for equality on the part of women and people of minority races.

The core of the feminist movement was not about superiority over men, just as the Civil Rights movement was never about blacks' superiority over whites. Both movements were efforts to be considered equal citizens under the law and in society. That equality implies unification. It has to, or things like racial and gender segregation would still be the law of the land. But they aren't, and that’s because segregation was found to be just another way of enforcing inequality (most notably in the Supreme Court case Brown vs. the Board of Education.) So separation was not a goal for either of these movements, but rather separation was what needed to be overcome.

Thus, the House doesn’t embody the feminist values of diversity. It’s more like the college admissions propaganda type of diversity.

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Eboni Boykin

Eboni Boykin is an undergraduate at Columbia University, studying Religion and Gender Studies. She is interested in race and gender in the media.

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