White feminism: what’s the problem?

Today ladies and gentlemen boys and girls of all ages races genders sexual orientations and everything in between we are going to be discussing the oh so relevant topic of white feminism, and my fab fiery fruity funky fresh feminist friend Vicky Pullen is going to help us do just that. With people like Lena Dunham and Taylor Swift constantly being labelled as such, I thought it time I found out what we’re actually accusing them of.

I came out as a feminist to Vicky first at the ripe age of 17 so I thought it only fitting she be the one to help us out here. I literally remember walking into the classroom and saying yep, i’m ready, i’m willing to be labelled a feminist and she actually squealed. made a proper little rodent sound. Plus, she’s overly qualified for the job as she knows shit tonnes and does great work to reach a better future for all women alike (as well as sustainability work for the world with The Body Shop hence the cover photo but this is my blog so let’s not distract the attention from me too much. also she was in fucking grazia. fucking why).

Anyway, I pinged her across a few questions in an attempt to educate us all and allow us to be of more use to society. She gave me some amazing advice and information on what white feminism is and how to fight it, drawing on the recent Women’s March and her own experience as a mixed-race woman. it’s lengthy, but well worth the read, as we could all do with educating ourselves as much as possible, in a time when when all women really do need to stand together more than ever. Let’s

 

Simply put, white feminism claims to be the idea that feminism as is widely addressed leaves out women of colour. Is this what it means to you?

In a nutshell, yes. I know that some white women take issue with the term because they feel that it isolates subgroups of women in a cause that is intended to unite all women under a common struggle, but they fail to see how white feminism often throws People of Colour (POC) under the bus. When white women wanted the vote in America, prominent figures within the movement were furious that the black men they looked down on could vote. There were white feminists who supported lynching. White feminism isn’t a new fad or trend – it has been fostered within western societies by the legacy of colonialism. I can’t get on board with a feminism that isn’t intersectional. Socio-political issues don’t exist in separate vacuums – they overlap and constantly interact with one another. White women are so often in a better position than POC of any gender, just as straight cisgender women have inherent privilege over lesbian, bisexual, and transgender women.

I think the recent Women’s Marches are truly representative of White Feminism in action; many WOC refused to attend with the knowledge that white women voted Donald Trump into power and resent that the same demographic gets to be applauded around the world for their peaceful protesting. It’s not that white women are inherently more peaceful – it’s that they undoubtedly get away with much more than POC who are constantly stereotyped as aggressive and violent, and as such are met with unreasonable and unprovoked police brutality.

How can we find ways to decrease white feminism in society into an all-inclusive movement?

Do not let white women be the spokespeople for the entire feminist movement. Recognise that your own worldview cannot include the perspectives of all women, and step back when you need to. There are so many intelligent and capable Women of Colour (WOC) who want to be heard, and giving them their own platforms alongside white women is the most important thing the feminist movement can do. Feminism becomes a mockery of itself when we try to make it one-size-fits-all. Gather female voices from as many backgrounds as possible and give your support to these fights because struggling women everywhere should be your sisters – not just the ones who you directly relate to. I think the sooner mainstream feminism can be transparent about the intersection of racial politics, the sooner some women will stop distancing themselves from it. There needs to be solidarity among all women; not white women manipulating current racist or classist paradigms to get a leg up on the ladder.

How does white feminism affect you?

As a mixed-race woman in predominantly white spaces for most of my life, it has subtly affected me in ways I couldn’t pinpoint until a few years ago. It can sometimes feel like the feminist voice that I’m hearing isn’t meant for people like me. It doesn’t recognize Misogynoir – the specific prejudice that black women face – as an urgent issue to be deconstructed under feminism. When I was 14 it was made very clear to me during an exchange with a group of white boys at school, that white girls were considered people to be in relationships with while black (and mixed race) girls were purely exotic sex objects to be fetishized. That is something that wiggled deep into my brain and has followed me into adulthood, and I’ve heard women of many other ethnicities speak of similar experiences. White feminism affects us subliminally every day; it’s the unquestioned beauty standards that declare the features of other ethnicities and races are ugly, that white women have ridiculed the hair and fashion of POC for decades and call us ghetto and ratchet but turn around to appropriate and monetise it.

I’ve seen instances of white women/people attempt to sympathise with POC and in turn be rejected, since (quite rightly) they can’t understand what POC deal with. What is the best way for white women to address this issue?

Listening. It’s as simple as that, honestly. Listening to the voices of Women of Colour and using your position to make sure others hear them too. WOC don’t want white women to echo their words and receive credit for it because they gave it a white face; we want white women to support us as honest allies instead of seeing us as competition, or not seeing us at all. Being told that you, as a white woman, hold certain privileges over POC is not a personal insult and shouldn’t be taken as one because this isn’t about you. The best thing you can do is to accept what that entails – and use that understanding to take a back seat when WOC want to talk about the specific struggles that we face.

Any final words?

The history of feminism is riddled with racism, and while the fights and achievements of WOC have benefited white women significantly, their names and stories are so often glossed over. Dig up those stories and learn their names, learn the theories that these women didn’t receive proper credit for. Always look at feminism critically and ask if, at a time where superficial feminism has become a tactic to sell commodities, you are being sold something that sort of sounds like it might be empowering to women but actually benefits a white capitalist social structure that maintains the status quo.

 

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