Shit White Feminists Need To Stop Doing

8 Mar

I’m a white feminist, and let me tell you something: white feminism* is pretty bullshit. It’s exclusive, oppressive, and serves to further marginalize the people who are most impacted by misogyny. Unfortunately, white feminism is also the western status quo of feminism, meaning that white feminists have the biggest platforms, have increased access to resources and media, and are generally considered to be The Voice of Feminism. In theory, someone truly interested in equality would use these assets to amplify the voices of women of colour. In practice, white supremacy is a real thing and white feminists often seem to forget that their white privilege makes it easy as hell to trample over women of colour as they work to dismantle the patriarchy.

So, in honour of International Women’s Day, here is a non-exhaustive list of Shit White Feminists Need to Stop Doing:

1. Believing Their Experiences of Marginalization Are Universal

White feminists like to pretend that they get it. They get it because they’ve been there. They’ve experienced sexism. They’ve experienced misogyny. They’ve been passed over for promotions, whistled at on the street, and had to listen to boring dudes at parties who require approximately ten years of your time in order to explain how fascinating they actually are. These white women have been down in the feminist trenches for years, and like your world-weary Grandpa, they’ve seen it all. They understand the oppression of all women, ok?

Except not. Intersecting forces of oppression mean that women who are queer, racialized, disabled or trans will experience misogyny in very different (and frequently more deadly) ways than white women do. Saying that just because you’re a woman you totally understand all different ways that women are marginalized is not only wildly inaccurate, it’s also just plain ignorant.  Just because you don’t have male privilege doesn’t mean you aren’t the proud owner of a whole host of other types of privilege. And whether you like it or not, those various forms of privilege influence how people treat you.

White women don’t own womanhood, and they don’t get to explain it to women of colour. End of story.

2. Crying About How We’re All On The Same Team

Also known as: “Why are you being so mean to me?”

White feminists tend to have this fantasy that we’re going to tackle this giant, slavering beast called The Patriarchy, and then once that’s done everything will be magical and all of the world’s problems will be solved. They’ll vaguely explain that destroying The Patriarchy will also end racism, transphobia, homophobia and basically everything other societal ill, but they don’t seem to have any clear idea of how exactly that will happen. It just will! Because science.

These feminists will choose specific causes to back – often those that most benefit straight, white, cis-gender women – and will balk if anyone questions why they’re ignoring other types of marginalization that have a greater impact on, say, Black women or trans women. But we’re all on the same team, they’ll tweet frantically. I thought you were on my side. We’re all women, right? The subtext is: you should help me now with the things that directly hurt me, and then maybe one day I’ll help you.

They never seem to wonder why they get to be the ones who delineate the borders between “sides,” or why they get to constantly call the shots about who’s on what team.

3. Talking About Hijabs (Or Burqas, Or Sex-Selective Abortion, Or Anything, Really)

Literally I just want to see all the white feminists take a back seat when it comes to hijabs. It’s amazing that these women will talk up the idea of pro-choice when it comes to pregnancy, but flip out if a woman chooses to cover her hair.

Look, I get it. You think those women are being oppressed, even when they very kindly and patiently tell you they aren’t. You know better than them, right? Because you’ve thrown off the shackles of … something? You think their culture or religion is forcing them into something they don’t really want, and if they believe differently, well, that’s just their internalized misogyny talking.

White women: you literally aren’t more enlightened than everyone else. Stop talking. Go to bed.

Also, explain to me exactly how telling a woman that she shouldn’t wear a specific article of clothing is “empowerment.” It seems to me that limiting women’s choices is the opposite of feminism.

4. Thinking That All Sex Workers Are All Miserable Wretches Who Hate Their Lives

This one isn’t really white women-specific, but I’m going to include it because I’ve seen a lot of white feminists pull this shit and frankly it’s garbage.

Like, this is literally what you’re saying: “I believe women have agency and can make decisions about their lives except for when it has to do with sex work, at which point I will assume that either someone is exploiting them or else they are self-hating gender traitors only interested in the male gaze.”

So just to clarify, you think that women can make choices except when it’s a choice you disagree with, at which point you’re pretty sure she’s being coerced. You also think that sex workers need to be “rescued,” even if they’re happy with what they do. You would rather see women further marginalized by anti-prostitution laws than find ways to keep sex workers safe.

Again, explain to me how this is a pro-woman stance?

5. Arguing That All Other Forms Of Oppression Are Over So We Need to Focus On Women

I’M LOOKING AT YOU, ARQUETTE.

Look, I know that her Oscar speech has been critiqued and analyzed to death, so I won’t dwell on this too much, but – come the fuck on. First of all, saying that we need “all the gay people and people of colour that we’ve all fought for to fight for us now” kind of insinuates that none of those gay people or people of colour are women, no? Second of all, literally read a book or something because racism and homophobia and transphobia are far from over. Third of all, you are a white woman who has benefitted from enormous privilege her entire life. You don’t get to tell other marginalized groups what to do.

I know that her remarks were well-intentioned. I get that. But that’s a huge part of the problem – white feminists toss this kind of shit off the cuff, then get huffy when they’re called out, and then we’re right back to number two on this list. Just own your privilege for a hot second and stop bleating about how mean everyone else is being when they point out how you’ve rightfully fucked up.

White feminists: this is a call for you to get your shit together. The point of equality isn’t to claw your way to the top so that you can treat other people just as badly as white dudes have treated you – we need to elevate each other, amplify each other’s voices, and maybe let someone else tell us if we’re allowed to be on their team. Because, as per Flavia Dzodan, if your feminism is not intersectional, then I’m sorry but it’s complete bullshit.

solidarity___intersectionality

* by “white feminism” I mean a certain demographic of white women who are straight, cis and able-bodied and view their brand of “feminism” as being better and more “real” than that of anyone else’s.

263 Responses to “Shit White Feminists Need To Stop Doing”

  1. Zeid May 8, 2015 at 9:38 am #

    How many times must you insist on using the term “literally” incorrectly?

    • Jennifer Hughes March 8, 2016 at 2:07 pm #

      Um, no, she means “literally.” You just really don’t want to believe it.

  2. jouissanceartistique May 8, 2015 at 3:04 pm #

    I’m gonna be honest I just came here for the comments, but I would like to clarify something that everyone keeps getting wrong…the above article is not racist, period. It’s a privilege check, and as much as I hate people that do this, it’s even more so infuriating to hear people that are completely tone deaf occupy a moral high ground that is unjustified. The point is this, despite your struggles as a (in this case white cis-female) you do not understand or fully comprehend the struggles of another persons experience, and while valid, your experience can not and will not compare to another persons suffering especially those who experience a greater level of marginalization and oppression. It’s because of this that you are not the ideal person to determine what will or will not ease the suffering of others let alone speak for another persons oppression especially when you silence or dismiss others people’s experiences (sex workers, lgbtq folk etc…) in favor of addressing what you deem to be the primary concern of everyone else, cause you know we’re all on the same team. But what do I know I’m just a white passing-cis-hetero-male that thinks he gets it but probably doesn’t because I’m just a white passing-cis-Hetero-male (hooray for assumed privilege blindness 😄)

  3. teamedwardjace May 20, 2015 at 2:15 am #

    Great article and I’m causcian !

  4. Kate Cordes (@Kate_Juliana) May 20, 2015 at 6:01 am #

    I wouldn’t have cringed so much at this article if it had been titled “Shit some feminists need to check”. These points you make aren’t horrid. As a “white feminist” (I will puke later for saying that”, I am onboard with ya thinking that people do need to open their eyes on these topics and constantly check themselves and their mistakes. But Narrowing it to “white feminists” kills your goal here. You could have reached more people. You could have discussed the race, religion, privilege, discrimination, etc, involved in feminism just like most things in life. You could have made FEMINISTS check themselves. Because, I know from my own experience, it is very important to check yourself and where you stand on matters and where you may be wrong. But unfortunately you took to your soap box and tried, but missed the mark. I agree with a lot of comments, I wish you had quoted more people, researched more, given FEMINISTS a chance to see their errors or find people to help them. I wish you had expanded more on things all feminists should keep in mind. But I want to repeat, all the points you attempted to make I agree women and men need to stop doing. But, as another commentator said, you opened up a floor for a discussion, just unsure how many people it reached. Thank you for striving to be better and thank you for not being afraid to state your opinions on some very hard topics. Thank you for being a feminist.
    sincerely,
    A feminist, liberal, Catholic

  5. discojaxx June 13, 2015 at 4:45 am #

    Reblogged this on brightorangelips.

  6. aqilaqamar June 14, 2015 at 1:50 am #

    Reblogged this on Iconography ♠ Incomplete and commented:
    Lot of guts to actually critique yourself or people that can be held in relation to you

  7. Cece August 13, 2015 at 11:22 pm #

    I am so sick of hearing about the bullshit people have come up with which is now titled “White feminism”. Look we get it. People can be ignorant. But this whole idea that only “white” feminists are the only ones who are ignorant because of our inherent “privilege” is absurd. Because I know plenty of women of other ethnicities who are completely ignorant to other peoples choices and cultures. And I have to confidently say that for the most part, the “issues” that you address in this article, are not what ANY true feminist who understands what feminism truly is, regardless of her race or ethnicity, advocates for. When we speak about muslim women being oppressed, we’re not talking about the women who choose a different color hijab everyday. We’re talking about the women who, in other countries, get acid thrown on their face on their way to school. We’re talking about the ones with no voice and no rights, forced to struggle for existence in a highly misogynistic and patriarchal society that stones them to death and hangs their bodies in public squares in examples of how women should not be allowed to show more than an ankle. When we speak about sex workers, we’re not talking about the women who’ve made a conscience choice to do so. We’re talking about the girls who are not even teenagers, not even at the point of puberty, and are being sold into slavery in many countries around the world, are beaten by men and might possibly die in the conditions they are in. Also, none of the articles I’ve seen condemning white feminism, including this one, are the least bit constructive. They just tear down other women, the opposite of what real feminists are supposed to do. Just because we are different doesn’t mean we can’t help each other. You want these white women you identify as “problematic feminists” to change their mind? Then teach them. Post a video or an article about HOW black women like Sandra Bland face a different type of misogyny than I do, go in depth, site statistics and articles. Educate others instead of tearing them down. Because in the end, all you’re doing by posting articles like this is showing that you’re no better than the white feminists you complain about.

  8. Giuseppina February 4, 2016 at 1:20 pm #

    One of the things I loved about my late husband is how he always reminded himself of how fortunate he was to be born a white man in America with good looks and educated parents – – he had nothing to do with that.

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