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. Hmmmm March 10, 2015 at 4:51 am #

    If I actually thought this post was an earnest attempt to make the world a better place, I might be able to forgive the massive leaps in logic… but as Cassandra pointed out, it’s all so smug and self-congratulatory… and we’ve heard it all before.

    I’ll just take one example — telling white women to “stop talking about hijabs or burqas,” when there’s criticism from women WITHIN THE MUSLIM WORLD over being forced to wear hijabs and burqas… holy shit… how arrogant and hypocritical is that?? Even if 1% of women in certain countries think it’s unjust to be forced to wear an item of clothing that men aren’t forced to wear… doesn’t that 1% deserve our support? But noooooo… cultural relativism is more important than standing up against oppression. That, to me, is proof that people like this blogger are really just in it for the page clicks… they’re not willing to think about their point of view or challenge the orthodoxy within their own political movement.

    Let’s take that argument to its logical extreme. If you think that cultural relativism should trump human rights, then you could argue that forward-thinking countries like Sweden and Argentina and Canada, which have all legalize same-sex marriage, have no right to criticize backwards countries (like the U.S.) that haven’t done so yet. But that would be ridiculous! I’ve been standing up for marriage equality since long before it was cool… and I welcome ANYONE in the world who wants to criticize my culture for its backwards ways.

    I’m all for cultural relativism… but the buck stops where human rights are concerned. The left criticized apartheid in South Africa and engaged in sanctions that brought an oppressive government to its knees. What has happened to the contemporary left that has made us so fragmented and ineffectual? Too many egos… too much mindless conformity… and not enough genuine commitment to social justice.

    • jouissanceartistique May 8, 2015 at 3:09 pm #

      So does that make women who wear hijab as an expression of faith some how complicit in a system of oppression when the primary reason for them in doing has nothing to do with perpetuating that system?

  2. Counterproductive. March 10, 2015 at 6:19 am #

    this is completely counter-productive the purpose of feminism, or all fights for equality for that matter. YOU are perpetuating sexism by singling out specific races when speaking about womanhood. YOU are perpetuating racism by applying discrimination against women to different races and by marginalizing racism to two races. YOU are perpetuating subconscious segregation and inequality by saying that any form of feminism “needs to stop” and that its a “black women” versus “white women” versus “lesbians” versus “straight women” battle. Sexism is color blind and pays no attention to sexual orientation. Sexism sees SEX. Feminism is the battle of equality between MEN AND WOMEN. No races, no sexualities, no ethnicities, no disabilities. And by marginalizing an entire race of WOMEN, you are simply standing on the wrong side of the fight my dear. As an avid feminist who makes a living working for women’s rights, I am embarrassed by this article; on behalf of all feminist. HA!

  3. Fluffy Kitties March 10, 2015 at 9:00 am #

    Feminists who haven’t been involved in LGBTQ activism may be unfamiliar with the divisive tactics used in this blog entry. In recent years, many of these same types of arguments have been employed by People of Color (POC) Trans activists in attempts to displace the first wave of 90’s genderqueer FTM’s (who were largely White middle class). As with Feminism, most of the folks who have time and energy to engage in Trans activism have tended to be well-educated and free of financial burdens. In our American society of institutional racism, relatively fewer POC can afford to devote much time to political activism, and the White folks who do make it to the meetings typically have limited experience with outreach to POC communities and organizations. Consequently, White voices have been historically predominant in both Feminism and Trans activism.

    Over the last 15 years, non-profit support for career LGBTQ activists has increased, providing modest salaries, but enough income to make it practical for many more POC to make a living in community activism. These people are natural leaders, but typically work in small non-profit organizations. As part of their community outreach, they often participate in local activist groups, many of which are predominately White volunteers. Here’s where the culture clash emerges.

    Most White activists would like to attract more POC to their groups, but don’t know what to do about it. They typically welcome POC career activists as fresh sources of expertise and street cred. For the established White ringleaders, however, an articulate POC can present a challenge to their leadership, and they may react defensively to efforts to reorient the group along more POC lines. Sooner or later, someone or something will ill-advisedly polarize a discussion along racial fault-lines. This is when the phrase everyone has been avoiding comes up: White Privilege.

    The BIG PROBLEM, however, is that once that happens, the group is no longer focusing on Feminism or Trans activism, it’s struggling with American racism. Not that racism isn’t a serious and worthwhile cause to tackle, but it’s so heavy it tends to subordinate the group’s core mission, and before you know it, someone proposes a Trans People of Color meeting…

    I’m retired now and no one hates me, so I don’t have an axe to grind. But I do have some advice. This is an inherently tribal conflict that is inexorably driven by the slow demographic erosion of White middle class dominance. It will take decades for White people to reach the point where they can genuinely look up to you. In the meantime, have patience and compassion for those who demonstrate good faith.

  4. Vanettanet March 10, 2015 at 9:42 am #

    BRAVO! BRAVA! BRAVISSIMO!

  5. imadeiyamu March 10, 2015 at 9:55 am #

    Reblogged this on imade.

  6. jarbottom March 10, 2015 at 11:41 am #

    Great post but not sure what is up with number 4. Prostitution is demonstrably racist and sexist at its core, overwhelmingly favoring the white and the young.

    • ladyfiasco March 10, 2015 at 9:52 pm #

      Are you a sex worker? Because you don’t get to speak for me or my chosen profession if you aren’t. Sex work isn’t sex trafficking.

      • E5 March 12, 2015 at 7:11 pm #

        (trigger warning: the following comment is posted by a white male. Also, even though it’s a question, due to sneaky white-male-wizardry, it is still intended as a statement, not a question.)

        So if she were a sex worker you actually would let her speak for you?

      • MaryFaith March 13, 2015 at 2:06 am #

        I’m a sex worker. I’ve done stripping, cam work, modeling and escorting.
        It’s all racist, sexist, ageist, and enforces beauty norms.

      • annanym March 20, 2015 at 10:09 am #

        What you say makes no sense at all. U do not have to be a sex worker to see “black” “asian” “latino” are theire own genre in porn. You do not have to be a sex worker to see that in porn, they love to put white females with black males fetishizing the “big black cock” bulllshit. We also barely ever see asian males in porn that is made in europe or the us. It is a known fact that white girls make more money, not only in porn but also by camm8ng and prostitution, heck over here you cannget black girls for 5 euro. Sex work might not be sex trafficking but where to draw the line? It just happens in the same industry… and let me guess, you are white?

      • Brazen Lee April 5, 2015 at 9:23 pm #

        THANK YOU for saying that!

  7. Rachel March 10, 2015 at 2:04 pm #

    You say we need to amplify each other’s voices and elevate everyone. This article is precisely an example of not doing that. It’s negative, non constructive, and creates cracks in the movement. This type of article is exactly what divides us. You are having a bitch fest here. This is the type of stuff that you should write in your journal and when you can come to the public with a supportive, unifying, empowering message, then share it. This isn’t helpful for anyone and defeats the cause.

    • Rachel March 10, 2015 at 2:09 pm #

      Also, if you can overlook Patricia Arquette’s word choice in her statements on feminism, what she is actually saying is, let’s all support each other. She’s on our team, don’t tear her down.

      • Alexandra March 12, 2015 at 8:27 pm #

        I am a Latina woman and this article made me feel very uncomfortable. Thanks for your words, Rachel.

      • MaryFaith March 13, 2015 at 2:07 am #

        Dead on in everything you’ve said.

      • not-in-kansas-anymore March 18, 2015 at 1:21 am #

        Right on, Rachel… totally agree.

      • Kate Cordes (@Kate_Juliana) May 20, 2015 at 5:17 am #

        I feel exactly the same! thanks for stating it s nicely!

    • kristenlizlourie April 19, 2015 at 2:37 pm #

      Rachel, I totally agree. I feel like being racist isn’t helping sexism. We’re all after a common goal and that’s for equality. For myself when I think of feminism it’s all women, not just white, it’s really silly to try to take something positive and turn it into something really shitty and negative.

    • lissmsmith May 11, 2015 at 10:27 pm #

      I agree. Reading this article made me feel compelled to write a response. I understand the points that are being made but it’s done in such a fashion that divides feminists when what we need to be doing (while acknowledging and rectifying the mistakes people make) is uniting. If you’re interested in reading the whole thing it’s here: https://theunapologists.wordpress.com/2015/03/29/white-feminists-can-be-intersectional-feminists-too/ I’m not trying to shamelessly self-promote, it’s just a longer explanation of what I think is unhelpful about articles like this

    • Patty June 7, 2015 at 12:58 am #

      I agree with you Rachel. The problem is not white feminism but rather that there is still a lot of racism, sexism and exclusion in western white societies. This has be fought with all energy

      • heresy of rain July 14, 2015 at 4:41 pm #

        The idea that something called “white feminism” is not a site for examining the historical and continuing interconnections between racism and feminism does not make sense. In fact, feminism that eschews this examination is demonstrably not committed to understanding and combating the *intersectional* forms of subordination/discrimination/oppression/violence that people face as a result of identity politics, and is thus “bullshit,” as this post proclaims. A sturdy anti-racist politics supports the a true feminist agenda- it is not the enemy.

  8. jamescarolo March 10, 2015 at 6:43 pm #

    Really interesting thoughts.I would love to hear an expanding piece on “Thinking That All Sex Workers Are All Miserable Wretches Who Hate Their Lives”

  9. TS March 10, 2015 at 6:54 pm #

    What people need to stop doing is bringing up the 5% of sex workers who actually “think” they do it by choice like they’re the majority or something.

    Sex Workers are broken people. They’re almost always from broken homes, have poor relationships with their dads, histories of mental illness / substance abuse or have been sexually assaulted in their childhood.

    Very few fully functioning women would suck a guy’s dick that’s old enough to be hergrandpa for $100 .

    The “Sex Work is real work” is one of the stupidest things that’s ever come around in Feminism.

    Ask 99% of the women who have left the industry whether they look back on their time fondly.

    • naturalbonus March 10, 2015 at 8:59 pm #

      I am not a broken person. I resent you insinuating that the reason I worked in the sex industry was because I am a victim who just wants to remain a victim.

      What you need to do is stop saying horrible, ignorant things like this – because I DO look back on my time in the industry (12 years) fondly.

    • ladyfiasco March 10, 2015 at 10:04 pm #

      What people need to stop doing is assuming that sex work isn’t just like any other job. Sex workers go to work, put on their uniform, work their shift and go home, like any other person. I feel the only difference between my job and say a bus boy or hairdresser or bank clerk is that I get the pay I deserve for the work I do. I don’t beg for tips and if some guy the same age as my grandpa want me to suck his dick it’ll be costing him a damn bit more than $100.
      As for being a broken person, you’ll find those in other professions too. We all have our issues, because it’s human, we are all human. Regardless, how very bold of you to point out that sex workers might have mental health issues, maybe you could campaign and advocate for us regarding mental health support instead of talking down about us when you think no one is looking.

    • ladyfiasco March 10, 2015 at 10:05 pm #

      Also, nothing quite like a bit of ableism with your fully functioning women comment. Nice.

    • olivia March 11, 2015 at 6:22 pm #

      All workers are broken people whose material conditions force them to do shit for money they wouldn’t ordinarily do, what the fuck do you think capitalism is… one big dress up party? Sucking dicks for $100 an hour is just as terrible and degrading to women as flipping 400 burgers for $7.50.

      This is the problem with middle class white feminists… they don’t get the concept of intersectionality at all… feminism is all about assimilation and breaking glass ceilings to y’all. As long as theres a rich white woman at the helm of civilization, y’all say to fuck with all the trans women, women of color, and poor women who suffer under the very foundation of that civilization.

      It isn’t the sex workers who are to blame for their plight, its the economic system and the rich people who benefit from it. Whether it’s a male CEO or female CEO/ a male president or a female president, it is of no benefit to the women mopping floors, sucking dicks or working in a factory — oppression with a feminine touch is still oppression.

      • ruby March 16, 2015 at 10:47 pm #

        wow dude, flipping burgers is just a degrading as sucking dick hey? i tell you i have flipped burgers and there is alot more dignity to it than letting strangers violate your body for money. Wow thats something I never thought I would ever have to explain to a person, your logic is retarded the internet should be protected from your brain.

    • Emma5 March 11, 2015 at 7:33 pm #

      Let’s be real. The criminalization of sex work didn’t arise from some deep concern for prostitutes; we wanted everyone to follow our Puritanical sexual standards.

      Maybe the reason that so many current sex workers are desperate people is because society stigmatizes the profession so much that nobody else is willing to do it. Maybe HIV is such a problem in the industry because sex workers are too ashamed to seek screening and treatment. The last thing they need is more of the same.

      And I’d totally suck a guy’s dick for $100. Glad to know you judge whether a woman is “fully functioning” by how promiscuous she is.

      • ruby March 16, 2015 at 10:50 pm #

        lets be honest, they haven’t figured out a way to tax sex properly yet.

    • Rebecca March 12, 2015 at 12:42 am #

      Thanks for posting this. It certainly bears repeating that we white feminists have enormous privilege, and that this privilege has led to exclusions in the feminist movement over time. My addition is specifically related to point 3 on hijab and sex-selective abortion.

      Having worked in Afghanistan for the past 5 years, nothing annoys me more than the obsession non-muslims have with the hijab. Frankly, this is in no way specific or most prevalent among white feminists. It was the Bush administration and the male-led French government (among others) that have most recently claimed to lead the charge on “rescuing” muslim women from their oppressive clothing/oppression in general. But point taken.

      However, to throw sex-selective abortion into the same category as hijab is problematic. Wearing hijab has a series of potential causes and meanings which should not be assumed by outsiders – these include choice, cultural identity, religious identity, religious devotion, safety, personal preference, tradition, and also possibly oppression and control, depending on the situation. The impact of wearing hijab is equally various. The problem with labelling it oppression is that it flattens out the complexity and assumes a meaning that may not be true for the woman wearing it (whose perspective should be primary).

      Sex selective abortion does not come with this range of meaning, or this ambiguity around its impact – in practice it deprives females of life based only on the fact that they are female, because being female is less valuable or desirable than being male. It must be distinguished clearly from abortion generally, as the majority of South Asian feminists are pro-choice but anti sex selective abortion. Sex selective abortion generates significantly skewed and socially problematic demographics, and its ready availability and widespread use in developing countries (particularly South Asia) contributes heavily to the devaluing of female children generally. It belongs in a category with female infanticide and girl-child neglect, not with hijab. In fact, putting these in the same category would be insulting to the muslim feminists I know, who might well wear hijab but almost certainly strictly oppose sex-selective abortion.

      • ruby March 16, 2015 at 10:52 pm #

        yes white feminist women are privileged but not as privileged as white men and underprivileged women are still more underprivileged then underprivileged men. see what we might be on about?

    • Rue March 14, 2015 at 9:38 am #

      I am a sex worker, a stripper, a nude model, a burlesque dancer and I love my work. I grew up in a great home, with a loving mother and father, who have great respect for what I do, and I am far from broken.
      I have worked my butt off, harder than most to get where I am, but I’m here, and I’ll scream from my mountain top. I made it and I am proud.
      I know many women, of every color and religion under the sun, who look upon themselves better for their work than they were before it.
      I love my fellow ladies and I shower you all, with glitter and praises for all the world to see!

      So to hell with you, you who say we are broken and in need, to hell with you who say “we could do better”, to hell with you.

      I am proud.
      I am strong.
      I am smart.
      I am covered in glitter and I am goddamn awesome so fuck you.

      • ruby March 16, 2015 at 10:58 pm #

        do you ever feel that you are just a piece of flesh that caters to mens needs and once you are past a certain age you wont be able to work and men will eventually deny you to live on the mountain you made? Do you ever think that you have thrown yourself at the mercy of men, to use your body in exchange for livelihood? sounds like you placed all power in their hands, dont you think you can do better than that?

      • May May 15, 2015 at 1:57 am #

        @ruby, 16 Mar 2015, 10:58 pm: Often. But I don’t have to be a sex worker to feel *that*.

  10. thepottymouthgranny March 10, 2015 at 7:27 pm #

    Reblogged this on The Potty Mouth Granny.

  11. Steven March 10, 2015 at 9:01 pm #

    All I could think of while reading this article, although well written with many good points, was what a racist the author is.

    Also, you can’t fool me with that *asterisk at the end my friend, you appear to be a raging racist, check yourself.

    • Angeline May 8, 2015 at 5:25 pm #

      I agree entirely.

    • heresy of rain July 14, 2015 at 4:48 pm #

      Could you expand on this interpretation? What specifically in this post do you see as supporting racism? (I phrase the consideration this way, in part, because rather than calling the author “a racist” as if this is an immutable personal characteristic, I think it is more valuable to engage in text-based dialogue that assists in the development of critical thinking that can help us recognize how we sometimes inadvertently reinforces logics that we need to be critiquing in the fight for social justice. However, this has to be specific, which requires that social justice advocates give of their time in raising consciousness, not just saying “that’s racist” and leaving without an unpacking that would make our collective anti-racism more robust.) Pending rationale, thank you for pointing this out.

  12. Anne March 10, 2015 at 9:47 pm #

    Shit that white feminist need to stop doing: writing articles trying to be an advocate for non cis gendered heterosexual white women, and then using the word “racialized” to describe people of color. So as a transitive verb are you ascribing me my race and skin color or is that something I can pick and choose to be or not?

    Seriously?

    • heresy of rain July 14, 2015 at 5:04 pm #

      I also had some objection to the use of “racialized” in this post… to my mind, the problem with the term in this post is the implication that white people are not “racialized,” rather than the idea that people of color are. Whiteness refers to an internally complex set of racializing (that is, constituting the operations of race/racism) markers that create and maintain inequality and hate, same as other identities borne of “racialization.” I do personally consider the term useful for the way it calls out racism as based on processes of interpretation and ascription. That this term can also be used in ways that obscure the racial operations of whiteness is definitely important. However, I don’t think the term “racialize” necessarily embeds an idea that “racialized” actors in society act with unconstrained agency (that is, can throw off the mantle of racial ascription any time they want). In fact, I think it often is a way of referring to the entrenchment of racial interpretation in cultural and personal realms.

  13. jojo March 11, 2015 at 3:29 am #

    The lesson from articles like this–there’s always someone more oppressed and righteous that someone else.

  14. melaniewriter March 11, 2015 at 3:38 am #

    Reblogged this on Open Letter and commented:
    snaps

  15. Sarah March 11, 2015 at 4:38 am #

    I understand that there are white women who do this. It’s a problem within feminism, I’m not disagreeing with that at all. However, making broad generalizations like “ALL white women do this” just creates divides and hate within a social movement. Instead of attacking an entire race of feminist, why not direct your anger towards the specific people you see making these mistakes? Honestly, this just makes me angry.

    • Kate Cordes (@Kate_Juliana) May 20, 2015 at 5:23 am #

      preach!

    • heresy of rain July 14, 2015 at 5:16 pm #

      Thanks for sharing this valuable comment. For the sake of clarification and solidarity both, I’d offer that referring to “white feminism” is not the same as referring to “feminists who identify as white/have benefited from white privilege.” I don’t agree that this post generalizes across what all white feminists do/don’t do. The need to fight racism has long vexed the articulation and strategy of feminist political organizing. We need to contend with the fact that “white feminism” has a serious history of overlooking and reinforcing modes of oppression and exclusion not faced by normative populations (where in the case of race, normative=white, at least symbolically). Alternatively, it has been a central theoretical contribution of “feminisms of color” to attend to difference. In my understanding, that is what this post is calling out, evidenced at least by the explicit reference of “intersectionality.”

  16. Jan Sam March 11, 2015 at 5:07 am #

    super retrograde where i am on sscoast and i’m about over 40 yrs older ….

  17. Shaune March 11, 2015 at 8:15 am #

    Too many literallys

  18. Disobedient Child March 11, 2015 at 11:59 am #

    Oh ye gods yes, the hijab thing. I am a white non-religious cis female who’s worked with refugees and asylum seekers – mostly from Iran/Syria/Iraq/round there – for many years, so I could stand up and say shit like ‘some of my best friends wear the hijab so I know what I’m talking about’ – but I don’t. I don’t know, because I am not them, and I have no idea or experience about what it is like to be them. Telling women what they should not wear is just as bad as telling women what they should wear (see also telling women how they should observe or interpret their religion), and FFS how about we have the radical idea that these ‘oppressed’ women are sentient human beings who can know their own minds?!

  19. Audrey March 11, 2015 at 2:28 pm #

    I don’t think your feminism is intersectional either. You’re talking about “white women” as if they’re all WASPy, liberal, upper middle class beings.

    And besides that, how about realizing that you too don’t own womanhood, and you don’t get to explain it to white women either?

  20. Maya March 11, 2015 at 3:25 pm #

    You say we need to amplify each other’s voices and elevate everyone. This article is precisely an example of not doing that. It’s negative, non constructive, and creates cracks in the movement. This type of article is exactly what divides us. You are having a bitch fest here. This is the type of stuff that you should write in your journal and when you can come to the public with a supportive, unifying, empowering message, then share it. This isn’t helpful for anyone and defeats the cause.

    • Maya March 11, 2015 at 3:28 pm #

      Why did it post that other girls comment? I typed out a while comment…. Moderator- can you delete this?

  21. Maya March 11, 2015 at 3:32 pm #

    I disagree, actually. I agree with the poster who said: “We need to amplify each other’s voices and elevate everyone.” Every woman, every transsexual, every queer, and every nationality! This article is doing the exact opposite of that. It’s not constructive- it’s actually very negative, and further divides the feminist movement. This mostly sounds like whining. Who made her the voice of any “non-white” feminists? Why are white feminists lesser than “non-white” feminists? We might not all experience the exact same misogyny- but that doesn’t mean we should divide feminists into groups. What feminism needs is support and unification, this isn’t helpful and it goes against the cause. I think Patricia Arquette made a great point, actually. Her word choice could have been better. She wasn’t saying that racism and homophobia are nonexistent. She was calling us to work together! She was saying that we (women) have supported the rights of African Americans and foreigners, we have supported the gays, and their rights- to be who they are inside, and their rights to marry. Racism, homophobia, and sexism are perpetual, unfortunately. We need to unite to fight for these causes- not tell the “white feminists” to lay off. I didn’t know what it’s like to be judged because of the color of my skin- until I read this article. Just my take on it.

  22. Crispotron March 11, 2015 at 4:20 pm #

    People get up in arms about hijabs not just because they’re (in some cases) oppressing the woman wearing them but because they widely seen as the symbol of a profoundly patriarchal religion exerting control over female sexuality. It’s a complex topic because the rules around wearing them vary spectacularly from region to region and sect to sect.

    In some Muslim circles, the hijab has a history of being a sign of rank and was eagerly worn to separate the rich from the working class and slaves. Women who could afford to live in seclusion clearly didn’t have to work. In others, it was and is imposed as a way of protecting a man’s honour and his “property.” In Afghanistan, the Taliban imposed a Sharia law stating that a woman’s face is a source of corruption for men’s hearts and must be covered. In yet other cultures, the hijab was worn to emulate Mohammed’s wives as a sign of devotion to Islam. Other women still wear it as a way to avoid unwanted attention or harassment by men. I think we can agree that they shouldn’t have to.

    Considering the history of the hijab, the lives of women at the time of Mohammed and the various times that women have been forced to wear them by law (whilst men are exempt) it doesn’t fair well under scrutiny as a symbol of female empowerment.

    Regardless, we in the West tend take the interpretation that most suits our current argument and paint with an overly broad brush.

  23. Meghan March 11, 2015 at 11:14 pm #

    I’ve been coming across many articles In the same vein as this one. Many of them are very on point to me, but some of them I find to be a little vague and confusing. I feel like anyone who wasn’t well versed in pop culture, what celebrities are saying, or the dialogues of many feminist theorists, but were genuinely making and effort to broaden their views as a woman and be more inclusive, might stumble upon an article like this and not be clear exactly what they, as a white feminist need to change.

    For example, this article says

    “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.”
    My question upon reading this comment is what exactly are the causes that white/cis/straight women fight for that only benefit them and do not benefit other women?
    What causes benefit other women that white feminists are ignoring?
    This article complains about an action white feminists do, but doesn’t give a lot of specifics.
    I understand that I can probably, and will, research this topic further to get these answers on my own. But also, part of good writing is to have specific instances and sources to back up your complaints, especially if your intention is to change the culture surrounding a large activist movement.

    My other thought about this article is this;
    I do understand that white celebrities get a majority of media attention and have become self appointed spokespeople for the feminist movement.
    I also understand that it is fucked up when they say things that are ignorant and non inclusive.

    However, myself and few people I know share opinions with celebrities, and I do not generally turn to the oscars as my source of cultural info and to reinstate my beliefs.
    Just because white celebrities say fucked up things, does it mean they get to represent white feminism or American feminism as a whole?
    There are many many feminist and activist communities, on campuses, in cities, in small a towns, on the internet, and the dumb comments that Emma Watson and Patricia Arquette surely do not encapsulate the whole of what is going on in white feminism, American feminism or any feminism.

    I suppose I can see this as being an issue for people who only have pop culture and celebrities as their basis for information, as feminist and activist dialogue is often a privileged experience ripe in classrooms and college campuses but maybe not so prevalent in other spaces.

    But in this end, I think part of the issue is that either way, if people are watching the oscars and approving or if people are watching and posting furious comments on twitter about what this celebrity just said, the celebrities and their comments are still getting ALL of the attention. Maybe we can spend less time fighting over whether a specific celebrity said something offensive and more time lifting other voices and perspectives into the media sphere?

    • heresy of rain July 14, 2015 at 5:36 pm #

      I appreciate your thoughtful post. I’m sure you’ll find lots of examples in your own research, but to get started answering your question about how “white feminism” promotes agendas that exclude the needs of non-white/cis/straight women: Dorothy Roberts, Killing the Black Body is a landmark work that addresses the racist conceptualization of reproductive rights in “white feminism.” It’s a bracing read. Also, When and Where I Enter by Paula Giddings is a fantastic resource for looking at the history of racial inclusion/exclusion within feminist activism in the US since the 19th century. The marginalization of gynecological needs specific to lesbian health care is another example of how mainstream “white feminist” political prioritization tends to take normative needs into consideration over a more complex and diverse conceptualization of personal freedom and rights (I don’t know of a book on this, though). All this to say that “white feminism”- which has undoubtedly made huge contributions- in this post glosses the collusion between feminist activism and systems of oppression according to the needs of a more enfranchised and privileged population (white/cis/straight/wealthy/educated/typically-abled women). The blog Gradient Lair often draws productive attention to these types of exclusions.

  24. rit4art March 12, 2015 at 9:19 am #

    Reblogged this on Good Enough Diary and commented:
    Reading a lot about “white feminism” as a mainstream phenomenon. Good stuff!

  25. Amanda March 12, 2015 at 12:38 pm #

    I’m sorry I was born white, I’ll try to stop voicing my opinions on feminism.

  26. Benny Paul (@theBennyPaul) March 12, 2015 at 1:29 pm #

    Thank you for posting this. As a dude who could probably be described as an ally, this is helpful in regard to “checking” myself, even if it is ostensibly directed at women.

    But it’s more than just about checking myself. As a dude who attempts to be an ally, you have to be cautious about arguing with women. This can often be very frustrating and isolating, as I have to listen to many defensive, narcissistic phony feminists such as the ones who came out of the woodwork in this comment section. Women who think feminism means elevating their white privileged selves rather than truly engaging with, and criticizing, the power structures in society.

    So thank you for writing this, as it expresses ideas that I (rightfully so, because I’m not a woman) have to be very cautious about expressing.

    • Shay March 14, 2015 at 6:30 pm #

      I agree with this wholeheartedly. Just in this comments section alone, people are more concerned with tone policing her than doing any self-reflection. Most people who want to be allies think themselves as generally good people and I tend to agree. However, once the people who are most affected even suggest a “hey guys, what you’re doing is not okay” here comes the “I get what you’re saying but you’re being mean about it” defense. Or the most egregious “you should be grateful for my allyship”.

      I am a black woman who wants to keep this type of dialogue open but I find myself excising that same caution you speak of in conversations with many white feminist. Majority of the time, I have to mentally prepare myself for those defenses and it’s disheartening that many woman of color are not afford the same courtesy when they express their frustrations, no matter how valid. As a woman, I SHOULD be able to have that safe place among feminist to be vocal about that but I don’t feel safe. It’s unfortunately that some woman aren’t willing to hear it.

  27. Jenny March 12, 2015 at 4:38 pm #

    Your tiny little asterisk at the bottom explaining what you mean by “white feminist” is unsatisfactory. Isn’t your whole point that we can’t essentialize what it means to be a feminist or to be oppressed? Can you call it “essentialized feminism” instead of “white”? I think there are plenty of other-than-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.” Go ahead and add in “oblivious of their dominant status.”

    • heresy of rain July 14, 2015 at 5:43 pm #

      The critique of whiteness is one of our most powerful ways of getting at that “obliviousness of dominant status.” I see your point… I just offer as well that whiteness is a foundational manifestation of ideologies of privilege an inequality. In that sense, it can make sense as a gloss for the unreflective essentialization of which you write.

  28. Lu March 12, 2015 at 10:48 pm #

    Sigh. I get really disappointed when I read this sort of opinion piece.

    1. I really don’t think that anyone is calling for any members of a social justice movement to not be critical of anyone else within it. I think that would be foolhardy. However, ESPECIALLY within the context of Feminism (having lost great momentum on several occasions due to in-fighting), I think what some of the commenters are saying is that the TONE you are using is far less than constructive. Let’s take a look at the audience you’re writing to, and what you hope to accomplish:

    Audience: I imagine you are writing to white feminists*.
    Hoping to accomplish: For white feminists* to stop doing these things you spell out.

    I believe there is a more productive way to accomplish this than by taking on the aggressive, shaming, infantalizing, and at times misogynistic (i.e. “Stop talking. Go to bed.”) tone you used in this article. Yes, I can understand you are angry and frustrated and that is not a problem. What is a problem is that your argument appears to be generally supported by name-calling and shaming, instead of presenting logical and thought-out alternatives to the behaviors you are condemning.

    Case and point: the dude who, after reading your article, had the opportunity and platform to criticize women for things already commonly attributed to “why women are bad” (vanity and falseness).

    2. Why are you the defender of non-white feminists? Could you acknowledge that some non-white Feminists would rather you not speak for them? Maybe you could have presented quotes from non-white Feminists and given them a new platform to be read on, instead of assuming you have to speak for them?

  29. Anezka March 13, 2015 at 6:12 pm #

    I find this post counter productive. I feel generalizing white feminists, as an author who is a white feminist, writing to white feminists that this could have been written in a way to educate the specific group of people you are referring to. Not all white women who are able bodied, cis gender, straight are facing the same struggles. The working class or working poor white woman has different struggles to face while caught in the cycle of poverty in comparison to those in the American middle/upper class. I often wonder who our allies are when I read posts like this one. I mean if we are all divided as women. I understand that being white encompasses certain privileges, but this doesn’t necessarily mean you are living a privileged life. I do not feel that educated, American middle class white women speak our language or live our struggles….how can they be our voice? You said white women don’t own womanhood. Nobody owns womanhood…..it means something different to each of us. I feel more like American Women don’t OWN womanhood.. We are all experts of our own stories and there is a great beauty in that. Some women face more barriers than others. Why not create a space to share ALL of our stories? So we can hear each other, learn from each other, help each other and amplify each other. I am not educated enough about feminism and I don’t know if I am in fact a feminist, but I do care about women’s rights. I care about the women in my community and when I look around there is wisdom learned in each of their struggles. I think this is wisdom to be shared.

    Also…..going back to a comment someone else made…..a blow job on the street does not cost anywhere close to $100 on the street…..

    peace and love y’all

    • AT March 20, 2015 at 1:53 pm #

      Great point about class issues. Thanks for bringing that into the discussion.

    • heresy of rain July 14, 2015 at 5:53 pm #

      You write, “I understand that being white encompasses certain privileges, but this doesn’t necessarily mean you are living a privileged life.” White people experience myriad other identities, including as you mention being in the working poor. This inclusion of class in how we understand what whiteness means, how it distributes resources unequally, is indispensable. But bearing some form(s) of privilege doesn’t mean life is necessarily pleasant, or that those forms cancel out hardship resultant from other disadvantaged dimensions of identity. This is what intersectionality refers to. So rather than disavowing white privilege because whites do not always experience privilege above all else, there is exciting work to be done that looks at how whiteness in many forms is inculcated within other forms of systemic inequality AND how white people articulate their relationship to racial privilege. Interesting work on how whites experience racial disadvantage due to class-imbricated denigration can be found in the study of “white trash”- Odd Tribes by John Hartigan, Jr. is a good book on that subject. Re: white women’s understandings of their whiteness, White Women, Race Matters by Ruth Frankenburg is accessible and very useful.

  30. Admin March 13, 2015 at 10:20 pm #

    i love how up in arms the ladies in these comments are. You’re being told to check your privilege because there are degrees of oppression around feminism you can’t understand because you’re not in their shoes, and to stop crying about how it’s not about you. Sounds exactly like what you tell well-intentioned men who want to be part of the discussion. Now you’re all cherry picking and hunting down gaps in logic so you can break this article down lol. Doesn’t feel so good to be told where to stand when it comes to wanting to be involved, does it?

  31. Emily March 14, 2015 at 6:33 pm #

    I think this blog post (http://battymamzelle.blogspot.com/2014/01/This-Is-What-I-Mean-When-I-Say-White-Feminism.html#.VQR8W0KR9UQ) is an interesting and important compliment to the current blog post. I’d encourage everyone to check it out, especially if you felt offended by this post.

  32. Katie March 16, 2015 at 8:18 pm #

    A lot of people have already stated many of my problems with this article, one is that one of the main problems of ‘white lady’ feminism is it speaking for all people, and I do not know how constructive it is that you as a white women are writing this to criticize other white women.

  33. Jewelz March 17, 2015 at 4:44 pm #

    Ok there are muslim women with pale complexions who wear hijabs and may indeed be feminists. Just becasue you wear a hijab does not mean that you are, by default, non-white. Fun fact, the words “Iran” and “aryan” have the same origin. And most Iranians I have met have a pale complexion. But I understand your confusion. In the west we are conditioned to believe that muslims are non-white. Thanks for reinforcing that misconception!

    • Kteis April 12, 2015 at 9:14 pm #

      And also, Europe is full of white Muslim Europeans, because Islam has been one of the European religions since middle ages.
      This post is really ignorant. It is bashing, insulting and silencing women and I am going to leave now and never look back. Cheers!

  34. annanym March 20, 2015 at 9:55 am #

    Well why did it not surprise me that such bullshit comes from a white feminist?

    Sex work- most of the time it is white privileged women (“feminist”) wo talk about how sex work is empowering. Working at strip clubs or as cam girls for fun and talking about how they love it. Let me tell you, not only is sex work HIGHLY racist it is also quite weird that the experiences of unfortunate sex workes (who are most often not white) and people who get forced into sex work (hint: even more ofte not white) totally get ignored so that some white privileged girl can talk abotabout how empowered she feels. Truth is, the sex industrie is super racist and the people that make the least money are woc. (i live in europe and in this city you can get black girls for 5euro what must be 7dollars or something). so can we stop talking about sex work like it is some holy grail to feminism? Protect sex workers but hate that industrie bc it is damaging, racist and sexist!

    Also, why not invite a woc to make that post for you? You just repeat what you call out…..
    And yes i am not white.

  35. AT March 20, 2015 at 1:46 pm #

    We live in a culture that denies death, reviles aging, and glorifies youth. If you think that no one takes you seriously because you are both young and female (and . . . fill in your multiple descriptors), wait until you add “old” to that portrait. It’s a whole ‘nother form of marginalization and invisibility. We all have blind spots. All of us. I hope that while you’re making great points about the crazy-making blind spots inherent in white feminism, you’ll take time to consider your own. Thanks.

  36. watsondavid March 27, 2015 at 3:52 pm #

    Reblogged this on Watsondavid's Blog and commented:
    Possibly not everyones view, but a refreshing change which gives pause for thought.

  37. guyaneseonline March 28, 2015 at 4:34 pm #

    Reblogged this on Guyanese Online.

  38. 61chrissterry March 30, 2015 at 1:59 pm #

    Many opinions are voiced here, some for and some against, some say the post is right others say it is wrong, but what the article has done, is creating a venue for comment. This is, I believe what blogging is about, whether I agree with the post or not is not the issue, but the right to state opinion is. So thank you for the original post and for all the others who have commented.

  39. Carl D'Agostino March 30, 2015 at 8:50 pm #

    WOW. You really let it rip !They should take all the anger or whatever and maybe use the energy to help needy people. And stop worrying about pronouns. We define ourselves by the example of the way we live, modeling respectful behaviors. Thanks visit my blog.

  40. wing2048 March 31, 2015 at 9:53 am #

    “Because science”? I sense Parogar.
    I really really hope you were quoting him just then; he was a huge egalitarian on the storywriting site Wattpad; please google him.

  41. McWard April 4, 2015 at 6:22 pm #

    Feminism just needs to stop, period. Blackisim wouldn’t be the answer to stopping racism and feminism isn’t ever going to stop sexism. Fact half the time I read some kind of over exaggerated feminist article I almost want to run out and do something sexist just to spite them.

  42. ladyjulbug April 6, 2015 at 12:38 am #

    “If I were to make a real list of things that feminists don’t do, there would only be one item on that list: tell people how to be feminists. Because when an individual begins dictating what a movement looks like, then it stops being about what’s in the best interests of women everywhere (spoiler alert: very few things are in the best interests of all women everywhere) and becomes about that person’s biases and opinions. And that? Is pretty unfeminist.”

    https://bellejar.ca/2013/12/09/the-consolidated-list-of-stuff-that-isnt-feminist/

  43. petchary May 2, 2015 at 1:04 pm #

    This is a divisive and unpleasant article.”Intersectional” seems to be the new buzzword. I live in Jamaica, I have been a “white feminist” (I thought I was just a feminist) all my life (I am now in my sixties) and I work with people of different colors and backgrounds. I am also on the board of two NGOs here – one working with the highly marginalized and persecuted LGBT community, and the other empowering teenage single mothers living with HIV. I suggest you stop ranting and go out and work with the marginalized groups (including women, and here in Jamaica they are also oppressed) that you write about.
    PS “White women” wear hijabs too.

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