Thursday, July 12, 2012

To White Feminists - aka a Plea for Intersectionality

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[TRIGGER WARNING - Discussion of racism, rape culture, slurs, White Feminism, Laci Green, Islamophobia (a mention, from an outsider’s perspective of the criticism. I cannot and will not speak for Muslim people.), transphobia/cissexism, heterosexism, and sexism in general.]

And since there's so much, this will probably barely scratch the surface of all I want to say. And it's probably been said a million times before, and better. Whatever.

It’s hard for me to describe just how frustrated I have been this past week. Frustrated, angry, resentful, disappointed, hurt, anxious, cheated, disgusted, you name it. And much of it because of this one little white girl and her mob of robot followers.

I’m trying very hard right now to keep impartial, emotionless if possible, so that I can say what I need to say and put this all to rest. To all of those thinking they’ve been getting an “Angry Black Woman ™” vibe from me this week - no shit, Sherlock. I am FURIOUS. (And while I generally do not identify as “woman” anymore on a regular basis, I stand in solidarity with my fellow  queer PoCs. Still a FAABulous bitch.) We are sick and tired of this bullshit. But at this point, we are mostly just tired.

So let’s start at the beginning, long before Little Miss Sex+ got her lily-white ass in our business. If you ask a woman of color, particularly a queer woman of color, about (mainstream) feminism and what it means for them, you’re likely to get a very negative answer. You’ll probably find that very few of us identify as feminists, for a myriad of reasons. (You see that sentence? Consider that my thesis statement. Because that’s pretty much what this ENTIRE argument is going to be about. And I'm even going to include subheadings~ ooo)

tl;dr - Here's the thing - yes, women in general face a shit ton of oppression. But these “feminists” are fooling themselves if they think our oppression is equal, or if they continue to refuse to acknowledge that a huge portion of women are still more privileged than the majority of the world's population. 
Feminism is highly problematic. And when we try to speak up about the flaws of feminism (and how it does not account for all of us), we’re silenced - whether with the label of “anti-feminist” or “ignorant.” Feminism is clearly not a movement for all women. Just cis, white, middle class women.

In short, mainstream feminism ultimately = White Cis Feminism. Every issue that is brought up, including workplace inequality, sexual assault and rape, reproductive rights and abortion, and poverty, are framed around white cisgender women. All of the statistics erase the fact that white women are much better off than almost all women of color, and are better off than every single trans* woman of color. (Oh, and men of color. But they will never believe or admit to that. But we’ll get to this later.) All of the statistics erase the fact that WoC:
  • earn less than all white people, white women included. (And men of color also earn less than white women.);
  • are more likely to be raped , sexually assaulted - or murdered, especially if trans*;
  • face more (and more harmful) stereotypes than white women, because of the interaction between racism and sexism (etc.);
  •  are more sexualized in the media than white women;
  • are less likely to EXIST in the media than white women (source: most recent one I can think of is GLAAD's annual report of LGBTQ characters in the media, which did also include a breakdown of all characters by ethnicity);
  • are not as widely publicized when kidnapped/abducted (I'm going to assume by now that this is common knowledge.);
  • are less likely to benefit from welfare and government assistance than white women (who are the #1 benefiters of Affirmative Action);
  • are at least twice as likely to live in poverty than white women;
  • and therefore are less likely to have access to: contraception/reproductive health care, abortion, health care in general,etc
  • and are therefore more likely to stay in poverty
(Yes, I do have sources for all of these things, but I'm still tracking them down and wanted to get this post up as quickly as possible. Check my racism and equality tags on Tumblr in the meantime for sources. I assure you, there are there.) 

And add queer and/or trans* to any of these things and it's worse.  There's more to add to this list, but again, trying to get through this as quickly as possible.  

"It's not always about race" - YES IT IS. That is SO easy to say if you're white. And every time a feminist rails against our cultures, calls us oppressed based upon their Eurocentric ideals, we are reminded that we are PoC first, women second. And we will always be seen that way thanks to white hegemony. What white women, White Feminists in particular, always seem to forget, is that they are white first and women second - and white is the highest (and most oppressive) form of privilege.

“Gender is the oldest form of oppression." 

Yeah, if you’re WHITE. This is some White Feminist RadScum bullshit.

If you know me, and many other WoC, we advocate for intersectionality - the acknowledgement that our struggles and oppression are the result of multiple systems of oppression. The kyriarchy is our enemy, not just patriarchy. (If you’re simply railing against the patriarchy without taking into account that there’s so much more to equal rights than that, you are NOT my ally.)  Because we’re not just fighting against the patriarchy - we’re also up against YOU. You, the white women who kept us as slaves in your kitchens and nurseries, cleaning up after you and nursing our future owners and abusers; you who continue to imprison and kill our men and boys in the streets, labeling them “criminals” and “gang members” and “rapists” and “Mandingo men” (and think it’s a COMPLIMENT); you who are forever held up as the highest standard of beauty. And so we damage our bodies so that they look more like yours. Because if we look like you, maybe you’ll treat us better. You want to talk about rape culture? You dismiss male victims of rape, especially those falsely accused. This is White Feminist RadScum bullshit. Tell that to the hundreds of Black men lynched because white women claimed they had raped them, or because white women feared they would be raped or murdered or mugged on the streets at night. Tell that to the Black men who STILL are accused and feared. And tell this to the Black women who are ignored when they try to speak up about their rapists and are told that they don’t matter, that they deserved it, that Black and Asian and Hispanic or Latina women are nothing but dirty sluts and whores and prostitutes for white men to use when they travel abroad. Because brown and black bodies are nothing but objects. Black men are instantly vilified if they talk about or participate in acts of violence against women. White men get a slap on the wrist and it’s forgotten a month later. Just look at the media.

You blame our music and our movies and our religions and our clothes and never look at your own. You tell Muslim women that they need to be liberated without ever asking their opinions. Newsflash - YOUR WHITE OPINIONS DO NOT MATTER. If white women are so oppressed, think how low we are - so desperate to gain just a drop of what you have. There is a hierarchy, and it’s not first based on gender. How can you fight for your fellow woman without acknowledging the ways in which YOU too have hurt us and keep us subjugated? You want a ranking? White cis men, white cis women, white trans* men, white trans* women, cis men of color, cis women of color, trans* people of color (with transwomen of color in particular being the most vulnerable...) Poverty, rape, sexual assault, murder, incarceration, you name it, this is how it goes. White women have so much power that sometimes they don't even realize it. White Feminists on the internet (and radscum in particular) seem to think they're immune to power, that they're just too oppressed to be able to contribute to hegemony. And as a result, White Feminism is often just as heterocentric, cissentric, and racist as anything else. You complain when asked to check your privilege, call it “social justice” and dismiss it as though our pleas are trivial, inconsequential. You tell us that “racism isn’t going away” and that we should just get over it. You want to talk about rape? What about the fact that rape is used as a part of systematic ethnic cleansing? Why do you never talk about that? You are hypocrites who continuously disrespect our cultures and diversity. Eurocentric, cissexist, heteronormative hypocrites, and there is no reason why we should consider you allies.

We continue to be dehumanized, and yet you will not speak up?

And then there’s the word “slut” - and how you exclude us from your movement yet again. Our history does not allow us the privilege of reclaiming “slut.”

 You cannot speak for us - 

but that doesn’t stop you from trying. You continue to speak over us, and continue to silence us even when we try to educate you on our history and our struggles. We explain that something is racist and hurtful, you say “well this is my experience” and try to talk  your way around it, while talking over us. You tell us that we’re wrong, we’re ignorant, we don’t know our own oppression.

Laci Green

This brings us to the latest little white girl to cause a fuss over our attempts to educate her. Years ago, she posted offensive videos. In the past few weeks, she was asked about the offensive videos. She “apologized” by saying she was “sorry, I was young… but…” and defended her offensive views - things which she had no business talking about. The people who had asked were labeled “hateful” and “ignorant.” The person who had first asked about her views on religion was a brown Muslim woman. Three weeks ago she posted the response. Not three years, as the robots are saying. Three WEEKS. Laci also used a transphobic slur in an old video. And when asked about it, and when asked not to use it, she used the same slur - twice - in her apology.

Laci is the perfect example of White Feminism. White cis female, heteronormative (despite being LGBTQ), cissexist, thinks that knowing people of color and people from different religions gives her the right to tell people of color and people from different religions what is racist or offensive or oppressive to them, and when called out, she:
a) complains that we’re being mean to her and should be nicer (because white people can always expect to be treated well, especially if they're "enlightened")
b) tells us we can’t possibly know as much about our lives as she does
acts like she’s the hurt victim and makes all of this ALL ABOUT HER
d) attacks “social justice” advocates for criticizing her and blames us for the death threats she received (which none of us would never do or condone, because, as most of the people on Tumblr like to ignore, we get them ON A DAILY BASIS and no one ever gives a shit when we’re scared for our lives and are trying to get the authorities to help. Because the authorities, or in this case Tumblr Staff, tell us to get over it. Just like White Feminists. I’m sensing a theme here.)
e) continues to silence trans* people and people of color -- and even more so now that she’s been made into the victim of all of this. Because now, we’re taken less seriously than we were before, and that was already “barely there.” Because now when we speak up about the injustice we face, we’re dismissed as “social justice bloggers” who aren’t worth listening to. So thanks, Laci, for setting us back even further. Now the critics are also receiving death threats, threats of rape and lynching, and no one gives a shit. Thanks. Fucking hypocrites.
And it’s also been brought to my attention that most of the things she’s said have been said many, many times by women of color, but no one’s listened to them and Laci did not credit anyone. So there’s yet another reason why she’s a shitty human being.

Concluding Thoughts

Before typing this longer post, I had started to type out an outline of everything that happened this week and why it was so infuriating. I couldn’t finish it. But if there’s anything I would want someone to take away from what I have to say, it’s this - white women, your experiences are not universal. You will never, ever know what it’s like to be us. Your whiteness will always matter more than your gender, and as a result, you will be able to do things that the rest of us can only dream of. Equality is a long struggle for all of us, but some of us have so much farther to go. And you may think you’re helping, but so long as you are focusing only on the issues that affect YOU and people like you, you’re not. You can’t end oppression by ignoring oppression. (And on that note, for fuck’s sake, learn to put your feelings aside for once. If someone asks you to listen, do it. If someone tells you you’re being racist or cissexist or Islamophobic, apologize and LISTEN. As hard as it may be, don’t get defensive and try to justify yourself. Your hurt feelings are NOTHING compared to the oppression others face on a daily basis.) Forget your patriarchy - fuck the kyriarchy.

No one ever deserves death threats. Full stop. But yes, you are a fucking hypocrite if you're going to sit there and defend this little asswipe from the criticism she deserves.

I am a cynical bitch, but I have reason to be. You can walk away from racism, and everything that comes with it. I can’t. And it’s far more pervasive than you will EVER know.

“Whiteness is a hell of a drug” -- true fact.

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