Monday, March 18, 2013

White Feminism, We Meet Again...

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I'm just going to make my own post instead of reblogging on Tumblr. This is that thing I wanted to talk about last night but said I already knew the answer... And the fact that I keep seeing this quote pretty much just reinforces it.
Feminism has fought no wars. It has killed no opponents. It has set up no concentration camps, starved no enemies, practiced no cruelties. Its battles have been for education, for the vote, for better working conditions, for safety in the streets, for child care, for social welfare, for rape crisis centres, women’s refuges, reforms in the law. If someone says, ‘Oh, I’m not a feminist’, I ask, ‘Why? What’s your problem?’  
--- Dale Spender, Man Made Language.  (via izzyinvisible)
What I wanted to talk about is the massive disconnect that seems to exist every time white women talk about sexism and feminism. And I don't mean the feminists who understand intersectionality and why it matters, and those who actively try to combat -isms within the feminist movement and recognize that the movement needs to be more inclusive. This isn't about you. (You probably already know my issues with the above quote anyway.)

I specifically mean those who don't. This is entirely about those who don't, or who think they do but don't, and the women who can't translate one to the other. tl;dr - why don't you omfg. When I'm seeing the same women constantly talking about sexism but can't seem to grasp the idea of applying the same exact concepts to dealing with racism.

The same white women who will in one breath say that men's opinions on sexism don't matter because they don't understand and could never, and in the next, stick your nose into a conversation about cultural appropriation and racism like you understand, like your opinion matters. Like white women talking over women of color is NOTHING like men talking over women. Like you're not privileged at all over WOC.

You'll defend the racist rich white woman who regularly steals from, mocks, and belittles trans* women and WOC, because you think she's a feminist icon. (See: Madonna, Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lawrence, Laci Green, Ke$ha, Lena Dunham, to mention women constantly on my dashboard; Margaret Sanger, etc.) You refuse to understand that in many of these cases, the harm they do to other women tends to drastically overshadow whatever little good they do. The good that they do is only for you, at the expense of other women. 

You want to talk about how feminism has never practiced any cruelties? Believe that no violence has ever occurred or been supported in the name of feminism? (Because of course nothing that ever happens to other women counts as violence...) Racism is violence. Ableism is violence. Cissexism is violence. Classism is violence. So much of white women's empowerment involved forcing Western beliefs and practices on Indigenous and Black women. Stealing and/or killing their children. (Funny that the quote should come from a white Australian feminist....)  Using their bodies for science, and other things I care not to mention right now. Praising white mothers, demonizing mothers of color. Calling a little Black girl a c*nt and then arguing why it's "not even offensive omg why are you making such a big deal out of it FEMINISM YAY."  You attack hijabis in the name of "saving them" from their own culture, you mock weaves and steal dreads and the fashion of WOC. You want equality for women in the workplace, and oh god could I go on forever about this, but you steal their fashion and their culture and the credit and give them nothing in return. Call their businesses quaint and steal their products for your own. You refuse to acknowledge that so much of what you know and love and worship came from WOC. You say it looks better on you anyway.

And I could also add in a part about how the start of white feminism (which completely ignores the efforts of Native women, btw) and the women's suffrage movement was in part due to Black men gaining rights (before white women). Or a part about how white feminism tends to vilify Black men while giving white men a pass (see: Chris Brown, Michael Vick, vs. Hugo S., Alec Baldwin, Jeremy Renner, Michael Fassbender, Robert Downey Jr, etc). Because even though they have male privilege over you, your white privilege still oppresses them too, and your empowerment has historically been used in ways that hurt them, especially as children. But let's keep this simple today and keep the focus on women.

And it brings me right back again to the same question I started with - why is it that you can understand one form of violence but not realize or care that you're perpetuating others?

Why is it that you can believe in and use anti-oppression rhetoric for one issue, but not comprehend and translate the SAME EXACT IDEAS for another?

I used to think it was nothing but cognitive dissonance, but therein lies the problem - there is no dissonance. There should be. It is a HUGE problem that it doesn't even faze you. And that is the sole reason why I'm writing this. 

If someone says, ‘Oh, I’m not a feminist’, I ask, ‘Why? What’s your problem?’”

Because mainstream feminism has historically been heterosexist, racist, classist, cissexist, ableist, etc., and as evidenced by that quote, continues to ignore that fact. All of the things mentioned in that quote have at some point been enacted in such a way that excludes or hurts many who are not cis white women. And it continues to ignore, erase, and contribute to the oppression of poor women, trans* women, and women of color, and any intersections thereof. And pretending otherwise ensures that your moment will never truly achieve equality for anyone who's not just like you.

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