Friday, 10 January 2014

This Is What I Mean When I Say "White Feminism"

Well this is a post I've been meaning to write for a while. 

Every single time women of colour talk about "white feminism" or "white feminists" within the context of discussions about the way that the mainstream feminist movement privileges whiteness, we deal with an onslaught of defensive white women insisting that they personally are not like that, and would you please say "some white women" and not make generalizations?

What those women fail to realize is that by making that request, they are exemplifying Mikki Kendall's #solidarityisforwhitewomen battle cry; by once again insisting that a conversation created to facilitate discussion about the issues of WoC, be centered around the feelings of white women.

Now, I understand the impulse to get defensive. It can be very off-putting to feel attacked for a transgression that you know yourself not to be guilty of. But in the context of social justice and movement building, if you're feeling attacked, it probably means you're having your privilege challenged, not that you are a bad person. As I always say, "If it doesn't apply to you, then it's not about you. If it's not about you, then don't take it personally." Being a good ally means recognizing that sometimes your input is not needed or wanted, and that it's incredibly inappropriate to demand that a marginalized group, (in this case, WoC within the feminist movement) restructure a conversation that is happening to serve their needs, in a way that is more "comfortable" for the very people they are mobilizing against. That is the very definition of flexing one's privilege. 

To that end, let's talk about the term "white feminism." I even had a fun little diagram* made to help explain myself. (H/T to PSF) But before I continue, I want to be very clear that everything in the next few paragraphs is my personal interpretation of this term, and is an explanation of the way that I personally use it. I cannot and do not speak for other women of colour on this issue. 

White lady tears

"White feminism" does not mean every white woman, everywhere, who happens to identify as feminist. It also doesn't mean that every "white feminist" identifies as white. I see "white feminism" as a specific set of single-issue, non-intersectional, superficial feminist practices. It is the feminism we understand as mainstream; the feminism obsessed with body hair, and high heels and makeup, and changing your married name. It is the feminism you probably first learned. "White feminism" is the feminism that doesn't understand western privilege, or cultural context. It is the feminism that doesn't consider race as a factor in the struggle for equality. 

White feminism is a set of beliefs that allows for the exclusion of issues that specifically affect women of colour. It is "one size-fits all" feminism, where middle class white women are the mould that others must fit.  It is a method of practicing feminism, not an indictment of every individual white feminist, everywhere, always. 

When I talk about "white feminism," I'm talking about the feminism that misappropriates womanist thinkers like Audre Lorde to declare that keeping white women's racism in check is "bashing." I'm talking about the feminism that cheekily denounces "twitter feminism" as useless, without considering that twitter is the main medium through which less economically privileged women (usually women of colour) can put their feminism into practice and gain access to and engage with like-minded women. I'm talking about the feminism that publishes an article advocating for forced sterilization, completely disregarding the way in which forced sterilization was used as a tool of genocide against black and native women. I'm talking about the feminism that thought holding a writer's retreat at a former slave plantation was a swell idea. I'm talking about the feminism that throws women of colour under the bus in the quest for body diversity and acceptance. I'm talking about the feminism that thinks barging into a Maasai community and "breaking barriers" is feminist, disregarding the work that actual Maasai women are doing to help achieve equality on their own terms, and obliviously parading its class privilege along the way. I'm talking about the feminism that insists that "Muslim women need saving" and refuses to acknowledge that cultural differences mean different, culturally specific approaches to feminism and equality. I'm talking about the feminism that thinks not "leaning in" is the only thing standing between women and economic success. I'm talking about the feminism that defends The Onion when it calls a little black girl a "cunt". I'm talking about the feminism that celebrates Tina Fey, Lily Allen and Lena Dunham, but tears down Nicki Minaj, Beyoncé and Rihanna. I'm talking about the feminism that pats itself on the back, but doesn't apologize after supporting a known abuser of WoC feminists who confesses to his transgressions. I'm talking about the feminism that did all these things in the space of one year.

I'm talking about the feminism that disregards the fact that whiteness is a privilege that is not afforded to all women. 

As Thought Catalog's Chelsea Fagan succinctly puts it:
"I know that some of the feminists on this website have build their whole identity/self-worth/value around being The Biggest Victim, but get a fucking grip and recognize how good we have it in this world. Sometimes you are going to be slighted because you are a woman, but it will never be because you are a WHITE woman, and we just have to accept the fact that this is a slice of the Blame It On The Man Pie we do not get to take. UGH."
When I talk about "white feminists", I'm talking about the people who fall into the darkest portions of the venn diagram above, and only those people. If you know that as a feminist, your beliefs fall into the middle portion of those little coloured circles, then keep it to yourself. By insisting we explicitly redeem you personally whenever we talk about a system that disadvantages us, you place yourself firmly into white feminist territory. Every rule has exceptions, but we'd never get anywhere if we had to list every single one whenever the rule was brought up in conversation.

Think you're the exception? Show don't tell. You don't get a cookie for declaring yourself an ally. Yes, "white feminist" is a pejorative term, and I will continue to use it as such. But it's also a term that means a specific thing, and derailing the community building efforts of WoC in order to declare yourself "one of the good ones" in fact, makes you exactly the kind of person we're pushing against.

[*I am more than aware that this diagram does not accurately reflect every single theoretical possibility, and of its mathematically limitations. It is simply meant to be an easily understandable visual representation of my assertion that not every white woman is a "white feminist" and not every "white feminist" identifies as white. It's purpose is as a reference, not statistical fact.]

ETA: "What people don't seem to get is that "White Feminism" is feminism for white people, and never exclusively feminism by white people. It's more about who it benefits exclusively than who is perpetuating it exclusively. It's really not as much of an accusation as people are making it out to be, more like a word for the institution we're trying to separate ourselves from." -TheWhistlingFish


145 comments:

  1. The thing that surprises me most about the "all white feminists aren't like that!" moments are the exact parallel with "all men aren't like that!" Feminists get really tired of the latter, so why can't we see the problem with the former?

    As always, great blog post. I especially love the handy diagram you created.

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  2. Thanks! I was always kind of unclear how to be better while still being white, other that shutting up and saying nothing. This really helps. I'm shocked that so many people who define themselves as feminists ignore the fact that they're using the same diversionary

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  3. I like the diagram, and thanks for your explanation. I see that Tina Fey put everyone under the bus. I don't find her quote funny, but I don't see the bigger issue (as I do, for example, in those that criticize Rihanna or Beyoncé but are OK with Miley).


    Also, I got what MRA meant, but what is TERFs standing for?

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  4. Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists

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  5. With Tina, the issue is that she is posing body image as a problem that only WW face. Not all black and latina women have bodies like Bey and JLo. She juxtaposes them as enemies of body acceptance when the fetishization of their bodies is a symptom, not the problem itself. And TERFS means Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists.

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  6. Thanks for the explanation of the terms, and the issue with Tina's
    quote. I don't think she put them as enemies of body acceptance, but I
    think the whole quote was damaging to all (because none of those groups
    have the body features ascribed to them by Tina). Reminded me a bit of
    the video I sent you the other week, about body image in Latinas, which
    had its own issues with race.

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  7. very enlightening read, but as one of the "menz" what is an MRA?

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  8. Very interesting post. Two things bother me about the chart. One is minor. The "darker" area representing what is bad makes me think of the usual notion of "dark" as bad and "light" as good. I think about this from the frame of reference of being a visual artist and from what Toni Morrison wrote about in Playing In The Dark - Whiteness and the Literary Imagination. It's something that will always bother me a bit. The second thing that bothers me about the chart is having neutral people and people specifically anti-feminist in the same area as if differentiation doesn't exist. I think that is the type of thing that alienates Black women from womanism/Black feminism, for example, and something I myself am working on not to do. It's not the same.

    What I love about the post is allllllll that evidence (thought not needed, Black women and women of colour do not have to "defend" why we reject White supremacy and racism in feminism, but I sure do love evidence and historical tracking, hehe) in examples of some of thing things that occur in feminist politics and as Black women are being called "bullies" for existing while not silent, here you are revealing important examples and I thank you for this.

    Otherwise I do like the chart, I think it is interesting. I truly hate that White feminism is centered though. For me, I am not a part of some feminist circle where White feminism is centered though. As a womanist, I view myself at my own table in a different house for which White feminism seeks to bulldoze while eating all of my food and complaining about why was my house in the path of their bulldozer and now their bulldozer is broken and I bullied them by existing. But that's just me.

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  9. "Men's Rights Activist", someone who supports misogyny as "men's rights".

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  10. Honestly, I've never had the urge to say that because I recognize that if I'm not guilty, they're not talking about me but talking about oppression and issues that they face. I've always thought that if you start feeling defensive, that it is a sign that you need to examine yourself and ask "why does this bother me?", instead of trying to brush it off.

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  11. I know that feminism is the main subject here but "Sometimes you are going to be slighted because you are a woman, but it will never be because you are a WHITE woman", really ? Are you actually arguing that white people of either gender never get discriminated against ?

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  12. Ah! understood. It makes sense to me now, and I think (hope) that I know in which category i fall

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  13. "Think you're the exception? Show don't tell. You don't get a cookie for declaring yourself an ally. Yes, "white feminist" is a pejorative term, and I will continue to use it as such. But it's also a term that means a specific thing, and derailing the community building efforts of WoC in order to declare yourself "one of the good ones" in fact, makes you exactly the kind of person we're pushing against."

    I listen to Joe Madison every morning. I celebrate October 16th, Jan 15th. At Christmas I whine about how Kwanzaa and the eastern new year arent even celebrated by our culture if not even mentioned by the news, at all in response to the whole 'Christmas Wars' discussion.

    I know how to spell 'Trayvon' and I donated to their family fund through the Black Eagle.

    But it is odd that I, from what this post is telling me, never cares by default about how forced sterilization is STILL oercasive against african americans and american africans in our prison system. Poor white women are also going through that too right now. I know that the founders of our country were militant rapist thugs.

    But you are telling me that to speak against being named by default as a naive, ignorant and dumb person based on the generalized term in which references the color of my skin to link to this cultural ignorance will deem me as even more culturally ignorant for doing so is a sad twist of contrarianism in which Lena Dunham has fully contributed to have you creating (Yes, the show should be called 'Priviledged Disgusting White Loser Girls. No, I dont watch it.)

    And frankly, I guess you are right: I cant speak out as being supportive of WoC or any race anymore. Because words have been used so thoughtlessely/thoughtlessly by my fellow melaninally-challenged feminish women, that verbal assurances are now even jaded as a result.

    So you are right. But you must see the corner that puts people like I am in. There is really no way of communicating support to WoC feminism save speaking of objectively the issues pertaining to WoC and physical demonstrations against Femen and against '[___]'.

    That puts me between a rock and a freaking Lena Dunham.

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  14. *tee hee. sniggle sniggle* If that's really all that you got from this essay, then I'm sorry to say that this blog is not the place for you.

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  15. Very valid critique about the colours. It honestly didn't occur to me and I should have picked up on it. Truth be told, I just sketched out the diagram as it made sense in my head, and then sent it off to a graphic designer who had offered to put it together for me. I kind of just deferred to her on the presentation side. There are definitely other limitations and I don't love centering it on white feminism either, but I thought it was necessary to make a point, and also to indicate that the original feminist movement was in fact, pretty white, and only embraced WoC later down the line. I had also initially considered separating the anti-feminists and the neutral people with some sort of dividing line but while that would have made sense visually, I wasn't sure it made sense mathematically, and I didn't want to give people a reason to pick it apart and purposely miss the point. That's why I tried to preemptively address that with the disclaimer at the bottom about it not being completely sound statistically.


    The one thing that really bugs me about it that I couldn't figure out how to address was the fact that the chart make it look like intersectional feminism/womanism isn't a very big part of the feminist movement (although I suppose that argument could be made), and that "white feminism" makes up the majority share. Ideally, intersectional thinking would have had its own circle into which the others are connected. Basically, math is NOT my thing, and the chart has some obvious errors, but it serves my illustrative purposes.


    I did have fun linking to all the examples though! :) I always get asked to "show my work" as it were because "I've never seen WW bully WoC so I don't know what you mean!" It was kind of validating to be able to point to a bunch of different things that explicitly detailed my point, have there be SO MANY of them, (all of them from 2013 alone) and know that I was right.


    It's always fun when someone asks for receipts thinking you have none, only to find that you saved EVERY LAST ONE and have them cataloged and ready for inspection!

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  16. See, you're missing the point. What white people always forget is that one of the privileges of whiteness is individuality. One white person's actions isn't seen as a reflection on all white people. Minorities don't have that luxury. That's why after 9/11, all ambiguously brown/Muslim/Arab people are terrorists, while no one pathologizes white male teenagers as school shooters.


    IT IS WITHIN THIS CONTEXT THAT WE AS PoC CAN MAKE GENERAL STATEMENTS ABOUT WHITE PEOPLE. It is because we know that no one is going to reflect one set of white people's bad behaviour onto all white people. It is because you are already given the benefit of the doubt. We don't need to give it to you as well.

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  17. Ooh, ad hominem on my first comment? You might be right.

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  18. I don't think you know what "ad hominem" means.... which means this definitely isn't the place for you. The objection you raised is one that anyone with a basic understanding of social justice concepts wouldn't make, because they would know it was unfounded. I don't entertain that kind of derailment. Even though I promised myself that I wouldn't be "proving" anything to testy white people in 2014, I'll do it this one last time for you. Don't you feel special?


    You have literally misread tat entire sentence. I'm actually appalled. The quote from Chelsea simply alludes to the fact that whiteness is a privilege that you will never lose. No matter what other kinds of discrimination you might face as a WOMAN (sexism, homophobia, ableism, lookism etc.) you will never be discrimination against for being WHITE.


    Let's break it down even more. As a white woman, you might lose out on a job you are qualified for because your potential employer thinks women are not capable. However, your employer will not deny you the job because he believes WHITE women are not capable. Your SEX will be the primary determiner of your discrimination. For WoC, they have to deal with BOTH sex and race based discrimination. They have an extra layer of bullshit to combat because they do not have the privilege of whiteness. It's that simple.


    Simple answer? No, I am not saying that white people of either gender never get discriminated against. I'm arguing that white people (in this specific instance white women) never experience RACISM. Until and unless you can fully understand that concept, it may be best that you no longer comment here. Take a gander at my comment policy if you're not sure. Ta ta!

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  19. Just because I kept my name when I married and am frustrated by (and sometimes speak out against) media portrayals of "ideal" women as anorexics with large breasts, doesn't mean I don't care deeply about (or am completely unaffected by) issues like rape, domestic violence, differential health care, wage inequity etc. And being fortunate enough to live in the US doesn't mean I'm not sickened by misogyny and violence against women as it manifests in many other parts of the world.

    It sounds more to me that the media has created a "straw woman" or mockery of some feminist issues, and now some think there are feminists who only care about these issues. It sounds a bit like a derailing tactic. A relatively privileged woman brings up a concern about sexism that is relevant to the discussion at hand, and someone else jumps on her and says "Don't you know women in [insert place or situation] would love to have the problems with sexism you have?"

    Of course it's stupid to assume that all women experience sexism in the same way, or to deny that women in the US (and especially white, upper-middle class women) are privileged enough to notice inequalities that aren't even on the radar for others (in the same way a middle class black person's concern about racist attacks on President Obama would have seemed like a nice problem to have during the Jim Crow years). But if we start sniping at each other and trivializing one anothers' worries, then we all lose.

    That's what sexists want us to do.

    The important thing is to not buy into the media stereotypes of what a feminist is or should be, and to make sure that no group monopolizes the discourse.

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  20. I feel like I was very explicit about what I meant and who I was referring to with this term and I'm a little exasperated that so many people insist on firmly missing the point. For the record, you as a WW do not get to tell me how to deal with the issues I face as a WoC. You don't get a say. Don't start.

    That said, this:

    "A relatively privileged woman brings up a concern about sexism that is relevant to the discussion at hand, and someone else jumps on her and says "Don't you know women in [insert place or situation] would love to have the problems with sexism you have?""



    tells me that you have severely misunderstood me. It's not about that. Click on any of the linked pieces in this essay and examine the ways in which WW have acted in callous disregard for the concerns of WoC. That's what I'm talking about. This is not about negating the struggles that WW face, but rather acknowledging that WoC face DIFFERENT struggles that very often do not get addressed in the mainstream, or when they do, they are addressed in a way that erases the input and efforts of the women who are actually part of that group.

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  21. After reading the other replies, and your previous comments, I see (every time even better) how explaining this and people missing the point would be exasperating (and thank you for your patience). I also liked Trudy's and yours comments, with the exception that I wish intersectional feminism (or feminism 101) were the core while the core in the circle were the fringe (or outside). In a message board I frequent, there was a discussion going on on the Ani di Franco plantation retreat. A lot of the posters (who I knew identified as men) didn't understand what the issue was, while it was mostly women (and at that, at least one I knew is black) who were explaining why it was at the very least a tone-deaf idea.

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  22. Shut up, cunts, it's bobo time.

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  23. Huh. I'm white, female, and a feminist and this all makes perfect sense to me AND I find nothing in it at which I could conceive taking offense, especially because, "If it doesn't apply to you, then it's not about you. If it's not about you, then don't take it personally."

    Ok, so parts of it apply to me, e.g., I have white privilege and there's nothing I can do about that except try to make it something that everybody enjoys, i.e., do what I can to eliminate it. But I can't make a logical connection between someone pointing out privilege exists and "someone is blaming me." Maybe I'm just one of those white female feminists with critical reading and thinking skills.



    Anyway, thank you for writing such a clear, cogent explanation. It covers so many important things, and I hope it gets the attention it deserves.

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  24. The stereotyping of people of color excuses the stereotyping of white people? C'mon.

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  25. Okay. If that's what you want to get from this.

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  26. You said, "But you are telling me that to speak against being named by default as a naive, ignorant and dumb person based on the generalized term in which references the color of my skin to link to this cultural ignorance will deem me as even more culturally ignorant for doing so is a sad twist of contrarianism in which Lena Dunham has fully contributed to have you creating"

    Have you ever heard those dudes who complain about feminists using the term "patriarchy," because it implies a natural complicity of all men? Have you ever gotten really annoyed, because that argument is a total load of poop? Does that ever frustrate you??

    You are doing literally the exact same thing. Your argument is the SAME EXACT ARGUMENT that those dudes use. Let me write to you precisely what I wrote to some of those dudes a while back::

    "Guess what, dudes! Not everything in the world related to dudes is actually about you, personally. Stop making it about you. It's not." <-- just insert "white women" and the same applies, here. The author CLEARLY lays out what is acceptable and what is not, and clearly gives room for good, intersectional feminists who also happen to be white. This is not a no-win situation. You are making it one. Stop that.

    A good white feminist reading this article would read the post, accept that gross marginalization of people of color happens literally all the time, accept that (logically) it's got to be even worse for WoC (because they're women AND not white! God forbid!!), learn something (like, I dunno, compassion? humility?? something about intersectionality? the struggles of WoC? why certain activities in the feminist community hurt WoC?? there's a lot of good information in here!!), improve, and move the fuck on. That's it. You do not get to be upset, because this post *is not about you, personally.* This post is about an institution, and the manifestation of that institution. This post is about the contributions that white feminists are making to an institution that hurts WoC. This post is about awareness and privilege-checks and just generally not acting like an egotistical, self-absorbed jerk.


    This post is good for you in the sense that you clearly needed to hear it, but it is not ABOUT *you*.

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  27. Great post, Betty! Thanks ....

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  28. It is pretty offensive to put women of color who are radical feminists under the label "white feminist" just because you don't agree with their correct politics.

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  29. What is a greater, more heinous expression of misogyny in the War on Women than the truth that women slaughter 600,000 females/year in utero? Over 28,000,000 the last 40 years. A House Divided Can NOT Stand; a physically weaker sex that kills its own gender offspring can not prevail.

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  30. I don't think you know what "ad hominem" means.... which means this definitely isn't the place for you.





    *twirls and faints*

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  31. Please THINK. IN the War on Women, what, if anything, is a greater, more heinous expression of misogyny than the fact that women slaughter 600,000 females/year in utero? Over 28,000,000 the last 40 years. A House Divided Can NOT Stand; a physically weaker sex that kills its own gender offspring can not prevail.

    Women: Stop Killing the YOUNGEST Members of your SEX!

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  32. I'm glad I read the comments because I was going to make similar points about the chart.

    "As a womanist, I view myself at my own table in a different house for which White feminism seeks to bulldoze while eating all of my food and complaining about why was my house in the path of their bulldozer and now their bulldozer is broken and I bullied them by existing. But that's just me."



    And me!

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  33. As I always say, "If it doesn't apply to you, then it's not about you. If it's not about you, then don't take it personally."

    Without defending anything any white feminist has ever said, how is this different from how POC and other marginalized groups are silenced when chided for taking remarks "too personally"? It stand to reason that they may be feeling their privilege challenged, especially if they are actually having their privilege challenged, but when that isn't explicitly the nature of the remark who is anyone to tell someone else what their feelings are or mean on the basis of their skin-color?

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  34. Callout culture on the internet can be cruel and pointless sometimes (not to say that I haven't deserved it when something bad/said I did has been pointed out) but recently I've been really confused about what my part is in supporting WoC is as a white woman beyond listening, identifying and "calling out" racism, and educating myself. But I that's it, that's all that's needed from me. Keep recognizing my privilege, keep supporting in ways that have been identified by WoC as good and necessary, and then shut up. Thank you for taking the time to explain this. I know this isn't universal, but it made the difference between me being ashamed at how terrible I am and feeling like I can be better than my fuck-ups.

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  35. That was a great response which you should totally publish as a response to this article!


    Which is why I feel like a shit-heel saying that "good feminist" makes me cringe...Do you mean an intersectional or conscious feminist?

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  36. Thank you for writing this.

    Though to be more blunt about it than is comfortable, sometimes I do feel defensive when I read comments about white feminism, in large part because I worry that I still haven't figured out all the ways in which I perpetuate racism by means that I don't even see. I was raised by and spent my early adulthood around people that displayed many racist attitudes, but who were fairly ordinary in most respects and also would not have considered themselves racist, who would indeed have vigorously denied it and declared their belief in the equality of all people. Just because I know better than not to talk like they did in private, or because I can see the more obvious things, the fact that I know people can be unreliable self-narrators about matters like these demands a little less certainty.

    Anyway, I think it's very important not to take "if it's not about you ..." as a pass on self-reflection.

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  37. Man, I really struggled with that, actually. I wrote lots of things down there before I let that stay. I did so as a result of an article I recently read that rejected the term "ally" as viable. I wish I could find it - I really, really had a hard time swallowing that article, actually. My initial reaction was, "if not 'ally,' what do I call myself?" I finally decided that the take-away message was that there shouldn't need to be a term for supporting a group of people to whom I don't immediately "belong"; that's just behavior that we should expect as normal and default "good."

    I had "intersectional" down, but then I thought that adding that modifier implies the existence of some kind of movement which happens to both reject intersectionality and also be feminist. I'm not really willing to accept that as valid - a 'feminist' movement without intersectionality isn't really feminism*.


    I guess I could accept conscious as an alternative. I concede that there are feminists out there who are just blissfully unaware of their privilege. I guess my struggle is then:: how can a person have read this article, be aware of feminism and common non-feminist male reactions to it, and *still* react defensively? That takes a seriously high level of willful ignorance. I think being ignorant is the opposite of being conscious; I think *willful* ignorance is more than that. Willful ignorance is what people use to cling to power - plain and simple.

    So, maybe "conscious" is okay, but I'm still kind of clinging to "good" to some extent - feel free to convince me I shouldn't, though.

    *I had "IMO" written here, but it's really "by definition."

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  38. Also, a visualization of this chart where yellow replaced the gray and green replaced the yellow would allow for more of a color wheel-type presentation like you would see in an art class and could rely more on hues than on light/dark tonal values for differentiation.

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  39. Yeah, it definitely has its limitations and I want to address them a little better. I actually redrew the diagram yesterday but I have to get it properly redesigned so I can repost it.

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  40. Thanks for the suggestion. It makes sense. I'll take that into account when I do the updated diagram.

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  41. I think the fact that you recognize that you don't always know when you're doing/saying racist things means you're already on the right path. That self-reflection will motivate you to LISTEN, and that's exactly what you need to do in order to gradually eliminate the kind of unseen bias about race that you grew up accepting as normal.

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  42. Here's what. Go brush up on the working definition of racism as it relates to institutional power, then let me know if you can figure out the answer on your own. Go on. I believe in you.

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  43. I'm actually not even sure what you're talking about. Do you mean TERFs?

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  44. It's clear that you were really thoughtful about word choice, so I totally support the idea. Thanks for taking the time to explain it, I totally get where you're coming from. I'm sure some kind of short-hand for "not a self-centred anus" feminist will emerge organically.

    I can somewhat understand how from time to time women will react defensively to ideas about privilege and their own ignorance. I spend too much time on Tumblr and a few weeks ago saw a girl called-out for attempting to tell another white person that they were saying racist things.

    OP expressed the same willful ignorance you're talking about, going on about reverse-racism, feminist solidarity, etc... Response to this was, I'm paraphrasing,"If you cry reverse racism you're a total jerk, be conscious of white supremacy and how white feminism hurts PoC and respect that things are more oppressive in different ways for WoC, if you can't understand that and think it's reverse racism you're not doing feminism right" Both OP and the woman who told her she was being racist were both told in a half-dozen reblogs that they were racist narcissists who failed to see their part in propagating white supremacy/sloughing off their privilege.

    I understand no opinion is universal, but I struggle with depression and mental illness and after reading that thread I just thought, " I'm just like them, I'll never overcome my privilege, I'll always hurt people I'm trying to help, etc." No WoC owes me an explanation of what is being done wrong, nor do they have to be as nice about this as NJ/Batty was in this article, but that is an instance where I can see it being incredibly difficult not to be defensive or hurt.

    Clearly not in this circumstance though, I mean, come on. People are being willfully obtuse and then some to get angry in this instance.

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  45. I grew up in northern and then western Canada with a family that sounds very similar to yours. I had a similar feeling but I really like the way that you expressed the idea that thought something isn't directed at you that that doesn't mean you shouldn't be mindful about what is being said.

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  46. It means that have adopted "white feminism", not that they are literally white.

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  47. My aim here is not to disparage the writer of this article in any way, but to be informative as to a thought process involved with how to deal with fake "any term" (fake feminism, for example).

    The people described as "white feminists" aren't Feminists.

    We should call out these people in their press release comments, letters to the editor, showing up at their "events" and letting them know what Feminism is all about.

    It's
    time to hold people accountable for their actions, rather than labeling
    and filing them away.

    The "white feminism" label perpetuates our
    collective division and downward spiral, by returning the system of labeling with labels. It is exactly what the white people did to start this whole separation, and exactly what they feed on to continue their "I'm not racist" campaigns.

    Thank you for your thoughts. Peace.

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  48. We don't get to tell people who identify as feminist that they aren't feminist. That makes it too easy to dismiss them as a non-entity; a threat that doesn't really exist. We tried that with TERFs and now they're gained so much traction that major publications are giving them the space to spout their hatred and transphobia.


    A the end of the days, the people in power don't get to tell the people without it how they are to tackle their issues. That's the definition of oppression. If you don't like the disparaging implications of the term, strive to be someone who doesn't fall into that category. Because all complaining does is waste my time by forcing me to have to coddle you, when I could dealing with my own shit.

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  49. I agree.
    That's exactly the point; the first comment was to offer the perspective of some one who has been classically perceived as some one in that position of power, been privy to those in that position of power and how they think about others.

    The people in positions of power feed off of labels, especially those that have what they interpret as "racial" implications. This is why they love to say they are "Feminist" when they aren't, because it's a label they can get behind, and calling them a "white feminist" also further serves their divisive and hateful agenda.

    I know calling these people out is not a perfect solution... is there ever a perfect solution?

    In my local community, calling out the TERF hatred actually brought them out into the open and brought our loving members of our community together more than just quietly saying "they're just different" with a label, as they had been treated for years. Some of the TERF people left, others reconsidered their position. It was hell for everyone that directly had to deal with that. but we came out stronger and more respectful as a community, in the end, both through education and through communication.

    I know that sounds bad, to call people out and tell them they're not something, especially when Feminism tends to be a very inclusive movement of people.

    I appreciate the thoughts that went into this article because it's some
    thing people don't talk about and should be having a conversation
    about. We are all humans working together to benefit our people as a
    whole, a core motivation of feminism. Community and Communication create the change we want to see.

    Everyone has their shit. I'm eternally sad for our species, but I'm not going to give up. Not that you need me to say anything on the matter, but hang in there and keep being awesome! :-)
    Thank you for responding to my post.
    Peace.

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  50. A really excellent piece. I really question women who react so strongly to "white feminism". If you don't think it applies to you, why are you freaking out over it? If you are so secure in your "ally-ship" and anti-oppression, why get insulted when someone uses a term that you don't think applies to you? Women whose entire experience of feminism is "how will this improve my personal experience of the world" are, at the very least, missing the point. If it makes you uncomfortable to have pointed out to you that your precious feminism doesn't serve most women, then you need to go back and look at why.

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    Replies
    1. I've mentioned on numerous occasions to friends who are Hispanic or Black that I love a black female soul singer voice. I do. The sound of that Jennifer Hudson/Whitney Houston kind of singer is amazing to me. And, time and time again, I've offended people by saying this... How is this any different? I mean, I'm saying something positive about the race that I'm speaking about. "White feminism" speaks down to white men and women. Yet, somehow, it's acceptable for PoC to take offense to the slightest comment about their race - a compliment to them - while white people aren't allowed to disapprove of our race's use to represent all that is superficial and ignorant about feminism...?

      Delete
  51. I am sorry if I haven't fully understood what you're trying to say. I
    know I haven't experienced the nastiness that you have, and I'm very
    sorry so many women who call themselves feminists don't give a shit for
    anyone unlike themselves. I think it's human nature, unfortunately, to
    identify most strongly with those who are like oneself, and people of
    privilege have a particularly easy time not seeing or experiencing
    things from other perspectives, because their day to day survival has
    not required them to. I'd argue that the white feminists identified in
    this piece are not feminists at all, or are incomplete in their
    feminism.

    I hope that it's possible to learn empathy for other people's experiences. If it isn't, the human race is really screwed.

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  52. racism discoursed into feminism the ultimate antithesis hahaha Ahhh organized activism, you slay me.... we are all poc's take an art class or watch the human family tree. We are all one energy...

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  53. It is terrible practice to define something, a term in this case, in such a way, that you can attack it best. It is cheating the argumentative process.


    You article is also strongly biased..."by once again insisting that a conversation created to facilitate discussion about the issues of WoC, be centered around the feelings of white women." Let's see, a whilte woman must be exercising her privilege, it must be about "feelings", her feelings.... while woc are "facilitating a discussion"... hmm... I guess white women should just passively accept the better wisdom of woc always.


    If white feminism doesn't include all white feminist women, and could include woc, then why call it "white feminism"? There are a lot of great white feminists out there ... and perhaps, the misunderstanding comes from the bad labeling that WoC have used to describe a movement that at least in some ways, doesn't represent them. How can you blame white women for saying "I am not like that" when the name of this one sided feminism is made to be equated with them? Frankly, how would you feel if the tables were turned?


    I am hardly white, and I say that because some of us are neither one thing nor the other. Most white people in North America don't think of me as white and when WoC talk about white people, I don't take offence personally.


    I am swamped by fb messages about how annoying white people are... how dirt poor white people who might not have grown up with a toilet inside their house owe WoC to acknowledge their white privilege. I image all this brown women who might have come from the highest cast in their country, whose parents have PhDs, telling a white woman who grew up in a trailer that she has privilege, and frankly, I find it ridiculous.


    And I wouldn't be surprised if someone tries to explain to me why that is ok.... trust me, I get the argument, I still find it ridiculous.

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  54. This is good. Especially because of the venn diagrams.
    but ESPECIALLY because of the venn diagrams.
    Did I mention I like your Venn diagrams?

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  55. Great answer. Nothing better than hearing you try to be "condescending" because you must always be right.... to prove the point. I am tired of WoC thinking that racial oppression makes it ok to just go on about white people in general. What WoC? Do you mean the WoC who come from countries were they were privileged because of their cast? I am tired of middle class WoC telling white women who grew up in trailers that they have to acknowledge their privilege.... it sound ridiculous, and for all intents and purposes, I am a WoC...


    So, let's just be clear, this WoC movement that goes "I am always right", only have bad things to say about white people, make fun of everything white people do, and think that they have to right to call every white person a racist and that she should just keep quiet... does not represent me.

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  56. I'm sorry you feel that way.

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  57. You are in violation of rule #2 of "General Expectations of Civility" of the comment guidelines. Please complete Racism 101 before commenting again.

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  58. If you have to use venn diagrams to explain a different interpretation of a phrase which has a plain meaning among speakers of English which is not your meaning, it probably means you are using the wrong phrase. I would respectfully suggests that the subset you are pointing to is people who subscribe to "CLUELESS feminism"

    Cluelessness is rampant, and is no respecter of race or gender. I'm White. I'm Feminist. I strive to be clueful, but yes, sometimes I'm unaware of the way in which my privilege blinds me to what's going on with people who don't enjoy that privileges. The cool thing is that if you accuse me of being in the group that is being clueless about something, I can't dismiss you or your claim outright -- I need to look to see what it is your are talking about. This is not the case if you use the term White Feminist to describe people whose approach to feminism you disagree with. There are too many White Feminists I respect to accept that that term works as a pejorative.

    That swings both ways, BTW. I was involved some time ago in my community with an effort to build a new building for the YMCA and the YWCA. Both orgs had buildings that were falling down around them, and neither had had the resources to make clear their message to the community. They have very different missions and philosophies, but the people who had the money to build new buildings did not perceive any meaningful difference and were willing to fund only one shared building. So the orgs were thrown together. I worked with some exceedingly clueless Black Feminists, who were so focused on forwarding their efforts for social justice, and on making clear their deep suspicion that every man in the room was trying to destroy their organization, that they were unwilling to concede that the parts of the building dedicated to providing fitness services to community members who could buy memberships were the part that FUNDED the meeting rooms for the social justice group planning sessions and the day care center they cared most about. In a moment which sort of crystallized the disconnect between the two orgs, one woman interrupted a conversation about whether we needed to plan for 2 or 3 meeting rooms and 2 or 3 basketball courts with "WE DON'T CARE ABOUT YOUR BALLS!"

    That was a fair statement of personal, and possibly in-group priorities but not a particularly clueful one within the context of the project we were trying to put together.

    Fortunately for me, my acquaintance with Black Feminists goes well beyond this little group and includes folks like the woman I spar with at the dojo, the engineer who in this crappy economy, in our economically depressed area, landed herself an excellent new job while she was still getting severance pay from the employer who laid her off. The one who is raising two young boys with her ex-husband.

    I don't like using verbiage in public venues which unnecessarily disrespects people who deserve better. (Though ok, you know, if I'm with the girls, I might just do that "MEN!" exclamation which we all know expresses exasperation with male behaviors which are not universal but are common enough to be fodder for in-group bonding)

    If I'm going to disrespect somebody, I want it to be CLEAR who it is I am targeting. And I'd really like to inspire an interest in change while I'm at it. I find I respect others who take the same care. So while I will cheerfully lambast examples of clueless feminism as it pops up among humans of all races, genders, and sexual orientations, I will save "White Feminist" and "Black Feminist" for neutral descriptions of humans who identify with some form of feminism and a racial profile at the same time.

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  59. "If you have to use venn diagrams to explain a different interpretation of a phrase which has a plain meaning among speakers of English which is not your meaning, it probably means you are using the wrong phrase. I would respectfully suggests that the subset you are pointing to is people who subscribe to "CLUELESS feminism""

    Hmm.... it's ALMOST as if you didn't EVEN BOTHER to read the essay....

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  60. I read the essay, even clicked on the links. Because I'm interested in what you have to say about the experience of feminist WoC, think it's worth saying, and am suggesting only that trying to argue for the narrow use of a phrase which can't help but suggest wider meaning to everybody in the world who either hasn't read your explanation, or has read it and disagrees, needlessly diminishes the effectiveness of the point you are trying to make.

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  61. On the disclaimer for the diagrams I would have put something about them to being accurate because they're limited to 2 dimensions.

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  62. That is a fair an understandable point. But the fact remains that the term as I've explained it here has been used in this manner for AGES. Positively ages, and not just by black women. By Asian women, Native women, Latina women, trans women; all the women who feel shunned, hurt and disregarded by white feminism's exclusionary practices. All I did was spell it out, because I'm tire of seeing arguments get derailed by clueless white ladies whining about their hurt feelings.

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  63. Thank you for educating me on this. I was always confused when people would talk about "white feminism" and such. I thought there was just "feminism" i thought it was the duty of females to support each other in all of our endeavors to gain equality. Again thank you for the education on what not to do and how not to act.

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  64. I agree, unless there is a specific set of criteria for a given label, claiming that morally dubious claimers of the label are not REAL [insert label here]s is committing the no true scotsman fallacy. Mind you the argument could be made that if a given person is demonstrating that they are not opposed to gender inequality or are in favour of social justice are not actually feminists.

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  65. second about the Venn diagrams. i think they made the definition much clearer to me than the any other part of the article. but then, this is the first time i've heard the term at all.

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  66. '"What people don't seem to get is that "White Feminism" is feminism for white people, and never exclusively feminism by white people.'

    Unsurprisingly, really.

    And this, of course, is the problem with speaking in codewords or using "terms of art". "Feminists who are white" is the obvious reading for the phrase "white feminists", just like "software that doesn't cost you anything" is the obvious reading for "free software".

    These folks might profit from some consideration of "Doctor" Stallman's multidecade experience correcting people on this point...

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  67. The term is that it is used in a derogatory way. Understandably, no human being wants to be judged, profiled or pigeonholed simply based on the color of their skin. And there lies my confusion in calling this group of *mainstream feminists* "White feminists". It makes the use of the word "White" derogatory, a slur IMO. How hard could it be to come up with a more appropriate, not race identified word for this group of women.
    By the way, I completely agree that the group of women is 1) out of touch with reality 2) narrow minded 3) biased 4) judgemental ... and gotta say it - CRAZY.
    Me:
    White woman. Offended by "White women feminism" term. I'm NOT part of the problem. NO, I won't STFU.

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  68. "Good feminist" makes you cringe? But it's not ok, that "White feminist" makes me cringe.?
    It's ok, you told her what she 'meant' to say.

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  69. I'll grant you that. But you know what "white feminists" DOESN'T say? It doesn't say "ALL white feminists", so the insistence that it apply to all or none really baffles me.

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  70. Well, that "insistence" is almost certainly due to the regular completely-unqualified use of the phrase. If you were to say "some White Feminists", then you might find people's responses less baffling.


    In any case, you're effectively "playing a race card" with the phrase and then back-pedaling that it doesn't have anything to do with race at all, really. I don't see that you can actually have that both ways. If you mean "feminism that lacks cognizance of intersectionality", then say so, unwieldy as it is.


    Using terminology that appears calculated to not only be misunderstood, but divisively so, seems counter-productive and strategically unsound.

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  71. Oh, do we really want to get into "terms that have been used in some manner or other for AGES" as a justification for continuing to use 'em...?


    'Cause there are a lot of those.

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  72. I'm an old feminist that has fought for the right over your own reproductive system. I've fought for and am still fighting for excellent child care free of charge. Real time off from your job for both parents to bond with the child and go back to the same job without being black balled. The end of the rape culture and for women to not be second to a man. I'm not aware that any of those issues have to do with color but I'd like to know if in fact the are white women's issues. I've never heard of this term. I only heard recently about the different waves of feminism. Again, I'm old so these new terms escape me. I want women to make the same wage as a man doing the same job in an environment that isn't threatening. I enjoyed your essay but why all the labels? Don't we all want to be free and equal?

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  73. Ah, the manufactured "race card"! The weapon of aggrieved white people everywhere. And with that, you are officially banned. Ta Ta!

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  74. It IS about their race? Because it is their privilege blindness regarding race that allows them to continue to make these mistakes in the first place?

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  75. "I'm not aware that any of those issues have to do with color but I'd like to know if in fact the are white women's issues."


    That kind of proves my point, no? WoC interact with these issues differently because of their different relationships to white supremacy. But sure, go on about how you're "one of the good ones" while insisting that we all just need to be free and equal and disregarding the effect race has on the way we are allowed to move through life.

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  76. I first read this a couple of days after it was originally posted, and I have to say thank you so much for writing this. I've known pretty much my whole life that I do have an advantage as a white woman, but I never thought very much about it. After reading this, I started reading about intersectionality, black feminism, and cultural appropriation. I am horrified at some of the things that I'm seeing in the different standards women are judged by based on their skin color. The different messages they're given from the time they're children. It's been eye opening, and I know that I've only scratched the surface. It sickens me to know that racism still exists on the level that it does. I really thought we'd come farther than that. It frustrates and angers me that I feel completely impotent to affect any change. I've started looking at social media differently, and I absolutely see the bias.

    Thank you for helping to open my eyes to it. I know that I still have much to learn, and I know that I will never truly understand. I can't. It leaves me wondering, is there anything I can do? I've read plenty of things that white women shouldn't do, and I am ashamed to admit that through ignorance, I have been guilty of some of those things. And I will be far more careful with my words and actions in the future. I'm going to keep reading, and learning. I hope to see true equality in my lifetime. I'd love to play a part in making that happen. I would like to ask, I've seen plenty of things that need to stop happening, what are some of the things that need to start happening? What can I do to help?

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  77. Try again. "We know that no one is going to reflect one set of white people's bad behaviour onto all white people... you are already given the benefit of the doubt". In other words, "the stereotyping of white people" isn't going to hurt you.

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  78. The "white feminism" that considers the college educated professional white woman as the center of their world, has always ignored working class women, poor women, and women of color. It's narrow and facile platform is useless to most women. Apparently they don't think that that "strength in numbers" thing applies to them. Slut Walk and Femen--- who needs this? Many men enjoy this approach, and the fact that they are supported is testament to how thoughtless and single-minded the movement is.


    As a white woman who has been living feminism since I was twelve years old, I find the mainstream feminist movement to be shallow, hollow, and self-absorbed. It's more a faction than a movement and if you're not a middle class white woman professional, then you're subject to the number one weapon of middle-class white women--- disappointment. They're so sorry you've failed by not achieving their status, really they are, but it's not a feminist issue.


    To read radical, personal is political, movement feminist dialogue, it's necessary to read the work of black feminists and womanists. I love your work! I know I have white privilege and know I have to check it--- which is a a lifelong commitment.

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  79. Women of color who are white feminists, at least to my understanding, can be compared to black Republicans, who might be black, but they still see the world through the eyes of a rich white guy. In fact, much the same can be said of poor white Republicans. They deny that privilege even exists.

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  80. A white feminist here, hello, and I would just like to say that these people here complaining about your usage of "white feminism" are complete idiots. Oh, and also, this was a brilliant post. Thank you, and that is all.

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  81. Haha, how silly. They call you out bc you're being inaccurate and kinda racist and all you can do is cry about *them* having hurt feelings? This is why you guys can't make a successful movement. It's all "We're pure and can be as lax and stupid as we like with what you say, but you're all on notice you'd better speak with our Approved language, otherwise you're evil and a racist. p.s. structural racism is the only kind. Let me count my privilege points to make sure I'm allowed to disagree with you or demand accuracy, can't let a shitlord slip through the net!

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  82. The author's point is that WoC's voices are often excluded from white feminist spaces. Not that YOU personally are excluding them.

    Remember that time you tried to say share your female experience in a male-dominated world? And that one guy got offended because he PERSONALLY wasn't sexist - so why are you saying that all men are bad? Your experience wasn't about that one guy. Wouldn't it have been great if that guy had listened and tried to understand you instead?

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  83. I live in a world (country?) where white cis heterosexual males are the "default" person. And anyone outside those identifiers is "other." When I talk about male privilege, I'm never saying, "you, man on the street, have personally stolen the privileges from all the women." Male privilege is internalized from family and media and institutionalized.

    Similarly, the author is pointing out that "feminism" too often defaults to representing white women, instead of actively listening and giving importance to the experiences of women of color. "White feminism" is feminism in which Women of Color are not represented. That's different from saying, "every white feminist woman is racist." White women enjoy certain privileges that women of color do not. And maybe it would be fun if we acknowledged that and tried to understand each other better. Get it?

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  84. Am I missing something, or does this really boil down to the following: Stereotyping people is bad unless you're stereotyping privileged people.

    I understand that stereotypes have a harsher real-world impact on marginalized groups than privileged groups, but I don't buy that as a justification to race- or gender-based stereotypes. When broad stereotypes are made about marginalized groups ("Muslims are terrorists"), we don't excuse it because it wasn't really about ALL Muslims. And we don't accuse the offended Muslims of trying to "restructure a conversation that is happening to serve their needs, in a way that is more 'comfortable'."

    We're taught from a young age that stereotyping peolpe is wrong and unproductive. Why does this not extend to privileged groups?

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  85. I am a conservative-leaning person who had experience living sometime in south asia. The issue of reproductive rights mean slightly different things there as opposed to here. In those places, the patriarchal society is consistently killing girl foetuses by deeming them undesirable resulting, in some instances, in entire villages without a single girl child. The feminists in those countries are fighting day in an out to curb this practice and condones laws that make even gender-determination prior to birth as illegal. On the other hand here, no such provision exists to curb gender-based abortions. This in turn is resulting in some immigrant communities continuing the same policy as before. Now I understand that abortion-rights has a complicated history in this country and feminists are still fighting to preserve Roe v Wade. However the fact that feminist groups have actually spoken out against laws banning gender-based abortions makes me think this is an instance of western/white feminists not knowledgeable about the fights of feminists elsewhere. I can understand the apprehension about feminists teaming with pro-life groups on this issue. However, such things have happened before. The feminists joined social conservatives against p0rn in the 80s, and gay-rights group kicked out NAMBLA among themselves without affecting the movement. I dont understand why this cannot happen again.

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  86. False. Stereotypes are not bad. Stereotypes are useful tools that help us make quick decisions and make mental shortcuts so that we can navigate the world more effectively. The issue is when stereotypes are used in situations where they are not needed. It is the misapplication of stereotypes that is problematic.


    Because of white supremacy, people making snap decisions based on racial stereotypes does nothing to disadvantage the people in power; namely white people. That same process however severely disadvantages minority groups. That is the difference.


    Misapplied stereotypes about white people do not affect the way in which that group is permitted to move through the world. Misapplied stereotypes about Muslim people leads to violence and exclusionary discrimination. That is the difference.

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  87. If I was working as an advocate to a rape survivor while
    not being a rape survivor myself, it would behoove me to take extra care to be
    respectful and let THEM define their experiences and feelings, while
    recognizing that I don't know what that experience is like in the slightest. There
    is no way I could be more familiar then they are with the experience of their own
    sexual assault. And since I am not a survivor, I would have no first-hand personal
    experience of being violated that way at all. As a real ally--using basic human
    empathy and common sense---there would be no other rational course of action
    except to defer to the survivor and allow them to be the authority on how their
    trauma is articulated and characterized. THEY are the EXPERTS on their
    situation. So why do people assume that it's different with racism? White
    people are no more qualified to speak about experiences of racism than I would
    be qualified to speak about life as a survivor of sexual assault.

    The context of what a person is attempting to critique is
    paramount as whether they can even give an accurate or valid critique on the
    situation. It’s completely asinine to believe that you can come up with a
    better critique of someone's lived experience then they can, particularly if it’s
    a result of cultural and systematic oppression that YOU benefit from.

    A white woman is
    NEVER going to be the expert on living with being dehumanized by white
    supremacy and oppressed by institutional racism, the same way I am never going
    to be an expert on living as a Shi’i Muslim who is systematically oppressed in Saudi
    Arabia. White feminists (and all white people, really) need to LISTEN and
    inform themselves with others lived experiences before saying anything about
    them at all, let alone critiquing black people with typical racist
    ,self-serving “What’s
    wrong with Black people” derails.

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  88. Thank you so much for writing this. I only learned about intersectionality recently and admittedly still struggle with it at times when my particular privileges blind me to certain connections. Thankfully I'm blessed to have mentors, colleagues, and friends who will both call me out on my BS and create a safe space for me to explore these issues and ask questions without judgment. Articles like this, and the conversations that they start, are incredibly helpful and much appreciated.

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  89. I for one really appreciate that you "showed your work" because there were definitely some examples you gave where I needed the connection more clearly drawn out. So again, for those of us who are in our early stages of learning and exploring and undoing years upon years of institutionalized privilege, thank you.

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  90. "You do not get to be upset, because this post *is not about you, personally.* This post is about an institution, and the manifestation of that institution. This post is about the contributions that white feminists are making to an institution that hurts WoC."


    YES YES YES.

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  91. This is my first time hearing (well, reading) this term, but it is very eye-opening. As I've explored feminism, I've begun to understand privilege, and in understanding what that is, I've begun to see my own privilege (as a white person), and to recognize it for what it is. Thank you, for helping me continue to improve my understanding of myself and my place in our culture. :) PS, I definitely don't feel attacked here, just informed.

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  92. Yeah, you don't get it, no point in elaborating,

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  93. this is a good analysis and short enough to be a primer when one is needed (I just had my first encounter with TERFs and my cishet privilege had afforded me so far that I hadn't even KNOWN that people like this existed, let alone as a group, so Thank you for taking the time, writing it all up and linking it together, so that each and every one of us now has a neat SHORT primer, when it is needed. love and light!

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  94. Finally!! I am very happy you wrote about this. But I will continue to think it's a form of essentialism that happens here. Why not use 'white liberal feminism'? Why not use 'linear white feminism'? Why not use 'middle and upper class North American white feminism'? Why not use 'bourgeois white feminism'? Why not use 'white feminism in the socio-economic and cultural context of North America'? There is a very limited understanding and even hesitation to accept the experiences of discrimination and erasure that poor North American white women and white immigrant women face, and this careless use of the term promotes it. I don't think being 'defensive' means you're guilty, it means you came to the debate because you need to use feminist theory to make sense of your oppression and its off-putting to find that intersectional feminist theory thinks you don't exist.

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  95. I really like the "white feminism being feminism for whites rather than feminism by whites" framing. Succinct and completely spot on.

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  96. I fully agree! I was born in the former Soviet Union, grew up losing teeth from malnutrition, I was excited to come to North America and have access to feminist theory, and participate and I'm so put off to see how many people are blinded by my skin color and tell me outright that I have no place in anthropology classes about poverty because I'm white so I won't understand what oppression is anyway. It's ridiculous, American-centric and ignorant. It's like some creepy kind of imperialism.

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  97. Here is the quote
    http://abww.wordpress.com/?s=tina+fey

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  98. Wait a minute Tina Fey said more than one insulting thing about women of color???? The link I posted was about Saturday Night Live.

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  99. That article paints Tina in a slightly better light than Poehler, though.

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  100. 1. Because you don't get to tell me how I should be identifying with my own oppression.
    2. Because more often than not, this separation is drawn along racial lines. No one is excluding poor or immigrant women. It is simply a fact that both those groups are likely to find a place in the movement before even the richest, most successful black woman. (see: Beyoncé, Rihanna and the policing of their feminism)

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  101. That's a different kind of privilege. What I'm discussing here is white supremacy, a privilege built on anti-blackess, and the way in which white women specifically are targeting WoC within the movement. Once again, if it doesn't apply to you, then it's not about you.

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  102. White people can experience racism, as can any minority in a prominently different culture. It is not particularly common in the west, and doesn't effect the overall arguments here - white privilege is still massively overwhelming, but felt I had to put it in. Otherwise I respect everything that has been said.

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  103. Hi, I apologise I may have this wrong, as IU've been struggling to read all of the comments. But trans women don't seem to merit a mention among either your diagram, apart from obliquely in reference to TERFS, or in your wonderful list of things white feminism has done. I just want to add, we've been the focus of white feminism for 40 years. In the most hateful manner people can be targetted. Not just by TERFS, this is a common misconception. Transphobia is still common among non TERF white feminists. Last year was marked by a number of lows, not least of which was "trans* is equivalent to blackface." completely ignoring the existence of black trans women.

    Anyway. My apologies if this groumd has been covered and I missed it.

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  104. The language itself implies a general rule, which is the essence of racism. It's ("White Feminism") a good idea, poorly expressed. That's why *at least some* people get "all defensive". It bothers them because a conventional reading has it stating something as fact which evidently isn't (that white feminists are White Feminists and necessarily racist). I've always thought that if you're getting a lot of people confusing what you say with an outright contradiction of reality, you need to examine your communication and ask "perhaps I need to rephrase if I'm going to reach these people?", instead of trying to brush them off.

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  105. If there are universally correct answers to ethical questions, the diagram could just be a group labelled "feminist" that does not coincide with groups for "white feminists" "TERFs" "racists"

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  106. Gotcha. Brilliant. Well done. If your thoughts offends people, so be it. I agree that "White Feminism" never had much claim over my mother, a woman of color who graduated high school, raised 3 kids, cooked, cleaned, gardened ...and loved her life. This was all through the 1950's through the 1970's. It was then pretty shocking to me years later that others --white feminists at academic institutions, saw women like her as exploited, and downtrodden whose life was shaped by a myriad of lost opportunities. My mother would never have self identified with that depiction. I'm also leery at the way feminism is applied like butter, like a series of random events are all purely motivated by feminism. Such as this: http://www.indiewire.com/article/heroines-of-cinema-10-feminist-highlights-of-awards-season

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  107. Thank you for your whitesplaining. What this essay really needed was a white lady to come in, and explain why black women are being divisive by naming their oppression, while completely ignoring the nuances of the original critique. I desperately needed to be lectured to. Thank you for saving me from my own racism.

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  108. Jezebel and Ms. both love Beyonce! What are you talking about? And as for women-of-color feminism, we can find way better role models than Nicki Minaj and Rihanna! It's no great loss that we aren't praising them, and it's not because they are not white. What about Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Margaret Cho, Rosario Dawson?
    As a non-white woman I always felt welcome at my university's Feminist group, which was predominantly white. They were all well-informed of issues that supersede race.
    We cannot presume to know what each woman will go through. White women frequently experience significant sexism while pursuing a career in engineering or computer sciences. They may have earned their education on a scholarship for merit or low-income. Being white does not make that sexism go away.

    White women did not choose their race, so let's not shame them for it!

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  109. Check out Everydayfeminism.com for an all inclusive, intersectional take on FEMINISM [for ALL]. Sign on to their facebook page as well. Website receives 500,000 visitors per month. A stellar site that offers courses as well as excellent articles and blog posts.

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  110. I'm mixed, Black and White, but look White. My sister (same parents) looks Latina. Was it uncomfortable seeing my own privilege when I grew up around my Black aunts, uncles, and cousins? Yes. Is it still uncomfortable seeing my own privilege when I'm out with my sister? Yes, but I can't deny that it doesn't exist. If a self-proclaimed feminist can't check their privilege, then maybe feminism isn't right for them.


    Great read- I'm glad you posted it.

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  111. This is why it helps to respond with empathy rather than jumping to feeling defensive. Listening to what someone has to say, and reflecting back their feelings instead of taking it personally helps you to understand their point of view and helps the speaker to feel like she's been heard.

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  112. Hi Cate, thanks for an interesting post. The Feminism 101 chart confuses me in a couple of ways. The centred grey circle marked "White Feminists" -- does that represent any actual people? (Men are yellow, White women are red, women of colour are blue, and the grey circle is just a tool of the chart that only represents people where it intersects with colours?)


    Also, you've included two special circles for White TERFs and TERF women of colour, but no circles for transgender people. Does your vision of Feminism 101 include Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists, and exclude transgender people?


    Thank you, Cate.

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  113. Feminism, white or black or pink or blue or contextual or not is about allowing women to be their authentic selves without being pushed into stereotypical expectations. Period. The issues of race, gender and culture are layered upon that. Ideally a feminist will embrace the fight against oppression in all it's guises. Trying to define the groups within a movement or an ideology accomplishes what, exactly?

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  114. How is this not close minded? Please, somebody tell me

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  115. I believe reading the essay will answer your question.

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  116. Translation: We're all just women. Why are you being divisive?

    Answer: "My feminism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit." Flavia Dzodan

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  117. The diagram isn't perfect. Far from it. It is merely meant to illustrate my specific point about white feminism. I had originally drawn it to include trans women, gay women, non-binary women and the like, but it became far too busy and difficult to read. As the main point I was making was about race, I centered the diagram on that division. So no, my feminism does not exclude trans women, is the short answer. The diagram is just a direct function of wanting to strive for brevity and readability.

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  118. The diagram isn't perfect. Far from it. It is merely meant to illustrate my specific point about white feminism. I had originally drawn it to include trans women, gay women, non-binary women and the like, but it became far too busy and difficult to read. As the main point I was making was about race, I centered the diagram on that division. So no, my feminism does not exclude trans women, is the short answer. The diagram is just a direct function of wanting to strive for brevity and readability. Ideally it should centre intersectional feminism with white feminism as its binary opposite.

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  119. I'm glad you've found a way to supersede race. I'd love some pointers on how to transcend past my blackness.

    Seriously though, feminism is not meant to be exclusionary. A feminist is not required to be right about everything all the time. I find value in the messages that Rihanna and Nicki Minaj put into the world and I appreciate the way they put feminism into praxis. The fact that they do not approach feminism academically doesn't make them less feminist.

    And if you came away from this essay thinking that I'm advocating from shaming white women, you've entirely missed the point.

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  120. I'm very happy you've found a way to supersede race. I'd really love some pointers on how transcend my blackness.

    Seriously though? Being a feminist doesn't mean being right about everything all the time, or conforming to one specific sets of traits. Feminism is about choice. I find value in what Rihanna and Nicki Minaj put into the world and the way they put their feminism into praxis. Doing so doesn't mean I don't also appreciate Alice Walker or Toni Morrison. It's not a competition.

    And if you honestly came away from this thinking that I'm advocating for shaming white women, you obviously missed the point.

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  121. White people never experience racism? Well, I don't know where you grew up, but I grew up in NYC (Bronx... I am Blatino) where most of my peers of color, neighborhood friends and some family members HATED and DESPISED the fact that I hung out with some white folks and had white friends. I never understood how they could hate random white folks who never did anything to them! And you are claiming white folks never experience racism? It's called Reverse Racism for a reason. And it exists. It's unfair to judge an entire white race as potentially racist or "privileged". And not all white folks are "privileged". If you have ever been to a poor white community or lived in one, like I did... I was the one with the money and privilege and they were mostly broke.

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  122. How do you not see the massive contradiction in your last sentence? You actually contradicted everything you stand for in one sentence, wow.

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  123. Thankyou; my criticism isn't directed at you but at the people who are abbreviating your argument poorly. Note how I mock JessicaSideways by imitating the folksy, aloof form of their argument, and put the burden of proof and clarity back where it is meant to be -- on the person making the claim.

    I do know exactly what you mean, thanks to prescriptive language. "Other people might not get it" is evidently fact, whether you think it's a valid argument or not. My argument comes down to what I said, not what you wished I'd said so you could dunk me. I "don't like" the convention of current flowing from the positive terminal in electrical power engineering but it's too late to change it now, and gosh I think might just be able to accept that even though it hurts ;_;

    Here, it's different from "I don't like" because the language is demonstrably unhelpful, not merely slightly misleading for the layperson. Explaining the torturous special case history behind terminology doesn't make that terminology immune to criticism, but all the criticism I have is to warn that there are people who can get the wrong end of this stick and that it's not totally their fault -- this is still an excellent and useful post on an excellent and useful topic and I show it to anyone who is interested, because it is the best introduction to the topic I know.

    Thanks for getting back to me.

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  124. If you believe that "reverse racism" is a thing, you don't belong on this blog. Semantically "reverse racism" would technically describe what we call benevolent racism, so you've already started on the wrong foot.


    And secondly, did it ever occur to you that the minority people in your community resented white people as a culmination of the ill will generated by years of racism at their expense? Possibly? As to poor white people... privileges intersect. They may not have class privilege, but they still have WHITE privilege. You need to understand that if you're going to continue engaging here.

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  125. And I must
    thank you for ignoring and demeaning everything that was said by using the word
    "whitesplaining". I guess you mean to say that black women and white
    women CAN'T work together... Not even ONCE did I say you needed
    "saving" from you own racism, all I did was tell you that you could
    think of feminism as something positive for all types of races, without having
    to label in a pejorative way the expression of white people. My story, it
    seems, wasn't as important as yours due to my color? It wasn't as thought
    through as yours because I didn't point the good parts of your text? Sorry, I suppose
    that was a mistake on my part. The comment above yours is a valid constructive
    criticism, and in my opinion, should be responded as such.

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  126. So, agree like a sheep with what this ridiculous blog says, or get out. What a nasty tone you have. Way to get people to engage. You could have been a lot more "inclusive" and tolerant n your choice of language. The response makes the writer appear incredibly pretentious.

    I am able to positively engage these conversations in the reddest of red state America, and I see growth from those challenging cibveratiins. Clearly, you are only comfortable engaging behind a keyboard, preaching to the choir. What a failure.

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  127. It seems to me that you are not talking about feminists at all; rather you are speaking of women who choose to identify as feminists but then create barriers to inclusion. That is not feminism; that is small mindedness and group dysfunction. I think that we have to be very careful about the labels we choose. Selecting 'white feminism' is a poor label; it is insulting because of its assumptions; its very premise is wrong. When 'feminists' turn on each other because of colour or exclusion or economic privilege, feminism at its heart must be dead!

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  128. ok - so you don't like ignorant white women and racist people of any gender - me either - now - as a white feminist that does not fit your definition of white feminist, but who is still exposed to all of the hollering and accusing, i want to know exactly what you hope to gain by using such a broad brush in explaining white feminism? PLEASE tell me- what label fits me - the white woman who is actually an ally.? You may not want to hear it, but accurate language that does not need an essay to explain a phrase might be a good idea - then people who are allies of every color could focus on the message instead of dodging the criticisms directed at white feminists in general. If people are not getting the message with the language you choose, if you want to be heard and not just to vent - then maybe you need to shift the message to be more accurate. if i say feminists of color are all angry and have closed ears and hate white people - it would be accurate for some black feminists, but not for all of them. as feminists, INCLUSIVE feminists, we would be wise to choose vocabulary that does not alienate allies while leveling justified criticism at SOME PEOPLE - the term white feminists is lazy language that applies to far more women than you are talking about. If you just want to holler, go ahead, i want to holler about injustice too - but it is usually the excuse people take to disregard me and my message, no matter how righteous. If you want 'white feminists' to actually hear you - you might be more thoughtful about descriptive terms. or not - i don't really care - i am just telling you - there are allies and there are enemies - your broad brush with a qualifying essay to explain it seems pretty racist to me. i will listen to you - if you want action - stop insulting an entire race of feminists! just like i don't say 'men do...." i say 'patriarchal men do....''. if i wantthe men to hear me- if i don't care who hears me - i just holler in generalities and it is only the chior who hears it and they do not deserve it.we need a better word than white feminism to talk about women who are not really feminist at all ;)

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  129. So when I'm barged out of the way by a young black woman am I supposed to accept that's because I have white privilege and so deserve it? You have a captive audience here, that is already on your side because otherwise they would not take the time to find this page, read it, think about what it means to them, acknowledge they have white privilege, and want to engage. Yes, white people can research. But we are not allowed to ask questions. We are just supposed to 'know' about the issues that we cannot fully appreciate because we are white. We are told 'trying' and 'good intentions' are not enough. So what is the answer? How can we eradicate this 'white feminism' without two-way dialogue and communication? How can we be open to engagement if those that want a fully intersectional feminism - which they believe is the only way (I agree with 'my feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit') - if you simply insult them? The only way intersectionality can ever work, and for feminism and what we are fighting for to be taken seriously by critics, is if we work together. If you have to explain - tough. Women have to explain to the privileged white, hetero, cis-male, all the time or how will they ever understand?

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  130. May I ask - in what way do white women specifically target WoC?

    Genuinely interested and consider it important to know. Also you are US and I am UK so might be difficult to research.

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  131. Trying to delete my question, because I think you were talking about the examples in the piece, but can't, sorry!

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  132. LoL- As if you can stick a stereotype white people. Since when do white people get stereotyped as school shooters, terrorists that shoot up theaters, etc. Clueless.

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  133. Hmmm I heard enough internalized oppression on some of these comments to make my head spin.

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  134. Oh honey, feminism has historically be very racist. This is not a new problem.

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  135. Pointing out that white people are white, is not racist. Get it through your thick skull.

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  136. Labeling and name calling is not the best way to create unity; rather it creates division. Go ahead and label white feminism as negative if you wish, but perhaps that is just scapegoating instead of getting to the root of the problem. And please, don't call me honey.

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  137. .....Sweetheart, naming something is the first step in identifying and dealing with it. It's not my fault that your complicity in a racist system bothers you. You could, you know, not be racist. That might help. Do you understand now, my little darling? :)

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  138. Pejorative labels are never helpful. Nor does calling me 'little darling'. You are making assumptions. You don't know me at all. You are also making this personal. When someone does that, the discussion is over.

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  139. And yet! Here you STILL are, insisting that I am in the wrong for accurately describing my oppression, and you are right for trying to silence me. You're a pretty shitty ally Mary, my sugarplum. We don't need you.

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  140. So you're saying the ends justifies the means, and so it's perfectly fine to stereotype all white people as privileged oppressors because some of them are? So whenever I'm, as you put it, attacked for a transgression that I know myself not to be guilty of, how should I behave (and often people DO address me personally, particularly if I'm the only white woman in the room) -- am I supposed to just sit there quietly? It would be disingenuous to apologize for something I didn't do, but is showing any reaction to the attack going to be taken as proof that I'm one of "the people who fall into the darkest portions of the venn diagram?" But then.....might silence also be taken as proof? Is there ANY response that you would consider "correct," when a total stranger tells me to check my privilege before I even open my mouth?

    I have another question. I've lived most of my adult life in a xenophobic country where white people are the minority, and face discrimination (such as, refusal of service, refusal of rental housing, nasty comments made about those of us who partner with locals, etc. -- and the usual gamut of microaggressions). When someone from a western country tells me that whites are the privileged majority everywhere, and I know this is not the case, is there a way I can speak up and talk about my actual life experience without sounding defensive?

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  141. When...did...I...say...that... Please, I'm really trying to understand it. I spoke to a friend a couple of days ago, about feminists ( which is something we both are) and she said to me that "White feminism is the feminism by white women who can't see what black women go through simply because they aren't black, and thus do not got through the same things." Do you agree with her? Because when she explained like that, I understood black people's point of view on the term. Yet, I still don't think using it is going to be positive, in any way. And yes, "whitesplaining" as you said is most definitely a negative term, used to harass me, and thus unnecessary to a good discussion. I NEVER tried to lecture you on your thoughts or feelings about racism, you can have them and express them whenever you want. All I said in the first comment is that discussions about feminism should have all kinds of people, that go through all kinds of experiences daily. People who share what they know and get together to try and make the world less sexist. Not even once did I say that we should ignore what most black people go through, just that using the word "White feminism" and "Whitesplaining" isn't going to help, just as much as calling black people bad things won't help either, just make things worse.

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