The default feminism is white privilege


I follow a tumblr called this is white privilege and I adore it lots. It doesn’t advertise itself as anything other than a relatively safe space for people of color to mock white privilege and bigotry. Allies are welcome as well, but anyone exercising privilege is cut down in the most ruthless of ways.

And now enter an amazing contribution by a fellow reader of the tumblr:

White privilege is feminism. It is when white suburban middle-class women criticize you and question your intelligence for not wanting to define yourself as a feminist. I believe in women’s rights, not cis-gendered white women’s rights. (source)

Feminism started as a racist, classist, cis-centric, and xenophobic movement. It’s been a bit more than a hundred years and thanks to the work of so many marginalized women, it’s been raised from its original state of complete and utter bullshit. Our millions and millions of hours of work have made our current feminism only mostly full of bullshit.

If you doubt, that current feminism/activism is still full of shit, then read inchoaterica’s amazing blog, or the Speaker’s Corner, or Tiger Beatdown, or so many other amazing feminist blags. Many of their posts focus on how fractured our movement is, and how backwards it can be after all this time. Hell, even if you just want to stay on my own blag, you can find examples of exclusionary shit with regards to marriage equality, trans-exclusionary radfeminism, men’s rights activism, the erasure of trans* women in the media, shitty self-described allies, and quite a bit more.

And yet… cue this first exchange:

[Anon 1]: I generally enjoy your blog, but this latest one about feminism misses the mark entirely. It sounds like just about every other person who doesn’t understand modern feminism, and how it’s nothing like the feminism of the past. Unless you’re discussing radfem which none of us agree with. It’s really a shame that you feel that way. Modern feminism addresses the issues of all women of color and lgbt in a way where they speak and those who are more privileged listen.

[dionthesocialist, the tumblr’s owner]: That post was a submission. I consider myself a feminist. However, when feminists brush off the concerns of WoC by saying “oh, that’s in the past” or “oh, that’s just the rascum,” well, they’re pretty much confirming every suspicious WoC have of feminism. (source)

…you would think that in a venue meant to ridicule white privilege, people would refrain from whitesplaining.

…you would also think that this anon would be self-aware enough to realize that they were doing exactly what the submitter called out: making assumptions about the submitter’s experiences, knowledge, and sophistication at feminist criticism.

This is part of the problem with some strains of feminism: what’s the point of fighting for each other if we won’t even take each other’s experiences seriously? Non-intersectional feminism is bullshit!

[Anon 2]: Yeah you should probably shut the fuck up about putting down feminism as a white privilege. Black oppression through slavery in the West is a ~500 year old phenomenon. The oppression of women, EVERYWHERE, is a several thousand year old phenomenon. Just saying.

[dionthesocialist]: hahahahahahaha. (source)

[Presumably the Same Anon]: I invite you to elaborate on “hahahahahahaha.”. I don’t feel it’s an adequate response. Black oppression is as old as the compass, female oppression is as old as fire. Comparatively, you’re a young whippersnapper telling a hardworking old person to move for YOUR seat on a bus. Wise the fuck up to a line you shouldn’t cross.

[dionthesocialist]: This is possibly the most ignorant series of messages I’ve ever gotten. PoC and women aren’t against each other, you fucking [ableist slur]. In case you didn’t know, some PoC are women. Why are you so fucking opposed to “moving your seat” in order to provide space for women of color?

N******? In my feminism? Noooooooooo! (source)

Ooh, great, the Oppression Olympics has just been brought up in a discussion about feminism. Wunderbar.

Anon 2, I’m not going to mince words with you. Your words are those of a racist, egotistical, pseudo-intellectual asshole. I’m not particularly sure why it is you thought that a contest on whose dick is bigger was a good idea, but you did and it betrays some horrible things about how you seem to approach your feminism.

First off, let’s get the obvious point out of the way. The sets of people of color and black people intersect, but are not the same. In fact, the point of the term people of color is to include all of the people that are usually forgotten in talks of race/ethnicity-based oppression. Damn it, do some research.

And, just like dionthesocialist says, women of color exist! I even happen to be one of them. I have different concerns than you do — immigration reform, anti-queer socialization by the Catholic church, how racism and sexism promote hypermasculinity, etc — and I’m no less of a feminist for wanting to address those. Personally, I don’t think that you’re less of a feminist for not wanting to address them; I think that you’re less of a feminist because you don’t even realize that these are issues to be addressed.

The default feminism to so many people is white feminism. That is what the person who submitted that comment is railing against. Do not get angry or haughty when we call out your bullshit non-intersectional feminism.

[Anon 1?]: And to clarify, I don’t mean to pit women against PoC. Oppressed peoples are oppressed peoples. Though, by putting down feminism as white privilege, someone reading your posts might suggest that you were creating such a dichotomy.

[dionthesocialist]: You should just go ahead and fuck off now. A WoC comments on this blog and says feminism reads as white privilege to her, and you’re going to blame her for creating the dichotomy? If you want to look at who’s causing a dichotomy between feminism and women and color, you need to go look in the mirror. Homegirl, you legit just blamed a marginalized person for their own marginalization. I thought a feminist would know better. (source)

There’s not a dichotomy between feminism and people of color. To be honest, I wish there were, because that would make dealing society’s problems a fuckton easier. Unless feminists explicitly combat this trend, the default strain of feminism is going to disregard these groups and so many others:

  • People of color
  • Trans* people
  • Genderqueer people
  • Poor people
  • Immigrants
  • Pansexual people
  • Panamorous people
  • Asexual people
  • Aromantic people
  • Neuro-atypical people
  • Victims of abuse

The problem is that giving a fuck about other people still takes effort. The more privileged you are, the less you have to care.

A truly inclusive, powerful, and intersectional feminism must be founded on the idea that other people are worth something. As a movement, we can’t accomplish anything monumental and truly revolutionary until we grok the idea that we have to listen to each other, learn from each other, and unlearn the behaviors that tie us into the kyriarchy.

9 thoughts on “The default feminism is white privilege

    • I was once told that I was such a horrible person, I’d have tried to hold the civil rights movement back. That by cursing and disagreeing with someone else, I was acting just as badly as the people who *abused* me.

      A rich, white, cis guy told me all of that crap and no-one in the community went out of their way to call him out. That episode’s left a sour taste in my mouth whenever I think about the anarchist or so-called “truly progressive” sides of our culture.

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  6. I really enjoyed this post. I’ve struggling with self-identifying as a Feminist for a while now; pretty much ever since I realized how marginalizing the movement has become. It blows my mind that WoC/PoC are still asked to move to the backburner in equality talks because there’s someone/something MORE important than they are. It makes me cringe every single time I see it. I feel that I was very fortunate to have grown up in area with a strong multi-cultural populace and have awesome friends that kick my White Privilege in the metaphorical nuts when it tries to rear it’s ugly head. Without blogs like this (and friends like that) many otherwise well-meaning white folks go around with NO idea how patronizing, condescending or just plain ignorant they are being. It makes me want to claw a hole in the ground and become a Hobbit.

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