2015 Update: I wrote this post before I understood what the term “white feminism” really means, and this post reflects a common misinterpretation of that term, which is that it refers to all white women who identify as feminist. In truth, it references a myopic and exclusionary type of feminism that ignores the needs of women of color, low-income women, trans and gender nonconforming people, women with disabilities, and many others. The opposite of “white feminism” is intersectional feminism, which recognizes the ways in which people’s identities intersect, and seeks to address the needs of everyone who is oppressed by patriarchal structures, sexism, and misogyny, not just middle and upper class cisgender white women. For a more updated snapshot of my views on feminism, please see this post.

I’m leaving this post up and searchable, because I learned that I was wrong to be hurt and offended by the phrase “white feminism needs to die,” and I think there are others out there too who need to get over their defensiveness at the term, and think about how to make their feminism inclusive.

-Cait

Time for some honesty here.

I am white. I am female. I am bisexual. I come from a lower middle class family and I have a bachelor’s degree. I’m considered attractive almost universally. I am completely aware of any white/thin/cis/whatever privilege I have. That is, I try to be aware of it. I realize that people are worse off than I am. I realize that I am a lucky person. I won a genetic lottery. But I don’t have to feel bad about it. 

Okay, let me explain a little bit of what prompted this. I made myself a Tumblr a few months ago, and overall I really enjoyed it. I follow a lot of really excellent blogs on feminism and sex education and books and stuff. A lot of the feminism and sex ed blogs talk a lot about transgender people and people of color. At first I was excited to see that content. Since I am not trans or of color, I was glad to get more exposure to all kinds of different experiences. Like I said, even though I try to be aware of my privilege, I’m sure that I’m not innocent of accidentally offending someone with my ignorance.

A lot of the content of my Tumblr dashboard was exactly what I hoped, and I loved it. But every now and then there were posts and comments that made me twitch. The issue is this: every now and then, bloggers (and people in general) lash out against their binary opposite label. Transgender people get pissed at cissexual people for “not understanding.” People of color get pissed at white people for “not understanding.” Feminists get mad at men for “not understanding.” Feminists of color get pissed at white feminists, on and on and on.

It got so frustrating to read so much hate that I abandoned it. I felt attacked just for being who I was, by people who are often attacked just for being who they are. What kind of sense does that make? And I never felt able to respond. The responses to others who saw a problem with the vitriol were so frightening and hurtful. It was a conversation that left no room for me even to say, “I’m here and I’m interested in you!” Because I’m white and I’m cis and fuck me, they don’t want my pity or my condescension, I have no right to comment on their experiences.

It made my soul hurt, and there was nothing I could do, so I left Tumblr.

Recently I started browsing through again, and I’ve found the same kinds of things. Like this gem, captioned with “Because I am fed up with white feminists trying to “save” Muslim women. Just quit.”:

tumblr_mkvaf7dSm21reoh72o1_500

Okay. I get how frustrating it is to feel like someone’s not listening to you. I might be white, I might be cis, but I’m still a woman and I’m still bisexual, so I do still get into situations where someone is trying to shut down my contribution to the conversation. It fucking sucks. I am 100% in agreement with everything in that image, so that last line really knocked the wind out of me.

The way I see it, resorting to a hateful attack on whoever’s not listening is a form of giving up. It’s giving in. It’s throwing a tantrum. I don’t care who’s speaking or to whom the attack is directed. It is NOT productive.

It’s the way of the Men’s Rights Activists, the ones I will never take seriously as long as their arguments and tirades include words like cuntbitchmanginafeminazi, and the like. I am disgusted by the things that some MRAs post (check out Man Boobz for examples), but I would never say something so hateful as “Men’s Rights Activism needs to die!”

The hate the MRAs have for women makes it impossible to have real discussions with them about the problems with gender roles in our society, about things that negatively affect both men and women. The above image does the same thing for white feminists and feminists of color. Yes, feminism in the west has been an overwhelmingly white movement. During the first and second waves, white women were virtually the only ones with the means and connections to protest and network and lobby for legislation.

Well, times have changed. I can’t speak for every white feminist, of course. I don’t pretend to. But I can say for myself and infer for others that we don’t want to “save” women of color so much as make them part of the movement. So you know what?

BE AN AGENT.

DEFINE YOURSELF.

TELL ME YOUR HISTORY.

Tell me, tell your neighbors, your leaders. Tell everyone. Tell us over and over and over again. Tell us with poetry. Tell us with art. Tell us with dance, with music, however you can. But please, please, please–don’t tell us with hate. All is does is pull us farther apart.

If you’re a person who feels like your voice isn’t being heard, please feel free to leave comments or email me your stories (cspivey1954@gmail.com). I’m very interested in learning more about…just about everything, really.

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22 thoughts on “Thoughts On Misplaced Hate

  1. Allow me to break the ice? 🙂

    Bravo, these thoughts. And it’s far from just tumblr (where I’m not, and if what you’ve said here is indicative, won’t be). I see it all over; there are so many things I see, read… and don’t say a word in comment, because when I have, or do, immediately come the comments of “stop trying to derail the topic!” and the like. I wish people would stop and think a moment, realize that a shared or overlapped experience, even from someone of a partially-related (or opposite!) group is understanding and alliance, not derailing. Is it about police, and “Driving While Black?” The hispanic guy (or woman) gets it. Is it Rape Culture? The man who was raped by his athlete girlfriend, who was laughed at when he reported it and told “men can’t be raped” knows _exactly_ where you’re coming from. And any and every other chair that’s not quite the right shape, costume that’s not quite the right color… alliance and support from others, working toward the same goals, solves things for everyone. It’s not about me, it’s about we – making a better world together.

    1. Yes! Exactly. It is important not to make a conversation all about oneself, which happens. But it is also crucial to find those overlapping experiences, and to talk about the ones that don’t overlap. That’s how we learn. That’s how we end stereotypes. That’s how we come together for a more unified world.

      Right on. 🙂

  2. Great post – I tried to get down to the same point just the other day, but I think I was far more waffley that you! It’s so sad to see that the feminist movement, historically a cause for great inspiration and communal pride, is in this rut all largely because of the damage caused by women judging each other for being different.

    Take a look at my article here if you wish http://ludicrousinlondon.com/2013/04/07/why-are-feminists-so-annoying/
    I’d love to hear what you think!

    1. Thank you! It is sad, and it goes beyond feminism. It speaks to a society in general that has taught us to be fearful and suspicious of people who are different. I would love to see all these so-called “others” in our world–the women, the people of color, the non-binaries and transgender, and any one else who ever felt excluded–would come together and be unified in one simple message: WE ARE DIFFERENT. WE ARE THE MAJORITY. YOUR “NORMAL” DOES NOT EXIST.

  3. I’m so with you. I’m of color, so to speak. I’m Indian. and quite honestly, I’m thankful every day that I was born in the U.S. and not subjected to the demeaning behavior toward women that goes on in India. However, I would totally be that “white” feminist that eastern women probably speak of. For example, in India there are women that are secluded during menstruation, by culture and now by choice. REGARDLESS of the fact that they die, can be raped, because of the conditions that they are put it. And they perpetuate a lifestyle that is not respectful of women through the generations. The women there do it because they think its right, I think that its shameful and degrading and that is because I was born here, and grew up here, and I wasn’t born there or grew up there. I understand that the argument that many of these women probably have is that you, the so called white feminist, which in my opinion is the western feminist, is encroaching on their idea of what is right. In some cases, this is just, in others, BAT SHIT CRAZY.

    1. Speaking specifically of women in the eastern cultures. I had never even heard of cissexual until just now. Not that I care at all…

    2. Yeah, the culture argument is a really, really tricky one to navigate. For me it usually launches a discussion about religion. So many religions are inherently sexist, and so many eastern cultures are inexorably linked to those toxic ideas! How do you even begin to dismantle systemic abuse in a theology thousands of years old? It overwhelms me sometimes.

      1. I think its so bizzare because in hinduism at least, women are considered with respect or reverence in much of the scripture, at least all that I’ve come across, but how does that then disintegrate in reality, in culture that should be tied strongly to religion. granted this is my meagre education on the subject talking but Ughhh. Infuriating

  4. I love HOW educated your writing sounds! (If that makes sense!) I wish I could get all my thoughts and feelings and make them sound like I KNOW what I’m talking about. I know this has nothing to do with this post. But I enjoy reading your stuff. I learn new things from it and makes me think maybe taking a few English writing classes couldn’t hurt. I just hate writing papers that someone assigns me. I like doing creative writing. Don’t let those people drag you down. I love who you are!

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