White Feminism

Leading on from the post about problematic feminists, it is important to talk about white feminism, what it is, and why it’s not really the best option.

White feminism is so called because it tends to be practiced by middle class, white women. It’s simple as that.

The reason it becomes a problem is that these women, whilst marginalised in some ways, tend not to look outside themselves and their sphere of society, and so practice feminism in a way that only helps middle class white women.

Truth time: middle class white women aren’t actually that oppressed.

Feminism as a practice needs to be intersectional, in that it needs to include discussions of race, gender, disability, ethnicity and class. All of these things are interlinked, but white feminism disregards this.

A great recent example that most people have seen: JK Rowling and her portrayal of Asian women in the books themselves, or her appropriation of Native culture without due diligence or even consulting the folx who’s culture she’s abusing. Yet because one of her main characters (arguably the most valuable of the main trio) is female, and she is notably charitable, she gets a pass on this bullshit.

Another prominent example in Britain is the Women’s Equality Party. Now, this was started with good intentions, but Sandi Toksvig and Catherine Mayer aren’t short of cash, they’re not facing daily violence over the colour of their skin, they’re not being sent to the margins of society because they are involved in the sex industry. Their big arguments at the moment are for closing the wage gap, and “battling the fashion industry on their ridiculous standards for women”. Both of which are admirable, but issues that primarily affect white women who get into jobs where the wage gap becomes noticeable, or have the money to be buying the high fashion items in the first place.

As I said before, equality won’t help matters; we need to aim for equity.

It is important to note that white feminists quite likely don’t go into it with intentions of further marginalising anyone, but that is often what their practices do. And saying that they’re white, that’s all they know, isn’t an excuse either: look at Laura Bates’ ‘Girl Up!’ (which I write a loveletter to here) and how in the introduction she uses inclusive language to make her feminist theory more intersectional. It can be as simple as that.

One of the best practices we can have in feminism is calling in: this being when we see someone make a statement or perform an action they claim is feminist, but it serves to marginalise further, and we talk to them about it. Calling out is when you public decry them, best practice is with examples, whilst calling in tends to be more private, and gives the individual the chance to make the correction themselves.

No one is perfect: I know I’ve done things that would come under white feminism in my time, but I have been called out and called in, and I have sucked it up and learned. We need to stop celebrating mediocrity, and push for better. We also need to stop giving people a pass because they’re famous. They’re the ones arguably in the position to make the most difference, as they have millions of eyes on them, so they absolutely should be called out when their feminism isn’t as intersectional as it could be.

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