The thing with feminists, who are white, and white feminists is kind of like fingers and thumbs. Not all fingers are thumbs, but all thumbs are fingers. This means, that being a feminist who is white, does not necessarily mean that you are a white feminist. Unfortunately, it is very likely though. But before you start questioning yourself, it is time to look at the term and what it actually means.
Swallow the bitter pill
White feminists are, simply put, hypocrites. One second they are celebrating their equally white friends for wearing boxer braids and the next second they file a complaint about their black co-worker, for wearing cornrows at work. They want to have a male gay best friend, but sharing the locker room in the gym with a lesbian makes them awfully uncomfortable. They hype up their shy, but skinny, friend for posting a bikini picture, but tell fat women to cover up as soon she’s wearing something “too revealing”. They tell their friends to wear whatever they feel comfortable in (as long as it fits their body type of course), but try to tell Muslim women that they should get rid off their hijab. They do all of that whilst wearing shirts saying “The Future Is Female”, which were produced by women of colour in a developing country under terrible work conditions.
Further, slogans like the one mentioned before often ignore that non-binary people exist and transsexual people are affected by feminist issues as well. Yet, these women call themselves feminists. If you read this and think that any of these things above reflect your behavior, then I’m sorry to break it to you: If your so-called feminism is racist, homophobic, fatphobic, xenophobic, or transphobic, it is useless.
Break internalized patterns
Not all white feminists exclude minority groups on purpose. Sometimes they are simply so caught up with their privilege that they simply don’t see problems related to race, sexual identity, sexual orientation or social status. Yet, this is clearly not an apology, but it is an explanation. Emma Watson, for example, is a popular example for white feminism, before she started to reflect on her own words and actions. After being called out as white feminist for promoting feminism as something simple and asking men to come to save the female gaze from patriarchy, she started to educate herself on feminism. One can do that by simply asking themselves how they profited from their skin colour, straightness or social status. And most importantly one should not only be able to see how they profit from the inequality in society, but in what way they take part in maintaining it.
Calling yourself and your loved ones out on being inconsiderate is uncomfortable, but in the end it’s better to realize that you’ve been acting ignorantly, than to keep on excluding other people’s issues under the name of feminism. One mistake that feminists who grew up with certain privileges make, is asking to be educated by members of oppressed groups, rather than educating themselves. It is not the responsibility of people of colour to teach you about racism. Just read books and articles written by non-white authors and gain an insight into the struggles people of colour have to face on a daily basis. Don’t ask trans people what problems they are facing and how you can help. Just get familiar with concepts and works created by trans people and find ways to support the community.
Intersectional feminism means that problems and issues of all people—regardless of their sex, social status, ethnic background, religion or ability—are taken into consideration. And if I say all people, I mean all people. There are no wildcards. This means, for example, that being gay does not make one immune against being called out for racist comments or “jokes”. But beware, it does not mean that you are in any position to discuss issues of race with people of colour, if you are white. Neither, does it mean that you are asked to fight other people’s fights instead of them. This is not what being an ally is about. It is fine to use the benefit you gained from living a privileged life to give other people a platform. But, you should keep in mind that those fights are not about you. It is your time to listen, support and stand up, instead of acting like a hero, when no one asked for it, simply to be celebrated for your courage.
White feminists, who call themselves allies, tend to take up space, because they think their voices are louder and more likely to be heard. And yes, sometimes it is helpful and clever to do so, but it does not mean that white feminists should be fighting for other people – they should be fighting with them. As Roxane Gay put it: “We need people to stand up and take on the problems borne of oppression as their own, without remove or distance.” If privileged feminists want to rightfully call themselves intersectional or an ally, it necessitates first of all, that they acknowledge problems, regardless if they are directly affected by them or not.
Know your place
I am a white woman, who grew up in central Europe. I am very much aware that I am writing this article from a very privileged perspective. This article is not about me, nor am I glorifying myself as a woke feminist. There is always something new to learn, but personally I think the most important thing is to listen and realize when your perspective is lacking intersectionality. Internalized patterns are hard to overcome, but actively stepping away from them is one first step to distance yourself from white feminist beliefs. Actively following the work of members of the LGBTQ+ community, people of colour and other groups, who question and tackle the inequality of the social construct we are living in, can certainly help in this process. But it is not only important to actively work on your own behavior, but also to call out your white friends, when they are ignoring issues, simply because they can’t relate to them. I mean, you would probably tell your friends if they had some spinach stuck in their teeth, so I guess it’s only right to tell them that they have some racism in their feminism.
In case you want to broaden your horizon in regards to this topic, make sure you check out:
by Kristina Bartl
White Egg, Olga1205
White Egg Shells, Corophoto
Egg Box, moiranazzari