I should explain that by “white feminists” I do not simply mean any and every feminist who happens to be white. I am referring, instead, to a (predominantly white) feminist population who also happen to be residually racist. Yes, I said it.
Chances are you’ve heard the term “white feminism” circulating around the Internet, along with the argument that middle-class white women have essentially hijacked the feminist movement. Increasingly, women of ethnic background are speaking out against, what they believe, is a deliberate effort to marginalize their voice and keep white women at center stage of female empowerment.
While there are many other things I would critique rather than feminism, I recognize that is the very reason it is necessary to do so. After all, where is the strength of an ideology if not in its ability to withstand scrutiny? But there will, no doubt, be those who choose to disregard this plight from minority women as irrelevant, and that – I’m afraid – is the point.
Now, first of all, I should explain that by “white feminists” I do not simply mean any and every feminist who happens to be white. I am referring, instead, to a (predominantly white) feminist population who also happen to be residually racist. Yes, I said it. There are still strong traces of white-imperialism within our society – probably, within our very family.
Let’s admit it, there are certain very “uncomfortable” traits about our parents, grandparents, maybe even ourselves, that have become the pink elephant for new generations. Because one of them, in particular, is too disgraceful to acknowledge – and that is racism. Hard-core, hate filled, scared-shitless-of-what-we-don’t-know type of racism, the scape-goat-them-till-they-pay-for-our-sins type of racism that comes out—not in public—but in the most mundane “home” settings, like a family meal or a trip to the park.
“Grandma, why are you staring at those people?”
You know the deal – you do – don’t act like you don’t. Even if it’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done, you have to face it because it’s the truth. Plenty of “good” white people you know are also racist. Take it in like bitter medicine. Why, you ask? Why should we acknowledge it and what does this have to do with white feminism? Hang in there, I’m getting to the point.
You see, white feminists, just like the rest of white America, have an incredibly hard time admitting that racism not only exists, but is also entrenched deeply in the social hierarchy which continues to benefit them with exclusive privileges. Maybe it’s easier to accept these privileges and maintain an air of virtue by denying the whole thing all together. Or, perhaps, it’s just too shameful to admit. Soon enough, we start to depend on our own version of the story so much, that an alternative point of view becomes a threat to our illusion. And so we silence that threat, that voice, as we put it out of our minds.
But truth has a way of permeating into all aspects of life. Equality cannot be preached in a vacuum of a single culture. There is either equality, or there isn’t. And while white-America pats itself on the back and checks off it’s “to do” list of karmic cleansing, the rest of the world continues to look on in somewhat of a marvel at the idiosyncrasy of their experience and their inability to look past themselves.
Disagree? Just ask the girl working in a sweatshop in Bangladesh, spending her life making cheap, disposable clothing so that masses of over-privileged girls in America can “feel more confident.” Which, they won’t, by the way – trust me. Nor should they. We shouldn’t feel good as we benefit from this criminal injustice.
So what do “white feminists” want and why is it so problematic for the rest of the feminist community? The answer to both questions is the same: they want to impact their world – the problem being, it isn’t only “their world” to impact. It seems white feminists are being given a choice between undue privilege and true equality. Whether or not they want true equality – for all women – remains to be seen.
A native of the Republic of Georgia, Ana Surviladze was raised in the Czech Republic before moving to the United States at the age of twelve. Her multicultural upbringing fueled her innate love for communication and languages. She currently resides in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and is the author of a book titled “The Voice of a Falling Tree.” When she isn’t writing, Ana can be found photographing the scenic nature of the high desert.