• Wed, Jan 29 - 3:46 pm ET

Feminism Has Become One Giant White Whine

proxy.jpgI’m 40 years old. I’ve been a feminist for as long as I can remember, which is a pretty long time. The notion that women can’t speak out without being considered unmanageable, angry bitches is something I expect from the world-at-large. But other feminists? Women who call themselves feminists? No.

Michelle Golberg wrote a piece for The Nation today titled, Feminism’s Toxic Twitter Wars with the subtitle, Empowered by social media, feminists are calling one another out for ideological offenses. Is it good for the movement? And whose movement is it? I don’t think her intention was to totally miss the point. But she did.

She starts her long piece with an anecdote about Kimberlé Crenshaw, the UCLA law professor who coined the word intersectionality, “the study of intersections between different disenfranchised groups or groups of minorities; specifically, the study of the interactions of multiple systems of oppression or discrimination.” Specifically, how the failure to “consider the intersection of racism and sexism in the lives of women of color” left a gap in civil rights law.

She cited a failed lawsuit by a group of black women against General Motors; the court ruled that while race discrimination and sex discrimination are both causes of action, “a combination of both” is not. Another of Crenshaw’s articles described a women’s shelter balking at accepting a Latina victim of domestic violence because she wasn’t proficient in English and thus couldn’t participate in mandated group therapy sessions.

“My own efforts to create a voice and a perspective on these failures haven’t really been about chastisement, or a certain set of assumptions about what the articulation that I’m critiquing should have been, or what the failure of it represents in the person,” Crenshaw says, “but rather a collective effort to build a feminism that does more of the work that it claims to do.”

Golberg uses the basis of intersectionality, to launch a hypothesis about women, feminism, race and how women respond to one another: “Online, however, intersectionality is overwhelmingly about chastisement and rooting out individual sin.”

Now, if you are talking about Twitter – I guess this argument can be perceived as right – sort of. Unless you are addressing an institution, Twitter is a one-on-one conversation, for all the world to see. We respond to things we don’t agree with all the time. I know I do it. It’s the manner in which the author seems to be sensitive to the “tone” of black women that makes me uncomfortable here.

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  • etbmm

    Love this. This is awesome, Eve.

    • etbmm

      Sh—-ooooot. Maria! Whoops! This is awesome, Maria!

    • Maria Guido

      hahaha! Thanks.

    • http://Mommyish.com/ Eve Vawter

      downvoted for being so smart

    • http://Mommyish.com/ Eve Vawter

      NO No I wrote it, really ummmm #takingmariaswork

  • CMJ

    This is really great. I think it’s really hard for some people to understand that white privilege exists – regardless of gender.

    • http://mother--bored.tumblr.com/ Aimee Beff

      Seriously, this. It doesn’t cost you anything to listen to and acknowledge the struggles of other. It doesn’t even cost you your privilege, because society is still structured the way it is. And it is certainly not like being forced to “prostrate yourself”, for crying out loud.

    • arrow2010

      Oh fucking please.

    • JLH1986

      No joke when I meet with clients and I address the fact that I’m a pasty white girl, they are African American men, our experiences are different, what do I need to know that’s important to you that I can’t experience? They have no response because they are so used to white people just thinking now that the 60′s are over we’re all “just the same” in everyone’s eyes.

    • Byron

      While privilage is interesting. Sure, it exists. It’s not anyones fault that it does though. It came to be through the course of history as the culmination of adding up all the things that white society achieved, all the wars they won, all the people they exterminated and used the corpses of as a ladder to move up and progress.

      To feel guilty for it is to reject all the advances of society that it resulted in. If you use a computer, enjoy your clean water and vaccines, like being able to drive a car and appreciate living past 40, feeling guilty for white privilage is hypocritical.

      What should be done to fix the issues stemming from it is a pure look of perspective. While the oppression and inequality of minorities exists and is an issue, it is due to this systemic oppression over generations that humanity has managed to advance to the point that we are today.

      It would be nice if advancement without a ladder of corpses were possible, hell, maybe it is, maybe it’s just slower. Maybe it’s too slow for some people’s tastes and so they decide to keep the tradition going.

      This will never change. Instead of being angry about it, enjoying the things that we have in this day and age, the ones your ancestors were used to create, while you yourself are being used to create the future of the priviliged children of the future, is, I think, the best way to deal with this situation.

      Eventually, when there’s a monoculture and a monorace of humans this will stop but not before that. Lets hope we don’t collapse before that time.

      Hell, there has been thousands of years of slavery and oppression lost in the annals of history, misery and sadness and inequality that we can never know about but can assume happened by knowing human nature. This may just end up being forgotten and not mattering at all. What won’t be lost is the progress we as a species will make due to it.

  • Terry Teague SF

    Oh you broads, what will you write next?

    http://static.slickdealscdn.com/images/smilies2/hide.gif

    Don’t hurt me!

  • http://mother--bored.tumblr.com/ Aimee Beff

    Newsflash to Goldberg – the tone argument doesn’t become OK when you’re using it in favor of feminism (or at least your gross vanilla flavor of feminism) rather than against. Complaining that WOC are mad about the shitty way they’re treated is gross just like telling a woman to shut up about making 77c on the dollar is gross.

  • Zettai

    The “why are you so angry?” is asked too often by people who have no desire to hear the real answer. It’s like asking someone how they’re doing today, but never expecting or wanting an honest response like, “I’m doing really bad.”

  • Rachel Sea

    In mixed company, I no longer call myself a feminist. The word has become too loaded by selfish people with ridiculous agendas. I’ll call myself a humanist, or say I’m for total equality, but I don’t want to be mistaken as being aligned with bigots of any stripe.

    • SusannahJoy

      Yeah, I say that I’m for equality. Which feels so watered down to me, but “feminist” just has so many connotations, most of which are very negative. And I don’t want my views to be written off because I’m a “feminist.”

    • waffre

      I still call myself a feminist because part of being a feminist is, for me, not giving in to other people’s ideas about what I should be, and that means not letting assholes co-opt my identity. Usually it only comes up in conversations about feminism, which allows me to clarify my personal stance and beliefs.

    • Rachel Sea

      I’m with you, but sometimes I need to make a point without a long disclaimer about what kind of feminist I am. I also feel like pro-equality is more representative of my actual viewpoint, because I do care very much about raising everyone to the same level, and the label of feminist doesn’t clearly represent that idea, even if it is the goal of the best parts of the movement.

    • prettyforablackchick

      Look up Africana womanism. Stark differences. I’m multi generational multi racial and womanism fit my view of how woman should be. Feminism, in my opinion is not good, especially for minority woman. Infact, it makes black woman’s struggle harder. Feminist demand woman are just as good as a man. Um, that may be so, but a womanist won’t shout it from a soap box. Men have less responsibility due to feminism. For generations black american woman have been caring for and raising their families as well as the families of our fair counterparts, by themselves mostly, while maintaining a “submissive” role. We use our feminity is subtle ways to gain power. Feminist need to jump on the band wagon. And it seems, when a black woman is strong she’s considered to strong. But a white woman knows what she wants and is a go getter and she knows what she wants. And in the workplace, its like you want us to serve your purpose of equality for women, but look the other way when it comes to race equality…all this is my opinion…please forgive if I’ve offended

  • Erik Bernhardt

    I think this is mainly a function of white folks trying to push the blame for white guilt onto POC. Sure enough, there’s a lot of white guilt on twitter, and sometimes it feels like the only two choices are “feel like an asshole because of privilege” or “reject the notion that you are privileged.”

    The third choice of “use privilege to fight inequality” is obviously the best, it just turns out that we (white people) are really shit at it. At least on the internet. Maybe there should be classes. I dunno.

    It’s hard sometimes for the white ego to accept that the best thing we can do is point to the voices of WOC and say “Yeah. What she said.”

    • Penny_Jenny_79

      The problem being highlighted in the Nation piece is when “Yeah. What she said” is actually something wrong or stupid or silly.

      I’m not right just because I’m not white. I’m not right just because I have a hard time being listened to. I’m not right just because I’m marginalized. I’m not right just because racism exists. Now everyone reading this might be saying “Oh of course not”, but really think about that for a moment. Would you tell me to my face that I’m not right? That I’m talking nonsense? Would you do that publicly on Twitter, if you were white or a man or any other person in a more privileged in society? Would you risk having your objection dismissed as simply your privileged making you dismiss me? I see it all the time, I’ve even said silly things to see if I get challenged. Normally it results in the odd “umm, interesting interest, never considered that …” responses. Which might be fine, or it might be quite damaging if what I am proposing or stating is actually utter nonsense.

      People need to listen, they don’t have to automatically agree under the foolish idea that if they don’t agree it must be something wrong with themselves, they are too privileged to “get” what I’m saying properly. I can’t get over how people don’t see how patronizing that notion is for someone like myself, yet it seems to be every where these days. I have fought for equally and respect, not to become the “wise old PoC” character.

      I discussed this with my partner a number of times and he says he went through a very similar thing about a decade ago when it became super fashionable in some circles of his friends to hang on every thing he said because he was the, as he put it, “Morgan Freeman” of the group. Now my partner is very intelligent and thoughtful person. But he isn’t right in everything he says just ’cause he said it and man we should all agree with the wise black man.

      It used to madden him, and I find the same thing happening more and more online. God help a white person who criticisms a position put forward by a PoC on the Internet. If they aren’t dismissed straight out as a racist they will probably just be ignored because clearly they are too privileged to understand the point being made (even if the point being made is wrong).

      Like I say above even if you think who cares if privileged white people get their feels hurt, stop a minute and think how bloody patronizing it is being to people of colour when people act like this. I’m a normal human. I can be stupid, I can be cruel, I can misjudge a situation, I can mess up, I can say something in anger that is wrong, and I can take it when someone calls me up on that. I’m not Morgan freaking Freeman.

    • Erik Bernhardt

      Hm, obviously I screwed that up a bit, let me try again. I’m not saying “As a Good White Person ™, it is your sworn duty to always agree with whatever POC say.” My point is that’s hard for white people sometimes to accept the fact that they know less about racism than (god forbid) people who actually experience racism. If you tell me 2+2=5, I’m going to tell you it’s 4. But if you tell me about your genuine experience of systematic oppression, and how I’m contributing towards it, I’m gonna shut the fuck up and listen, then tell other white people to shut the fuck up and listen.

    • Penny_Jenny_79

      Obviously listening is good. But how does that relate to the Nation piece. Are you saying that because Goldberg is not a PoC she should shut up? This entire piece is being dismissed in the article above and the discussions as a just white woman whining, which if wasn’t bad enough is ironically dismisses the opinions of the PoC being quoted by Goldberg.

      How is that listening to the experiences, oppressed or otherwise? Listening to experiences of those who are oppressed doesn’t mean you stop listening to those who aren’t (or more accurately who are less, since everyone is oppressed to some degree or another).

      It doesn’t mean you use the oppression of those who don’t have a voice as a reason to engage in cosmic payback by dismissing out of hand anyone who is considered too privileged to be listened to properly.

      Listening is exactly what this article above is not doing, it is instead blankly dismissing under the excuse that its just a white woman complaining, as if listening to her fills up white people’s quota of what they can listen to today.

      Even if it is just a white woman complaining (which again ignores the other woman Goldberg is quoting), just because she is white and complaining doesn’t mean she is wrong or making no valid points.

      Agree or don’t agree with what Goldberg says. But please stop using the experiences of PoC as an excuse not to engage with challenging debate. There isn’t a perfect form of feminism if you just follow the privileged down far enough. PoC haven’t figured out feminism any better than white women have, believe me.

    • Grondo

      Yeah. What she said.

    • elegantapple

      Yes! Finally someone who understand.

  • arrow2010

    Ok it’s become abundantly clear that this blog caters to stupid white leftist women who want to prostrate themselves to the cause.

    • Rachel Sea

      Fuck merrily off if you don’t like it here.

    • LiteBrite

      Okay, bye!

    • JLH1986

      It’s abundantly clear you have absolutely no argument if your response is to call someone names instead of articulating another point of view. You are just presumably an angry white man who doesn’t like the idea of women outside of the kitchen with shoes on.

    • ElleJai

      Probably doesn’t approve of contraception he doesn’t control either.

      He’s boring me.

  • Penny_Jenny_79

    This article blankly dismisses the views of all the people Goldberg discussed this topic with under the banner of a white woman complaining because of her privilege. This article itself is an example of the problems Goldberg was attempting to highlight, which would be amusingly ironic if not so problematic in of itself.

  • Erin W

    OK, I can’t make it past your first sentence without making this point:

    You are 40 years old.
    You are a 40-year-old writer.

    Hyphenate when the statement is adjectival. Do not hyphenate when it is not. Tell your friends.

    • Maria Guido

      Thanks, Erin! The problem with being your own editor is – you fuck up A LOT. Sorry ;)

    • Erin W

      And thank you for not calling me out for how bitchy I now realize I sounded! Great article.

  • YoureMissingThePoint

    Yeah, Goldberg “made” Cooper speak. Because black women have no agency or opinions of our own and exist to be pawns of white feminist writers. Fuck you.

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