I actually tried to pass the buck on this one. However, finding out my previous article had been syndicated during the aftermath of the #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen twitter trend (a trend I’d been following more closely than I wanted to admit) sort of brought things full circle for me.
When I stated my feelings about the feminist movement and why I wanted no part of it, I honestly did not expect the movement to afterwards rise to any occasion that would make me reconsider anything that I wrote. Of all the opportunities these women could have availed themselves of, what was it that finally brings them into contact with the otherwise ignored feminists of color? White feminists took turns comforting Hugo Schwyzer, a white male feminist, who admitted during the course of an epic Twitter rant to WOC feminists that he indeed undermined their efforts to bring attention to their causes because they were “in the way”.
With ALL the things that have happened within the past several months, this is it? Quvenzhané Wallis being denigrated as a c*nt couldn’t get a hoot or a holler, but a MAN admits to WOMEN that he squashed their ambitions because he felt what he had to do or say was more important, and THIS is what draws white feminists “to the cause”? AND NOT ON BEHALF OF THE TRAMPLED WOMEN, BUT ON BEHALF OF THE MAN IN QUESTION?!
To say that feminists of color were pissed the Hell off would have been an understatement. Led by feminist and blogger Karnythia, a discussion of epic proportions started under Twitter hashtag #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen.
At first seeing so many women of color come together and be mad as Hell was very refreshing. Then I felt vindicated by many points being raised that matched my previous conclusions. And then, this morning when I came to finish this post, an emotion came over me that I wasn’t quite expecting.
I felt in my spirit a very gloomy sense that all the rage, all the valid points, all the dialogue didn’t mean a thing. Because the people who NEED to hear this, the people who perpetuate the ugly behaviors that cause so many women of color pain were not hearing it.
I’m not just talking about the confused white women who came into the twitter trend to see what was going on and were baffled at the anger. I’m not even talking about the white feminists who actually participated at some point (even if it was just to gas-light and deflect).
I’m talking about the many white feminists who really do not give a damn about anyone that’s not a white woman like themselves. Which, last time I checked, was pretty much the vast majority of white feminists*. For them, it was business as usual and the discussion didn’t ping on their radar. How could it? The people speaking weren’t white. And by extension, the people speaking were not women.
To these persons womanhood begins and ends with whiteness. And so feminism begins and ends with whiteness as far as the people who have the power and the voice in that movement are concerned.
And when the people who have the voice and the power and the influence have no reason to change the status quo, how can any discussion reach them or even get them to consider changing something they don’t have to?
I can’t change the white woman-centric feminist movement. The people who benefit from a white woman-centric feminist movement don’t want to change the movement. If you look back over the history of women of color and their dealings with white feminists until this very minute, please point out a period during which black women were EVER given equal consideration, protection, and privilege. It hasn’t happened, and it won’t happen because white women are getting all the benefits of feminism and white privilege combined and so all’s right in the world. Making women of color equal will just get in the way of enjoying extra “white people privileges”, which can only REALLY be enjoyed if someone is beneath you. White women resent male privilege only when exercised against them as feminists, but otherwise aren’t shy of enjoying the benefits of a white male patriarchy at the expense of people of color.
I’m sure some genius will speak of the concern white women have showed for those women being oppressed in far off places because of their “savage non-White culture”, while completely ignoring everything problematic about how white feminists view issues belonging to women of color.
As I’m not a feminist, I do not feel burdened with what to do or say that could create a spark that would inspire white feminists to change their ways, abandon their white privilege and cease with the hypocrisy. I don’t feel the pressure to turn myself into a pretzel to find space in a movement driving full speed ahead in a direction that has nothing to do with me, has no time for my needs and only ever remembers me when it provides an opportunity to look good on camera.
“Solidarity Is For White Women” is the absolute truth. There is nothing else to say. And therefore, nothing else to expect. I said before that better women than me have run, not walked, away from the feminist movement. And I predict that as women of color wake up to this reality, they will either continue to walk away or be wise enough to not buy into the lie of the modern feminist movement in the first place.
I think that’s what gets me most of all: Women of color have been activists, leaders, fighters, workers, and everything in between long before any Frenchman coined the phrase “feminism”. So then why in the world would any of them need to fight tooth and nail to be acknowledged by a movement or feel they need to come under any particular label or umbrella in order to do what it is they do?
In my humble opinion, if women of color want the full and undivided attention of white feminists everywhere, they should take a page out of the book of upwardly mobile black women who’ve had enough of being used and abused by the black community and are putting themselves first:
I don’t mean stop caring about causes, or fighting for what you believe in. And certainly not stop seeking a better life. As I’ve made clear, these are things you can and should do regardless of what you call yourself. Simply walk away from the label of “feminist” and the “feminist movement”. Because, quite frankly, it was never your label or movement to begin with. Not so long as the face of that movement is white and all that is white is the beginning and end of the movement’s concern regarding womanhood. So to put it rather coldly, it’s doubtful you’ll be missed. At least until the heavy lifting is needed. You know, the stuff that’s ugly and hard and you won’t get credit for?
Even then, continue to move away. Do not form alliances with women just because you are both women. Do not allow yourself to be co-opted. Do not participate in a cause unless you are certain of reciprocation. Do not be gas-lighted about your anger and concerns. Do not be guilt-tripped and emotionally manipulated. Do not come running when white women feminists are outraged about something. Do not give white feminists the “okay” to concern themselves from their ivory tower with your lowly problems. And no, do NOT wait for their attention, concern or approval to be proactive. Do not respond to their thoughts, concerns, or criticisms about how you conduct yourself as a woman. And make it ABUNDANTLY clear that your life, causes, and actions are none of their flippin’ business.
Simply say, “No thank you, I would prefer to associate with equals rather than be treated as a subordinate.”
Do not be afraid of talk of “division” and how you’ll be “defeated”. As a black woman, I can tell you that despite hearing this same scare tactic (because that’s all it is, kids. A common derailment tactic to keep you from walking out the door) all the time from damaged-beyond-repair black men that I have managed to do just fine.
The first step is always the hardest. But once you start walking, it gets easier. In time, you’ll find others to walk with you. Women who are on your level, understand you, sympathize with and respect you. The racial and ethnic background of the women do not matter. What does matter is that you learn to build a network based on common respect and mutual needs, rather than a hierarchy disguised as a progressive movement.
I don’t begrudge the women of color who despite centuries of indifference choose to build niches within the greater movement.
I just say that instead of the constant flare ups over white feminism’s endless string of screw ups, it would be better to read the writing on the wall. Read it, understand it and move on. If “solidarity is for white women”, it is insane to expect any different or any better.
Let white women-centric feminists stand together with their movement. Let women of color attempt to be wiser and more discriminating about who they call “ally” and surrender the leaky bucket back to white feminists with the sales receipt.