Fifty Shades of White Feminism

Firstly, I just want to say, there comes a time in every blogger’s life when they start using photos of their microwave meals for one in their posts because they don’t have the energy to physically get up and take pictures of anything else. I am not an anomaly. image

Anyway, I’ve only been there a month and already I’m realising that everyone does college differently- from the library fetishers to the partyholics. The kid I sat with at lunch had decided his college career shall consist of smoking as many joints as he can before his teachers notice his pupils are at least four times bigger than they should be. But for me, I wanted to join a society. Seeing as school only had PE or drama clubs which never favoured my lack of sporting or theatrical talent, I wanted to be part of something that actually involved commitment, somewhere I could dash off to in the middle of an exchange with my new college friends: “Genevieve, Pricilla, Ophelia I’m sorry darlings, I’d love to stay and chat but I have my extracurricular welding class every Thursday and I can’t be late.” image

So when I saw the posters for Feminist Society I felt just like Mary when she was approached by angel Gabriel (except with more periods and less halos) because, and I hate to brag but, I’m like really great at being a feminist. I blog about feminism, I rant at people that catcall me, I’m practically fluent in the language of Laura Bates- that’s what a good feminist is right? Even regardless of how much you physically do, to be a feminist all you need is to believe in gender equality.

How cute are these?

How cute are these?

Or at least that’s what I thought. But no, when I got to FemSoc (as the people that can’t be bothered to type out ‘Feminist Society’ every time they want to refer to it call it) where the first topic was ‘intersectionality’, I discovered there was this huge social hierarchy within feminism itself, a hierarchy determined by whether you are a white feminist or not. Now I wasn’t completely crystal clear with the meaning of ‘white feminism’ however I think it’s pretty interchangeable with the concept of ‘western feminism’ (which I disregard quite a lot), there’s no actual dictionary definition for it- probably because, like all words in the past decade, it was invented on Tumblr- but it’s basically about only fighting for issues that affect white women. And then apparently shaming them for it. Because calling them- or should I say ‘us’ as I’m probably one of them- ‘white feminists’ implies that we’re not simply feminists, we’re an altered version of them. We are no longer gender equality; instead we’ve now been branched off into an inferior part of the tree. Which is hella awkward seeing as 98% of the FemSoc crowd were white.

THERE IS A TINY SPIDER ON THE BOWL

THERE IS A TINY SPIDER ON THE BOWL

“Oh no!” They then told us, “being white doesn’t make you a white feminist. A white feminist is someone that only considers white issues in their fight for equality.” Which is confusing in itself, because most people are going to prioritise their own problems, are they not? Of course they may be doing this because they believe that their problems are more important, however that’s a very ignorant view that very few feminists take, so it’s more likely that they rather don’t know about other women’s struggles, they don’t know how to help or they don’t want to pretend they know how they feel when they don’t. None of these involve disregarding the struggles or black/Asian/disabled/transgender/lesbian women, it’s just the acknowledgement that I am not one of them and therefore it would be disrespectful of me to pretend I am an expert in how they feel. I don’t understand why we’ve begun shaming some women for simply not understanding the inequalities of everyone. image

Intersectionality was the idea presented at the first meeting: the idea that feminism should include more types of women than just white ones, ie. next time you talk about the wage gap instead of just putting a white woman’s wage against a white man’s wage, why not use a Latina woman’s wage (which will be considerably less than both). Next time you talk about catcalling consider how it might also be an issue for gay men expressing typically feminine traits. image

We can all see that there is a huge underrepresentation of variation, so intersectionality helping to promote different groups of vaginas is a good idea, it’s not this I have a problem with. What I dislike is how we’re suddenly saying that supporting the #FreeTheNipple campaign makes you worse of a person than Laverne Cox promoting transgender feminism on a global scale. We already force women to constantly compete with each other (not for jobs or for accomplishments which I think can be a good thing but for the attention of men- shoutout to Chimamanda) but now we’re doing the same thing with feminists themselves. As long as you’re advocating for gender equality, empowering women, being part of a more open minded generation, I don’t understand why you should be made to feel inferior just because you’re part of a race that needs it less. Don’t get me wrong, I’m super grateful that my college has a feminist society and so overwhelmingly happy at how popular it is- for teenboys and teengirls- but I can’t help thinking that wasn’t the best opening meeting. After all feminism is about inspiring women not making them feel unworthy of equality.

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14 thoughts on “Fifty Shades of White Feminism

  1. Seasweetie says:

    I think (and I’m sorry to think it) that in any group or club or society, there are people that feel the need to project power and point out how others aren’t doing right. That right there closes the door on equality, whether we’re talking about cultural awareness, feminism, alternative lifestyles, or what have you. (I’m a pure Marxist at heart, but know that pure Marxism is an impossible thing because, well, human nature.) But I’m glad you’ve made in-roads to finding your tribe. My daughter has also started college this fall and is making valiant efforts to do the same.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jess says:

      Ah good luck to her! I’m currently doing femsoc, English extension (you basically read really old boring books and pretend you’ve enjoyed them) and German film (because I’ll probably fail the subject so I might as well fail it whilst watching the Little German Mermaid). Overall I think I was disappointed that everyone in FemSoc shared the same views on everything, there were no debates or if someone said anything slightly off key the girls running it would give a sassy reply. So I’m not sure if people that disagreed, like me, just kept quiet out of fear. Plus everyone kept quoting suicide statistics and wage gap facts off the top of their head and I just don’t have time for that. Thank you for reading!

      Like

  2. Ella Mathews (ex-Crazy Stork Lady) says:

    I really enjoyed reading this post, although I was also green with envy that you have the unicorn book (I’ve been eying that on amazon for a while now!).

    I’d never heard of white feminism until last week when I got torn to shreds on Twitter for suggesting that dismissing someone as white feminism was unfairly generalising their views to all feminists who were white. Oops. My mistake.

    Read up on intersectionality afterwards and I think there are some really important ideas there but I don’t like the way the label ‘white feminism reduces’ all the other dimensions to race alone. Surely if the argument is that different women are affected by gender discrimination in different ways (which seems a fair premise to me), then factors like cis vs trans, able bodied vs disabled, straight vs LGBTQ, rich vs poor etc should all be incorporated more. Also ‘white feminism’ implies an assumption that all white is the same. In the UK for example you can see the way that isn’t true in the old EU vs new EU (Eastern Europe essentially) divide.

    But I agree with you that it seems harsh to penalise people for the inherent tendency to start from ones own experiences. I liked the distinction you made between deliberately ignoring others’ perspectives and simply not necessarily having them as most salient ones.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jess says:

      Thank you for reading! And yes- realistically ‘white feminism’ should be called ‘white able-bodied rich heterosexual living-in-Bournemouth cis feminism’ which is a bit of a mouthful but, like you say, more accurately described. There are some great points in intersectionality, I’ve been looking at it in more depth this week and I do think there need to be more awareness of the variation of women and therefore the different problems they face, I could never deny that the media works very much in white women’s favour. However you also cannot deny someone the right to be a feminist- even an Icelandic feminist, which is the most gender equal country in the world, should be celebrated- the last thing I want is a hierarchy created amongst the movement. It’s such a difficult thing to try and talk about, we probably all just need a little bit more world awareness. And pet unicorns.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ella Mathews (ex-Crazy Stork Lady) says:

        You could say anything that ended with ‘And [we need] pet unicorns’ and I’d nod enthusiastically in ascent! But as it is I agree with your main arguments too. And yup, that would be one helluva mouthful to get out. Not great in 140 characters – would kill Twitter debate! Have you gone back to the Feminist Society or not yet? xx

        Liked by 1 person

      • Jess says:

        I have gone back, I’ve gone every Monday so far and it’s still a bit weird and preachy but it gives me things to think about which are helpful when brainstorming future blog topics. Although if I’m honest I’ve joined pretty much every society there is (except the sports ones…ew) including ANTHROPOLOGY FOLK TALE TELLING which I didn’t even know was a thing but apparently it is! I am such a reckless youth😂xx

        Liked by 1 person

  3. FlightScarlet says:

    I really enjoyed this post! I think it’s such a problem that people don’t really understand that feminism is just about gender equality! However, I do think it’s important to at least recognize that feminism should not be only about white women. It’s completely logical that any woman would likely relate feminism to their own experience, and if they’re white, well, they’ll likely be thinking about feminism as it relates to white women. They 100% shouldn’t feel like they aren’t allowed to be feminist!
    But it’s important to think beyond yourself. Not to shut down women who just haven’t quite thought of the possibility of feminism relating to race and culture yet at all, I’d just like to see more discussion – as in, even if you don’t understand it, notice that you don’t. Why not ask a friend who may be of colour what they think about feminism? You know what I mean?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Jess says:

      Thank you for reading- and I agree, in fact as I was writing this post I started to think about how important it is to include different types of women in the feminist movement and almost didn’t upload the post with a complete change of heart. But it’s one of those topics that no one really talks about so I thought I could break the ice a little bit. I think women should be encouraged to share experiences without making it ‘competitive’ otherwise, like you say, how will we ever learn about each other? The media could do a much better job promoting different cultures, body types, sexualities, etc and more privileged women could improve at listening to less privileged ones- without creating a hierarchy between them. Else all our hard work could go downhill.

      Liked by 1 person

      • FlightScarlet says:

        I’m glad you did post this piece! I agree that it’s not talked about enough, and I’m glad other people can take part in the discussion as a result.

        And yeah, competition is unfortunate when people are saying “I have it worse than you!” and “But I have it worse this way!” … I guess we have to start somewhere. At least there is still a dialogue happening there, but it would be nice if there wasn’t competition within the whole thing. Creating minorities within a minority sucks. Again, thanks for the read!

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Izzy says:

    THANK GOD YOU’RE ALIVE!! I genuinely thought you’d disappeared off the face of the earth after no twitter commentaries for 2 videos in a row (heartbroken is not the word). I joined the feminist society when I started college aswell and ngl I felt so intimidated by the girls than ran it (all black clothing every day -not in a gothic way, complaining about men then all having boyfriends etc. etc.) hopefully yours will be much better despite the weird opening sesh! xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jess says:

      IZZLE my Saturday morning will be spent catching up with your videos (I’m tres excited to compare you to a fluffy pen again) ❤️ as for femsoc…well I just don’t get how an equality group can be so closed minded? Also it made no sense how they ranted about ‘white feminism’ and then said their first few topics would be body hair, free the nip and stuff like that- aren’t they quite white issues? Anyway I’d love to stay and chat but I’ve got a TWENTY minute video to watch 😉 xox

      Liked by 1 person

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