She stereotypes feminism beyond recognition

Sonia Sodha on “white feminism”:

Blaming women for the ills of the world might appear an odd feminist call to action. But an idea gaining traction is that the “white feminism” dominant in the United States and the UK is not only a driving force of societal racism, but responsible for a host of other bad things, from the war on terror to the hypersexualisation of women in popular culture, to the dreadful abuses of power we see in international aid. It’s part of a growing tendency on the left to look for scapegoats at the cost of building the solidarity needed for social change.

It’s that and it’s also part of a longstanding tendency on the left to treat women with just as much contempt and hostility as the broader culture does. The revival of feminism (aka “second wave” feminism) was born out of that contempt and hostility on the left in the 1960s and 70s.

[I]t’s quite a jump to move from the observation that women are no more immune to racism than men to holding the feminist movement accountable for the plight of women of colour around the world. A new book, Against White Feminism, by Rafia Zakaria, makes precisely this case. To stack up the argument, she stereotypes feminism beyond recognition as a shallow, consumerist and exclusionary movement dominated by selfish white women who care little about scrutinising the male violence perpetrated by white men.

The mainstream anti-racist left has a bad track record of hanging out to dry women of colour challenging misogyny within their communities, for fear of upsetting cultural sensitivities. Examples abound: the Newsnight investigation that revealed several Muslim female councillors who have experienced pressure not to stand from Asian Labour party members, which prompted the Muslim Women’s Network to call for an inquiry into systemic misogyny in the party that was met with overwhelming silence; the smears the MP Naz Shah has faced from local Asian men in her party; the negative response to the anti-FGM activist Nimco Ali from her local Labour party. The white privilege discourse makes this more not less likely, because it makes people more scared of being culturally insensitive.

In other words it’s far less painful and damaging to be seen as misogynist than it is to be seen as racist. Lefty men have been choosing the first over the second as long as there have been lefty men.

[W]hite feminism critiques strengthen patriarchal forces by falling into the trap of the privilege Olympics. We need analysis of outcomes by class, race and sex to understand the extent of inequalities, but it should never be overextended to imply all white women are more privileged than women of colour…

Yet that is exactly what lazy polemics about terrible white feminism do: they empower men to use the fact that all white women are supposedly high up in the privilege pecking order to tell middle-aged women to shut up or, even worse, accuse them of weaponising their abuse and trauma. It doesn’t help women of colour, either: it implicitly posits Asian male crime against women as somehow lesser than white male crime, because Asian men are victims too.

…It is telling that Zakaria chose not to engage with a critical book review by Joan Smith, the longstanding campaigner against domestic violence, instead launching a personal attack on her “old and white” appearance.

Solidarity for…some.

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