When even Pragna Patel is called a “white feminist”

Zakaria’s book sounds only slightly less contemptuous and hostile than her social media persona. Joan Smith reviewed it in the Times (so Zakaria thought it would be clever to lob stupid insults at her on Twitter in response, which is very adult and sensible).

“White feminism” as a derogatory term, caricaturing it as a movement that imposes its preoccupations on women who are not white or middle class, has been around for a while. People claim it is reflective more of a state of mind than skin colour; even Pragna Patel, a founding member of Southall Black Sisters, has been accused of being a “white feminist”.

In other words it works pretty much the way “terf” does – as an excuse to shit on women without seeming like a common or garden misogynist.

Building bridges is definitely not what this book is about, and everywhere she finds feminists who accept “the benefits conferred by white supremacy at the expense of people of colour”. Defining people in terms they would not recognise or accept is a key ploy of identity politics, and feminists are lumped together and traduced throughout.

Much the way Katie Edwards did in the Independent today, then.

The book’s most serious flaw lies in its singularly ill-informed account of modern feminism. If the movement has a single unifying feature it is an analysis of the way oppression of women is linked to female bodies, regardless of race, class, age, religion or sexual orientation. Yet this is precisely what Zakaria denies: “An aversion to acknowledging lived trauma permeates white feminism, which in turn produces a discomfort and alienation from women who have experienced it.”

Nothing could be further from the truth. In this country refuges for victims of domestic and sexual violence were built by feminists who insisted they should be open to all women.

Never mind that, they were white feminists just the same.

Identity politics is rife with such facile judgments, designed to make its advocates feel superior. Zakaria appears to have missed the irony of dismissing every species of feminism but her own in the name of a supposedly more egalitarian politics. But when I see feminists being pitted against each other in this mean-spirited way, I can almost hear the patriarchy laughing.

So I guess Zakaria decided to use Twitter to demonstrate just how mean-spirited (and fatuous) she can be when she really puts her mind to it.

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