“White feminism”

Another entry in the ledger I’m suddenly keeping to follow this “Blame Feminism” thing: Laura Turner at Religion News Service repeating the stupid bad mistaken platitudes about Meryl Streep and those t shirts and the racism and privilege and general evilness of feminism.

About the Emmeline Pankhurst quotation on the t shirt, Turner informs us

It’s a nice sentiment “in a bubble,” as Ira Madison III wrote over at Vulture. But neither Britain nor America exists outside of a bubble when it comes to things like rebels and slaves, and Streep or Mulligan or their publicists or someone in marketing ought to have thought of that before these women donned these shirts and posed with smiling faces. “The message that Streep and company are co-signing,” writes Kirsten West Savali at The Root  “…is that one cannot be both enslaved and a rebel; and tucked between those lines lies the erasure of a dual existence that black women have been forced to navigate in one form or another throughout history.”

No. No to every word of that.

No, it’s not “a bubble,” it’s a particular bit of history of a particular country, which does not have to adapt or conform itself to the different history of a different country. The UK is allowed to make a movie about British suffragettes and then advertise it without consulting Americans. It’s that simple.

And no, the Pankhurst quotation does not say that one cannot be both enslaved and a rebel. That’s an asinine claim, a claim that ignores the way language works. Obviously Pankhurst was a rebel because she was a woman in a system where women did not have equal rights before the law – obviously she was a rebel and a slave at the same time, and that was the whole point of the sentence. It’s true that she didn’t explicitly talk about black women in that sentence, but then she didn’t explicitly talk about white women either. That’s not automatically “erasure.” The particulars matter.

White feminism in the West has a long history of erasure of women of color. When Pankhurst spoke the words she did, she was most likely pretty ignorant of what it meant to be a black woman in England.

“Most likely”? Do you get the feeling that Turner doesn’t know a damn thing about Pankhurst and is just assuming that she was a stereotypical White Feminist? Do you get the feeling that she’s relying on the usual cues – people are outraged on Twitter therefore there must be fire?

That mindset still plagues feminism to this day, so that the white women who too often grab the megaphones are unaware of or unwilling to listen to their sisters of color.

White women too often grab the megaphones? What a crock of shit. All women are prevented from getting anywhere near the megaphones, is the reality. Bashing “white feminism” at every opportunity isn’t the best way to improve that reality.

5 Responses to ““White feminism””