Sunday, 30 December 2012
My twitter account is currently suspended, because when a feminist self declared ally of WoC fucked up and I politely explained that the stuff she said was problematic, she repeatedly blocked and unblocked me and reported me for spam at the same time so the automatic suspension flagged my account and suspended it. I'm not sure if that was on purpose because she was pissed as being called out or if she just didn't think about it.
So I'm going to write an open letter to people who come out with the same problematic stuff as she did. I'm concentrating mostly on WoC issues but this can apply to any minority group who identify as or who are seen as female. This btw, was what she responded problematically to: http://samambreen.wordpress.com/2012/12/29/white-feminists-now-will-you-listen/
Dear self declared white feminist Allies to WoC and other minority groups,
No matter how wonderful you think you are as a white feminist ally to Women of Color, racism and ignorance of the issues women of color face is still a rampant issue in feminism due to the overwhelming domination of white privileged feminists who are to be candid are frequently ignorant and unaware of their impact on minorities. Others commenting on this and similar lack of inclusions that happen to women with disabilities and GLBTQ people who identify as women or who are seen as women is not a personal criticism of you. You are not the entirety of feminism; So you really need to stop getting personally offended when WoC and those of us who are listening say that white feminism has a bad habit of getting it wrong when it comes to issues women of color face.
No, this is not a fringe problem like many of you think. Racism in feminism is still a massive mainstream issue. Yes, feminism has improved from the days when leading feminists like Sanger said the most dreadfully racist things, but it's still not fully inclusive of women of color nor does it always respect the issues women of color face. We've still got a long way to go before it is. Much like we have a long way to go before we will no longer need feminism.
If you're expecting credit for the fact that feminism sucks slightly less for Women of color now? You're doing it wrong. If you're getting offended because in a discussion of white women not getting WoC issues, you didn't get credit for how wonderful you think you are? You're doing it wrong. You don't become an ally to minorities for credit, you become one because being one is being a decent human being. If you're an ally? You don't need a pat on the back, because being a good person is it's own reward.
Also women of color do not need or even want you to fight on their behalf, they're more than capable of handling their own fights. You are not being a great ally by trying to lead the fights of others for them, especially given your lack of insight into what women of color really need. Being a great ally to women of color is about including women of color and their voices in the mainstream fight, it's about making women of color welcome in feminist communities, it's about supporting their voices, not supplanting them, it's about backing our sisters up, not standing on their shoulders to shout for them.
Also, no you do not get what it is like to be a Woman of color, a woman with a disability, or a GLBTQ female identifying person if you are not one. This is why you should not be fighting for any of those groups because you probably don't know what is really needed for them, it takes personal experience to know that. Not only that but it's bloody offensive to women of color when you try to be the great white feminist savior of them, and yes, you "fighting on their behalf" often comes off like that and sometimes it is obvious that you do have an unacknowledged savior complex.
Also no lacking class privilege will not change that you are not a woman of color. Being poor doesn't erase your white privilege. Seriously, don't try to argue you don't have privilege in terms of skin color, it's dreadfully ignorant, especially when you've just pulled a privileged move and been told please don't do that.
Trying to empathise with WoC is not the same as having direct experience of racism and direct understanding of the issues WoC face. You really need to face this and to learn to listen to what Women of color say, not splutter in outrage because a Women of color said you weren't listening.
Also "inclusive" doesn't mean "white feminists get to weigh in on WoC issues without being told they're wrong/ignorant/fucking up when they mess up". Seriously, inclusivity isn't an argument for getting it all your own way.
Also WoC and their allies pointing out this crap? Isn't a threat to solidarity, the fact that white feminism is choc-a-block with this sort of shit is a threat to solidarity. White feminist racism is far more alienating to community members who are WoC or simply not assholes than requiring white feminists to do better could ever be.
In it's own way, me writing this is problematic and I acknowledge it as such, this could easily go into speaking for women of color even though I do not intend to do so. I am writing this to support them and because as a white feminist even if I don't actively try to add to the racism problems in feminism? I am still responsible because I am part of it. I am responsible when I remain silent, I am responsible when I do not speak up in the face of your ignorance. I am responsible when I stand by and let you treat our sisters like you do. So I am taking my responsibility and doing something with it.
I wrote this because as a white feminist it is my job to make our movement a better and more inclusive place. I want to be be part of the answer as well as part of the problem. I can't discard my white privilege which benefits me in feminist circles, but I can speak up and tell you that it is not acceptable that we treat women of color or any minority covered under feminism the way we do. It is not acceptable to sideline their voices, it is not acceptable to get in a snitfit because they say things that make us personally uncomfortable, it is not acceptable that we take out our guilt at our white privilege on them.
Part of being for social justice is learning to deal with personal discomfort. It's been looked at like you're mad and disliked because you "ruined the fun" by pointing out the rape joke, the misogyny, the racism or whatever casual bigotry someone just displayed. It's becoming aware of our place within intersectional privilege and oppression. It's learning to deal with things we didn't ask for or deliberately do but are still complicit in without letting guilt overwhelm and paralyze us. For white people, It's understanding that we are complicit in racism but letting go of the guilt response, our guilt helps nobody, our actions, our willingness to listen, to learn, to grow does.
If we wanted an easy life, we would have remained ignorant, so don't tell me the discomfort of addressing the racism in white feminist responses to Women of color is too much and too far, because if it's too much for you, then so is feminism.
Don't just take my word for it though, here's a round up of awesome WoC bloggers and non-WoC posts addressing the problem.
http://dearwhitefeminists.wordpress.com/ (Chock full of WoC posts on the subject, excellent starting point).
http://shadowscrescent.wordpress.com/2012/06/21/the-default-feminism-is-white-privilege/ Awesome WoC blog on this problem/
To the others who defend the sort of attitude and thoughts I'm addressing and especially to the folks who defended it last night,
People we like can still say ignorant things. We can respect them for being a good feminist in one way without ignoring that they tripped up over their feet in others. There are plenty of big name feminists who don't get minority issues at all never mind all of the time, it's a big issue, and people we like are still growing, still learning, the fuck up they make today, they will learn from if they're as good as we think they are.
Also intention is not magical, your friend was whining that the woman who died in India was "being used to attack white feminists" there's no way that could not be inappropriate as hell. Feminism has let down Women of color, disabled women, queer women, trans-women, trans-men and many more minority groups. Stating so is not an attack on white feminists, standing up and saying that feminism can and should be better is not an attack on white feminist.
Also privilege does not function differently in America, where the fuck did that claim come from? Especially since much mainstream social justice writing is coming from the US.
Also don't complain to me that I wasn't "tactful" enough. Really, given the seriously personal discomfort and immediate guilt many white feminists experience when it comes to the cognitive dissonance of the reality of racism in feminism and what they think feminism and racism is like, it's ridiculously common for white feminists to get majorly upset and to see it as a personal attack on them when first told about it. Been there, done that myself, and people were much meaner to me about it. One person told me to go kill myself for example when I didn't get it.
Your friend is not just ignorant, they're actually racist. In between their "I'm color blind" crap and "wah saying I have white privilege is the same as saying I didn't struggle" is a racist subtext that they ignore, just because they don't call someone a n***** doesn't erase their racist assumptions and thoughts.