Saturday, 27 July 2013

White womanhood, racism and the cycle created.

Or Intersectionality, we fucking need it.

Last night I read:

As you can see two very different viewpoints on the "scary black man", but never shall the twain meet. The latter is condemned as racist, the former as sexist. But they should meet because they do intersect.

Firstly what we need to talk about is not simply Questlove's constant awareness of the "threat" he represents to women, but also the way that awareness in him and other  men of color affects who interacts with those seen as women and who doesn't. The "scary black man" which also includes other men of color is a trope that feeds on itself.

If you have two men of color, one of whom is a stand up guy who would never rape someone and who is aware of the "scary man of color trope", and the other who is a rapist and who doesn't care if he's seen as scary because he doesn't regard women as people? It is the latter who primarily approaches white women and those seen as white women, the former is usually busy trying not to scare her and worrying about the consequences if he does. Understandably, this means the ones white women and those seen as women as a group usually end up interacting with are going to be the latter.

Yet when we talk about the men of color, black or otherwise who have approached us and acted badly, PoC often react as if those men represent all black men, because the distortion caused by the effects of racism is unacknowledged. I said last night that 80% of the men of color who have approached me have proven to be a threat, so I do regard a man of color who approaches me as more likely to be a threat because it is the ones who are threats who are more likely to approach me. The response was "how dare you say 80% of black me are threats", as if all men of color are black and would approach me, when the majority of men of color don't because of the thoughts Questlove talks about.

This is why "white women should be less racist and trust men of color who approach them" fails, because it's based on the idea that the men of color who approach white people seen as women aren't going to primarily be the ones no person seen as woman should trust and currently that's not the case. White people seen as women trusting every black guy approaching them wouldn't tackle racism because the decent ones would still hang back because of white men's racism, but it would give the assholes free reign to hurt people, which would simply justify the "scary man of color" trope.

Secondly we need to talk about the fact that though there was no white woman involved on the night when George Zimmerman killed Trayvon, white women are still brought into it because society as a whole still assumes that when white men attack black men, it is in defense of white women. It's part of the structural justification for white men's violence against people of color, and even people who aren't white men end up buying into it and talking about white women's place in racism to the exclusion of white man's creation and maintenance of it. We should talk about white woman's racism as well, but not as if it's the cause and root of what Zimmerman did.

Thing is, even if there had been a white woman there when Trayvon was killed, Zimmerman's actions wouldn't have been in her defense, but in defense of white male privilege and white male entitlement. The man of color whatever his race is always viewed by white men as a threat to the personally perceived racial superiority of white men. There is nothing about the "defend the white woman" that is beneficial to white women or those seen as women. It's all smoke and mirrors to disguise that white women and those seen as women are still seen as mere property in a world that accords value based on what white men think.

Superficial value is not actual value, everything about the notion of white womenhood frames white women and those seen as women as property of white men. It chains us to a pedestal that serves only to benefit white men. White people who society sees as women are viewed as pure because we are seen as belonging to white men. The notion that places white womanhood as the province of the Madonnas is inherently infantilising and places white people seen as women as children who need the protection and guidance of the white man.

Thirdly white people who aren't straight, rich, able bodied, cis men, We need to talk about how this damn white pedestal doesn't actually benefit anyone and everyone including white people seen as women need to stop buying into the notion that the mantle of white privilege is worth keeping for anyone who isn't a rich, straight, able bodied, cis man. The pedestal is actually a hobble we pay a price for, the price people seen as women pay is being seen as owned instead of being people. We need to strike it off and reject the superficial straight, white, able bodied, cis male offer of privilege in favour of standing with everyone else who isn't him and telling him to fuck the hell off with his bullshit hierarchy that only serves him, because anything less than equality for all is bullshit.

White privilege for those seen as women is nothing to be grateful for or to cling to, it's being begrudgingly given a thin blanket in exchange for our humanity while watching white men hoard thick down quilts when it is coldest. It's a thin gruel meanly handed out in return for our humanity while white men feast.

Our humanity should not be for sale, and especially not for what are mere scrapings we can't even share with others. White privilege is a fucking mugs game if you aren't a straight, rich, able bodied, cis man. It needs dropkicking out of the window, same for other privileges which are a thin and mean unless you have all or most of them, we need to reject them, because equality? That's the real prize, equality would benefit everyone apart from straight, rich, able bodied, white, cis man. It would benefit our lives and improve them far beyond privilege does. We cannot settle for less, especially not at the expense of others.

Fourthly we need to talk about full intersectionality. I've noticed a distinct tendency for the social justice world to grasp intersectionality only in terms of how one person's oppressions interact within their lives. Never in terms of how their privilege interacts with their oppression. Privilege is often viewed in isolation, so when we talk about the issues with white women, black men and racism, often sexism is dismissed entirely, and the white people seen as women are treated as if somehow white privilege in the situation makes them into a straight, white, able bodied, rich cis man. Questlove did this, he didn't consider the casual sexism in what he wrote it seems, just as Kim Foster did not examine the racism embedded in hers, and those supporting them have done the same.

Nor do we talk about the impact privilege has on how people are viewed by those oppressed apart from the anger the oppressed feel. For example, white womanhood frames those seen as women as property of white men; but we never it seems consider how it and racism frames those seen as women as prizes in a war that white men created against people of color, or that it's taught to men of color as well as held by white men. So the bodies of those seen as women become battlegrounds for the rights and privilege of men.

Currently I think intersectionality is still in it's infancy, the full scope it is unexplored. We need better than this, and we need to listen to each other, because the monster that is oppression doesn't exist in isolation, so we need to come out of our isolation.

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