What’s A White Feminist to Do: More Than Pussy Hats & Witty Signs

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Even though I was pretty sure that I didn’t “need” to attend the Women’s March on January 21st, I did. Hey, I work on campaigns, gave to Bernie, teach in a public high school, coach speech and debate so that kids can “find their voices”, read “The Root” regularly, and have bought 3 copies of Claudia Rankin’s Citizen for friends….I’m woke, and I do the work that matters, amiright?

It was euphoric to be surrounded by such a diverse community of women, great and small. I cheered the #BLM posters, the pro-Muslim signs, and all the rest, (except those that body-shame Trump….really, people? Get out of the mud!) It’s the aftermath, and the backlash against the privilege and presumption of white feminism that has me doubting myself and my role in all of this. Do I have more work to do? Of course. I just can’t figure out what it is. I know better than to ask a POC to help me figure it out, but …. Is listening to other voices enough to be an “ally”? What about using my own privilege to make space for the voices of those without?

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Face it: we’re privileged.

Folks don’t assume we can’t pay for the stuff in the shop, don’t follow us around, and give us ALL SORTS of privileges not afforded to other women (or white men). Don’t believe me? Let’s face it, we’re more likely to be sought after as mates by men of all races, we aren’t subject to the draft, and we get to CHOOSE whether or not to be feminists. If we choose feminism, that still doesn’t’ mean we can’t expect that they’ll buy our drinks, pay for dinner, or at least be responsible for asking us out, so we don’t have to feel the pain of rejection.

Do we bear the burden of femininity in a misogynist world? Sure, we do. We are going to be catcalled, our pussies might get grabbed, and someone will certainly offer to “put in a good word” on the Quid Pro Quo Plan, (you scratch my back, I’ll suck yours). But, here’s the deal, White Ladies. We’ve got a job to do, and we’re late.

Women of color, transgender women, and women who come from denigrated religious groups are sick and tired of our bull. They’re tired of our #notallwhitewomen BS. They need us to quit ignoring our privilege. They need us to begin to use our privilege to make space for other voices, not simply use it to get a bump to the front of the line at our local Starbux.

Showing up and taking awesome selfies at a march isn’t the hard work. (…no matter how chilly the weather!)

The hard work behind Intersectional Feminism:

• Recognize the history of racism in the “Women’s Movement”. Those “heroes” you learned about in school? They insisted that black women walk at the back of the suffragist marches.

• Understanding that white feminists have co-opted the voices of all women. (Do you realize that Muslim women don’t feel comfortable calling themselves “feminist” because we’ve already decided that their entire belief system is bad for women, without experiencing it for ourselves?) We’re closing the door on a lot of women’s voices by ignoring intersectional feminism.

• Having the tough conversation! Our privilege is our superpower here. People who won’t listen to women of color WILL listen to us (our husbands, our sons, our fathers, among others!). We need to have the difficult conversations because we can. Our privilege makes it possible.

• Understanding that we don’t control the entire issue. Other women have issues we don’t have. Sometimes, we should shut up and listen.

• We don’t speak for all women. Again: Shut. Up.

• Have the conversation. Have it with your racist uncle, your ignorant sorority sister, your clueless female boss. HAVE IT.