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April 2013

I Don’t Have To Like What White Women Like: Pop Culture and Feminism

In the past I wrote an essay titled Whiteness Is NOT Universal. In a part of it, I explained how both saturating popular culture with White (usually heterosexual and middle class) interests and portraying said interests not as “White” but as “neutral” or for “everybody,” White supremacy and pop culture’s intersection continues unchecked. This is why most Whites continue to believe that most magazines, television channels, fashion blogs etc. aren’t “White,” yet to them, a “huge” discrepancy exists because of the existence of a handful of Black and Latino magazines and television channels. Because they’re not called “White” Vanity Fair or “Anglo” Bazaar, for example, they continue believing that Vanity Fair and Harper’s Bazaar are multicultural, multi-interest magazines, which is truly laughable.

I’ve notice that so many White women have an incredibly difficult time understanding why many Black women and other women of colour do not identify with their experiences…or even like what they like at times. They seem perpetually baffled. The "but it’s for ‘women’" statement usually comes where the word “women” means whoever they are and whatever they like and manages to exclude so many other women.

I’ve become exhausted with White women trying to discuss SlutWalk, the show Girls and Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In with me, pleading their case as to why they’re excellent and for “every” woman. I don’t mind the first part—they can think that something is “excellent” if they want, no matter how the lack of nuance and the prevalence of tunnel vision White supremacist thought guides this. Opinions are opinions. The second part is what bothers me. Many of these women who refuse to examine how White privilege shapes access to the things that they like and how White supremacy shapes what they think is for “everyone” in the first place (and want to focus on gender yet ignore the salience of race, class, and sexuality) self-identify as feminists. Some of the bare bones work of feminism, I mean bare bones, involves examining White supremacy and if they aren’t going to do this, what are they doing again? Oh yeah, chasing mythical “equality” with White men, not questioning kyriarchy that places the latter at the top in the first place.

I’m supposed to tolerate them using “The New Jane Crow" as a phrase in relation to reproductive justice?  They’re the "niggers of the world" when it comes to SlutWalk? They don’t want Girls critiqued or its creators since “other” shows are problematic too and Lena Dunham is a “hero” despite her racial bigotry because…she’s a woman? Lean In (ugh) is not the great capitalist manifesto for all women to aspire to be the White patriarchal man in power that we “all” dream of, but is just like reading what, In Search Of Our Mothers’ Gardens? Don’t mind me if I LEAN OUT and towards Black women, women of colour, poor women, transwomen and women without citizenship. The 1% has got their 1% covered.

Since primarily White women read 50 Shades of Grey, it’s a “women’s book” but Zane’s books (and so many White women are now thinking, who? Gee, wonder why?) in the same genre are “Black books” for the “Black section” of the library/bookstore. No one deems them “universal.”

Of course Black women, womanist/feminist or not have a variety of opinions and aren’t monolithic. Some might not be bothered by the co-opting of Black experiences for “The New Jane Crow” or the word “nigger” being used at SlutWalk. Some might like the show Girls and think the book Lean In is valuable. I don’t know any. But I am certain that they are out there.

I do find it interesting that despite some Black women willingly (or coincidentally) liking what White women like, it is never sufficient. Any voice of dissent is one that seems to cause a huge “surprise” and at times, one that they try to silence.

The point isn’t whether or not Black women choose to like what White women like, but whether or not the expectation is that we must agree with White women and deem what is White as “universal” in every instance. The point is whether or not Black women and other women of colour even have sufficient options in categories and situations that White women’s views tend dominate, whether pop culture or feminist agendas.

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    I’ve thought that both of those magazines were super White/Anglo for a long time. It’s hard not to notice that Vanity...
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    In the past I wrote an essay titled Whiteness Is NOT Universal. In a part of it, I explained how both saturating popular...
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