The latest trend is to deny the feminism of women of colour, women who are not White women and cis, middle class, educated, able-bodied, and heterosexual as well. But many times, just being White is enough to be included in what is feminism. By “latest trend” I mean for centuries now.
Before someone’s “measurement” or dismissal of someone else’s feminism (especially when a women of colour’s) is taken to heart, these questions should be asked:
- Are they racist? Do they think that Black women and other women of colour have to meet some standard that they do not have to meet as White women? Is a pulse and being a White woman enough to be a feminist while Black women have to be bell hooks or Audre Lorde? White feminists, even if oppressed for other facets of their identities STILL have White privilege.
- Are they sexist? Are they male feminists who think that they can “measure” the feminism of women and police women versus checking their own male privilege and deconstructing patriarchy as a system of oppression, but not the only system of oppression to know about? Who the FUCK are men to tell women and other people who do not have male privilege who are feminists or not as men can completely reject feminism and never deal with sexism?
- Are they classist? Do they think that feminists who perhaps learn about feminism via YouTube, Tumblr and Twitter are “beneath” Women Studies majors at elite colleges?
- Are they transphobic? Are they busy denying the womanhood of trans women and thereby ignoring the ones who have their own feminist politics?
- Are they ableist? Are they unwilling to listen to the specific concerns of feminists who are disabled and have another dimension of politics that are relevant to them?
- Are they homophobic? Do they think feminism is just a big hetero or cishetero party of concerns?
- Are they anti-sex work and have either rigid patriarchal and theist responses to sex work or are unwilling to examine sex work with an intersectional lens? (All sex workers are not thin blondes who are middle class.) Is their perception of sexuality shaped by White supremacy? Does their notion of sexual liberation only exist by trampling the lives and experiences of women of colour? Do they deny the space for Black women and other women of colour to be anything but heterosexual?
- Are they anti-intersectional? First of all, do they credit the BLACK WOMEN who create the language and theory that they gladly co-opt without a second thought? Do they recognize that privilege and oppression are not linear? Do they understand that women have different needs and priorities and their respective histories, cultures and present life situations impact these needs and priorities?
- Are they unfair in their analysis of feminists and feminism in the public sphere? Do they insist that Black female celebrities like Beyoncé, Janelle Monae, Kerry Washington, Nicki Minaj, Shonda Rhimes, and Solange could not possibly be feminist and/or have feminist perspectives but they are ready to anoint Madonna, Lena Dunham, Ashley Judd and Tina Fey as feminist public figures? Why is that? Even though celebrity approval of feminism is not needed, why are Black women regularly their villains?
- Why are they “measuring” anyway? What is achieved by choosing people (usually women of colour are chosen, especially Black women) to decry that they aren’t feminist? I mean…so much time is already spent denying our humanity anyway but our politics have to be denied also?
Anywhere bigotry and oppression appear is a place I will deconstruct, critique and resist. This includes “progressive” and “feminist” politics and space, most certainly. This critique does not exist because I want “White approval” (as the ever so ignorant will suggest) but because anywhere bigotry appears, even among proclaimed “allies” is an unacceptable occurrence. But this critique is not about deciding who gets to be feminist since being a Black woman means I am already not considered one (I ID as womanist though) since I don’t have a doctorate like MHP or bell hooks and since I am obviously not White. This barrier is created by White women and maintained by White women, Black men and even some Black women/women of colour. It involves a lot of respectability politics as well.
When do we see 10-100 “think pieces” trying to get the world to finally accept that a particular White woman is not a feminist? Meanwhile they do this to Beyoncé, and even get mocked for doing so, and quite well, actually.
Margaret Thatcher (who openly rejected feminism) is a feminist post-mortem. Eve Ensler (who is an imperialistic sadist and appropriator of Black women/Indigenous women’s experiences) is a feminist. Meghan Murphy (who is anti-sex work, classist and more) is a feminist. Hillary Clinton (who literally will have the exact same foreign policy as President Obama, which he is rightfully and wrongfully scrutinized for) is a feminist. White celebrities who are racist, appropriate Black culture and step on Black women’s backs as the bridges to their sexual and political liberation are feminists. This makes sense…
Oh and I am NOT providing sources for any White woman’s name in the above paragraph. Think about why people don’t know this yet can quickly cite every Black woman that the world decries cannot be feminist. They’re all on the same Internet.
Oh and I know the “it goes both ways” false equalization police will proclaim that if I do not accept the racism, White supremacy and White privilege of White feminists that I am “measuring” their feminism as well. Nice way to obscure structural power there. I am not measuring their feminism. I am resisting oppression.