Posted in feminism

The Insidiousness of White Feminism

Some years ago, I used to frequent a message board that was targeted to newlywed women. While not everyone on this politics and current event-themed board was a newlywed, many of us recently-marrieds found our way there. I remember one specific thread that got a lot of responses; in it, Black women spoke of how they were always Black first, and female second. I remember feeling shocked by this reveal, and then immediately chagrined for never having thought about it before. Therein lies the core of white privilege: “never having to think about things” that don’t happen to you.

This was right around the same time that the movie Hidden Figures came out in theaters. In the opening scene, our three heroines (expertly portrayed by Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and the incomparable Janelle Monae) experience car trouble and pull over on the side of the road. A cop stops by to question them and after they tell him they work for NASA, he eases up on his questioning.

It wasn’t until that moment in the theater, while remembering the message board conversation, that I realized how blinded I was by my own white feminism. When I saw the police car, my immediate thought was, “Oh good, it’s 1961, this chivalrous man will help out the ladies.”

I’m embarrassed to admit this, but that’s how limited my worldview was. I honestly thought I was ahead of the game because I knew about the Invisible Knapsack, I had dated plenty of non-white men and a few women (I know, I know!) and had never uttered the words “all lives matter.”

This is how white feminism creeps into our white women brains. Yes, it is exclusively the domain of white women. If a white man starts parroting this garbage, he’s just another fake feminist guy trying to get some. 

I still have a long way to go. I’ve done everything on this list at one point or another. Sometimes I think the things and have an immediate “Girl, wtf?” thought, but have the wherewithal to keep my mouth shut. When I think about complex issues, I try to consider them with a focus on intersectionality.