My Brief Take on White Feminism™

I’m white and a feminist–and I do not subscribe to White Feminism™. (These are all my thoughts coming from the perspective of a white cis woman, and I welcome any criticism from POC, non-gender conforming people, or really anyone who believes I’m misrepresenting anything!)

White Feminism is the subsection of the feminist movement that is mostly made up of white women who have neglected to make their feminism intersectional. These women participate in the ignorance of the effects of race on women’s oppression and refuse to acknowledge problematic elements of their Feminist Icons (see: Lena Dunham).

But Allie, why call it White Feminism, isn’t that offensive? No, imaginary person! I don’t find it offensive because it recognizes that these stances are taken by largely white women–to ignore race is to misrepresent the problem. As a person of privilege, it doesn’t oppress me to recognize the role race plays in this issue. (And we don’t want to pull a #NotAllMen type of move. We know there are white feminists who aren’t White Feminists™–let’s focus on the real concern!)

White Feminism has been an ongoing problem in the feminist movement. From Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I A Woman” to White Feminists’ rejection of the Black Lives Matter movement, there is a schism in feminism. As people with racial privilege, white women don’t have to worry about racial injustice, and therefore can ignore it (just as cis people don’t have to worry about transphobia, and on and on)–women of color cannot, so their cause must strive for not only gender equality but racial equality. They often become ostracized from the mainstream feminist movement.

So, let’s elaborate.

These White Feminists tend to police the behavior of women of other races/cultures. A frequent activity is to preach to Muslim women about how “oppressive” their religion is, how the hijab is oppressing them, etc. This ignores the agency and autonomy of women to decide whether or not to wear the hijab. It is also not the job of a person of privileged person to tell others what is oppressing them and what isn’t. That is not being a white ally.

In addition, White Feminism tends to ignore race as an issue altogether–saying “I don’t see race” is ignoring the real consequences of the social construct of race. White people: the oppression of others does not negate yours, but you also must recognize your privilege as a white person. It’s not the oppression Olympics–admit you have privilege and figure out how to be a better ally. Also, don’t tweet “#AllLivesMatter”. Please don’t.

Another problem with White Feminism is being Trans-Exclusionary (or, a TERF).

Exclusion of trans people from feminist spaces is not only reinforcing their oppression but basically counters everything feminism stands for.

Similar to TERFs, we have SWERFs–Sex Worker Exclusionary Radical Feminists. This group of people tends to ignore the lived experiences of sex workers and define (much like what is done with Muslim women) what is and isn’t oppressive to them. Instead of working to make sure these women have autonomy and helping those who don’t (i.e., sex trafficking victims which aren’t the same, or women who have been abused in the porn industry), SWERFs tend to slut shame sex workers or say they must be “saved”.

So, how do I make sure not to be a White Feminist™?

Well, first things first, listen to people of color, non cis/het people, sex workers, etc. Listen. Listen to their experiences and how they want you to be an ally.

Recognize the privilege you may have, and the oppression that you don’t experience. Don’t try to tell people whether they should or should not feel oppressed–it is their lived experience and they know it best.

Make your feminism intersectional! Intersectionality is a super cool concept–the interaction of multiple oppressions on one another, how different identities cannot be viewed separately but must be viewed altogether. Involve the lenses of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, ability, occupation, education level… into your feminist view. Example: the only group that makes $0.77 for every male dollar is white women. Black women make $0.64, Latina women make even less. Disabled people can legally be paid below minimum wage.

And above all, just empower other women! Be supportive of their choices. Be less critical and more helpful.

To end, another amusing tweet:

Lemme Holla Back Atchu

IT’S BEEN SOOOO LONG SINCE I’VE BLOGGED. LET’S GET RIGHT TO IT, SHALL WE?

So. Topic for today that I’m going to share my thoughts on is catcalling, AKA street harassment. Hollering at women, giving them unwanted attention, no matter what kind, as they are simply trying to go about their days.

Street harassment happens to every woman. Some don’t mind it, but it irks me to my core. It is my biggest pet peeve.

Why Street Harassment Suckz

Street harassment is all about power and male entitlement. Harassers believe that they are entitled to a woman’s body and that they have the right to tell her what they think about it. Harassers believe that the woman should be flattered, and that she wants to hear what they think. IMHO, harassing women like that, I’m gonna say, has never resulted in a woman turning around and saying, “Oh my god, let’s go on a date since you just whistled at me and commented on my ass! THAT is what I look for in a man.”

I believe that the reason that some women take catcalling as a compliment is that society has a habit of telling them their self worth comes from male attention. Male attention is to be sought after, and you should be grateful you got it. It should make you feel good that a man wanted to talk to you, and it doesn’t matter whether you wanted him to or not. (My interpretation: Your wants and needs, since you are a woman, are less important.)

There is a video that’s gone viral: This Woman Has Been Confronting Her Catcallers–And Secretly Filming Their Responses. In it, the woman tries to have a conversation with her harassers and explain to them why what they’re doing is offensive.

Some of the men in the video say that women dress the ways they do to attract male attention. Now, this is a load of bulllllllshit. Not only is that a form of victim blaming, but it is again a feeling of entitlement. You did this for me, didn’t you? Not yourself, of course. It is a (conscious or subconscious) feeling that the woman dressed or acted a certain way for the harasser and just the harasser to give her attention. 

Also, newsflash: women dress for themselves, for only themselves; no matter the dress, harassment is never excused.

In addition, multiple times in the video the harassers state that women were put on earth for male enjoyment. Many cite the Bible (Eve came from Adam’s rib, blahblahblah). This is LITERALLY ADMITTING TO MISOGYNY. THIS IS OUTRIGHT SPOKEN MALE ENTITLEMENT. *sighs*

In the video, one harasser says he wouldn’t yell at the woman if she was with a man–even if he was just her friend–because he wouldn’t want to disrespect that man. The woman herself is not worthy of this respect. That respect is only given when she is with a man. The harasser sees women with men as belonging to them. No matter the relationship between the two. Women are not seen by harassers as full human beings belonging to themselves. 

Much of the harassment I have personally encountered has come from out of car windows, so the harasser(s) can speed by and not deal with the consequences of their actions and I can’t get a glimpse of them. Yelling, whistling, etc. Revolting.

Why Street Harassment Scares Me

For me, a lot of why street harassment is scary is because of sexual assault and rape. If I confront a harasser, I don’t know how that is going to turn out. Will the harasser become angry, violent? Will the harasser hurt me if this escalates? Many times I respond anyway, since I am angered so much by it. 

It is my belief that this feeling of “entitlement” that street harassment represents can snowball into big, big problems. Greater than yelling on the street. Male entitlement can lead to the friend zone (another blog topic entirely) and ultimately to tragedies like the Elliot Rodger shooting.  

I will end on a quote that strikes me every time I hear it: 

“The point is not that all men are menaces to women, but that all women have been menaced by men.”

Pizza Rolls, Not Gender Roles

One of the basic tenants of feminism is the rejection of traditional gender norms in society. We all know these norms, as they have been drilled into our heads from the moment we are born. The most basic of them being that women are submissive and inferior to men. Sidenote–sex is biological; gender is a social construct. According to these gender roles, men should be providers, should be tough and aggressive, should attract and have sex with as many women as possible, should not allow themselves to be dominated by women. Women, meanwhile, have the role of child bearer, homemaker, should be dainty and soft-spoken, should attract men but not have sex with them (the virgin-whore dichotomy), and should not dominate men. Gender roles begin from the moment your parents/guardians find our your biological sex. Now the onesies being bought are pink, not blue. There are bows and flowers and dolls, not trucks and LEGOs and firefighter toys. Children’s toys reinforced these roles, put them in children’s heads–as a girl, you should use a play-kitchen and take care of a fake baby. As a boy, you shouldn’t do those things because you should build a spaceship and fight crime. These roles are dangerous because they limit children from the get-go. Increasingly, it’s becoming more okay for a girl to play with boys’ toys (Woohoo! Empowerment!) but it is still a taboo for a boy to care for a baby doll. That’s a woman’s job, still, even though she can play with LEGOs now. (This is a phenomenon similar to women wearing pants but men not being able to wear dresses–women can act like men because being a man is good; men can’t act like women because being a woman is bad. But I digress.) So, anyway, to my point. This morning I was listening to a radio show, a very popular one, in which the hosts were discussing men’s egos. They said the things to do to hurt “your man’s ego” would be to open a door for him and to fix something without asking him to fix it first. For obvious reasons, this is repulsive to say. Ahem, if you’ll allow me to step up on my soapbox here (not that a blog isn’t already a soapbox): OPENING DOORS IS ABOUT BEING POLITE. NOT ABOUT MEN VS. WOMEN. WOMEN CAN OPEN DOORS–WHO KNEW? WOMEN AND MEN CAN BOTH OPEN DOORS FOR EACH OTHER BECAUSE IT’S NICE TO DO SO. GOD. In addition, the hosts said that if a woman opens a door for a man, the “super classy” things to do would be to grab the door and insist she go in first. CHIVALRY ISN’T DEAD, FOLKS. I WAS UNAWARE WE HAD TIME-TRAVELED TO THE 50s. I would roll my eyes like a MOFO if someone took the door I was trying to hold for them and told me to go in first. For God’s sake. Annnnnd the fixing things. Well that is just the kicker, isn’t it? A woman should try not to hurt “her man’s” ego by fixing something. A few problems with that. A) Women can and should know how to fix things. B) How weak is this man’s ego if it is hurt by a woman being able to fix something? C) If this happens, the problem is the man’s, not the woman’s. The dude can get over it. So, in general, my personal problems with traditional gender roles:

  • They reinforce a culture of female dependence, where women’s jobs are to attract males.
  • They reinforce a culture of male rejection of female independence, meaning that a man doesn’t want a woman who is independent.
  • They are heteronormative, meaning they disregard non-heterosexual relationships entirely.
  • They, in addition, reject genders outside of the norm (see this link on the gender spectrum).
  • They encourage women to focus on appearance over intellect, hard work, and other positive qualities in a GODDAMN HUMAN BEING. *clears throat.* Excuse me.
  • They encourage men to be aggressors, to believe they are entitled to sexual favors after “chivalrous activity” (i.e., I paid for your dinner, now you owe me sex) (the Friend Zone–that’s another post entirely); this fosters a culture of violence against women, known as rape culture.

Plus many, many more. So, to those radio hosts, you are teaching your listeners that this type of behavior is acceptable and encouraged. You are in a position of power, and you have the opportunity to use that to progress society along in a positive direction. These roles affect both men and women. I know that many of us tend to fall into these gender roles, even as feminists. I just ask that we all, including myself, analyze our behavior, and encourage ourselves, our friends, our partners, our children to challenge these norms and just be whoever the hell we please.

The F Word

Feminism: the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.

I want to talk about the word “feminism” in this post–what I know about it, at least, which isn’t much. Obviously, the word came to use long before I had anything to do with feminism (or life, for that matter), but it is now currently lost in a sea of exaggerated stereotypes and false preconceptions. 

Many celebrities (Katy Perry, Lady Gaga) claim they couldn’t possibly be feminists because they love men too much and they think women and men are equal. To that I say, all you have to do is Google what feminism is to know that you just defined it. These particular incidents bother me because young girls, young women look up to these people–hearing celebrities spout this incorrect information simply aids in keeping them from fighting for their equality. 

Many other celebrities (Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Lena Dunham) have talked about feminism in a wonderful light, which restores my faith in humanity and keeps me sane. Thanks guys.

People that know a bit more about the movement sometimes have a problem with the root of the word, “feminine”. These people (a lot of times men, sometimes women, in my own experience) say that it is exclusionary to men. Wouldn’t “humanism” be better? We’re all human, right?

Right. However, humanism is already taken. Also, feminism’s terminology, in how I personally interpret it, deals with the work to redefine what it means to be “feminine”. Changing the perception of women as weak, subordinate, ditzy, etc. to women as strong, as fighters, as multi-dimensional humans.

As for the exclusionary bit, it kind of annoys me to be told men must be included in a term defining a movement to include women in the basic human rights and privileges. But that is a bit radical, and I do understand the sentiment behind wanting a more inclusive term. However, that’s the term we’ve had for ages to define a movement for women’s rights.

Sidenote: feminism is for everyone–men, women, trans, or whatever gender with which you identify. 

My beef: Feminism has always been associated with a radical movement. Bra burning, man-hating, not-shaving. This is not what real feminism looks like. Feminism is about inclusiveness. All genders, all sexual orientations or lack thereof, feminine, masculine, everyone. Feminism benefits everyone. A movement towards a world in which women are encouraged to be body positive and men are encouraged to embrace emotions and in which men and women and trans and EVERYONE are all equal. Truly equal. No one calls anyone “fag” or “pussy”. No one victim-blames, no one slut-shames, women are equally represented in politics and science/math fields, equally paid, and not viewed as dainty, weak, etc. No one says “like a girl” meaning an insult.

That is what I envision. That is feminism. And I embrace that movement and its label wholeheartedly. 

That is all.

My Take on SCOTUS Decision

So, this is my first blog that is non-Greek. I am doing this entry because a Supreme Court decision this morning ruled that closely held companies can refuse to cover employees’ contraception. This is not going to be an impartial blog.

This decision is an example of government failing to recognize women as human beings equal to men. This is an example of government believing that women are not capable of making their own decisions regarding health care. This is an example of corporations being recognized as people. Corporations are not people.

Another problem with this decision is that the power being handed to employers is overwhelming in male hands. Women are grossly misrepresented in high-power corporate and governmental positions. It is harder for women to move up the ladder of employment, as they are not taken seriously despite many times being more qualified and experienced than the men who pass them up. So, when these companies’ leaders have the power to determine their employees’ health care, that means overwhelmingly, men have the power to determine women’s health care.

These issues infuriate me in a very personal way. This is absolutely personal. It is a governmental affront on all women.

The people championing “religious freedom” in this case are the same who encourage islamaphobia, prayer in schools, and the teaching of intelligent design over evolution. The same people. You cannot have it both ways. These conservatives want “religious freedom” only when it concerns their own religion. Also, the religious freedom aspect can get sticky: what happens when an employer’s religion doesn’t believe in health care, only prayer? Do they not have to pay for any health care? What happens when corporations have religious rights? What happens when an employer doesn’t believe in do-not-resuscitate orders or vaccines? What if an employer identifies with their own made-up religion to get out of paying for things?

I am disgusted by the SCOTUS decision and I have nothing else to say on the matter at this point, other than that it just reinforces that women, including me, must work even harder to be recognized by our government and our employers as human beings.