White Feminism.

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Author’s note: The term “white feminist” does not apply to all white women who are feminists, rather, all women who practice feminism that only serves white people.

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White feminism: the loudest voices of the mainstream feminist movement belong to and speak for white, able-bodied, middle-class women in first world countries.

As a result, the blissful ignorance of white privilege and the dissemination of racism are both prevalent in the white feminist movement.

Feminism today is notorious for whitewashing, minimizing, forgetting, and ignoring the experiences of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) as well as for perpetuating racist stereotypes and by profiting off different cultures (in fashion, music, and language).

Additionally, the capitalist mission of mainstream feminists doesn’t really seek to dismantle the system of oppression, but rather perpetuates it, for it still relies on the subjugation of another group of people. More often than not, this means the continued exclusion of people of colour, the LGTBQIA community, the alter-abled, and the poor. I have never understood the point of seeking equality with white men.

Clearly, I do not fit into the mainstream feminist movement —not that I want to.

White feminism is petty.

It involves a focus on body hair and free-bleeding as forms of protest, as well as other erroneous remonstrations. Much of this, as I have experienced, is executed with a lack of education or self-examination. Either that, or white feminists simply don’t care. A flagrant exhibition of this was the defacement of the statue of a black, disabled, enslaved woman named Harriet Tubman by feminist protesters during the Women’s March in Harlem.

I have also noticed a lack of ownership —that white women supported slavery; that the majority of white women voted for the latest president; that white women perpetuate institutionalised racism and white supremacy. In effect, this form of feminism is disrespectful, dishonest, self-serving, and pointless.

Working in the creative industries has made me acutely aware of feminism’s shortcomings.

The art world (read: hipster world) is a white-dominated sphere (white men and women). On one hand, I am included because I am different, as a token of proof of inclusivity. A checked box: “diversity.” In the writing world, some white people feel as though I am attacking them.

One thing I have also learned is that white people expect me to educate them, when their questions are easily answered by a google search. If I am patient enough to converse (which can be tiring, especially if the person doesn’t want to hear you), and the conversation becomes impassioned, I am suddenly the Angry Black Woman, or the Strong Black Woman (as a pejorative).

The term womanist is one I came across while reading the work of black activist Angela Davis, coined by poet and activist Alice Walker.

Womanism is specific in its inclusion of all women and men, however it emphasizes the ignorance of the needs of women of colour in the mainstream feminist movement. The term womanist was born out of frustration for that ignorance. To me, womanism runs deeper than feminism, acknowledging black women’s culture, emotional endurance, and flexibility.

Womanism seeks to address real-world issues, such as police brutality, the prison-industrial complex, the plight of women in third-world countries, rampant sexual abuse of men, women, and children, as well as disparities in education, healthcare, and employment in the first world. Men are included in the narrative. Womanism gives a voice to the voiceless in a world where black voices, such as my own, can be silenced and discredited by those who claim to be fighting for equality. Womanism is poetic.

White feminism doesn’t seek to capture and elevate our voices. It doesn’t work to create equality for all. I prefer the term womanist. Womanism represents a better world in which the distribution of power is fair, and everyone is accounted for.

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author: Kalida Edwards

Image: Author's Own

Editor: Catherine Monkman

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Kalida Edwards

Kalida Edwards is a student, a mother, an activist, and a passion-fuelled writer from Melbourne, Australia. She has an avid interest in race relations and is a supporter of intersectional feminism, and all compassionate/humanitarian endeavours.

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Ellie Clarneau Aug 19, 2018 2:28pm

This is amazing. I never even thought of the aspect of white feminism, but I think it explains my continued avoidance of it because to me it lacked...something. I couldn't quite figure out what it was. This explained a lot of it, while also highlighting much of my own ignorant privilege. I can own that I probably have that, not by my own doing, but also that I am seeking to obliterate that ignorance and the apparent bliss of oblivion that so many people seem to exist in today. And I don't think you sounded angry at all. Frustrated maybe. But no more so than any of us who are actually paying attention. I appreciate this even more for the fact that something like this can show my daughter, who is a bi-racial teenager concerned that she doesn't "fit in" with this world, that she is perfect exactly how she is and doesn't need to change a damn thing about herself. Thank you!

Tina Tibble Jul 5, 2018 8:18pm

I wonder how long so many of the oppressed will use hatered to attempt to regain their “power”? How long will you support those who seek to oppress you with their divide and rule tactics? We are one, always have been, subscribing to the illusion we are anything else is merely supporting “the man”. #oneloveoneheart

Patrizia Autore-Fitzpatrick Jul 4, 2018 2:15am

I love reading your work , since I started reading you I am always taken by how much you can teach, I am fascinate by the diversity of emotions you evoke in me. Thank you Kalida