Sooo Vanilla:

On whitewashing.

Vanilla by Laymik for The Noun Project.

“Mind so colonized, you think vanilla is white.” Internet Quote.

The first time I heard about the Women’s March on Washington was from a Facebook post. It was first called the Million Women March.

Gladly, I was not the only one that rolled their eyes at white feminist’s efforts to grasps for unity after realizing that their whiteness won’t save them from the crushing evangelic patriarchy which Trump and his “administration” has begun to exert against our human and civil rights.

Through social media, this march became heavily criticized by Intersectional Feminists as a co-opt of both the Million Men March as well as the Million Women March in Philadelphia a few years back, which was organized and mostly attended by Black women.

Thankfully the folks behind the march were receptive to the concerns brought up and the leadership was taken over by a diverse group of women. The marches were well led, well attended, peaceful and noticeably cleaner than other similar events. There were sister marches all over the globe. The speakers chosen and the agenda put forth was a radical depart from second wave feminism and I was so glad to see so many “If your feminism isn’t intersectional…” signs in a sea of pink hats. The day after the march I saw more people on social media speak about intersectionality than ever before.

What should have been a momentous celebration and a perfect time for discourse and education turned into a shit-show of debated opinions on social media on everything from the validity and necessity of the feminist movement at this moment in history. Conservative women with internalized misogyny held the mic for way too long: Like, who cares what Tami Lauren thinks about the march when it is imperative that after this event, which was very cis/het/white dominated, that trans-inclusion, sex worker’s rights and racism are discussed.

As days went by, the media began focusing on the march and its narrative, whitewashing a lot of it. Focusing on the peacefulness of this protest to highlight or rather diminish the efforts of other peaceful protests like BLM. Completely ignoring that police did not nor would it ever, meet a large crowd of white women and children the way that it does marginalized groups protesting. I can honestly say I am not surprised though. We are living in a time when actor, activist and Jewish man Shia Labeouf is arrested for pushing off a nazi that tried to hijack his performance arts piece/ live stream “He Will Not Divide Us” as the public is left to discuss the validity of a Jewish man defending himself from a nazi. On the same week as Holocaust Remembrance Day no less.

After not being able to find each other at the March, a friend of mine and I got together midweek to talk about our experiences. As our conversation turned to white nonsense at the march, she tells me a peak liberalism story: My friend whom is a kick ass Latinx veteran was offered a HRC poster to hold during the march by a group of college age white girls. She politely declined and as the white girls pressed on about she being our true president, my friend, aggravated exclaimed that she despised the career politician and known white feminist. These young white girls proceeded to call my friend a fascist and lived to tell the story. As she retold the tale, we both agreed that they were misguided. For them it was like a grrrl power parade. They went back to their relatively safe, privileged lives after. This march represented for us, as children of immigrants, as a woman whom has served her country, or as just Latina women living in our bodies during and even before this regime, the act of resistance in our part that led us to march for ourselves and women like us can never be whitewashed or taken away. We went back to our work and our praxis after the march.

I noticed that some women definitely felt like my friend and I and got to work.

Some regressed a little though, white feminists that marched and vowed on social media to make their feminism more intersectional spent more time sharing and liking problematic photos of cops in pussy hats, cops hugging white marchers, or the viral photo of the group of white girls dressed up as suffragettes, holding Beyonce lyric posters down in Louisiana’s march or becoming defensive when seeing photos and commentary of WOC signs, completely hijacking valuable conversation and centering it around their hurt feelings instead of hearing WOC out. A lot of feminist friends overshared that fake-deep ‘no, you are not equal’ post that began with a long shout out list of white feminists like eugenics proponent Margaret Sanger and known racist Susan B. Anthony, whom would’ve rather cut off her arm than see Black men having voting rights before white women.

The amount of traction on this post is both shocking and not at all surprising. I couldn’t get past the short sentence where important WOC were hurriedly mentioned after so much time pontificating the virtues of white feminists without taking the opportunity to remind the reader they’re also problematic. “Thank Susan B. Anthony? Uh, no thanks.” I stopped reading after that.

I would rather focus on thanking the diverse group of women that organized the March as well as keeping the fire which you felt through the march in real world action. In the midst of this I was also able to see clearly the many white sisters and allies that have taken this march and its energy as an opportunity to read my writing, reach out and continue this process of learning through conversation.

Performative allyship and white feminism are just toxic to the leftist movement: we do not want to disparage any of our sisters fighting patriarchy and capitalism in whatever way they are fighting. From feminists like myself whom just began publicly speaking, painting or writing on these subjects, to women whom have laid the ground work and have spent years educating us all on these issues to new folks trying to learn more, we need to be more open to the idea of self criticism. If you are called out on something, take a moment to check yourself, take a second to listen to those speaking up and think before you speak. If you fucked up, ask forgiveness, educate yourself and do better! Work to educate others and organize to resist together.

Now more than ever we need to hear women of color’s views on the subject of Feminism. One resolution I have been carrying out on the first month of the year is following, reading and supporting more women of color and overall intersectional creators and content.