The problem with White feminism

As the feminist movement starts to gain more attention, we see patterns start to emerge in the way women from different backgrounds and races interpret feminism. Their interpretation is influenced by their experiences and interactions with the world. It only makes sense that one interpretation of feminism is sourced from the privileged, white viewpoint; white feminism. A quasi feminist “movement” that thrives on being inclusive, and is ignorant to the different levels of oppression faced by colored women. The feminism that incorrectly simplifies the issue at hand by removing race and culture from it. White feminism stands up and says “ We are all equally oppressed, regardless if your opinions or experiences may say otherwise.” Once again the issues of white, western women are far more important than those of colored, ethnic women. A white woman, by continually ignoring the colored narrative, makes it clear that her place in society is more deserving of protection than any woman of color. She does this by turning away when she sees colored women speaking out about an issue and getting brutally criticized for it, when she knows she would have been praised for doing the same. She does this by encouraging the stereotype that ‘all black women are angry and bitter by dragging race into everything’. Most importantly, a white feminist does the most damage to the progress made by colored women when she appropriates their culture, and distances herself when things get tough.

For those who are not aware, there is a difference between embracing and accepting a culture and appropriating it. Appropriation is when a white woman wears dreadlocks and mainstream media dubs her ‘hip and stylish’, but when a black woman dons the hairstyle passed down to her by her ancestors, she’s ‘dirty and thuggish’. Properly embracing a culture is when you learn, and understand about the beliefs/customs, and if necessary, defend it using your knowledge. In situation that involves the former, those who are guilty of appropriating black culture are not the only ones to blame, the media does considerable damage by encouraging people to believe stereotypes and by promoting Eurocentric ideals of beauty. However, the woman in the wrong has the chance to undo some of the damage done by the media and herself. For example, recently a young actress, Amandla Stenberg reminded Kylie Jenner that its wrong to embrace black culture while blatantly ignoring the issues facing blacks. Instead of realizing that she had done what many others do, shown that that black features are only acceptable on whites, she brushed it off with a lazy retort. That only encouraged media outlets and bystanders to chastise Amandla for being the “typical, angry black woman” and as Andy Cohen so eloquently puts it, a jackhole. Stenberg, a 16 black girl is once again reduced to a bitter woman, when Kylie Jenner a 17 year old is “just a kid (who in every other case is “mature beyond her years”) and doesn’t deserve the criticism.” Your response to that should be, “and Amandla does?”

In the end, this was not a petty twitter fight between two young girls over a meaningless topic, this is an example of how white women are constantly benefiting from the system. By no means is every white woman guilty of harming women of color, but many do it unconsciously, simply because their privilege is so engrained into our systems. When a woman of color brings up an instance in which she felt her rights are being abused, or her culture is being whitewashed, she is ignored and she is asked to calm down. When a black woman says #blackwomenmatter, a white woman responds #allwomenmatter, as if to say “the issue is not important if it does not benefit me”. This spin-off of feminism stems from an entire culture and system that institutionalized the act of destroying the efforts of colored women by placing them at disadvantage socially, economically and politically. White feminism aggravates the pain felt by WOC as it strives to hit them where it hurts, by refusing to validate their feelings, issues and opinions; All the while stealing from their cultures and using it as a cushion to protect them from criticism.