White Feminism Is Annoying

I woke up this morning to see this t-shirt.

Meryl Streep, who I love, is wearing a quote by Emmeline Pankhurst, a suffragette. Meryl will be playing her in the upcoming film, ‘Suffragette’. I believe the film is important because oftentimes history only shows men advancing, creating, changing the world and other cool shit they’ve done. And without suffrage we wouldn’t be voting. However, I will point out that the suffragist movement largely excluded non-white women. As a matter of fact, many suffragists were racist and anti-Black. White feminism is famous for ignoring anything that isn’t white and cisgender.

“ By and large within the women’s movement today, white women focus upon their oppression as women and ignore differences of race, sexual preference, class, and age. There is a pretense to a homogeneity of experience covered by the word sisterhood that does not in fact exist.” — Audre Lorde

I understand that films need to do press and marketing. They have to promote the film so people will want to see it. Putting this quote on a t-shirt is not the way. Let me tell you three reasons why.

  1. For slaves, there isn’t a choice given between rebellion and slavery. You’re either a slave or a dead body. And in many cases, like enslaved Africans in America, once you’re no longer considered a slave you’re still at the mercy of the system and the people who enslaved you.
  2. Many facets of modern white feminism were escapes from leisure, not slavery. Many were fighting to get jobs and higher pay because they were bored and lonely. Many didn’t want to feel stuck under a man’s thumb, understandably. Women of color were already working out of necessity (we never had leisure time) and still aren’t making what they should.
  3. White feminists are already grasping at these damn shirts. “Omg! Want! Want!” But they aren’t taking into consideration the fact that millions of women are STILL enslaved right now today. All over the world women, of many cultures and nationalities, are domestic slaves, sex slaves, nuptial slaves, labor slaves, etc. And it isn’t just an international issue, it happens right here on good ol red, white and blue soil also.

Emmeline Pankhurst had many amazing quotes that spoke to the soul of the suffrage movement. Shock value is a common selling tactic. But this is tacky and tasteless.

A few of my favorite Pankhurst quotes:

Justice and judgment lie often a world apart.
Trust in God — she will provide.
I have made speeches urging women to adopt methods of rebellion such as have been adopted by men in every revolution.

It only takes a few moments of critical thinking and careful consideration to realize that your decision may be hurting a very large group of people and marginalizing their constant suffering. Be mindful.