Say goodbye to white woman sisterhood…
I started The Feminine Shift with the intentions to write, create an outlet for my ponders on paper, talk about the experiences I face as a woman, to encourage other women to step into their personal power, talk about life lessons, share some personal stories of my struggles with trauma, and to connect with a sisterhood of women all over the world. What I didn’t realize is that some of my writing and work used reckless language riddled with white washed views, and was at times downright offensive. Some of the products I co-created were culturally appropriated, because that’s what white women are taught to do, without any real repercussions.While speaking up about these realizations, I pissed off A LOT of WHITE WOMEN for sharing something that was relevant to my own path and in true Feminine Shift fashion, I share what I am learning. What I am learning is that we, white women, are ridiculously fragile when it comes to talking about race and cultural appropriation. I also learned how abusive and quick white women are to shut down when they are feeling this fragility. If we want to do self-discovery work as a white women this needs to be part of that. If we want to be spiritual and do good in the world then a good start would be to stop trying to recenter our whiteness when in conversation about race and do the work to change that.
I have gotten a lot of pushback since I started sharing how I am coming to terms with my own privilege and how I contribute to systemic racism. I haven’t always spoken up on the topic because I didn’t think it was my place and remained in my silent safe bubble, which was part of my privilege as a white person. I am radio silent these days because I am busy learning to not be the worst.
Unconsciously, I had only been learning from other white people in the self-discovery/self-help industry; it is very white dominate and quite frankly, more often than not, leaves us with damaging messages. I truly feel it needs to be lit on fire, starting with examining how to do it in a more inclusive, real way. I, too have been the defensive white woman that says “I’m not racist”, but the reality is the collective majority of white people are, no matter how subtle or obvious. There is no argument to be had and both are damaging.
So what is it that white women in the self-help/self-discovery, spiritual realm being asked to consider/reevaluate?
To check our language.
To simply stop being so reckless.
To mindfully reevaluate marketing tactics.
To stop abusive and ignorant comments in women of colours spaces.
To stop using women of colour as a token, so we don’t “appear racist” and do the real anti-racism work.
To be aware that a lot of content is white washed, abusive and negligent at best.
To stop putting on all white people summits and use the excuse that we don’t know any people of colour.
To stop stealing and profiting sacred teachings from people of colour without highlighting or paying people from that culture. Better yet, fucking stop cherry picking from religions, deities, ceremonies for trendy ideas that don’t include, paying or centring the people we are taking from!
We, white women, culturally appropriate products and fashions, create courses that are white centred, and use words that are rooted in other people’s culture who are still fighting for basic human rights. Now before the tingle of guilt or defensiveness sets in, know that I was also that clueless white woman at one time too and still learning.
It is hard to realize and hear that we might be a tad bit racist, or a lot racist, collectively. Fragility sets in instead of hearing what could be adapted and change️d. It is difficult to take in that this is ingrained in us. We don’t want to believe it and get very defensive when challenged. “I am a good white person”. Whether we want to look the other way and deny it, is a choice and a lot of white women are digging their heels in, but know that it is perpetuating white supremacy and racism tenfold.
SO here’s how I pissed off a bunch of fellow white women. I shared thoughts on the usage of the word TRIBE. It was a thought provoking piece written by a woman of colour; people calling their newsletter signups, a “tribe”, a group of friends, their “tribe”, “your vibe attracts your tribe”, people who buy shit from you, also “tribe”. Clearly I am paraphrasing, but you get the idea. She was simply stating there are actually still indigenous tribes fighting for their rights in present day, so when white people loosely and freely use words like this, it hurts people. Marginalized ones. It really infuriated me. As I become aware, I become more sensitive about the language I use and how I choose to be in this world.
Some white women tried to chalk it up that people are being too sensitive with semantics, that words found in the dictionary can be used freely and as they see fit, but I wholeheartedly disagree with this. It is more than just semantics. The words that we use in a lighthearted way or to attract sales can deeply offend and further hurt communities of people that we have oppressed for decades and beyond. When we don’t respect or listen to how they feel about us co-opting words that are rooted in their culture, you are bypassing and ignoring “all those lives you are trying to better” if in a coaching business, self-help, or spiritual leadership role or just your basic Instagram handle “@gypsylove @mysistertribe
Other white women feel they are being attacked when asked to do better from black, indigenous, people of colour or asked to be more sensitive about language. “I can’t say anything without offending someone” -to that I say, you sound a lot like a man complaining about the #metoo movement.
Some white women simply don’t give a shit about what shifts are happening in our “industry” ( yes, it is an billion dollar industry, this whole self-help thing) to make it less white centred and more inclusive.
Some of these so called spiritual or lifestyle mentors, and “thought leaders” say their main goal or spiritual journey is to help people, but this is a crock of shit if they leave their privilege unexamined, or brush over the whole human race like we are actually having the same experiences. WE ARE NOT.
For me personally using this word it is a huge, NOPE!
We are afraid to talk about these topics because we get lost in the language around it.
“CHECK YOUR PRIVILEGE” “cultural appropriation” “White fragility” “White WOMAN TEARS” “white people”
A lot of us SHUT DOWN hard before a conversation starts. Some want the message tied up in a bow with soothing music. Whatever the message is from black, indigenous people of colour, no matter how it is coming across, I listen. I listen because I care, because I believe in the collective ownership and inclusive sisterhood. I will change what I need to change, not throw up hands up and say I don’t see colour, fixate on the tone of the message and not the actual message, or say love and light is the answer, it’s not. The answer is to listen, to educate collectively as white women and people, just like collectively, so do men.
In bringing up these topics, according to some white women, I have not done this elegantly, saying I have come off as harsh, that I am shaming white women who don’t understand their own privileges, etc. I am sorry if I did come off as harsh. However, as I learn that more often than not, white women are being blatantly abusive towards women of colour, I don’t take that shit lightly. I will never be graceful about abuse, be it from men or women. So if I know and see any of that behaviour on my page when I share about this topic, or anywhere else, then fully expect any abusive or ignorant comments to be used as examples of what not to say and do for educational purposes, not to shame but to show the reckless ways we abuse and bypass the harm done.
White people are inherently racist because we live in a racist system that we, white people, benefit from and we get a bit out of sorts when we are called out or in about it. The first reaction is to become defensive, because a lot of us think racism is no longer an issue in our societies, but it is. That is like blaming a victim for speaking out and wanting them to shut up and go away because you’re uncomfortable? Men do it to women all the time, so we should be able to empathize with that, but again we seem to have a hard time facing this truth, recentering ourselves instead of the oppressed.
It was hard for me to realize that I was part of all the spiritual fluff and buff I devoured, blindly following other white women leaders then spouting off my own versions when I first started getting into self-help/spirituality and later creating a writing platform. I created a place where white women feminist and women generally flocked because they could relate to what I was saying in regards to being a woman, and at that point hadn’t done any work around my own white privilege. AT ALL. My writing was feel good women stuff, but discluded a large majority of people and lacked true inclusion. I still have a long way to go, and will be forever checking myself. I failed to educate myself and do anti-racism work in my life and business.
So here we are, I have a lot of white women with hurt feelings, saying that “this isn’t the Feminine Shift they signed up for”, and to that I say, “that’s a good thing”. It is not brave nor something to be celebrated when it comes to finally facing white fragility and examining privileges. By expecting applause, we are feeding white supremacy.
I will be the first to admit when I started out looking at race issues, I wanted to be seen as “the good white woman, not racist” but now I see through my own bullshit, I realize that was selfish and about me. None of this is about me. Don’t put on a show, Ange.
It is not my intention to make enemies, but if that is what it takes, so be it. This is the issue we face with hard topics. For those of you still here, do we coddle each other around the topic? Or do we ruffle our feathers a little bit, and get uncomfortable in order to grow. I am learning the best way to speak on certain topics, but it won’t be flawless, that is a given.
I had a friend tell me that I’m derailing my business and ruining my brand. She told me to be more gentle, to educate these white women who are not in the know. And to that I said, a gentle yes to some of that, but mostly NOPE. White women trusted me to give them their daily goodness ALL THE TIME, but that is a disservice to all. I am all for constructive conversations, but on this topic I urge you to look at this if you’re white, especially before going on spaces of women of colour to comment, or engage in the conversations they are trying to centre for black, indigenous, people of colour. In fact, please don’t comment at all in case you do cause harm. Even if it feels innocent, it is probably not if you don’t know. It is not their job to teach you about your own privilege.
On a personal note, I do not owe people my time for free, especially if someone is being rude in the first place and displaying reckless white woman language, who wants to debate for hours on the interwebs. I reserve the right to block a person if they are being ignorant or an asshat.
Shockingly, there is a polite way to ask for more information on a topic, or clarification. I always try to provide links and resources to the people that follow me. I can’t always comment and commit to answering each and every person, that is not possible, but I do try my best to connect further if people are being respectful in my space.
So here is me being gentle,
“I know this topic is uncomfortable” and maybe you’re new to recognizing your own privilege if you’re white (maybe you tune out that word because it’s getting overplayed and you still don’t know what the fuck people are referring to) or for that matter, have a lot of confusion around the topic of race, all the more reason to educate ourselves. Maybe you don’t care to know at all (ahem, that is your privilege right there. You get to choose to do this work or not). I hope you go into this knowing this not about white people’s hurt feelings, this isn’t about our guilt and uncomfortableness. Just like men need to sit down and listen to women, so they can be better. We need to get to work on this. Our silence and lack of knowledge contributes to systemic racism and our ignorance has gone on long enough.
What I am not claiming:
I am not a social justice and racial justice educator. That is why I always provide resources, books and courses created by black, indigenous, people of colour that you can purchase to help you further your knowledge around this. It is not my job to educate but I will provoke thought around certain topics as I always have either written by myself or by someone else. That is The Feminine Shift.
The biggest take home I want you and I to have:
No matter how gentle or blunt it is given, I truly believe you will still feel uncomfortable and a little pissed off that I, or others, are bringing up white privilege, fragility and race because it makes white people look at their inherent racism. Which poses the question, “can well meaning white women be racist?” The answer is, “fuck yes”, but it is a lot more subtle than we think. Once we start to look at it, you are more inclined to examine your own families and friend groups knowing full well that you will have to speak up and call out racist comments and believe me when I say, that is uncomfortable, but necessary. How will anything change if white people don’t start looking at this within ourselves. There is a way we can do that without creating more emotional labour, and that is to listen, pay black, indigenous, people of colour for their work, and educate ourselves.
I will continue to come to terms with the thoughtless language I have used over the years, calling my people “tribe”, calling pizza “my spirit animal” (offensive, so so offensive to indigenous beliefs) and the cultures I have appropriated for my own entertainment, paying no mind to the current and past traumas they have endured. I have referred to myself as a gypsy because I love to travel, not knowing that it is a racial slur. So yeah, fuck me. White people love to kick up a fuss when they are being asked to look a little deeper into their ignorance from someone that is blatantly expressing they feel abused and mistreated. What a narcissistic angle to undermine an oppressed persons hardships.
No matter how many white women tell me they are disappointed in me, that doesn’t matter because I would rather do what is right than “remain likeable”. I may have lost a number of “friends” and plenty of followers for sharing my thoughts and other women’s thoughts on a very loaded topic, but to that I say, good. I am gaining insight as to why I won’t be using certain words, closely examining what I choose to create, what I read, what I consume and by who, who I write for, and who I choose to promote. I will continue to undo what was taught to me by society and stay in my own lane while I am at it.
We don’t have to agree on everything, but I do urge us all to do some digging around our life and businesses, if you are a white woman.
I will fuck this up, but I will always course correct when need be. Self-reflection is important, as is becoming a better person, but it is also important to collectively wake up to the fact that our white washed ways need to die with the patriarchal system. One, I benefit from with colour of my skin, and the other, but I am lesser because I am a woman. Can we see the commonality?
I get to have boundaries around my life, my social media and writing. It’s ok where you and I might may differ, but gaslighting, spiritual bypassing, focusing on tone and not the actual message, abusing women of colour, calling me bitter and accusing me of pitting women against each other? Nah, this is REAL sisterhood and in order to get to a meaningful place, we gotta stop bullshiting ourselves about race issues. Yes, it is uncomfortable, but that is the FEMININE SHIFT at its core.
I wanted to leave a few resources that I found helpful.
SO YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT RACE: IJEOMA OLUO
WHITE SPACES MISSING FACES AND ANTAGONIST, ADVOCATES & ALLIES: CATRICE M JACKSON
WHY I’M NO LONGER TALKING TO WHITE PEOPLE ABOUT RACE: RENI EDDO-LODGE
RACISM- THE WORK OF BYRON KATIE- (Furthering this WOC racial trauma is abusive and negligent of Byron Katie)