Is White feminism different than Black Feminism? Of fucking course. Is white culture different from black culture? Do white women have a different struggle, on the whole, than black women? Absolutely.
Last night my son was studying factor pairs on Khan Academy. Stay with me. Just as 18 can be stated as 6×3, it can also be stated as 9×2. Same result, different factors. Male white supremacy has different factors too. It is made up of marginalizing POC. (let’s call that 6×3). It also requires establishing hierarchical dichotomies (9×2). Additionally it needs silent partners to help enforce and propagate the structure throughout generations (18×1).
Black feminism certainly deals with issues of 6×3, and knocking down the 9×2 way of looking at things. White feminism overlaps with black feminism in the 9×2 arena. White and black feminism both contain values of cooperation and community rather than competition and hierarchy. But white feminism has the unique challenge of addressing the 18×1 situation.
Huh? What the factor am I talking about? Here it is: White women, particularly white moms, are the “silent partner” of white male supremacy. We cheerlead, enable, participate in, and support the white male’s supremacy over women, animals, POC, nature. OMG, all the basic bitches are all screaming at me now from behind their lattes on the way to Muffins for Mom!
“Not me!,” they shout. I don’t support male supremacy over women! Really, Becky, do you ever participate in stereotyping men as powerful and women as weak? Men as serious and women as ditzy? Ever see it as your job to take care of shit like cooking, cleaning, and his job to pay for stuff and open doors? Then, yeah, you do. (PS I’m white and I’m used to getting called Becky. I once dated a guy for 9 years and his Latino father still thinks my name is Becky. Or Jenny.)
But….I don’t support white supremacy! Really, have you ever acted on a racial stereotype? Ever denied something was racially motivated that you easily could have argued the other way on, when in actual fact you didn’t know and didn’t really care? I’m gonna answer that one for you. Yes, you have. We ALL have.
But… I don’t feel superior to nature! Ever taken a science class, Jenny, say..biology? The first thing you learn is CLASSIFICATION, right? We are TAUGHT in our Eurocentric educational system to feel superior to nature, to divide it up into little pieces and give it names and save some of it forever in museums and parks and decide some of it is evil and invasive and should be poisoned. WTF am I talking about, “Eurocentric”? Well, do Indigenous cultures get all German about organizing their environments? Something to research, if you are interested. Also, do you have a pet? It’s your prisoner, right? It Loves being your pet, and was Bred for that purpose. But it is some Nature under your complete Control. We’re all doing it, so it must be okay.
OK, so if you are with me that white and black feminism have distinctly different jobs to do, or Undo, as the case may be, then should we completely divide up and black people do black feminism and white people do white feminism? No, but that is already kind of happening. Take a second and google “white feminism”. Do it. I’ll wait…
Notice anything about what came up? A ton of negative shite, right? Some black feminists yelling at us, lots of criticism, blame…good stuff! If you didn’t already, go ahead and google “Black feminism.” How’s that look? A little more scholarly, a little less hate-ey?
The truth is, white women can learn from the black feminists. The same stereotype that blacks are louder than whites (think movie theatres, yeah I said it) can also be seen as a strength in the black culture overall. Because when you can loudly express yourself, you have some power. It feels good, it puffs you up. When’s the last time you saw a white female icon taking up space, screaming and laughing? Not on the pages of a fashion magazine. Not as a Nancy Reagan silent partner. We stay small, we smile, we are silent unless we sound sweet. We always agree with our man (Melania Trump) and we don’t really have our own ideas, because we aren’t supposed to.
So are we getting anywhere by dividing up the two feminisms into white and POC? Well, I believe POC need the distinction, because they have the intersectionality of racism and sexism to contend with. (Whatever the eff that is – I’m blonde, after all). But I also think the distinction can be useful and nonthreatening to POC to note the specific task of white feminism to dismantle the “silent partner” status of white women. I mean, how do you do that anyway? Do we uncouple and de-partner from men. Be single, be lesbians, go poly, etc? An option. Do we stay coupled but get fucking LOUD about NOT supporting white male supremacy whether it be misogyny or racism or earth-hating? Why not. The point is, if we reframe the white feminism goal from “equality” to “dismantling silent partner behavior and replacing it with a structure that is more authentically womanist”, we can have clear cut objectives for white feminists that complement the equally important struggle of POC and black feminists.