Solidarity is For White Women? My Opinion

After gender studies writer Hugo Schywzer “quit” the Internet and had a mental breakdown (on which I believe everything that has to be said has been said on various media outlets), Blogger Mikki Kendall started the Twitter hashtag #solidarityisforwhitewomen. It has opened up a long-overdue discussion on the inherent racism in mainstream feminism. Jezebel (former home of Schwyzer’s column) posted about it, apparently oblivious to the fact that their role in pushing Schwyzer’s agenda and silencing or banning commenters (particularly women of color) who criticized him and their decision to publish his work had led to this in the first place.

Do I think that solidarity is for white women? Absolutely. I’m one of the many women of color who hesitates to call themselves a feminist because I, as many do, feel excluded by mainstream feminism (often referred to as white feminism).  My own experiences, like many, have led to this hesitation, and I can see from reading various blogs that this feeling is quite common.

Last year, I found myself part of an online feminist group. It was quite fun and interesting at first. I enjoyed getting to know many women, discussing current events, and  addressing serious issues along with the more trivial ones. Occasionally, after a while, an issue would crop up and it would occur to me that there was a persistent race and class (racism’s close cousin) problem within. There would be a big discussion about it, and nothing would change. After several months, I had a verbal altercation with a young woman regarding race and class that ended up in a discussion spanning several days. Many of the women remained silent on the matter, some blocked me along with other women of color, and  some told me that it “wasn’t a big deal,” or that “now was not a good time.” It never seems to be a good time to discuss racial profiling, poverty, and urban violence. I was told that I was “scary” to them, someone whose only crime was apparently unpopular discourse. When a woman of color speaks her mind, the word “scary” always seems to come up. I can’t say how insulting it is to be constantly referred to as scary when being outspoken, always afraid to invoke the Angry Black Woman trope. Many of my “friends,” people whom I had visited and spend a lot of time with, suddenly disappeared and no longer had any contact with me. I withdrew myself from the group, along with the majority of the women of color.

After that, I don’t see myself rallying with mainstream white feminists anywhere in the near future. I might be welcome as long as I keep myself in line, as long as I don’t say anything that causes anyone to feel uncomfortable about their privilege, or question their own possible racism. This is a typical story. You could remove the names and it would nearly be the same story, over and over again.

I may still hope for change, but  I’m no longer holding my breath.

32 thoughts on “Solidarity is For White Women? My Opinion”

  1. Late to the party, but I wanted to thank you for this post. I do not identify as a feminist precisely because as a poor, fat, mentally ill, woman of color I feel unwelcome at best and actively and violently marginalized at worst by mainstream, white feminism. I’m really sorry that you had to deal with that kind of abuse from people that should have been supportive of you. I know how awful that feels.

  2. This is very disheartening. These “feminists” should be supportive of how you feel. All sisters should support one another especially with oppression of any kind. I’m very taken aback that “white feminist solidarity” is a real thing. it’s quite an ugly thing too. These women should know by now that claims to oppression like this are valid. To demonize black women as scary is just as bad as saying any feminist is too “manly” and scary. Ironically, by doing this they are only proving how much more this needs to be rectified and that they are no better then the chauvinists they rail against. Do not snuff out your voice for others. More power to you!

  3. Zahrah,

    Take my advice – stop beating your head against a brick wall! And please tell me one thing – why are you venting to people who don’t share your interests or even want to? The first is the last: White women live with privilege because black women don’t; would you give your black privileges away to someone not black? No. Not under any circumstances.

  4. I hope that at the very least, somebody lurking and shy heard you and learned something valuable from your fracas with the “no big deal”/dismissive jerk ladies. I am always so disappointed when people decide something true is just Too Scary to listen to– who likes staying ignorant?

    Also… I haven’t read what was going on in the debate you refer to, but I would bet money you were never mean.

    1. It’s heartbreaking that this is something that had to be written, in light of how long other WoC have been sharing similar stories.

      This pretty much sums up how I feel about this too. I just feel, i guess, disappointed that we aren’t doing better. I’m not really sure why I keep feeling let down, when I avoid mainstream feminism due to feelings of alienation myself (over considerably more minor matters of being both working class and not of the opinion that religion is something I needed to educate myself out of). But it always sucks to hear that mainstream feminism failed at intersectionality, again.

  5. Thank you for sharing your experience. I’ve seen this happen over and over again, regardless of the forum. In fact, at first I thought your name was a pseudonym for someone I knew — your experiences sound nearly identical. (Then, of course, I was reminded by your article that this is a really common story.) It’s a disgrace that this happens.

    1. Hey, ad hominem attacks aren’t cool here. You aren’t in any way commenting on the argument in her article, which is about feminism’s limitations, especially for PoC. What’s more, your words are very much like the type of verbal attacks she describes having encountered, which makes me think maybe your middle name is privilege.

    2. … Seriously? As others have said, you are using ad hominem attacks. And I do believe that if you had listened to the writings of not only our friend Zahra but to any of the many WoC you would understand how racialized and distorted some of those perceptions are. My goodness, what a clear demonstration of what Zahra is talking about.

    3. Your comment says a whole lot more about you than it says about Zahra. And before you go calling someone else a bitch, take a look in the mirror. Your attitude and your language is an accurate representation of what went on there. It’s the reason that a LOT of people left. Note that I said LEFT, not shunned. And if you’re going to poke your nasty head in here and appoint yourself as a representative of the whole group, at least have the fucking balls to use your own name.

    4. Hear, hear.

      Oprah Winfrey broke the fourth wall down. She made people think they matter and they don’t. Oprah gives away cars, houses and vacations. She has a show once a year where she just gives crap away. She made everyone think they’re someone special and they’re not. I don’t blame you or anyone else for ripping this ugly gorilla a new one. It’s that stupid show that makes everyone else think they’re liked.

  6. I’m glad this is being covered. I remember when the whole Hugo thing was first going down a couple of years ago, and I never understood why some feminists were standing by him. I personally never thought he wrote anything particularly thought provoking, but I guess it really was just for the page views.

    1. Hugo was in it more for himself than anything else. Yes, I’ll acknowledge that the man has some serious issues, but I think it comes to a point when he needs to STOP. There were some points in his life when he was a horrible guy and I think all of this is to show the public and convince himself that he has somehow reformed.

      I think he shows a terrible lack of empathy for WOC and LGBTQ who could seriously benefit from what feminism offers. He seems to be rather thoughtless when it comes to concerns outside of white feminism, which in turn contributes to the general thoughtlessness and cluelessness of other white feminists.

      1. Just to clarify, when I said I didn’t think he wrote anything thought provoking, I meant I think he never wrote anything profound or good. He did definitely write derogatory stuff about WOC and and singled them out to silence them, I think especially around when the Amanda Marcotte/Plagiarism issue happened.

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