Intersectionality and the politics of white feminism.

Blac(k)ademic has a very articulate post up about a comment that she received when guest-blogging at Alas, A Blog and in my eyes really brings out how mainstream feminism is in fact still dominated by whiteness, despite so much work done by feminists of color, third world/black feminists and anti-racist white feminists. Mainstream understandings of feminisms (in many cases, far be it for me to essentialize here) still show to be obsessed with the reduction of issues, in this case the belief that gender could possibly *trump* race.
nubian says…

…it is ridiculous to lay claim to the idea that all women are oppressed on equal terms, simply because they are women. obviously, oppression is more complicated than that and i personally think that gender does not trump anything. instead, there are interlocking systems of oppression that women face based on gender, race, class, sexuality, religious background, nationality, citizenship status and so forth. it is very naive and very, very 2nd wave-ish to say, “well, gender trumps race.” i can’t even understand how one can come to such a conclusion.
in the case of the current duke scandal, some folks feel that we must pay attention to the issue of gender before race since, she is a WOMAN and was allegedly attacked by MEN. however, i don’t see how we can only pay attention to her as a woman, or as just a black woman, or even as a economically disenfrachised black woman, for that matter–all of her identities must be taken into account. her race is already determining who believes her and who doesn’t, how bad of a parent she is (the myth of the bad black mother), and it’s determining how she is misrepresented in the media. additionally, we must not forget that we exist in a media saturated world that continuously reproduces negative images that deem black womens bodies as disposable sex objects. it is all too impossible to deny that those images do not play a strong part in concluding how she was/is/will be treated by men of all races. furthermore, if one believes that gender trumps race in this specific situtation, then they deny the harm of the racial slurs that were hurled at the dancers, which i personally see as a form of violence towards these women–no matter what.

I couldn’t agree more. And to add to it sexism and racism (among other issues, but this is not my dissertation) are not only intersected but they continually reinforce each other. Things like the feminization of poverty (that women of color are the poorest sector of our society) or the emasculation of men of color (black men being systematically raped in the criminal justice system asserting white male paranoia, anxiety and dominance over *them*) describe moments when issues of class, race, gender, sexuality are interrelating to create new types of realities, differing moments of oppression, that would simply go ignored if we are to look at singular categories of *oppression*. This type of thinking is useless for me. No one ever sees me and thinks “a woman!” they immediately see my race (fuck half the time they hear my race) and that could never *trump* my experience as a woman.
Furthermore, feminists of color are often (and continually, usually subversively) asked to put their race (among other) *issues* to the side to call for some kind of fictional universal sisterhood fighting towards a type of equality we may not even agree with (and an equality the men of “our” diaspora never had). This is in no way a new critique but one that has been discussed and hashed out several times over by many different feminists. But reading the comments to her post (and thinking about all the times I cringe to read the comments when I write about women of color) I realize little has changed…
Ultimately I have to wonder, what is the mainstream face of feminism? All the work we (women of color) have done, has it trickled to the mainstream? Or are people still under the belief that patriarchy functions in a vacuum and is the sole root of oppression? (clearly this discussion is for people that recognize that patriarchy is oppressive…)
Jessica and I were talking the other night about all the posts we have done on women of color and third world women and how ultimately the posts that get the most discussion, the most comments, the most attention are the ones about dating, or differences between men and women, or body image. Of course these discussion are important (and often humorous), but can they *really* be had without rigorous analysis and incorporation of class, race, sexuality etc. And is it still that difficult to engage in discussion about/with/around women of color or are we still strategically and instinctually left out of the dialogue of mainstream feminism?
This is just the tip of the iceburg but since we are a mainstream feminist blog and I am a woman of color writing for a mainstream feminist blog, I thought it was really important to bring this discussion here.
Thoughts?

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98 Comments

  1. jessi
    Posted April 27, 2006 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    I wanted to add that I think Gwen really has a good point…it really does require a dialogue. Because on one hand, you don’t want to “other”-ize the person that isn’t like you (“gee your black, isn’t that interesting?”) but you don’t want to ignore the realities and struggles.
    I think especially since now women must also struggle with their division between women’s rights and ethnic or national rights, as well as race. It is really tough. But there are certainly some issues that cross borders and others that are unique, and I think it is so worthwhile and important to understand that the struggle for a better world requires everyone to care about both.

  2. Posted April 27, 2006 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

    I’ve had some wonderful long talks with a local activist mentor on the subject of race, and the statement that she hates the most–that she believes is most disingenuous–is “When I look at you, I don’t see a black/white person.”
    That’s, frankly, an insult. That’s like saying “When I look at you, Tom, I don’t see a man.” What do you see, then? Someone who is raceless and genderless? I mean, I pride myself on being antiracist and culturally androgynous to a point and I agree that race and gender are mostly cultural constructs, but that doesn’t change the fact that I’m a white man, and if you look at me and don’t see a white man, you aren’t really looking at me.
    When I look at that photo of Kortney Ryan Ziegler, I see a confident and very intense young black woman. I see she’s black. I see she’s a woman. When I look at that photo of Samhita, I see a very confident and very friendly-looking young Indian-American woman. I see she’s Indian-American. I see she’s a woman. I see she’s friendly-looking, though that has less to do with her race than with her warm and gracious smile, and in fact if you were to tap into my brain and look at my personal history with Indian-Americana versus African-American women I think you’d see that friendliness is a quality that I stereotypically associate more with the latter group than the former. Cultural stereotypes are important, but it’s how we filter them that matters.
    I know I respect Ms. Ziegler. I don’t know that I’d have as much fun hanging out with her as I do with my feminist allies here in Jackson–a city that is 72% African-American, where most local feminist activists are in fact women of color–but I do have immense respect for Ms. Ziegler. I read her blog regularly. I ranked her #3 on my top feminist blogs list.
    Do I read and participate in her blog as much as I do Feministing? No, not really. I’ve tried, but as striking as her own comments are, what I have to say in the comments field never sounds all that intelligent or original. I have the sense that I am speaking completely without authority or expertise, so I don’t speak at all. I don’t know if it’s the blog style or the subject matter, but I doubt it’s because the blog focuses on race because I discuss race all the time on the local alternative weekly blog (and no, it is not a lily-white or even noticeably predominantly white site). Hell, I’ve criticized black politicians for not adequately standing up for black constituents. Race indicts me, but being indicted doesn’t scare me anymore. I have accepted the fact that I have these diseases called institutional sexism and institutional racism and that all men and all whites, respectively, share that diagnosis. With that knowledge I can go forward without self-censorship or apology, because I have nothing to hide. Most whites who are uncomfortable discussing race are uncomfortable because they’re pretending to be something that they’re not: People who have somehow managed to completely escape and transcend institutional racism, despite benefitting from it in countless ways.
    But I ramble. SarahS, I find your post obnoxious and disrespectful, your character judgments of Ms. Ziegler ill-founded, your assessment of your own belief system and your own subconscious biases inadequately self-critical. I think you need to take a good long look at that deep dark truthful mirror.
    But that’s just me, speaking with the self-ordained authority that white male privilege grants me. It makes no more sense to apologize for that than it does for a duck to apologize for having a beak, but at least I’m conscious of my privilege. Maybe you need to become more conscious of yours.
    Cheers,
    TH

  3. Sylke
    Posted April 27, 2006 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

    “Regarding some of the comments above where folks are saying things like, “i have no idea what it’s like to be a black woman so i can’t talk about it”:
    that mindset is patronizing (oh those poor souls, i have no idea what it’s like to live so hard)”

    No more patronizing than assuming that being a black woman means being a “poor soul” with a hard life? Give me a break–as a white woman, how the hell can I know what the life of a black woman is like unless I hear her tell it? When I ask for the life experiences of people who have different ethnicities/religions/orientations/histories than mine, I’m simply asking a peer to share their knowledge with me.
    “Same kind of thing when I speak with men, and of course I’m happy to speak about feminism, but there is this feeling of–it’s not my job to teach you what it’s like to be a woman.”
    I have to disagree. Instead of stating what I don’t know/would like to know, I’ll relate a personal experience: A group of my women friends and I were sharing a common area on campus when John, a colleague, approached us and plopped down the question “What is it like to have a period?” At first we all looked at him like he was crazy, but when we realized his curiosity was genuine, we told him. And told him. And told him. He listened to every word, and although the man will never himself experience menses, I think he truly “got it.” I respected him for being brave enough to ask the question as well as intently listening and absorbing all that we had to say with authentic interest and respect.
    Was it my job to educate him on what it’s like to be a woman experiencing a period? You bet it was, because he genuinely wanted to know and I had first-hand knowledge. Who would have benefited if we had all clammed up, or told him “You’ll never understand, so don’t bother asking.”

  4. justine
    Posted April 27, 2006 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    Jessica – we read a piece by a woman who said essentially, it’s not the job of the oppressed to teach the oppressor–go out and learn that shit yourself.
    here you go -
    Audre Lourde in, “Age, Race, Class, and Sex: Women Redefining Difference”
    Whenever the need for some pretense of communication arises, those who profit from our oppression call upon us to share our knowledge with them. In other words, it is the responsibility of the oppresssed to teach the oppressors their mistakes. I am responsible for educating teachers who dismiss my children’s culture in school. Black and Third-World people are expected to educate white people as to our humanity. Women are expected to educate men. Lesbians and gay men are expected to educate the heterosexual world. The oppressors maintain their position and evade responsibility for their own actions.

  5. Jessica
    Posted April 27, 2006 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    thanks, justine. shame on me for not remembering.

  6. nubian
    Posted April 27, 2006 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

    I know I respect Ms. Ziegler. I don’t know that I’d have as much fun hanging out with her as I do with my feminist allies here in Jackson–a city that is 72% African-American, where most local feminist activists are in fact women of color–but I do have immense respect for Ms. Ziegler.
    ya know, i’m really likeable in person. my blog is not representative of me as a whole, neither is the image i chose to display. :-)

  7. Posted April 27, 2006 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

    perhaps “whiny” and “petulant” are really “fatigued at continually being expected to be nice rather than be angry so that white feminists like sarahs can feel all comfortable and stuff.”
    seriously chica: your critique sounds a lot more whiny and petulant (and angry in a desperate sort of way) than anything nubian has *ever* written.
    that said, i’ll basically agree with what nubian says. i think white feminists either (a) don’t know where to begin the dialogue or (b) disagree. either way it’s usually because racism has not been their experience. so rather than discuss the issue and risk looking like an idiot or a white-sheet wearer, people stay silent.
    it’s much easier to revel in or retreat into your privilege than it is to be challenged on it.

  8. David Thompson
    Posted April 27, 2006 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

    we read a piece by a woman who said essentially, it’s not the job of the oppressed to teach the oppressor–go out and learn that shit yourself.
    Um, who are the “oppressors” supposed to learn that stuff from?

  9. Posted April 27, 2006 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

    nubian writes:
    ya know, i’m really likeable in person. my blog is not representative of me as a whole, neither is the image i chose to display. :-)
    I believe that. :o ) Part of it is that I’m smile-oriented–partly a southern thing, partly a personal quirk. If you look back at photos of me, I’m almost always smiling.
    (Including one slightly disturbing photo of a local NOW meeting where everyone else is looking somberly at the camera but I’m sitting there in the center of the photo with a big goofy grin on my face. I winced when I saw that. Reminded me of the cover of Leonard Cohen’s Death of a Ladies’ Man.)
    When other folks aren’t smiling, I always wonder if it’s something I did!
    Cheers,
    TH

  10. piny
    Posted April 27, 2006 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

    Um, who are the “oppressors” supposed to learn that stuff from?
    Do you honestly not see the difference between, “You may never ask these questions,” and, “Go to the library yourself?” The problem isn’t that “oppressors” want to learn; the problem is that these questions have been asked and answered by oppressed people countless times. Given the marginalization of “minority” theorists, everyone has to search for formal critiques of privilege–even oppressed people! The difference between you and them is that they have a greater incentive to do that work. There are a multitude of brilliant thinkers out there, and their analysis isn’t all that hard to find. Instead of shoring up the false dichotomy between hand-holding and ignorance, or the mythical dearth of feminist writing by women of color, why not start at wikipedia and go from there?

  11. Posted April 27, 2006 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

    I’ve learned a lot from oppressed folks. But I think there’s a distinction here that needs to be made:
    (1) You have a responsibility to learn, but
    (2) They do NOT have a responsibility to teach you.
    This is the sort of thing you usually have to learn from people you care about, who also care about you. You can’t just beat people over the head with it.
    When privileged people are looking to be “educated” on this sort of thing, what they’re usually looking for is proof. And they’re going about it in a lazy kind of way. I found this article very educational. I find much of what I read on Kortney’s blog to be very educational. Those are good places to start.
    Cheers,
    TH

  12. Pamela
    Posted April 27, 2006 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

    While it is important to note that race tends to be overlooked as a factor in discussion of feminism, I think one thing everyone seems to overlook is how race negatively impacts white women as well. Race and gender are not always factors that compound upon each other in a simple fashion; in other words, it’s not simple enough to say that to be black in addition to being a woman always makes things worse than being white and female. Rather, race impacts gender differently in different circumstances. I would argue that in contemporary culture white women often are used as a convenient target for those (white) men in power as an outlet for reactionary sexism. White females are, at times, more threatening to the power of white males in power than women of color because they represent to them a challenge to their own sense of masculinity. When black women succeed in various endeavors, it is more often viewed as a development within the context of black culture rather than a development in the wider culture in general. It is viewed as something that reflects upon the status of black men in particular rather than men in general, and as something that is a trend in black culture, not culture at large. When white women succeed in an area, that is viewed as a general gender development in society and, as such, a reflection on men in general, and white men in particular. My example of this would be education. For years there has been a problem with black and Latino males falling behind in school compared to black and Latino females. However, this flew under the radar and very few people discussed this issue nationally. Now that white males have fallen behind white females it has become an issue. Currently, the majority of college degrees go to white women. Suddenly, this is a problem– and make no mistake, this is about race. As Thomas Mortenson was quoted as saying in Salon.com, “Yet, as more and more women substitute careers for having babies, I’ve come to see that we’re looking at a population crisis. The most educated women have the fewest children — this is not rocket science, it’s just the way things work. We need women to have 2.1 children [in order to maintain the U.S. population], but the recent Census Bureau reports show that American women with bachelor’s degrees average only 1.7. You can do the math — if we continue this way the white population is headed for extinction.” Besides the fact that this statement reeks of racist thinking, it points out that the men who are now concerned about this issue are mainly concerned with how it pertains to white men (and, hence, white women). What I mean by all this is that we need to view gender more in the context of race as many women of color have said, but we also need to be aware of how race affects white women in terms of gender beyond whatever privileges we receive for being white. White feminists also overlook this fact as well.

  13. em!
    Posted April 27, 2006 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

    I feel like I just walked into a room where one of the great conversations of the world is happening – every piece is as interesting as the next.
    I want to go back to an earlier point.
    “From the many comments I’ve seen on this site, white men are often prejudged as “privileged assholes”. Which I think could qualify as a racist attitude.”
    Dismissing for a second my knee-jerk responses that I am so tired of having (that this person must have a guilty conscience or something to take so much personal offense at posts and comments related to whiteness, maleness and priviledgeness, rather than just acknowledging and admitting to his privilege, considering the issues as they are, and seeing that we are not judging him personally because he is a white male). um, dismissing that,
    In the definition of race I have learned, it is not possible for a white person (particularly in the American/western context) to be a victim of racism, because racism is a system of beliefs about the superiority of one group over another, but what differentiates it from prejudice is the power. Racism against people of color has been written into our fricking laws, has been carried out on so many systemic levels in this country so that it has tangible affects on peoples lives – where they can live, where they work, how much they make, education, and on and on and on. In this sense, for a person of color to hate white people is not racism. Prejudice, absolutely, but not racism.
    Just throwing that out there, and I know I’m not being as eloquent as a lot of you – what do others think?

  14. tragula
    Posted April 27, 2006 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

    It’s refreshing that various people are engaging in a dialogue (such as it is.)
    I understand that the idea of “privilege” is a given on this site. It is a common assumption that people here share, and there is a whole intellectual framework built around it.
    But there are a growing number of people like me, who don’t see gender or race as social constructs. For whom power isn’t always the issue. And who would rather relate to others as individuals, and not as group representatives.
    We see things very differently.

  15. prairielily
    Posted April 27, 2006 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

    know what–i get comments like that a lot. people make reference to my skin color, then say…but i don’t usually agree with you. i’m not trying to read into it too much–i’m just pointing that out. :-) take it as you wish
    Actually, I noticed because my family is Pakistani, and sometimes I feel alone in my feminist brownness. I guess our lives have been different enough for our opinions to form differently; our race did not give us a certain viewpoint. I do agree with you sometimes, and in this case, but not always.
    My friend was in a Sociology course on gender roles, and her professor asked her if she thought of herself as a black woman, or a woman who is black. My friend replied that her first identity is black. I would define myself as female before Pakistani. However, the time I’ve spent in Pakistan and the Middle East is where my views on the lives of third world women come from.
    Lastly, I would argue that white women do experience some discrimination based on race. Apparently, some men, specifically in science/technology-related fields, think that white women are just… stupid. I believe the exact words I heard recently were, “Upper middle-class white girls have everything handed to them, and they’re idiots! They have no perception of the sacrifices other people have made for them. They don’t even care about feminism because they’re too short-sighted and self-absorbed to see that people are still trying to take away their rights.”
    Offensive? Hell yes. But I think it adds another dimension to the conversation.

  16. Posted April 27, 2006 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

    You know, as a woman (and a queer-identified one), I’m very familiar with the sort of frustration that comes from trying to interact with (many, not all) straight and/or male folk when it comes to political issues around feminism and/or queer issues.
    I am assuming that every woman who ID’s as a feminist at least can identify with the frustration of trying to get menfolk to “get it.”
    So, why the fuck is it so difficult to understand that a black woman might feel similarly when white people seem bound and determined not to get it? Would YOU like to be called a “token?” Enjoy being accused of getting “hysterical” or imagining things when you express anger or exasperation at what sure seems important and obvious to *you*? No? Then howzabout don’t fucking do it to other people, ‘kay?
    It’s frustrating enough to deal with this shit in general; when it comes from people who style themselves as politically Fighting The Good Fight…just, gag. Seriously.

  17. ginmar
    Posted April 28, 2006 at 12:55 am | Permalink

    Sorry, but what it comes down to is whether or not women support other women or men. Support men first? Call them innocent victims of lying bitches? Yeah, sorry, I’m a teensy bit skeptical that you’re feminist. Call women liars who victimized men? Yeah, I’m convinced. Sorry, but if you bash other women to protect men, then I’m a wee bit umimpressed. Why does the label feminist matter so much then?

  18. puck
    Posted April 28, 2006 at 2:05 am | Permalink

    ginmar,
    no. what it comes down to is whether or not people actually love themselves and whether or not they’re willing to subsume themselves in cultures that oppress them.
    most women of color in my life are not willing to play second fiddle to men of color or white women, neither of whom always their best interests in mind.
    who has called men “innocent victims of lying bitches” and why must you put such horrific phrases in other people’s mouths? why can’t you actually respond to anything anyone else has said?
    i mean, really, ginmar, who ever “bash[ed] other women”? it seems like you’re leading the charge on that one.
    peace and blessings
    ps. if you feel like you’re about to have a breakdown, that’s okay… realizing your own privilege and implication in reproducing oppression is heavy. it’s also vital to the struggle for personal and community liberation.

  19. David Thompson
    Posted April 28, 2006 at 5:56 am | Permalink

    Do you honestly not see the difference between, “You may never ask these questions,” and, “Go to the library yourself?”
    Who writes those library books and Wikipedia articles? Who should questions about the content of those library books and Wikipedia articles be directed to?

  20. Posted April 28, 2006 at 7:39 am | Permalink

    Somebody said this already but SarahS, your initial comment was rude, insulting and I wonder why you are so surprised by the reaction. You said your job is

    not someone to tell them that they are stupid and bad.

    so how come you did exactly that? You come across as an arrogant person, trying to tell people what tone they should take and then saying what the hell you want. I am personally sick of people telling me how I should behave, not be angry etc when they have just spat in my face.

  21. Posted April 28, 2006 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    What it comes down to, ginmar, is that you are an asshat. Neither nubian nor any “feminist” around here is referring to women as “lying bitches” or anything like it, except perhaps within your feverish little brain.

  22. Ismone
    Posted April 28, 2006 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    Tragula,
    Whether you think race and gender are social constructs or not does not effect whether men and women are treated in meaningfully different ways in this country.
    I think you are absolutely right that we should try and treat everyone as an individual, not as an example of a stereotype.
    But I don’t get treated that way. Debate judges responded differently to me for being no more aggressive than my male debate partners. I have noticed that I had a lot more credibility as a peer college debate coach in CA then as a visiting debate judge at my semi-alma-mater in CO despite having even better credentials (law student) when I showed up to judge there.
    The people who think I am non-white (fewer now that I am older) also treat me differently than the people who recognize me as white.
    Since I am in the midwest now, with a CA accent, people assume that I am of much higher social class than I am. They either see a privilege that is not there, or they think that I am looking down on them because of the way they talk.
    So I think you are right that people should look past stereotypes. But you can’t look past them if you do not acknowledge that you have them. Even for those perfect people out there who don’t stereotype, you have to acknowledge the effects of other people’s behaviors on your friends or coworkers or new acquaintances.
    A legal secretary who I worked with had been interviewing in the south, and she and I were talking about how it hadn’t gone well. She seemed to be uncomfortable somehow with articulating her experience. I asked her, “Do you think it might have anything to do with race?” She just looked so relieved. She told me that she thought the interviewers were uncomfortable with her because she was biracial and there weren’t many half-white/half-black people even in the towns and cities surrounding the places she was interviewing. I was glad I had asked the question so broadly, because I hadn’t even thought of the biracial dynamic, and maybe a narrower question would have elicited a different answer.
    But what really struck me was the relief. She was now free to talk about race and how she was treated as a result of her background without thinking that an acquaintance and colleague would think “Oh, she’s one of those black people who blame everything on race.” Because that is the one racist opinion that it is still considered totally okay to mouth, even in liberal circles. Not that I’m saying that being non-white = sainthood, but it cannot be true as often as it is mouthed.

  23. Posted April 28, 2006 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    And “supporting other women” is *exactly* what I’m doing here, toots.
    hint, hint: nubian is ALSO a woman.

  24. Posted April 28, 2006 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    Sylke, you completely missed my point. Which is understandable – it’s the internet, context is difficult to get without vocal inflection. My point was that embedded in the patronizing mindset of “i don’t know what it’s like to be…” is often an assumption that, for example, black women are poor souls.
    So when you responded with, “No more patronizing than assuming that being a black woman means being a “poor soul” with a hard life?” you reiterated what I was saying.
    In other words, I wasn’t seriously saying that black women were poor souls with hard lives.

  25. Posted April 28, 2006 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    white feminists need to shut the fuck up and let us say what we have to say. they need to stop silencing and suppressing the voices of women of color, and invalidating our claims by any means possible. they need to allow us to speak for ourselves and to stop claiming frantically that they have the absolute knowledge and authority to decide what all women’s oppressions are. they need to really start HEARING what we are saying, instead of denying us any validity just because our statements go against their theories about what struggles are worth fighting. they need to realize that what might be the reality for them, does NOT by default mean that women of color also have to deal with that SAME reality only. they need to stop claiming that gender struggles ‘trump’ [what a simplistic, one-dimensional term] any other struggles for ALL WOMEN, and basing it solely on their own, limited experience of oppression. they need to not violate our space and allow us to define our existence and struggles without calling us stupid, without resorting to desperate and ludicrous ad hominem attacks on our personalities, our writing and expression style, our choice of vocabulary or our un-academic, un-pretentious, un-high-culture, “simplistic� language.
    listen up, white “sisters�:
    get over yourselves. essentially, it is not HOW we say it, but WHAT we say that’s important. and sometimes you’re NOT the ones who know the absolute, irrefutable truth. the least you could do (if you really don’t want to be perceived by us as just another ‘oppressor’) is to say, “ok, i might not understand exactly what you’re talking about because i haven’t lived as a woman of color, and the only oppression i’ve ever encountered is patriarchy. however, i understand that your life experiences as a person of color leads you to form your own identities and your own resistances, and i respect that. and i’m not going to jam my shit down your throats trying to silence and erase you. and i’m not going to claim until i turn blue that you’re not enlightened enough and not conscious enough to define your own reality.�
    fight against patriarchy does NOT equal all other fights for everybody. for YOU it does, because that’s the only conceivable cause for you all to unite (being on top of the socially-constructed racial hierarchy and not having to be seen as more ‘exotic’, more submissive, more agreeable, more sexualized, more oppressible, more coercible, more victimizable, more tempting to rape and humiliate… on a daily basis). but that’s NOT the case for the people who have had to fight against something much greater and much more mind-numbing our whole lives. gender oppression alone does NOT explain the plight of women of color, as opposed to that of yours. if you ask us, the first oppressor any conscious woman of color would identify off the bat, would be White Supremacy. and want it or not, you do NOT have to fight against it because you ARE PART OF IT. and by denying us our voices and by attacking our words, you are only reinforcing and proving to us that the fight against White Domination (be it in the form of male or female) is ultimately our single, most important purpose. because unlike you, we are always viewed as strippers OF COLOR, mothers OF COLOR, lesbians OF COLOR, activists OF COLOR, professionals OF COLOR, with all the accompanying circumstances and social stigma attached to that. and this ‘of color’ suffix changes a whole lot of shit for us on many different levels.
    i never identity myself as just a *woman* – my fundamental identity in this world is *woman of color*, which already, in and of itself, signifies that i have at least two oppressors – white supremacy and patriarchy. Moreover, for me the patriarchy is always secondary to white supremacy. and in most of my personal fights men ARE my comrades – my blood brothers, my fathers, my uncles, my cousins, and all brothers OF COLOR. we together bear the burden of being racially profiled, generalized, stereotyped and humiliated. we together understand what it feels like NOT TO BE WHITE, we together fight it, hate it and support each other in spirit against it. there’s no ‘male racism’ and ‘female racism’ to me, there’s just one, atrocious, omnipresent, demoralizing racism that we (women and men of color) understand and fight in concert. and in a lot of ways, it is YOU, white feminists, who i have to fight against in order to reassert my position in the society – much like in this very debate, which i find absolutely ridiculous.
    it is YOUR restless anxiety to always be right that’s dividing us. your truth is NOT women of color’ truth. period. just because you’re not aware of something doesn’t mean it’s not there. because you haven’t lived in a certain way doesn’t mean that nobody does. because you haven’t experienced something doesn’t mean it’s not real. because you find something incomprehensible and unrealistic, doesn’t mean it’s bullshit.
    and for those who are much too quick to label us ‘whiney’ and to dismiss our own stories of OUR OWN TRUTH as absurd, i have only this to say: if anyone is ‘whiney’, it must be you because all you can see and focus on is your poor, oppressed, repressed, misunderstood, manipulated, denied, defied, misinterpreted little selves. no-one’s had it as hard as you have; therefore, your oppression is the only AUTHENTIC one, right?

  26. Posted April 28, 2006 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    white feminists need to SHUT THE FUCK UP and let us say what we have to say. they need to stop silencing and suppressing the voices of women of color, and invalidating our claims by any means possible. they need to allow us to speak for ourselves and to stop claiming frantically that they have the absolute knowledge and authority to decide what all women’s oppressions are. they need to really start HEARING what we are saying, instead of denying us any validity just because our statements go against their theories about what struggles are worth fighting. they need to realize that what might be the reality for them, does NOT by default mean that women of color also have to deal with that SAME reality only. they need to stop claiming that gender struggles ‘trump’ [what a simplistic, one-dimensional term] any other struggles for ALL WOMEN, and basing it solely on their own, limited experience of oppression. they need to not violate our space and allow us to define our existence and struggles without calling us stupid, without resorting to desperate and ludicrous ad hominem attacks on our personalities, our writing and expression style, our choice of vocabulary or our un-academic, un-pretentious, un-high-culture, “simplistic� language.
    listen up, white “sisters�:
    get over yourselves. essentially, it is not HOW we say it, but WHAT we say that’s important. and sometimes you’re NOT the ones who know the absolute, irrefutable truth. the least you could do (if you really don’t want to be perceived by us as just another ‘oppressor’) is to say, “ok, i might not understand exactly what you’re talking about because i haven’t lived as a woman of color, and the only oppression i’ve ever encountered is patriarchy. however, i understand that your life experiences as a person of color leads you to form your own identities and your own resistances, and i respect that. and i’m not going to jam my shit down your throats trying to silence and erase you. and i’m not going to claim until i turn blue that you’re not enlightened enough and not conscious enough to define your own reality.�
    fight against patriarchy does NOT equal all other fights for everybody. for YOU it does, because that’s the only conceivable cause for you all to unite (being on top of the socially-constructed racial hierarchy and not having to be seen as more ‘exotic’, more submissive, more agreeable, more sexualized, more oppressible, more coercible, more victimizable, more tempting to rape and humiliate… on a daily basis). but that’s NOT the case for the people who have had to fight against something much greater and much more mind-numbing our whole lives. gender oppression alone does NOT explain the plight of women of color, as opposed to that of yours. if you ask us, the first oppressor any conscious woman of color would identify off the bat, would be White Supremacy. and want it or not, you do NOT have to fight against it because you ARE PART OF IT. and by denying us our voices and by attacking our words, you are only reinforcing and proving to us that the fight against White Domination (be it in the form of male or female) is ultimately our single, most important purpose. because unlike you, we are always viewed as strippers OF COLOR, mothers OF COLOR, lesbians OF COLOR, activists OF COLOR, professionals OF COLOR, with all the accompanying circumstances and social stigma attached to that. and this ‘of color’ suffix changes a whole lot of shit for us on many different levels.
    i never identity myself as just a *woman* – my fundamental identity in this world is *woman of color*, which already, in and of itself, signifies that i have at least two oppressors – white supremacy and patriarchy. Moreover, for me the patriarchy is always secondary to white supremacy. and in most of my personal fights men ARE my comrades – my blood brothers, my fathers, my uncles, my cousins, and all brothers OF COLOR. we together bear the burden of being racially profiled, generalized, stereotyped and humiliated. we together understand what it feels like NOT TO BE WHITE, we together fight it, hate it and support each other in spirit against it. there’s no ‘male racism’ and ‘female racism’ to me, there’s just one, atrocious, omnipresent, demoralizing racism that we (women and men of color) understand and fight in concert. and in a lot of ways, it is YOU, white feminists, who i have to fight against in order to reassert my position in the society – much like in this very debate, which i find absolutely ridiculous.
    it is YOUR restless anxiety to always be right that’s dividing us. your truth is NOT women of color’ truth. period. just because you’re not aware of something doesn’t mean it’s not there. because you haven’t lived in a certain way doesn’t mean that nobody does. because you haven’t experienced something doesn’t mean it’s not real. because you find something incomprehensible and unrealistic, doesn’t mean it’s bullshit.
    and for those who are much too quick to label us ‘whiney’ and to dismiss our own stories of OUR OWN TRUTH as absurd, i have only this to say: if anyone is ‘whiney’, it must be you because all you can see and focus on is your poor, oppressed, repressed, misunderstood, manipulated, denied, defied, misinterpreted little selves. no-one’s had it as hard as you have; therefore, your oppression is the only AUTHENTIC one, right?

  27. nonwhiteperson
    Posted April 28, 2006 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

    White men and women are BY FAR the whiniest posters in the blogophere.

  28. puck
    Posted April 28, 2006 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

    nonwhiteperson, skyscraper, midwest, belledame, sylke, pamela, nubian, em…
    as a whiny white man, i gotta just say that i find it invaluable that y’all are here… this space needs your voices and, even if you’re reposting stuff you’ve posted elsewhere (*cough* skyscraper *cough*), everything y’all got to say is crucial. as someone with no real authority to represent feministing, i want to implore y’all to stick around if you don’t mind…
    a lot of folks here could benefit from y’all’s perspectives on things…
    peace and blessings

  29. tragula
    Posted April 28, 2006 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

    There is definitely something about the blogosphere that breeds loud complaining.
    Ismone: You make some good points. I live in NYC, and I think my views can become a bit insular sometimes. People in some other parts of the country are a lot less accepting of differences.
    But the issue of identifying with people who are like you is a tricky problem. No one talks about how different races tend to naturally group together. Indian restaurants hire indian waiters. Mexican businesses hire mexicans. And no one considers it racism. But it sure isn’t equal opportunity either. I’m not sure how you could really legislate against this natural human tendency to identify more with people of your own ethnic/cultural background.
    I acknowledge that I have stereotypes. I even think that most people’s stereotypes can often be true. Acknowledging that there is such a thing as a typical member of a group seems to be a where a lot of liberal intellectuals trip themselves up in the name of political correctness. There are typical men, women, feminist bloggers, anti-feminist bloggers, businessmen, artists, french people, americans, etc. The key is to always allow for atypical people and exceptions to the rule–giving people the benefit of the doubt.
    Here is some mind blowing info on stereotypes from my favorite anti-feminist handbook:
    Stereotypes

  30. Ismone
    Posted April 28, 2006 at 10:49 pm | Permalink

    Tragula,
    Not that mind-blowing. Sure, categorizing can be useful, and we do come from cultural and religious contexts which create common experiences that shape who we are, but we react differently to those contexts. When this categorizing means that we are denied the ability to compete on the merits is where there is a problem.
    Actually, on the point he makes about students, they found that when teachers were told that they were teaching a class full of gifted students, they treated the students like they were gifted.
    And after a year in that environment, the kids got really high test scores.
    So the kids get the test scores, at least in part, based on the expectations and the quality of interaction that the teacher bestows on them due to assumptions about their intelligence.
    Want to know a school system that shows NO differences at all between students, based on race/ethnicity, class or gender? The DOD schools run on military bases for servicepeople’s children.
    I just don’t buy antifeminism. I do buy disagreeing with feminist arguments, I do all the time. But women are materially worse off, even in this country. So are minorities. Look at earning power for equally credentialed people, look at poverty, look at discriminatory treatment in the courts of law and in healthcare, look at the abysmally low rates of clearance for sexual assault cases–and for cases with minority victims.
    Not a pretty picture. Now we can chalk it up to human nature, or we can make it better, by doing what you just did and acknowledging our stereotypes and overcoming them. By questioning why certain people get treated certain ways. And yes, through law, and through making sure that laws are not enforced “with an evil eye and an uneven hand” as Justice Harlan cautioned in Yick Wo v. Hopkins at the turn of the last century.

  31. tragula
    Posted April 29, 2006 at 12:52 am | Permalink

    I think I know the teaching example you are referring to. It was a Freakonomics example I think.
    Still, it doesn’t say anything about discrimination. The teacher changed the way she related to ALL the kids. It’s definitely true that having high expectations will usually get better results.
    Listen, the whole anti-feminist thing is a bit of a joke. No one really defines anything properly around here. It’s more of an anti-militant feminist position. Which is probably in line with most people’s views. But for some reason moderate feminists don’t always speak up to the more radical ones. I think it’s a sisterhood thing.
    Pointing out that women are materially worse off doesn’t jive completely with me. See I think families are really the basic unit of society. And in families men and women have pooled resources. They are in the same boat.
    Sure a lot of people get divorced, and the wives don’t always make out as well as the husbands. And single moms have a huge challenge. Some of the issues may be perfectly real. But they get lost in the hyperbole of all women being systematically oppressed by all men.

  32. Ismone
    Posted April 29, 2006 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    Tragula,
    I think that you are right that in certain settings (and I don’t like to use the word oppression, so I won’t) the imbalance is pretty well on the margins.
    Men and women (in healthy marriages) usually do pool their resources. I have known the separate banking account couples, though.
    However, even in good marriages, usually women do more housework, to the point where it is like one and a half jobs. I don’t think this is because men are vile oppressors, I do think it is because men are not made to sympathize with women the way that women are constantly made to sympathize with men.
    Also, I think you are understating the effects of divorce. The financial threat of a marriage ending in divorce can alter the balance of power in a relationship.
    Finally, if I get undercompensated as a woman, and my (hypothetical) husband gets properly (or over?) compensated as a man, and we pool our resouces, that does not change the fact that I still earned more money than I received. Boo-hoo for me, because I’m a week away from a grad. degree, but for those single (divorced or otherwise) mothers, the pay gap can make a big difference.
    Iz
    PS–This wasn’t the Freakonomics example, I was told about this study about thirteen years ago.

  33. tragula
    Posted April 29, 2006 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

    Well, one reason for the housework imbalance could be that women generally care more about keeping tidy homes than men.
    Another could be that men typically work more overtime.
    I do agree that many men are still not properly appreciative of the work women do in the home. If you wanted to argue that men are born less sympathetic and sensitive than women (on average) I would agree with you. Short of genetic engineering I don’t think you could fix that.
    In our own home I do the lion’s share of the cleaning and childcare, as I am a stay at home dad.
    Perhaps I am understating the effects of divorce. Men may end up richer, but if the wife gets the kids they still get screwed.
    I’m not a fan of the wage-gap complaint either. I think it’s easily explained by the fact that women often follow less lucrative career paths, by choice.
    A lot of women prefer to have a meaningful high quality life, over status and money. A pretty smart choice if you ask me. But don’t complain about the downside.

  34. ginmar
    Posted April 29, 2006 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

    Wow, Puck, you patronizing little shit. You go on right ahead nad believe that calling one group of women liars on behalf of not one, but two groups of men, one of them white–is some great act of sisterhood. Especially when it started out as defending still another group of women from defamation as liars. Yeah, that cleared things up tremendously.

  35. Ismone
    Posted April 29, 2006 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

    Tragula,
    A lot of “being sensitive to others” is subordinate, not feminine, behavior. It is the way minorities are with non-minorities, and the way lower-ranking employees are with bosses. See Elizabeth Loftus’ textbooks/articles for more on this. There is pretty good evidence that insensitivity is a hallmark of privilege, not personality.
    I think women care more because pressure is put on us to care more. Because we tend to do more “housework” as chores when we are children. Because we are judged more for being untidy. (You should see my room.) The guys in my squadron had no problem with getting their rooms in inspection order.
    Some of the wage gap can be explained by women and men being in different careers. Two things on that. First, this does not explain the entire gap. If you take men and women with identical credentials, even in academia (see Amp’s recent post on Alas) men earn more. Second, in female dominated careers, women are arguably paid less than they are worth. The nursing shortage is changing this, but it is true that career fields dominated by women, pay is not commensurate with credentials. This phenomena is called the “pink-collar ghetto.” When women take over a career field, pay drops and remains lower than pay in male-dominated career fields in particular. Consider nursing, teaching, and secretarial work as examples.

  36. em!
    Posted April 29, 2006 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    And add to that the childcare industry – the pay is often less than minimum wage – as though the work of taking care of children does not count as legitimate work.

  37. tragula
    Posted April 29, 2006 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

    I’m sure that people can be taught to be more or less sensitive. And I’m sure that there are plenty of young men spoiled by their mothers who grow up expecting to be catered to.
    But I do think that a large part of sensitivity and cooperative behavior is innate. One of the best experimental studies was of 25 boys born without a penis, due to birth defect or circumcision accident. These boys were surgically altered to become “girls”, and raised as girls. And guess what, they all behaved exactly like boys with rough and tumble play and preferences for trucks. Many spontaneously declared themselves to be boys at young ages.
    The pink collar effect is interesting. I don’t dismiss your hypothesis of unconscious discrimination. But there could be other explanations. If we agree that men are more aggressive, they would probably expect and demand higher salaries. Whereas women might be more likely to accept a first offer. It’s also possible that when women take over a field, they work less overtime, and therefore need more staff, pushing salaries down. Things are always more complicated than they appear.
    If people bothered to search for pay discrimination against men, I’m sure they would find plenty of examples of that too. Especially in today’s socially oriented corporate culture, where women are often perceived as preferred employees.

  38. nonwhiteperson
    Posted April 30, 2006 at 7:32 am | Permalink

    The last ten posts or so have been about making about yourselves (white women) again. I thought this thread is about intersectionality.
    Tragula said in response to my point that whites are the whiniest on the blogosphere:
    “There is definitely something about the blogosphere that breeds loud complaining.”
    I see alot of whites whining but people of color are often stating things for the first time (things I haven’t even heard) which is more complaining than whining. We have not yet begun to whine! LOL.

  39. Ismone
    Posted April 30, 2006 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    Sorry, my bad.
    Bringing it back to intersectionality, I remember an interesting exchange between a professor and a student on intersectionality as it applies to black men and women.
    The professor was claiming that black women, as a result of intersectionality, had it harder than black men or white women, and that (particularly in sex/race harassment cases) that it was innappropriate to separate the racial remarks from the sexual remarks (from the racial/sexual remarks) when trying to determine if discrimination occured.
    A woman in the class, though not disagreeing with intersectionality, differed and said that she belives that in many settings black men are disadvantaged compared to black women, due to contact with the police, and perceptions of violence.
    After having more than a year to think about what my classmate and what my professor said, and also after further discussions with this classmate, this is the conclusion I have reached.
    While negative perceptions of black men make it harder for them to make it to college and on to graduate school, that does not mean that black men, when actually in the workplace, aren’t privileged over black women with the same credentials. (Salary data, in the same career fields, shows that black men actually do better than white women. Amp has some posts on this over at Alas.)
    I want to throw in the caveat that this is based on a conversation with one person, and I’m including my own interpretation as well.

  40. Posted May 1, 2006 at 5:11 am | Permalink

    >just because you’re not aware of something doesn’t mean it’s not there. because you haven’t lived in a certain way doesn’t mean that nobody does. because you haven’t experienced something doesn’t mean it’s not real. because you find something incomprehensible and unrealistic, doesn’t mean it’s bullshit.
    and for those who are much too quick to label us ‘whiney’ and to dismiss our own stories of OUR OWN TRUTH as absurd, i have only this to say: if anyone is ‘whiney’, it must be you because all you can see and focus on is your poor, oppressed, repressed, misunderstood, manipulated, denied, defied, misinterpreted little selves. no-one’s had it as hard as you have; therefore, your oppression is the only AUTHENTIC one, right?A lot of “being sensitive to others” is subordinate, not feminine, behavior. It is the way minorities are with non-minorities, and the way lower-ranking employees are with bosses. See Elizabeth Loftus’ textbooks/articles for more on this. There is pretty good evidence that insensitivity is a hallmark of privilege, not personality.

  41. marek malik
    Posted May 2, 2006 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    Why don’t you just kill off white females? I’m serious: more dead white women would mean fewer “sisters” eager to stamp out your narrative and replace it with their own tales of white female-centric “victimization”. Really, for your own sake, I urge you to start kicking in the head the white females who pretend to be your friends but who work industriously against your interests.

  42. nottrue
    Posted May 2, 2006 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    Hell, I never realised just how totally obsessed Americans are with colour/race whatever … what the fuck is wrong with you people!

  43. nubian
    Posted May 3, 2006 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    and yet another blog conversation that privileges the experiences of woc, overpowered by white feminist narratives….
    sometimes i think, why do we even bother?

  44. whitefemalespigs
    Posted May 13, 2006 at 5:28 am | Permalink

    For the life of me, why aren’t black women slitting the scrawny throats of white females?
    Sistahs, if you are serious about having a voice of your own, stop letting the white female pig step on your throat.
    C’mon: get out and be heard!

  45. shannen
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 3:30 am | Permalink

    This is absolutely repulsive and ignorant. Putting white women into the category of being rascist and oppressing other races is doing exactly what you are accusing them of doing to you. In no way, shape, or form is comments like these going to help put a stop to prejudice in our society, it is only increasing the hate and animosity among people. I am a black woman and it makes me infuriated when I see people like you making mindless and witless comments such as these. You are not helping anybody with this, you are only aggressing the progress made in equality. I am disgusted.

  46. shannen
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 3:31 am | Permalink

    This is absolutely repulsive and ignorant. Putting white women into the category of being rascist and oppressing other races is doing exactly what you are accusing them of doing to you. In no way, shape, or form is comments like these going to help put a stop to prejudice in our society, it is only increasing the hate and animosity among people. I am a black woman and it makes me infuriated when I see people like you making mindless and witless comments such as these. You are not helping anybody with this, you are only aggressing the progress made in equality. I am disgusted.

  47. shannen
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 3:32 am | Permalink

    This is absolutely repulsive and ignorant. Putting white women into the category of being rascist and oppressing other races is doing exactly what you are accusing them of doing to you. In no way, shape, or form is comments like these going to help put a stop to prejudice in our society, it is only increasing the hate and animosity among people. I am a black woman and it makes me infuriated when I see people like you making mindless and witless comments such as these. You are not helping anybody with this, you are only aggressing the progress made in equality. I am disgusted.

  48. shannen
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 3:33 am | Permalink

    This is absolutely repulsive and ignorant. Putting white women into the category of being rascist and oppressing other races is doing exactly what you are accusing them of doing to you. In no way, shape, or form is comments like these going to help put a stop to prejudice in our society, it is only increasing the hate and animosity among people. I am a black woman and it makes me infuriated when I see people like you making mindless and witless comments such as these. You are not helping anybody with this, you are only regressing the progress made in equality. I am disgusted.

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