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Fri, Apr. 25th, 2008, 11:28 am
sadie_sabot: so what can white feminists do?

**I posted this to my own blog but I hope folks don't mind it being put here as well. i would love feedback, etc on these thoughts. It's very much written from a white point of view, FYI**

so if you're not yet following all of this, maybe you don't want to be. it's a fucking mess and it's depressing and it's eating up a lot of time that could be put to better use...personally, I mean. I'm supposed to be prepping to speak on a panel this weekend and instead I'm following and thinking about and writing about this mess....but on the other hand, especially for white folks who want to be anti-racist and want to work with people of color, and maybe have trouble understanding what some of the barriers to working together are, and why we have to put so much energy into making sure we are accountable and step up and don't keep showing our ass; why it is that POC have reservations about working with PWOC (people without color), it's worth looking at this bullshit as a case study. because there's nothing unusual about it. this is what white folks do: sell out our comrades of color when push comes to shove. We've done it for a century or more, and in multiple movements.

and until we figure out how to not do that, we will not achieve collective liberation. we will continue to make small gains on the backs of people we should be standing side by side with, and as long as we are standing on other people, we will never have the kind of world we think we want. We will gain small reforms making things better for different groups of white folks but never achieve any kind of positive revolution.

and nothing about this is going to change until white people realize that this is OUR shit. This is OUR problem. This is OUR task, OUR responsibility. This is the work WE NEED TO DO.

i keep thinking about this thing Haunani Kay Trask, a Hawaiian activist said, about how white feminists want women of color to abandon their people in favor of feminism, that is, put their gender ahead of everything else about them, but at the same time, the rest of the world, including white feminists, will relate to them first as people of color. I know it's a theme other people, specifically other women of color, have talked about, but when i read her bit about it I had one of those "aha" moments where I finally internalized and understood it.

After looking at the fucking piece of shit photos in amanda marcotts damn book, where she's got the white heroine saving the white man from the scary poc, i realized, aha! white feminists are loyal to our race first!! We want to get all shitty on WOC for that, but that's what we do! Loyalty to white men before loyalty to women of color, but we expect them to abandon men of color in our favor???

and I realize that this is what women of color have been saying. something about the visual really kicked my ass. see, even though i style myself as an anti-racist I still struggle, sometimes, to hear women of color. To understand what they are saying. Good to be reminded sometimes that, as much as i'm disgusted by these overtly racist white feminists (and for folks new to this drama, it is not just about marcott's racist imagery in her book. check the link at the top of the page and browse around, you can find the whole sordid story...a story that pushed brownfemipower, an excellent radical woman of color blogger with awesome politics and beautiful writing style, out of the blogosphere.), i can't really separate myself from them, and I'm not sure any ant-racist white feminists can.

and I'm saying we when i refer to white feminists because as much as I'd like to distance myself from these fucking racist white feminists, i can't. i'm a white woman raised to be a feminist. That's my people, ugly as they are. also, i think that white folks (feminist or otherwise) who see how much racism destroys all of our attempts to build a better world need to do something other than distance ourselves from the egregious examples of racism. i mean, I completely support WOC stepping out of these places where it is not safe for them to be, and where the most powerful voices put lots of energy into deriding and invisibalizing WOC and scoffing at their critiques. But I think white people have a responsibility to engage with other white people. For us to step out is not about safety, it is about exercising privilege and absconding from our responsibilities. We need to engage and struggle with these people, because they aren't going to go away. if not us, then who?

I'm not saying that as white people we ought to stay and defend feminism (or even reform it), that's not what I mean, but that we have to step up and be an active opposition to people like marcotte and seal press and alla their apologists. I'm not entirely sure what that looks like in this situation, in the blogosphere as opposed to in 3D, but it's worth thinking about. i think there must be more to it than writing posts and comments.

also, i want to acknowledge that I'm speaking here as though white feminists are a monolith. We aren't. some of us are not young. some of us are not college educated. some of us are not class privileged. some of us are not straight. some of us are not cisgendered. some of us are not temporarily able bodied. for these and many other reasons, for some of us maybe stepping out of the mainstream feminist spaces IS about safety, and i respect that. But when the fault line is around race and racism, those of us who are not these things have the opportunity to draw upon our knowledge of exploitation and oppression to inform our analysis, and then use our privilege, our white privilege, as a place to stand and fight this racism within the feminist movement.

and again, fighting the racism within the feminist movement is not about saving feminism. it is about opposing racism.

Fri, Apr. 25th, 2008 07:02 pm (UTC)
kmd


Honestly and for true?

I have been thinking very much of late that the thing we White feminists need to do is to kick our asses into gear and be about the business of advocating on behalf of men of color. Give money to Obama's campaign. Make that a top priority. A feminist priority. See a protest about prisons and sentencing and overcrowding? Go. And bring a big fat sign that says "Another Feminist for Justice." Read the blogs of men of color. Blogroll them. Speak out when someone attacks Rev. Jeremiah Wright or Minister Louis Farrakhan.

I think this is the place we need to start for a huge raft of reasons. We seriously need to break our hardwired gender identity ueber alles worldview. We need to reach outside of our own experience. We need to open ourselves to the words and lives and realities of those who experience oppression but not patriarchal oppression. We need to know the truth.

I believe deeply that we will be acting as allies of women of color by doing this. We should focus intently on listening to and supporting men of color not because we shouldn't listen to women of color, but because of this:

I keep thinking about this thing Haunani Kay Trask, a Hawaiian activist said, about how white feminists want women of color to abandon their people in favor of feminism, that is, put their gender ahead of everything else about them, but at the same time, the rest of the world, including white feminists, will relate to them first as people of color.

So we have to break that gender-ahead-of-everything-else problem WE have. It is our problem. I agree with you.





Fri, Apr. 25th, 2008 09:00 pm (UTC)
sadie_sabot

my perspective is that standing in solidarity with all targets of oppression and exploitation is the only way to liberation. i think one of the places where white feminists get caught is they/we get stuck thinking only from the places where we are oppressed and ignoring/denying the places where we are privileged.

there's no reason we can't fight sexism *and* racism. Well, i mean, obviously there are reasons, I just think they're shitty reasons.

But I also see there being a bit of justice in asking white women who've been getting a lot of mileage out of their racism to take a stand on behalf of the people targeted by that racism. which i think would include women of color, not just men of color.

and as i think about this, I'm thinking, you know? prisons and hte prison industrial complex definitely target men of color predominantly, but there is no group of people not fucked by prisons except the ruling class. and that's true of so many issues, you know?

Sat, Apr. 26th, 2008 02:26 am (UTC)
kmd


and as i think about this, I'm thinking, you know? prisons and hte prison industrial complex definitely target men of color predominantly, but there is no group of people not fucked by prisons except the ruling class. and that's true of so many issues, you know?

No, I don't know.

I think you're trying to obscure racism behind amorphous, righteous rhetoric. I think we as white feminists have a racism problem. It is located in our gender ueber alles insistence that women of color abandon their racial and ethnic identities and priorities in order to embrace gender issues and gender politics.

We owe a debt. We have reparations to make, AND we have ourselves to rehabilitate.

Sat, Apr. 26th, 2008 11:45 am (UTC)
fire_fly

Whoa. Where are you getting that from? Where did woc ever exhort white feminists to act as better allies to women of colour by way of acting as allies to men of colour?

Did you miss the stories about conflict between white women and woc (Black women particularly) in the 1970s where white women's support of men of colour was precisely the divisive issue within feminist groups?

It looks like you have some unexamined sexism of your own w/r/t conceptualising 'race' issues, if see the solution to single-issue feminism as being single-issue racial justice activism, conceptualised as "focus[ing] intently on listening to and supporting men of color".

Sat, Apr. 26th, 2008 11:51 am (UTC)
fire_fly

Did you miss the stories about conflict between white women and woc (Black women particularly) in the 1970s where white women's support of men of colour was precisely the divisive issue within feminist groups?

By saying this I don't mean to speak over Black women in the guise of "speaking for woc". I am not Black.

I'm using the example as one occasion where white women conceptualised anti-racism as being about men of colour and completely forgot women of colour, repeating a pattern of disruptive white involvement in communities of colour. This is a criticism that continues to be made of anti-racists who end up acting as apologists for sexism and reinforcing it in communities of colour.

Sat, Apr. 26th, 2008 12:50 pm (UTC)
kmd


Where did woc ever exhort white feminists to act as better allies to women of colour by way of acting as allies to men of colour?

Lots of places. But that doesn't matter -- I'm not getting this from specific instructions from women of color.

Did you miss the stories about conflict between white women and woc (Black women particularly) in the 1970s where white women's support of men of colour was precisely the divisive issue within feminist groups?

*sigh*

I'm going to reply here to both this and your follow-up comment below.

I am not advocating single-issue activism. Neither am I advocating that White feminists "completely forget women of color." FFS.

I am a White feminist. What I see and experience is that when I and other White feminists make decisions about what is important to us, important to act on, the FIRST and sometimes the ONLY filter is gender.

My suggestions focus on breaking that pattern. Period. Full stop.

The murder of Sean Bell is a feminist fight. The Jena 6 are a feminist fight.

Dunbar Village is a feminist fight.

Breaking the pattern of using gender as our only filter DOES NOT MEAN ABANDONING FEMINIST VALUES. It means finally fucking seeing and dealing with intersectionality. It means actually claiming and actually acting on the fullness of feminist values, i.e. embracing the full humanity of all women and all men.

In order to see/act on issues concerning men of color, White feminists have to first and foremost listen to women of color. And men of color. How the hell else would we see a reality that isn't ours and that our privilege is designed to hide?

Sat, Apr. 26th, 2008 03:20 pm (UTC)
kitkatkaboodle

actually, i think the first think we white feminists/allies need to do is listen to what the women of color have been saying here. and examine our own shit. and call other white feminists/allies on their shit.

your solution completely ignores women of color. how on earth does that help?

Sat, Apr. 26th, 2008 03:29 pm (UTC)
kmd


your solution completely ignores women of color. how on earth does that help?

It was an attempt to integrate my own experience of White feminists (including me) stripping everything away but gender with the call I have read and heard hundreds of times from women of color for White feminists to give a shit about men of color.

In my head and heart, it not only doesn't ignore women of color (much less completely ignore women of color) it is responsive to what I've heard and read women of color saying.

HOWEVER, having had my ass now handed to me by a woman of color, I have to stop and go back and look for the stupid.
(Deleted comment)

Wed, May. 7th, 2008 06:16 pm (UTC)
kmd


Doesn't our racial identity have some impact on the meaning and context of our actions? So a White and a Black woman both support the Clinton campaign -- can we automatically assume that they have all of the same reasons, motivations, history behind that decision? Or do we call ourselves to examine where our privilege and racism might be affecting our decisions?

I didn't make a blanket statement about what it means to be feminist. I think most such statements are absurd. What I wrote was specifically and pointedly addressed at White feminists.

But what I wrote is indeed stupid and flawed in its own way. Because what I failed say was: in order to even begin to see any issues beyond single-issue, gender-ueber-alles politics, we White feminists must listen to women of color. What I wrote suggests bypassing women of color and marching off in all of our noblesse oblige power-mongering ways. What I wrote was not respectful of women of color.

Fri, Apr. 25th, 2008 07:58 pm (UTC)
iolarah

Thanks for posting this. This is an issue that's been weighing on my mind as well lately, and I've read the phrase--to paraphrase--"White feminists need to clean up their house." quite a bit lately. And I agree. I can't see what incentive there would be for WOC to work with us when there are racists among us. So how do we clean house? I think you're right that we need to own it and engage one another. I'm not sure what that will look like, beyond discussions in blogs and in person when it comes up, but it's a discussion that needs to happen, that's probably long overdue.

fighting the racism within the feminist movement is not about saving feminism. it is about opposing racism.
Where would you say the difference lies, for you?

Fri, Apr. 25th, 2008 08:53 pm (UTC)
sadie_sabot

I'd say the big difference is that i don't care so much whether feminism is saved, but I care very much about justice. I operate from a framework of collective liberation, which i take to mean that none of us are liberated until we are all liberated. it's not a new idea! For me I see white supremacy as one of the most effective divide and rule strategies, and so i put a fair amount of my energy toward anti-racism, but I'm opposed to every form of exploitation and oppression, even if i don't always have my shit together on every single issue (for example, i think i need to work on my able-ist perspective). As a working class person, i also am deeply invested in challenging class prejudice and dealing with class privileged people; as a queer person, I'm deeply invested in queer liberation, etc. There is no either/or; it's both/and, or all/and.

so for me, without the feminist movement, i and many other people will still be fighting for liberation of women and other gender oppressed people.

the other difference is, saving feminism comes with a perspective of defensiveness and protection...like, if I'm gonna fight racist behavior for the good of feminism instead of for the good of the targets of racism, what's that all about?

Edited at 2008-04-25 08:55 pm (UTC)

Fri, Apr. 25th, 2008 09:03 pm (UTC)
iolarah

Hm. Okay, that makes sense. Thank you for your response. I'm pretty new to these issues, so I'm doing my best to educate myself by asking...

Fri, Apr. 25th, 2008 11:27 pm (UTC)
the_automatik

I'm opposed to every form of exploitation and oppression, even if i don't always have my shit together on every single issue

This is what I say (sort of) about politics. I really do not feel the need or care to align myself with any party and fight for that party. No group speaks for me as I'm capable of speaking for myself. THAT BEING SAID, I do wholeheartedly align myself with groups who fight against exploitation and oppression. Like yukie103 said in another comment on this forum, "the idea that some people are less than people" is a horrible idea and one which I in no way condone or support.

Fri, Apr. 25th, 2008 08:17 pm (UTC)
the_automatik

This is excellent, thank you for posting.

Fri, Apr. 25th, 2008 09:14 pm (UTC)
yourmom: just saying,,

i really hate 'PWOC', i find it appropriative and kinda annoying. just stick to 'white'

Fri, Apr. 25th, 2008 09:21 pm (UTC)
the_living_end: Re: just saying,,

oh shit i totally agree.
(i missed it completely when reading this. thanks for pointing it out.)

Fri, Apr. 25th, 2008 09:21 pm (UTC)
sadie_sabot: Re: just saying,,

I usually do just stick to 'white" because that's how I talk, I'll generally say 'people of color" and "white people." I have been told by some folks of color that PWOC is useful in that it reframes things..."people of color" can be read as positioning white people as the norm, "people without color" flips the basic idea that whites are the norm right on it's head. which is to say, the only places I've engaged with folks around wether or not to use the term PWOC, the folks arguing against it have been white people who've been insulted by the idea that they/we 'lack" something ("but we have color too, lol) and the folks arguing for it have been folks of color.

worth noting that I've never had any conversation about PWOC as a term in person, it's all been on the internet.

Fri, Apr. 25th, 2008 09:23 pm (UTC)
sadie_sabot: Re: just saying,,

I've never heard it framed as 'appropriative" before. if people using it are generally white folks i can see where that comes from; my experience has mainly been POC using it. I'm willing to be schooled, here.


Sat, Apr. 26th, 2008 02:19 am (UTC)
kmd: Re: just saying,,


I have read suggestions for "people of white color." Cause, you know, it's not as if white people are in one category and everyone else in some other.
(Deleted comment)

Fri, May. 2nd, 2008 10:08 pm (UTC)
delux_vivens

Educating ourselves about the history and current reality of white violence toward men and women of color by white men and women.

The inability of so many people to do this is a big part of my problem with calls for me to 'stand together' with white women 'as women'.

Sat, Apr. 26th, 2008 01:01 pm (UTC)
fire_fly

White feminists can put woc first. All the time. And actually make some effort at supporting woc initiatives.

Instead of handwringing about how bad they feel for supporting other white feminists one time at band camp.

Like seriously, put up or shut up.

Sat, Apr. 26th, 2008 04:41 pm (UTC)
abydosangel

This.

It's the complete comfort with their ability to dismiss us that keeps me from engaging with white feminists beyond random chit-chat.

Also - your comments above - YES to all of that.

Sat, Apr. 26th, 2008 03:30 pm (UTC)
audacian

What can we as white feminists do?

To put it very simply: remember, speak and act in a way that acknowedlges that "women" is not a monolithic term. Less whining and white guilt, more support of woc action. Less divisive criticism, more listening.

Y'know how [white] feminists hate it when we try to explain something to anti feminists and they don't get it and refuse to listen to our experiences? White feminists engage in that shit all the time, and we need to call it out when we see it. And if we don't see it at first, and a woc calls us out on our shit, we listen.