Skepticism

Perchance it’s white feminism?

In the Guardian post Kellyanne Conway and liberal feminists: two sides of the same coin, the author Arwa Mahdawi asks…

Shouldn’t Conway be held up as a feminist icon no matter what her politics are?

After asking…

She may have helped get a racist misogynist elected, but does that really detract from what she, a woman, has achieved?

…going on to say…

Liberals simply cannot deal with the fact that conservative women have chosen to define feminism in their own way and so they tear these women down.

When first reading this interesting combination of words, I was a bit at a loss. Why am I, a liberal, not hailing Conway as a feminist icon after her “glass-breaking” heading up of Trump’s campaign? This question, this framing…is the author gaslighting me?

Conway, a bigot and a charlatan, helped elect – to borrow Mahdawi’s description – a racist misogynist to President of the United States. Conway, Trump, and their supporters would see America return to the the 50s – likely the 1850s. THAT is what I “simply cannot deal with”.  THAT is something I will fight against with every ounce of my being. And probably every ounce of bourbon in my house. Why? Because, even though I like sci-fi, I’d prefer not to take a policy time machine back to crushingly oppressive times. Because I’m a liberal black feminist.

Feminism means fighting for the equality of women. And that means all women: rich women, poor women, white women, black women, brown women, queer women, disabled women, etc. It doesn’t mean fighting for the empowerment of yourself and people like you.

Who said that? Arwa Mahdawi, in THIS article. As such, Conway isn’t a feminist. So, nah, I won’t be hailing her as a feminist hero. I’m a liberal black feminist and the feminism I practice ain’t caping up for Conway. But maybe the problem is the feminism I practice?

Liberal feminism as practiced today seems to focus largely on issues of your right not to wear makeup or your right to wear a bikini whatever your size. It worships heroines like Lena Dunham and Amy Schumer who are preoccupied with their individual issues and who display a worrying lack of interest when it comes to the intersection of feminism and racism.

For me, and my feminism, the above section works better when a slight change is make…

White feminism as practiced today seems to focus largely on issues of your right not to wear makeup or your right to wear a bikini whatever your size. It worships heroines like Lena Dunham and Amy Schumer who are preoccupied with their individual issues and who display a worrying lack of interest when it comes to the intersection of feminism and racism.

Ah, yes. “White feminism” seems to work there. But not just there!

Mainstream liberal feminism has more in common with the politics of conservative women like Conway than it would like to admit. Perhaps instead of simple knee-jerk outrage about her comments around working mothers, we ought to take this opportunity to remember that the apparent contradiction Conway represents – a successful woman fighting to dismantle women’s rights – isn’t entirely the preserve of the right.

Let me again change “liberal” to “white”…

Mainstream white feminism has more in common with the politics of conservative women like Conway than it would like to admit. Perhaps instead of simple knee-jerk outrage about her comments around working mothers, we ought to take this opportunity to remember that the apparent contradiction Conway represents – a successful woman fighting to dismantle women’s rights – isn’t entirely the preserve of the right.

Yes, I like that much better. It fits with what lots of black feminists have discussed for what seems like forever. Samantha Master, in White Feminists Gotta Go: Amy Schumer’s White Woman Foolishness (October 2016), said…

To better understand the dismissal of Schumer and her white feminist sistren like Lena Dunham,Sarah Silverman, et al., we must resurface the ongoing debate about the inherent whiteness of feminism—not feminisms that black women and women of color have practiced for centuries, but the model of feminism popularized by suffragette white women that continues the tradition of fashioning “women’s empowerment” through the lens and experiences of white, middle- and upper-class, cisgender women and repackages itself as the wholesale representative of all women’s experiences.

This narrow and basic conception of feminism patronizingly tells black women and other women of color to “lean in” while categorically ignoring the structural impact of racism, sexism, xenophobia,cis-sexism, homophobia, hyperincarceration and classism in our lives.

Mahdawi goes all in for “lean in” too. She calls out the lack of intersectionality and that is classic White Feminism™, something well presented in this short video Why We Need To Talk About White Feminism by Zeba Bay and Emma Gray from 2015. In my reading, Mahdawi’s post seemed to be about white feminism without ever calling it white feminism. The Feminism That Must Not Be Named.

__________________

Featured image from Everyday Feminism’s post Here Are 4 Ways to Navigate Whiteness and Feminism – Without Being a White Feminist (TM) by Maddie McClouskey

drrubidium

drrubidium

DrRubidium is an analytical chemist that spends her days finding needles in needlestacks. Also a science communicator, she focuses on the the science behind everyday stuff and pop culture.

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2 Comments

  1. December 12, 2016 at 1:27 pm —

    Like Phyllis Schlafly before her, I think it’s wonderful how Kellyanne Conway has paved the way for feminists everywhere by breaking with tradition and working outside the home on important social causes.

    (Note to the sarcasm impaired, this was it).

  2. December 13, 2016 at 9:38 pm —

    Feminism means fighting for the equality of women. And that means all women…

    …that the apparent contradiction Conway represents – a successful woman fighting to dismantle women’s rights…

    Well, there is this too. How the heck is it an “apparent contradiction”? Is that sort of like having third degree burns falsely suggest you where “apparently on fire”, when you where actually having snow cones? If you are dismantling women’s rights then you are bloody f-ing not “fighting for the equality of women”, white or otherwise.

    I swear, these people double speak so much now that even they don’t know what the frak they are saying.

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