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White Feminism: Why Is It Dangerous?

Feminism, in my opinion, is one of the most important movements in America right now, alongside movements like #blacklivesmatter. Its general aim is the promotion of gender equality, but there’s a huge part of what feminism is that is ignored by women. White feminism is defined as “A brand of feminism centered around the ideals and struggles of primarily white women. While not outright exclusive, its failure to consider other women and its preoccupation with Western standards and the problems faced by the “average woman” is often alienating to women of color, non-straight women, trans women, and women belonging to religious or cultural minorities”. Looking into the media, this is often the brand of feminism that is represented by women like Taylor Swift, Lena Dunham, Amy Schumer, Jennifer Lawrence, Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus…should I go on? These are all prominent white women who have decided to use their prominence and platform to talk about women’s rights… but why are they ignoring women of color? The fact of the matter is that feminism is great, but not if it’s ignoring half of all women. If you’re talking about how women only make 77 cents to the man’s dollar, don’t forget to mention that black women only make 64 cents, and hispanic and latina women make ten cents less.

It goes even deeper than that, too. A lot of white feminists forget to mention the privilege that they have as white women. Let’s be real, wanting to wear what you want and tweeting #FreeTheNipple doesn’t mean that you’re a feminist. As a white woman myself, I need to hold myself accountable and understand that women of color have more struggles than I do. 

In light of recent events (i.e. white middle America electing Donald Trump to be our next president) the role of white women in our society has become even more muddled. Who knew that over half of white women would vote for Trump and against their own interest? Considering the blatant bigotry that is ever so present, I wasn’t that surprised. How could I be when I saw at least ten of my Facebook “friends” undoubtedly raise their support to Make America Great Again? All of whom were white women, some ranging in age from 20 to in their 30’s, and I wonder how they can be so careless. Not only did they vote for a man who has been accused of sexaul assault over 4 times and described it verbatim, but also a man who has verbally harassed marginalized communities throughout his entire campaign, such as saying that undocumented Mexicans are rapists, bringing up “inner cities” when referring to African Americans, mocking a disabled reporter, and choosing a vice president who supports gay conversion therapy for minors. It just shows how disconnected white women truly are from women of color. How can we fix this?

As a group of women with privilege, it’s a necessary that we take responsibility not only for our own actions, but the actions of other white women as well. It’s our responsibility to listen to the voices and concerns of women of color and validate them, not ignore them. Don’t learn feminism from women like Lena Dunham, who makes literally everything about her (see her apology letter to Odell Beckham Jr. after she assumed he was snubbing her because he wasn’t paying attention to her); learn feminism from women with diverse and unique perspectives and from women who are your peers. Don’t learn feminism from just one “icon”; listen, read, and educate yourself from a multitude of perspectives. Look at opposing views and take them into consideration so that you can empathize with the nation, but don’t confuse it with complacency. Organize and take action so that you can be the change that you want to see.

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Kylie Walker is a senior at Sonoma State University studying creative writing & women's and gender studies. She balances school with napping as much as she posssibly can. She enjoys petting animals and radical feminist theory. She sometimes writes about things other than politics or feminism, but rarely.
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