This is going to be a three part post to finally put to bed White women’s issues for awhile. I simply cannot stand it when I have to spend time on nonsense ish like this, when there are so many issues that need attention.
Let’s start with the issue that had everyone talking – the suggestion that White woman’s privilege exists. Yes, people are still arguing against it.
What I am arguing is that white women are in no way privileged because of their female-ness; they are privileged as females, as in each of their aspects and identities, because of white privilege. This is female white privilege, not “white female privilege.” This whole debate could mostly be an issue of semantics (“white female privilege” and “female white privilege”, both meaning what I described in the first sentence of this paragraph); it certainly seemed that way sometimes in the comment sections of both Racialicious and Feministe.
Calling benevolent sexism a privilege because it’s better than malevolent sexism (especially as it intersects with race) doesn’t make any sense within this logic. It’s also unnecessary: we can acknowledge this relative advantage and make the point that white women are placed above women of color in our social hierarchy without elevating this kind of positive discrimination to the level of privilege. Otherwise, we’re validating a belief that harms women of color as well and, possibly, every oppressed group. Doesn’t benevolent sexism being a privilege mean *all* forms of positive discrimination are privileges, at least in some contexts? There’s no reason why it wouldn’t. Then we’re left with the same sentiments we’re trying to fight, sentiments that echo every kind of ‘-ism’ and ‘-phobia’. As I pointed out in a few of my comments, “[If Plaid is right, then] black men being treated as hyper-sexual ‘mandingos’? Actually a small privilege when compared to desexualized Asian men. Disabled people being patronized by having the abled help them when they don’t ask for it? Bad, unless we’re comparing it to the way that the disabled homeless are entirely ignored.” On top of Plaid’s point being illogical within our philosophy and echoing the views we oppose, it also pushes us dangerously close to Oppression Olympics, as illustrated with the black/ Asian example. All of these things weaken the social justice movement, and it’s for this reason that I really, really oppose the argument for white female privilege. (source)
So White woman’s privilege is oppression Olympics and it is semantics to order the term this way. The wording of this phrase only matters to White women because they have a history of failing to take ownership of their privilege, and it benefits them to be seen as being outside of the forces of oppression. Let’s be clear, sexism is really an evil force, but it functions differently according to race. The same factors that inhibit White women from being seen as the equal of White men, actually inhibit WOC from being seen as HUMAN. See the difference there? 1) Human. 2) second to White men. (Please read the following in a whiny tone) But what about oppression Olympics? How can this not be seen as divisive? I would love to be able to sing kumbaya, as I roast marshmallows in front of a campfire, but the fact remains, not all women are constructed the same – divisions already exist. I wish that White women would catch on to the fact that the whole “this is divisive meme” that they like to toss out whenever WOC talk about racism only serves to prove our point.
Not only do I have cis privilege, I have Black female cis privilege. Yes, the Black community is not always a happy, happy, joy, joy place for women, but I have it easier than any Black trans woman. Daily I affirm this privilege regardless of my best intentions (which btw aren’t worth an umbrella in a hailstorm, because I have been raised in a cis supremacist state) Owning this, is part of how I dismantle my privilege. It acknowledges that cisgender Black women all on the very own, have a role to play in the maintenance of cis supermacy, outside that of Black men. See how easy that was. Of course cis Black women and trans Black women have shared oppression and sexism is something we both have to negotiate, but I can guarantee you that just by the nature of my body, I have privilege and this readily becomes apparent in sections of society where I have power. I dare you to try a little honesty White women.
As much as we have all been indoctrinated to believe that men and women are the same, the truth of the matter is that we live in a gender binary that is enforced daily. This also means that as women, we have the power and the tendency to react in specific ways towards oppression. This is not to say that there are those outside of these narrowly defined roles, but because of how difficult it is to decolonize one’s mind, more people choose to play the game rather than abstain. Let’s be clear, I don’t see White men clutching pearls and purses, cramming themselves into elevators out of fear of the dangerous violent Black folk, etc and etc. These are strictly racist behaviours performed by, say it with me folks, WHITE WOMEN.
Okay, the next topic comes from a comment on the linked post above. White women’s tears are always a fave of mine.
I really dislike the misuse of the phrase “white women’s tears”. I think in its original use, white women derailing discussions of racism to be about their hurt feelings, it’s fine, but I’ve seen it used too many times to denote the act of a woman who happens to be white crying at all. I have “emotional dysregulation” because I have a mood disorder and an LD related to the autism spectrum, plus I’m in a moderate-severe amount of physical pain all the time. So, yeah, I cry more easily than the average person my age. But I’m just starting to feel like people consider me weak and stupid if I cry at all. And I am not trying to derail if I have an emotional reaction to something. I actually want the discussion to continue despite the fact that I may be reacting. But I don’t want to be berated for it.
Alright, as a disabled woman, I obviously have empathy for anyone living with a disability and doubly so for one that is invisible. I do however feel that once again we have a White woman making it all about her; how fitting on a post that is about how White woman’s privilege does not exist. To be clear, the term White woman’s tears is about the way that White woman obfuscate whenever the issue of their racism comes up to avoid taking responsibility. I don’t mean to call this woman a liar, but we largely live very segregated lives despite the massive conversations that happen on the internet. I have a hard time believing that she has had conversation after conversation with Black women in a public setting and been charged with White woman’s tears. I am not saying it’s not possible, just unlikely, because we know that Blacks and White largely do not engage critically. I get how difficult it is to have one’s disability ignored; however, this feels like more of an attempt to make it about her, than dealing with the issue at hand. The definition of White woman’s tears is quite obvious.
Finally, I would like to address a comment left on this blog by Alice on the post Stop Denying White Female Privilege
admittedly, i’m confused about what to make of these realizations. i want to better understand white woman privilege; yeah, i’ve read the invisible knapsack, etc., but what do you suggest white women do moving forward? another commenter said she tries to avoid “taking advantage” of these privileges. does this mean i should drop out of grad school? shave my head? and do women who simply “avoid taking advantage” of white privilege actually just avoid the issue altogether? is there something else we can do, like aid in the advocacy of WOC issues (under direction of WOC of course)?
i’m not trying to be snarky, i’ve just participated in these kinds of discussions before & i didn’t want to leave again merely feeling “white guilt.” i can come up with ideas about how to channel that feeling of responsibility but i’d prefer to hear ideas from some WOC: what do you want/expect white women to do in regards to the issue of white woman privilege? keep in mind that i’m a feminist studies grad student.
I chose to address this because this issue continually comes up when dealing with any sort of privilege. I am honestly sick and tired of the question, and I am sure that other marginalized bodies are sick of the damn question as well. This is not how you start owning responsibility. WOC have been writing about their needs for a very long time, and yet the moment there is a post about owning White privilege, some White woman comes along saying, “but but but what do you want from me”? This is the equivalent of demanding a cookie cutter solution be handed over, so that the person posing the question does not have to think.
POC did not create White supremacy, and we should not be responsible for dismantling it. Each individual has a different life and should therefore think of solutions that fit their lives to end/reduce White supremacy. This means first listening to what WOC have to say about the myriad of ways that racism impacts our lives, (yep, that’s me repeating “shut up and listen” for the billionth time) and then examining the ways in which you promote your racial privilege. It means actively tackling racism in your daily life through everyday acts like speaking up when hear racist commentary etc. It really is not that hard if you are dedicated to change, and so I see no reason to devote anymore of my time to school White women on things that are below 101 level.
I am sure that you can tell from reading this post that I am frustrated as all hell. I am tired of having the same conversation repeatedly because a privileged person does not want to do the heavy lifting. If you look through the archives of this blog, you will see that this conversation has been repeated several times and yet the same questions keep occurring. Enough already. Take responsibility for your privilege. Stop looking for easy answers. Challenging racism should not be as easy as making minute rice in your microwave. White supremacy took generations to build and it is going to take generations to dismantle but it sure would make things easier if White women would just stop and get a fucking clue.