White feminism is a particular branch of feminism centred on white women. Feminists of different races, gender identities and nationalities relay their opinions on white feminism.
White feminism can be defined as a branch of feminism centred on the ideals and struggles of primarily white women. While not outrightly exclusive, it is the failure to consider the problems faced by people of colour, the LGBTQ+ spectrum and differently abled people. It is a stark contrast to intersectional feminism. People who use the term ‘White Feminism’ also tend to subscribe to the concept of ‘Intersectional Feminism’. Intersectionality is used when one considers social inequality and systemic inequality regardless of race, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion and ability.
You could say that a prime example of a white feminist is Taylor Swift. Although, she openly speaks out against sexism when it comes to criticism in the music industry, she has largely remained silent, and has publicly dismissed Nicki Minaj, when she pointed out the prevalence of racism in the music industry (such as low representation/credit at awards shows and being represented in the media as the stereotype of a raging angry black woman).
When the concept of white feminism was posed to us, we decided to explore this uncharted territory by interviewing people ourselves. We interviewed feminists from different walks of life to glean their opinions on white feminism. We found people of different races, nationalities and gender identities.
Stella, Guinean, female, black: “I personally think that the idea of feminism is really important and benefits everyone because it defends the equality of the races and the genders. Because you know, who doesn’t want to be treated equally? Unfortunately, nowadays most people have a pretty negative vision of feminism for several reasons:
- Radical feminists who don’t understand the basic concept and think that we want women to be superior to men, which is totally wrong and upsetting.
- Some of the feminists, when they happen to meet somebody who has different opinions than theirs (and often considered as sexist, homophobic, transphobic, etc.) immediately insult the person and don’t take the time to explain how their opinion is offensive which is, in my opinion, a great way to educate people.
- One of the ‘dark sides’ of feminism is white feminism. We call it this way because it is only supported by white, cisgender (those whose personal identity corresponds to their birth gender), able-bodied females. It is the kind of feminism who doesn’t consider the struggles of people of colour, disabled people, people who are not females and people who are not straight.”
Maryam Aboellail, Arab-American, female: “I think that white feminism is pretty much useless because the goal of feminism is to create equality and white feminism doesn’t do that. All it does is create even more disparity among women of different races. By saying and acting like all women are in the same place when it comes to social privilege, one completely ignores the fact that women of colour are at an even larger disadvantage. So often, the misogyny we face is racialised and the racism we face is misogynised. White feminism offers no help for women of colour or people of colour in general. White feminism also largely ignores issues faced by the LGBTQ+ community and women in other countries where they have far fewer rights. Feminism that doesn’t help all women isn’t really feminism and it’s just helping oneself while ignoring everyone else’s problems. So, no, I don’t think white feminism can even be called feminism at all.”
Xavier, American, non-binary, black: “Well, white feminism to me is usually annoying and personally offensive. I’m a non-binary (female at birth) person of colour, who happens to be in a same-sex relationship. I tend to be left out of a lot of what they consider to be feminism. They usually forget about trans people in general, especially transwomen issues. Honestly, they forget usually about anyone who’s not cisgendered, straight, and usually white. Intersectionality scares a lot of them, instead of seeing equality in it, they just see themselves being lowered. It’s equal to misogynists hating feminism. They rarely accept any kind of criticism.”
Kiera, American, female, Indian/Irish: “Although I understand that the intentions of white feminists are inherently good (they do want rights for women), they fail to recognise that some women have fewer rights than others, and continue to group every single woman, no matter the extra oppression she may face; that is, outside of her being a woman, into a single clump of ‘We’re all oppressed’. It is true that all women are oppressed, but the level of oppression of a woman varies based on things like race, sexuality, gender identity, disabilities and other things that are often used to discriminate against people who fall into categories other than cisgendered, straight, able-bodied, white and neurotypical.”
Fabianna Tamborino, Venezuelan, female, white: “Venezuela is a Latin country, Latinos come in all shapes and skin tones, so there’s not a lot of discrimination in our communities since (like I already said) most Venezuelans are POC (people of colour). Sadly, there IS a lot of sexism and classism. My opinion would be that I feel like no matter your race, gender or social status you should still CARE about other people’s issues, especially when it comes to discrimination. We’re all human beings and sometimes people forget that. If you only care about things that affect YOU or your ‘group’ then you’re just being selfish and ignorant. Being a real feminist means that you support ALL KINDS OF WOMEN, that you will fight for their rights and that you — stand up against people who discriminate against them. If white people keep turning a blind eye towards POC issues just because they’re not directly affected by it then we’re never going to abolish racism for good. My POC girlfriends have never experienced discrimination because of their skin tone in Venezuela (I hope it stays that way) but I know that if it were to happen I would stand up for them.”
Alyssa, American/Jamaican, female, white: “I think white feminism is terrible, because it’s so widely seen as the standard of feminism in the media, which leaves for little representation or light shed on the issues of people of colour, the LGBTQ+ community, the disabled, etc. It also poorly represents the feminist community as a whole, because people see white feminists and think, “Okay, this is understandable.” But as soon as intersectionality is involved everyone’s more reluctant to believe our cause. An example is when people get upset when feminists suggest using different language because certain words are ableist. Overall, I think that it’s really harmful to the fight for intersectionality in equality.”
Madison, Guyanese/Jamaican, female, black: “White feminism isn’t feminism period. If your feminism isn’t intersectional, then what is it? Honestly, if you can only support your own race, and don’t include your fellow women, then you are a part of the problem. Many times, people are white feminists, unknowingly. However, it is not an excuse.”
Pratyusha, female, Indian: “White feminism, in my opinion, covers only a few bases of what could support and protect women and men in the USA, and in my opinion, it is a rather new concept only recently uncovered. Because it is clear that the rest of us don’t fall under that umbrella of protection. Intersectionality is important to me. Very much. Because without the understanding of both feminism and a place, its culture and people and how patriarchy works with men and women in that particular region, we wouldn’t be able to address any real problems at all, and instead end up smothering those who need support and active education of their rights and matters.”
Ana, Bosnian/Serbian/Montenegrin, female, white: “White feminism is harmful because it perpetuates the idea of whiteness as the default and reduces the myriad of issues women and men face down to simplistic one-dimensional tidbits that are easy to consume. Intersectionality is absolutely vital to ensure inclusion of experiences that all people face otherwise feminism benefits only those who already hold power and further disenfranchises and silences those without. Feminism looks different for everyone, but at the core must be the idea that all people regardless of identity face struggles due to unequal power structures and we all share a responsibility in perpetuating and subsequently dismembering them.”
For feminism to work and for women to get the rights they deserve, the approach must be neutral and all-encompassing. Because if certain groups no matter how fringe or minor are left out, then it isn’t feminism, it’s just another form of racism.
By Smriti Ghildiyal
Head of Editing
The Order of Equality