As the current political climate heats up with the latest marches and advocates for women’s rights, the media’s attention on white feminists becomes more obvious.
White feminism is not about white people who practice feminism; rather it’s a brand of feminism that diminishes or erases the voices and experience of those who are not white, cisgendered, of a decent economic status, and/or heterosexual. Namely, it’s feminism that is not intersectional.
Intersectionality was first coined in 1989 by Kimberlé Crenshaw, a law professor and social theorist, in her 1989 paper “Demarginalizing The Intersection Of Race And Sex: A Black Feminist Critique Of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory And Antiracist Politics.”
Initially, it was used to intersect blackness and womanhood, but it was expanded to understand other differences such as individuals’ sexual orientation, age, class, disability and more.
White feminism, however, only cares about a certain kind of woman and person and only caters toward those individuals. The media glorifies white actresses who speak out against misogyny, the wage gap and sexual assault, especially those who exhibit white feminism, while ignoring just about every other voice.
The #MeToo campaign and the Women’s March are two primary examples that call attention on white feminists.
The media focuses on white women in pussy hats during every Women’s March, excluding everyone else from the narrative. Women who take part in the march lashed out when the Women’s March Twitter denounced McGowan for her latest transphobic comments, some going as far as to say transgender women are men, and do not know what it is to suffer as a woman.
Actress Rose McGowan herself especially has the #MeToo movement’s spotlight, and is one of the most celebrated sexual assault survivors despite her transphobic and racist opinions. McGowan stated on an appearance of RuPaul’s Drag Race that “they [transgender women] assume, because they felt like a woman on the inside, that’s not developing as a woman—that’s not growing as a woman, that’s not living in this world as a woman.”
More recently, she threw a fit at one of her book signings when a transgender woman called her out for excluding transgender women from her feminism. She lashed out with comments like “What have you done, women?” What’s also detrimental is the fact that the #MeToo movement’s creator, a black woman named Tarana Burke, does not have even close to the amount of media attention as her white women advocate counterparts.
White feminists, despite outwardly advocating for the punishment of sexual assaulters, tend to stand back when it’s not in their interest.
Many white actresses will dress up in black for the Golden Globes, write lengthy speeches on how “enough is enough” and stand up and applaud over basic moments of “shading” the patriarchy, but the moment a friend or someone they associate with is accused of sexual assault, they step back.
Lena Dunham, for example, defended her former colleague, Murray Miller, against sexual assault allegations.
Dunham stated his accuser, a young woman of color, was part of the small percentage of those who misreport sexual abuse, despite being a self-proclaimed feminist and women’s advocate.
While, yes, there have been obvious changes over the past few decades in not only women’s issues, but racial and transgender issues as well, there is never going to be enough change when feminism lacks intersectionality.
Feminism needs to be about benefiting all of women, not just a select few. As long as the media promotes these white feminists, especially celebrities in the spotlight, feminism is not going to have the needed impact.
It was white women, as well as white feminists, who helped bring Donald Trump into office, after all.
Stacey Milas is a fourth-year student majoring in English with a minor in journalism. ✉ SM827414@wcupa.edu.