If you are not already following the twitter hashtag #solidarityisforwhitewomen, drop everything and go check it out. I’ll wait.
Okay, if you’ve come back or come up for air, welcome. Really, please do take a look. As a white feminist, I have found the conversation on twitter to highlight the gaps in my education, knowledge and community, as well as pointing to my privilege. These are key conversations for me as a feminist. I like to think that I approach feminism with an intersectional* focus, but my blind spots remain as persistent as ever.
Hugo Schwyzer is one such blind spot. I have linked to him in the past, even including him in a “Men We Love” section of Antigone Magazine, while under the false impression that he was a gentleman to be impressed with. Recently, the entire feminist community has come to terms with the fact that he is no role model, feminist or otherwise, as people finally hear women of colour out of twitter as they (again) relate stories of how he’s treated them, point out his racism, and highlight his lack of support for abuse survivors, sex workers, people of colour and many others. His public meltdown on twitter sparked Mikki Kendall to use the hashtag #solidarityisforwhitewomen and start a conversation about white feminists’ support of Hugo’s feminist career at the expense of people of colour, particularly the women of colour he hurt. This inspired a much larger (and critical) conversation about how white feminism mistreats women of colour in general.
I’m embarrassed that I didn’t know many of the things currently being discussed as a part of this conversation, about Schwyzer and about the many feminist women of colour that I haven’t been hearing. I’m uncomfortable, and I think that’s important. I think it can be difficult to sit with the discomfort, rather than excuse or explain or change the topic. So, this is me, uncomfortable and ready to listen. I’m going to continue to fall short as an ally and as an anti-racist feminist. As a feminist, period. But the point isn’t to be perfect. The point is to keep trying and keep listening and keep checking that rear view for a good look at all the mistakes you’re about to learn from. Bitch had a great piece really taking responsibility for how they handled the recent Schwyzer situation and I appreciate the example of learning and reflection.
This is not the first time feminism has been called out for its racism, for the dominance of white voices and privileged perspectives of all sorts, and it won’t be the last. It continues to be a critical conversation to have. It continues to be a problem. From the first days of trying to get suffrage to digital feminism today, there has not been equality among women or women activists. There has always been a disparity between the stated politics and the personal politics of how it plays out. Pretending that isn’t there isn’t going to make the positive changes necessary. So, here’s to #solidarityisforwhitewomen and to being uncomfortable and to being accountable to those you aren’t hearing.
*Intersectionality is the idea that identities and experiences aren’t happening in a vacuum. The categories that we have come up with (race, gender, class, ability, age, sexuality) all overlap, intermingle and influence one another. Intersectionality acknowledges that you can’t talk about one identity category separately from any other. It’s a more complex analysis than taking one aspect on at a time and makes a bunch of sense as soon as you explain it, in my opinion.