A Year in Review: The Top 10 Most Racist/Privileged Things White Feminists Did in 2014
As December is drawing to a close and January looms near threatening to bury all of our indignant rage under a pile of tax refund dollars and unfulfilled resolutions, I feel that tugging urge to remind you of all the legitimate reasons white feminists have given us to stay pissed right on into the new year.
Since last year’s list was such a hit, I’ve decided that I can think of no better way to round off my country’s annual season of over-consumption than to present you with the gift of my second annual Year in Review: The Top 10 Most Racist/Privileged Things White Feminists Did this year. Here’s how our white feminist allies decided to show their solidarity in 2014:
1) Black women have been under assault all year, giving white feminists plenty of opportunities to use their extensive resources and privilege in allyship with them. Alarmingly, the white feminist bloggersphere has been so quiet about so many assaults on black women this year, I almost thought I heard an echo.
One such incident involves Oklahoma City Police officer Daniel Holtzclaw who has been charged with 32 counts of rape, sexual assault, stalking and sodomy against 13 victims, exclusively targeting working class black women with histories of sex work. He was released on bail on Sept 5th with the help of Judge Tim Henderson who reduced Holtzclaw’s bail from $5 million to $500,000. Adding injury, Holtzclaw, who is already on paid leave, has become the hero figure of a social media campaign with over 800 Facebook supporters, t-shirts being sold at $25 a piece, and a GoFundMe page which raised more than $7000 for the rapist.
Perhaps they didn’t hear about it?
2) Speaking of silent white feminists, it seems they also didn’t hear that Django Unchained actress Danielle Watts was racially profiled and illegally detained by racist police officers who assumed she was a sex worker. They got their tip from a baseless 911-call from an even more racist office-worker (I too was shocked that someone could be more racist than the LAPD) who saw her sitting on the lap of, and making out with, her white boyfriend in their car.
But a blurry set of photos from the bastion of journalistic integrity known as TMZ, (that still confirmed that her upper body was not exposed and that she was fully dressed), was somehow all some folks needed to turn their backs on Danielle.
White feminists, however, required even less “proof” than that, having never stepped up to defend Danielle in the first place.
3) Continuing the sexual assault trend was this year’s mass web-based sexual assault wherein the nude photos of hundreds of female celebrities where stolen, shared, and viewed online by thousands of sex offenders* (and, yes, you read me right, I am calling everyone who seeks out and intentionally views or shares these photos without the explicit consent of the women in them, sex offenders. EVERYONE. INCLUDING YOU. Moving on.)
White feminists lost their collective shit about heroine Jennifer Lawrence’s violation, occasionally making cursory mention of a number of other famous white women whose photos were also leaked and/or had commented on the leaks.
However, they conveniently forgot to support or even mention numerous black celebs who were hacked, most notably Jill Scott who was the subject of a particularly brutal Twitter-based attack taking jabs at her body size and shape that was going viral while white feminists focused on chastising folks not to look at JLaw.
The snub didn’t go unnoticed by black celebs either.
In fact, Emma Watson received more support from white feminists than folks like Jill Scott and Gabrielle Union did and photos of her were never actually even released. Because, I mean, obvi the threat of an attack is WAY more serious than an actual attack. Especially since Emma is a new white feminist darling.
4) Apparently Emma Watson is a “game changer” for feminism just by being white and saying stuff vaguely related to the feminisms. This is in spite of the fact that she offers zero analysis of the intersections of race (or trans and gender-non-conforming identities, class, and disability for that matter) with feminism at any point during her entire 11-minute speech. Even when she briefly referenced her own privilege, she somehow failed to mention how her existence as a white woman specifically colored her experiences.
Why weren’t UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka’s or UN Women Deputy Executive Director Lakshmi Puri’s speeches on innovative ways to empower women-of-color survivors of sexual violence in conflict regions and engage them in the dismantling of said conflict regarded as game-changing?
Could it be because intersectional and well-researched commentary from even the most well-informed women-of-color will never outshine a pretty affluent white girl’s “My First Feminism” moment?
5) In other “across the pond” news, noted UK-based feminists like Tracey Emin and Kirsty Wark as well as liberal and labor party leaders Harriet Harman, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband have all been spotted in the “This is What A Feminist Looks Like” t-shirt that is so trendy, it has even graced the pages of Elle UK.
The shirt, which is made in a Mauritian sweatshop by Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan, Indian and Vietnamese migrant women making around $1.04 an hour, is selling for around $70, or over a week’s salary.
The workers, who apparently “don’t feel like feminists” and see themselves as “trapped,” don’t seem to understand how empowering it is to share sleeping accommodations with 15 other women for 4-straight years while simultaneously not being allowed contact with their families.
I mean, talk about girl power.
6) On the topic of girl power, it’s become a favorite pastime of white feminists lately to draft exasperatingly ridiculous think-pieces on the newly columbused AAVE (African American Vernacular English) phrase “basic bitch” honoring the basicness of white girls everywhere and even going so far as demanding respect for the already highly respected.
The thing is, aside from their obvious lack of awareness of when and how the term actually came into use (hint: it wasn’t because of the Mean Girls movie franchise OR Kreayshawn), white girls actually have the definition completely wrong. Basic was not introduced as a slur directed at trend-thirsty middle-class white girls because real people don’t actually create slurs around your privilege.
So what does “basic” or the less endearing “basic bitch” mean anyway? It’s the opposite of a bad bitch. It’s someone who ain’t about shit. It’s someone who is mistaken about how fly they actually are. It’s someone whose point of view is not to be respected. But most importantly, it’s generally used in reference to a black girl by other black people. It’s a nuanced and varied word that is one of a surprisingly large lexicon of black euphemisms that white feminists, and let’s face it white folks in general, have
stolen..um, adopted while simultaneously having no idea what’s going on.
Basic was never intended to reference your damn pumpkin spice latte addiction.
So, the real reason white feminists and their friends should stop saying basic is because you appropriated it in the first place, not because it backfired in your faces and is now being used by other people like you to critique your bourgeois existence.
7) Who better to help us through a segue about cultural appropriation than Katy Perry, who missed the list last year in spite of that Geisha
crap um…homage she whipped together for the American Music Awards…
…and a desire to literally skin japanese girls & wear them…
…because it wasn’t until this year that she openly admitted to viewing herself as a feminist (though some would argue that she still seems pretty confused as to the definition).
And she was just in time because her decision to include big booty mummies with giant red lips reminiscent of black face caricatures in an already appropriative “Egyptian-themed” set on during her world tour is a classic example of Katy’s special brand of cultural “appreciation.”
8) In other celebrity news, Feminist Icon ™ Lady Gaga played Tel Aviv in September despite ongoing protests calling for a boycott of Israel and Israeli-made goods by the Palestinian community who has been subject to their ongoing genocidal attacks and apartheid-like policies.
Although, considering her ticket price of $107 for nosebleed seats sitting in the grass, who wouldn’t want to spit in the face of a few thousand dead Palestinians?
Not that this is new for Gaga, she has a history of disregarding boycotts for racial justice. In 2010 she played a concert in Arizona despite repeated calls to cancel her concert there because of an unconstitutional immigration law encouraging the use of racial profiling to detain suspected undocumented immigrants.
9) Those weren’t the only boycotts white feminists ignored. Suey Park’s brilliant #CancelColbert campaign, which began as a reaction to a racist sketch performed by feminist comedian Stephen Colbert (that was ironically intended to be a satirical commentary on racism), was not only ignored by white feminists but provoked a months long attack against her. Numerous articles were penned, more invested in protecting the privilege of a white male comedian than understanding how damaging Orientalism is, while Colbert fans inundated Suey’s Twitter with racist and misogynist slurs and death threats. Any white feminists who weren’t participating in the attacks themselves refused to comment on them at all.
(Though that’s probably because as soon as the attacks started and they realized they were on the same side as the bigoted bros and web bullies section of the internet they knew they had done something wrong.)
I think Satvika Neti put it best saying, “satire, as history has taught us, is supposed to mock the privileged classes, not the minorities. Satire is supposed to punch up at the oppressive social structure, not down at people who continue to be oppressed.”
The very reason The Colbert Report didn’t use the N-word and a joke about blackness in the sketch is because it would have been all too obvious in a post-civil rights era U.S. that that kind of satire is not amusing and in very poor taste.
South East Asians likely seemed like an easier target because their U.S. rights movements have been publicized less and their leaders less prominent than those of the Black community. Both Stephen Colbert AND those attacking Suey know this but admitting it would expose some very real racial bias and even a little self-hate inside of a lot of folks who aren’t quite ready to look at themselves in the mirror.
Well, you don’t get to be pissed at Suey Park because your “progressive” ass laughed at a racist joke and she broke your little world by calling you out on it. Do better.
10) I thought it might be prudent to finish this list off with an example of how you “do better”.
In yet another instance of white feminism gone awry, the good folks at Hollaback, an anti-street harassment movement, commissioned the heavily critiqued PSA above highlighting the experiences of a white woman walking through New York City. The problem is, in the 2 minute video, which contains excerpts of a 10-hour walk through a city that is itself 44-45% white, the only individuals who seem to be shown as harassers are black and latino men.
Fortunately, Hollaback followed up with a timely response and apology regarding the over-representation of men-of-color in their video.
Women-of-color demanded more, however, bringing up the lack of representation of trans and cis women of color in the video as a major issue especially considering their extreme vulnerability and danger in situations involving street harassment (especially trans women of color).
So they created this response video, detailing some of the ways that the intersection of gender and race informs their stories.
And do you know what Hollaback did? They apologized again, incorporating what they learned from this video into a more thorough response. They also committed the over $10k in donations brought in by the original video to create their own, more diverse video series.
Now THAT is how you gracefully accept a critique of your historic racial missteps and make yourself accountable to the communities you claim to serve. I hope you’re all taking notes on this, it’s definitely going to be on the test.
11!!! I’ve decided to add a little spice to your new year (because I hear white feminists don’t use very many spices), and mix the list up this time with a BONUS ENTRY!
It may surprise you to know that you don’t actually have to be white to be a White Feminist ™. People-of-Color who espouse white feminist principles, even to the detriment of their own culture and identity, can be White Feminists too! So without any further ado, I present to you, the Non-White White Feminist of the Year!
Pharrell “New Black” Williams decided this year that he is, indeed, a feminist after some speculation on his part as to whether or not a man can even be a feminist (trust me, Pharrell, you’re not the only unsure party in that debate).
Aside from coining new phrases to express his self-hatred while simultaneously implying that black folks “blame other races for our issues”, (a comment that makes one wonder why Pharrell thinks “Uncle Tom” is a “New” kind of black) Pharrell also showed his dedication to black uplift by calling recent victim of Fergurson, Missouri police violence, Mike Brown, a bully. Pharrell also said that the 18-year old, whose murder has prompted nationwide campaigns and protest amongst the black community and their allies, was asking for trouble.
This phenomena should really surprise no one, especially considering the already interesting ways he’s honored other people of color this year, namely his alleged Indigenous American heritage, by donning a war bonnet on the cover of a fashion magazine.
With that kind of track record, one might wonder how Pharrell will be able to top this in the coming year. I guess we’ll have to wait and see. Until then…
* A friend brought to my attention that, “sex offender” is specifically a criminal legal term and may give the wrong impression. While I advocate the extreme shaming of those who think their curiosity (or any other reason they give themselves) is a valid excuse to violate the bodies and privacy of the women discussed herein, I want to make it clear that I do not and will never advocate for the ever expanding prison industrial complex as a solution to any of humanity’s many problems.