Hey white women, shut up & listen!

The Washington Women’s March, pussy hats, self-identified ‘inclusive feminists’; white women have been going hard lately to be part of the war on the patriarchy. We’ve stood in protest. We’ve shouted at the mediocre white men. Maybe one or two of us even contacted our local politicians.

But here’s the truth of it, what our delicate white ears probably don’t want to hear, we’re not the ones leading the resistance. We’re the stragglers, trailing behind. We owe all the ground gained so far to the work of women of colour. So what can we do as newcomers to be true allies to those women who’ve been fighting? Well, first of all, we can recognise the advantages we get for being white women…

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First let’s get one thing out of the way; white women have upheld a system of white supremacy forever. Does that set you on edge? Do you want to argue with me? Stop for a second. Ask yourself where your offense is coming from. A touched nerve, maybe? Because, deep down, behind all our chardonnay and selective ignorance, we all know it’s true. It’s been there for centuries, at the corner of our vision, that thing we just choose not to look at. We know we profit from our skin colour and for us to profit, someone else has to sacrifice. We’ve been the oppressor for much longer than we’ve ever been any kind of ally. Let’s stop infantalising each-other and allowing this farcical ‘ignorance’ to absolve us of blame.

Tone-policing, spiritual bypassing, centering, white saviour complex, this is white feminism as it exists today. It’s up to us to dismantle it and stop the harm this dangerous, racist movement is inflicting on other women. Make no mistake, women of colour have been doing the work, they’ve been fighting the patriarchy because white supremacy is literally killing them. They will leave white women behind in the mess we’ve been complicit in creating. And they would be right to, honestly, unless we can get our shit together, roll-up our sleeves and show that we deserve to march alongside them. This is our line in the sand. This is where we decide what side of history to be on and make reparations because our track record isn’t cute.

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Art: Death to Dickens via Tumblr

We don’t get to call the shots in this fight. We don’t get to say what needs to be done. We. Just. Got. Here! For all the resources we’ve been given, for all the women of colour who’ve told their stories, we’re still not listening. We’re still centering ourselves as if we haven’t been the ones, more often than not, doing the damage. So while we (very rightly) are shouting and posting about dismantling the patriarchy, we are nothing but hypocrites if we do not look closer to home and work to rid ourselves of the entitlement instilled by white supremacy. Only then may someone give us the title of ‘ally’.

“But how?”. That’s our go-to response when we’re called on to do this work. We to need our hands held, to be told what to do, even when we’re trying to clean up our own mess. Is it any wonder women of colour are sick of our shit?

Because they’ve been telling us what we need to do. They tell us in books, in podcasts, on social media. They’ll say it again, even if they’ve said it a million times previously, because this is a matter of life and death. White women need to listen. Before we dive in, half-informed, and do more harm than good. That white arrogance leads to exclusionary marches, the adoption of problematic symbols (hi pussy hat wearers) and, ultimately, causing more problems for women of colour.

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So first, self-educate. If you are a middle-class white woman you’re likely to be a novice in the issues faced by women of different race and ethnicity (and all other minority groups, if we’re being honest). Recognise that lack of experience. Acknowledge your privilege in not having known so many fears and struggles. Having privilege is not a crime, it’s reality. It’s what you do with it that determines your value. Without humbling ourselves enough to learn, we are likely to give performative allyship at best. Only when we’ve looked our whiteness in the eye can we honestly listen to the experiences of other women and help the cause to progress.

Any efforts by white women in the name of feminism that do not involve the above is white feminism. It’s a tool of white supremacy and, make no mistake, it’s racist. So I would encourage you to take a look at your feminist circle, at the words they use, at the causes they back. If those words and efforts don’t support women of colour, women of differing ability and sexuality, women of different financial means, then they are white feminists. It’s your responsibility to call them in.

Marches and banners and tshirts and reposts are nice, but all are worth nothing if the work is not being done around the dinner table, in the office or among friends. Allyship is being a voice of inclusivity when there are only middle-class white people in the room. It’s putting yourself in awkward positions. This revolution is not Instagramable.

If you cannot do that, if you cannot set aside the privileges of being white, then at least do women of colour the one courtesy of not self-identifying as feminist. Don’t come into their safe spaces with your dirty feet and your sensitive feelings. Don’t give them more work. And definitely don’t convince yourself that you’re not an oppressor.

If you are doing the work, these might help…

REQUIRED READING

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“Women, race & class”

Angela Davis

Get it here.

 

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“Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race”

Remi Eddo-Lodge

Get it here.

 

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“So you want to talk about race”

IJeoma Oluo

Get it here.

 

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“Killing the black body”

Dorothy Roberts

Get it here.

 

 

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“Talkin’ up to the white woman: Indigenous women and feminism”

Aileen Moreton-Robinson

Get it here.

 

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“The good immigrant”

Edited: Nikesh Shukla

Get it here.

 

 

 

 

“BRIT(ish)”

Afua Hirsch

Get it here.

 

INSTAGRAM ESSENTIALS

Tips for white women entering the following online spaces. Do so with respect. Pay for what you learn. Stow your feelings. Recognise these spaces are not here to cater to your feelings. Ok? Great!

Rachel Cargle (@rachel.cargle) – Activist, lecturer, writer

Brittany Packnett (@MsPackyetti) – Activist, educator, writer

Catrice M. Jackson (@catriceology) – Speaker, writer, activist

ShiShi Rose (@shishi.rose) – Activist, writer, educator.

Kiona (@HowNotToravellikeabasicbitch) – Traveller, educator, digital content creator.

Florence Given (@FlorenceGiven) – Artist, social activist

Asian Feminist (@asian.actiivist) – Activist community

No White Saviors (@NoWhiteSaviors) – Activist community

Ask A POC (@AskAPOC) – Activist community

 

 

 

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