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White Feminism: A Far Cry from Equality

The brand of feminism that's focused only on the issues primarily affecting white, straight, able-bodied women. By Michele Theil

The brand of feminism that’s focused only on the issues primarily affecting white, straight, able-bodied women

By Michele Theil

The feminist movement has gained a lot of traction in the last few years, particularly through the medium of social media. There are constant significant debates between feminists and meninists and sexists and abstainers. Debates always draw attention to this movement for equality. However, there’s one thing that hasn’t been talked about as much as it should be: white feminism. White feminism is a term used for the brand of feminism focused on the issues and struggles primarily affecting white, straight, able-bodied women. This is a movement that doesn’t recognize intersectionality as an important part of feminism.

White feminism is when a white celebrity, such as Miley Cyrus, is celebrated for her sexuality and risqué outfits, while a black celebrity, such as Nicki Minaj, is criticised and condemned for it. White feminism is perpetuated when celebrities like Lena Dunham, Amy Schumer and Taylor Swift are regarded by fans and the media as feminist icons, while overlooking the numerous problematic statements they make. Personally, I believe none of these women deserves the title ‘feminist icon’.

Both Amy Schumer and Lena Dunham often tweet ‘jokes’ that offend and insult minorities when they, as privileged white women, have no authority to do so. The jokes in question were about racial stereotypes, and when people pointed out the racist connotations behind them, the women didn’t see a problem. The strange thing is that many people took Schumer’s and Dunham’s sides, and did not recognise that what the women said in their tweets were, at best, problematic; and, at worst, slightly racist.

Taylor Swift’s negative reaction to Nicki Minaj’s tweets questioning the Video of the Year nominations at the 2015 VMAs was another example of white feminism and its harmful effects. In one fell swoop, Swift effectively changed the narrative from a discussion about racism and anti-black misogyny at award shows like Minaj originally intended, to how Nicki was ‘attacking’ Swift through these tweets (even though Swift was never mentioned). As Zeba Blay of the Huffington Post stated, Swift ‘dismissed [Minaj’s] experiences as a black woman, a classic example of the way white feminism works to undermine women of colour’.

The fact that Swift does not recognise her privilege or that she could use her power, celebrity and privilege to speak up on issues that affect people of colour and other marginalised groups is a clear sign that the pop princess is not, in fact, a feminist at all.

Swift, Schumer and Dunham are not the only people that are guilty of White Feminism. Selena Gomez, a close friend of Swift, posted on social media telling people to use their voice for something that matters rather than drawing attention to the supposedly trivial argument involving the mention of Swift in Kanye West’s song ‘Famous’. This blatant attempt to sweep everything under the carpet could be seen as hypocritical due to the fact that Gomez has never spoken up about issues in the world regarding race, and particularly because Gomez herself is Latina.

All of this enshrines an overwhelmingly larger problem, wherein people believe that the advancement of white women in the world is the same as the advancement of all women, regardless of their race, gender identity, sexuality or disability.

 

Michele Theil

Featured image courtesy of AP Images/Invision, The Hollywood Reporter

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