White Feminism

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 so-called feminists and meninists and sexists and abstainers, bringing great attention to the movement for equality. There is one thing that hasn’t been talked about as much as I think it should have been: white feminism. White feminism is focused on the issues and struggles that primarily affect white women only and does not recognise that intersectionality, race, sexuality and disability that plays a role in feminism.

White feminism is purported when a celebrity like Miley Cyrus is celebrated for her sexuality and risqué outfits while someone like Nicki Minaj is criticised for it, with people slating her to be a ‘bad role model’ because she is too sexual. White feminism also comes into account when women like Lena Dunham, Amy Schumer and Taylor Swift are perpetuated as feminist icons, with hundreds of thousands of people hero worshipping each of them and disregarding the numerous problematic statements they make. I personally believe that none of these women deserve the title of “feminist icon”.

Both Amy Schumer and Lena Dunham often tweet “jokes” that offend and insult minorities and people of colour when they, as privileged white women, have no authority to do so. Problems arose when they “joked” about racial stereotypes and when people pointed out the racist connotations behind their messages, they didn’t see the problem. When Lena Dunham suggested that Odell Beckham Jr. didn’t find her attractive or want to sleep with her based on one very brief interaction with him wherein he stated nothing of the sort. This brings up the common misconception that black men always over-sexualize women. The strange thing was that many people were on Lena Dunham’s side and did not recognize that what she said was, 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 it’s harmful effects. In one fell swoop, Swift effectively changed the narrative from racism and anti-Black misogyny in the media and award shows to how Minaj apparently “attacked” her through these tweets, even though Swift was not mentioned whatsoever. As Zeba Blay of the Huffington Post stated, she “dismissed [Nicki 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 recognize her privilege or that she could use her power, celebrity and privilege to speak up on issues that affect people of colour, disabled women and members of the LGBT+ community.

Swift, Schumer and Dunham are not the only people that are guilty of these proponents 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 perpetuating the supposedly trivial story of Kanye West and Taylor Swift’s argument over West’s song ‘Famous’. This was seen as very hypocritical due to the fact that neither Swift nor Gomez has spoken up about issues in the world including the Black Lives Matter movement and the deaths of several Latino people at an LGBT club in Florida, particularly as Gomez herself is Latina.

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

By Michele Theil

Michele Theil is a freelance journalist based in London, specialising in investigative journalism and pieces relating to the LGBT+ community, women, race and culture – and their intersections. She is a bisexual woman of colour, and passionate about social justice, diversity, inclusion, writing, reading and swimming. Read her other work at micheletheil.com.

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