White Feminists Prioritize Race Over Sex: on Failing to Understand White Feminism

My fever for the past few days is currently at 103°F, so I apologize in advance if this post makes jumps, but it all bears repeating.

No one in the history of revolutions has ever placed sex before race, including white women, who consistently prioritize their race over their sex (see: voting for men who’ve assaulted them, voting against the interests of women of color, etc.) but the opposite—believing racism is the only real oppression and should be prioritized over all supposedly imaginary others—has always existed, especially with male revolutionaries of color.

The complaint that a woman is prioritizing sex before race is based on an imaginary perception, and alarmingly, it is an accusation that can only ever be levied against a woman of color. White women don’t actually ever prioritize their sex, because they vote against the interests of women of color. They prioritize their race. When white women do support women of color, it’s an anti-racist cause as much as an anti-sexist cause.

It’s astounding to me that people don’t recognize accusations that a woman of color is placing her sex before her race are specific to her. It’s a racist, sexist accusation. It doesn’t apply to white women. It is only justified if she is upholding white women against women of color, and even then is internalized white supremacy, not a prioritization of sex over race.

White feminism is the prioritization of your race over your sex, not the other way around. This post is obviously not speaking to black women, who coined the term and created its usage, and whose intellectual labor is consistently credited by men to white women. It is speaking to non-black women of color, who misappropriate and misuse black feminist terms in order to uphold a race-over-sex hierarchy supporting men of their own race—just like white feminists (and like the very men of color) that black feminists criticize.

Some of you who’ve been reading me since 2011 know that I’ve had difficulty describing my …relationship with my race, and I think there is an overall (not unjustified, but certainly untrue) assumption that white supremacy factors into that. It doesn’t. And I’m ready now to disclose what it is, very briefly.

I’d noticed that although I’m very detached from my race (resorting to describing it through my hair), I entertain—just like I used to when Muslims accused me of not being Muslim—just a tiny, little, unconcerning strand of thoughts about not wanting to live anymore when a woman of my race accused me of not being of my race, or otherwise sources my work to white feminists. Again, this isn’t serious, and there’s no cause for alarm. I fantasize about a lot of things, all the time. This was strange considering I’m so distant from race and typically unfeeling. How could denial of my race result in this reaction? I knew there must have been something going on. (Sometimes what you don’t feel speaks volumes more than what you do.)

Some of you know that my childhood was, I suppose, what can objectively be considered sort of rough. I’ve mentioned it in passing before, and never really in detail, because I don’t think of it as traumatizing. I tend to bounce back from hardship pretty quickly, or at least I did as a child, even when it drags on for years. But my mother’s physically abusive marriage meant several things in terms of how connected I was to her and subsequently to my race.

My mother’s forced isolation from her family and friends and the confiscation of her paychecks meant that, unlike other girls with perfect families, I didn’t just not have warm coats in the winter or fitted shoes. It also meant that I didn’t have glittering saris brought back from abroad every summer. It meant that I was not surrounded with music or movies from my mother’s home. It meant that I could not visit my mother’s family annually like so many of my classmates did theirs. It meant that all I knew about anything was violence. It was violence at home, and, when I encountered racism, violence at school.

It’s a popular concept to convey, that white women want tiklis and kohl and henna but they don’t want the harder things. All I had was the harder things. And to be told, after that, by some prissy well-to-do girl whose mother was never barred from sending money home and who had two whole parents and routine vacations and something glimmering to wear every Eid, that I wasn’t connected to my race or that I needed to read the black scholarship she supposedly knew well enough to manipulate like that kid who wrote “black lives matter” 100 times for his college essay, was fundamentally and astronomically enraging—in the quiet, internal, not-good-enough, evoking-abuse, destructive kind of way. The kind of rage that isn’t rage. The most dangerous kind. (Thankfully, I am very good at healing myself.)

Having figured this out, it doesn’t bother me anymore, but it still speaks to how obtuse (and ultimately white feminist) non-black women of color are when they source the work of other women of color to white feminists any time that work doesn’t center men of color. It’s not just that white feminism erases race—in fact, it recognizes and prioritizes whiteness—rather, white feminism erases the womanness of women of color. It excludes women of color, as not-women, and that is its main feature—not some failure to include non-black men of color. It’s not about men of color. Please stop centering them for once in your sorry lives. And if you must, at least don’t expect me to do it for you. Thanks.

Discuss.

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