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This Is What I Mean When I Say "White Feminism"

Well this is a post I've been meaning to write for a while.

Every single time women of colour talk about "white feminism" or "white feminists" within the context of discussions about the way that the mainstream feminist movement privileges whiteness, we deal with an onslaught of defensive white women insisting that they personally are not like that, and would you please say "some white women" and not make generalizations?


What those women fail to realize is that by making that request, they are exemplifying Mikki Kendall's #solidarityisforwhitewomen battle cry; by once again insisting that a conversation created to facilitate discussion about the issues of WoC, be centered around the feelings of white women.

Now, I understand the impulse to get defensive. It can be very off-putting to feel attacked for a transgression that you know yourself not to be guilty of. But in the context of social justice and movement building, if you're feeling attacked, it probably means you're having your privilege challenged, not that you are a bad person. As I always say, "If it doesn't apply to you, then it's not about you. If it's not about you, then don't take it personally." Being a good ally means recognizing that sometimes your input is not needed or wanted, and that it's incredibly inappropriate to demand that a marginalized group, (in this case, WoC within the feminist movement) restructure a conversation that is happening to serve their needs, in a way that is more "comfortable" for the very people they are mobilizing against. That is the very definition of flexing one's privilege.


To that end, let's talk about the term "white feminism." I even had a fun little diagram* made to help explain myself. (H/T to our very own PSF) But before I continue, I want to be very clear that everything in the next few paragraphs is my personal interpretation of this term, and is an explanation of the way that I personally use it. I cannot and do not speak for other women of colour on this issue.

Illustration for article titled This Is What I Mean When I Say White Feminism

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[*I am more than aware that this diagram does not accurately reflect every single theoretical possibility, and of its mathematically limitations. It is simply meant to be an easily understandable visual representation of my assertion that not every white woman is a "white feminist" and not every "white feminist" identifies as white. It's purpose is as a reference, not statistical fact. PSF and I talked about trying to make it more open-ended/accurate but both decided that to do that would sacrifice clarity for inclusivity, and that it wasn't necessary in order to make such a simple point.]

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