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Racism within feminism - a bit of a rant
by purplelizzy (purplelizzy)
at July 1st, 2008 (08:36 am)

There's been some discussion recently in other LJ communities about the racism that exists within feminism, specifically western feminism. Feminism (especially in academia) in western cultures seems to have been hijacked by middle class white privilege and if you try and bring on board the experience of women who exist outside of this, you are seen as trying to derail the feminist movement in favour of fighting aginst other (irrelevant?) injustices. It amazes me the number of feminists who, while claiming to have read the work of bell hooks, Gayatri Spivak, Chandra Mohanty, still DO NOT GET IT. This is causing divisions within feminim, which let's face it, has plenty of divisions already.

I've seen this happen time and again. When I began my women's studies degree in New Zealand, we had a fantastic Maori lecturer in the first year but she left the department. I heard she was fed up and disillusioned with the approach of her white colleagues and the concentraion on US & European WHITE theories, which were really not that relevant to the New Zealand situation. I've seen it happen in feminist groups I've belonged to, where the few non-white women who joined felt marginalised and silenced by the dominant WHITE group, who in their eagerness to press ahead with their own agenda, ignored and left by the wayside anyone who tried to raise issues of race. Now I'm seeing it again in online feminist discussion groups, with non white contributers saying they feel silenced and can't be bothered contributing any more because they're sick of having to educate white feminists about their own privilege.

Just as the male has been seen as the default model for everything, within feminism, white experience is the default. It's time to wake up, shake up, remove our collective heads from our collective backsides and hear the voices of our non white sisters.

I hope this post can lead to a fruitful discussion.


Posted by: max (penguingod)
Posted at: July 1st, 2008 06:24 pm (UTC)

I have nothing really to add, but I'm with you 100%.

Posted by: Spitting Out Spiders (1madgirl)
Posted at: July 1st, 2008 08:32 pm (UTC)

I don't think the narrow view of feminism you describe exists everywhere; a lot of it has to do with experience. For some people, coming into feminism begins with recognition of being an "oppressed party" - and because of that, there's a desire to not hear about other oppressed parties for the sake of maintaining "focus." For similar reasons, some feminists get shitty towards the queer movement, proposing thin excuses like "we don't want to be perceived as a lesbian movement" or “I want to stay focused on women” or some other such nonsense. If the desired outcome is equality, it seems pretty essential to examine all inequalities – not just the token few that directly adhere to personal circumstance. Perhaps this was most evident in the recent Democratic race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, where lots of second-wave feminists like Gloria Steinem and Geraldine Ferraro brazenly wrote (and said) racist, classist, tripe, while at the same time furiously rallying their feminist sisters to “vote for the woman.” Embarrassing.

Of course, one could argue that just having the time to identify as feminist (regardless of race) and read theory is, in and of itself, a privilege - the sort of privilege one only achieves once their basic survival needs have been met.

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