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Are they or aren't they: White Feminist™ edition

May. 30, 2017
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Ah, White Feminism™: the foundation upon which the entire mainstream feminist movement is built. It pervades our culture, attempting to disguise itself as actual feminism. For those who need a refresher, white feminism is the brand of feminism that focuses on the struggles and issues of privileged white women while disregarding or straight up ignoring the oppression that women of color, trans women, and women from other marginalized communities face.   

Sadly, this regressive form of feminism is practiced by some of our most influential celebrities and culture-makers, leading to widespread public misunderstanding about what actual feminism looks like. Some of the worst offenders are commonly mistaken for actual feminists.  

Can you tell which of the following A-listers are white feminists or not?

1. Taylor Swift

As one of the most successful and influential names in music right now, Taylor is all about promoting female empowerment and excellence… or is it just white-girl excellence? She used black women as mere props in her “Shake It Off” music video, thereby furthering the sexualization of black bodies for the capitalistic gain of white people. She surrounded herself with rich, beautiful, mostly-white women in “Bad Blood”--which made it pretty clear which demographic she believes should be (further) represented. And worst of all: she used the colonization of Africa to tell a white love story with absolutely zero people of color to be found in her music video for “Wildest Dreams”. Taylor doesn’t seem to trouble herself with feminist issues beyond those of rich, famous, white women.

Verdict: ecru feminist

 2. Lena Dunham

If there were to be a picture to go alongside the term “white feminist” in the dictionary, it would be of Lena Dunham. Although her show Girls may seem like it tackles important feminist and political issues, it’s really just tackling the issues of upper middle class white women. Can you name a single main character of color? Go ahead, I’ll wait.  

And let’s not forget the time she told Amy Schumer in an interview how offended she got when Odell Beckham Jr. didn’t hit on her at the Met Gala last year: “I was sitting next to Odell Beckham Jr., and it was so amazing because it was like he looked at me and he determined I was not the shape of a woman by his standards. He was like, ‘That’s a marshmallow. That’s a child. That’s a dog.’ It wasn’t mean—he just seemed confused.” Um, what? After major backlash, she attempted to chalk her comments up to her own insecurities and her sense of humor. The countless black men who have died because of those types of assumptions probably didn’t find it that funny.

Verdict: oatmeal feminist

 3. Amy Schumer

White feminist. Amy is constantly praised for being a feminist trailblazer and bringing up important issues in her comedy show. Yet she is hardly ever criticized for ner numerous racially insensitive jokes, comments, and skits--although her most recent abomination did receive some much earned backlash. In partnership with Goldie Hawn, Schumer decided to make a parody of Beyonce’s “Formation”. They dressed up in bulletproof vests, straw hats, and lip synced phrases like “Negro nose and Jackson 5 nostrils.” For any white women who need a guide on how to use artwork that is culturally significant to black women and their experience about you, you need look no further than this racist video. 

Verdict: eggshell feminist

And remember, kids: if your faves use women of color as props, dismiss legitimate criticism as the province of “haters” or demand the savior treatment for appropriating work other feminists have been doing forever, chances are  their feminism is only for the benefit of women who look just like them. It’s our responsibility as feminists (and--if you are one--as white women) to create a feminism that embraces all our sisters, not just the ones who remind us of ourselves.