White feminism is a problem. For everyone.
On election day my feed swelled with images in tribute of suffragettes — protesting, advocating, wearing their whites. While I acknowledge the important work they did, we can do better.
We don’t need to stand on their deeply racist and white nationalist agenda. We can do better because we know better. And it is clear that without the support of the most marginalized, we’re not going to get anywhere. Our feminism must be intersectional. We need to represent the needs of ALL people TOGETHER, to stand up for those marginalized and to personally take responsibility for white supremacy and privilege, white-washing and cultural erasure.
White feminism is feel good girl-power vibes without acknowledging deep rooted privileges. It occurs with Lena Dunham, Taylor Swift, Amy Schumer. With groups of white girl #squadgoals. Dunham writes us a letter accompanied with an image of a black woman, a muslim woman, a woman in a wheel chair and a dad with a baby. If only her TV show was as diverse. That’s on her, but it’s also on you if you watch it, quote it and support it.
It is a savior complex trying to save those in the ‘third world’ while turning a blind eye to maternal mortality rates and racism at home. It’s an Instagram feed filled with images of women of color to sell products to white people. It’s using black and brown skin emojis to give yourself authenticity. It’s knowing how to pronounce a yoga pose in Sanskrit, but can’t be bothered to learn to pronounce my name. It’s talking about ancient India, but don’t know the capital, Prime Minister or languages.
Stop. Stop consuming. Stop perpetuating. Stop praising. Stop participating.
That means acknowledging black roots in pop culture, and the origin of ‘on fleek’ when you use it. It means not wearing headdresses on Halloween or at music festivals, or bindis and henna to appear more humble, woke or in touch with an ‘eastern’ philosophy or those marginalized.
It means standing up in a meaningful way for peaceful protest — how did you show your support for Kaepernick? Did you stop watching the NFL or have a meaningful conversation with those in your life who do?
It means no longer co-opting sacred spaces and imagery. See a white person quoting Sanskrit, evoking Indian goddesses, talking about Ayurveda — insist they back up their claims. What is the work that they have done to understand other people’s meaningful traditions?
It’s magazines and wellness products that tell you coconut oil is great for your hair, how to make kichadi, tell your doshas — written by white women with photographs of white women for white women.
I can only share my own experience — my history and culture is not a white fad.
Sure, go on ‘exotic’ yoga retreats and vacations, but learn to name the capital and head of state, and maybe even a little about the politics of the country you’re visiting. You’ll find that often they’ve elected female leaders before the US. I’ve met so many people who gush about their spiritually-awakening, beautiful trip to India and not one of them has known that we elected our first female leader in 1966. Can you celebrate that instead of voyeurism?
Regarding the outcome of this election, recognize that white feminists didn’t muster the effort to elect one of their own. I have heard many say that they are sad and in mourning, and if we just love hard enough, everything will be okay.
Recognize your privilege to mourn and be sad. On Wednesday morning, while many were glued to the news and social media in shock, others without the same luxury, those who will be the most directly affected by this outcome, headed to work — to run businesses, deliver mail, build homes, teach and hold a safe space for others.
Sharing platitudes on spreading peace and love may be temporarily cathartic for you but does little to assuage the real fear I feel as a person of color in this country. To speak with an accent, to wear a headscarf or bindi (the same one you fetishize but on us attracts ridicule and mysticization and invites hate), to grow a beard. When you wear a turban you’re an enlightened kundalini master, when we do, we’re labelled terrorists. Your platitudes do little to guarantee our safety to live our lives in our own skin.
Recognize that race is our own construct and bias, and you as an individual, a consumer, and a community member have power and agency.
Money talks. Only after losing subscribers post-election did The New York Times issue a letter of apology for not reporting accurately the election. For a while now I have recognized that the Times has grossly misrepresented topics that I know something about — architecture, yoga, India and birth. If I can’t trust the paper to cover what I know accurately, how I can trust it to inform me about the things I don’t.
You are in charge of what you read, watch and listen to. You are in control of where you go, what you buy and consume. Who you surround yourself with, what you like, share, support and who you love. You have the ability to make choices. Make those choices inclusive and meaningful.