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Some Thoughts

January 8, 2010

*I know the following post is very elementary in nature. I just feel the need to break a few points down into smaller units. My post’s long digressions may not do anyone but me any good. Nevertheless, I have so much swimming in my head that I need to get it out.

Today when I was processing the comments in the Mary Daly thread, including the allegations about Daly’s racism, I wondered why is it so difficult for people (to put it softly, but really, our audience is women, and more than likely it is white women concerned about Daly’s possibly blemished reputation) to accept the fact that a woman can have faults and still be admired. Mary Daly does not have to be perfect for her contribution to feminism to be acknowledged. It does not have to be proven that Mary Daly was not a racist for women (all women) to appreciate her work. Both Margie and Soulsistasoulja publicly identify as black women and both have acknowledged reverence for Daly’s work.

Whenever anyone feels a need to defend something, I think she or he should ask themselves what is motivating his or her desire. What is at stake? For instance, if I defend a fat cat banker and someone calls me on it (or even if I am not called on it), I should examine why I am defending a fat cat banker. Do I identify with fat cat bankers and want to assure their position in the financial world? (Please kick me if I ever do actually show signs of identifying with fat cat bankers.)

I was wondering what analogy I could use to get my point across, and I think I have one that works. Of course, I must use disclaimers. First, I am by no means saying white feminists are men or rapists (for some women, men and rapists are one in the same, and I respect that opinion, but for my analogy, I will separate the two, –to a degree). Second, I am not saying white feminists are men or rapists! And third, working toward eradicating racism does not drain feminism. Devoting time and energy to the tyrannie movement does drain feminism. Women come in all races. Tyrannies are men. Discussing and fighting racism is in fact feminist. Indulging mentally ill men is not feminist. I hate when white feminists dismiss racism as a diversion similar to trannie-ism. Racism is about females. Trannie-ism is about males. To dismiss them in the same vein is to imply that to concern oneself with the plight of black women (yes, black women. We must go to the root, not stop along the branches and leaves) is as unproductive as concerning oneself with men. One may ask, “If I fight racism, am I not fighting for men? There are men of color.” Well, one could also ask, “If I fight against rape, am I not fighting for men? Men are raped too!” But that is not the focus. The center point is to exorcise racism from feminism. If doing so garners positive residuals for men, so it does. The necessity is to remove the barriers among women.

Every woman knows how rape has been propagandized as being something a strange man does to a hapless victim he plucks off the street. This propaganda allows “nice and good” men to escape the suspicion and label of rapist. However, women know different. We know who rapes in addition to those boogeyman rapists, don’t we? Black women, white women, Asian women, Indian women, we all know who rapes! Men in general rape. But it sure benefits men for women to believe it is only strange men who are a threat to women, doesn’t it? All the while “nice and good” men are above suspect, women will continue to be oppressed by men en masse. En masse, because there are far more “nice and good” men interacting with women and causing them harm than there are strangers on the street doing the same. Slow and steady wins the race comes to mind. If you do not agree with me thus far, you could at least agree that rape causes both mental and physical pain for women, and for many, everlasting mental and physical pain and that rape is used as a tool to keep women in their place. What better way to maintain control than to have unchecked license to control. How can one question the motives of a “nice and good” man when he is so obviously not a boogeyman rapist? And when/if he is never questioned, then why would he ever question himself? Why would he give up a structural advantage? Why would he ever admit what he is doing is rape?

White women have structural power over black women, not to the degree that men as a collective have over women as a collective, but, power over nevertheless. Here is where I am going to bring a metaphor into my analogy (an analogy that is not finished yet). If a white man has 1000 privilege dollars, a white woman has 100 privilege dollars, and a black woman has 10 privilege dollars, and the one who has the most money is considered the most privileged, who has the most privilege? Well, obviously the white man. Now we could say that the two women together have less privilege than the white man, because 100 + 10 is only 110. 110 is less than 1000 to be sure. Now, what some people seem to fail to understand about privilege is, people can have privilege and not be lavished in luxury (or power or whatever appropriate concept applies). Privilege simply means more than. Although 100 is not as great as 1000, it is more than 10. That is the fundamental relevance. It is more than. And if that 100 is aiding the 1000, then the 1000 has the privilege of 1100. If the 100 draws on the privilege of the 1000 it may not have the full privilege of the 1000 but it does have more privilege than the 10. If the 1000 is ignored all together, the 100 is still more than the 10. Meanwhile the 10 is just 10. Alas, I’ve grown tired of this metaphor and need to move on before I become discourage with other digressions racing through my head.

The existence and subsequent proof of the stranger boogeyman who rapes women help disguise the power “nice and good” men utilize to maintain their position over women. White women (yes of course white men too, but I am trying to approach white women’s racism in feminism) have their white supremacist (or KKK, skin head, etc) as their boogeyman. In my analogy, a “racist” (when discussing white feminists) is the stand in for the “nice and good man.” However, somewhere along the line, white feminists, when defending themselves against racism assertions, strategically melded the term racist to mean the same as white supremacist. What better way to shut down a conversation than to pull the old “You are calling me the worst thing you can possibly call me” line. Technically, I guess one could argue that racist and white supremacist are one in the same. However, I am using the two terms to denote a difference in degrees. White supremacist (or KKK, skin head) is someone who actively spouts racist propaganda and is actively involved in terrorizing and tormenting oppressed groups, etc. Whereas a racist is a person who does not actively explore her privilege and/or is indifferent to structural advantages/disadvantages and is prone to lump together dynamics at work that are in desperate need of dissecting. For example, this: “FCM, your girls on a bus analogy is great. It clearly reveals both girls are affected early in life. It does neither of them any good to cling to the other or to rail at the other because they share the danger, even though they experience it in different ways.” Denying racism and failing to recognize the significance in difference is painful. It causes pain.

Anyway, what I am trying to say is, when white feminists defend their racism (or the racism of other white feminists) they appeal to the existence of the boogeyman white supremacist to prevent themselves from having to examine their privilege and power over black women. “I am not a member of the KKK, so there is nothing I need to change.” And/or, “I don’t have the power white men have, therefore, I cannot oppress black women.” This technique is similar to the way “nice and good” men refer to the boogeyman rapist to protect their privilege and power over women. “I do not go out and rape women, so I am not a rapist.” Wheels are spun and nothing moves.

24 Comments
  1. atheistwoman permalink
    January 8, 2010 1:13 am

    Well said Kitty.

    • January 8, 2010 1:24 am

      LOL, you read all of that already. I was still editing. And, I still feel like I did not approach what I am trying to get at.

    • atheistwoman permalink
      January 8, 2010 1:35 am

      Ha. Well, I’ll read it tomorrow and then after that I don’t care ;-).

    • January 8, 2010 3:02 am

      Kitty you DEFINITELY did approach what you’re trying to get at. Hopefully white women read this and take it as it is given. However, given their history, it will probably be picked apart and used as fodder in their racism denial crap.

      I was so discouraged by banjor’s comments that I just stopped even bothering to comment. For the most part, this is why I have absolutely NO DESIRE to truly engage white women in any real or thoughtful discussion on racism. The reason she felt the need to come in and “defend” Mary (who WAS NOT being attacked here, check out that shakesville shit) is because white women have this innate programming to band together against woc and our supporters. That thread exhausted me, and even when I reposted the portion of my comment where I discuss what it costs woc to engage white women about their racism, there was absolutely NO attention paid to that. On and on went the bs and the defensiveness and the excuses, and the banding together of/for white women’s “integrity.”

      So at the end of it all I figure fuck it. White women are going to band together at our expense each and every time. No matter what we say, how we say it, how we express our gratitude for a white woman’s works; if we don’t kiss her ass completely, we will be ignored, marginalized, forced to go through, again, the draining experience of naming racism.

      “The power of naming has been stolen from women” and white women CONSISTENTLY show up to steal that power of naming from black women, unless it can be appropriated to fit their “anti-racism” lies.

  2. January 8, 2010 3:08 am

    While white women clearly have some power over women of colour what they(we) have in heaps and bounds over WOC is privilege.

    dirt

    • January 8, 2010 5:37 am

      Exactly, Dirt. I’m not sure why white women always divert the conversation to issues of power, when privilege and power are two different things.

  3. January 8, 2010 3:09 am

    Yes, Branjor is exhausting, soulsis. This is the second or third time she’s swooped down from on high to defend a white woman who didn’t need defending. She never has anything to say on any number of the other threads, but when a white-woman land-owner is ranting about how bloggers who aren’t as well-situated as her need to risk their more precarious grasp on stability by writing under their real names, here comes Branjor to remind us all that “even Martha Stewart could lose her land.” And, here’s Branjor again.

    I’m frankly sick of her. And I’m not letting any more of her comments through. I do think the hissy fit she threw here, though, (again, might I add) does illustrate quite nicely where white women’s concerns lie.

  4. January 8, 2010 3:21 am

    No doubt she will run back to her white woman circle/club to report. I’m beyond fed up with white women’s bullshit.

    So, for anyone who wonders why I am so critical, so sharp, so forward about white women, check out that thread. And this shit happens ALL THE TIME. The only way for woc (black women especially) to escape their racist bullshit is to kiss their asses. Not happenin over here.

    • joankelly6000 permalink
      January 8, 2010 3:34 am

      I don’t wonder, and actually I don’t find your responses critical or sharp in the “wow, what’s with the anger!” sense of those terms – I think it is the only sensible response. And I’m just sorry it’s one that is continually evoked by white women’s need to protect their egos when talking to (or let’s face it, mostly *about* rather than *to* anyway) black women. No fucking wonder it’s exhausting.

    • January 8, 2010 3:38 am

      Well look at that. Joan I definitely did start to question whether or not I am/was too critical or sharp. Shame isn’t it? I never feel this way when talking with woc, only when dealing with ww.

      It is exhausting. Extremely exhausting. The nerve of her to come to a woc blog with that bullshit!

  5. joankelly6000 permalink
    January 8, 2010 3:44 am

    And I wanted to say this to be clear too – I didn’t mean “oh you don’t sound angry!”, I meant that there is nothing “too” about it. Which it seems like came across, but I’m obsessive compulsive, and I hate the subtle anger-shaming inherent to women reassuring each other that they don’t “sound angry.” It seems like black women are the least-permitted to ever *be* angry, let alone “sound” it, when in fact I can’t think of who has more to be angry about, and the least to ever gain by going along with the coercion to constantly hide it, than black female people.

    Anyway, I love your comments here ever since you started coming around and I love your blog too.

    • January 8, 2010 3:49 am

      Oh no I was writing about what I noticed in myself/comment. That I had begun to think of my righteous anger as being “too” not that you were saying that.

      Someone has to, unapologetically, tell white women the truth about their shit, that it stinks. Glad you like my blog.

  6. January 8, 2010 2:06 pm

    This is a really good post.

    And this particular analogy –

    Anyway, what I am trying to say is, when white feminists defend their racism (or the racism of other white feminists) they appeal to the existence of the boogeyman white supremacist to prevent themselves from having to examine their privilege and power over black women. “I am not a member of the KKK, so there is nothing I need to change.” And/or, “I don’t have the power white men have, therefore, I cannot oppress black women.”

    reminds me of the way trans-activists deny their male privilege. Only they say “I was never a macho alpha male, therefore I never oppressed female people/received male privilege”. But ALL males are “alpha” in relation to females. And their denial of this strips their position of any credibility. And it strips white feminists of any credibility when we do the same regarding our white privilege/racism.

    Even if white men are the “alpha” whites, and white women are “beta” whites, it doesn’t change the fact that white women are still “alpha” relative to black women, with all the privilege that entails.

    Even if one has less privilege, it doesn’t mean that one is not privileged, or lacks the capacity to oppress others even further down the hierarchy.

  7. theunmarrieddaughter permalink
    January 8, 2010 4:53 pm

    Hi,

    Approaching this with trepeditation, because I don’t want to minimize the meat of your post Kitty, on white feminists and racism, and white women’s defense of their privilege and racism. I can’t comment on that because I am a white woman, and your post is thought provoking and challenging, and comment on the racism aspect would come off as half thought out and possibly racist on my part. I have a long way to go on my own white woman privilege over women of color. But I say all the preceding, because I don’t want to appear I am trivializing the heart of your essay with my next comment, or more like a question by not hmm, acknowledging your excellent post on racism.

    Your introductory paragraphs on how Mary Daly can be both a wonderful inspiring feminist who changed women’s spirituality in the patrarcharical church, and a racist, or what do we call it, anti-tryanniest is difficult for people to handle. Life is not an either/or situation,and people, especially people who can do the most good, often can do the most harm, or can be the most flawed. None of our herorines are perfect, nor should they be. It is childish of Shakesville or anyone to say that my heros, or people of influence to have to live up to standards that I set so high that it would impossible to reach for a mere mortal. Holding two contradictory thoughts, “I’m a feminist and a racist”* is a sign of maturity, and once the more egregious of the two is acknowledged,work can be begun to eliminate it.

    I am thinking out loud again, and the best example of this I can find is Hilary Clinton taking down some white privileged christan republican as he berated her for liking Margaret Sanger. He thought he would be beating her over the head with Sanger’s eugenics and racism, trying to miminize Sanger’s groundbreaking work in women’s reproductive rights. Secretary of State Clinton listened, and said,”I can love and appreciate Ms. Sanger’s work for reproductive rights, and abhor her eugenics and racism…and then she went on to make the larger point that no one person can live up to impossible ideals, and it is childish of us to throw the baby out with bathwater.

    Anyway, thanks for letting me share that.

    *I say feminist and racist because since I came here, I realized I am a racist, and never thought I was a racist. It’s good to have the light shine on the dark moldy places in my psyche. I also realize that some people will think that it is impossible to be a feminist and racist.

    • DarthVelma permalink
      January 8, 2010 8:26 pm

      I feel ya on not wanting to believe you’re a racist. The light dawned on me a while back…it’s in there, in my head, whether I want it there or not. We are all of us raised in a world that is racist and misogynist and a lot of other -ists. We cannot escape it and it sucks on ice.

      So every feminist is a racist. And every feminist is a misogynist. So is everyone else. I figure the best I can do is acknowledge it is there and then do my best to work around it…to not let it impact how I treat other people.

      And listen a lot before I talk.

      I feel a big thought coming on. Gonna have to think some more. About multiple intersecting oppressions and how we’re all set up to hate each other and hate ourselves and how utterly fucked up the world is because of it and how do we get enough people to even see it, much less want to fix it.

    • January 8, 2010 8:46 pm

      I am not willing to concede that every feminist is a racist because not all feminists are white (and/or a race privilege over another race) and I am not convinced that every feminist is misogynist. You will have to illustrate that for me. I do understand, have, and seen bouts of internalized misogyny but I just cannot own being a misogynist outright. I am open to hear how feminists are all misogynists though.

    • DarthVelma permalink
      January 8, 2010 9:06 pm

      I probably oversimplified a bit. What I’m saying is that all of us, regardless of race, sex, religion, sexual preference, etc, have internalized the sexist/racist/homophobic/xenophobic/etc messages from the culture around us from the time we’re born. To some degree it is programmed into all of us before we have any choice at all. It is in our heads.

      For me personally it was important to accept that and try to move on from there and try to minimize the damage all that internalized crap has on my life and the people I come into contact with.

      One thing that helped me along the way was reading about and talking with other women struggling with the same or similar issues…all of us pushing back against the misogynist messages that were drilled into us, WOC blogging and talking about coping with internalized racist messages on top of that, and how WOC lesbian feminists cope with it all is a wonder to me.

      Anyway, I hope that helped clear up what I was talking about. I didn’t so much mean to call everyone on earth a racist, sexist, homophobic bigot. Mostly just myself. 🙂

      Happy weekend to all.

    • January 8, 2010 9:26 pm

      Yeah, it is that internalized stuff that is there, staring, haunting.

  8. January 8, 2010 9:29 pm

    I’ll cop to my own racism and white privilege. It’s something I’m trying hard to overcome. I don’t think it’s inevitable though – I do think that white fems have a responsibility to confront it and try to get over it. Saying we have no choice in something is dangerously close to saying it’s natural. I appreciate that you’re not saying that, DarthVelma, just I feel the need to be clear myself. I am not an especially quick or analytical thinker, and I tend to have emotional reactions that I can’t articulate, so I’m sorry if this response seems a bit muddled. I think what I’m trying to say is that being ‘white’ isn’t natural, is it? I mean, it’s a social/political category. Which suggests that it is something that white people can try to get over. Which means that there really is no excuse for white fems not to deal with their racism and white privilege. I don’t mean that WW should pretend to be WOC! I mean be less capital WHITE white, i.e. stop drawing on white male supremacy, start identifying with WOMEN not men. Because racism in any form is identifying with white men and siding with them over women.

    • January 8, 2010 9:58 pm

      And you know TBL, I have to wonder what is hard about trying (not saying that you said it was hard, just saying in a general sense). The quote that I used in my post had me irritable for days. I need time and feedback to get at what I think too. I say think, because it is there, it is just buried underneath several layers of feelings. When the feelings are pushed aside I find I can see clearly what I think. And now that I listen to my feelings, I’ve come to learn that my feelings are usually right. If it feels wrong, it usually is wrong. As I said, I just have to get the words for it first before I can share. That quote had me so angry I am not ready to fill in the blanks yet but I do have some of it coming together. For instance, using the “facts” presented not by me but by the people constructing the analogy, I am to conclude that a seven year old who is potentially homeless (and experiences all that homelessness entails) and an upset seven year old girl who has a home are the same but different or different but the same, or what ever the hell that was being asked of/told to feminists.

      It is just little displays of erasure like that……….

  9. Edna permalink
    January 8, 2010 11:11 pm

    Calling oneself a feminist and being racist at the same time is certainly possible, even if your feminism includes a theoretical anti-racist stance. Walking the walk is much harder than talking the talk, and even getting the talk approximately correct takes active, aggressive, and humbling education and self-examination.

    • January 9, 2010 1:22 am

      I’m glad to see you, Edna. I agree with you on all counts.

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