I’ve been following the #solidarityisforwhitewomen hashtag on twitter and chortling rather gleefully every time someone tweets a total burn!
I’ve argued before that feminism as a political ideology only caters to white women who work outside the home for wages, and that white women have approximately zero interest in seeing life get any better for the women who do all the shit work white ladies are too precious to submit to.
What I find really, really interesting is that not only are feminists unwilling to look at how their cushy lives are made possible by all the work that women of color do, they don’t even seem willing to reach out to those women who have broken through the cultural barriers to achieve the feminist white lady version of success. How many writers at Jezebel, Slate, the HuffPo Women, the Frisky, xoJane and any other number of feminist blogs have nannies and housekeepers who work, most likely, without standard labor force protections and benefits that white ladies pretty much take for granted?
How many white feminists writers stop in the middle of their oh-so-important work to text the nanny not to forget about Imogen’s dentist appointment and the bus fare is on the table?
If feminists were the exceptions, the wonderful employers who provided fair wages and benefits and working conditions to THEIR black women, don’t you think they would trumpet that from the rooftops?
Yeah, not so much, huh?
I find it a little sad that black women are still trying to find some way to have a conversation with white women about how they can be included in the whole feminist discussion. Here is Mikki Kendall, the woman who started the whole hastag, reflecting on the experience.
Even now, in my conversations with other women of color it has come up often, how White the narrative around feminism is, and how that Whiteness lends itself to the erasure of the problems specifically facing women of color. Early #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen tweets were an expression of my personal frustrations with an ongoing problem in digital feminist communities. However, the conversation rapidly moved beyond the personal into the structural problems that have kept this divide in feminism alive.
Ah, the structural problems. There’s the rub. And here’s the truth: white women cannot participate in the labor force without having an exploitable source of domestic labor, and the culture of entrenched poverty and single motherhood in the black community continuously creates a workforce for white women to use and abuse.
It might be ugly to read, but there you have it. There are two things white feminists do NOT want to encourage or examine in any meaningful way: solidarity between men and women of color, and women of color who are closing the gap with white lady accomplishments. Both of those things threaten women’s exploitable pool of poor workers, and if those workers disappear, so do market opportunities for white women.
Someone MUST do the dirty work. Someone MUST cook and clean and tend to the very old and the very young. And that someone is NOT going to be a fancy feminist with her Women’s Studies degree and ambitions to get the top salary at that not for profit agency she works for providing services based on whatever ideological bullshit the agency has been able to spin to Big Daddy government.
And we’re talking a lot of money. One day, I will have to track down all the grants and funding directed specifically towards women, and unpack just how much cash is at stake for the professional feminist brigade. It didn’t take me long to find this site:
Raise your hand now if you are SHOCKED that I cannot find a grants for men mirror site. The America’s Got Grants homepage explicitly offers “women” as a category. But not men. There are no grants specifically for men. Men have to qualify under some condition other than “genitals”.
American white women get a lot of assistance in the form of cash from the Federal Government, but it’s not enough to cover all the expenses. White women still need a helping hand. Successful white women are successful because they have women of color to stand on.
Awww. That’s so sweet. I love that women of color are willing to leave their own children all day to go and take care of white babies. Makes me wanna go buy Aunt Jemima pancake syrup right now.
You know what’s really funny? That stereotype about black women being really sassy and loudmouthed and sarcastic and caustic and angry? Where is it now? Latina women have kind of the same caricature applied to them, no? If EVER there was a time to get mouthy and rude, this is it. White women have built an entire political ideology on the backs of women of color and the best women of color can do is call them out gently and respectfully?
Y’all need to get your bitch on, if you ask me.
These two tweets in particular caught my attention:
I would personally think these idea through really carefully. White feminists have a vested interest in making sure that relations between men and women of color are deeply fractured and hostile. Marriage is one of THE BEST ways to build wealth and transmit it to the next generation, in effect becoming “economically white”. I’ll add the disclaimer that not all white people are married and wealthy, and those who aren’t have the same shitty choices as any other poor person, but of ALL the families that ARE rich, MOST of them are white, heterosexual couples with children.
And they have their own colored folks to pick up the slack and keep life ticking along smoothly.
It really sucks that whenever we talk in the media about women of color, it’s usually along the lines of poor, illiterate, uneducated, exploited, blah blah blah and here I am doing the exact same thing. That’s not to say we SHOULDN’T be discussing the social and cultural aspects of race and gender, but when that’s ALL we discuss, it’s a problem.
So let’s end today talking about the enormous strides women of color have been making in the managerial and professional occupational categories. It ain’t great news, but it’s good.
The employment of women of color increased dramatically in the period between 1990 and 2001. The rate of change for African American women is the lowest increase at 43 percent and the rate of change for Hispanic women is the highest at 104 percent.
Although women of color still remain a relatively small percentage of all officials and managers, their increase in the decade between 1990 and 2001 is dramatic. Their rates of changes range from 75 percent for African American women to 135 percent for Asian women.
Women of color continue to push their way to the top of the economic ladder, and in one sense that’s really great. Our entire economy and society is built on the assumption that the cream rises to the top. The barriers we put in place against the truly smart and capable and intelligent and ambitious for spurious reasons like race or ability or class or gender hurts our whole society.
We need our human capital. But all that human capital starts out in the same form.
Women of color scrambling their way to the top still need their toilets scrubbed and their kids fed and the laundry done.
It comes back to the same question: who is doing the grunt work?
If women of color think feminism is going to help them untangle the web of domestic labor and race and social conditions, they are sadly mistaken. White women have no incentive to do so, and don’t even want to have the conversation.
They can’t afford to. How are white ladies supposed to storm the barricades without colored women to man the fort?
Some of the biggest advocates for feminism seem to believe that in order to feel powerful you have to make another woman subservient, and that is not what feminism is about at all.
Oh really, Tori?
I wonder what your housekeeper thinks about that?
Lots of love,