White Feminism


Rowan Lucas

“White feminism” is a form of feminism that focuses on the struggles of white women while failing to recognize and bring visibility to the specific forms of oppression faced by ethnic minority women and women lacking other privileges. It’s a term we should all be familiar with due to the sheer amount present in today’s white activists. As Rachel Elizabeth Cargle from “Harper’s Bazaar” says: “White feminism is white supremacy in heels.” 

Mainstream feminism has been practically marketed specifically towards white women and girls since the movement began. That’s how the movement has been shown in popular TV shows, in media, and in everything else. We can’t forget how the suffragette’s completely left behind women of color when the movement started in the first place. “The goal of white feminism is not to alter the systems that oppress women (examples being the patriarchy, capitalism, imperialism, etc) but to succeed within them.” States Koa Back on Dismantling the Persistence of White Feminism via NBC News. Feminism has been white feminism ever since it began. 

Rafia Zakaria, the author of Against White Feminism states, “…someone who refuses to consider the role that whiteness and the racial privilege attached to it has played and continued to play in universalizing white feminist concerns, agendas, and beliefs as being those of all feminism and all feminists.” 

Coming as no surprise, steering the focus of feminism to include primarily white women issues is advanced by mostly white women. The perfect example of this being the Texas abortion ban protests. White women are dressing up as characters from Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel (and popular running AMC show) The Handmaid’s Tale, in which women are subjugated to sexual slavery. White feminists identify strongly with this narrative because it’s a novel about white women in slavery. “The systematic sexual and reproductive violence on the show terrify those who view the story as a future dystopian (im)possibility for whiteness when it is in fact a historical ghost for Black people who were enslaved.” Sherronda J. Brown states from Wear Your Voice Magazine. 

Women share experiences of sexism, misogyny, and living in a patriarchal society. White women and women of color experience sexism in the workplace, in the community, and even at home. However, women of color face much more than just the patriarchy. They face racism and/or xenophobia as well. Those challenges faced are much more than those of white women. 

My takeaway is that white feminism is enduring because it’s so palatable and because it doesn’t really challenge much about our structure, our life, the way we make money or the way we relate to other women. There’s something so easy about it, and it fits within the rhythm of the shows and media we consume. You can basically identify as a “feminist” without really challenging power, and that’s very satisfying and welcoming to a lot of people.” Says Koa Beck on NBC News. 

Cis white women do face challenges. The point isn’t to remove or discredit that, but we don’t face oppression because of differences in skin color or appearance. Cis white women inherently have more privilege, and that’s the problem that needs to be resolved. Feminism is about bringing power to all women, and nothing will ever move forwards if all women aren’t represented.