Feminist Definitions: White Feminism

As a feminist, nothing would be more devastating than to be called a “white feminist.” The two words separated are not upsetting: I am indeed white, and I am a proud feminist. So what is so upsetting about being called a white feminist?

White feminism essentially means feminism that is from the privileged perspective of a woman, who is usually white. This notion is planted strongly in the history of feminism. Privileged, white, middle-class women initially campaigned for feminism and their ideas of equality were influenced by their social status. Moreover, their working platform for the vote was not feminist: they argued that they needed the vote because their gentle nature would render them more moral in voting than men. Of course, it is important to mention that these women excluded minority women from their feminist campaigns.

One often remembers feminist history through the white-feminist lens. An example would be thinking that WWII brought great liberation to women by giving them the first opportunity to work. It brought this change to white women. African-American women had been working since, well, slavery. These women lacked the economic privilege that would have allowed them to stay home with their children. For most, being a stay-at-home mother was never an option.

What are some modern examples of white feminism? Thinking that the primary symbols of oppression are bras and heels without considering the fact that there are many countries where women would love the option to wear either of these items; Stating that hijabs or burqas are oppressive to women without realizing that some women choose to wear these; Complaining that one of the main issues of sexism is that men are unaware of how to execute proper clitoral stimulation without realizing that there are countries where women have their vaginas sewn shut.

There are of course many more examples, but the bottom line is: As a white feminist, one is ignoring the majority of women in the world by focusing on only the problems of a privileged few. This, by definition, is not feminism.

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