I used to think that being a feminist meant being loud. Then I started to listen. Feminism is not the same for everyone and one big determining factor is whether or not you’re white. Especially white women. Have I made you uncomfortable? Lean in. On this International Women’s Day, I want every white woman I know or who reads this to stop, look and listen to everything they think they need to have an opinion on.
If you know me, you know I am a staunch supporter of women. Sure, great. However, my life on a macro scale is not difficult because I am a white woman. I am a woman with white skin, I do not practice any religion, I am cisgendered and heterosexual. I own a business that I run as I see fit and can pay myself whatever I think I am worth. I have difficulties in my life but non of them are because I am white. When we speak of privilege this is what is meant by white privilege. It’s not a judgement on how hard your life is. It’s the recognition that none of those hardships are caused by the colour of your skin. White people, I really need you to get this. We all need you to get this.
Some tangible action on the road to getting it:
Tone Policing: Tone policing is the act of dismissing the message because you personally don’t like the delivery. This is not ok and it’s something I see white women do online constantly. There’s even a name for them: Check yourself if you’re being a Becky, Becky! You don’t get to choose how someone discusses years of systemic discrimination or oppression. If they’re mad, let them be mad. If they name call, who gives a fuck? Learn from what they’re saying without making it about how comfortable you are hearing it. If your contribution to a discussion is that it needs to be discussed differently to make you feel better; think about who you’ve centred? Is this a discussion about you? Hell no. If something makes you uncomfortable, go deeper, shut up and listen, listen, listen.
Yield The Floor: In today’s world, Gender Parity is all the rage. I say that very tongue in cheek. It doesn’t make it unimportant but when you just say gender it implies that any woman will do and that’s not the case. A few years ago I was approached to be on a Women’s Panel that was a weekly segment on a local TV station. We discussed all sorts of topics to do with women that were topical in the world at the time. When I was on the panel there were three panelists. All white women. The other two women were also queer but still white. I care about issues that affect marginalized women greatly and I feel like I can speak my opinions eloquently and I did. The problem is, they don’t matter. Truly, they don’t. What mattered on that panel was visual representation of diverse view points and ideas that reflected real life experience and not just an opinion about someone else’s experience. Why am I discussing issues affecting Muslim women around the world and taking up space and air that should be occupied by a Muslim woman? Muslim girls do not get anything from only seeing white women represented but they do get a lot from seeing Muslim women who look like they do represented. White girls also get a lot from seeing diverse representation because it broadens their view of who is capable of what and breaks down stereotypes. This one didn’t come easy to me or my ego. But by yielding the floor on that panel and actually telling production the reason why, they actively sought a more diverse panel and in turn had better more comprehensive conversations and representation. In every space, on every board and in every boardroom take a look around and see who’s missing. As much as possible make sure everyone is represented at every table even if it means removing yourself. Especially if it means removing yourself.
Stop Sticking Your Head In the Sand: I see and hear lots of my white girlfriends say things like: “Everyone’s so sensitive..”, “I’m just not in to politics…” If you are able to say either of these things it’s because you live a relatively un oppressed life. No one is being sensitive, they’re just not taking your shit anymore. Instead of dismissing people as sensitive; recognize that it’s actually the cracks in white, heteronormative patriarchy that’s making white people the most sensitive of all. It costs nothing to stop using language that people are telling you harms them. Why is it more important to you to tell people they’re sensitive than it is to change your own behaviour or actions? There is no such thing as political correctness. You are either upholding oppression or you are dismantling it through your own thoughts, words and actions. Stop being an asshole. It’s literally that simple.
Put your Money, Time and Action where your Mouth is: I see a lot of performative white activism. Especially online. No one cares what a great ally you are. You’re actually a shitty ally if you keep talking about it. Allyship is action. Continual and constant action. Your Facebook shares and retweets are not enough. You do not get a gold star because your intentions are good. Donate money and time to causes that affect all the intersections of feminism: BIPOC, the disabled community and the LGBTQ community and shut up about it. Pass the megaphone to the left, Becky.
If this made you uncomfortable in any way. Good, read it again.