This is our truth, tell us yours
So its been an interesting few days on the old interwebs as various privileged white feminists have explained why intersectional feminism, or an intersectional praxis is wrong, along with all those mean pesky black feminists who insist on speaking before their betters. I will not be linking to the lewis or the Burchill piece, as @RedlightVoices explains here, click bait is all the New Statesman seems to be doing these days, and well Burchill is Burchill. Along with Gia and other banknotes feminists in the UK, and white feminism as a whole there is a kick back against the idea there is any oppression other than being a woman.
The idea that race, class, age, disability (whether that disability is visible or not) being trans, or not conforming in other ways to gender norms of patriarchy is an oppression seems so blindingly obvious to me that I have been struggling to work out quite why people like Helen Lewis or Julie Burchill are so determined to defend the idea there is nothing worse than being a woman. Why are they also so enamoured of the idea of shared girl and womanhood as a fact erasing as it does the experiences of WoC?
The only explanation that makes any sense is that being a woman is the only oppression they face. That might sound a little no shit sherlock so let me unpack it a bit. Imagine growing up being told, and believing that if you work hard, be a good girl and follow Daddies* rules you will one day achieve your dreams. Then you grow up and discover that Daddy lied, those things aren’t enough.You live in a society where women are paid less, where your work is appropriated by male collegues, where men treat you just like the sluts Daddy warned you about. “Its not fair” you scream, and determine that something must be done!
These are oppression of course, and matter, but if the only black spot in your life is that Daddy wouldn’t buy you a pony you come across more as Veruca Salt than fighter for social justice, which is precisely where white feminism is at right now. It seems heresy to say it but there are worst things than being born a white privileged cis able-bodied women in the global north. Shocking I know! Currently white feminism is attacking intersectionality because it challenges this idea. Like Veruca Salt these feminists can only see their personal oppressions and think that anything that has happened to them is the worst thing that could possibly happen to a woman. Daddy not buying that pony is a tragedy, because it is their tragedy.
Of course these feminists are not, largely fools, they are aware that moaning that they only get one seat on the Question Time panel or that their pumpkin spiced latte was slightly too hot doesn’t present the caring sharing face of feminism they want you to see. Which brings us to the myth of shared womanhood. When your oppression basically is that damn pony a handy way to appear more concerned and less egocentric is to say you are fighting for all women. They want to perpetuate the idea that somehow their struggle for breastfeeding rooms in all waitroses is going to liberate the victim of multiple rapes in the Congo so that we listen to them. Of course they cannot explain quite why making their slightly uncomfortable life even better will directly help her, but look, shared womanhood, so it will.
Some have suggested that the current rash of fuckwittery is a kind of death rattle. I am less optimistic, patriarchy (and these feminists are determined to uphold patriarchy so they keep getting the head pats from Daddy) is powerful and has a habit of giving women just enough room at the table to keep them quiet. The Carolines, Glosswitches, Bindles, Gias, Burchills, Kats, and Lucys, all white women who follow in each others footsteps to that coveted seat at the table may be beyond hope, but we do not need to despair. Bring aware of their dog whistles, their egotism, their what about me ism and white tears means we can more quickly say no, no to their click bait and claims of abuse. No to their campaigns and blogs about trivialities, and most of all no to their demands that we supply the pony daddy lied about.
*yes Daddy may be a metaphorical reference to patriarchy, do keep up. Then again they may just all have Daddy issues, it would explain a lot.