This past week, via Twitter, originally started by blogger Mikki Kendall, the hashtag “solidarityisforwhitewomen” trended as a statement that white feminism leaves out women of color. (History behind solidarity is for white women hashtag). (NPR Story) The hashtag went global. I picked up on this trending and then got to watch it and learn. I recommend you search #solidarityisforwhitewomen, but I have included some great examples.
This story is nothing new. This dialogue was part of my education in Women’s Studies, that women of color did not have a voice at the so-called feminist table. Women of color were left out of this very white “problem that has no name” movement. Women of color were left out of the suffragist movement. Look around the tables where you sit. What do you see? I see that we are still not doing a good job at being inclusive. My workplace is a microcosm of the world. There are very few women of color on our faculty, or men of color, for that matter.
Many of the tweets include great examples from media and pop culture that reinforce white privilege, power and white supremacy. As someone who considers herself a social justice critic of media, I know, as a white women, I notice sexism instantly, but I have to continue to push myself to see the racism. This hashtag, this trend, is asking white women to do just that. Push yourself, learn, and LISTEN. Actively listen. It was listening to my friend Cynthia that got me interested in the drama Scandal. When I learned the history of how few black women had held the lead in a network drama, I was shocked and appalled. (My take on that subject).
I often criticize an artistic director friend of mine for not producing enough plays by women and people of color. His response is that he produces a lot of shows by gay men and that he “can’t cover every cause.” This is the kind of non-intersectional thinking that we get stuck in and one that gets perpetuated in our society. Last year I decided I couldn’t subscribe to theatres who don’t make an EFFORT, even just the slightest effort, to diversify their seasons. What does this mean? It means I’m not supporting the arts with my dollars. I’m picking and choosing what shows I see instead of subscribing. It means I’m not watching much television today because I’ve become too wary of watching something that misrepresents people. So what else can we do as white feminists who want to eliminate racism and end white supremacy?
When I was teaching Women’s Studies, one question I always asked my students was “what if the women’s liberation movement of the 70s and the civil rights movement of the 60s had joined up?” What if groups representing oppressed people weren’t divided up and given pieces of a pie to share?
Mikki Kendall has a great article in XOJane this week talking about next steps.
What this hashtag trend has done for me is to challenge me to be even MORE intersectional in my work with student and in my own thinking. We’re starting out the semester by doing a privilege worksheet to lay this stuff all out on the table at once. We’re running a social justice media literacy conference and I’m asking all the presenters to keep an intersectional analysis of race, gender, class and sexuality as the foundation for all their talks/workshops.
And I’m looking in the mirror, constantly reminding myself to pay attention and to call out that misrepresentation wherever I see it: the workplace, the media, and in the theatre.