Why WOC Do Not Identify With FeminismWhile rubbernecking at the latest internet car-wreck I had a few things clarified for me. First I should explain what I mean by the latest car-wreck, over at I Blame The Patriarchy (no, I will not link) there was a recent thread where the commenters were saying hatefilled derogatory things about trans-women. This appears to be one of several instances where Twisty and her crew get to decide who "women" are, and who "feminists" are. As far as I am concerned they are as exclusionary and judgemental as the white-boys-only patriarchy they condemn. This is why WOC generally do not identify with what passes for feminism in America. We understand that all oppression is interrelated for one thing, whereas white middle class feminism only recognizes the oppression of white middle class women as paramount. This is why BA was so angry about Amanda making a sneak attack on sexism vs racism here. White middle class American feminists envy the power that white middle class men wield. They want that power for themselves at the expense of people of color, the lower classes, the disabled, trans-women and men, etc etc etc. That's why they can make it into a pissing contest over who is more oppressed. For a woman of color, she understands that she is oppressed because she is a woman, is oppressed again because she is brown skinned, and may also be oppressed because she is poor, or lesbian, or disabled, or fat, or is colonized, and so on. Feminism for us isn't about eradicating sexism and misogyny alone, it's about ending ignorance, fear, and hate at all levels. It's about recognizing the basic humanity of all people.
Some of the best commentary on this is a post at Women of Color Blog where BFP says this in the comments for example:
"But looking at the actual theory and politics of trans gender-ism and femaleness–I think it gets into the idea–are females really the only ones abused in this structure we all live under? And if you are multiple identities–if you are, say, a transgendered institutionalized woman of color–what is it, really, that justifies the use of harmful sterilization drugs on you? Is it your femaleness? Is it your disability? Is it your color? Or is that you are all of these identities wrapped into one confusing body that oppressive power structures sees no value in?
The thing is–these debates are just a variant on the “gender trumps X” arguement. The idea that you will be abused because you are female, NOT because you are specially a BLACK female, or a disabled female or a queer chicana. And of course, this all links back to the idea that white women and all their battles against THEIR enemy (the patriarchy) must remain central to what feminism is."
Actually you should make the time to read all the comments in that thread, yes indeed, it's very long but so worthwhile. BFP and Yolanda make the important distinction between capitalism/imperialism and worldwide dominance compared to simple patriarchy. Patriarchy is only one method of control. White male supremacy is the power structure, and white feminists by virtue of their Euro heritage do have power in this structure that they are unwilling to acknowledge but are more than willing to use against the powerless.
In the comments Heart comes along to make excuses for Twisty and is taken to task for that but is remarkably blind to understanding what the other commenters object to. It is about how white feminists tend to address the symptom (patriarchy) instead of the cause (the greater white supremacy/capitalist world dominance) at the root of sexism/racism/classism and all the other hate 'isms. Heart wants to make it all about individual acts of violence, but that is like giving a couple aspirin to someone suffering a brain aneurysm. The symptom is a headache after all.
This harkens back to the burka brouhaha. It was objectionable as a joke because 1) this was an argument between two white western women, so why bring muslims into it? 2) if it wasn't for American intervention muslim fundamentalists wouldn't be in power in Afghanistan in the first place, including Bill Clinton's administration. 3) demonizing brown men for their treatment of brown women is an excuse to bomb the hell out of all brown people, including the women and children. 4) The women of Afghanistan have asked western women to get off the burqa fixation, a piece of cloth is not their top priority or the bane of their existence, right now the brutality of war brought by Americans would be that top priority.
Symptom: Muslim men forcing women to wear burqas.
Cause: American support of fundamentalist muslims in Afghanistan against Soviet dominance led to the rise of the Taliban. We would have continued supporting them if they were our puppets, and who gives a damn if the women have no rights and suffocate in their burqas.
It is only once other countries try to throw off the imperialist yoke or fight back against us that we suddenly care about how they treat women, or other groups, or their "barbaric" practices.
The only way that western hegemony works around the world is if we can corrupt the governments of weaker nations in order to control their resources. This does not work well in democracies, which is why we do NOT support democracy and tend to prop up repressive governments. A democratic nation does what is best for it's people, not what is best for the US/Canada and Europe. We support misogyny, racism/genocide, and any other brutality visited upon the people of these countries as long as our interests are served; so at the time Hussein was gassing the Kurds but was our buddy we didn't care and Rummy was shaking his hand, but when Bush wanted war, suddenly "He murdered his own people!" becomes a rallying cry. We also fail to acknowledge the violence when we have no interests involved, like Oaxaca and Darfur.
Sadly, these same white middle class women (and men) think that POC are making excuses for violence perpetrated by muslim men in this case. No, we are saying that the root causes are much deeper than "bad bad brown men!". Without the meddling from western powers many of these countries would be more democratic, socialist/communist, and secular; in other words they would be more egalitarian and it is our meddling that supported the inhumanity. Therefore the burqa wearing women are not grateful when we come to "save" them with our bombs and soldiers who clearly view them as subhuman, and will not appreciate being the butt of jokes between a couple of privileged white American women.
When we point out these kind of things white people tend to misinterpret us, or become defensive, or find ways to derail the discussion on tangents or logical fallacies. I'm not saying all white people, we do have true allies who are not looking to coopt us, and are working towards a more egalitarian world (you know who you are). But far too many of the mainstream feminist and liberal bloggers are like this. They may be a kinder gentler white supremacist, but they are following the blueprint all the same.
UPDATE: See if you can find the common thread between this post and what Nezua has to say about Apocalypto.