Are White Women Effective Tools of the Patriarchy?
I’m not great at taking criticism. I’m awful at it actually, I either cry or get super defensive, which is a sure sign that the criticism is justified. But criticism (if it’s constructive) is an important tool for growth, because we are all very willing to believe ourselves incapable of the moral transgressions that we condemn in others.
Women should not be immune to criticism within the realm of the patriarchy. And I think some people get a little mixed up on this point. If I’m criticising men for things like talking over women in meetings or manspreading on trains, I’m not suggesting that women are always pillars of moral rectitude. Women are, and this is the key point, people too. That means that we deserve all the same rights as men, but we also make mistakes and are capable of being shitty people. Being a feminist and a white woman requires the ability to understand the privilege that you have access to purely because you don’t have to face racism on a daily basis. You have to be able to reflect on what it means to be subordinated but advantaged at the same time.
There is a huge swathe of women, most of them white, who are deserving of a bucket-load of well-intentioned criticism. Trump’s election is the most glaring example of women actively participating in the oppression of their own gender. The female senators who just voted in Kavanaugh are much more recent, much more painful case study. We cannot deny that cuddling up to dictators is a tried and tested survival tactic. Maybe those women want a slice of the power pie and rather than changing the balance as a whole, they try to align themselves with the men in charge.
But, much more worryingly, are the white women who are selectively outraged. Some women in America are now claiming that they’re going to take a knee to protest Kavanaugh’s confirmation, and I’ll bet that some of those women didn’t understand why Kaepernick has been taking a knee for quite some time now. Oppression is a constant reality not just for women, but for people of colour and the LGBTQ community. To be unaware of these issues in a world where there is so much information at our fingertips is an active choice. You can’t be unaware of racism and homophobia but you can be aware of it and decide you’re okay with it. It’s blinkered and self-centred to only care about systemic oppression when it affects you.
Us white women have a responsibility to put our race to the side and raise our gender as a whole. White people have a responsibility to use their privilege to speak up against police brutality. Protest isn’t just another thing that we get to appropriation and gentrify, it’s a necessary tool for change.
As white women, we need to reassess the scope of mainstream feminism and question whether it is inclusive and effective enough. If you’ve only just got outraged, you can’t have been paying attention.