Before you call for my head, I’m not asking any woman to shut up in every case, or about feminism in most cases.
But when it comes to women of colour, we need to learn to shut up. Because we’re hurting them, with clueless, massively privileged demands to ‘learn’ (but really to school those ignorant non-whites.) We’re sucking the oxygen out of discussions about how traditional feminism hurts women of colour.
And too often we’re outright attacking women of colour for daring to use their voices because we think that means less space for our own. Yes it does. This is not a bad thing.
Lemme give you a direct analogy. You know how annoying it is when we’re talking about women’s problems, and men come charging in with whines about ‘what about the men?’ and ‘all men aren’t like that’? You know what I’m talking about.
Do you cringe when some bloke labels himself a feminist because you know that very same bloke is going to show his arse in exactly fourteen point oh six seconds after saying that? I know I do.
Do you get sick of explaining feminism 101 to men who apparently can log onto any blog on the internet, but the googles is a complete mystery to them?
You get sick of that shit, right? A lot of women are now pushing back and just not bothering to engage with guys like that. Even with the miniscule possibility that the guy isn’t just trying to exhaust us into silence, it’s just not worth the energy spent. We have too many other things to do.
Well, a lot of women of colour are like that about white women. They’re tired of teaching the unteachable. They’re tired of bad faith. They’re tired of all the attention being given to white women who label black women toxic, just for demanding their views be given some time, let alone equal time. They’re tired of betrayal by so-called allies. They’re tired of always having to be the ones to rein in their temper when talking to the absolutely fucking infuriatingly rude and dismissive, because they’re labelled as aggressive or bullies.
They’re tired of white feminists like feminists of all colours are tired of MRAs.
So my fellow white feminists, this is what not to do.
Don’t write essays about how you’re not really that kind of white feminist, and then expect absolution for your mistakes that you will keep making. Stop talking. Start listening. Stop making the mistakes. That’s more convincing.
Don’t use your platforms to abuse women of colour talking about their communities.
Don’t use your platforms to support the abuse of women of colour.
Stop expecting cookies for basic human decency.
And when I say ‘we’ I am including ‘I’. Because I’m part of the problem, and I know it. I wish that wasn’t the case, but I can look back over too much shit to claim I ‘get’ it. I’m a white feminist who’s made all the mistakes, and that’s why I am skeptical of white women eager to exempt themselves from criticism by women of colour. If you’re sitting there reading this and going, I’m not like that, well, if you’re not, fine, then obviously the criticism isn’t about you, but I bet you’re more like it than you want to acknowledge.
There’s one area where we shouldn’t shut up. We should be writing this kind of article, not linking in congratulatory mode to a man ripping into white feminists however nasty they are. Because (a) it’s not any man’s place to lecture a woman on how to be feminist and (b) if we as white feminists aren’t prepared to use our substantial (or even our little) microphones to criticise those who purport to speak for us, then we are the problem too.
Blog, tweet, email. But when it comes to women of colour, shut up and listen. If two women are talking about matters concerning women of colour, and one is white and one is black, give your attention to the woman of colour. Don’t dismiss her in favour of the white voice of authority. Just don’t.
Because we don’t learn much about anything if we’re too busy making lots of toxic noise about our hurt feelings. And while we’re busy fighting among ourselves, there’s one group grinning at the whole damn thing.
ETA: Some more links which are relevant: