Sisterhood Blog

Feminism’s Race Problem Surfaces (Again)

By Sarah Seltzer

  • Print
  • Share Share

Last week Twitter blew up with the hashtag #solidarityisforwhitewomen. The discussion began after a notoriously abusive “male feminist” had a very frightening and nasty public breakdown.

But the hashtag itself, started by blogger Mikki Kendall, contained tweets expressing frustration, hurt and, at times, some withering intellectual takedowns of aspects of mainstream white feminism — and by extension a particular strain of mealy-mouthed white liberalism — that either doesn’t take people of color or other marginalized folks into account or in many cases actively excludes and disparages them.

After this month’s conversation about Jews and white privilege here at the Sisterhood, I recommend absorbing what the conversation reveals about the racism that can linger in so-called progressive spaces:

The conversation’s text and subtext about whose voices are elevated in the media also speaks to something troubling in the professional world: the way success comes through “networking.” In fact, networking is a value preached in business, media and tech circles. In theory, it’s great to “make connections” and use them to get ahead. In practice, this too often means not really expanding one’s network, but rather working through already-existing structures and mentorships. And surprise, surprise, those existing networks are far from perfectly egalitarian and inclusive. As Brittney Cooper reminds us in this poignant post at Salon about interracial friendships fading away over time, a side effect of racism is that it polices the parameters of relationships — and therefore the parameters of who has whose backs and who hands whom job offers.

The bigotry within feminism has existed since the beginning of American social movements, pre-dating Seneca Falls. That longstanding schism is connected to the failures of more recent strains of feminism. We have women CEOs but not universal daycare; we have sexual harassment rules governing corporations and yet immigrants, native women, and inmates have little recourse from sexual violence; we talk about the right of mothers to work, but not the rights of workers who take care of their children. The list goes on and on.

Essentially, feminists have squeezed open room at the top for a few women, mostly white ones, but the movement’s greater task, not yet accomplished, is to wholly re-imagine a world that lacks such a defined top and bottom to begin with. As long as there is a top, after all, the instinct of many will be to race there, pushing and kicking others down in a frenzy of scrambling.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Is it better to have a young, fresh rabbi, or a rabbi who stays with the same congregation for a long time? What do you think?
  • Why does the leader of Israel's social protest movement now work in a beauty parlor instead of the Knesset?
  • What's it like to be Chagall's granddaughter?
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.