white women, are you fucking kidding me

Yesterday, Libby Chamberlain, founder of the secret, Hillary-supporting Facebook group “Pantsuit Nation,” announced that she was going to publish a book based on the posts in the group. She said that the profits from the book will support her new nonprofit and other progressive organizations, such as the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center. She said that nothing will be published in the book without express, written permission from the poster.  The comments exploded. Some are angry that she is going to be making a profit off of the group, even if that profit is not necessarily financial. Others are defending her, claiming that this will amplify the voice of Pantsuit Nation and raise money for good causes.

To be perfectly frank, for me, this is just the cherry on top of a year in which liberal white women* disappointed me more than I could ever have predicted.  These disappointments varied in degrees of seriousness, but altogether, they paint a picture of the tightly-woven fabric of liberal white women’s bullshit.

Throughout 2016, Hillary’s white women supporters tended to ignore the issues people had with Hillary, and continually framed a win for Hillary as a win for all women because she would show little girls that they, too, could be president, without stopping to wonder if her whiteness would allow girls of color to see that vision, too.

In February, Madeline Albright argued that a “true” revolution would be a woman president, and that women who don’t support other women suck, basically.  Gloria Steinem expressed her belief that young women who were supporting Bernie Sanders in the primaries were there to get positive attention from men. They both apologized for the comments later, but it was clear that they thought women who supported Bernie’s policies of progressive economic and social change did not support women, even though poverty is feminized and a woman president fundamentally changes exactly zero oppressive structures. Gender over everything, I guess.

In March, Tina Fey produced and starred in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, which was, unsurprisingly, racist, Orientalist, and sexist in its portrayal of white women reporters in Afghanistan. I know Fey is not the only person responsible for the film, but she has a history of racism and superstar status, and she could certainly have used her influence to change the direction of the film. (This film comes only a few months after she claimed she was “opting out” of explaining her jokes when people call them racist. Because….she already worked hard on them. ?? I don’t get it either.)

In July, Taylor Swift continued to play the victim to Kanye West’s black male aggressor. This isn’t, like….THAT important. But she is the ultimate white feminist and has never had an issue playing into the racist narrative of  “black man takes advantage of innocent white woman.” Plus, that “Wildest Dreams” video was truly a colonial nightmare.

In October, Ruth Bader Ginsburg called Colin Kaepernick’s extremely peaceful and nondisruptive protest “dumb and disrespectful.” She said she didn’t think anyone should go to prison for it (very big of you, Ruth) but still maintained that it was “ridiculous” thing to do. “Ridiculous” is not the word I would choose to describe a black athlete with a national audience who decided to draw attention to racist police violence and the white supremacist criminal justice system, but that’s just me.

On election day, liberal white women (and others, I know) stuck “I Voted” stickers all over Susan B. Anthony’s grave in tribute to the famous suffragette, who was once arrested and fined for voting. Plenty of white women also posted about the momentous occasion of a (white) woman being able to vote for another (white) woman, and about “how far we’ve come” since the 19th amendment was passed, which gave the right to vote to (white) women. To be fair, it’s true that we have come far. But to be fair in another way, Susan B. Anthony used white supremacy to garner support for the right of white women to vote, and women of color were not enfranchised by the 19th amendment. It’s inaccurate and racist to group all women together when discussing enfranchisement, and yet, here we are.

Immediately after the election was called for D. Trump, Patton Oswalt, a white comedian, tweeted: “What I’ve learned tonight: America is WAAAAAAAAY more sexist than it racist. And it’s pretty fucking racist.” Patton is a white man, and I don’t want to blame liberal white women for his bullshit. But lots of other white people, including plenty of liberal white women, jumped on this opportunity to air their racism under the guise of anti-sexism. This is a tired and untrue narrative, and making that comparison allows white people (incl. women) to discard responsibility for their racism.

Post-election, white women organized a “Women’s March on Washington,” known initially as the “One Million Woman March.” The march is meant to protest Trump’s election and to express the idea that “women’s rights are human rights.” Brittany T. Oliver wrote a great post on why this march is problematic: it co-opts language of the black-led activism of the Civil Rights Movement, it ignored many other oppressed groups who will be negatively impacted by Trump and a Republican Congress and Supreme Court, and it ignored the fact that plenty of women have anti-oppression struggles beyond sexism alone. They’ve attempted to make amends by appointing women of color as co-organizers, but they maintained the decision to call it a “women’s” march, as if women are the primary group affected by the election, and it feels like little more than tokenism at this point.

Also post-election, Jennifer Lawrence wrote the most white liberal essay, in the form of a letter to people who are upset by Trump’s win.  She urges us not to be afraid (which is nonsensical: hate crimes spiked after the election), not to “riot in the streets,” and not to blame anyone.  Instead, if we are afraid of racist violence, we should “love our neighbors” more than we have ever tried to before. As if racism is only about individual interactions, as if there is nobody to blame, as if calling a protest a “riot” is not a way of delegitimizing people who have legitimate anger.

Most recently, Amy Schumer is in talks to play Barbie in a live-action movie.  Schumer is VERY well known for her racism, and even for supporting a rape apologist, but you’d think that any feminist would understand how fucked up it would be to make a profit off of one of the most iconic sexist toys in history.  Unfortunately not. Schumer has now aligned herself with Mattel and will profit financially from the continued success of the Barbie brand, and thus has a direct investment in protecting that brand and that company from criticism and financial distress. Having a slightly curvier blond white woman play Barbie, as opposed to a very thin blond white woman, is, according to Schumer, progress, while the maintenance of the Barbie brand does not seem to be an issue.

Whew! That was an exhausting, but certainly not exhaustive, list. I’m tired.

In her essay “Sisterhood: Political Solidarity Between Women,” bell hooks rejects the notion of a sisterhood based on shared victimization because a) white women have frequently been the most direct oppressors in their relationships with women of color, and b) the idea that women are victims comes from sexist assumptions about what it is to be a woman and lets women off the hook when it comes to being accountable for their own actions.  Instead, she argues that we should strive for a sisterhood based on care, on accountability, on genuine engagement in disagreements and with critiques.  Only when we agree to take responsibility for our own shit and struggle to understand others can we achieve some sort of sisterhood through solidarity.

All of this is why I took some issue with the Slate headline, “White Women Sold Out the Sisterhood and the World by Voting for Trump.” White women didn’t sell out the sisterhood. There never was “a sisterhood,” because white women refused to commit to looking beyond themselves.  Yes, there are some seriously dope white women who have fought for racial justice, who have endeavored to create a real sisterhood. A bell hooks sisterhood. But in mainstream feminist/gender-based movements, there is no racial justice. There is, actually, white supremacy and classism.

So fuck pantsuits. There’s nothing revolutionary about a piece of clothing that visually represents a system of capitalism in which “professionals” economically and socially dominate blue- and pink-collar workers.   Even a more sympathetic read of “pantsuits” can only conclude that they are a symbol of what women have to do to succeed in late capitalism.  Please, liberal white women, get your house in order. Commit with all your heart not only to protecting the right to get an abortion, but the right for black and brown parents to raise their children without fear of racist violence.  Commit to closing wage gaps not only for (white) women, but also for women and men of color. Basically, please just look beyond the problems that affect white women, and make those an essential part of your political ideology too.

 

* No, not ALL white women. I say this from the point of view of a woman of color who has a lot of white privilege based on my looks (half white, light-skinned, hair that falls down, etc.).  I know white women who are dope. And I know that people who are not white women have participated in some of the things I am talking about. And I know we all know that white men have some serious shit to deal with. All of that is true, but this piece is about liberal white women.

 

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