White feminism pervades social justice at SPA

In 1989, feminist Audre Lorde delivered a keynote presentation at a conference for women’s rights. She was one of only two black women invited.

“What woman here is so enamored of her own oppression that she cannot see her heelprint upon another woman’s face? What woman’s terms of oppression have become precious and necessary to her as a ticket into the fold of the righteous, away from the cold winds of self-scrutiny?” Lorde asked.

Lorde’s words, criticizing how white feminists ignored issues of racism, still ring true today. Just as racism was not “solved” in the 1960s with the end of segregation, white feminism pervades the ideologies of modern social movements.

White feminism can be defined as pushing for change that only benefits you directly and ignoring issues that affect people who you do not identify with. White voices are heard the most, which gives white feminists a large amount of influence when it comes to politics. If they ignore issues such as racism, homophobia, and ableism, among others, little to no progress will be made.

When students simply don’t talk about intersectionality, it creates a bigger problem of ignorance.

One white feminist celebrity is comedian Amy Schumer. Although she claims to be a feminist, Schumer has made many derogatory remarks about groups such as the LGBTQ+ community and people of color. The Washington Post reports that Schumer “draw[s] on shared cultural stereotypes and use[s] dehumanizing language that gives life to an ecosystem of racial fear and violence.” These instances show that Schumer only advocates for issues that personally relate to her, putting down other groups for the sake of “comedy.”

Since the majority of students at St. Paul Academy and Summit School are white, their voices are heard the most often. Senior speeches define whose stories are being told and how they are perceived by the rest of the school, so this is an invaluable platform for social discussion.

Senior speeches about gender, feminism, or politics tend to spark discussion and praise outside of the auditorium, while speeches that focus on racism or homophobia are often ignored because people don’t relate to them or they don’t want to say anything wrong.

During Harkness discussions, students tend to be comfortable discussing gender discrimination, but the atmosphere changes when the teacher poses a question about race or sexuality. Part of this stems from a fear of being wrong. However, when students simply don’t talk about intersectionality, it creates a bigger problem of ignorance. Read more about this on RubicOnline.

It is important to note that not all feminists who are white are white feminists, and that feminists of color can be white feminists. That being said, anyone who claims to be a feminist must aim for intersectional feminism.

According to the International Women’s Development Association (IWDA), intersectionality illustrates “the interplay between any kinds of discrimination.” Thus, intersectional feminism entails listening to people who have experienced different forms of discrimination and actively lobbying for change with them.

Unity lies at the crux of any social movement, and feminism is no different. Social divides can and will prevent change from happening. If progress is to be made, activists must address the issues that do not impact them directly, listen to those with different experiences, and support each other.