These critiques and suggestions are invaluable to white feminists seeking to

These critiques and suggestions are invaluable to

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the structures of white supremacy. These critiques and suggestions are invaluable to white feminists seeking to enter into alliances with feminists of Color. Frank Wilderson, professor of Drama and African American studies, is also helpful for understanding that within the feminist movement cross-racial alliances may be plagued by what he calls, antagonisms, which cannot be cured by making friends with each other (3, 5). The characterization of difference as unsolvable antagonisms suggests that the chasm between white women and women of Color cannot be bridged by calls for sisterhood, but a deeper understanding may help provide a foundation to improve the material conditions for oppressed women. One obvious and simple place to start might be for white feminists to stop calling themselves slaves. Meryl Streep caused outrage in 2015 when she wore a shirt emblazoned with the quote “I’d rather be a rebel than a slave.” Despite the historicity of the quote, which was used to promote the film Suffragette , starring Streep, the incident was seen as a white woman’s erasure of the enslavement of Black women, men, and children, and a reminder of the white supremacy utilized by women suffragists (Abad-Santos). Similar to the early abolitionists turned suffragists, through to the second wave and beyond, this comparison of white women to slaves continues without any regard to the descendants of actual slaves. In Red, White, and Black: Cinema and the Structure of U.S. Antagonisms (2010) Wilderson explains that to be a slave is a structural positionality associated specifically with anti-Blackness; it is thus grossly inappropriate for white women who feel like second-class citizens to invoke slavery (10-11, 14).
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37 INTERCONNECTIONS White, single-issue feminism may seem rational in that those who do not experience life at the intersections of oppression are ill-suited to address it. It may make sense to advocate for yourself instead of trying to interfere in the business of a group to which you do not belong, a possible justification for some feminists’ lack of understanding for intersectionality. There are many people, however, who choose to work as allies with others across difference and privilege. It is important to ask and identify what impetus people of privilege might have to turn against their self-interests (power & privilege) and work towards justice? I’m sure there are various reasons, among them a desire to see a more equitable world, a less violent world, etc. but it can be difficult for seemingly disparate communities to see the interconnections between themselves and others. Especially when one’s positionality, particularly race, class, and geographic privilege, is characterized by the ability to retain ignorance of the quotidian violence that is seemingly endemic to many minoritized communities within and outside of the United States.
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  • Summer '19
  • Maria Yvonne Dy