Every day, I’m reminded that I don’t carry the same amount of authority, legitimacy, or credibility of a man.
Take a simple, ultra-Canadian example: Holding the door.
Every day, my male partner opens the door for me. He’s sweet. I appreciate his gestures. And nearly every day, my male partner will hold the door open for someone else and is greeted with appreciation. What a gentleman! How kind of you! And look at that cute beard and butt!
(He is so handsome, y’all. And yes, I get the feminism-irony. But I don’t care. HIS BEARD IS SO CUTE.)
For me, it’s a different story. I awkwardly try to hold open the door open, but most often, someone takes over and insists I go ahead. And by someone I mean an older white dude.
[Remind me to tell you about how much I love to make older white dudes uncomfortable by being overly chivalrous towards them. It’s honestly the best. Try it.]
Now in this scenario, I can either go on and prance through the path that’s been cleared for me. OR, I can stop and insist for them to go ahead. Because I’ve literally already gone out of my way to hold the door open. I’VE ALREADY COMMITTED TO THIS.
On the one hand, I accept the gesture and hand over the rights to the heavy door that’s already inconveniencing me. He gets the karma, I gets ta get outta there.
In this scenario, I feel entitled. I feel the perpetuated social message that modern women expect men to dote on them. To take care of them. This so called “women’s privilege”, filed next to free drinks, asking-for-it harassment, and sexpectations.
On the other hand, I decline the gesture. I insist they walk through the door.
In this scenario, I’m ungrateful. I just don’t understand how nice men are and I’m a “crazy” feminist who thinks I can do everything by myself, and I don’t need no man to do things for me. (We literally don’t.)
Walking away, I think: Yeah, dude. I deal with a bunch of stuff on the regular that’s annoying. That’s potentially dangerous. That’s almost always unfair.
Yet, let’s face it. Every day white cis-woman problems are nothing compared to what some other folks have to go through.
Not even close.
And I’m not saying that white, cis, straight women don’t face discrimination. I’m not saying we don’t face garbage scenarios. We do. (Sit down, Becky.) But it’s important to recognize that it’s not enough to talk about White Feminism. It’s not enough to treat men and women as the pillars of which we ought to equalize. There’s so many people who don’t benefit by mere gender equalization, whether they identify as something outside of “male” and “female”, or they have additional oppression such as race or class or ability.
Most people have come to terms with the fact that trickle down economics is bullshit. Yet, it’s kinda how first-wave feminists (and contemporary White Feminists) philosophize their own movement.
The movement started with white, upper class women earning the vote. Earning the right to own property. Slowly fighting for sexual liberation. High profile careers. (Thanks for that BTW.) Currently, the big fight is for wage equality. But when do we, as white women, stop and realize that all of those things we’ve fought for have not necessarily been resolved for non-white women, trans, gay, or disabled folks….
It’s no longer good enough to fight merely for women’s rights, because this inevitably neglects other groups. It’s not enough to allot social power to the top of our white washed social hierarchy and expect it trickle down. Because what happens is similar to trickle down economics. Those White Feminists cling to the power they’ve desperately fought for, and it’s like they won’t step down off their soap box to make room for other bodies and their voices. (Again, the irony. I get it. Don’t worry, you’re probably the only one reading this. Well, and my mom.)
White Feminists continuing to being vocal for their own issues isn’t the problem, but their loudness inevitably mutes many of the other issues that haven’t been given the same mainstream validity. Often, these White Women discredit those who fall below them on this social hierarchy, because they’re likely scared to lose their place. They believe they’ve earned their freedom by pulling up their boot straps, and others must too fight to climb up to their accomplished level. With this mentality, they may as well be shouting from the rooftops: “Social equality should not be a handout.”
Alternatively, and sometimes, this power is handed out. Though sparingly and with conditions. Power is redistributed to how those with the power see fit.
“Sure, you can have a little space on my platform, but you better be polite. Well mannered. Appreciative. You’ll dress and behave and wear/dress your hair in a way that I deem appropriate. In ways that I deem are not oppressive.”
Equality occurs on White Feminist terms, based on White Feminist ideals, White Feminist culture, and with the concept of gender-alone bias at the forefront.
But can we just like, point out something here…
We’ve had nearly a century of this trickle-down garbage philosophy, and guess what, we haven’t achieved full gender equality for white women. Something’s not working here (because patriarchy), so why do we continue to act like social power is going to trickle down to those whose stories are barely legitimized? Why insist on holding the door to equality for folks who are already actively holding it open themselves?