Friday, September 06, 2013

What White Women Get Wrong


Can we talk for a minute? Real talk, honest talk. I hope so, because there are some things I need to say and I really hope someone can hear them. White women...we are not perfect. No matter how hard we try, no matter how many self-help books we read, no matter how many women's studies courses we take, we are not perfect. We are also not porcelain dolls that can break at a harsh word. Or victims who must be protected from mean people. So, really, can we please stop acting as if we are some combination of all three?

Thing the First ~ Not everything is all about us, all the time. Even the stuff that is about us frequently, isn't all about us All The Time. The most recent example of this that I know of is the Questlove article about being in the elevator with a white woman who automatically saw him as a threat. It's a powerful moving piece. And yes, he missed some things from a (white) woman's perspective. And yes, I talked about those things here. But as I read more and more responses to his article, the more appalled I became. I read all of one article that was written by a white woman that acknowledged his right to be hurt ~ and it was mine. He, somewhat naively I want to believe, fell into the sexy woman lives in my building vibe that so many of us dread. But the articles in response (again, the ones written by white women) that I read jumped in, feet first, knowing full well that they were completely disregarding the man's stated experience of racism. It is not all about you. Both sexism and racism can be at play at the same time. Both a man and a woman can be experiencing less-than at the same time. For white women to refuse to acknowledge this is willful ignorance beyond description.

Thing the Second ~ #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen. Guess what? We deserve this. Women of color are disregarded, ignored, minimized so often and by us. By other women. Again, a recent, very public example: Paula Deen admitted to using racial epithets and yet white women were demanding women of color apologize to her for making her feel bad. What? How is that even a thing? And please, don't even start in the comments about how the case was thrown out. I'm not talking about the legal case. I'm talking about the fact that the woman admitted she did this thing ~ and white women only cared about her feelings, only wanted women of color to make her feel better. We default to white as the universal experience. When we leave women of color out of the discussion - by ignoring the racism that she must deal with right along with the misogyny; by giving her voice less weight; by downplaying her experiences; by innumerable other actions and inactions - we have defaulted to the white experience being "the real one." But if a woman of color should speak up, and point any of these discrepancies out, most of the time (I won't say all, because I don't like dealing in extremes but damn...) the immediate reaction tends to be she is being divisive. She's not on the same page. She needs to get on board. Why? Because the white, female experience is the only one that matters. You want to get a greater understanding of just how twisted it is? Wander over to twitter and check out the #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen thread.

Thing the Third ~ Can we just stop talking and listen occasionally? I get it, I really do. It hurts to learn you have hurt someone else. No one likes being the bad guy. No one likes to have stepped in the shit. We all try our best and we want that to be enough. Sometimes ~ often times, hopefully ~ our best will be enough. But it won't be enough every single time. When this happens, swallow your embarrassment. Because that's all it really is. You're feelings aren't hurt because you weren't perfect. You're embarrassed. You thought you were better than this and it turns out you weren't. So swallow it, put it aside. Or go ahead and feel it. But listen. Really listen. Don't just wait to talk. As painful and difficult as it is to hear you fucked up, I promise you, it is that much harder for the woman of color to have called you out. She knows what she's about to walk into. Tears. Denial. Anger. Demands for apologies from her for your mistake. She knows this is what is coming and she called you out anyway. Respect that and her. It doesn't matter that your best friend, or you colleague, or your neighbor wouldn't have minded what just went down. This person, in this moment, has something to say to you. If her feelings about it don't negate your best friend's feelings about it, then your best friend's feelings about it don't get to negate hers.

There's more. There's so much more. But this is getting long, and I really don't want you to stop listening, so I'll stop talking ~ for now. But it is so far past time for "sisterhood" to mean more than just cis-white-women. We can keep being porcelain dolls and victims ~ or we can actually step up and be the women we claim to be. Make your choice.

Those are Pobble Thoughts. That and a buck fifty will get you coffee.


MikeC said...

Pobble, white men too. Ever hear of a white man pulled over for "Driving while White"? What percentage of men subjected to stop & frisk in NYC are white? I'd venture close to zero. And the length of sentences for white men convicted of a crime vs. the length for men of color convicted of comparable crimes? Let's not even go there. Tells you how far this country has not come.

BostonPobble said...

Mike ~ Yes. Absolutely true. That being said (putting aside the patriarchal and white power structure in the country for a moment, because that's a whole different conversation), these are all things individual people, specifically women in my recent knowledge, have been doing. No man has any control over if he is pulled over. No individual has a say over the fairness, or lack thereof, of the sentencing process. These are cultural, systemic issues and yes, they are HUGE. This post, however, is about very specific things individuals are choosing on a daily basis that they can choose to stop. Every day. In their own lives.

MikeC said...

Boston Pobble, ah understand. Thank you for clarifying and apologies for not getting it the first time around.

BostonPobble said...

Mike ~ No worries. Your input is always appreciated.

Dennis R. Upkins said...

*proceeds to do the holy ghost dance up and down the aisles and executes a series of backflips.*

RVCBard said...

Can I yoink "porcelain dolls"?

BostonPobble said...

Dennis ~ Thank you.

RVCBard ~ Does it count as a yoink if you ask? ;) Feel free.