55 thoughts on “What white feminism looks like

  1. Aw jeez. That is the most depressing photo. And I was a Weeds fan, too!! I’m so bummed now. That nanny looks…so dejected. Wah.

    (here I go, clawing at my eyes again)

  2. So lets see… we have white career woman hiring working woman of color to provide child care to her (adopted) child of color so that white woman can have full time career.

    This is in contrast to white woman of past decades who would have hired woman of color to take care of her white children so that white woman could volunteer her time for worthy causes, enjoy leisure activities, possibly have a career outside the home?

    So many things are wrong with this picture on so many levels. There have been a ton of academic papers, popular articles and debates on this very topic.

    “The multicultural and multiethnic character of the continent makes it impossible to define American feminism. The middle class feminist movement was born out of the anti-slavery campaign in the U. S. The problem was that it did not embrace women of color or white women of lower economic classes. Middle class feminists worked for the limited emancipation of well-to-do white women, seeking suffrage and recognition by society. On the other hand, black women first sought credit as women. They were challenging the institution of slavery and resisting white men’s sexual assaults. They were already equal to their men socially within the slave community and in terms of the oppression both women and men suffered (Davis, Angela, Women, Race, and Class, The Women’s Press, 1994, p. 23). This provides an early indication of differences among feminisms in the U.S. The issue, however, is not a matter of black and white. It is instead a class issue with racial overtones that account for the different circumstances that women of similar classes encounter.”

    The rest of the paper is here: http://www.columbia.edu/cu/sister/Differences.html

  3. One more…

    Would the casual observer even know this group was walking together – that they were essentially a family?

    And, why is the nanny pushing the stroller instead of the mother? Heck, why is the mother not holding the baby?

    And, what sane person names a Black daughter “Ash” ?

    And, I am sure the world believes that this child is “better off”. I am not so convinced.

  4. Had I not read the caption, I would have thought the white lady and the black lady with the baby had NOTHING to do with each other. Ms. Parker looks completely separated from her nanny and baby. The facial expressions say it all and really make the whole picture.

    And, someone tell me that she didn’t really name the child “Ash”. Is that at least short for Ashley?

  5. In addition to Diana’s comments, another increasingly common criticism of white feminism – the struggle for the advancement of white women at the expense or exclusion of women of color (or women who are poor) – is how it plays out in the context international adoption. Namely, the global exploitation of women to fill the demand of privileged white women. It is commonplace for international adoption to be marketed largely under the guise of humanitarianism, saving children (not their mothers), primarily by other white women who operate adoption agencies. I found this image representative of many of these ideas, including the fact that Ash’s genetic mother is ‘not pictured.’ She, who has lost her child and may herself be dead, is essentially invisible.

  6. Yes, durgamom. This was one of the aspects of the photo that I was not quite able to get into succint words. Thanks for adding this thought in such a clear manner. It is HUGE part of what makes the situation pictured so very wrong.

  7. What is with these famous people internationally adopting babies whose parents are still alive, and pretending it’s humanitarian work? If your motivation is to ‘save’ or help the child, why not set the family up with a home, or money? How is swooping in and taking the baby away seen as charitable? Obviously, transnational adoption has its own set of problems even if the baby is an orphan, but jeez.

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  9. I respectfully disagree. I come from a very poor country in Africa and even though I see your point in how adoption issues have class and probably racial undertones, I don’t think the problem arising in such a context is worse than abject poverty. I myself have seen kids die simply because they have no family, there is no real government, or the social structure to take care of them. I would agree, of course, one’s own mother is the best- but when conditions are not in the best of circumstances………
    Plus what exact alternative do critics of transracial adoption offer? What should happen to these children?…

  10. Anyone whose ever studied the history of feminism will find three reoccurring themes (1) from its point of origin, an almost maternalistic bordering on self-denial approach to dealing women of color.

    it’s as if women of color are white women’s little sisters at best, their hobbies at worst. and underlying belief is that white women are the “real women” who need to show all women of color(especially black women) what it means to be feminine.

    (2)Feminists write off white racism prejudice as the sole domain of white men, and when confronted with it, white feminists pull out phrases like “white male hegemony” “paternalism”, and other man-based tags to shirk all responsiblity on their end.

    (3) They Inclusion Party. Feminsim at best uses a condescending “lets include” approach to embracing issues of race/women of color. It’s like saying, “hey we’re having a party, and wouldn’t it be nice to invite the dark people–it’s the ‘nice thing to do'”.
    this is the female equivalent of the class White Man’s Burden syndrome.

    One more thing: please go back and study the following: The ERA, the Women’s Suffrage Movement and Eugenics. In the case of the ERA and the Women’s Suffrage Movement black women were left behind by white women, despite having various orgs go to black women and black civil rights orgs for support in their issues.

    Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned parenthood and a pioneer of Eugenics, worked under the belief that abortion should be used to weed out the “genetically unfit” of society—namely minorities of color.

    Feminists seem to never have a problem with the millions of black abortions, tho.

    For these and other reasons, the vast majority of black feminists, black women and black men don’t take feminism seriously. never have, never will. the standard, run-of-the-mill bigot is traditionally much more upfront and honest. and therefore less irritating.

  11. From what BC said, I think that is one of the fundamental problems I have with self-proclaimed white feminists. Maybe they don’t have the know how to “handle” the inclusion of poor and/or women of color, but with excluding them, I highly doubt they can get very far as, people will not take them so seriously. They are doing themselves a GREAT dis-service in thinking that their cause is some social club where you need the right background in enough money to get it. And I really don’t understand the agruement that increasing the social issues of the movement to include issues of race and socioeconomic inequality is going to undermined them. CAn someone explain that to me, please.

  12. My first thought was that it was a lesbian couple with their cute baby. Nope, just another white celebrity saviour. *sigh*

    //Would the casual observer even know this group was walking together – that they were essentially a family?//

    Why wouldn’t the casual observer think that they are a family?

  13. I’m not sure why all the hate on this one. She adopted a baby from Africa, something not many white people have done. To find fault with this is a little silly (actually a lot silly). Would it have helped if a black woman/family had done this? Maybe so. So where were they?

  14. Well, at least the child will have another black face to look at and “maybe” identify with growing up. I worked in a high school where this dark skinned girl who was adopted by a white couple in the girls mentoring club, openly said she felt she was ugly because she was dark and no one in her family had her skin color. When they had an activity cutting out pictures of attractive women, she cut out pictures of white women, while other girls of color who were black and latina cut out pictures of women of all shades. It’s like the tests in Brown v Bd of Ed all over again. Really sad and ok, its great that yousave the child’s life, but if she grows up hating herself or losing her identity as a person of color? Check out the mini documentary, A girl like me at http://www.mediathatmattersfest.org/6/a_girl_like_me/

  15. bdsista,

    i totally understand what you are getting at here…but at the same time, it creates an odd situation when the only women of color you may come in contact with on a regular basis are the hired nannies and housekeepers of your white parents. it’s got to be a tiny bit awkward…

  16. This picture disturbs me, but when did MLP ever call herself a feminist or a humanitarian? She’s a single mother not because she thought she was so strong. She got left when she was 8 months pregnant.

    I also have a problem with adopting kids if their parents are alive and can take care of them. Also coming from an African country in which people generally do not adopt (and if they do, it’s within the close family), I don’t see the option for poor kids. Many of the governments in S America, Africa and Asia don’t invest at all in their poor, especially the poor rural people. NGOs focus on urban areas or easily accessible area. The problem with this is that the desperately poor areas are ignored by everyone.

    If you’ve stroll around Central Park when the weather is nice, you’ll see this scene repeated and that’s if mummy isn’t off lunching. It is not unique to white women. It’s unique to rich women.

  17. I think White Feminism is a convenient and strategically effective construct WITHIN U.S. white patriarchy. I developed my Theory as a result of 3 years of direct experience within a white feminist organization called NWSA National Women’s Studies Association’s Anti White Supremacy Task Force (AWSTF). The central issue is POWER and how women of color are systemically excluded from Power within the feminist academy. I think it is really important to ficus on the work of Critical Race Theorists like Derrick Bell and many many others.

    Theory of Systemic Whiteness


    Theorist: Chithra KarunaKaran
    Member Anti White Supremacy Task Force (AWSTF)
    National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA)

    Note: The core criterion for the robustness (or weakness) of any theory in the social sciences is whether or not that theory can be applied to explain a range of instances of behavior, mental processes, symbol systems, social structures, power.

    Copyrighted intellectual property for unrestricted use with full authorial attribution

    Whiteness is a race-centered supremacism widely acknowledged as historically entrenched, institutionalized, pervasive, persistent and permanent in contemporary U.S. society. Whiteness in this theory is construed as lived experience, not an unlived theoretical abstraction and it is unequal lived experience with unequal consequences for whites and persons of color.

    My Theory of Systemic Whiteness, deriving from Critical Race Theory (CRT), focuses on the everyday materiality of organizational arrangements, inviting critical consideration of structures, processes, mechanisms, policies and practices and the actors who participate in and shape them, operating within and across the U.S. nation-state macro-micro structure. Actors, meaning individuals have agency and therefore are necessary to be held accountable — the theoretical emphasis here on organizations does not absolve or exempt individuals operating within them and shaping them. This theory gives consideration to recruitment into whiteness, performed whiteness, performed resistance to whiteness, performative production of whiteness, collegial whiteness, color-on-color whiteness, trumping identities in whiteness, schemas of whiteness.

    Because this is a lived theory and therefore a work in process, it is by no means complete or exhaustive and never will be. I hope some will consider it and reshape it through discursive action. I owe these thoughts mainly to the struggle of others of color, who have struggled harder and sacrificed more than I ever have.

    This Theory of Systemic Whiteness gives axial importance to Power, especially the inequitable distribution of racialized Power and advances critical consideration of race-centered supremacism as three-fold — System, Structure, Ideology:

    1) A STRUCTURE that replicates and enforces race-centered supremacism across:

    a) microstructure (civil society organizations and service organizations such as schools, churches, hospitals, systems of higher educations, the media

    b) macrostructure (the nation-state, the government, intra-state, state-state, bilateral, multilateral interfaces

    2) A SYSTEM of (un)earned privilege, representing an expanding range of benefits and entitlements adhering to white skin, developed and maintained through coded assertion of, and subscription to, race-centered supremacist beliefs and practices

    3) An IDEOLOGY of supremacism, a set of beliefs underscored by routinized, “normal” everyday practices, openly expressed only under extreme organizational arrangements (KKK, neo-Nazi), but more generally held covertly, that advance and support exclusionary, discriminatory, concealed, unmarked and normatized practices vs. collective, interdependent, transparent, inclusive, particularized and decentralized powersharing practices.

    Recruitment into Whiteness: Because Whiteness is systemic, structural and ideological, it cannot sustain itself wholly through the membership of finite or shrinking or scattered collectivities of race-centered supremacist individuals. Its influence, stability and concerted attempts at permanence depend on continuous recruitment from historically disenfranchised, disadvantaged, oppressed groups. Additionally, Systemic Whiteness recruits from individuals and collectivities who subscribe to obsolete or discredited or newer supremacist belief systems but who are looking for continuing political relevance by exercising power through membership in dominant whiteness – example creationists, Zionists, fundamentalist Christians, patriarchy-centered support groups.

    Performed Whiteness: The everyday materiality of organizational arrangements in the U.S. nation-state micro-micro structure affords numerous opportunities for observation and subsequently, critical consideration of the structures, processes, mechanisms, roles and actors within such organizational arrangements. What is Performed Whiteness in these organizations?

    By performed whiteness I mean a constellation (or merely a unit) of race-centered supremacist organizational structures, processes and mechanisms that offer support to an individual or collectivity or both, to uphold thoughts and implement acts which preserve supremacist norms and that cause harm to oppressed individuals or groups. The individual performs whiteness within a white supremacist structure.

    Because whites regardless of gender own and exercise unearned, unmarked privilege, they are the foremost practitioners and performers of whiteness both as individuals and as collectivities in U.S. society.

    Performing Whiteness by persons of color offers an opportunity for such historically excluded and therefore disadvantaged individuals and groups to reject or deny their collective history of oppression and to win personal access into the dominant, supremacist group through acts by whites of tokenizing, gatekeeping, silencing, invisibilizing, marginalizing, exoticizing, by persons of color demonstrating their loyalty and commitment to upholding the dominant whiteness system by performing the dictated norms of Systemic Whiteness, developed and enforced by whites.

    Examples of Performed Whiteness:

    Instantiations of performed whiteness can be found at all levels of the macro and microstructure in the U.S. nation state. This is precisely why my theoretical focus on the everyday materiality of organizations arrangements and the actors within them, offers such fertile ground for investigative inquiry. Through recruitment into Whiteness performance, the U.S. nation-state whiteness macrostructure readily demonstrates its resilience by incorporating into whiteness, members of historically disadvantaged groups. Examples of such successful recruitment (even if temporary) are the following:

    Condoleeza Rice, Paul Wolfowitz and Alberto Gonzales each representing an historically disadvantaged collectivity.

    Within the framework of this theory we could ask the question Who is the whitest male with “the bluest eye?” The answer could be Condoleeza Rice. Rice has orchestrated the policy on Iraq in collusional alliance with white supremacist males (Cheney, Bush) bent on appropriation of resources and exercise of expansionist power.

    Paul Wolfowitz was one of the chief architects of the “shock and awe” strategy of invasion and occupation that maimed and killed unnamed and untold numbers of Iraqi civilians. Apparently, he wanted to outdo the shock and awe Holocaust strategy of Hitler’s Auschwitz or Bergen Belsen which killed members of his oppressed group. For performing flagrant whiteness in Iraq he was rewarded with the Presidency of the World Bank, a self-described world poverty alleviation organization controlled by the U.S. He resigned in disgrace after revelations that he authorized illegal exorbitant salary raises and perquisites for his girlfriend while he was head of an organization purportedly trying to help millions of the world’s poorest who subsist on less than a dollar a day.

    Albert Gonzales, the child of migrant workers justified violation of the Geneva Accords on secrecy and torture and justified indefinitely holding so called enemy combatants without charges or trial in Guantanamo. He resigned faced with pressure resulting from his politicizing of firings of U.S. prosecutors.

    It is clear from these examples individual persons of color can and do perform Whiteness because Whiteness is larger than the individual, whiteness is a system, a structure and an ideology of supremacist, dominant and therefore unequal power that has been racialized for centuries in the U.S. nation-state and even before its establishment as a nation-state. However, the participation of the person of color in whiteness performance is from a subordinated position of unequal power.

    Collegial Whiteness: Organization norms of so-called collegiality, example “be a team player” “go along to get along” “don’t rock the boat” “let us be allies” are overt or covert codes to enforce and perpetuate a racialized supremacist status quo. These codes are used to establish organizational sub-units, for example a Conflict Resolution Committee or an Oversight Committee even a Cultural Diversity Committee or some such mechanism, to deflect focus from the content of racialized conflictive discourse to a focus on the ‘style’ or ‘tone’ of the whiteness-resistive discussant of color. White players in organizations then are afforded the opportunity to become the arbiters of such ‘tone’ or ‘style’. In fact “The Angry Black Woman” is constructed as the epitome of anti-collegiality. The overt objective of collegiality is to build cohesive organizations sometimes expressed as “building community.” The coded or covert objective is to stifle racialized dissent and resistance to supremacist practices which accrue power to whites. In my theory, I construct Collegiality as the undesirable (for persons of color) outcome of organizational supremacist norms. Instead, diachronic, oppositional, resistive, power-wresting strategic discursive action along with the implied threat of force, is the goal of performed resistance by persons of color, to systemic supremacist whiteness.

    In the civil rights struggle, the strategy of nonviolence by Martin Luther King needed the vital complement of implied threat of force (“by any means necessary”) by Malcolm X. In the pioneering nonviolent ‘satyagraha” (truth force) strategy of Mahatma Gandhi, the intimidatory threat of armed militant action against the British empire was provided by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and numerous groups of revolutionaries drawn from among subordinated religious, linguistic ethnic and socially ostracized minorities who were not formally within the Hindu caste structure. At the same time the Hindu caste structure provided shelter from British occupation through social ostracism of the occupiers.

    Color-on-Color Whiteness: Persons of color recruited into Whiteness performance discredit the collective memory of oppressed groups within which they previously held membership, denying their groups’ self-initiated right of honorable and equitable redress of their oppression. Whiteness performance by persons of color damages and impedes the collective goal of persons of color of overturning their oppression. Generally, the problem of color-on-color whiteness performance is encountered in organizations at the level of the individual rather than the collectivity. This is because the supremacist whiteness strategy of recruitment into its ranks is through a process of divide and rule whereby a few susceptible individuals of color are tokenized, marginalized, exoticized into whiteness performance. However, this does not exempt these individual actors of color from culpability in colluding in systemic whiteness at the expense of their oppressed group.

    Performing Resistance to Whiteness: Behaviors of performed resistance to whiteness will include acts that contest and attempt to dismantle whiteness structures and mechanisms in the face of concerted opposition by privilege-wielding whites and their surrogates and recruits who will by definition include persons and collectivities of color. Persons and collectivities of color are at all times performing some degree of resistance to systemic whiteness.

    Performing resistance to Whiteness will logically entail significant but temporary sacrifice of power, prestige and status for whites (especially white males but also white females) who have automatic enrollment in the Whiteness system. However, to resist this automatic enrollment in Whiteness does not necessarily remove the white individual or the white group from the conferment of privilege. Unearned privilege continues and may even be enhanced under Systemic Whiteness, a temporary setback may result (though not necessarily) from such resistive performance by whites. Example a white male who speaks out against white privilege now becomes an authority on white privilege, even though women of color have been naming white privilege and have been resistive for centuries and therefore are the authentic authorities on white privilege because they have direct experience of being oppressed by white privilege. The unearned, unmarked privilege of whites continues even when, even as, they perform resistance to whiteness.

    Example of Performed Resistance to Whiteness: Critical Race Theory (CRT) has focused on the numerous attempts especially by Blacks to resist whiteness by performing often street-based struggle against systemic whiteness, to end slavery, claim civil rights and seek enforcement of affirmative action. (In this regard it is important to reiterate the systemic, structural and ideological power of Whiteness and to provide the example that Affirmative Action has mostly benefited white women)

    As an example of performed resistance to whiteness, Norman Finkelstein, a white ethnic Jewish male professor defended through writings and public speeches the rights of Palestinians under international law. In contrast, Professor Alan Dershowitz (the white individual) and DePaul University (the organization) performed whiteness by successfully silencing Finkelstein’s (temporary) dissent from systemic whiteness.

    Performative Production of Whiteness: The performative aspect alone is not sufficient to ensure salience of whiteness in everyday life. The performance of whiteness within and across social structures and organizational arrangements, from the family to the state, can be viewed not merely as visible acts but acts that will yield production of whiteness that accrues power to the organization and adds value to whiteness for the organization. Whiteness is a value added product and it endows the organization and especially its white leaders but also consenting actors of color with greater power to perpetuate whiteness, reward whiteness performance and punish or invisibilize resistance to whiteness performace.

    Trumping Identities In Whiteness: Intersectionality theory is of great value in explaining that all personal and collective identities in all social contexts are also political, that race intersects with gender to produce identity. Yes our identities are intersectional. But what is the historical and political context of feminist intersectional theory? In my CRT-derived theory I construe the U.S. as a racialized patriarchy (Black men were brutalized and excluded, therefore they did not participate in producing U.S. patriarchy), in which white women for long historical periods supported white men’s power and continue to do so while carving out some power for themselves. Moreover, the race variable intersects not only with gender but importantly with ethnicity, color, class, religion, income, occupation, citizenship, nationality, disability and other variables. But are these variables of equal weight in the context of the racialized U.S. nation-state? No. Racialized identity is a trumping identity when viewed within an acknowledged pervasive racialized supremacist nation-state construct. Race trumps gender and delivers a double, triple, quadruple jeopardy for persons of color (but not to whites) when it intersects with the above-mentioned identity variables. The “metalanguage” of race-ordered, race-centered U.S. society confers a trumping identity on race.

    Schemas of Whiteness: Because Whiteness is a lived system of meaningful racialized codes and symbols, it is capable of being carried around in our heads as a cognitive construct, a map, a pictorial representation of what ‘white looks like’ but also ‘what black looks like’ ‘what color looks like’ ‘what oppression feels like” ‘what hate hurts like’. By theorizing Whiteness as a system, comprised of numerous but interrelated schemas of whiteness it is possible to also problematize schemas of whiteness as a complex mental shorthand which we come to rely upon instead of and in place of facts on the ground. Schemas are extremely useful as adaptive mental constructs because they help us to rely on already available and proven impressions and beliefs. But our schemas are not as useful when we are trying to undo attitudes, prejudices and intolerances and attempting to take effective steps to redistribute power to oppressed individuals and groups. In training strategies especially, it is vitally important to unpack and expose schemas of whiteness both for their reliability as well as for their central role in preserving a racialized and “racist status quo.”

    Copyrighted intellectual property for unrestricted use with full authorial attribution



    Can the U.S. have an ethical democracy unless we expose, contest and dismantle white power, white racism, white supremacism, white privilege? Not!
    The US cannot be an ethical and equitable player in global politics until it recognizes that it will not be allowed to dominate the world with its racialized, supremacist expansionist worldview.
    This U.S. regime is inviting pathologized resistance in the form of “terror” from various quarters precisely because of its racialized supremacist predatory acquistive worldview.

    The above theory was developed through direct participant observation and oppositional membership during the years 2004 -2007, in a self-described feminist organization, NWSA, and more specifically as a member of its Anti White Supremacy Task Force (AWSTF), composed almost entirely of white feminist members teaching in the feminist academy.

    When viewed as applied feminist theory, Systemic Whiteness which is prevalent and pervasive in the feminist academy is seen, through the lens of this theory, to impede the development of transformative feminist thought and practice. White skin privileged supremacist feminists (WSPSF) deter the development of a radical feminism but they cannot hold back or exert influence over radical feminism in Africa, Asia and other parts of the Global South.

    This Theory has been extended into a consideration of caste-centered, caste-ordered organizational structures to render a Theory of Systemic Casteness in the Indian nation-state context, nation-states of South Asia and Africa, example Somalia where caste is produced and performed.
    Copyrighted intellectual property for unrestricted use with full authorial attribution


  18. Ok, I certainly understand why this is disturbing, by why is “white feminism” the culprit? why not “racially insensitive white women”—esp. as MLP does not identify as a feminist.

    case in point: of course, i am aware of the privilege i have just for being white, and i certainly don’t think it’s kosher to expect women of color to do all my “dirty work,” but this picture has nothing to do with feminism. i am white, i am a feminist, i don’t have a lot of money. i cannot afford to parent a child, my own or born to a woman of color, and if i did, i would have to push it around myself instead of hiring a woman of color to do it for me. my calling myself a feminist does not automatically endow me with considerable economic privilege.

    the woman in the picture is a jerk, but it’s not because she’s a feminist.

  19. I think the problem with Megan’s argument is that she does not see Whiteness as a system of unearned privilege.
    In other words, it is not enough to say oh well there are a few white women out there who are “racially insensitive.” The point is that white women (and white feminists are included in this category are they not?) enjoy unearned privilege it is something that adheres to white skin in a racialized society. As a woman of color I did not make that rule, whites did. I am ruled by that rule!

  20. Chithra,
    I don’t believe you read what Megan said correctly. In her post she clearly acknowledges the existence of white privilege that is bestowed upon her and all white women whether they want it or not. What Megan is saying, and I think this is essential to understanding and analyzing the photograph, is the class privilege that is being depicted simultaneously. This white woman being photographed next to her Black nanny makes the white privilege in this photograph abundantly clear, however, the fact that she is able to hire a nanny is most definitely attributable to her wealth.

    Also, I am among the camp that is wondering why the headline has anything at all to do with feminism. Did I miss something here?

  21. Laura, are you Morgan? I’m sincerely wondering why you are interpreting Morgan’s words for her. I would appreciate hearing directly from Morgan if I have indeed not fully understood her point.

    Thanks Laura and since you chose to respond, may I say that I am not in the least denying class factors. Of course class position magnifies privilege or excludes one from privilege. But we live in the racialized U.S. nation state where RACE trumps class. Perception is reality.

    The genocide and the reservation system imposed on indigenous peoples by whites and the installation of a plantation system for Blacks by whites are racialized systems of power. White Feminism itself is rooted in that history and benefited from it. What I am saying is that I am not familiar with any historical accounts that say white women fought on the side of Indians and Blacks.

    Also I am certainly not attacking feminism per se. US feminism is only a small part of the numerous feminisms obtaining throughout the world in partiular the Global South.

    But feminisms are racialized in the US, are they not?
    In response to your query re: the headline isn’t it pretty obvious from the picture that racial fault lines exist on the ground? White feminism engages in doublespeak because it is part of the racialized power structure. That is why I have written here not only of being white/ having white skin (which confers unearned privilege on the possessor or claimant), but of Whiteness as a system a structure and an ideology in racialized U.S. society.

    I would also observe that white feminist are often not willing/able to acknowledge full accountability for the depth and scope of their unearned white privilege.

    Member, Anti White Supremacy Task Force (AWSTF)
    National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA)


    Chithra KarunaKaran

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  23. I agree that “racial fault lines exist on the ground” but I have a problem with your categorization of white feminism: “White feminism engages in doublespeak because it is part of the racialized power structure.” You are basically saying that because these women are white, their cause is less legitimate than if they were black. I agree that it is harder to be a black woman than a white woman, but that should not detract from trying to achieve gender equality. Your arguments serve to separate white women even more from women of color, which is what the sexists want. It’s easier for sexism to survive if feminists are divided.

    Also, I do not see what the picture of MLP has to do with white feminism. It is a class issue not a feminist issue. It seems like a completely random celebrity photo with a tagline that has no basis in fact, designed only to provoke people.

  24. You are basically saying that because these women are white, their cause is less legitimate than if they were black.

    I understood the statement to mean that white feminists contribute to maintaining the power structure. And if you read the history of white feminism, you’ll find that white feminists were largely responsible for separating white women from women of color.

    When people of color speak about racism, they are not creating the divisions. Similarly, when feminists of color speak about white feminist racism, they are not causing the problem.

    Additionally, class issues are interwoven with race issues which are interwoven with feminist issues. Saying that something is strictly a class issue serves only to detract from the other issues at hand.

  25. I see what you are saying, but I disagree that everything is always related. Yes, there are a lot of class issues that are involved with race issues. But how does that photo have anything to do with feminism? Because MLP is white and female does that mean she is a feminist? I can see the class issue in the photo and the race issue, but what is the feminist issue?

  26. White feminist woman employing a black nanny – just goes to prove how racist white feminism is and how racist white feminists are.

  27. Additionally, just like white people don’t necessarily have to be “racist” to benefit from racism, white women don’t necessarily have to be feminists to benefit from white feminism.

  28. I’m so happy I found this blog!

    At work all day dealing with this exact issue… it just feels so good to hear people speak the truth!!!!

  29. I have that same look of boredom when I’m out with my sister and she’s rude enough to answer cell phone calls. I have a different take on that picture. Maybe it’s important to MLP to have people of color around her (not just friends and coworkers) who can have a formative influence on her child as the child grows up.

    Cross-cultural adoptions (of primarily African/African-American) children are often criticized because of a lack of cultural contact for the children. I guess I’m applauding MLP of having people of color around to help her raise her child. I don’t know what her relationship is with her child’s nanny (whether it’s good or bad, engaged or dismissive) just from the photo.

  30. I have a question– would it be racist for a an African American family to adopt a Caucasian baby from Russia or Eastern Europe ?

  31. How in the HELL would that be racist?!! Anyway that’s not even the issue luce the issue is her trying to seem like a giving person yet throwing her privilege in this woman’s face which happens ALL THE TIME with the feminots. It’s just like in the HBO movie “Iron Jawed Angels” it’s ok if you march with us just as long as you’re ‘separate’ and in the back this picture is just more of the same. That somehow she’s doing her ‘part’ because she’s playing white woman to the rescue and that she doesn’t mind the ‘nanny'[more like mammy] in her home to care for her child some compassion!

  32. Because there would be an equal lack of cultural contact for the child. Or would it be more acceptable if the family employed a poor white Romanian nanny?

    I have a problem with the “globe-trotting baby snatchers”on the grounds that there are many children in the USA that need adopting, but I fail to see why this adoption is racist per se. (Unless all cross cultural adoptions are, i.e a form of exotic child shopping). I have much more sympathy with your point that these women can work because they exploit other women to care for their children. They are contracting out a big part of their lives.

    I don’t know that film, I thought identity politics, at least in Europe only really became divisive in the late seventies and early eighties. Until then there was much more unification among the social movements.

    If she really believes that she is remedying global inequality/racial division by adopting a child of another ethnicity, I pity her self delusion. It will be very hard for the infant, very difficult.

  33. Luce,
    I know you are trying hard to debate this subject, but your question is sorta silly. Did it ever occur to you that African Americans have been restricted from adopting in other countries? Your question about international adoption might be valid, except, it’s not.

  34. The question isn’t silly– does it make you uncomfortable? If it is racist then I want to know why? If it isn’t then how can the above scenario be held to be so?

    Also I see MASSIVE generalisation on this page about what “white” feminism looks like. No- this is what a wealthy white American actress who adopts a baby from overseas looks like. It doesn’t reflect a vast and diverse social movement. Why don’t I post a picture of Oprah and say that this is what “Black” feminism looks like? (FYI- I’m not that ignorant!)

    Why & how have African American been restricted from adopting in other countries? That hasn’t been my experience, I have African friends in Europe who have successfully adopted from Sri Lanka.

  35. Luce, I used to be a list member of an online group of African Americans who adopted from China and according to them, Korea doesn’t accept African American applicants, Russia will only refer a child of gypsy descent, and further, some applicants were turned down by US agencies for the China program, even though China accepts African American applicants. The fact that race is even an issue should tell you that the playing field is not even close to even or fair, and that’s why I think the question is silly. Every time someone tries to turn the tables, it doesn’t make sense to me because of this factor.

  36. Come on you guys, isn’t this a bit harsh? She is clearly a good samaritan who is just too busy making dinner plans with Brad and Angelina to push her own stroller.

  37. It was an HBO film starring Hillary Swank,Frances O’Connor, and Patrick Dempsey about the suffergate movement it’s probably out on DVD.

  38. You people are absolutely nuts. You would deny this child a home because the mother adopting her is white? I hope you see how selfish you are and yes I am black and educated.

    Grow up. This child will see other blacks in more demanding roles as she grows. She’ll come in contact with black teachers, doctors, black friends. What is wrong with being a nanny? Plenty of white women do it. And I think you are being classist and elitist by putting this black woman down for earning an honest living as a nanny.

    You adopt all of the black children who need good homes, until then I say let competent people who can love them and afford them have them. All you do is point fingers without trying to find solutions!

    Mary-Louise Parker is a SINGLE MOTHER. Yes she has managed to have a good career as an actress as time has gone on but I’m sure she struggled too. This bird’s eye view is crap when you are missing the point. This child has a loving home and a black person who is a care giver so SHE CAN have favorable views of black people.

    People in the world aren’t very smart these days.

  39. Don’t pick on feminism so much. This only represents a small faction of “feminists”. The fact is if you’re a woman and you vote, go to college, work in a male-dominated field, or play sports, you have benefitted from feminism. Yes, SOME white feminists are racist, but that’s because of the unfortunate fact that society in general is racist. I don’t believe white feminists have any kind of racist agenda (Margaret Sanger notwithstanding), I just think that they’re different movements that only sometimes intersect. Also, as the poster above me said, what is wrong with working as a nanny? Yes, I have issues with mothers who leave their toddlers with hired help, and that is one thing about feminism that I don’t like, as it just seems like the epitome of selfishness to me (not fair to either the kid or the caretaker). But lots of feminists don’t do this, and some women who DON’T identify as feminist do. Don’t make “feminist” any more of a dirty word than it already is.

  40. I think feminism of the group kind-white and colored women together-fighting benefits the white women most and directly disadvantage the black community. Because we live in a racist society, even if the feminist group manages to win some rights, these rights prove to be short-lived as far as the black woman is concerned. This is due to racism at the institutional level. Black women cannot prevail, if black men and children are suppressed and incarcerated. Feminism does nothing to address that as it is out of its purview. Even if they wanted, they cannot take any action because power and resources, and thus the ability to do anything, will keep slipping out of their hands. What they will eventually get is simply rhetoric. It is common knowledge that wealth and power is passed on filially and that is linked to race.

    If someone is serious about feminism, racism has to be uprooted first otherwise its just a farce.Black women would do much better fighting for ‘blacks’ rights than ‘black women’s rights’ until there is some sort of parity in the social equation, keeping in mind whites already have achieved that parity as they are on top.

  41. anonymous, i don’t see it that way. white women are the new masters, they got everything they wanted, and their men are still out their working 90 hours a week so they can sit home and do nothing. white women benefit from sexism, plus they got all the other perks now too.

    i know that not all white women are like this, but most are. let’s hope they get the wake up soon.

    maybe they need some self-interest wake up call to get them to see that they are more sexist than anybody, if they applied their understanding of sexism to racism, they might have a chance.

  42. I am an Argentine (white) woman and this is my opinion…
    I have to say that I’m am surprised by the racism that appears from all angles on this site (that is not to devalue the many poignant comments made). The fact is that the beginning of the “feminist” movement in the US was exclusive and racist (and as it is rooted in racism in many ways continues to be). There is no denying this, anyone who has picked up a modern inclusive or critical feminist book knows this. Another undeniable fact is that this photo is really taken out of context and we can make all the assumptions and judgments we want to, but they’re just that. Is it right to adopt a child not of your race? Of course it is. I can’t understand how it can be considered wrong if a person can provide a better life for the child. The chances are that the child was not snatched out of the mothers hands, as has been assumed in some comments that I’ve read. There are an enormous amount of ethical questions that can be raised about this, and in an ideal world it simply wouldn’t be an issue.

    (In case anyone is interested there are many pictures of her holding her child and the baby’s full name is Caroline Aberash (her true name from where the nickname Ash is derived) Parker)

    I have to apologize because I don’t normally participate in these discussions and I’m finding it difficult to coherently write down my thoughts.

    Reading all of these comments about white feminism and the stigma it carries as well as the unearned privilege that white women have (myself included), made me think of a story where these concepts played a terrible role. My dear friend, who is wonderful woman of color who is well off and has trouble dealing with that and her activist work and revolutionary ideals, and I were on the subway going to celebrate another friend of ours birthday. We were being a bit rowdy and possibly obnoxious, as can happen when you’re with old friends whom you haven’t seen in a while, and there was a homeless white woman, with cut up bare feet, sleeping on the train. She yelled at us and made it clear that we were bothering her. I immediately felt extremely uncomfortable, guilty and apologetic. My friend however, yelled right back at her and condemned her for her white privilege. I do not for a second deny that white privilege exists and that racism is a problem in the US (not to mention all over the world), but how in your right mind can anyone in an economically well off position justify saying that to a homeless women, who we can assume hasn’t had the best deal in society. I guess the point that I’m trying to make (if I can manage to extrapolate one from this mess) is that we can’t be too extreme and judgmental with these issues.

    I’m not sure that I’ve contributed in anyway to this discussion, but I would love a response.

    besos y paz

  43. Hi luli,

    Personally I feel that any time someone finds one of our blog entries “too extreme or judgemental”, we have hit a chord and made them think critically.

    Working through your own biases, prejudices and -isms, and trying to sort the wheat fron the chaff in the behaviour you see around you is an ongoing process. Perhaps just writing your thoughts down here has enabled you to see things in a different way, and for that, we are glad. We also hope that the same benefits have come to everyone who contributed to this comment thread.

    Here are some questions for you: while that lady is looking after ML Parker’s child, who is looking after hers? Who has the option to go out to work here, and who HAS to? Who had the option to adopt a child to parent, and who had to give up their child? The answers indicate who has privilege.

  44. Mary-Louise Parker, she is the archetypal white American woman with the coloured maid, the white British mem-sahib with the native maid, white feminism, just the same old white racist clap trap!

  45. I completely agree that racism and sexism go hand in hand…you simply cannot have one without the other.

    Lauren…you don’t seem to realize that racism and sexism are INDEED related.

    Now, while this picture might not *obviously* be about feminism, those of us who don’t wear blinders can see that it is.

    I have no problem with transracial adoption but here’s the deal…when there are needy children in your own backyard, why is it necessary to journey across the world to adopt a child from a foreign country?

    There are plenty of children in the United States that do not have love, families, or care in their lives. I believe that some of these wealthy white women who adopt a child from Kenya or somewhere are simply trying to prove that they are open-minded, and also trying to prove that they have the means to adopt children from other countries. It seems to be the latest “hip” accessory…an “exotic” child from Tanzania, Ghana, or somewhere outside the US.

    Rotto…you might be black and you might consider yourself educated, but you also need to realize that there is white privilege.
    As somebody else stated, it is likely that this kid will have limited contact with those like herself as she becomes older.

    I don’t know MLP personally, therefore I cannot assume that she feels superior to women of color.
    However, most women of color would feel that way from looking at the picture, judging by the reactions here.

    Luce…no offense, but your comments don’t hold water. First, you seem a bit defensive about this whole issue.
    I know it is 2009 and I’m late in my response. However, I will speak for myself as a women’s studies major.

    I am not white, but I do consider myself to be a feminist. What I have noticed is that a couple of my white female professors in the W.S. department seem to be VERY noticeably uncomfortable when issues of racism/sexism are brought up by female students of color.
    One professor, a young woman, mentioned the fact that Elizabeth Cady Stanton was against black men being able to vote. I asked if she was OK with women of color being allowed to vote.

    Her reply was: “The feminists of that time believed in universal suffrage”. That struck me as being dismissive, like she wanted to skirt around the question. I had the feeling that she wanted to pretend that certain issues between women of different races were/are irrelevant and should not be mentioned.

    But these issues are VERY relevant, even in today’s society. We all look at things differently but it should be with the understanding that our perspectives are shaped by our experiences. If you are a woman of color (or classified as “non-white”), you will be aware that there is a relationship between sexism and racism.

    And it is only people who have had a purely one-sided experience that cannot see the connection.

  46. This is a scene from a TV show, most likley overseen by a male executive. What does it have to do with white feminism? Nothing. I think some of you have trouble distinguishing fantasy from reality.

  47. I still don’t understand conflating white privilege with white feminism. And putting the division of women of color from white women at the feet of feminism, excuse me, “white” feminism seems disingenuous at best. Are all white women who are also feminists automatically “white” feminists? I mean, of course, other than the modification of the noun by the description of their color. Despite white privilege, is it not possible to be simply feminist?

    I do not suggest that you can ignore color in discussion of any aspect of our society, I only mean that one can be for the elimination of barriers to women’s freedom without being only for the elimination of barriers to white women’s freedom. Yes, there are additional barriers confronting women of color but that does not de-legitimize struggle against problems confronting women as a whole.

    And I have to agree with many comments drawing clear attention to the class issue here. While class does not eliminate other elements of privilege, it does indeed bring its own set of gross distortions with it. It’s not right to simply roll up all evils with an all encompassing term and be done with it. Without any will to differentiate or understand the role played by class and the means by which upper classes actively defend their distinct privilege in all societies, it is impossible to have a coherent discussion about oppression. Accepting the oppression of another does not relinquish ones own claim to a class of oppressed people.

    Are white women more privileged that women of color? Of course. Are men more privileged that women? Even in the US one would have to conclude this. Does that negate the previous answer, of course not.

  48. emgersh, you’re another example of a stubborn white feminist who can’t get it through her skull that race trumps gender in this country. I’m not denying your conviction that (white) men are more privileged than (white) women, but white women as a group are far more privileged than black men.

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