A small rage-filled hunchback scuttles down the hallway of Bitchtopia’s editing office. In her gnarly claw, Patricia Arquette’s Oscar comments dripped on paper in blood. The tattered Feminist Army uniform does not slow the jumbled steps as they quickly approach the Editor’s Office.
As the door swings open, three she-Devils turn their fiery gaze upon the intruder. She stabs the words onto a long outward fingernail. The demons cackle and utter one word, in unison;
As soon as her problematic statement hit the air, the internet exploded. Feminists everywhere were left confused by her exclusionary remarks and misguided understanding of how feminism actually operates—yet it brought applause from a few misinformed ill-judged folks. Applause that is giving a bad name to the feminists out there who work tirelessly to weasel out insidious occurrences of Kumbaya feminism and White Ignorance when ever possible to improve the world for every person on it; that actually being what feminism is, but I can save that for another post. What really needs to happen here—we need to stop, take a breather, and think about what this experience has given us and how we, collectively as human beings, can learn from it.
Lesson #1: People are not perfect and need opportunities to reflect and learn from their own experiences.
In my heart of hearts, I believe Patricia Arquette was not trying to purposefully dismiss or degrade anyone in her comments. She was trying to speak about what she understood, and proved she had a shaky grasp on the many issues that have plague the feminist movement. Patricia Arquette should not be applauded for her comments, instead she should be educated and guided into a deeper understanding of feminism and what it means to EVERY person. Her privilege has blinded her and it is up to us to help her understand a new perspective.
Lesson #2: When our white privilege is challenged, we feel uncomfortable. But that doesn’t mean we should stew in our own misplaced anger.
“But I’m a white feminist and not all white feminists…” Stop. Stop right there. For a group of people who have openly and constantly challenged males use of their own privilege by using “Well, not all men…,” how is it possible we do not see the problematic demonstration of white privilege here? Yes, not all white women believe that it is alright to exclude or ignore large groups of underrepresented people. That does not mean that we are allowed to discredit a conversation that is being had about important issues facing women of color or LGBT folks because we feel we are an example of what a “good” white feminist is. White women are not the gatekeepers or approval committee for all women. We do not get to decide how others feel nor marginalize those feelings because it makes us uncomfortable.
I understand, I do. I understand the knee jerk reaction to defend yourself. When someone writes about how White feminists work to keep other women down; our first reaction is: I AM A FEMINIST AND I WORK HARD TO DO JUST THE OPPOSITE! It is painful to read that someone is willing to group you in with other strangers you don’t know and make a comment about a general population based on a handful of experiences they have had personally. It is demeaning, belittling and unfair. It makes you feel angry, and defensive and ignored. And now you know a little of what it is like to be a PoC in this country.
What needs to happen next, White people, is to identify why it is we are feeling uncomfortable and explore it. It is time to reflect and think deeply about our own feelings. Why does this make me uncomfortable? Why is this really bothering me? Am I projecting my anger? Am I angry at someone for doing something that I myself have done before? Are my feelings being magnified by seeing a behavior of my own that I am not proud of? Am I clear about the role I played in my own anger? It isn’t until we can begin thinking critically about our behaviors can we expect to learn and improve our lives and the lives of others.
Lesson #3: Listen, rather than speak.
Sometimes the best solution is to remain silent. We have a lot to learn; to react first, think later has gotten us nowhere so far. Feminists need to hold each other to a higher standard. It is our job as Injustice Warriors to make sure that all people are being heard, respected and valued. We do not have to agree on every opinion, we need to create an environment that each can be heard and discussed without bias, anger or fear.
We need to resist the urge to force our way into conversations that are not designed for us. We are responsible for creating the solution, not demonizing the symptoms. Feminism is designed for all women and it is in our practices that we prove we are failing. It is due time to take feminism back for all people. How? By listening. By empowering each other. By crashing through our own discomfort to drag society, kicking and screaming, into a new and progressive era where all people feel validated and recognized as, you know, human beings.
The darkened halls of the dens of the She Witches have fallen silent. The sharpened fangs of the Angry Feminists remain bloodless, their stomaches hungry for blood yet full of only open minded discussion. Disappointed, the Editors have retreated into their scaly haunches for the night, restlessly waiting for the next chance to crucify and eat their own.