Black Women Share Their Stories About White Feminists Excluding Them From The Feminist Movement
"I can’t address the injustices I’ve experienced as a woman without addressing the injustices I’ve experienced as a Black person."
Recently, we asked Black women of the BuzzFeed Community about their experiences with the feminist movement, and how they've felt excluded from it. Here's what they shared:
1. White feminism fails to recognize intersectionality.
"White feminism doesn’t recognize intersectionality and then asks why I as a Black woman do not take up arms in the feminist movement. Yes, I am a feminist. But when I walk into the room, I am confronted first with my being Black. So I’m sorry that making sure there are more women in leadership positions isn’t a leading priority for me. It IS important. No question. But what white feminism fails to realize is my sense of womanhood is intertwined with my Black identity. I can’t address the injustices I’ve experienced as a woman without addressing the injustices I’ve experienced as a Black person."
2. Feminism fails to highlight racial disparities in relation to women's issues.
"I’m tired of only addressing white women’s issues in America without also highlighting how much worse it is if you're BIPOC on top of it. Black women are less likely to be believed when reporting sexual assault, and also less likely to come forward. These issues deserve to be shown in media and talked about too."
3. Too often, a Black woman who advocates for herself gets labeled an "angry Black woman."
"Every time I have a professional disagreement with a white woman, I am confronted with weaponized white female tears and labeled an angry Black woman. These women all consider themselves feminists. In my opinion, feminism is just an extension of white supremacy and I am not down for it."
4. Black women are sidelined in movements they've started.
"Black women are continuously put to the side in whatever civil rights movement that they’re a part of, despite being the main supporters, storytellers, and innovators of those movements."
5. The feminist movement values white women's tears over Black women's lives.
"Honestly, I've never been a part of any feminist movement because as a Black woman, I know that it doesn't support me. The face of the feminist movement is white. Men get more attention for being a part of it than Black women — the ones who are suffering the most. If feminism is for Black women as well, how come it takes a white woman crying about an issue for the world to notice, and not the Black women who have died from it? It's sad that a movement for women ignores the most vulnerable women."
6. Getting Black women into senior professional positions is not a priority.
"It feels as though white women only want to lift up other white women in breaking through that glass ceiling. One time that sticks in my mind is in a previous job when a new male colleague made wildly inappropriate sexual comments toward me at a work event. I complained to my line manager and was told it would be sorted. Weeks and weeks later, I wondered what had happened, since I had not been contacted by HR and still saw him swanning around all smiley at everyone. Fast-forward to a year later at our work conference party, where he behaved inappropriately again to a couple of my white colleagues — he was shown the door that Monday morning. And yes, the management I complained to were all white women."
7. The oppression white feminists face is likened to the oppression Black people face.
"I find it incredibly offensive when white feminists try to liken the oppression they face as women to the oppression Black people face. A good example is when James Corden made those jokes about Harvey Weinstein and Rose McGowan and McGowan immediately compared it to being called the n-word. Not only is it offensive to Black women who legitimately get called racial slurs, but you can tell that feminists like that are not actually interested in dismantling racism. They just use it as a comparison for convenience and shock value."
8. The disparity in mental health is ignored.
"The disparity in mental health can be crushing. Black women are seen as strong, so their feelings and needs in terms of mental health are barely considered. It's something that seems like a compliment but really isn't. Yes, I am strong, but I have moments of weakness and hurting and vulnerability just like any other human. But when I show that, I know it makes others, white folk especially, feel uncomfortable. And having been in therapy with white therapists, I think that sometimes it seems like they give more pity than actual understanding and constructive plans of action. It's all kind of a mess."
9. Healthcare disparities, specifically regarding childbirth, aren't addressed.
"There has yet to be an honest discussion as to why Black women die during childbirth. It is so incredibly hard to plan a future if you know that having kids means you might not live to watch them grow. When women’s health is brought up, it’s only birth control and abortions. While I feel strongly about a woman’s right to choose, WHAT ABOUT MY RIGHT TO LIVE?"
10. White feminism uses buzzwords like "diversity and inclusion."
"I cringe whenever I hear buzzwords like 'diversity and inclusion.' They're basically used so people can pat themselves on the back for being so 'woke.' How about inviting women of color to join your ranks? Or mentoring us so we can have the same opportunities as you? Or buying from a Black-owned business? In my observation, it's easier for a white feminists to post on Instagram about how they understand the struggles of Black women (no, you don't) instead of taking steps to economically help us get ahead."
11. Some white feminists participate in virtue signaling but don't offer real support.
"I have seen a lot of virtue signaling from feminist friends on their timelines. You know, the ones who will share a video to show how they support the cause, but will remain silent when a mutual friend posts inflammatory content."
12. Black women are boxed out of professional opportunities.
"I work in tech, and even though it's male dominated, white women tend to help each other with opportunities in the name of feminism. Meanwhile, women of color are usually excluded. Unless you're the token — then they bring you into their club."
14. Victim advocacy circles take the position of "Believe all women."
"I feel frustrated by aspects of victim advocacy circles that push the message of 'Believe all women.' I love that concept, and I want to love that message completely, but it always makes me think of Emmett Till in such a way that I just can’t fully endorse it. The criminal justice system has been weaponized against my people for a very long time. The message of Black men preying upon white women is propaganda as old as our country. What does that mean for the idea of believing all women, and for me as a Black woman, and for the Black men I love? It’s hard for me to trust white feminists who are content to ignore the nuance of that conversation."
15. Feminism perpetuates Eurocentric beauty standards.
"The most immediate way I feel excluded is through white beauty standards. The feminist movement still largely embraces Eurocentric beauty, and only in queer spaces do I feel that something that’s not able-bodied and white is accepted. There is very little interest in understanding alternative beauty standards, and even when they are, they are performative and still center sexual desirability as the ultimate goal of beauty."
16. "Empowering" movies and TV shows are geared only to white women.
"I want to see more shows about Black women taking the world by storm, WITHOUT a white woman alongside them. I’ve seen the stories of white women fighting 'the man,' and now I want BIPOC to take the lead."
17. Overall, Black women's existence and needs get erased within white feminism.
"At least twice I have been confronted by white women asking me if I am more concerned with women's issues or Black issues, and being asked, 'Do you identify as a Black person or a woman more?' And every time, I have to repeat that I am Black and a woman at all times. There is no choice. And when they have an expectation that I will choose to focus on their concerns of equal pay and not of white supremacy, I have to explain to them that my life, my mother's life, my father's, my nieces', and my nephews' lives are far more important and far more dire than helping them rise to equal footing with white men."
18. Black women are labeled sexual objects.
"When Black women express their sexuality and/or wear tight clothing, they're automatically made out to be provocative. The subconscious idea that a Black woman’s body is simply for sex has yet to be addressed and is one of the root causes as to why we aren’t taken seriously in the workplace."
19. White feminism glorifies the suffragettes.
"I really hate every Election Day when people cover Susan B. Anthony’s grave with 'I Voted' stickers. The suffragettes were often openly racist and prioritized voting for white women over voting for any people of color. Each November, I’m completely frustrated by the lack of awareness that those stickers demonstrate."
20. Some white feminists only care about causes that affect them personally.
"I felt excluded when I'd see my friends in their pink vagina hats head down to protest for women's rights a few years ago, but when I ask them to go to Black Lives Matter protests, they always have something else to do."
21. And lastly, white feminism has failed to amplify and support the voices of Black women.
"White privilege in feminism is all too real. Women in general are presented as hysterical and overly emotional. True. But when a white woman makes demands, she is supported, even if the demands are hard-earned. My demands as a Black woman are seen as threatening or aggressive. And never mind that I — and my white counterparts — could be calling attention to the same issues (unequal pay, career setbacks due to pregnancy, etc.). White women need to understand the role that race has in the women’s movement, and work to amplify BIPOC voices in the women’s movement and beyond."