I have recently come to understand what people mean when they talk about white feminists. So much is a statement about the color of their skin though that is certainly a major contributing factor but a statement about their attitude. A white feminist is the opposite of an intersectional feminist.
If you LARPed as I do you may have heard the phrase “that’s an over there problem.” It’s primarily used to indicate that whatever task has been presented, whatever non-player character has been sent to beg their help while certainly pressing in an in game context, is far too much trouble for them in and out of game context. The players involved simply do not wish to walk that far or exert that much energy. It bothers me and for some time I have not been able to put my finger on exactly why, besides the fact that it was a phrase which could be uttered without anyone thinking you were a total jerk for letting that poor NPC die because you were lazy…because “not everyone can be a hero.” Well no, not everyone can be a hero, but at least then can not sit back smoke cigs and watch the NPCs get slaughtered like it’s nothing.
But I think the reason it really bugs me is that it’s not just a LARP thing. To the ‘white feminist’ issues of racism, heterosexism, cissexism, and ableism constitute an over there problem. These are real world situations and while the player characters in a LARP can often afford to ignore the distressed farmer due to their meta knowledge that it is merely a game, we have no such luxury as regards real world social justice. The white feminists has the luxury of separating these things from their feminism because these things do not directly impact their own lives as much as sexism does, and so do not regard these problems as real. No, not everyone can be the hero, but if inequities don’t at least bother you, if seeing people act in reprehensible ways doesn’t at least make you think less of them, then you’re either not engaging with the world, or you’re a ‘white feminist’
This came to me in the form of a nasty surprise when during the discussion of race a person I had previously considered to be an ally and a good feminist referred to the act of my calling out a serious case of racism, as inappropriate.Considering a person who said racist things to be a racist, was wrong, because I could not hold others to my lofty standard of, well of not spewing racist crap, and I was further wrong in ‘attacking’ one of the nicest people on the board, they say, for telling her I considered her behavior of excusing racism instead of admitting that the person she was defending was being a total racist, to be reprehensible, and to make her complicit in said racism. And this is what was said…
“I know you’re very passionate about your underdogs but…” Wait: MY underdogs? That phrase has stuck with me for months, dancing at the back of my mind like a horrific taunting child.I barely made it past that phrase, but it was the beginning of the end. There wasn’t enough backing. It became an internet pile on and I was underneath. I left the group, and not on good terms, but it was clear from then on there was no point in staying. The few good people there were too invested in their friendships with the ‘white feminists’ to speak up.
But lets back up for a moment unpack that idea:
“MY underdogs.” I’ve been given ownership in this phrase of marginalized people because what, they’re pets? You can’t own people, we’ve been thru that crap already. So what does it really mean? It’s a way for the speaker to indicate that she belives that no one involved in this conversation, no one in this facebook group, cares about these people but me.
“My UNDERDOGS.” Underdogs are people you expect to loose, and no one makes a fuss when they do. They were smaller. They were weaker. They weren’t as skilled at the sport, or game at hand. They’re so brave just for fighting, and sometimes they eeke out a win by some unconventional means, but no one’s kidding themselves that the underdog is as good as the perennial winner. To these white feminists, women were an oppressed class, but people of color, disabled people, transgender people, these are people to be pittied like the underdog, for their differences which make them less.
This is why we need intersectionalism. Feminists, all feminists, need to recognize the validity of other axis of oppression and be willing to stand up against that which does not personally affect them, for no other reason than that seeing that injustice perpetrated makes them ANGRY. We need to take it more personally when oppression is happening in our presence, even if it’s not ‘your’ fight. There is NO SUCH THING as an “over there problem,” and they’re NOT MY UNDERDOGS.
Get with it, or get out of the way.