Earlier this year, Leslie Jones, star of last summer’s remake of Ghostbusters and featured player on Saturday Night Live, quit Twitter after being trolled and bullied by basement dwelling dude bros. In a disturbing series of tweets, Jones gave us a look into the racist and sexist comments filling her mentions since the release of Ghostbusters. Understandably distraught, Jones tweeted “I leave Twitter tonight with tears and a very sad heart. All this cause I did a movie. You can hate the movie but the shit I got today…wrong’’. Supporters created the hashtags #LoveforLeslieJ and #LeslieJones. As usual, Black Twitter was the most vocal, jumping in Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey’s mentions. He later tweeted Jones. The next day, Milo Yiannopoulous, the man who started the attacks against Jones, was banned from Twitter.
There was little support for Jones and more recently when Jones’ nudes were leaked, there was still more of the same—silence. This made me angry. It also made me think long and hard about white feminism and those who perpetuate it. White feminism pulls a disappearing act when black women experience trauma. This isn’t new. It’s often the case with many of Hollywood’s white feminists and their brand of feminism; too often it prioritizes whiteness and privilege over black women. Those who perpetuate white feminism understand they can experience misogyny, but never consider those of us who experience misogynoir— both sexism and racism. Our struggle is optional for them, and often just ‘’we’re all the same’’ aesthetic for them. I have yet to read a supportive think piece, tweet, post, or see an interview where they have chosen to ‘’opt in’’ and show up for Jones’ very public trauma or any other visible black women. Your favs are problematic and their silent white feminism isn’t here for us. And if Jones’ trauma didn’t convince you– the recent election should have.
Where was Taylor Swift during this election—you know, the culture vulture who went to Africa and filmed a video that didn’t feature any black people? The same culture vulture who interrupted Nicki Minaj when she dared speak about her struggles as a black woman in the music business. What about ultra ‘’liberal’’ Lena Dunham, who hypersexualized a black man when she accused Odell Beckham Jr. of not desiring her because he had the audacity to sit silently while seated near her? Although she supported Clinton, she found humor in Trump’s ‘’Grab her by the pussy’’ comments, and donned an extremely inappropriate Halloween custom. because in her opinion sexual assault is funny. What about Amy Poehler—you know, the feminist who wrote a line about R. Kelly urinating on Blue Ivy for her Hulu series? Could you imagine if she replaced Blue Ivy’s name with Shiloh Jolie-Pitt? Poehler penned a letter as her Parks and Rec character, Leslie Knope, showing solidarity and unity AFTER the election. The same feminist who dehumanized a black child, found her humanity just in enough time to say ‘’my bad’’. Because putting on a happy and face and dealing is sound advice for millions of black women who will be impacted by the choices of her fellow white women. How about Tina Fey who thinks political correctness is ruining her ability to be problematic? I don’t see her stepping out in solidarity. Or what about Emma Watson? Although she isn’t American, Watson gave a widely praised speech to the UN about feminism. She founded #HeforShe, a rallying cry for white feminists. Watson also made an insensitive comment about Kenyan workers not being paid equally for their back-breaking, exploitative work on tea plantations—because why would she see the true issue with Kenyan tea plantations? She seems well-versed in Kenyan labor, so I was hoping she had some words of advice for black American women, too. It seems your white feminist heroes, who are hell-bent on ridding the world of misogyny also have a penchant for perpetuating AND ignoring misogynoir. These visible white feminists with platforms could rally around and support black women when experience public trauma or as we’re experiencing post-election grief– but they don’t. They have never and will never risk their platforms or sponsorships to defend and protect black women. So why are they lauded for their activism? Who are they helping and uplifting other than other white women? And more importantly, why do we ONLY focus on Hollywood’s white feminism, when white feminists next door are more dangerous? They are Trump voting, safety pin wearing con artists.
Days leading up to last week’s election, videos of white women leaving messages and stickers on the grave of Susan B. Anthony went viral. White women who claimed to have wanted to see Hillary Clinton break the glass ceiling during the 2016 Presidential election thanked Anthony for her tireless struggle, for which she never reaped the rewards. These women seem to have forgotten Anthony was a racist who did nothing for black women and was quoted as saying “I will cut off this right arm of mine before I will ask for the ballot for the Negro and not for the woman.” And we know the woman she spoke of wasn’t the Negro woman. And we know that modern white feminists feel the same as the founders of white feminism– the suffragettes, considering a large portion of them voted to elect Donald Trump– again choosing whiteness and white supremacy over solidarity with black women, who despite issues with Clinton, overwhelming showed up and showed out at the polls for her.
We could speculate about their motives and their feminism forever. But the answer is clear and quite simple. They don’t care. They prove it time and time again. White feminism and its champions are not here for black women. White feminism is only interested in dismantling the heteronormative patriarchy which oppresses white women– while upholding white supremacy. It is not interested in intersectional womanism, which would require that they concern themselves with matters that don’t impact the lives of cisgender white women. We need to understand that mainstream feminism has not and will not help black women because white feminism will never be intersectional and certainly has no plans on pulling up at the intersections of Negro and wide nose. White feminism, and white women, continue to fail black women, and it’s about time we leave it–and them behind. Wash, fold and store those capes and start riding for black women. We’re all we got.
Editor’s Note: White Feminism by definition means feminism through the white, middle-class, straight, able-bodied female viewpoint which excludes, dismisses or marginalizes women of color. White Feminism refuses to accept or discuss how racial inequality plays a major role in gender and socio-economic inequality and dismisses the notion of oppression inflicted by white women onto others. This exclusionary act is what lead Alice Walker to define black feminists and other feminists of color as “Womanist”, and Latina women to call themselves “Mujerista.”
– Creighton Leigh