The Master's Tools: White Female Hypocrisy and the Problem with Mainstream Feminism / by Jewell Bell

Like many Americans, I found myself paying close attention to Alabama's much anticipated senate race, in which the people of Alabama would elect their next senator. It was a historical election, in that Alabama would potentially be electing their first Democratic senator in 25 years, Doug Jones, or Republican candidate, Roy Moore, an accused sexual predator, child molester, and racist. For me, this was an opportunity for some white women to "put their money where their mouth is" in rectifying their contribution to Trump's win. Considering that over 50% of them voted for Trump, it was my hope that Doug Jones' win would not only be a repudiation of Cheeto face's presidency, but also for white women to continue their "movement" championing for women's rights and battle against sexual assault and violence. There has been much resurgence within the feminist movement since Trump's win. Particularly (and ironically) with white women, such as the Women's March (soon after his win) and more recently, the #MeToo campaign, whereby women have shared their own personal stories of sexual assault and harassment in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against Harvey Weinstein and a myriad of congressmen and Hollywood elites. I felt a bit optimistic that with all the women's marches, catchy hashtags, "Girl Power" slogans, embroidered "Feminist" pillows, and pink pussy hats, this would be the moment, particularly for white women, to take a real position against sexual assault by voting against the candidate that was the representation and embodiment of everything they claimed to stand against. 

Then I saw the election results...

Doug Jones had indeed won! It was a historical moment and a much needed win for Democrats and Alabama, but my happiness quickly transformed into irritation and frustration once the exit poll results came in. According to Washington Post, 63% of white women voted for Roy Moore while 98% of black women voted for Doug Jones. Alabama did indeed take a notable stance by electing Doug Jones, but make no mistake, it was significantly due to black women. For me, what made these numbers so infuriating is that once again white women were upholding white supremacist patriarchy and persistent in maintaining a system that benefits them, no matter how much they give lip service regarding its detriment. It was in this moment that my feminism rolled her eyes, closed off, and wanted to retreat solely in the struggles of my race, rather than my gender. Could this be the same confliction my black female ancestors felt in aligning themselves with the feminist movement?

Historically speaking, the feminist movement has always marginalized women of color (WOC), specifically black women. Ignoring intersectionality and how WOC face various levels of oppression, white women wanted to focus more on similar struggles that united all women, rather than how they too played a central role in black women's marginalization and classist ideologies. As a result of black women being regulated to the sidelines in the movement while also being denied their womanhood in the 1960s, many of them simply committed themselves to the racial struggle. And now, in 2017, not much has changed. White Feminism still seems to be soley concerned with the issues of white women, fails to accept responsibility for their exclusivity toward WOC, and doesn't seek to eradicate Patriarchy but rather uphold it and even imitate it at times. Patriarchy isn't being dismantled, it's just being replaced with a uterus. 

I can't help but wonder what the hell is up with some white women? Is whiteness that much of a powerful intoxicant where it has deluded them to uphold a system that while sexist, still benefits them according to race? Why are so many of them loyal to white supremacist patriarchy, while claiming to struggle against it? 

 Performative resistance. 

It's hard to annihilate patriarchy when you willingly climb in bed next to it every night. Could it be that some white women feel like voting against politicians and policies rooted in racism, capitalism, and sexism is a vote against whiteness and a betrayal to their community? The enigmatic intersectional feminist and poet, Audre Lorde once said, "For the master's tools will never dismantle the master's house." If white women continue to allow themselves to be used to uphold systems that oppress us all, including them, none of us win. Black women have a real sense of community because we realize it is incumbent upon us to take care of our families, our men, and our communities. So in essence, when a black woman votes, she's voting for her village. However, it becomes exhausting as hell as a black woman to shoulder the responsibility of rectifying elections that hold perilous consequences, especially when white women, who cry "sisterhood" let us down time and time again. It's the same sense of disappointment Sojourner Truth must have felt when she bared her breast and with great fervor, iconically proclaimed, "ain't I woman?" 

For me, I can't align myself with mainstream white feminism because it is a feminism that does not align itself with me. It is this same frustration and feeling of discontent that gave way to some of the greatest works by black female scholars, such as Patrica Hill Collins, Audre Lorde, bell hooks, Angela Davis and Kimberlé Crenshaw in highlighting black feminist thought and reconceptualizing the way we view oppression. The hell with the pussy hats and vacuous marches. Fuck a hashtag. It's time for white women to have active discussions within their own communities and put serious action behind their words.

That responsibility doesn't lie on the backs of WOC nor is "black women being divisive" the root of the problem.

It's y'all sis.