Today it arrived on a silver platter in the form of the comment section of New York Times Facebook page. The discussion occurred under an opinion piece titled "When the Suffrage Movement Sold out to White Feminism" written by Brent Staples. Yes, a man wrote an opinion piece about white women's racism. I'm not sure if Mr. Staples is white or not, but he seems to have a lot to say about women's behavior (something all men enjoy doing). And this is one of the oxymoronic facets about IF: men feel free to lecture women on how they should do feminism (Full disclosure: I didn't read the article. I focused on the comments).
For the longest time I have tried to understand why white women became the enemy of feminism with the rise of IF. White women are, after all, women, and feminism is about women's rights. But then, this afternoon, I read the comments under the said article and there it was, in black and white on my screen:
White women can be racist,
White men can be sexist,
Black men can be sexist,
Black women cannot be racist.
The only group that is completely faultless in this scenario is black women. I wondered where such angels could be found, angels who don't hate anyone.
Is this really reality?
Does not one black woman in the US (the conversation centers around the US) hate a European person, or an Asian person, or an Arab, or Native American, or Latin American, or someone who is a mixture of more than one people group? Not one? How extraordinary! We are meant to believe all black women in the US are incapable of hating another person due to their "race" (a silly term to be used since we're all one human race). We are meant to believe that, due to the systematic racism black women experienced, they became completely immune to the emotion of hating another human being due to their race, Black men still kept their sexism intact, but black women became otherworldly saints.
You may wonder what I'm getting at, but just hang on for a second and you'll see I have a good reason for my apprehension. You see, in the past centuries, women (mostly white women, as this happened in Europe), were considered so saintly they lacked the ability to even contemplate the vices the men participated in (such as visiting brothels, habitual drinking etc). Women were SO saintly, they didn't need equal rights, or the vote, or the ability to take care of themselves financially. They were SO saintly, they had become like children, and were therefore treated like children.
Mary Wollstonecraft wrote the following:
“Why are girls to be told that they resemble angels; but to sink them below women? Or, that a gentle, innocent female is an object that comes nearer to the idea which we have formed of angels than any other. Yet they are told, at the same time, that they are only like angels when they are young and beautiful; consequently, it is their persons, not their virtues, that procure them this homage.”
― Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman
It was/is their person, not their virtues, that make them angels. They could misbehave, make an occasional blunder, and still be considered angelic. What I'm getting at here is that in an effort to secure equal rights to black women IF has substituted white women with black women by calling them angels.
Incapable of doing any harm or wrongdoing, the innocent female is lauded and extolled, put on a pedestal. What is forgotten in the process is that the angelic white woman lacked equal rights, and so does the angelic black woman when it comes to the actual realization of her rights. She needs someone else to advocate for her - the IF crowd. And if she makes a nasty comment in the process, that's okay. An innocent, angelic being can be forgiven a few minor missteps as she really doesn't know how to act. She may be innocent, but she's not clever, or capable of taking care of herself. She must be protected by others, the others being the patriarchialists who know how to subject women, how to infantilize women. Black women are only the latest in a long row to receive this treatment.
White women shed this nonsensical patronizing idea of their shoulders sometime during the past hundred years, but I can see why it's so tempting for black women to absorb it now. It's so tantalizing, so wonderfully beautiful after centuries of being considered the villain, the objectified body without a mind. But the pedestal is awfully high and to reach humanity, to be actually treated like a real human (with all the rights and responsibilities thereof), one has to get of the pedestal and join the rest of the crowd. It may seem like a tall order, but if we are ever going to create a society where equal rights reign, we all need to be seen as human. Not as demons, not as angels. Just human. A hundred years ago white women were the angels, black women the demons. Today black women are the angels, white women the demons. And the only ones who lose in both scenarios are women.
Dare to be a feminist who cares for and about all women.
Screw IF and patriarchy.
Women deserve better.