The comments below were posted on a recent blog, which I’m not going to link to, but which was the usual complaint about feminists being rude, swearing too much and not supporting the rights of one woman regardless of whether or not her choices are actively harming other women. It is the lament of “if only feminists were nicer”, yet it is the blog itself which is unkind. It pretends that all women are middle class, well-educated with great jobs. It insinuates that women who are not within this cohort are failures. It ignores the structural barriers to women’s lives by pretending misogyny does not exist – nor, apparently, racism, classism, or homophobia. Feminists are mean for not supporting every single “choice” a woman makes – regardless of the consequences for women as a class.
The comments below are why feminist analysis must examine women as a class. Erasing the multiple oppressions of women is antifeminist – pretending misogyny isn’t real is anti-woman. Women face oppression as a class. It is not mean for feminists to point out that white, middle class women have more options than many other women. Its not mean for feminists to point out that women who do experience violence, whether from a partner or because of the community they live in, have less choices than women who live without the constant consequences of violence. It is not mean for feminists to point out that women who succeed in business, law, medicine or the civil service who are white and well-educate aren’t just succeeding because of their personal qualities or ambition. It is not mean to recognise that a Black woman, regardless of how ambitious, well-educated and talented, will struggle more than a white woman in the public sphere.
It’s not mean for feminists to point out that one woman insisting on wearing a tiara during a professional event isn’t exactly fighting a battle women need to win.
Suggesting that feminists are being mean for holding women accountable for the consequences of their choices, words and actions is, frankly, infantile and ridiculous. If you want to advocate for the liberation of women through kindness, by all means, go right ahead. But, you need to start by actually being kind to women who aren’t exactly like you. It’s hardly advocating love to heal the world if you are shitting all over other women.
This was my original comment on the blog:
There is a massive difference between women supporting other women and women never, ever challenging another woman for fear of being ‘rude’. It absolutely okay to challenge a woman who has written a post which ignores the reality of the lives of the vast majority of women who aren’t middle class, well-educated and white. It’s not rude to point out that Black women are grossly under-represented in every field because of structural racism and misogyny. It’s okay to point out that white middle class women who have 3 children are ‘good mothers’ whilst a Black woman in a low-income job with three kids would be treated as shit in the media.
Confusing kindness with never holding a woman accountable for expressing opinions which actively harm other women is not acceptable. It’s not mean or rude or aggressive to point it out. Feminism is about helping ALL women – not just individuals.
X’s response: Call me psychic or intuitive but I am just throwing a guess out there that you yourself Louise may be “middle class, well-educated and white” – Hhhhhmmm why do you have an issue with that?
I don’t, which is why my son is half Nigerian. Have you actually ever been to Africa?
Please don’t raise the race card here, when it is wholly unwarranted…….. and irrelevant.
What is as you say “mean or rude or aggressive ” is some of the things I have seen written above, in recent comments.
Me: Yep, I’m white and middle class and well educated and I know that my options have been greater since birth because I was born white to a middle class family with access to a good education. Suggesting that race doesn’t limit women’s options is an asinine position to take and one which flies in the face of several hundreds of years of history.
X’s Response: Sorry but I don’t feel the need to compensate or be apologetic for being white, middle classed or educated. My friends, peers and relatives many of whom are of colour, from several continents, are more enriched physically, mentally, spiritually and financially than the white people I know. A child in Africa often experiences more joy with one toy than our children do with 30. Women in Africa often do not get PND or such things, because they adhere to the old adage “it takes a village to raise a child”. It’s never worked out well when I have fought other people’s battles for them, so whilst I will battle against discrimination and obliterate it from the elements of my life I can control, I will not apologise for my sex, colour, creed, nationality, class or standing. Too many people think women for example are made to cover up, yet I know many hijab/turban wearing women, none of whom have been asked to don it by a man. It’s sometimes best to battle the things you experience and can understand and not those you don’t
Response from Another Poster (Y): sorry but that is nonsense. Have you ever been to Africa? I can’t speak for the entire continent, but I will speak from my experience visiting Kenya – the women aren’t getting PND because they are DYING in childbirth. They aren’t getting PND because they are being ‘married’ (ie raped) when they are 13 years old. They are bearing several children before they are in their twenties, and if they survive that, they are very lucky.
It is not about being apologetic for being middle-class, but about looking beyond your front door and seeing that not everyone is so lucky.
X’s response: Of course I have which is why I asked the question of her, which interestingly she did not answer.
Y: If you have been to Africa, why are you spouting nonsense about children there being happy with just one toy?
I am sorry, but this makes me so angry. I saw a child whose head was swollen with encephalitis, he was very ill but his mother couldn’t afford to take him to the doctor. I met young girls who stopped going to school when they started menstruating because they would then be seen as ‘sexually ripe’ and be at risk of rape. I met women who lost their babies in a hospital that had been found to have been selling children. A hospital that the taxi driver told us that he wouldn’t take his wife to because of that and other previous scandals.
How can you perpetuate the myth of the happy African children, who just need one toy? And women not having PND. They don’t have PND because they are DYING in childbirth. They don’t have PND because they are too busy fighting HIV and TB.
You don’t have to go to Africa to see this, it is reported daily in the media, if you take a look.
ME: I didn’t answer it because your assumption of Black -women = living in Africa is crass and completely lacking in understanding that, oddly, Black people happen to live all over the world. Not just in Africa.
X: No, what IS crass is someone upthread taking the time and effort to assume that EVERYONE on this thread was white + middle class + educated (thanks for the compliment in the latter, as it is never a word I feel when talking to you guys). Sorry but I have no time for people who live in homogeneous places, yet escape to other worlds via their bookshelves and campaigns. The only thing white about me is my skin, and I say again, I am not going to apologise for it. I will change the world via the means I have at my disposal and not adhere to a prescription of what being good looks like to you. Still have NO idea how colour was brought into this. It was a way of putting down, the ladies on this thread, in a cheap misguided way, that lacked grace, thought and compassion, yet we are expected to feel those for women all over the world who desperately need our help. How about charity begins at home, get good at it, and then branch out
Me: I can’t tell if you mean that comment genuinely or not Liska because I have actually never read a comment as so stupid as “women in Africa don’t get PND”. Firstly, Africa is a continent – not a country and the lives of women differ greatly from Egypt to Nigeria to Sierra Leone to Rwanda and to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Parts of Africa have vast wealth and others are war zones. 48 women are raped every hour in the DRC. They are raped to force pregnancy and they are raped to cause miscarriages. 6 month old babies are raped – as 65 year old women.
Many women have no access to clean water and the maternal and infant mortality rate in such areas is astronomical. Do you seriously believe a mother whose infant dies at birth from a preventable disease won’t have PND? Or, a 12 year old girl sold, raped and forced to give birth to a stillborn child won;t develop PND? Or, a mother who gives birth prematurely having seen her whole family slaughtered? Or, a child raped by a family member who gives birth in private desperate to hide the baby lest they kicked out of their community? You don’t think these women will develop PND? Or, that women living in wealthy families are somehow exempt because they live in “Africa”?
What about young girls who have experienced FGM which, at its most severe stage, inhibits the bodies ability to urinate and menstruate. Do you think these girls, who have to be cut open to have sex or deliver a child, are somehow magically exempt from PND because they live in Africa?
I’m hoping you were being ironic with this comment.