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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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148 Responses

  1. ThickRedGlasses
    ThickRedGlasses December 2, 2008 at 11:21 am |

    Here is a newsflash: The oppressor does not get to tell the oppressed what is and isn’t oppression.

    I know! I hate it when people tell me what I should and shouldn’t be offended by. That’s like telling me what tastes good and what tastes bad. It’s about perception. And if someone says something or does something to you and you think it has something to do with your race, then it’s racist. That’s how you feel, and feelings are never wrong.

    Racism isn’t all black and white (no pun intended). There aren’t compartments for what is and isn’t racist, so it’s not like just anyone can say “That’s not racist.” Sometimes it’s subtle and there’s room for doubt. Sometimes things happen to me and I think, “I wonder if that has to do with my Puerto Rican heritage. Or maybe it’s just a coincidence.” Three times I went to vote in person, I was sent to the person at the end of the table. That person at the end of the table is always the Spanish interpreter. It took me three times to finally conclude that this wasn’t a coincidence and that they were sending me down there on purpose. The other times I gave them the benefit of the doubt, but the thought that they were sending me to the Spanish interpreter because of my last name crossed my mind. The simple fact these people could have been racist makes it racist, doesn’t it? I mean, Whites don’t really have to wonder about those things.

  2. Ann
    Ann December 2, 2008 at 11:31 am |

    Bravo on the post! As a woman of color, I often debate with white feminists or men of color on which is harder, being a woman, or being a minority? My answer: neither is harder than the other. It is the combination of the two compounded by ten with a whole ‘nother set of stereotypes and preconceived notions to fight. Being a woman of color is a new level of difficulty. Women of color = third class citizen. Its not rocket science, people.

  3. Thomas
    Thomas December 2, 2008 at 11:39 am |

    Well said.

  4. J
    J December 2, 2008 at 11:51 am |

    This post made me kinda uncomfortable. And that’s good. I know my lily white ass is over privileged (to put it mildly) and I know that knowing it doesn’t give me a pass, and I appreciate the reminder.

  5. Shelby
    Shelby December 2, 2008 at 11:52 am |

    Yeah, being black is kind of like how I felt in elementary school when all the other girls had straight blonde hair and mine was brown and curly! Ugh, I totally know where you’re coming from!

    Juuuuust playin :)
    Great post. I especially enjoyed that fourth and fifth paragraph. Reminded me of a linguistics class I took once in which a white woman taught me about “black english vernacular.” Awesomez.

  6. Dr. Confused
    Dr. Confused December 2, 2008 at 12:04 pm |

    What J said.

    It’s not your job to teach me, but I’m glad you took the time to write.

  7. urbanartiste
    urbanartiste December 2, 2008 at 12:06 pm |

    I am the white person usually lecturing my relatives on how they need to stop denying that racism does not exist. I would think that more white women would get what you are saying about oppressors/oppressed because we have a male dominated society still dictating what we should feel is sexism or not. Just remember not all white women are pearl clutchers and hopefully one day all women regardless of ethnicity will come together. We do share some similarities and struggles.

  8. FashionablyEvil
    FashionablyEvil December 2, 2008 at 12:22 pm |

    urbanartiste, I think you’re kind of missing the point.

    Just remember not all white women are pearl clutchers and hopefully one day all women regardless of ethnicity will come together. We do share some similarities and struggles.

    While this is/may be true, it’s not our (white women’s) place to demand that WOC listen to or work with us. As Renee said in her post,

    Take responsibility for your journey and do your own work. While I’m at it…don’t ask me for one of those sisterly hugs in your time of need either; black women are tired of comforting upset white people like we don’t have enough headaches of our own.

  9. Eva
    Eva December 2, 2008 at 12:40 pm |

    I don’t think urbanartiste is missing the point at all. I think her comment reflects something really valid. How do you get off the perch of privilege? I don’t think saying, “As a white woman in X circumstance, I have problems too. Maybe we have some in common” is quite the same as demanding that WOC drop everything to comfort us. The starting point to building community is to look for commonalities. The only way to respect other members of the community is to accept their authority of their own experience as equal to our own. That means no one gets to compare with or define another’s experience.

  10. Renee
    Renee December 2, 2008 at 12:46 pm |

    Just remember not all white women are pearl clutchers

    Um yeah pearl clutching 101…Did you see me accuse all white women of being pearl clutchers? Point out where I did so. The post was directed at those that routinely deny privilege. If it is not about you there is no need to make it about you. The immediate defensive response to a post that was clearly aimed at a specific sub set of people is classic pearl clutching. FYI good acts do not erase privilege, they only mitigate it.

  11. trishka
    trishka December 2, 2008 at 12:50 pm |

    ::listening::

  12. RMJ
    RMJ December 2, 2008 at 12:51 pm |

    I appreciated most of this post, but I wanted to challenge one claim:


    Do magazines create special editions to show that your kind of women can be considered beautiful to?

    Yes. Probably not with the frequency of the editions that the author is referring to, but I am constantly made by magazines to feel as if I am “also beautiful” or “can be considered beautiful” because I am a size 12 and not interested in changing.

  13. Rachel
    Rachel December 2, 2008 at 12:52 pm |

    Wow. This post also made me uncomfortable.

    Thanks.

  14. viceabbess
    viceabbess December 2, 2008 at 12:54 pm |

    while it is frustrating that posts like this have to still be written, i am glad to read them. the amount of fucking racism there is in the feminist community, particularly the violence against women community, never ceases to amaze me. i’ll grab the pearl clutchers some smelling salts so they can WAKE UP.

  15. Holly
    Holly December 2, 2008 at 12:56 pm |

    Amazing post. I love how you brought the pedestal in; oh, the pedestal. Brava.

  16. AnnaBella
    AnnaBella December 2, 2008 at 12:57 pm |

    Thanks for this. It’s a really well-written reminder, as J said.

  17. FashionablyEvil
    FashionablyEvil December 2, 2008 at 1:23 pm |

    Eva, I was responding more to the sense of “but I’m not like that!” that Renee also responded to.

    Also,

    How do you get off the perch of privilege?

    You can’t. Either you have it (by virtue of your gender, race, sexual orientation, disability status, etc.) or you don’t. You can only work to mitigate it.

  18. Holly
    Holly December 2, 2008 at 1:28 pm |

    You can’t exactly remove your privilege through an act of will, but you can alter your own beliefs and attitudes about being privileged. A person with privilege doesn’t necessarily HAVE to have an entitled attitude about their privileges. There’s a difference between entitlement and privilege. I generally think people should feel grateful and lucky, at an individual scale, for the privileges they enjoy and have enjoyed in life — they are what have kept all of us from having to endure far worse cirumstances. After you’ve sorted your feelings out about that, the questions becomes: what will you do to help bring about a world where more and more people enjoy those same privileges, until the concept becomes meaningless?

  19. nonskanse
    nonskanse December 2, 2008 at 1:35 pm |

    WOC have to deal with racist shit every day, the least we white women can do is re-evaluate everything we say and do and question whether we might be doing it as a result of privilege. POC have to live with a world in which people either don’t care about their privilege, are imperfectly aware of white privilege, or are actively racist EVERY DAY.

    urbanartiste, you are right on the line of understanding, I think. You’ll get there eventually.

    The thing that gets me is I’ve read this exact same blog post (in different words) at this and other blogs multiple times. It’s well written each time, and each time some white sillies go to bed feeling like shit and wake up a little more enlightened. Hell, I feel like shit having to read this AGAIN, because apparently white people are not only blind to their privilege, we’re too privileged to read some POC blog archives.

    How stupid are humans, that white people can’t tell each other this? I mean, without the audience white people going into an orgy of self-congratulations on all the non-racist shit they’ve done this week. Me included, of course.

  20. Emily
    Emily December 2, 2008 at 1:37 pm |

    I’d like to put in a plug for lurking on WOC blogs. I have learned so much and it is (I think) an unobtrusive way to listen without demanding attention/help/energy.

    And while I usually think of “pear clutchers” as a different subset of squeamish people, it is good to have a descriptor for that knee-jerk defensiveness that is not just annoying but really inhibits actual dialogue on difficult issues.

  21. nolittlelolita
    nolittlelolita December 2, 2008 at 1:38 pm |

    I’m honestly not trying to troll here.

    I’m eighteen, a young white feminist living in downtown Toronto. I work hard, donate money and my time to organizations. For instance, right now, I’m doing filing work for an organization that works to prevent domestic violence against young latina women. I consider myself an ally to WOC causes, I really do.

    But when I read posts about racism and our society, sometimes I ask questions or express my viewpoint. Sometimes I can’t learn just from sitting down and listening, so I actively try to participate in the discussion to learn. So I might say: “I personally don’t see such and such, can you explain…” or “I personally don’t see that, but your interpretation never occured to me, do you think that…”

    Posts like this make me nervous, because yes I’m white, but I’m honestly not a hostile or ignorant person, and I feel like I have to disprove that before I can start asking and learning.

  22. Emily
    Emily December 2, 2008 at 1:38 pm |

    That should obviously be “pearl clutchers” not “pear clutchers.” Oops.

  23. Radfem
    Radfem December 2, 2008 at 1:49 pm |

    How do you get off the perch of privilege?

    You get up, you jump off and even though it’s a long way to the bottom, you won’t break.

    Really.

    Very well written post. I’m passing it around.

  24. FashionablyEvil
    FashionablyEvil December 2, 2008 at 1:57 pm |

    I think I like “pear clutchers” better. That would be me at the farmers’ market.

  25. FashionablyEvil
    FashionablyEvil December 2, 2008 at 2:36 pm |

    nolittlelolita, I think you’re fine. Listening and asking respectful questions is a good way to go.

    Re: having to prove yourself. Think about what happens why a guy shows up in a feminist/women’s space. He may get the benefit of the doubt, but yes, he probably does have to show that he’s an ally.

    One more thing to keep in mind, just because you’re white/part of whatever privileged group is being called out, doesn’t make the post about you.

  26. Alex
    Alex December 2, 2008 at 2:46 pm |

    I once took a Race and Ethnicity class at a local community college. During the first week, a young white woman sitting in front of me jubilantly exclaimed, “When they talk about racism and racial conflict on tv, my husband and I just laugh and laugh because it’s so ridiculous. I mean, I just don’t think these problems are as bad as they make it seem!”

    It was all I could not to slap the back of her head. The non-white members of the class were immediately uncomfortable and tense, and the black professor tersely tried to respond to her–but the girl argued with her about whether racism exists. (To this day, I still can’t get over that.) So I raised my hand and bluntly informed her that white people may try to deny the existence of racism since it rarely affects them on a personal level, but to do so is a sign of sheltered ignorance. And she didn’t argue with me.

    As much as I was glad I could use my own privilege to knock her down a few rungs, I was furious that she said it at all–and more furious that it took being scolded by another white person for her to shut up and listen. Yeah. Racism doesn’t exist…

  27. little light
    little light December 2, 2008 at 3:51 pm |

    Oh hell yes.

  28. SnowdropExplodes
    SnowdropExplodes December 2, 2008 at 4:36 pm |

    Think about what happens why a guy shows up in a feminist/women’s space.

    I was thinking of this type of thing as well – the “pearl clutcher” sounds like the white feminist equivalent of the dude who goes, “but surely you don’t mean me?” when people talk about sexist men; or the dude who goes, “but that’s not how it’s meant!” when called out on sexist remarks.

  29. Dostun
    Dostun December 2, 2008 at 5:15 pm |

    Amen to this post. I was interning in a dv day shelter this past summer (full disclosure: I’m a mixed race woman of Iroquois descent, so I have light skin that never burns and non-white facial features. Which translates to passing as white with frequent ‘where are you from originally?’ type questions) and there was an incident where a white staffer opened the door as I helped a Black client update her resume. The staffer accused the client of not doing her chore and demanded that she go wash dishes immediately.

    The client (quite understandably if you ask me) objected to her tone and overall demeanor, talking to her like you would talk to a servant, and the staffer retreated and sent another white staffer to tell the client to leave for “causing a disruption”. The reason I bring this up is that in my later discussion with the staffer, she just could. not. accept that she had any power over the client, saying things like “I hear she made it into a race thing, which is just ridiculous. None of us go around asserting power over each other!” when she had *just* attempted to kick this homeless woman out of the shelter. Did she really think the client could have done the same to her!? Of course she had power over the client, and that power overlapped uncomfortably (but obviously to anyone with half a clue) with her racial power, since all of the staff except one were white and the majority of the clients were Black or otherwise women of color.

    White women are systematically trained out of recognizing their own power even while at the same time they are so used to having it, such that when their organizational power overlaps with their racial power, they don’t even see themselves as having any power. It’s amazing. By the way, this woman had a master’s degree in women’s studies, so she thought this way as a product of academic feminism.

    I think the biggest thing white women can do to get off their pedestal is to start from the position that they deserve none of their accomplishments, that they are not intelligent and are where they are in life solely because of unearned racial and concomitant economic privilege. Now obviously for everyone it is going to be a mix of privilege and inherent ability, and a feedback loop because for instance privilege determines nutrition in childhood which determines ability, etc., but I think it is necessary to even begin overcome your privilege blindness to assume that everything you have in life was handed to you so that you can start interacting with others with the mindset that they are just as or more deserving of education and income than you; in other words, that they are equal. Then maybe you can really get angry about the injustice that is our white supremacist orthodoxy.

    And I think in order to really accomplish this you have to study how oppression works and actually talk to and read people of color – then that will enable you to reject everything you’ve ever been taught about yourself and the ways you have been treated better than your darker peers as nascent in your white skin instead of your character. Then maybe you have half a chance of getting to know yourself and understanding the justified anger of people of color. Not to mention understanding why they have better things to worry about than your personal spiritual growth.

    /my two cents

  30. Ashley
    Ashley December 2, 2008 at 5:54 pm |

    Great post, Renee. And Dostun, you’ve definitely given a different lens to Renee’s point. I thank you both for the stimulating and discomforting reminder.

  31. Anna
    Anna December 2, 2008 at 6:41 pm |

    “While I’m at it…don’t ask me for one of those sisterly hugs in your time of need either; black women are tired of comforting upset white people like we don’t have enough headaches of our own. ”

    Don’t you think this comes across just a little selfish?

  32. the15th
    the15th December 2, 2008 at 7:11 pm |

    Are these shrill, fragile pearl-clutching princesses also hysterical? There’s got to be some more belittling sexist language that could be worked in here.

  33. Renee
    Renee December 2, 2008 at 7:39 pm |

    @Anna
    No its not selfish it is in direct refererence to the ways in which black women have acted as Mammys for the sake of white comfort. No I don’t want to play the role comforter to you, haven’t black women done that for enough generations?

    @the15 is that a glare coming from your pedestal?

  34. Katie
    Katie December 2, 2008 at 7:45 pm |

    Awesome post, Renee – loved it at your blog and love it here too. SO on point. And I really love your comment too, Dotsun.

  35. Bill
    Bill December 2, 2008 at 8:03 pm |

    Thank you for these words. It is good to hear them, even though it is sad that they need to be repeated and repeated.

    One context that I am having difficulty applying some of these words is with a school child of color who calls hir white teacher racist. While a teacher must be very careful to check hir privilege, how does the teacher properly respond to a child of color who is acting up in class and calling the teacher racist when the teacher tries to address the acting up?

  36. Holly
    Holly December 2, 2008 at 8:15 pm |

    Wow, amazing how some people can obliviate the idea of the pearl-clutching and the pedestal. Yeah, it’s totally all in there to be a MOCKING ANTI-FEMINIST STEREOTYPE OF WOMEN, not for any other reason that might actually relate to how people are taught to think about their gender, their race, themselves. Whoooosh goes the sound of the point flying by.

  37. sarah
    sarah December 2, 2008 at 8:27 pm |

    Likewise, one POC cannot know what another POADC (person of a different color–yah, just invented that acronym) goes through. Personally, I hate the acronym POC because it lumps non-whites together as (a) people who all can identify with each other and (b) have all the same experiences.

  38. isaac
    isaac December 2, 2008 at 8:33 pm |

    this white male says, oh snaps!

    >>>One context that I am having difficulty applying some of these words is with a school child of color who calls hir white teacher racist. While a teacher must be very careful to check hir privilege, how does the teacher properly respond to a child of color who is acting up in class and calling the teacher racist when the teacher tries to address the acting up?

    use it as a teaching opportunity, no student respects a teacher black or white who lets people walk over them

  39. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan December 2, 2008 at 9:23 pm |

    By the way, this woman had a master’s degree in women’s studies, so she thought this way as a product of academic feminism.

    On-board with most of that, but I don’t think you can take the correlation to mean *causality*… There’s probably about the same number of dumb-ass people in academia as anywhere else, and I’m reluctant to leave WOC out of “academic feminism” ’cause it’s not all white, and I suspect some of them get a slightly different takeaway message than that woman clearly did… :p

    “While I’m at it…don’t ask me for one of those sisterly hugs in your time of need either; black women are tired of comforting upset white people like we don’t have enough headaches of our own. ”

    Don’t you think this comes across just a little selfish?

    I get the impression that Renee’ll have no problem hugging once it’s *actually* sisterly, correct me if I’m wrong. (Assuming she doesn’t just hate hugging. I totally hate hugging.)

  40. Mireille
    Mireille December 2, 2008 at 9:40 pm |

    There are lots of things I think in response to this post, but in order to not muddy the waters and accidentally threadjack, I will just say great post and I read you regularly at Womanist Musings.

  41. Quixotess
    Quixotess December 2, 2008 at 10:27 pm |

    Clearly I have intersectionality on the brain. This:

    Do you have your womanhood questioned constantly? Do magazines create special editions to show that your kind of women can be considered beautiful to?

    Distracted the hell out of me as I thought of fat women, lesbians, transwomen, women with disabilities, and old women. Of course, women with disabilities and transwomen generally don’t even get the special editions. It honestly reminded me of the time a black man told me “You don’t have to worry about being harassed just for walking on the street!”

    We could all stand to be more aware of our privilege.

  42. Tara
    Tara December 2, 2008 at 10:32 pm |

    I get so frustrated with this. On *feminist* web sites you get belittling of concerns about antisemitism, how we’re all paranoid and over sensitive. Great, thanks!

  43. belledame222
    belledame222 December 2, 2008 at 11:10 pm |

    lol @ 31. Was that on purpose? It’s perfect. -clap-

    The funny thing is that for all the squirming about oh noez anger a) you see it all the time here at feministe, it’s just only noticeable when the subject/object shifts a tiny bit b) this is about as blunt as I’ve ever seen Renee post, and it’s still not nearly as mean as it could be considering some of the bullshit I’ve seen her patiently shift through at her own blog. And that’s just in the casual observation of some online acquaintance, people. Don’t take -my- word for it. Really.

  44. belledame222
    belledame222 December 2, 2008 at 11:17 pm |

    There’s a difference between entitlement and privilege. I generally think people should feel grateful and lucky, at an individual scale, for the privileges they enjoy and have enjoyed in life — they are what have kept all of us from having to endure far worse cirumstances. After you’ve sorted your feelings out about that, the questions becomes: what will you do to help bring about a world where more and more people enjoy those same privileges, until the concept becomes meaningless?

    This.

  45. Betsy
    Betsy December 2, 2008 at 11:18 pm |

    Ok, Anna’s comment just made my jaw drop so hard I bruised it on the desk. Seriously?! You think it’s black women’s job, more than anyone else’s, to kiss the boo-boos of white women? And you accuse someone who has just laid out an amazing example of how damn *tiring* it is to always have to deal with this nonsense of being *selfish* because she doesn’t then offer to bend over backward to make white people feel comfortable? I hope you’re joking to provide an example of the exact kind of entitlement that Renee is talking about, or else I will have to go bang my head against a wall.

  46. urbanartiste
    urbanartiste December 2, 2008 at 11:19 pm |

    I am sorry if I came off defensive, I was not trying to be that way.

    A few years ago I taught an art class consisting of women only (white, black and asian). We had great discussions on race issues and feminism. No one got defensive, everyone listened to each other. Everyone admitted a lack of understanding to each other experiences and wanted to listen. No one acted like they walked in someone else’s shoes, everyone was respectful. It was one of the best classes I ever had.

    Another thing I started doing was attending women’s studies conferences and it is enlightening. They are not perfect, but they open up the dialogue. I think it is important to listen and let discussion occur. Just because people listen, does not mean they get it.

  47. Betsy
    Betsy December 2, 2008 at 11:21 pm |

    Or, what belledame22 said in #41. I didn’t see that before I posted. :)

  48. Mór Rígan
    Mór Rígan December 2, 2008 at 11:44 pm |

    Great post Renee. You are one of my favourite thinking bloggers.

    I say smash those damn pedestals!

  49. ThickRedGlasses
    ThickRedGlasses December 2, 2008 at 11:58 pm |

    Sometimes I can’t learn just from sitting down and listening, so I actively try to participate in the discussion to learn. So I might say: “I personally don’t see such and such, can you explain…” or “I personally don’t see that, but your interpretation never occured to me, do you think that…”

    Posts like this make me nervous, because yes I’m white, but I’m honestly not a hostile or ignorant person, and I feel like I have to disprove that before I can start asking and learning.

    That’s more than what a lot of people do. Asking questions and being open is how we learn. And since there are probably more differences within groups than between them, questions like that are important to ask of everybody you’re trying to understand better, even if they’re from the same background as you.

    About having to let people know that you’re not hostile or ignorant, I don’t know if that’s such a bad thing. I think the questions you ask seem to show that you’re open to other people’s interpretations and opinions. Most people would just say “I don’t get that” or “Can you explain?” and that doesn’t convey an eagerness to learn.

  50. anon
    anon December 3, 2008 at 12:42 am |

    There’s a difference between entitlement and privilege.

    Oh hell yeah.

    As a woman with a disability (in particular one that I don’t consider much of one, but makes people fall *all over themselves* when they discover it) I am particularly aware of erasure and othering and even being neotenized.

    Anyway, it was a brilliant post at her blog and is brilliant here.

  51. Ryan
    Ryan December 3, 2008 at 12:47 am |

    Why is it that you feel justified using sexist insults when you are discussing these ‘pearl-clutching princess’ feminists? I think you make a good argument that people need to take a discerning look at their attitudes toward privilege, but in my opinion your point was not helped any by making use of language which is designed to belittle women.

    I would like to see a better response to the15th’s comment. Yours seemed to imply that her criticism is absurd on its face and requires no rebuttal, but if it is in fact absurd, I would be richer if someone were to explain why.

  52. belledame222
    belledame222 December 3, 2008 at 3:36 am |

    Per intersectionality–I will say that yeah, I think that there is actually a way in which to talk about “identifying” and “comparisons,” and that those discussions are important; but that that’s not what’s being talked about in the OP here.

    A productive discussion might be one wherein, say (for an example) a group of people could be talking about both being a woman and being of color. Not all the participants need to be both/and, but at minimum you hope there’s a delving into the intersections that happen with both/and as well as such things as explorations of the apples/oranges experiences of white women and men of color, and, y’know, everyone’s mutual Stuff. I’m keeping it simple and binary for the example’s sake, but obviously there are usually going to be a lot more factors going on than that as well.

    This is however a different proposition from a woman of color having to go into Pat Parker 101 over and over and over and over again (“Sister, your foot’s smaller but it’s still on my neck”) with a bunch of white feminists who are bound and determined not to understand that there’s a substantial difference between having one thing (sexism) and having two or more (sexism AND racism), and fapping away with the sort of utter cluelessness that’s all the more infuriating because they see it so well when men do it to them.

  53. urbanartiste
    urbanartiste December 3, 2008 at 9:37 am |

    After the last comment, I just wanted to go into more detail on the class discussion I posted about. A few classes into the semester a black student asked me why on America’s next top model (hate this show for so many reasons) the judges eliminated a white model they called “too ethnic.” This started a dialogue about identity issues. White students admitted to feeling the pressure to fit within the Barbie ideal, but never realized that black, latino and asian women are also pressured by white standarized beauty ideals. We discussed which ideals in history and the present are standardized and how they manifest within each culture. We also discussed the prejudice within each race on its own people as well as towards other peoples; this topic could be a college course on its own.

    As enlightened as I think I am, I know there is so much I am unaware about and ashamedly sometimes my own prejudices surface. But I find the pearl clutchers mentioned are the same ones denying sexism. The same ones that accept and thrive for the Barbie/Britney Spears image. The worst is that they don’t want to listen or undestand and want to go on as business as usual.

  54. Noli Irritare Leones » Blog Archive » Blogosphere inspired dream

    [...] I actually think that the dream was inspired by some remarks in this post by Rene about pearl clutching white women, such as Seriously pearl clutchers, how the fuck do you know what is and isn’t [...]

  55. NancyP
    NancyP December 3, 2008 at 11:56 am |

    This rant is curiously disconnected. Yes, you need to let off steam because your head is about to blow off, and it’s your blog (and guest blog), your right. If you don’t describe a specific precipitating your anger, you end up talking to like-minded people, which is fine if that is your goal.

    If you seek a wider audience that might learn something practical (besides “she’s pissed off”), tie in a few examples of cluelessness or stupidity. Fish don’t think about being wet until they are taken out of the tank, and most white people don’t think about white privilege until someone gives them the gift of another perspective. Face it, most people aren’t all that imaginative all the time. You may not want to be a teacher, but if you want to change other people’s attitudes and behavior, you may need to be a teacher for the length of the post.

  56. Shel
    Shel December 3, 2008 at 12:24 pm |

    I realize it will sound all kumbaya and everything, but the *only* way to get rid of hate is with love. The only way. I don’t deny the pain, I don’t want to try and dismiss it, the experience of oppression, from whichever ‘group’ is being put down/marginalized/shut out/ shut up/made invisible. I’ve been in women’s studies classes where the waaay privileged white girls expressed pity, that bugged me as much as any act of pretending to ‘know’ what someone else’s experience was like. One can argue about whether it is possible to communicate at all without ‘reference points’ being established in the process, you know, the basic issues of intersubjectivity… I just don’t see the point of your post as anything but a statement of frustration with discussion section participants…what’s the larger theme, may I ask?

  57. NancyP
    NancyP December 3, 2008 at 12:42 pm |

    I should clarify, the above comment was about Renee’s post and not about the comments, which do go into specifics. And I need specifics simply because I have had to learn proper social behavior by conscious effort – somewhat Asperger-ish as a child.

    The last thing that white or black women need is to be told that they don’t deserve their achievements when they have put in some serious effort. The results may differ according to initial advantages or lack thereof, but the high school dropout who raises a college graduate child and the child of college graduates who earns a doctoral level degree both deserve credit for their effort. The only problem is when the well-off person goes all Calvinistic and claims that they are more moral than the less well-off person who works just as hard.

  58. Angel H.
    Angel H. December 3, 2008 at 1:11 pm |

    If you seek a wider audience that might learn something practical (besides “she’s pissed off”), tie in a few examples of cluelessness or stupidity. Fish don’t think about being wet until they are taken out of the tank, and most white people don’t think about white privilege until someone gives them the gift of another perspective. Face it, most people aren’t all that imaginative all the time. You may not want to be a teacher, but if you want to change other people’s attitudes and behavior, you may need to be a teacher for the length of the post.

    For examples, I would recommend your post, for starters, and Shel’s.

    Oh, and Shel…

    One item that comes up over and over in discussions of racism is that of tone/attitude. People of Color (POC) are very often called on their tone when they bring up racism, the idea being that if POC were just more polite about the whole thing the offending person would have listened and apologized right away. This not only derails the discussion but also tries to turn the insults/race issues into the fault of POC and their tone.

  59. Mary
    Mary December 3, 2008 at 1:45 pm |

    I also have to agree with the previous people who commented that using anti-woman language to describe a certain portion of women to be rather hypocritical on a feminist blog. “Shrill” and “pearl-clutching princesses” seem like some inappropriate things to refer to ANY women as. It discounts their experiences just as you say they discount yours.

  60. M
    M December 3, 2008 at 2:51 pm |

    IAW Mary, Ryan and the15th.

    But given the trainwreck of condescension, unchecked privilege and oppression Olympics played out in Renee’s recent posts about the gay movement, I’m not surprised that she’s employing sexist metaphors here.

  61. Prop 8 Response, Privilege, and What Have You « Privilege Praxis

    [...] Renee from Womanist Musings has a post up at Feministe about pearl clutchers that speaks to this really well, too. I think that a lot of response to Prop 8 from white people [...]

  62. Angel H.
    Angel H. December 3, 2008 at 4:46 pm |

    Mary & M:

    You sure like building those straw-women, don’t you? Did either of you even read the post? Or did you just not find any other reason to argue against it the points that it’s making?

    Nancy P:

    I’ve got two more examples for you.

  63. Mary
    Mary December 3, 2008 at 4:56 pm |

    Angel,
    I did read the post and I don’t feel I have to disagree with her point to disagree with the way she presents it. It’s not a “straw man” argument if she actually did use offensive language, and according to her own post, you don’t have to be offended to understand that I am and accept it.

    I noticed you didn’t mention her language WASN’T sexist. Can you deny calling any woman you don’t know “shrill” or a “princess” any better than making Mammy judgements about black women?

  64. Angel H.
    Angel H. December 3, 2008 at 5:12 pm |

    I noticed you didn’t mention her language WASN’T sexist. Can you deny calling any woman you don’t know “shrill” or a “princess” any better than making Mammy judgements about black women?

    Yes, I can: Calling a woman “shrill” or a “princess” does not bring that woman’s race into it the way Mammy does.

  65. Ss
    Ss December 3, 2008 at 5:20 pm |

    I don’t want to hear about the ways that you identify with me, because you cannot. I don’t want to hear your comparisons of my life to yours, because they are not the same. My struggle will never be the same as yours, and your attempts to diminish it by trying to find a reference point in your life, only makes the degree of privilege with which you function even more obvious.

    I keep rereading this bit, but I admit it lost me. It seemed really racially essentialist, where differences in skin color is so much more important than shared *anything* else, that even attempting to mention shared anything else becomes meaningless and insulting if it’s between people of different “races”… (Yeah, ’cause that’s not a spectrum or anything…)

    I certainly think this would go for any individual human to some degree; I can’t read anyone’s mind or know *exactly* what their experience is, regardless of “race”. I can’t tell anyone “Oh, I know *exactly* how you felt in that particular instance because I have your identical experience and I am *psychic* and we don’t have any differences in brain chemistry/family background/education/general perception of the world!” but that’s true for two white people talking to each other, too, or two anybody.

    So I’m not sure how intersectional stuff even has a place in this kind of declaration; it makes it seem pretty much verboten to discuss gender between two people of different races for example, or to discuss mental health/political views/you-name-it. Like, sure, we’re allowed to clump all the queer-and-ill-and-disabled-and-male-and-female-and-cis-and-trans-and-poor-and-rich-and-atheist-and-asexual-and-Republican-and-fill-in-the-blank people of a certain “race” together and expect them to have *tons* in common, but heaven forbid you try to mix any one of those groups racially, apparently.

    What if the person were to be like, “oh, hey, you’re clinically depressed? Me too! Let’s discuss our shared experience!” Would it then be appropriate to be like “No! You are not only depressed, you are also a different color and parts of society treats you differently in some ways than me, therefore our similar problems have no similarity at all and I’m offended you asked and we can never speak of this again!”

  66. Ss
    Ss December 3, 2008 at 5:22 pm |

    Yes, I can: Calling a woman “shrill” or a “princess” does not bring that woman’s race into it the way Mammy does.

    So we have a max amount of insult we can pack into a given term, and *just* sexism is okay but sexism + racism crosses the line?

  67. Mary
    Mary December 3, 2008 at 5:34 pm |

    Got it, sexist is OK (on a feminist blog, nonetheless), but racist isn’t.

  68. Angel H.
    Angel H. December 3, 2008 at 5:50 pm |

    Mary, you said:

    Can you deny calling any woman you don’t know “shrill” or a “princess” any better than making Mammy judgements about black women?

    I told you why, and now you’re mad that I called you on your shit.
    What-the-fuck-ever.

  69. Holly
    Holly December 3, 2008 at 6:03 pm |

    I can’t believe people are complaining about the word “princess” in a post that’s partly about how different women’s genders are constructed in different ways. There are plenty of race and class aspects to the word “princess” that divide women — that’s why it’s in the piece, along with the pearls and the pedestal. If you are seeing “pearl-clutching princesses” as something more emblematic of ALL WOMEN than of a certain class of women in relation to other groups of women, that says VOLUMES, loud volumes, about your perspective on the subject. You might want to think about whether you’re part of the problem being discussed before you go around trying to pick motes out of other people’s eyes.

    Shrill we’ve been through before. It was brought into the mainstream media spotlight again when it was used to attack Paul Krugman and other left-wing economists, was my understanding. Some people seem to think it has strong gender connotations — which is enough for me to avoid using it, since it has a synonym, strident, which doesn’t seem to trigger those associations. But I have a hard time seeing it as such a grave offense. I never had any gender association with that word until this year. But I’ve stopped using it because I don’t want to raise those connotations for others, either.

  70. Mary
    Mary December 3, 2008 at 6:05 pm |

    Mary, you said:

    Can you deny calling any woman you don’t know “shrill” or a “princess” any better than making Mammy judgements about black women?

    I told you why, and now you’re mad that I called you on your shit.
    What-the-fuck-ever.

    That was mature. You still haven’t shown any disapproval of the sexism in the post which led me to believe that it’s OK, as long as skin color isn’t involved.

    Ss, as for the rest of the content of the post, I completely agree with you.

  71. the15th
    the15th December 3, 2008 at 7:24 pm |

    If you are seeing “pearl-clutching princesses” as something more emblematic of ALL WOMEN than of a certain class of women in relation to other groups of women, that says VOLUMES, loud volumes, about your perspective on the subject.

    It’s a gendered insult. A gendered insult aimed at one woman, or at a subset of women, is an insult to all women. Similarly, referring to Obama “an elitist-class individual that thinks that they’re uppity,” is a racist insult despite the implication that he is of a high social or economic class.

    I hope that speaks even louder volumes about my perspective.

  72. shah8
    shah8 December 3, 2008 at 7:51 pm |

    Allow me to apply something I derived from the Bitch, PhD thread about train-riding homeless people to the sensibilities in Renee’s post.

    It goes something like this:
    Compassion without fellow-feeling (or a sense of shared destination) is not so much a good thing as it is an evil thing characteristic (and supportive) of malvolent solipsism.

    I get the sense that Renee is addressing a particular type of person, as well as warning the rest of us to walk in someone’s shoes and not just walk with someone if we wanted to understand that person. That most people of a definable experience have had to deal with psychological vampires who like to suck out aspects and experiences and decontextualize (decontaminate?) them from the victim. The result is placed into the vampire’s intellectual and emotional universe, while the victim is left diminished.

    This is so because vampirism, all vampirism, is about leverage and power in the end. A victim is a victim because he or she is unable to negotiate power on the same basis as the vampire. Thus, a vampire becomes more real in the murk of power and the victim is less real to the dynamic. There is a loss, even if no cash changes hands or direct physical or emotional damage takes place. Therefore, privileged people must always be aware of their privilege if they indeed wish to engage in some kind of moral restraint. Those of us with less of it must raise hackles and hiss (if not hide or play possum) with as much threat as possible.

    As it is with commenters who only handle a concept of homeless people in order to avoid actually percieving the problem from the perspective of homeless people, there are so many white women out there who percieve WOC as themselves, say, with an epicanthic fold. Except they don’t really think so. Only just when they need something from you, even if it is only to imagine that the world is a fairer place than it actually is.

    No struggle is needed, right?

  73. octogalore
    octogalore December 3, 2008 at 8:38 pm |

    We seem to be losing the forest for the trees here. I don’t see a problem with using the word princess, and I’m not sure why pearl-clutchers is problematic either. Similarly, the only gendered aspect of princess is that a princess is female; otherwise it goes to being spoiled, and I’ve heard prince used exactly the same way.

    Also, people seem to be overextending the meaning here in an attempt to get away from the specific context. As Renee, says, she’s not putting everyone in a box, and it may not apply to all white feminists in all cases. It should be clear that Renee isn’t saying that white women can never express commonality with WOC — and in fact many of her posts allow for exactly that — just that it’s inappropriate to attempt a comparison suggesting one can identify with being of color without actually having a clue, as Comment #1 did jokingly. Nobody’s saying people cannot find common ground without both being POC or white. That’s a derail.

  74. Holly
    Holly December 3, 2008 at 8:43 pm |

    Octo is right. This is all besides the point. So is this:

    It’s a gendered insult. A gendered insult aimed at one woman, or at a subset of women, is an insult to all women.

    You must have missed the part where I pointed out that Renee’s original post was about how different women’s genders are constructed in different ways. Not all women’s genders involve princess, pearls, pedestals. It absolutely is gendered. It’s how gendering differs along class and race lines, and what that means for solidarity and privilege and identity. If you think you can talk about that and just subtract gender out of it in an effort to purify the intersection, you’re oversimplifying.

  75. the15th
    the15th December 3, 2008 at 8:48 pm |

    Similarly, the only gendered aspect of princess is that a princess is female; otherwise it goes to being spoiled, and I’ve heard prince used exactly the same way.

    Well, it really does seem like women are much more likely to be characterized as spoiled than men, despite controlling far less wealth and, as children, having to do far more chores than their brothers. Google has 6620 results for “spoiled prince” and 52000 for “spoiled princess”, 998 for “spoiled little boy” and 31700 for “spoiled little girl.” And can you imagine a male version of “The Simple Life”? (I think I heard that there was a very short-lived one on some obscure network.)

  76. Nanette
    Nanette December 3, 2008 at 8:48 pm |

    Well, now.

    I know that this “she’s using sexism to attack my racism, therefore let’s make everything all about MEEEEE” stuff must be on at least one of those “how to derail conversations about race” lists. If not, it should be.

    I suppose this isn’t a good time to offer to pull out the fainting couch for some of y’all?

  77. Nanette
    Nanette December 3, 2008 at 8:54 pm |

    Emily:

    I’d like to put in a plug for lurking on WOC blogs. I have learned so much and it is (I think) an unobtrusive way to listen without demanding attention/help/energy.

    I’d like to put in an even bigger plug for participating on WOC blogs, on whatever topics interest you (there are POC blogs for every topic under the sun). It doesn’t take much energy to greet a friend or answer a friend’s or a familiar person’s question about this or that thing, even uncomfortable topics. This way the conversations on these things, should they occur, are organic and possibly wide ranging instead of turning into (even silent) teaching/learning sessions.

  78. Ss
    Ss December 3, 2008 at 9:23 pm |

    I suppose this isn’t a good time to offer to pull out the fainting couch for some of y’all?

    Is the point of this to blame white women for a certain kind of femininity that our culture has historically projected on them, to the detriment of all women in various ways, or just to use certain types of femininity as insults while pretending not to be sexist?

    Or maybe sexism doesn’t hurt WOC, just white chicks, so it’s pointless to object to it in a thread about race because it doesn’t *really* harm the women you are pretending to defend?

  79. Nanette
    Nanette December 3, 2008 at 9:43 pm |

    Ss:

    Is the point of this to blame white women for a certain kind of femininity that our culture has historically projected on them

    I first read the term “fainting couch” (outside of a Regency romance or something) on feminist websites. Same for “pearl clutchers” (and probably a few other gendered terms/insults that I can’t remember) – mostly directed towards right wingers of either sex, mind you, but still… For some reason – and, of course, I may just have missed it – I don’t recall incidents of multiple feminists entering the comments to condemn the use of these terms as harmful to all women, and how dare they be used on a feminist website and asking if sexism doesn’t hurt ‘white chicks’ who we disagree with, or if the use of the terms in referring to men doesn’t set back feminism decades or whatever.

    YET… here we are with a black woman writing about her frustration with certain practices and denials of some privileged white women, using this same language to describe the actions/attitudes/responses of these certain women/feminists and it’s OMG! she’s destroying womanhood!

    Why is that, do you think?

  80. Orodemniades
    Orodemniades December 3, 2008 at 10:35 pm |

    Marry me?

  81. Holly
    Holly December 3, 2008 at 11:30 pm |

    Nanette is right too. And:

    Is the point of this to blame white women for a certain kind of femininity that our culture has historically projected on them, to the detriment of all women in various ways, or just to use certain types of femininity as insults while pretending not to be sexist?

    Not just projected; read the post. Internalized.

  82. Shel
    Shel December 3, 2008 at 11:47 pm |

    Ss says:
    “Is the point of this to blame white women for a certain kind of femininity that our culture has historically projected on them, to the detriment of all women in various ways, or just to use certain types of femininity as insults while pretending not to be sexist?

    Or maybe sexism doesn’t hurt WOC, just white chicks, so it’s pointless to object to it in a thread about race because it doesn’t *really* harm the women you are pretending to defend?”

    exactly.
    And AngelH I didn’t mean to imply that if only the ABW’s tone were sweeter the offending person would stop their offensiveness, thanks for the link to that, ah, reminded me of the days of endless discussions about who gets to be angry and til when. I merely suggested that this–anger– was the only point of the OP, unless something more was hidden in a subtext I didn’t get from my reading of it. I have to presume then that the import of the notion of a white-girl (and I presume it’s only rich white girls, yes? There are lots of poor ones too, you know. Or is it just a matter of who looks most like the Vogue covershoots, and therefore it’s*only* about color? I was missing all of the assumptions here, and was hoping to get clarification beyond being merely shown the way to the fainting couch lol. ) on a pedestal is a statement about how white women are just not ‘oppressed’ enough to have earned ‘the right’ to converse with WOC? I’ll stand by my original clueless statement that nastiness doesn’t get dispelled by nastiness, only perpetuated. I am not convinced that this counts as some sort of admonition specifically to POC that they be ‘polite’ lol…

  83. Julia
    Julia December 3, 2008 at 11:53 pm |

    Renee, and all you other women who have said “Hey you fucking white princess, get off your goddamn pedestal, you don’t deserve any of that shit!” thank you so much.

    Really.

    No, it’s not your job to teach me, and no, it’s not your job to say “It’s ok princess, you shouldn’t be upset by your privilege” because that is a ridiculous lie. But I feel like I’ve learned a lot just by reading this entry and the comments. Or I’ve at least started on a path towards learning a lot.

    In all honesty, I’ve not considered myself a pearl clutcher. I never called “reverse racism” because that’s fucking stupid because my college classes have taught me what racism is, and my liberal parents taught me that it was wrong. I thought that I was some type of enlightened because I knew that, coming from a white, upper-middle class family, I was priviliged.

    And so it offended me when I read in one of the comments that I didn’t deserve any of what I have, things I can’t even begin to list because there are a lot of them and I’m a little ashamed of all of it. I thought “What?! I work my ass off for this shit!”

    But then a little voice said to me “Well, that’s fucking pearl clutching if I ever saw it.” Because, no, I haven’t. I haven’t done a goddamn thing. Everything has been handed to me, silver platter and all. I don’t deserve any of it.

    My mom, a bi-racial woman raised in poverty, she deserves everything that she has now, because SHE worked her ass off.

    But her white, middle-class daughter? No. Not at all.

    So now I feel a little more enlightened and way, WAY humbled. I see how much I have to learn, how far I have to go. But you’ve planted some seeds of consciousness (REAL consciousness, not just “what my sociology prof told me” style consciousness) in me and I feel energized and scared and eager to get involved and really learn what it means to be a feminist.

    Thanks so much, I’ve really been changed.

  84. Ss
    Ss December 4, 2008 at 1:13 am |

    For some reason – and, of course, I may just have missed it – I don’t recall incidents of multiple feminists entering the comments to condemn the use of these terms as harmful to all women, and how dare they be used on a feminist website and asking if sexism doesn’t hurt ‘white chicks’ who we disagree with, or if the use of the terms in referring to men doesn’t set back feminism decades or whatever.

    Oh, we’re playing the “I didn’t see you do it, so you’ve never done it” game? I’m afraid I’m only *one* feminist, so I can’t make promises about a crowd, but I personally do my best to call out the people I hear saying bullshit regardless of race. You’re the only person *I’ve* seen use “fainting couch” on a feminist blog, so I’m starting with you.

    Not just projected; read the post. Internalized.

    I consider that part of the “detriment” thing. It’s bad for white women to be told they need fainting couches and it’s not so great that some women really think they *need* fainting couches. And then for WOC of color to be told they don’t “deserve” fainting couches or they should *be* fainting couches or whatever. Fainting couches suck. I don’t want women using them to bludgeon each other.

  85. Quixotess
    Quixotess December 4, 2008 at 2:08 am |

    I know that this “she’s using sexism to attack my racism, therefore let’s make everything all about MEEEEE” stuff must be on at least one of those “how to derail conversations about race” lists. If not, it should be.

    Wait, this doesn’t make any sense to me at all. Since when is it okay to use bigotry against bigotry, and since when is it okay to ask people to keep quiet about it when they see it? And if someone has indeed played into sexism, isn’t it then their responsibility for any derailment that takes place because of this? (Per Melissa McEwan’s “When someone engages in divisive behavior, any resulting division is their responsibility.”)

    It seems to me that what Holly said makes sense: Renee was clearly using princess and pedestal in conjunction with mammy as roles that others (guess who *coughwhitemencough*) have constructed for women. But I don’t agree with the generalized form of what you’re saying, is all.

  86. belledame222
    belledame222 December 4, 2008 at 2:16 am |

    (omg NANETTE!! Hi Hi Hi!)

  87. belledame222
    belledame222 December 4, 2008 at 2:20 am |

    -raises hand- I’ve used “fainting couch.” Because, you know what, the thing about the pedestal and the fainting couch and so on–honestly? The reason women internalize that shit isn’t -just- because of, like, low self-esteem as brainwashed by the patriarchy; there are, yep, some actual, if you don’t want to call them privileges, certainly -attractions- to them; yeah, you know what, women may not put themselves on pedestals, but it takes a certain amount of effort from them to -maintain- that position there, and there are real investments for doing so.

  88. belledame222
    belledame222 December 4, 2008 at 2:30 am |

    And you know, reading down some of the comments–you know, I love the OP, but I wonder if…eh.

    “Do I contradict myself? Very well…”

    I do also think there’s a fine line between “yeah, okay, I have privilege, yes, I protect it in xyz ways, and here’s how it affects other people, what do I want to do about this” and “goddamit, I suck, you may see a dirty fork, but I see a vast bowl of pus…”

    I dunno. But that comes off as criticism too, yes?

    I think a lot of people have automatic “I just -suck- as a person-” shame buttons for various reasons, and that’s somewhat of a separate thing, -maybe-, from discomfort at realizing one’s own privilege and what it’s taken to maintain it, personally, culturally, yadda. And it’s like–yeah, -everyone- has them including the people who’re in the less privileged position to begin with, and it’s a privilege to be able to indulge that shit while asking The Other to swallow it along with everything else, once again, so I’m not going to do that.

    But I do wince a little when I see what looks to me like people going “goddamn, I’m not worthy, thanks, I needed that.” Maybe it’s just my own shit, I dunno; maybe that’s not actually what’s happening, or I’m getting in the way of real and important consciousness raising, wevs. I’m not prescribing anything either, just ruminating.

    I guess from here it still feels like more personalizing than is needed, for better and for worse, if that makes sense. Look, someone else is angry: yeah, they have legit reasons for it; yeah, you may or may not be the target of it; yeah, it doesn’t feel pleasant and there may or may not be shit you can do to make it better; but whether or no, it’s not the end of the world, you know? It’s just…what it is.

  89. belledame222
    belledame222 December 4, 2008 at 2:40 am |

    Also–yeah, responding to Julia here–I dunno, I think…it’s an interesting observation, yeah, maybe class and race privileges/oppressions -aren’t- handed down intact from generation to generation, and what does that mean, particularly in a U.S. cultural context (where the assumption is that the parents worked so that the kids can have a better life, change is possible, etc.) And I’m not gonna argue with your own personal shit, there.

    Just observing, in general, I think…eh, well, there’s a lot of complicated shit going on there wrt guilt and shame when you’re bringing your -actual parents- into the mix, you know what I’m saying? Not really the place to get into it, just…I think there are probably a lot of layers here. But yeah, I mean, it is exciting, not trying to get in the way of that (sorry, psych student who’s interested in intersections between personal/family dynamics and greater sociocultural/political contexts, this is the sort of shit that usually gets me going)

  90. belledame222
    belledame222 December 4, 2008 at 2:48 am |

    Also, I guess I’d rather go from the frame of, not so much “I don’t deserve anything” but “oh hai there are other people in the world and -they- deserve the good things TOO, what can I do to bring this about, and yeah it might include letting go some of the goodies I’ve been keeping all for myself,” okay. Share time= good. But it still doesn’t have to mean get out the hairshirt and so on; it’s okay that other people are finally letting the shit they’ve been poisoned with out, but maybe it doesn’t mean–maybe there are other ways of going about this than just passing it back and forth, you know. Alchemy, say.

  91. belledame222
    belledame222 December 4, 2008 at 3:07 am |

    Shel: I don’t see it as “nastiness,” I see it as exasperation and anger. Some venting, yeah. You can take it or leave it, but yeah, under it is a message of “let’s talk, just can you please stop being so fragile and making it all about yourself.” Which, yep, does happen a lot, it really does, mhm.

    And honestly–I dunno, the whole “anger doesn’t lead anywhere”–not of itself, but honesty does, and sometimes, anger is what’s honest. Seriously, I don’t know, personally I think hypothetically if some white woman’s response was just a plain “Well, fuck you too,” well, hey, at least it’s up front, you know? -Nobody- likes walking on eggshells, you know, which is I would venture one of the main points of the OP.

    but then I’ve always been of the “well, fuck you too” and then get on with it school, online at least.

  92. Julia
    Julia December 4, 2008 at 3:08 am |

    belledame22

    Yeah, I hear you. My comments probably not entirely appropriate with regard to a larger context, but definitely heartfelt. Personalizing it (on my end) and all that is a little silly, but what can I say? I learned something and I got excited. :)

  93. belledame222
    belledame222 December 4, 2008 at 3:12 am |

    I take it back, with the anger: apologies, Renee explicitly said she isn’t angry. Honestly it’s not that angry; it’s just, well, I think there’s nothing wrong with anger, actually. But no, from where I sit it’s not all that harsh. Blunt, yes. And?

    I mean, (she addressed to several people), the whole, oh, but white women can’t get angry or say whatever–shit, who’s stopping you? Who -ever- is? Racism isn’t okay on a feminist blog–you’re -kidding-, right?

  94. Julia
    Julia December 4, 2008 at 3:17 am |

    Also – as for the guilt and all that, I think that this is probably the first reaction that people have when they figure out things like, “Hey, the color of my skin gives me huge advantages and that’s not fucking fair” and “What the fuck? Who told me that I deserve all this? How did I come to think like this?! I swear I’m a good person omg!!1″ etc etc.

    I am still sorting through these feelings, and recognize them as unproductive – feeling guilty doesn’t change anything, actually and as you’ve pointed out when it’s passed around make things worse – but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re there and they’re relatively new. What’s important about them though, is that they’re teaching me, in a couple of different ways.

    So, yeah, I have these feelings, but they are valid to the extent that I recognize they are not the final step in learning about WOC/feminisms/etc.

  95. Quixotess
    Quixotess December 4, 2008 at 3:32 am |

    But I do wince a little when I see what looks to me like people going “goddamn, I’m not worthy, thanks, I needed that.” Maybe it’s just my own shit, I dunno; maybe that’s not actually what’s happening, or I’m getting in the way of real and important consciousness raising, wevs. I’m not prescribing anything either, just ruminating.

    Maybe that’s because from there it gets really easy for people to assume that that was the OPs purpose in writing (“I demand fifty Pushups of Guilt every morning!”), which is ridiculous because there are things you have that you deserved, that you got because you merited them. It’s just impossible to know what things they are. And it’s highly ridiculous to say that someone who only belongs to one oppressed group got a free ride, while someone who only belongs to two oppressed groups was denied absolutely everything. They’re vehemently agreeing with a strawman. (strawperson?)

  96. Julia
    Julia December 4, 2008 at 3:48 am |

    It’s true, there are def things that I merited and things that were given to me, but for me the work of sorting these things out is just beginning.

    As for the poor and bi-racial mother, that is a combination of my impression of her upbringing and some plain ol’ fashioned love for my mom. Like I said to belledame222, it’s a little inappropriate definitely but for me it is part of the learning process, which is in its early stages.

  97. Renee
    Renee December 4, 2008 at 4:25 am |

    I didn’t expect this much conversation on this post, so please excuse the late weigh in. I see that the usual thread derailers have shown up right on time to make it about their issues. No calling someone a peal clutcher is not a sexist attack and neither is my reference to shrill voices. Of course jump on the opportunity to talk about anything other than the point of the post.
    I especially adore this:
    Is the point of this to blame white women for a certain kind of femininity that our culture has historically projected on them, to the detriment of all women in various ways, or just to use certain types of femininity as insults while pretending not to be sexist?

    Or maybe sexism doesn’t hurt WOC, just white chicks, so it’s pointless to object to it in a thread about race because it doesn’t *really* harm the women you are pretending to defend?

    What a convenient perversion of history. Before the introduction of the black female slave to the Americas white femininity was considered the lowest form of humanity. When black women came white women had no problem jumping up on that pedestal to have an institutional other ro oppress. Both black women and white women are subject to sexism we just experience it differently. Let us also not forget that though a white woman may be oppressed by sexism she can always use racism against women of color. For the longest time feminism wasn’t about uplifting all women it was about uplifting white women to the same status as the white male.

    I would also like to say thank you to those who willfully fell back on their privilege and inferred that I was an ABW (angry black woman) even after I so clearly stated in the post that I was not angry. The post is blunt and too the point but that is simply because I am tired of sugar coating my language for people that are determined not to listen.

    @M
    But given the trainwreck of condescension, unchecked privilege and oppression Olympics played out in Renee’s recent posts about the gay movement, I’m not surprised that she’s employing sexist metaphors here.

    Since this isn’t my space I won’t tell you to fuck off I’ll just think it. Clearly you have an issue with what I said at Shakesville, either address it there or on my blog if you have the nerve, but it does not belong on this thread.

    The main point of this post was to challenge white women to leave behind the safety net that whiteness gives them and walk alongside me instead of in front of me. Treat me as an equal an alley. Move beyond your privilege and learn about blackness the same way that WOC have been forced to learn about whiteness.
    Conversations like this are painful but they need to happen if we are to progress as a movement.

  98. bluecanary
    bluecanary December 4, 2008 at 5:51 am |

    Hi, just started reading this blog, am really appreciating it.

    What’s wrong with calling someone a “pearl clutching princess” when you’re trying to emphasize and draw attention to their privilege? It’s the privileged position of the individual that the jab pertains to, a combination of race and class, more than their gender. The point of such language, it seems, is to shock and forcefully confront the individual with that privilege. If “pearl clutcher” were being used in such a way as to belittle a white well-off feminist’s outrage at a display of sexism, then it would be problematic. But in this context, I don’t see what the problem is.

    I do kind of object to the use of “fainting couch”, however, since the fainting they were used for was caused by lung-crushing corsetts and drugs prescribed for “hysteria”. It kind of trivializes the very real damaging forms of sexism that white, privileged women did live with. Just saying.

  99. Ravenmn
    Ravenmn December 4, 2008 at 6:51 am |

    This really sings to my pasty white self:

    OP: “I know that dragging that pedestal around with you everywhere you go, must make you tired. Deep down some part of you must want to cast it into the sea. but it has become like a child’s lovey; a symbol of comfort even as it weighs you down and stunts your potential.”

    If I cling to my white privilege and insist that my pain due to my sex or my class or my education level is on a par with the pain of racism, I miss something vital. I will never develop the valuable skills I need. I will miss the opportunities to make this world a better place.

    There are benefits to allowing my privilege to interfere with my knowledge of the world, but they are hollow benefits. They take me down the wrong path to the wrong benefits for the wrong reasons. If you mis-label this growth and knowledge as guilt or shame you are never going to see the benefits of putting that pedestal aside.

  100. Rose
    Rose December 4, 2008 at 7:34 am |

    I think what would also be useful in terms of trying to mitigate white privilege would actually be to analyse what whiteness means. The trouble is not only that white people are brought up to not examine their privilege but to view white as default, black as other. White as neutral, black as race. I think a lot of white people, including and sometimes especially feminists, are unaware that they have racialised experiences which makes it harder to “get” racism. No excuse not to try obviously.

    The differing constructions of femininity are especially relevant here. Especially in regard to the comments here about the perceived sexism in the OP and comments after. It was language specific to white women; princesses, fainting couches all of it referring to gentile, polite, fragile, white construction of femininity. To not see this specificity is to ignore the difference in sexist language and assumptions made about women of different races.

  101. Eileen
    Eileen December 4, 2008 at 8:54 am |

    “white people are brought up to not examine their privilege but to view white as default, black as other.”

    This was invisible to me until I saw it, and then I saw it everywhere. It’s like being thrust out of the Matrix, or some similar nerd analogy. I thought I saw the whole picture and then had to realize that I’d only ever seen a small part.

    I suppose I could get all uptight about Holly’s post, but it would make me crazy angry if I regularly encountered ‘allies’ who expected me to validate their experience while denying that mine was also important, or even distinct. There wouldn’t be enough descriptives to cover the amount of angry I would be.

  102. Eileen
    Eileen December 4, 2008 at 8:55 am |

    Sorry… Jill, not Holly. I’ve been reading a while and I didn’t revisit the top of the page before posting.

  103. SarahMC
    SarahMC December 4, 2008 at 9:30 am |

    I don’t deny the pain, I don’t want to try and dismiss it, the experience of oppression, from whichever ‘group’ is being put down/marginalized/shut out/ shut up/made invisible.

    By insisting that we all sing Kumbaya instead of expressing “anger,” you are doing just that.

  104. octogalore
    octogalore December 4, 2008 at 10:15 am |

    I can’t agree more with Nanette about participating rather than lurking on WOC blogs. WTF? Is the idea to put someone on a pedestal and refuse to see them as a person as a person, or do we actually want to have an exchange of ideas?

    It’s unfair to WOC to assume every comment is going to be interpreted as a request for instruction — unless that’s the only kind of comment one can muster.

  105. Ss
    Ss December 4, 2008 at 11:57 am |

    What a convenient perversion of history. Before the introduction of the black female slave to the Americas white femininity was considered the lowest form of humanity. When black women came white women had no problem jumping up on that pedestal to have an institutional other ro oppress.

    I’m getting confused about when/where you are referring to. You mean pre-African-slave-trade Europe? The Americas before the British colonies? The Spanish empire in South and Central America, which imported Africans as slaves to replace the devastated native populations? ‘Cause “white femininity” was not a monolithic and consistent concept across the entire world from all of 1400-1800, nor was there only one conception of non-white women. (Even saying “white” seems meaningless in some circumstances, ’cause the people included in that group changed around so much, and “white” wasn’t even a concept until a fair ways into colonization.) Racializing slavery and Europeans taking part in the African slave trade in a big way didn’t happen immediately either; plenty of people of all colors were slaves all over the place before and during the colonization of the Americas, so people were defined more by class/religion than by race for a period of time too. Race was not originally an identifier as “slave” or “free” so assuming that our recent historical constructions were in play in the 1400s is ridiculous.

    I’m also confused about who considered white femininity the “lowest form of humanity” … white guys? POC outside of Europe who’d never even met a “white” woman? The various groups in the Ottoman Empire, who engaged in the slave trade with *everybody*? Asians in Europe (enslaved or otherwise?)

    Are you saying that there were a bunch of white women in the Americas before the African slave trade (who, yeah, wouldn’t be considered “white” yet anyways, ’cause everything was in terms of “Spanish/Dutch/etc” vs “Indian” at that point?) and *everyone* thought they were the lowest rung on the social ladder (by “everyone” you mean their white husbands, I guess?) so then some African women were brought over to make the white women feel better? ‘Cause… no.

    On the other hand, if you mean that *after* the African slave trade got shifted over to the American colonies from the Mediterranean, and white women were brought over to the Americas so the white guys could stop raping the native women, and plantations run by families of British descent were well-established on the coast, and slavery had been generally restricted to blacks and “black” was an identifier of “slave”… then yes, I agree. Black women got stepped over by white women no end. But mentioning that this racialization was a *process* isn’t a perversion of history, nor is it a perversion to mention that the idea of “white femininity” is a construction of the patriarchy, which worked so well to divide women and help powerful men stay powerful that it still pervades our culture today.

  106. Holly
    Holly December 4, 2008 at 12:21 pm |

    On the other hand, if you mean that *after* the African slave trade got shifted over to the American colonies from the Mediterranean, and white women were brought over to the Americas so the white guys could stop raping the native women, and plantations run by families of British descent were well-established on the coast, and slavery had been generally restricted to blacks and “black” was an identifier of “slave”… then yes, I agree. Black women got stepped over by white women no end. But mentioning that this racialization was a *process* isn’t a perversion of history, nor is it a perversion to mention that the idea of “white femininity” is a construction of the patriarchy, which worked so well to divide women and help powerful men stay powerful that it still pervades our culture today.

    So if I read you correctly (across multiple posts) — you must think it’s all right for us to discuss the particular ways in which “white femininity” is constructed, the ways that it constrains and influences people and divides us from each other. You just don’t think anyone should summon up metaphors that refer to all of this like “pearl-clutching princesses,” because it’s mean or insulting to white women, it does so in a way that targets the commingling of racial and gender construction. And that’s sexist, because gender is in there along with race?

    I’ll be over here trying to pick the salt out of some salt water so we can all drink it without gagging.

  107. Ss
    Ss December 4, 2008 at 12:40 pm |

    Holly: …you mean, do I think it’s important to be careful about the language we use when discussing things? Then: yes.

    Picking salt out of water is unnecessary if you don’t throw salt into it in the first place. Avoiding tedious discussions about when it’s okay to use sexist language is easily accomplished by *not using sexist language* in the first place.

  108. shah8
    shah8 December 4, 2008 at 1:04 pm |

    You mean…

    Don’t be rude!

    Look, even given how some people can look at a phrase different ways, I’m reasonably sure that most people associate pearls with class and not women, specifically. Moreover, clutching pearls is what one does when that sort is around, no? It’s not a gender attack, no matter how much certain people try to portray it as that. Lastly, pearl-clutching is tied directly to things like pedestals and privilege and serves the aim of the essay.

    Ss, why the hell should anyone take you seriously? I went through the trouble of reading all of your posts, and it’s pretty clear that you just wanna fight.

    In general, this is why I fucking *hate* word purity tests. The number of times that “bitch” has instigated derailing wars over its usage is beyond counting. I hate purity and purity conduct tests in general. It’s such a great way to isolate thinkers from the society they wish to influence.

  109. Kai
    Kai December 4, 2008 at 1:04 pm |

    Renee, it’s an awesome post. Your central points tower over the vehement self-deceived distractors. Excellent.

  110. Kai
    Kai December 4, 2008 at 1:08 pm |

    Also, I should add that in some melanin-enabled stretches of bloglandia, we have an expression for a good deal of the objections happening in this thread: The Drowning Maestro

  111. Quixotess
    Quixotess December 4, 2008 at 1:11 pm |

    I’m reasonably sure that most people associate pearls with class and not women, specifically.

    Nah. It’s class, but it’s also definitely women. Men aren’t supposed to have anything to do with pearls (except buying them, maybe.) Saying “those men clutching their pearls” is an expression wholly unsupported by our narratives about men in society.

  112. Quixotess
    Quixotess December 4, 2008 at 1:15 pm |

    Also, I should add that in some melanin-enabled stretches of bloglandia, we have an expression for a good deal of the objections happening in this thread: The Drowning Maestro

    A rather unfortunate choice of link, given that “shrill woman” is one of its examples right along with “uppity negro” and “arrogant mexican.”

    I like the expression “melanin-enabled,” though.

  113. Ravenmn
    Ravenmn December 4, 2008 at 1:19 pm |

    Ss wrote: “plenty of people of all colors were slaves all over the place before and during the colonization of the Americas, so people were defined more by class/religion than by race for a period of time too.”

    While many different races were in slavery in the New World, this did not obviate the additional oppression of race. White servants had the possibility of “becoming white”. Black, native, asian and European slaves did not have that option.

    Ss, I think you are missing a distinction here and I want to refer back to your earlier post #65 where you say:

    “I keep rereading this bit, but I admit it lost me. It seemed really racially essentialist, where differences in skin color is so much more important than shared *anything* else, that even attempting to mention shared anything else becomes meaningless and insulting if it’s between people of different “races”… (Yeah, ’cause that’s not a spectrum or anything…)”

    I agree with you that this way of looking at the world is lost on you. That’s actually the point. White people are literally trained that we can relate to other people in some way no matter how different we might be. People of color, however, are constantly told, under racism, that they CANNOT relate to other people in some way no matter how similar they might be. We probably agree that this construction is a major problem and should be changed to create a better world.

    We default to the white racist way of viewing things. Tthis thinking that I can relate to everyone everywhere. It can actually hold us back and keep us from learning important truths.

    We can learn something important by viewing the world in a way that is not so focused on what is similar to ourselves but what is truly and fundamentally different. We do not need to filter other people’s experience through our own experiences. There is a huge benefit to acknowledging our differences.

  114. Ravenmn
    Ravenmn December 4, 2008 at 1:21 pm |

    minor correction: “European slaves” should have meant “Eastern European slaves”. A huge distinction. Sorry about that.

  115. Quixotess
    Quixotess December 4, 2008 at 1:27 pm |

    Race was not originally an identifier as “slave” or “free” so assuming that our recent historical constructions were in play in the 1400s is ridiculous.

    It seems more than a little unfair to me to 1) be unsure on what someone’s referring to 2) posit that it might be X, 3) go off on how ridiculous it is to assume X. And that’s something that you did throughout the post, and it reads like an abrasive lecture designed to show off your knowledge about history. You could have just asked Renee to clarify her point instead of having both sides of the conversation yourself.

  116. shah8
    shah8 December 4, 2008 at 2:05 pm |

    Quixotess,

    No turn of phrase is without spillovers in meaning. Sure, it is typically refers to women, and not men, but that is not a germaine point. The intended audience is primarily composed of women. The thrust is to conflate class and privilege, which was not controversial in the context given.

    What is it with a certain stripe of person who thinks that using race as metaphor (badly) is such a great way to offer legitimacy to specious arguments? From Dred Scot to abortion and, um…”shrill woman” to “arrogant mexican”? Ma’am, I suggest you put down your Corona, please…

  117. sarah
    sarah December 4, 2008 at 2:14 pm |

    What is it with a certain stripe of person who thinks that using race as metaphor (badly) is such a great way to offer legitimacy to specious arguments? From Dred Scot to abortion and, um…”shrill woman” to “arrogant mexican”? Ma’am, I suggest you put down your Corona, please…

  118. sarah
    sarah December 4, 2008 at 2:16 pm |

    Comment misfire. But what are you talking about here, shah8? Quixotess is referring to the list of terms at Kai’s link, not coming up with “arrogant Mexican” on her own.

  119. Quixotess
    Quixotess December 4, 2008 at 2:19 pm |

    What is it with a certain stripe of person who thinks that using race as metaphor (badly) is such a great way to offer legitimacy to specious arguments? From Dred Scot to abortion and, um…”shrill woman” to “arrogant mexican”?

    Uh…well, in this case, it would appear that the person offering the original comparison is, in fact, a Mexican. An unapologetic Mexican, at that.

  120. Holly
    Holly December 4, 2008 at 2:39 pm |

    Holly: …you mean, do I think it’s important to be careful about the language we use when discussing things? Then: yes.

    Picking salt out of water is unnecessary if you don’t throw salt into it in the first place. Avoiding tedious discussions about when it’s okay to use sexist language is easily accomplished by *not using sexist language* in the first place.

    On top of that, there’s octogalore’s point that “pearl-clutching princesses” isn’t even sexist in the first place, which I think has a tremendous amount of merit. Look, how do you expect any feminist site to critique a particular construction and model of femininity without using language that refers to gender in a critical way? It’s not like Renee said anything even close to “all white women are pearl-clutching princesses” or “this particular person is a pearl-clutching princess.”

    The pearl-clutching princess is as real in this world as a metaphorical construction of femininity can be — which is pretty damn real in its effects on perceptions and behavior. It’s detrimental and heavily laden with racial constructs as well. I think we’re all in agreement to some degree about that. SS, you just don’t want to talk about it if we can’t do so in a nice way that avoids pairing anything negative with anything related to gender, because you think that makes it automatically sexist. and I’m sorry — criticizing the continued influence of a historical construction of femininity+race does not automatically equal sexism because it pairs something female with critical language. It might if it was Glenn Reynolds or Chris Matthews disparaging Hillary Clinton, but hello: context is everything.

    So what it ends up sounding like is “why can’t you be nicer and more polite and less loud and less angry when you are criticizing this nexus of gender and race!!” And we all know about that already…

  121. annalouise
    annalouise December 4, 2008 at 2:41 pm |

    Look, maybe it’s because I was born in the south, or because I’m reasonably able to observe the world around me. But c’mon!

    Learned helplessness, peal-clutching, a resort to cries of MY HURT FEELINGS whenever the conversation gets a little too real, is standard, effective way for white women to make sure our concerns are the focus of every conversation.

    Yes, it is something that patriarchy trained us to do, and is a response to the sexist idea that (white) women are virtuous maidens who need to be protected. We’re supposed to be feminists who challenge these sexist expectations , except, they sure do come in handy when we want to have an unfair advantage over other women. It’s in everybody’s best interst if white women would grow up and stop acting like helpless little balls of feelings.

  122. shah8
    shah8 December 4, 2008 at 2:48 pm |

    Wow, learn something new every day. Even googled the phrase, it is interesting where the phrase comes up–when a mexican stands up for him or herself. Wow, should read a bit more on the mexican experience, no? It’s also a heckuvalot of fun to google different combinations of that list, eg “Uppity Mexican”, “Arrogant Negro”. Shrill, of course, only goes with women.

    My point (and Kai’s) still stands, and it still applys to the attitudes that I am against. Renee didn’t actually use “shrill woman”, and more importantly, she did not use “pearl clutchers” in a way to dismiss women or their specific arguments. Just the tactics.

    Think of it like this way:

    Bush calling people he doesn’t like or approve of as “terrorist”.
    Bush condeming the Mumbai shooting as unacceptable acts of terrorists.

  123. octogalore
    octogalore December 4, 2008 at 3:14 pm |

    Not to confuse things even further, but annalouise, I think your comment takes the “pathetic white woman” thing a little too far. I think precision is important. Yes, white women do often take advantage of privilege hierarchies to assert it over WOC. Yes, that’s a key part of what’s happening here. But saying “white women [should] grow up and stop acting like helpless little balls of feelings” really misrepresents what’s going on here. Some white women are making it about them here, and this probably has something to do with (1) being white; (2)“learned helplessness” which does get imposed on/adopted by women of different races; and (3) selfishness, which is something that afflicts all of us, of all colors.

    This is not to take race out of it, and certainly white privilege is a key factor here, but putting it all in that column removes responsibility from the individuals in question and dumps it on the laps of white women collectively, many of whom have actually stepped up here. Not to suggest that even those who stepped up here have totally owned their privilege, just that over-dramatic and over-inclusive nets of blame miss the entire problem here, and whitewash (pun intended) the fact that there are different behaviors of white women being exhibited.

  124. octogalore
    octogalore December 4, 2008 at 3:20 pm |

    Too add tot he above — falling too dramatically on ones sword is another way of derailing attention that should be focused elsewhere. While it seems like we’re being humble and self-effacing, and certainly a little of that is merited, it avoids the responsibility of taking a finer look at the actual OP and analyzing its nuances, in favor of a showy display.

  125. urbanartiste
    urbanartiste December 4, 2008 at 4:06 pm |

    The more I read these comments, the more I think I am living in a parallel universe. Can someone explain to me how white women are bringing down WOC? My experience has been that men of any color are more inclined to bring women down. I grew up in NYC and I have many diverse friends and I know alot of young people that are so past this angry type of debate.

  126. octogalore
    octogalore December 4, 2008 at 4:29 pm |

    Jill — I think there is an interesting parallel with sex work there. If demand for sex work dried up, would sex workers then find their economic situations improved automatically? No, because the issue is poverty and limited opportunities, not the existence of sex work as one opportunity.

    Similarly, housekeepers, nannies, etc. Yes, in a way it is on the backs of these mostly women and often WOC that others rise. Yet, if these job positions went away, would the situation improve, would more opps open up? The husbands of many women who are nannies, for example, are doing manual labor — is that preferable?

    I’m not saying we shouldn’t own the privilege here, or that we shouldn’t try to look at in what ways our actions may be worsening the lots of others, or not improving them. But I think “white women [and some well-off WOC] employ nannies” is a small microcosm of the overall problem here.

  127. SnowdropExplodes
    SnowdropExplodes December 4, 2008 at 4:46 pm |

    As near as I can figure from everything on this post, this is what “pearl clutcher” means:

    A pearl clutcher is the (white) female (or feminist) equivalent of the MRA who gets upset when people start to question his privilege. And we’ve seen a fabulous display of it with the whole “debate” over whether or not “pearl clutcher” is a sexist term or not. That’s like people getting upset over kinky folks calling people “vanilla”, or over trans folks calling people “cis”, or gay folks coming up with terms to refer to straight folks.

    The “pearl-clutcher” term, as far as I can tell, originates with the faux “oh, my God, how dare they?” attitude that performative femininity of the 19th Century demanded women display, and says precisely that people use “oh, the shock!” as a deliberate way of dismissing an argument that they do not want to engage with.

    Thus “pearl clutcher” (and also “fainting couch”) denote a deliberate over-reaction and excessive display of offended emotion/sensibilities in order to derail or dismiss a discussion about someone else’s oppressed status.

    Are the terms gendered? Well, yes, in that they use as their derivation a particular mode of performative femininity that resembles or resembled the type of behaviour that is being criticised. Whether that makes them sexist or not, I make no comment on. However, as noted above, the type of behaviour that the term is used to describe has been very prevalent here.

  128. Holly
    Holly December 4, 2008 at 4:55 pm |

    Yes, those terms are gendered.

    Yes, they are being used critically, at the very least in the sense of “check yourself.”

    If these terms were being used by some guy to dismiss and belittle the anger of feminists, that would be sexist.

    But that’s not the context of how they were used. Renee was talking about how certain kinds of (yes, gendered) attitudes reinforce racist hierarchies to the detriment of other women. It’s not sexist to point that out.

    There is something very disturbing and suspicious about people acting like the last paragraph is equivalent to the one before it, and thereby distracting from the original point about race.

    In fact, the greatest irony, as others have just pointed out, is that it basically adds up to more pearl-clutching. Yes, I have just criticized you in a way that implicates your gender.

  129. Erin M
    Erin M December 4, 2008 at 5:24 pm |

    Regarding the 15th, Ryan, Mary & complaints of sexist imagery

    I think the reason that Nannette and others are responding to your complaints with frustration is not that you are making the conversation about yourselves, it is that you feel you have the right and responsibility (dare I say “privilege”…) to make the conversation be about the issues that YOU find most important. Yes, maybe you find sexist imagery and language to be an important issue. Maybe other people think it is an important issue that certain groups of people feel they get to control the discourse within socially progressive movements.

    Yes, maybe sexist language and imagery is a constant frustration in your daily lives. But maybe it isn’t for other people, and maybe they have other frustrations they want to focus on. I’m not making value judgments on whose problems are more important. What I’m saying is that by making the thread about issues that YOU feel are important, YOU get to decide which issues we spend our time and energy focusing on. Maybe the fact that you don’t second guess your decision to control the discourse is symptomatic of an underlying, unexamined privilege.

  130. Renee
    Renee December 4, 2008 at 5:37 pm |

    @Snowdropexplodes

    Thank you for your explanation of pearl clutchers. It perfectly explains the intent behind my choice of terminology. For those that are so offended by the term they certainly are doing their best to live up to the definition of it. Oh noez not me instead of dealing with the issue of privilege. This is precisely why I chose to write this in a blunt style. How many times can one make the same point and face resistance without just finally saying this is the way it is deal with it?

    It always seems that the minute white privilege is brought up a thread derailment must occur. When we talk about racism we only want to talk about it in the ways that it effects bodies of color rather than focusing on whiteness as an active body in the systemic inequality. This means that we forever have disjointed conversations that ultimately lead nowhere.

    @Octogalore
    To you I wish to issue a special thanks. I have always felt the same as you about the “falling on the sword”, but never felt comfortable saying so as a WOC. I felt that if I pointed it out, it would seem like I was rejecting people that were trying. I don’t want to discourage anyone from examining their privilege but at the same time this attitude feels a tad condescending rather than commentary from a heart felt ally.

  131. All One
    All One December 4, 2008 at 6:20 pm |

    There is another way to come at the issue. The Bridge is usually mixed or really light, can pass, not that they try to, but, you are born as you are born.
    Your family is still a big part of how you define yourself, whether you look like them or not.
    SO,
    the Bridge says, “Yes, the situation that you think is similar, that you THINK gives you an inkling- multiply that by a thousand and you’ll actually have almost 1/2 an inkling.”

    The Bridge says, “we are all one. When you hurt me, it hurts you indirectly, because we are all one here in this universe on this plane.”

    You don’t get a cookie when they finally get it. you don’t get a pat on the back when you finally admit their racism. You don’t get an award for offering a hand up or admission to the club.
    You get the satisfaction of not being an ass and not taking privilege for granted.

    And
    If you are a wealthy, privileged financially WOC and you finally get it in your privileged head to help out someone less fortunate than your father and grandfather
    – also no cookie.

    Privilege is to be realized as a responsibility or it is an abuse.

  132. All One
    All One December 4, 2008 at 6:29 pm |

    Cmpassion is not only beneficial to the one who is offensive (the pear clutcher in this case)
    compassion (at least attempting the others POV from a non defensive mode) wont hurt any one.

    It doesn’t hurt me to hear the words, “when I was in school and I was so different, got teased, left out etc.” as a peace offering and an offer for a bridge. I don’t think it’s too much for me to let them know, it’s not quite the same, but, I appreciate your attempt.
    The attempt to relate is not bad in and of itself.

  133. Renee
    Renee December 4, 2008 at 6:47 pm |

    @urbanartiste

    Can someone explain to me how white women are bringing down WOC?

    When you don’t treat someone as an equal and demand entitlement that is bringing down people. Now not all white women act this way that is why the post is addressed to a sub set of women that I referred to as pearl clutchers.

  134. octogalore
    octogalore December 4, 2008 at 8:20 pm |

    Thanks, Renee! Yeah, it’s a fine line between examining and solipsistic wallowing.

    Jill — I agree, the issue lies with when work that focuses around women and particularly WOC is exploitative. And you’re right — there’s no easy market mechanism for making the compensation fair in all instances, especially when the population includes immigrants who are more vulnerable wrt asserting claims for benefits.

    There are two steps here, I think, and neither is “don’t hire anyone who is a WOC to do care work.” The first is: on the individual employer level, make sure comp and lifestyle is competitive. eg, a nanny who is making $20/hour plus meals, and is treated similarly to (OK, much better than) your typical associate in a law firm, is probably doing as well or better than with other available work w/o a college degree. The second is: on a larger scale, working to improve access to health care and education for lower-income women.

    What I was nitpicking a bit about is the signaling out of the white female employer as particularly oppressive. Unfortunately, there are many more POC working for WP than vice versa. That is comprised of exploitative employers of both genders on the one hand, and people who advertise for skills at a fair wage and hire POC, whom they compensate and treat as they would other employees who are doing work that’s more societally respected than housekeeping/childcare work. While there are individual WW and WM and POC who are exploitative vis a vis employees who are female and/or of color, the overall problem is unequal access to the means for job advancement — education, health care, etc. Until that is dealt with, capitalism (whole different topic) dictates that women like Madonna, Carly Fiorina and Michelle Obama, AND their husbands, will likely have other women taking care of their kids who don’t love it but prefer it to the alternative. As with the sex work example.

    This is a bit of a derail — I’ll stop here.

  135. annalouise
    annalouise December 4, 2008 at 8:59 pm |

    hmm… I think my comment was taken as more self-crtical than I meant it.
    (begin long, personal semi-derailling ancedote:)I’ve been thinking about this a lot in terms of my sister, who commmited suicide a month ago. Seh was a big fan of the romanticized myths around white, middle class women and mental illnessand believing those myths prevented her from getting help many times. (end long personal, semi-derailing anecdote)
    Being the delicate shrinking flower causes white women to hurt other women, to cut ourselves off from bonds of solidarity and sometimes, often? it encourages to make self-destructive choices.
    It doesn’t make any sense to me the criticism that say this is all patriarchal conditioning and so it’s sexist to criticize. Yep, it comes from patriarchy so even though it privileges white women in the short term, it hurts us all in the long term, why n ot take these crtiicisms as helpful.
    ps. is ther eanyway to turn off the the thing tha tshows your comment? it freezes my computer and makes it take forever to type things.

  136. Katie
    Katie December 5, 2008 at 6:58 pm |

    SnowdropExplodes (#130) – You’re totally on point. I just wanted to add that sometimes I think this defense is NOT deliberate, and is simply a learned behavioral default (not that this mitigates the effect at all, though it might mean more denial when the behavior is called out)….

  137. Jennifer
    Jennifer December 6, 2008 at 8:14 pm |

    Amazing. The comment section is chock full of the very behavior that Renee despises. And the worst part is, I’m sure she saw it coming.

    *grabs some popcorn and a chair*

  138. An overview of accessible public transport « Zero at the Bone

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  139. irish
    irish December 29, 2008 at 11:19 pm |

    Take responsibility for your journey and do your own work. While I’m at it…don’t ask me for one of those sisterly hugs in your time of need either; black women are tired of comforting upset white people like we don’t have enough headaches of our own. You will not be getting a honey child from me.

    ive seen alot of statements like this and i just have to say, why is it our(ww) job to comfort you or make things easier for you(woc)? like you said we have enough headaches of our own. now i belive you just have to be the change you want to see in the world and you should never try to make things harder for someone else, but to put it bluntly, i have my own life to live i dont have time to fix yours.

  140. KathyB
    KathyB December 30, 2008 at 3:13 am |

    With love and respect, it’s just as shitty and demeaning to paint white women as oppressors as it is for white women to view WOC as less. I’m not saying there’s not white privilege, there DEFINITELY is, but I can’t help the color of my skin any more than another. Is it that a white woman can’t be feminist, or just not feminist “enough” because she doesn’t share your struggle? It’s just inverse racism, and there’s no excuse for that.

  141. queen emily
    queen emily December 30, 2008 at 8:29 am |

    That was a killer judo flip there. Pointing out oppression, why it’s EXACTLY LIKE the oppression itself. Kudos, no really.

  142. Angel H.
    Angel H. December 30, 2008 at 8:38 am |

    Queen Emily for the win!

  143. Oh Well
    Oh Well February 14, 2009 at 5:13 pm |

    Irish…you missed the point. WOC don’t want anything from WW but equality. As a multiracial woman, I’ve had it with the attitudes from both black women and white women who feel that they are entitled to look down on me. Most Black women dismiss me because I can pass for white. Many White and Latina women believe they are superior to me because of my only African feature, my hair. I deal with crap from men of color all the time. I don’t need it from women too.

    You can sit there and bitch about how “unfair” it is when WOC express their feelings…but that shows that you obviously don’t care. I don’t expect anyone to help me out when I have a problem. Most white women, on the other hand, do expect to be comforted. If you are unwilling to acknowledge a different perspective, how do you expect to learn anything?

    Kathy B…ditto. No one said that ALL white women are oppressors. We are speaking specifically of white women who like to pretend that we’re all in this wonderful sisterhood and there is no racism. Your defensive reaction only proves Renee’s point.

    Here is what you need to realize…conversations about race are uncomfortable. People will express themselves in ways that offend you. Don’t make it all about you. If you know that certain statements do not apply to you, there is no need to be offended. Listen without judgement. No one said that ALL white women are the same. Both you and Irish missed that.
    Read between the lines. It isn’t about you until you make it that way. You call it “shitty and demeaning” because you seem to feel that Renee is attacking every white woman in the world.

    Put on your big girl panties and deal with it.

  144. Lauren
    Lauren February 14, 2009 at 5:49 pm |

    I have to say it: There’s no such thing as “inverse racism” or “reverse racism.” There’s just racism. To state otherwise is to reveal your own prejudices.

  145. Big fish, small fish, small pond, big ocean: a Seussian experience of feminism « Raising My Boychick

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