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  1. Bombus
    Bombus March 24, 2011 at 3:11 pm |

    I had just been reading her piece over at Racialicious and decided to come by here to see if any follow-up posts were up. It is excellent work, of course, as is most everything from Andrea Plaid

  2. Sara
    Sara March 24, 2011 at 5:28 pm |

    Here’s my question:
    Why call it “white female privilege?” White men also have a sense of entitlement when they’re saying crazy shit.

    I’m not sure the tendency to “forgive”/ignore her views because she’s “hot” is a form of privilege. It seems like the same phenomenon we see when progressive views are “forgiven”/ignored in favor of attention to the speaker’s body.

  3. Nahida
    Nahida March 24, 2011 at 6:51 pm |

    What she said was terrible… and of course, most reply comments were sexist. But if it had been a man instead it would be SO FUCKING HILARIOUS!

  4. Tony
    Tony March 24, 2011 at 7:33 pm |

    Yes, reading down the list of bullet points, some of the points filed under “white female privilege” clearly belong under “white privilege”, while things such as “seen as the embodiments of value and purity” seem like a privilege at first and can be in some circumstances, but are actually a disadvantage in the overall scheme of things. But I do agree that white privilege works differently based on gender. Being seen as “the default and the ideal embodiment of physical beauty and sexual attractiveness” is a bigger deal for women than men, because of the heavy weight society puts on that for women.

  5. LoriA
    LoriA March 24, 2011 at 8:04 pm |

    I’m with you, Sara. White privilege is absolutely a thing and every white person has it regardless of gender. But any sort of female privilege is just benevolent sexism that actually functions to hinder women and further the patriarchy. There were several examples of this that Plaid listed in the article that had me shaking my head like crazy.

  6. bellereve
    bellereve March 24, 2011 at 9:00 pm |

    Agreed – it’s white privilege, not “white female privilege.”

  7. Jadey
    Jadey March 24, 2011 at 10:11 pm |

    Tony: seem like a privilege at first and can be in some circumstances, but are actually a disadvantage in the overall scheme of things

    I think part of it is that privilege is not about making any individual’s life awesome – it’s about supporting a social hierarchy. Just because some of the ways in which white women are privileged still leave them at a disadvantage compared to white men (assuming they are matched on every other dimension of privilege), that doesn’t negate their advantage over a woman of colour. It’s the power of the kyriarchy to put people in a place – that place sometimes isn’t at the very top or the very bottom; sometimes it’s somewhere in the middle.

    A really striking example comes from the classic DeGraffenreid v. General Motors case, it was argued successfully that because GM hired white women (to work in the front) and black men (to work in the back), they didn’t have discriminatory hiring practices for refusing to hire black women.

    Now the jobs those white women had were, I believe, mainly secretarial. They were almost certainly not prestigious, or terrifically well paying (compared to what a white man of similar socioeconomic status might earn), and I will bet dollars to donuts there was plenty of sexual harassment in the workplace. White women in these jobs were not on top of the pack in terms of advantage and comfort. But they still had the jobs, which was more than the black women were getting. The black men as well weren’t exactly CEOs (manual labour, I’m assuming) and probably earned less and had less capacity for promotion and advancement than a white male peer in the same job. But they still had the jobs.

    Privilege is a system. It’s not a gift or a boon or a reward to an individual which makes their life happy and gay (although if you happen to have privilege on pretty much all of the really socially-important axes, your life probably doesn’t suck all *that* hard). Privilege is often something that is only noticed in its absence, even among those who are possibly acutely aware of their lack of privilege in some aspects of their lives. Personally, I really don’t enjoy the way that Whiteness is constructed as an identity – it does not resonate with me at all on an individual level and I don’t derive any fulfillment from it as an identity. But I am still white and still possess white privilege. A man may be incredibly uncomfortable with what constitutes maleness and masculinity in his society and find it unappealing and unsatisfying, but he is still a man with male privilege. I may be alienated by my own white female privilege, but it’s not about me – it’s about the hierarchical structure of social groups that the privileged identity is meant to support.

    We often discuss intersectionality in terms of the convergence of two or more marginalized identities (or at least that’s how I often run across it), but intersectionality also exists in the convergence of privileged identities or a mix of privileged and marginalized identities, which sometimes produce those sorts of ambivalent results of someone being simultaneously privileged (in a relative sense) and marginalized (in a relative sense). I appreciate AP’s analysis of white women’s privilege as something that is both a subset of white privilege in general (I agree that some of the points on that list are clearly not gender-specific) as well as something unique to the combined status of being white and a woman (although throwing at least even socioeconomic status in there as well would probably produce a much more specific list).

    To sum up: It’s not that white privilege + some kind of female privilege = white female privilege. It’s that white women’s white privilege is operating in concert with their marginalization as women.

  8. Jadey
    Jadey March 24, 2011 at 10:51 pm |

    I want to link to something that just came across my tumblr dashboard on someone else’s experience with the intersectionality discourse in feminist spheres. It’s describes an experience different from mine by pointing out analyses of intersectionality which overemphasize privileged identities and ignore certain marginalized identities (although I get the impression that in these cases, a marginalized identity is being used to *erase* a privileged one, which is not what I was trying to get at, though I am not surprised by the abuse of the concept), but that’s probably the result of my relative privilege in navigating these spheres. I think this post does a great job of tackling what intersectionality is and means for social justice and how it can get fucked up.

  9. Jadey
    Jadey March 24, 2011 at 11:12 pm |

    Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaand not to spam, but Andrea Plaid is also totally throwing down in the comments on Racialicious. Great stuff.

  10. bellereve
    bellereve March 25, 2011 at 12:35 am |

    The title of her article is called, “Go After the Privilege, Not the Tits,” but in a sense it does “go after” Alexandra for her femaleness. We should vigorously critique Alexandra’s racism and white privilege and leave her gender out of this. Same with other bigoted women like Sarah Palin, Ann Coulter, etc.

  11. Cagey
    Cagey March 25, 2011 at 2:02 am |

    A black woman cannot cry in a group of mostly white men and expect immediate comfort and concern, regardless of whatever wrongdoing she is responsible for. She will not have her feelings immediately prioritized over whomever else is involved. A white man (or man of any color) also cannot expect his tears to be seen as anything but weakening. A white woman however can use the intersection of her race and gender to her advantage in ways that people of the same gender/different race or same race/different gender cannot. It’s an explicitly gendered form of racial privilege. As is being considered the ideal for what beauty looks like. Yes, it comes with disadvantages, as any ideal naturally will, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t still a privilege that you enjoy and in some cases it is a privilege that has to do with intersections of race and gender. It only makes sense that if intersections of marginalized identities can produce differing forms of oppression, that intersections of marginalized identities with privileged identities can produce unique forms of oppression and privilege. People cannot be spliced so that we can say “this has everything to do with your race and nothing to do with your gender” as if the two don’t interact to create advantages and disadvantages.

  12. tinfoil hattie
    tinfoil hattie March 25, 2011 at 2:46 am |

    Many commenters here and at Racialicious are conflating “being judged by patriarchy in a positive way because you are good-looking and/or appropriately feminine” with some sort of “privilege.” It’s not privileged to get the approval of men because you’re pretty or stacked or skinny or young or whatever patriarchal ideal you are fulfilling at the moment. It’s absolutely the opposite of privilege.

    White privilege, yes. Absolutely. But not female privilege. Women of color and white women are all women. It’s whiteness, not femaleness, that exerts the privilege.

  13. La Lubu
    La Lubu March 25, 2011 at 6:35 am |

    What Cagey said at #11, especially this: People cannot be spliced so that we can say “this has everything to do with your race and nothing to do with your gender” as if the two don’t interact to create advantages and disadvantages.

    ….except, I would also add in class as a reference point too, simply because the whole “white women’s tears” dynamic is so deeply classed as well (translation: working class and poor women, including the white ones, are taught and shown in so many ways that their tears are a sign of weakness—and that a weak woman is a worthless one).

    Perhaps it would be more helpful for some of the commenters here and at Racialicious who are resisting the idea that white women use the structures (strictures?) of white patriarchal (capitalist) supremacy to their advantage to the extent that they can to think of the setup as a flow chart: if this, then this. Because yes, Alexandra Wallace’s youth, class, and physical presentation of whiteness are most definitely mitigating factors—but so is the fact that she’s a she, and that she’s white.

  14. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. March 25, 2011 at 7:14 am |

    I don’t know La Lubu. I think tinfoil hit upon the issue. Its not “woman” that’s privileged when she cries at the intersection of white, cis, conventionally attractive, etc, but rather gender conformity/gender performance. And I think the distinction is a critical one because it points to another vector on which people are marginalized. I agree that the kyriarchy demands that different marginalized communities perform gender differently, and those ideals are obviously racist, classist, cissexist, ablist, etc. But I don’t see how any female privilege is being conferred here.

  15. La Lubu
    La Lubu March 25, 2011 at 7:31 am |

    Think of it this way: one of the reasons I am assumed to be Latina is because most of the southern Italian and Sicilian women in my area are dyeing their hair some version of blonde in an effort to look more acceptably white. Is it to accommodate white standards of “beauty” or “fashion”? Yeah. But it’s also done to tap into white female privilege, because *more* of that privilege is extended towards those women who fit a certain template.

    White femaleness is seen as more feminine under white supremacy. The darker you are, the less feminine you are under white supremacy—full stop. White women who are representing whiteness properly, or who are doing their damndest to represent whiteness to the best of their ability, can and do get rewarded for it.

  16. La Lubu
    La Lubu March 25, 2011 at 7:40 am |

    We talk about performing gender all the time around here, no? Well, think about performing whiteness—something that is pretty much the domain of white women, as white men aren’t expected or required to go that extra mile in proving how white they are.

    White women who perform whiteness as well as gender are rewarded for performing that whiteness, in much the same way they are for performing gender. Under white supremacy, white women are always at an advantage in performing gender, as white femininity is seen as epitomizing femininity.

  17. Carla
    Carla March 25, 2011 at 8:46 am |

    Oh, please, white women. Did you even read the article? Check. Your Privilege.

    White Female Privilege puts them over any WOC. A WOC talking about that isn’t “sexism”. What, the typical argument of, “only white women suffer sexism!” now?

  18. Brian
    Brian March 25, 2011 at 8:46 am |

    rather gender conformity/gender performance.

    Yes, this is right on the money. A lot of things that’ll get label gender privilege (either male or female) are really gender compliance privilege. People who’re compliant with their gender roles get privileged (as long as what they’re trying to do is what their gender role dictates they’re supposed to want to do.) Not being held accountable for misbehaviour falls into female gender role privilege (though it’s accompanied by infantilisation of women, them not getting full credit for positive accomplishments too, etc). It’s not a gender privilege, it’s a gender compliance privilege.

  19. Carla
    Carla March 25, 2011 at 8:51 am |

    How do you not “see” how any privilege is being cornered here? The woman wrote about beauty standards, the use of, “HORDES attacking innocent white ladies” which is yes, racist. I think you just don’t want to read and accept what she wrote.

    I just saw a blog from some white guy saying that Wallace was just “acting like any young college woman acts, and people are attacking her for nothing, and she is pretty and they envy her!” (Obviously, “ordinary college woman” = “white racism lady.”)

    I mean, please.

  20. Carla
    Carla March 25, 2011 at 8:55 am |

    It’s not a privilege for “her gender” or something simplistic like that. it’s a privilege her RACIAL STATUS gives her gender over non white people in situations when she is being racist.

    Done.

  21. Jadey
    Jadey March 25, 2011 at 9:10 am |

    I’m so confused by people getting stuck on the idea of “female privilege”. It’s not about female privilege – it’s about a female-specific experience of white privilege. Would it make more sense to some people if it had been called “female white privilege” rather than “white female privilege”?

    Female white privilege: it’s like male white privilege, but crappier. But still privilege!

    Also +1 to everything that La Lubu and Cagey has said.

    (And the privilege associated with having a normative gender expression? Yes, that’s another thing altogether. Possibly what can be referred to as “cisgender” privilege depending on how broadly you think of cisgender/transgender, which is not necessarily the same as being cissexual/transsexual. Being coerced into normative gender expression when your identity is opposed to it is not privilege, although I think there’s some kind of passing privilege in there for the folks who can manage it.)

  22. umami
    umami March 25, 2011 at 10:03 am |

    I just want to note two things.

    The blogger that was linked to cites “ballgame” as a source. The guy who was all over the thread linked below. People don’t have to read anything into that, of course, but I thought it was worth highlighting. .

    http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2011/03/15/women-lead-in-unpaid-work/

    Also this line made me spitting mad.

    [white women] Are not compelled by the rules of their gender to wear emotional armor in interactions with most people.

    This is utterly untrue. Most of the examples of “privilege” listed there are straight up examples of white privilege that I wouldn’t quarrel with, but then I see that line and just want to spit nails. Not that I’d express that anger or upset so directly offline!

  23. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. March 25, 2011 at 10:37 am |

    @La Lubu,

    Yes, I think it is to conform to “beauty” standards, a standard that is inherently racist. I think we agree on the substance, i.e., I as a perceived white woman have privilege over women of color. I just disagree on how we label the multiple layers of oppression.

    As an example would we say the same thing about a white woman who went into a swearing diatribe and experienced all the blowback for her “unladylike” behavior? Likely you and I would agree that she is still benefiting from white privilege (level of consequences). But would you agree that the objection to her behavior is not that she’s a woman and therefore inferior, but rather that she failed to perform femininity correctly?

  24. GallingGalla
    GallingGalla March 25, 2011 at 10:39 am |

    I’m really disappointed at the amount of push-back I’m seeing in comments on owning up to white women’s privilege.

    Look, I very quickly recognized myself when I read the Racialicious article. I’ve used the white (trans, middle-class) woman’s tears tactic when I’ve been called out for racism and didn’t want to own up to it. It was in the context of being in a group of people some of whom were white and many of whom were of color, and I can tell you for a *fact* that if I were a woman of color OR a white man, my tears would not have been attended to with “there there now, gotta cater to Jan’s hurt feelings” to the point that the black women whose toes I had just stepped on wound up apologizing to me – when it was I who should have apologized immediately, instead of bursting into tears.

    Yes, being a woman (and trans) means I’m oppressed by sexism (and transphobia), but I nevertheless used gendered expectations (that only women cry, and do so because we’re supposedly weak) and cissexist expectations (trans women are hyper-feminine, therefore are hysterical) to totally utterly derail the situation and turn the entire room’s attention away from the black woman that I hurt to me. This is a derailing tactic that’s not available to women of color or white men.

  25. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. March 25, 2011 at 11:05 am |

    @Jadey,

    Its possible I’m using these terms differently/wrong, but when I say perform gender I absolutely do not mean to conflate that idea with cissexism. That I do not cross my legs at the ankle when I sit in a skirt is not =/= to cissexism. I mean there are certain “rules” for feminine (or masculine) behavior…rules that are sexist, classist, racist, ablist, etc. and when you violate those rules you experience oppression. I think that concept is fundamentally different from the concept of femaleness as inferior to maleness although of course they are interrelated.

  26. Jadey
    Jadey March 25, 2011 at 11:17 am |

    @ Kristen J.

    Right, yes, I didn’t think anyone here had brought up cissexism. I just realized that I was talking about a potential use of cisgender that was quite broad (I know that there isn’t unanimity on what “cisgender” means), and I didn’t want anyone who was unfamiliar with the terms and the debate around them to think that cisgender = cissexual.

  27. Angel H.
    Angel H. March 25, 2011 at 11:33 am |

    When the most famous missing person stories of the last decade were all about white women… that’s white female privilege.

    When George Lopez apologizes to Kirstie Alley for making rude comments about her on his show, but doesn’t apologize to Wendy Williams for rude comments about her…that’s white female privilege.

    When people are still talking about Alexandra Wallace, but not about the Kappa Sigma e-mail and never about akat042001…that’s white female privilege.

    The fact that this needs to be explained…white female privilege.

  28. La Lubu
    La Lubu March 25, 2011 at 11:43 am |

    Kristin J, the swearing example you give confuses me, as “permission to” and/or expectation of swearing isn’t just gendered or raced, but also classed. White women who are also working class (yes, class is visible) don’t (and mostly can’t) perform femininity to the same standards white middle class women can. Whereas, class isn’t a variable for white women when it comes to public admissions of racism, the perception of their humanity after those public expressions of racism, and the apologetics afterward. White women of different classes have far greater similarities in ability to express racism than in any other form of self-expression.

    Or to put it this way: if I cuss, it’s only to be expected as I am visibly working class. I don’t lose any “ladylike” points for cussing, as I am perceived as being “unladylike” by nature (and more so if I am perceived as of color rather than white).

    But, despite obvious differences between myself and Ms. Wallace, I *could* get the same pass from white people that she has, if I spouted off the same racist nonsense. Regardless of class, and even regardless of if I were perceived as of color. I would be *performing whiteness* by asserting white superiority, and if I beefed that up with an appeal to *white femininity*, I’d be even more likely to stake a claim on the sympathies of white folks. This, even without a hard, fast, unquestioned hold on *white femininity*. Supporting it, wanting it, and even having a tenuous hold on it gets points.

  29. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. March 25, 2011 at 11:55 am |

    @La Lubu,

    Hmmm…I’m probably explaining this badly since I agree with your point. Let me try it this way. If I swear in front of my (former) boss he tells me that I need to stop it because that is unladylike. If I swear in front of people I knew when I was a kid its to be expected because I’m “poor (mostly) white trash” and thus I have no ladylikeness to lose.

    I see this as the same phenomenon. There is a characteristic of feminity that inherently classist that I choose not to perform and could never in any event perform correctly. Does that make more or less sense?

  30. Roxie
    Roxie March 25, 2011 at 1:05 pm |

    Just because it’s complicated and doesn’t always feel like a privilege doesn’t mean it isn’t. Honestly, I’ve very confused about how people are denying that white female privilege exists. Hasn’t this been talked about when discussing race within (and outside) of feminism?

  31. bellereve
    bellereve March 25, 2011 at 1:09 pm |

    The “white lady tears” concept doesn’t sit well with me, as someone who cries constantly (in public, in front of people of all genders & races) because of a mental illness. The category “white women” overlaps with “disabled women,” and it seriously bothers me that when we cry it may be interpreted as manipulative, as an act of privilege or attention/sympathy seeking when it is really an extremely distressing symptom of a psychiatric disorder.

    When I’m in the middle of an emotional breakdown I get responses that run from “crazy bitch just wants everyone to feel sorry for her” all the way to “lock her up and sedate her,” and whiteness does not in any way protect me from these things. (I have in fact been institutionalized against my will).

    When you see a woman of any race crying please consider that she may have an invisible disability.

  32. tinfoil hattie
    tinfoil hattie March 25, 2011 at 2:34 pm |

    White privilege exists. Take out “white” for a second. What is the “female” part of the privilege? That white women are more readily rewarded for conforming to patriarchal ideals of femininity and sexuality? What kind of “reward” is that?

    The privilege is conferred because of RACE, not because of gender or sex! Two women: one white, one black. The white woman is privileged because she is WHTE. Not because she is a “woman” and the black woman is … something other than a woman.

    Women as a class are not privileged, period. Under patriarchy, you’re either a man or you’re an afterthought. It’s the whiteness, not the femaleness.

  33. Azalea
    Azalea March 25, 2011 at 2:39 pm |

    Jadey: I think part of it is that privilege is not about making any individual’s life awesome – it’s about supporting a social hierarchy. Just because some of the ways in which white women are privileged still leave them at a disadvantage compared to white men (assuming they are matched on every other dimension of privilege), that doesn’t negate their advantage over a woman of colour. It’s the power of the kyriarchy to put people in a place – that place sometimes isn’t at the very top or the very bottom; sometimes it’s somewhere in the middle.A really striking example comes from the classic DeGraffenreid v. General Motors case, it was argued successfully that because GM hired white women (to work in the front) and black men (to work in the back), they didn’t have discriminatory hiring practices for refusing to hire black women.Now the jobs those white women had were, I believe, mainly secretarial. They were almost certainly not prestigious, or terrifically well paying (compared to what a white man of similar socioeconomic status might earn), and I will bet dollars to donuts there was plenty of sexual harassment in the workplace. White women in these jobs were not on top of the pack in terms of advantage and comfort. But they still had the jobs, which was more than the black women were getting. The black men as well weren’t exactly CEOs (manual labour, I’m assuming) and probably earned less and had less capacity for promotion and advancement than a white male peer in the same job. But they still had the jobs.Privilege is a system. It’s not a gift or a boon or a reward to an individual which makes their life happy and gay (although if you happen to have privilege on pretty much all of the really socially-important axes, your life probably doesn’t suck all *that* hard). Privilege is often something that is only noticed in its absence, even among those who are possibly acutely aware of their lack of privilege in some aspects of their lives. Personally, I really don’t enjoy the way that Whiteness is constructed as an identity – it does not resonate with me at all on an individual level and I don’t derive any fulfillment from it as an identity. But I am still white and still possess white privilege. A man may be incredibly uncomfortable with what constitutes maleness and masculinity in his society and find it unappealing and unsatisfying, but he is still a man with male privilege. I may be alienated by my own white female privilege, but it’s not about me – it’s about the hierarchical structure of social groups that the privileged identity is meant to support.We often discuss intersectionality in terms of the convergence of two or more marginalized identities (or at least that’s how I often run across it), but intersectionality also exists in the convergence of privileged identities or a mix of privileged and marginalized identities, which sometimes produce those sorts of ambivalent results of someone being simultaneously privileged (in a relative sense) and marginalized (in a relative sense). I appreciate AP’s analysis of white women’s privilege as something that is both a subset of white privilege in general (I agree that some of the points on that list are clearly not gender-specific) as well as something unique to the combined status of being white and a woman (although throwing at least even socioeconomic status in there as well would probably produce a much more specific list).To sum up: It’s not that white privilege + some kind of female privilege = white female privilege. It’s that white women’s white privilege is operating in concert with their marginalization as women.

    I couldnt have said that better myself!

  34. Azalea
    Azalea March 25, 2011 at 3:04 pm |

    tinfoil hattie: The privilege is conferred because of RACE, not because of gender or sex! Two women: one white, one black. The white woman is privileged because she is WHTE. Not because she is a “woman” and the black woman is … something other than a woman.Women as a class are not privileged, period. Under patriarchy, you’re either a man or you’re an afterthought. It’s the whiteness, not the femaleness.

    Uhhh…no.

    WOC have CONSTANTLY had to fight for the right to be recognized as being just as much a woman and person as a white woman is. Because in patriarchy woman=feminine and the darker you are the further away from femininity you are thus being a woman of color means your femaleness is up for debate. The fact that so many here dont recognize that is because of -AGAIN- white female priviledge.

  35. LoriA
    LoriA March 25, 2011 at 3:12 pm |

    I’ve been reading everything that’s been thrown out on this topic, and I still don’t understand how female privilege is legitimate in certain contexts. What I’m getting is this: (white) women having men rush to open doors for them is benevolent sexism and therefore not a privilege in the context of patriarchy; white women having men rush to open doors for them is benevolent sexism but also a legitimate privilege in the context of kyriarchy. That is, black women would be better off if they received some of the small “benefits” of benevolent sexism as it’s afforded to white women. I’m sorry, but I just do not understand how this is truer than just saying “actually, we’d all be better off if benevolent sexism didn’t exist.”

    If it is, then every example of ‘positive’ discrimination must be a good thing? Black men being treated as hyper-sexual ‘mandingos’? Actually a small privilege when compared to desexualized Asian men. Disabled people being patronized by having the abled help them when they don’t ask for it? Bad, unless we’re comparing it to the way that the disabled homeless are entirely ignored.

    I’m sorry, but that is simply not logical. Something being “not as bad as” does not make it “good” and therefore not a privilege. If we operate on the assumption that ‘better than’ equals ‘good’, we’re entering into a realm inhabited by moral relativism where social justice concerns aren’t a really thing at all.

    Agais, if there’s something I’m missing, I’d really like to hear it…

  36. Azalea
    Azalea March 25, 2011 at 3:22 pm |

    LoriA: I’ve been reading everything that’s been thrown out on this topic, and I still don’t understand how female privilege is legitimate in certain contexts. What I’m getting is this: (white) women having men rush to open doors for them is benevolent sexism and therefore not a privilege in the context of patriarchy; white women having men rush to open doors for them is benevolent sexism but also a legitimate privilege in the context of kyriarchy. That is, black women would be better off if they received some of the small “benefits” of benevolent sexism as it’s afforded to white women. I’m sorry, but I just do not understand how this is truer than just saying “actually, we’d all be better off if benevolent sexism didn’t exist.” If it is, then every example of ‘positive’ discrimination must be a good thing? Black men being treated as hyper-sexual ‘mandingos’? Actually a small privilege when compared to desexualized Asian men. Disabled people being patronized by having the abled help them when they don’t ask for it? Bad, unless we’re comparing it to the way that the disabled homeless are entirely ignored.I’m sorry, but that is simply not logical. Something being “not as bad as” does not make it “good” and therefore not a privilege. If we operate on the assumption that ‘better than’ equals ‘good’, we’re entering into a realm inhabited by moral relativism where social justice concerns aren’t a really thing at all.Agais, if there’s something I’m missing, I’d really like to hear it…

    WOC are not seen as real women. White women are seen as real women. WOMC of are not sene as real women. White women are seen as real women. WOC are not seen as real women. White women are seen as real women. WOC are not seen as real women. White women are seen as real women.

    I didnt want to go there but the feigned ignorance at the difference between the experience of being white and female in the patriarchy and being a WOC in the patriarchy has brought me to this point. Margaret Sanger gives an EXCELLENT example. Where reproductive rights were concerned, white women were seen as having the choice to have or not have children were WOC were considered INFERIOR and just to be encouraged not ot reproduce at all. THAT mindset fosters white female priveledge, that WOC are OTHERED and not women in the “real” sense of the word but something “lesser” than female.

    Get it now? Or is being told you’re not good enough to reproduce but white women are not example enough of how being white and female can garner priveldge with regard to race and gender?

  37. La Lubu
    La Lubu March 25, 2011 at 3:47 pm |

    Bellereve, I’m sorry you have to deal with people who think your crying is manipulative, etc. rather than a manifestation of your illness.

    But, there is a big difference between your symptoms and that of the “white women’s tears” phenomenon, in much the same way there is a difference between not being able to complete a physical task due to disability vs. feigning weakness in order to get out of doing drudgework. To use one of my favorite examples from back in the day (seeing as I’m reminded of how old and irrelevant I am in the other thread): used to be, we had these things called “film projectors” back in grade school. They were around the size and weight of a large sack of potatoes, and they were expensive—so the schools tended to have just a few, and teachers would get them from the library if there was any audio-visual lessons.

    Well, one of the first lessons I got in performative white femininity was from white female teachers (I never witnessed a teacher of color do this). At the end of the lesson, the film had to be rewound–and it was always a boy who got to do it (with much cooing about the technical know-how of the “young man” who was doing it). Then, it was always a “strong young man” who was asked to schlep the projector back to the library. Again, with much cooing over his mighty strength.

    Big deal? Yeah. It was. Because every child in the room knew what a privilege it was, a sign of respect, to be trusted to complete those jobs. And it sent a message to every child when only the boys got to do them. It also sent a message to every child to see *grown, white female teachers* fawn over these boys and pretend they couldn’t do the same tasks easier, faster.

    That’s what I flash on when I think of the fawning playacting that is typified of performative femininity, white version. It was designed to draw lines, invisible but impermeable borders between male and female, between races and social classes (I’m so old I attended public school when the petit bourgeoisie still sent their kids there).

    It’s white female privilege in that it is *specifically used* in order to leverage benefits in a sexist society *against those* who have lesser or *no* access to those temporary benefits.

    It’s leveraging the kyriarchy to benefit oneself at the expense of others similarly oppressed. And the people who do it know damn well what they’re doing.

  38. GallingGalla
    GallingGalla March 25, 2011 at 4:19 pm |

    bellereve: The “white lady tears” concept doesn’t sit well with me, as someone who cries constantly (in public, in front of people of all genders & races) because of a mental illness. The category “white women” overlaps with “disabled women,” and it seriously bothers me that when we cry it may be interpreted as manipulative, as an act of privilege or attention/sympathy seeking when it is really an extremely distressing symptom of a psychiatric disorder.

    Believe me, as someone with mental illness, I understand this: I cry a *lot*.

    But that’s not what I’m talking about in my previous comment. I’m talking about my being a white woman using my tears *specifically* to avoid my taking responsibility for being racist.

  39. LoriA
    LoriA March 25, 2011 at 4:29 pm |

    @Azalea
    “WOC are not seen as real women. White women are seen as real women. WOMC of are not sene as real women. White women are seen as real women. WOC are not seen as real women. White women are seen as real women. WOC are not seen as real women. White women are seen as real women.”
    I get that. I do. But that’s white privilege as manifested in females, not female privilege of any sort. That’s not semantics, either; there’s a difference between getting a privilege because you’re white (and happen to be female) and getting a privilege because you’re female.

  40. La Lubu
    La Lubu March 25, 2011 at 5:52 pm |

    LoriA, it’s not an either/or, but a both/and. Like I said earlier, think of it as a flow chart. How does a woman get a leg up over other people, especially other women, in a competitive, capitalist, white supremacist patriarchy?

    Well, if she’s white, she can get a leg up by engaging in the various pantomimes that represent white femininity. Are these pantomimes restrictive? Yep. Do they also confer benefits? Yep. Are they accessible to all women? Nope. They are accessible solely to white women, and are effective in the degree to which an individual white woman can parley her performative whiteness (meaning: the effectiveness of her performance is going to be mitigated by her appearance, age, class, physical ability, sexuality and gender expression, etc.).

    What do I mean by performative white femininity? Things like: avoiding conflict, enforcing/reinforcing gender boundaries and appearances, enforcing/reinforcing social hierarchies, using the passive voice, apologizing for having an opinion, non-apologies (“I’m sorry you were offended” rather than “I’m sorry I offended you”) when apologies actually matter*, speaking with a childlike pitch and/or cadence, ending sentences with a questioning pitch, “playing dumb” (usually to avoid conflict), manipulative crying (the term “white woman’s tear’s” replacing the old-school “crocodile tears”), feigning fear, pretending to be physically weaker than one is, cattiness rather than directness, behind-the-back talk rather than backtalk, things like that.

    It’s not merely white privilege; white men don’t need to engage those pantomimes in order to get respect. (the cis men anyway). There’s a specific expression of whiteness that goes along with the expression of femininity that is more than just standard-issue white privilege that benefits all white people. White female privilege is designed to jack one’s position within the hierarchy without challenging the hierarchy.

    For those who doubt there is such a thing as whiteness…hoo boy. We’re going to be here awhile.

    *granted, white men do that too—but they also have the option of saying, “fuck you; I said it because I meant it!” White women who try that tactic lose “white points” and “female points”.

  41. umami
    umami March 25, 2011 at 9:21 pm |

    La Lubu, thank you for making that comment. I can understand what you’re saying there, and some of it is both true and stuff that had never occurred to me before (I have definitely used the “ditz” strategy when I was younger, to appear non-threatening) so thank you.

    But the “privilege” you’re describing there seems almost directly opposed to these points on the Racialicious list:

    Are feel free to exhibit a wide range of emotions, from tears to genuine belly laughter, without being told to shut up.

    Are not compelled by the rules of their gender to wear emotional armor in interactions with most people.

    So it doesn’t seem to me as if the commenters here are describing exactly the same concept as the post at Racialicious describes. Pretty much everything that’s been said here makes sense to me but I still have issues with the Racialicious post.
    Anyway, thanks to those of you who have patiently explained things on here. I know y’all are under no obligation to.

    Oh, actually! One thing that didn’t make sense to me at all: the comment at 27 from Angel H.
    How is the fact that people are still paying attention to Alexandra Wallace when they have forgotten about the hateful bile that was spouted by akat042001 and the frat boy, an example of white female privilege? I’m really struggling to see how pointing to someone who is facing comparatively more consequences and backlash for the f*cked up things she said is pointing to an example of her privilege.

  42. tinfoil hattie
    tinfoil hattie March 25, 2011 at 9:57 pm |

    Azalea: Re-read what you wrote! Your argument agrees with me: it’s because the women are WHITE, not because they are WOMEN! For crying out loud!

  43. tinfoil hattie
    tinfoil hattie March 25, 2011 at 10:00 pm |

    Where reproductive rights were concerned, white women were seen as having the choice to have or not have children were WOC were considered INFERIOR and just to be encouraged not ot reproduce at all.

    Because the “inferior” women were not WHITE. Not because they were women! Women are not privileged over anyone! WHITE people are privileged over all POC. It’s the WHITENESS.

  44. Jadey
    Jadey March 25, 2011 at 10:16 pm |

    tinfoil hattie: Women are not privileged over anyone!

    When those women are white, they are. I do not understand why you are so bound and determined to treat everything as completely orthogonal and separate. Yeah, I’m a woman, but ain’t I a white person too? No one is arguing that white women are privileged because they are women, but that their actual experience of white privilege is inseparable from all of their other characteristics, including being a woman.

    It’s not white OR woman, it’s white AND woman.

  45. Tony
    Tony March 25, 2011 at 10:33 pm |

    @Jadey, I agree with #7 and #21… especially the first part of #21, I feel it really captures the heart of the matter in a simple way and a lot of other comments are just flying around in circles.

  46. So...
    So... March 26, 2011 at 11:29 am |

    This is typical feministe on race. Want to write reams on being “biracial” (subtext: look how post racial and anti-racist we are), then fine. Lets conceptualize and label each other! Actual brass knuckles discussion of race and no one can handle it. Note, this isn’t like racialicious. It’s all the regulars who don’t understand white privilege. On this site, white women’s studies majors are at the top and everyone else’s experiences are disregarded. You people should be embarrassed to call yourselves allies and every single POC on the masthead should be ashamed of themselves. As a POC, I am completely done with young “feminists”.

  47. Sewere
    Sewere March 26, 2011 at 11:48 am |

    This is truly unbelievable. If white female privilege did not the exist then what the hell was Sojourner Truth talking about? What the hell do you think happened to Emmit Till? Why the fuck is there a stark difference between media coverage of missing white women compared to the coverage of missing women of color? Every action has a cost benefit value, because an action has costs doesn’t negate its benefits even if they are fleeting.

  48. heelbiter
    heelbiter March 26, 2011 at 2:43 pm |

    A black woman cannot cry in a group of mostly white men and expect immediate comfort and concern, regardless of whatever wrongdoing she is responsible for. She will not have her feelings immediately prioritized over whomever else is involved.

    …do you really think most white women experience that? In a world where women’s emotions–especially the emotions of “uppity privileged bitches,” aka white women–are almost uniformly considered invalid? Where tears, from those same women, are considered fake and an attempt to dodge personal responsibility?

    It’s easy to hop on the “throw white women under the bus” bandwagon, but that doesn’t actually stand in for a nuanced discussion of privilege and oppression.

  49. Chally
    Chally March 26, 2011 at 4:35 pm |

    Excuse me, my Internet connectivity has been awful this week (it’s a fun story (sarcasm)) and I am just coming to this now. I am just so disappointed in this discussion, and I’m sick of feeling so alienated as a woman of colour on my own blog. So…, I’m not ashamed of writing for this blog and working as hard as I can to make it a more welcoming space for women of colour. The POC who write here are hardly to blame for white commenters not getting it and ignoring the substantial anti-racist work I for one do.

  50. LoriA
    LoriA March 26, 2011 at 4:37 pm |

    @So and Sewere
    It doesn’t seem like it’s just white women questioning this construction of privilege over at the Racialicious article, and I don’t think it can be considered automatically racist for a woman of any color to not accept at face value the kind of argument that Plaid is making, which is a huge departure from the typical social justice thinking (that positive discrimination is not a positive.)

    I do honestly want to understand the argument being made, because I agree that WOC are the arbiters on race and their experiences with it. But so far no one has made any convincing logical arguments for why benevolent sexism is bad in general, but good when compared to worse alternatives. I do agree that the benevolent sexism available to white women is not as bad as some of the alternatives that WOC face, but ‘not as bad’ doesn’t equal ‘good,’ and it certainly doesn’t equal ‘privilege.’

    If this is the case… well, as I said in one of my earlier comments, it logically follows that “Black men being treated as hyper-sexual ‘mandingos’? Actually a small privilege when compared to desexualized Asian men. Disabled people being patronized by having the abled help them when they don’t ask for it? Bad, unless we’re comparing it to the way that the disabled homeless are entirely ignored.”

    I just can’t get behind that.

  51. LoriA
    LoriA March 26, 2011 at 4:44 pm |

    @Chally
    I didn’t see your comment until after I posted, so I wanted to apologize for not posting this reply instead of the one I did at 50: I thought really long and hard before questioning this argument, I read everything linked to on the subject, and I decided to continue commenting here instead of the Racialicious article because I know that Racialicious is very much not my space as a white woman. I don’t want to commandeer this space either, and I understand that it is no one’s responsibility to ‘educate’ me by explaining this argument, but not trying to understand it and accept it at face value felt like an even worse alternative.

    However, I really, *really* do not want to be part of the problem, so I’m going to just leave it at that and not take up further space.

  52. La Lubu
    La Lubu March 26, 2011 at 4:52 pm |

    But so far no one has made any convincing logical arguments for why benevolent sexism is bad in general, but good when compared to worse alternatives. I do agree that the benevolent sexism available to white women is not as bad as some of the alternatives that WOC face, but ‘not as bad’ doesn’t equal ‘good,’ and it certainly doesn’t equal ‘privilege.’

    Sweet bedda matri. That is not the argument that is being made, either here or at Racialicious.

    Look. Every oppressor, every oppressive system, needs overseers to operate. Every. single. one. And white supremacy is no different in that regard. White female privilege makes overseers of white women, in regards to women of color, and in regards to other white women with fewer attributes of white privilege. Overseers don’t have the same privilege of the masters (lords, padrones, however you want to put it)—but they do have significant privilege over their charges. They function as agents of the oppressive system, in addition to being oppressed by that same system.

    What the living hell is so difficult to understand about that??

    Open question to all the white women who are having difficulty understanding the concept: have you never had another white woman try to one-upwoman you on whiteness, as well as gender performance? Seriously? Never? Never had another white woman pull a routine that was designed to demonstrate her superior whiteness, her greater white purity in contrast to you?

  53. bellereve
    bellereve March 26, 2011 at 4:54 pm |

    I don’t think anyone here is denying that white women have white privilege…just that being female does not make said white privilege somehow more powerful or operative on a daily basis…because it doesn’t.

    Also, I’m not sure about this part of La Labu’s comment on white performative femininity: “speaking with a childlike pitch and/or cadence, ending sentences with a questioning pitch.” In fact, I was just fired from a job for doing this; my boss told me it undermined my perceived authority and confidence. It was a style of speech I was socialized to use, and then punished for…which I think applies to many of the above behaviors. They do not actually confer tangible benefits, but instead mark a woman as inferior (less likely to be taken seriously, easy to take advantage of, less intelligent, weaker, etc) to a man.

  54. La Lubu
    La Lubu March 26, 2011 at 5:01 pm |

    And hey…since you’re not paying any attention to the women of color present on this thread, let’s talk about white women some more!! Nia Vardolos and Marisa Tomei have built entire careers out of the dynamic I just spoke of. Now tell me you don’t know what I’m talking about. The “I’m more female than you because I’m whiter than you.”

    Is it easier to see when white women are centered?!

  55. GallingGalla
    GallingGalla March 26, 2011 at 5:38 pm |

    La Lubu: Look. Every oppressor, every oppressive system, needs overseers to operate. Every. single. one. And white supremacy is no different in that regard. White female privilege makes overseers of white women, in regards to women of color, and in regards to other white women with fewer attributes of white privilege. Overseers don’t have the same privilege of the masters (lords, padrones, however you want to put it)—but they do have significant privilege over their charges. They function as agents of the oppressive system, in addition to being oppressed by that same system.

    QFT. Yes, we white women are oppressed for being women, but we’re also being made into kapos (which term everyone ought to google) for white supremacy. Thank you, La Lubu, for stating this so succinctly. This was my gut feeling upon hearing the term “white women’s privilege” (and this thread was by no means the first time i’ve heard it), but I couldn’t express it.

    We’re recruited into this role so early in childhood, and it’s reinforced so much, that it becomes ingrained and hard for us (white women, especially middle-class) to see and acknowledge when it’s pointed out. But acknowledge it we must.

  56. Jadey
    Jadey March 26, 2011 at 5:50 pm |

    La Lubu: just that being female does not make said white privilege somehow more powerful or operative on a daily basis

    I’m not sure how it happened, but there’s such a phenomenal communication gap happening here, I’m not sure how to address it. I’m not blaming anyone for this – I’m just still struggling to find a way to get across the basic points of the original article as I understand them.

    Your summary of the issue is not what anyone is actually arguing. In fact, I (and others) have tried to make it very explicitly clear how the point was almost the complete opposite of that. The idea is not that being a woman makes white privilege more privilege-y. In fact, several of us have stated that white men’s white privilege is indeed less fraught.

    To go with your example, compared to a white man, a white woman does not have an advantage by speaking with a childlike pitch for the reasons you described. But for a white woman compared to a black woman*, she most likely would have the advantage. What’s being argued is that (in the context of this specific example) black women do not have access to the childlike stereotype that can provide protection and advantage to white women, even though that protection and advantage are compromised by gender oppression. I guess a more concrete way of saying it is that if it’s a freezing cold night, a blanket covered in dried stinky vomit and ridden with lice is better than no blanket at all.

    Female white privilege isn’t about having more privilege than *white men*, it’s about having more privilege than non-white women. There really isn’t anything anti-woman in this. The women of colour in this thread and elsewhere have been pretty thorough at giving their perspectives and experiences with not having access to even the compromised racial privileges that white women have.**

    *This is a really simplistic description, and I want to be clear that I don’t think race relations should be reduced down to White v. Black, nor that there isn’t still a lot of heterogeneity within these groups based on lots of other axes of social identities (e.g., sexuality, ability status) and idiosyncratic traits. But there’s been so much misunderstanding already, I just want to make the point as clearly as I can.

    **Again, this is reducing everything down to just two dimensions – gender and race – which is absurd really, but it’s a desperate and potentially foolhardy attempt at clarity. Intersectionality isn’t just an algebra of identities though – a really deep analysis takes a lot of time and sharing of experiences.

  57. Jadey
    Jadey March 26, 2011 at 5:51 pm |

    bellereve: I don’t think anyone here is denying that white women have white privilege…just that being female does not make said white privilege somehow more powerful or operative on a daily basis…because it doesn’t.

    Also, I’m not sure about this part of La Labu’s comment on white performative femininity: “speaking with a childlike pitch and/or cadence, ending sentences with a questioning pitch.” In fact, I was just fired from a job for doing this; my boss told me it undermined my perceived authority and confidence. It was a style of speech I was socialized to use, and then punished for…which I think applies to many of the above behaviors. They do not actually confer tangible benefits, but instead mark a woman as inferior (less likely to be taken seriously, easy to take advantage of, less intelligent, weaker, etc) to a man.

    Not sure how it happened, but I ended up quoting the wrong person! My above comment was in reply to this comment by bellereve. Sorry for any confusion!

  58. Jadey
    Jadey March 26, 2011 at 5:58 pm |

    I also really want to stop commenting on this thread because I’m starting to feel like I’m taking up waaaaaaaaaay too much space here. (Oh, there’s an example of my privilege – even though as a woman I am pressured to concede space to men, and a certain group of men in particular, I am more than capable of taking space away from other people over whom I have considerably more privilege because of my whiteness, [en]abled-ness, cis-ness, relative wealth).

    So I’m not ignoring anyone who’s tried to respond to me – I’m just taking a step back. There’s nothing I have to say that other people aren’t saying really well already.

  59. Sarah
    Sarah March 26, 2011 at 6:02 pm |

    La Lubu:
    Bellereve, I’m sorry you have to deal with people who think your crying is manipulative, etc. rather than a manifestation of your illness.

    But, there is a big difference between your symptoms and that of the “white women’s tears” phenomenon, in much the same way there is a difference between not being able to complete a physical task due to disability vs. feigning weakness in order to get out of doing drudgework.

    I’m a little bothered that no one’s responded to it yet, because it seems to be verging on disability policing. Fact is, you can’t know whether someone has a disability or not, and comments about “fakers,” whether it be for physical or mental disabilities, contribute to a general atmosphere in which PWD feel reluctant to disclose disabilities due to fear of being disbelieved. You may think you’re distinguishing between people with “real” disabilities and people who are just faking for attention/to get out of doing work. But that is damned hard to distinguish in practice.

    As a person with mental disabilities, I am bothered by the term “white woman’s tears” when it is used in a general sense to encompass all instances of crying. Just to be clear, I do not object to the term as a descriptor of a particular form of behavior when being called out on racism. Not at all. But judging other people’s tears in general? Yeah, that’s problematic. And, yes, ableist.

  60. Dangersqueezit
    Dangersqueezit March 26, 2011 at 9:17 pm |

    Many people in this thread have learned nothing from your supposed feminism. Privilege isn’t something you should deny out of shame. As a white woman I have benefits over women who are not white in many, many ways. That’s just fact. There’s no point in pretending like that my privilege doesn’t exist. I have it. If you are a white woman, and you have it, and don’t like that, and if that makes you uncomfortable, understand your role in the kyriarchy. The kyriarchy upon which you exist on rungs higher than women of color. Desire to change it. Denying it just makes you sound like Rush Limbaugh.

  61. LoriA
    LoriA March 26, 2011 at 9:32 pm |

    @Jadey and La Lubu
    Breaking my promise of silence just to say I agree with everything you’ve both written since my last comment. Maybe it’s just the terminology we’re arguing about? I’m not sure where the miscommunication happened.

  62. Azalea
    Azalea March 26, 2011 at 10:12 pm |

    tinfoil hattie: Where reproductive rights were concerned, white women were seen as having the choice to have or not have children were WOC were considered INFERIOR and just to be encouraged not ot reproduce at all.Because the “inferior” women were not WHITE. Not because they were women! Women are not privileged over anyone! WHITE people are privileged over all POC. It’s the WHITENESS.

    UGH!!! FUCK!! Why cant you get that part of it is that WOC were not viewed as WOMEN but reduced to something LESSER than the “usual” patriarchy view of women to begin with? Damn. WOC constantly have to prove that we ARE women, our womanhood is always up for debate. Femininity = white, Femaleness= white. Come on people, own up to your priviledge and keep it moving.

  63. Nanette
    Nanette March 26, 2011 at 10:51 pm |

    Just to confuse things a tad more, I just wanted to mention, for the people who are concerned about the whole “crying” aspect of “White Women’s Tears” — WWTs (for short) do not have to actually involve crying. In fact, no white women have to be actually present for their tears (or the thought of them, the possibility of them, the protection against them, so on) to have extremely negative effects on women of color.

    Also the tears (whether flowing or no) do not necessarily need to be shed over a racist action or saying of the white woman, though that is one aspect.

  64. ~rdr~
    ~rdr~ March 26, 2011 at 11:09 pm |

    Azalea: UGH!!! FUCK!! Why cant you get that part of it is that WOC were not viewed as WOMEN but reduced to something LESSER than the “usual” patriarchy view of women to begin with?

    That’s the question, but white women don’t ever keep it moving but one direction.

    Remember when all the white feminists were going to read 50 Books By POC or somesuch? They never read any Morrison, or the concept of white woman privilege wouldn’t even be up for debate right now. There’s no Bluest Eye without white woman privilege, no A Mercy without white woman privilege, no Beloved without white woman privilege.

    Oh that’s right: Morrison violated the stupid white hipster guidelines of that project. “Too mainstream; pick another POC author.” Sure thing, white women. LOL. You all go on ahead and be in charge of deciding what’s “too mainstream” on a subject you know nothing about, then act surprised when folks talk to you like you’re still in preschool. That’s a real good look.

  65. Sarah
    Sarah March 27, 2011 at 12:24 am |

    Nanette:
    Just to confuse things a tad more, I just wanted to mention, for the people who are concerned about the whole “crying” aspect of “White Women’s Tears” — WWTs (for short) do not have to actually involve crying. In fact, no white women have to be actually present for their tears (or the thought of them, the possibility of them, the protection against them, so on) to have extremely negative effects on women of color.

    Also the tears (whether flowing or no) do not necessarily need to be shed over a racist action or saying of the white woman, though that is one aspect.

    Then can someone please explain the aspect of “white woman’s tears” that doesn’t specifically relate to racism? Because I am very confused about this, and I also am far from convinced that this particular usage of the term (as opposed to the racism-related use of the term) is not ableist.

    This is extremely frustrating for me, as someone who experiences a lot of emotional difficulties due to disability. Frankly, for me limiting a difficult moment to tears only is oftentimes a victory. Sometimes my responses can be actually harmful to myself and others. And having been judged, condemned, and ridiculed for my entire life for crying about things deemed unimportant by other people….I am damned suspicious of anything which smacks of judging other people’s emotional responses.

    (Please note: I am not defending white women re-centering discussions about racism around themselves. I am, however, troubled by the tendency to use the “white woman’s tears” things in a general sort of way.)

  66. Sewere
    Sewere March 27, 2011 at 12:42 am |

    This is truly unbelievable. If white female privilege did not the exist then what the hell was Sojourner Truth talking about? What the hell do you think happened to Emmit Till? Why the fuck is there a stark difference between media coverage of missing white women compared to the coverage of missing women of color? Every action has a cost benefit value, because an action has costs doesn’t negate its benefits even if it is fleeting.

  67. bellereve
    bellereve March 27, 2011 at 12:56 am |

    Sarah – agreed, thanks for clarifying what I was trying to say.

  68. Roxie
    Roxie March 27, 2011 at 5:52 am |

    Sarah:
    (Please note: I am not defending white women re-centering discussions about racism around themselves.I am, however, troubled by the tendency to use the “white woman’s tears” things in a general sort of way.)

    I keep reading this, but I can’t help feeling that re-centering this discussion is exactly what’s happening.

  69. La Lubu
    La Lubu March 27, 2011 at 8:12 am |

    This is extremely frustrating for me, as someone who experiences a lot of emotional difficulties due to disability.

    That’s very understandable. But…depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, PTSD, and various other kinds of mental illness aren’t relegated to just women. Or just white women.

    Check out this article from the Crunk Feminist Collective on black women and depression. It mentions Fantasia Barrino’s breakdown (although it doesn’t cover the difference between how Fantasia was treated in comparison to famous white women who’ve had similar breakdowns; you might remember that anyway). I found this paragraph especially salient:

    Depression has always been problematic for me because it was something the women in my family and household could not relate to or readily admit. Depression was white women’s shit and my uncontrollable tears and obsession with death was met with confusion and shaken heads. We (black women) didn’t have time to cry over spilled milk or break down from a broken heart. There will bills to pay, mouths to feed, ways to make (out of no way). And over the years of watching and witnessing women hurt (from unsuccessful relationships, struggling with finances, dealing with discrimination, and simply waiting for something better for themselves or their children), I saw them struggle, but I never saw them “feel.” So my feelings, of unspeakable, unexplainable sadness, didn’t make sense. And while the women I knew never demonstrated the reality of depression in their lives, the reality of my experience tells me that there had to have been tears in the dark, moments of surrender in prayer rooms, wishes of ending lives over seemingly mundane struggles. I have surely wished my life away for less. Living is hard. Living with oppression is harder.

    Now, a lot of white women reading this (especially those without class privilege) will see see striking similarities between that and their own situation. As in….drop the specific references to racism, and that’s pretty much the same practices and home training.

    But….racism is a Big Deal. Not a side issue. Not just one more “straw”. Racism shortens lives. It is an added burden that white women, even those without class privilege (or ability privilege) have to deal with.

  70. Shaun
    Shaun March 27, 2011 at 8:36 am |

    @Sarah: This. You’re basically re-centering a discussion about racism to be about how you don’t think it’s appropriate for women of color to use the concept of white woman’s tears in talking about white privilege. There is obviously a huge difference between having an emotional reaction and using social skills to manipulate a positive reaction to cover a use of racism. If someone tells you, hey, having an emotional reaction is an attempt to milk sympathy, then obviously you can ignore that, but casting doubt on something use in anti-racism discussions because you feel it’s about you personally is pretty privileged.

  71. Nanette
    Nanette March 27, 2011 at 11:02 am |

    Sarah: Then can someone please explain the aspect of “white woman’s tears” that doesn’t specifically relate to racism? Because I am very confused about this, and I also am far from convinced that this particular usage of the term (as opposed to the racism-related use of the term) is not ableist.

    Well, the thing is, do you really want to know? Or are you basically looking for acknowledgment that sometimes when white women cry it’s due to other things than a manipulating “white women’s tears” thing? Say, due to chemical imbalances or another form of illness?

    Because I’ll give you that, for sure. I can understand a bit why, if you’ve been subject to this sort of thing most of your life that that is where your mind first goes to. But all that has little relationship to the subject at hand. So, yes, not all women’s tears, or all white women’s tears mean the same thing, or are used for the same purpose, or even can be controlled. I don’t even think that all “white women’s tears”, in the way many people of color use the term, are a conscious tactic.

    Ms. Jaffe did not coin the phrase “white women’s tears”, the phrase itself is not ableist, nor is it a new or lightly used tool, even among white feminists. I’m thinking of a particular instance of it that happened here not too long ago. Anyway, it’s true that not everything about this has to do with racism, but everything — in the U.S. particularly, I don’t know about other places, does involve race.

  72. bellereve
    bellereve March 27, 2011 at 11:29 am |

    “If someone tells you, hey, having an emotional reaction is an attempt to milk sympathy, then obviously you can ignore that.”

    Forgive me if I misunderstood you, but no, WWD cannot just “ignore” people who vilify, delegitimize, or misinterpret our illnesses. Just like racism, ableism has tangible effects on women’s lives.

    I get the differentiation some have made between “white women’s tears” and symptoms of an emotional disorder. But what concerns me is the potential for the latter to be mistaken for the former, because it may not always be so obvious.

  73. Shaun
    Shaun March 27, 2011 at 12:04 pm |

    Bellereve: Thank you, I’d never known how to deal with disability in my life if not for your insightful wisdom.

    I’ll put it another way. If she’s afraid someone on here is going to delegitimize her disability (does she prefer the word illness?) then it’s not something she needs to take to heart, whether it comes from a woc or not. This is not the same as WWT.

  74. Shaun
    Shaun March 27, 2011 at 12:07 pm |

    Or to put another way, this thread is not about disability, a neurotypical (or disabled person)’s deliberate use of her social skills to cushion her from racism is not the same as a disabled person having an emotional reaction, regardless of whether or not the abled person is able to tell the difference.

  75. So...
    So... March 27, 2011 at 1:16 pm |

    Sarah,

    Hi, it’s not about you. Really. I’m actually embarrassed for you that you don’t get that. Stop derailing. Here’s an idea. Go do some research on white women’s tears – the concept. It’s called google. It’s not my job to educate you. Hilariously enough – RIGHT NOW IS AN EXAMPLE OF WHITE WOMEN’S TEARS. A white woman using feeling offended and upset to DERAIL A LEGITIMATE CRITIQUE. Go ahead and cry, I’m not afraid of you.

    Also all the women saying that white women don’t get comforted when they cry, or at least that there isn’t a marked difference for white women and POC. 1. Stop lying or 2. Own your privilege.

    Chally

    My honest $0.02: I feel that privileged white readers are coddled on this site and their privilege is rarely challenged. I feel this partly because the POC writers’ work is pandering and partially designed to make white readers feel good about their liberalness. It addresses “conservative racism” not true racial privilege. It emphasizes diversity of racial identities over racism and social injustice. It is fundamentally *not* anti racist work. It is sort of diversity work. It encourages “intersectionality” without requiring understanding of true social realities. It emphasizes peripheral identities (e.g. geekdom) and conflates them with genuine oppression. In other words, it empowers white liberals to be racist.

    I don’t think it’s disrespectful or intentional but that is what I think it is. Anyway, for my own mental health I should probably just stick to POC spaces.

  76. Nanette
    Nanette March 27, 2011 at 2:28 pm |

    Hi, So…

    I agree with much of what you say in your comment, but I have to somewhat disagree with this:

    So…: It emphasizes diversity of racial identities over racism and social injustice. It is fundamentally *not* anti racist work. It is sort of diversity work. It encourages “intersectionality” without requiring understanding of true social realities.

    Not that the writing here doesn’t encourage this sort of thing — I guess I don’t read here enough to really know — but I think where I disagree is that there is any idea that the work of POC on this or other primarily white sites should or must be anti-racist work.

    Not that it can’t be, but as you probably know it’s exhausting, often thankless and, sadly, often fruitless. I think that, if it was me, nibbling around the edges would be all I had the stamina for, and I would leave it up to the readers themselves to continue to learn — reading, asking questions, so on — if they were so inclined.

    Otherwise, though, I would write about what interested me, what piqued my curiosity, what might make for an interesting topic, what might light a bulb in someone’s mind, and what might be fun to talk about. I think Chally does a fine job at that, as well as bringing up issues of race and intersection and all that.

    Sites like this are not, I believe, the place to do anti-racist work or training — one can always try to stem the seemingly endless tide of clueless people, but the only real way actual work is done is if the clueless people take themselves in hand to educate themselves. Otherwise, it’s all just pandering and pablum and trying to point out water to a skittish horse.

  77. trees
    trees March 27, 2011 at 4:22 pm |

    This struggle with “white women’s tears” is really perplexing to me since in my experience it is common and pretty average among many middle/upper middle class white women. I thought most people saw this, but I guess it’s really only mostly POC who do. And for those who believe this term to be ableist, how does the fact that mental illness is in no way exclusive to white women fit into this, since this seems to be a particularly white woman practice? A practice (probably often unconscious but still super manipulative) that can be used in general, and certainly not only to defend against being called out for racist behavior. And it’s not just about the actual tears, but also the pouting, and the threat of crying. It’s about conveying the child-like need for coddling.

  78. Chally
    Chally March 27, 2011 at 4:26 pm |

    Sure, okay, all I really want to do is make the white folks here who have harassed me, made racist comments against me and such feel good. Surely nothing I do here actually matters. I’ve never written a damn thing of worth in my life. Look, if you don’t like it here, that’s fine, but please don’t act as though the substantial work I do here, the constant, middle of the night attempts to make this a better place for non-white people, doesn’t matter. I am not sure what site you’ve been reading as conflating geek identities with oppression is so far from what we do here.

    This is actually blowing my mind. Back on topic, please.

  79. Elisabeth
    Elisabeth March 27, 2011 at 5:50 pm |

    I think the crux of the issue is “in comparison.” That is, white women *are* underprivileged compared to (white) men, but *are* privileged in comparison to WOC. So, say, it isn’t that white woman expressing emotion in public isn’t considered “too emotional” or “not rational” etc, but that in comparison, a WOC is judged more harshly. (Imagine the reaction of a white woman having a hysterical breakdown on the bus vs. a black woman. Who is more likely to get the cops called on them?) So, when people say “white women are privileged in comparison to WOC,” it’s not that being a white woman is all rainbows and ponies, but, in comparison, white women have advantages.

    The part where white women’s privilege in particular comes into play is that white women can conform much more easily to approved concepts of femininity, and can gain advantages relative to other women because of this. It’s similar to, say, “pretty privilege,” or “thin privilege.” Women who are pretty and thin earn more, get more free passes, and in general have an easier (easiER, not easy) time navigating life. That doesn’t mean they’re not still part of a patriarchal, body-policing system that is oppressive to them, but within that system, they do get perks for conforming. It’s a pretty sucky form of privilege, but it’s a privilege nonetheless in comparison to people who don’t or can’t conform. Moreover, some women (consciously or subconsciously) find that by manipulating the only power they do have, they can turn their position of relative powerlessness into one of relative power. So, for example, you do have cases where white women murder their kids and are believed when they claim a black man did it. I have yet to hear of a case where a black man murders someone and claims a white woman did it.

  80. Elisabeth
    Elisabeth March 27, 2011 at 6:20 pm |

    Oh, not to hog the conversation as a white woman (heh), but, I think white woman’s tears can be looked at in a slightly different way as well, in that, even if the white woman isn’t meaning to be manipulative or to get her way, crying can still have that effect. In part, crying depends on the response of those around you, and if that response is one of sympathy and concern, that is a form of privilege. I am a white woman who cries easily. I come from a culture where crying is as acceptable as peeing your pants. From very young, I was shamed and scolded for crying, and taught it was a sign of weakness, that I was only doing for attention, etc. As a result, if I could never cry again, I would gladly make that happen. However, despite my best efforts, I have cried in public. Yet even though I felt mortified and wanted to disappear, the result was still that I have been given advantages above and beyond what was normal and fair because of my tears. In that sense, it doesn’t even matter what the motivation of the white woman is, tears are still a tool white women have to get perks, whether or not that was their intent.

  81. So...
    So... March 27, 2011 at 6:38 pm |

    Chally,

    I don’t mean to offend you (or derail the conversation away from a bunch of white women defending their privilege). But this is my experience. You have no obligation to correct in this thread, but considering that this is your thread, I found it a bit disturbing that you didn’t consider posting a substantive response. You are more offended at me that at the people defending racism on this thread. So all of this privilege will be untouched and the same people will post authoritatively on threads about feminism tomorrow with their perspectives applauded and validated. This is why many POC (especially those who lack white privilege) retreat to POC sites. Just fyi.

    White privilege is not being challenged on this site. The content of these comments vs racialicious proves that. Educating people on how to seem less racist is not the same thing.

    1. Chally
      Chally March 27, 2011 at 6:57 pm |

      It is not my thread, which is why I gave a strong response, and then have tried to defer to Steph in the moderation stakes. I am far more put out by the defences of white privilege on this thread, as I think I have made abundantly clear. Please do not tell me how I feel. I can understand why many POC go to sites where POC experience is more centred, because I am getting my arse kicked here, too, but I am trying my absolute best to challenge white privilege here, and I do not think that work is worthless, or insubstantial, or about helping white privilege along. I am not educating people on how to seem less racist, I am working on anti-racism.

      I am placing this thread on full moderation, if you’ll excuse me, Steph. Derailing comments will be deleted. If anyone wants to minimise the substantive anti-racist work I do, they’ll be kind enough to do it in an appropriate forum, so that we can discuss the topic at hand.

  82. bellereve
    bellereve March 27, 2011 at 7:28 pm |

    Elisabeth – your comments have helped me understand “white women’s tears” more fully than any of the previous ones, and I appreciate that you phrased it in a non-ableist way. Also, seeing “pretty privilege” and “thin privilege” (although both can be temporary) as categories more available to white women absolutely makes sense.

    I still take issue with the idea of tears or other emotional outbursts conferring “perks,” or privilege to women, as someone who has only ever been punished (often with violence) for crying, but I think it is appropriate for me to bow out of the discussion at this point.

  83. On “White Female Privilege” « …………….Lori Adorable……………. Tales of A Kinky RadFem

    […] then you’re also likely to be familiar with this article at the former site and possibly with the discussion of it at the latter. I commented on both pieces (with the same argument I’ll be reiterating here in […]

  84. La Lubu
    La Lubu March 28, 2011 at 7:13 am |

    bellereve, thank you for providing a fine example of white female privilege, and some of the standard silencing techniques used to assert white female privilege:

    singling out one person as above all others, despite that person not saying or doing anything differently than the others present (this has a flipside too—singling out one person as being worse than all others; “the example”)
    using that person as an example because that person is either higher on the social scale or identical to one’s self (or with the flipside, because the other person is lower on the scale and situated far from oneself)
    taking issue with any expression of anger or frustration expressed by other speakers, no matter how tempered; expecting others to swallow their emotions
    maintaining that you still don’t “get it”, and expecting a placekeeper for that
    asserting one’s own lower status in the kyriarchy to absolve one of one’s higher-status position or actions of that position within the kyriarchy (‘cuz the kyriarchy ain’t linear)
    leaving (asserting the right to not have to listen)

    About the so-called ablism. Look. Does anyone know if some random woman on the street is crying due to a disability or due to manipulative tears? No, they don’t. But in the workplace? With people one works with every day? Over a period of years? I’m going to go out on a limb and say that if some white woman doesn’t cry when the dog she’s had since childhood dies, or when her husband is diagnosed with cancer, or when her mom dies…yet every time she makes a huge mistake that would require her to have to spend overtime fixing it (if she can’t con others into doing it for her), or when she has to take responsibility for some bad behavior on her part (“I didn’t mean to offend you, *sob*)—-I think it’s fair to assume her performance is deliberate.

    Do we know, never having seen a person before, whether they can or can’t perform a certain task? No, we don’t. But again….when I’ve sat in various teacher’s classrooms for months, and heard stories and seen pictures of these same teacher’s summer vacations spent hiking the Appalachian Trail, camping, waterskiing, canoeing, building their dream home, etc.—I think it’s entirely fair of me to assume that their magical inability to heft hardcover dictionaries or 15-pound film projectors that 8-year old boys literally half their size can effortlessly cart around…..the disability isn’t physical. It’s sexism.

    Speaking of which: seeing how infantilizing it is to make oneself seem weaker than an 8-year-old boy, can anyone explain that to me in terms that don’t include white female privilege? Please include an explanation of why the WOC female teachers didn’t do this.

  85. Kristen J.'s Husband
    Kristen J.'s Husband March 28, 2011 at 8:33 am |

    To offer a slight variation on the theme, why do tears work? Tears aren’t magical water droplets, they communicate overwhelming emotion.

    If we look at this phenomenon through a binary feminist lens, we see that vulnerability implies protection and protectors. So tears as a strategy are built on the nonsensical notion that women need manly protection from the scary universe.

    But if we expand the perspective a bit and ask who receives protection and under what circumstances, the problem comes into clearer focus. In starkest terms the “most prized” women will receive protection. In USian culture that typically means: white, cis, het, able, conventionally attractive, feminine – meaning performing gender in an approved manner, wealthier, etc. Often that protection is provided against the scary other.

    In this way I’m not sure “white woman’s tears” is generally descriptive – privileged woman’s tears might be more generally applicable, but I understand it is a description of a phenomenon routinely experienced by women of color making name apt in that circumstance.

  86. trees
    trees March 28, 2011 at 9:44 am |

    La Lubu:
    bellereve, thank you for providing a fine example of white female privilege, and some of the standard silencing techniques used to assert white female privilege:

    singling out one person as above all others, despite that person not saying or doing anything differently than the others present (this has a flipside too—singling out one person as being worse than all others; “the example”)
    using that person as an example because that person is either higher on the social scale or identical to one’s self (or with the flipside, because the other person is lower on the scale and situated far from oneself)
    taking issue with any expression of anger or frustration expressed by other speakers, no matter how tempered; expecting others to swallow their emotions
    maintaining that you still don’t “get it”, and expecting a placekeeper for that
    asserting one’s own lower status in the kyriarchy to absolve one of one’s higher-status position or actions of that position within the kyriarchy (‘cuz the kyriarchy ain’t linear)
    leaving (asserting the right to not have to listen)

    Yup.

    @Kristen J.’s Husband

    You do realize that your points are pretty self-evident to some of us right? It’s not a slight variation on a theme since some of us, WOC at least, consider that point to be pretty obvious.

    “In this way I’m not sure “white woman’s tears” is generally descriptive – privileged woman’s tears might be more generally applicable, but I understand it is a description of a phenomenon routinely experienced by women of color making name apt in that circumstance.”

    Of course it’s a more complicated concept than the term “white woman’s tears” seems to convey, but it’s a nice short hand. And again, some of us know it’s not so simple as that. Also, “privileged woman’s tears” doesn’t really work so well since notions of Whiteness are integral to the practice.

  87. Kristen J.'s Husband
    Kristen J.'s Husband March 28, 2011 at 10:12 am |

    One small addition, that you didn’t intend or expect to receive the benefit of this or any other privilege when you started, does not change the impact of that action. A person may very well be overwhelmed with emotion by the realization that they just did something wrong, but that doesn’t mean that the people who are ignored or vilified for making a person cry isn’t experiencing those tears an an act of oppression.

  88. bellereve
    bellereve March 28, 2011 at 11:56 am |

    Ok, I guess I’m back.

    La Labu – “taking issue with any expression of anger or frustration expressed by other speakers, no matter how tempered; expecting others to swallow their emotions”

    I never once did this, I’m not sure where in my comments that came across? I deeply & personally understand and take seriously intense expressions of emotions (coming from any woman) and am not interested in silencing them.

    Also, I singled out Elisabeth because her comment was the ONLY one so far that did not strike me as having ableist undertones. I don’t know her place in the kyriarchy, but yes, she did phrase things differently in a way that didn’t erase legitimate concerns.

    It is neurotypical privilege to assume that you can tell who has a mental illness and who doesn’t. To assume that WWD must make up such a small portion of crying white women that we can be dismissed as outliers. To interpret a white women’s tears as “usually” a gesture of racism or manipulation, when crying is actually an extremely COMMON symptom of depressive episodes, bipolar disorder, suicidal ideation, anxiety disorder, etc.

    I understand that some here have argued that crying as a symptom and crying for attention/protection are two distinct phenomenon. I appreciate that. But if these things can look alike at first glance, frankly I don’t trust a neurotypical person (or, really, anyone besides the woman in question and maybe her doctor) to be the arbiter, to always “know” which is which.

  89. Butterfly
    Butterfly March 28, 2011 at 12:46 pm |

    Wow you all are actually debating on whether or not White female privilege exists? Do you not know that WOC used to be forced into sterilization while middle class White women were free to have children? White women get all of the media coverage of their feminist blogs and WOC rarely get any coverage. We are constantly “othered” and left out of the conversation and constantly have White women represent us instead of someone contacting an actual WOC to interview or speak with. I’m tired of having to point out your privilege to you and I’ve only done it once or twice. It’s exhausting, as a humanist and a Chicana activist, to have to call you all out on your privilege. The argument that White men have this ultimate privilege and therefore White women don’t have White privilege is bs and you are expressing your privilege when you say things like that. Wake up, smell the coffee, and get into reality because you all HAVE PRIVILEGE, how many times do WOC have to call you out on your crap?

  90. Gabrielle
    Gabrielle March 28, 2011 at 1:20 pm |

    [white, trans, class privileged, invisibly disabled woman]

    I really don’t want to derail so please delete this if it’s off topic.

    I’ve really been challenged by the discussion about overseers and those who oppress whilst being oppressed, in order to have a higher place in the pecking order. It’s about how marginalisations can intersect. But because of that there are things in the original statement which seem to be making -ist assumptions:

    Can benefit from their association with white men as a wife, daughter, sibling, and mother : assuming you are cis and your family talks to you

    Are seen as the embodiments of value and purity and, due to their phenotypes : again only if you are cis or appear cis

    They are seen as the default and the ideal embodiment of physical beauty and sexual attractiveness : assuming you’re not visibly disabled

    Easily buy posters, post-cards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys and children’s magazines featuring women like them. : again only if you’re cis and not visibly disabled

    There are definitely intersections of privilege, but I the above above list is white, cis, able-bodied privilege. Does a white trans woman get elevated in terms of beauty standards above a cis WOC? Does a white woman with no legs get elevated above an able-bodied WOC?

  91. Kristen J.'s Husband
    Kristen J.'s Husband March 28, 2011 at 1:23 pm |

    Trees,

    Right. I didn’t mean to give the impression that I was saying something new or revolutionary – quite the opposite. Everything I said was mentioned by someone upthread in some shape or form. Instead, I was hoping to change the frame a little to help those struggling to see how this is a privileged act.

    It wasn’t a comment aimed at the women of color who have experienced this shit, it was aimed at the women who are having trouble seeing this as oppressive. My apologies for being unclear.

  92. Shaun
    Shaun March 28, 2011 at 2:47 pm |

    Gabrielle, the problem with privilege lists is that the person writing it ALWAYS has some form of privilege. Some white privilege bullets don’t really apply to trans or disabled people.

    But you know what? The whiteness helps. It’s not like a trans or disabled white person isn’t going to be elevated over her poc counterpart in the exact same circumstance.

  93. Shaun
    Shaun March 28, 2011 at 2:55 pm |

    Bellereve, I used to get hit for crying too. Your personal experience doesn’t change the way society deals with you, and to some degree, at least some of the time, they see a “white woman in trouble.” It doesn’t mean it happens all the time, it doesn’t mean it never provokes an ableist response (it does). Something can, in fact, provoke an ableist response directed at the crying white woman while still provoking a racist backlash to the woman of color who “made” her cry. It doesn’t mean she did it on purpose or she wanted either intersection to occur, but she is still. Receiving. Privilege.

    Again, the existence of disabled women doesn’t mean that poc, many of whom are disabled women, shouldn’t be talking about white women’s tears. If you want to talk about responses to women who cry, that’s a topic that should be talked about. But right now you’re derailing the thread to white women on a topic SPECIFICALLY ABOUT white women derailing topics on race to themselves.

  94. MissaA
    MissaA March 28, 2011 at 3:18 pm |

    Why is the existence of white female privilege being debated? It’s obvious if you can grasp the concept of intersectionality.

    I experience sexism as white female. Those two parts of my identity cannot be separated. Women of colour experience sexism differently than me. They do not just experience racism + sexism. They experience racism as women of colour – their experiences are different from those of men of colour. They experience sexism as women of colour – their experiences are different from mine.

    I experience sexism as a whitewoman. If you accept the notion of intersectionality, then you have to acknowledge that the reverse is also true – I have privilege as a whitewoman.

    It’s about relative power. While being valued because I’m objectified is disempowering to me vis-a-vis white men, it’s still more value than is attributed to women of colour.

  95. trees
    trees March 28, 2011 at 3:52 pm |

    Kristen J.’s Husband:
    Trees,

    Right.I didn’t mean to give the impression that I was saying something new or revolutionary – quite the opposite.Everything I said was mentioned by someone upthread in some shape or form.Instead, I was hoping to change the frame a little to help those struggling to see how this is a privileged act.

    It wasn’t a comment aimed at the women of color who have experienced this shit, it was aimed at the women who are having trouble seeing this as oppressive.My apologies for being unclear.

    Oh, I see. Well good on you for trying to penetrate the thickness. Better you than me; I ain’t got that kind of patience.

  96. What Tami Said
    What Tami Said March 28, 2011 at 4:05 pm |

    Funny. This is identical to the argument that springs up every time someone discusses black male privilege. Some black men will chime in to say that because black men are marginalized, there are no cases where they have privilege specifically related to their blackness and maleness. The argument is as wrong in that case as it is in this case. It is possible to be both marginalized and privileged.

    For instance…It is, without a doubt, a result of patriarchy that a woman’s worth is judged by her appearance. The fact that this is so often true is damaging to all women. That does not negate the fact that women who are closest to the Eurocentric standard of beauty benefit from that.

  97. Valkyrie607
    Valkyrie607 March 28, 2011 at 10:16 pm |

    Skipping to the end of the thread to say: fellow pale-faced sisters, please just listen. Listen to women of color talking about their experiences, and TRUST that they know what they’re talking about. That is all. I don’t normally read this blog, came over from Womanist Musings, so I hope you all don’t mind that I’m popping in a bit out of the blue, but seriously: that is the most important thing when dealing with questions of privilege. If you are occupying a position that could be construed as privileged, the most important responsibility you have is to shut up and listen.

  98. ClevelandLass
    ClevelandLass March 28, 2011 at 11:02 pm |

    Jadey and La Labu are saints.

    As the moniker suggests I live in Cleveland. I live on the east side. There is very tangible current and historical racial tension here.
    Think about this situation:
    Four people approach a shopkeeper, all visibly distressed.
    A white male, a white female, a black male, a black female.
    Who is comforted? Who is ignored? Who is helped? Who is asked to leave?
    I know what the answer would be here in the Cleve and the responses in this (very simplified) situation are a direct result of the intersectionality of race and gender. Period.

  99. Jill
    Jill March 29, 2011 at 12:54 am | *

    Seriously, this discussion is happening? “White women don’t have privilege”? Look: I understand that “privilege” is a term that is bandied about quite a bit in the feminist blogosphere, and that it’s over-used to the point of near-meaninglessness. But “privilege” isn’t a static thing that you Have or Do Not Have. It is relative, and it’s a concept that we use to understand and pick apart and analyze systematic power structures and dynamics. Yes, women as a class experience oppression; but we experience it in different ways and degrees, depending both on our identities and on particular contexts. So it’s not out of bounds to point out that white women are afforded some privileges on the basis of their race, and that “white womanhood” is a very different thing that just “whiteness.” White womanhood comes with a set of privileges; some of them may be butt-ended (like fitting a physical ideal), but they confer some benefit nonetheless in many contexts. Similarly: I think we can all agree that men benefit from the privileges of being men, but not all men benefit the same way, across class lines and race and culture and location and ability and education and sexual orientation and gender presentation. A straight white guy from the deep South who is from a lower-class family and speaks with an accent is going to be treated differently than a gay white guy from the North East from a wealthy family who graduated from an elite university; who is treated better is heavily dependent on context, and both men are privileged in certain ways and not privileged in others. It’s not a simple calculus of “how many oppressed identity group boxes can you check?” It’s an understanding of how the complexities of our identities confer more or less power to us, and how some identities are given systematically more power, but that it’s not a straight up-and-down ladder; it’s a web.

    So 100 comments later, it would be awesome if we could actually engage the Racialicious post, rather than debating whether or not white women “have privilege.”

  100. Gabrielle
    Gabrielle March 29, 2011 at 5:40 am |

    Shaun:
    Gabrielle, the problem with privilege lists is that the person writing it ALWAYS has some form of privilege. Some white privilege bullets don’t really apply to trans or disabled people.

    But you know what? The whiteness helps. It’s not like a trans or disabled white person isn’t going to be elevated over her poc counterpart in the exact same circumstance.

    Of course the whiteness helps. I agree that two people, otherwise equal, one white and one black, the white will be privileged. But this entire discussion is about the intersection of privileges, white woman, woman of colour, and I’m arguing that the (whole) list above should be more specific in whose privilege it is: white, cis, able bodied women. There are many privileges on the list which trans and disabled women do have, the “white women’s tears” discussion a case in point. But saying that “these are white women’s privileges” where there is an explicit assumption of cis and able-bodiedness in a significant number of the privileges, and then sweeping those issues under the rug as “writers always have privilege” is erasure of trans and disabled people, or at least that’s how it feels to me as someone who is trans and disabled.

  101. Gabrielle
    Gabrielle March 29, 2011 at 6:18 am |

    Gabrielle: Of course the whiteness helps. I agree that two people, otherwise equal, one white and one black, the white will be privileged. But this entire discussion is about the intersection of privileges, white woman, woman of colour, and I’m arguing that the (whole) list above should be more specific in whose privilege it is: white, cis, able bodied women. There are many privileges on the list which trans and disabled women do have, the “white women’s tears” discussion a case in point. But saying that “these are white women’s privileges” where there is an explicit assumption of cis and able-bodiedness in a significant number of the privileges, and then sweeping those issues under the rug as “writers always have privilege” is erasure of trans and disabled people, or at least that’s how it feels to me as someone who is trans and disabled.

    sorry that should have said an implicit assumption of cis and ablebodiedness

  102. Miss S
    Miss S March 29, 2011 at 11:19 am |

    This is just sad.

    As a woman of color, I know that white women have privilege, simply by being white women. It doesn’t matter if they’re poor, disabled, queer, etc. They have privilege over women of color. Some of you refuse to accept this, and I can only assume that you’ve never actually had a discussion with women of color on this issue.

    Please don’t expect people of color to change their language to suit your needs. White Women’s Tears is a term WOC describe the privilege that white women have over them.

  103. Shaun
    Shaun March 29, 2011 at 12:57 pm |

    *beats head off the wall*

    I guess you can look at privilege lists two ways. “Every single member of this group has ALL of these privileges” or “These are privileges that this group, as a whole, holds over people outside of this group.” If it’s not about you, it’s not about you.

    It’s not about you.

  104. AndreaPlaid
    AndreaPlaid March 29, 2011 at 2:02 pm |

    ::opens the door, birght smile on her face::

    Yes, I’m *that* Andrea Plaid, the woman who wrote the original post at Racialicious.

    First of all, I thank Chally and Jill–along with my online and offline pals What Tami Said and Sewere–for coming on this thread to engage with the rest of you. Along with those on the thread who I don’t know and are probably ready to run to the hills and scream in frustration/pain/annoyance in trying to explain white female privilege to the rest of you.

    Beyond that, I only have this to say: the fact that there’s all this privilege obfuscation by parsing the semantics for what I simply and directly stated the advantage is–White Female Privilege–just…

    Proves. My. Point.

    Thanks, everyone!

    ::walks out::

  105. Medea
    Medea March 29, 2011 at 3:44 pm |

    Miss S: know that white women have privilege, simply by being white women. It doesn’t matter if they’re poor, disabled, queer, etc. They have privilege over women of color.

    No one is denying that white women have privilege over women of colour. They’re denying that whiteness and womanhood are often–in the States–fused into an inseparable identity.

  106. Nanette
    Nanette March 29, 2011 at 4:29 pm |

    Medea: They’re denying that whiteness and womanhood are often–in the States–fused into an inseparable identity.

    Why?

  107. Tracey
    Tracey March 29, 2011 at 6:54 pm |

    So…:
    Sarah,

    Hi, it’s not about you. Really. I’m actually embarrassed for you that you don’t get that. Stop derailing. Here’s an idea. Go do some research on white women’s tears – the concept. It’s called google. It’s not my job to educate you. Hilariously enough – RIGHT NOW IS AN EXAMPLE OF WHITE WOMEN’S TEARS. A white woman using feeling offended and upset to DERAIL A LEGITIMATE CRITIQUE. Go ahead and cry, I’m not afraid of you.

    Also all the women saying that white women don’t get comforted when they cry, or at least that there isn’t a marked difference for white women and POC. 1. Stop lying or 2. Own your privilege.

    Chally

    My honest $0.02: I feel that privileged white readers are coddled on this site and their privilege is rarely challenged. I feel this partly because the POC writers’ work is pandering and partially designed to make white readers feel good about their liberalness. It addresses “conservative racism” not true racial privilege. It emphasizes diversity of racial identities over racism and social injustice. It is fundamentally *not* anti racist work. It is sort of diversity work. It encourages “intersectionality” without requiring understanding of true social realities. It emphasizes peripheral identities (e.g. geekdom) and conflates them with genuine oppression. In other words, it empowers white liberals to be racist.

    I don’t think it’s disrespectful or intentional but that is what I think it is. Anyway, for my own mental health I should probably just stick to POC spaces.

    This. A thousand times this. I started to engage in this “dialogue” earlier but decided against it. When people are honest to goodness trying to argue that white women don’t have privilege for being white women, and that privileged position doesn’t stem from them being white women, both white and women, it really isn’t even worth starting. And for someone to dismiss the notion of white women’s tears using white women’s tears? Well that right there is commitment.

  108. GallingGalla
    GallingGalla March 29, 2011 at 7:31 pm |

    Gabrielle:
    [white, trans, class privileged, invisibly disabled woman]

    I really don’t want to derail so please delete this if it’s off topic.

    I’ve really been challenged by the discussion about overseers and those who oppress whilst being oppressed, in order to have a higher place in the pecking order. It’s about how marginalisations can intersect. But because of that there are things in the original statement which seem to be making -ist assumptions:

    Can benefit from their association with white men as a wife, daughter, sibling, and mother : assuming you are cis and your family talks to you

    Are seen as the embodiments of value and purity and, due to their phenotypes : again only if you are cis or appear cis

    They are seen as the default and the ideal embodiment of physical beauty and sexual attractiveness : assuming you’re not visibly disabled

    Easily buy posters, post-cards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys and children’s magazines featuring women like them. : again only if you’re cis and not visibly disabled

    There are definitely intersections of privilege, but I the above above list is white, cis, able-bodied privilege. Does a white trans woman get elevated in terms of beauty standards above a cis WOC? Does a white woman with no legs get elevated above an able-bodied WOC?

    *GG does a big freakin’ huge eyeroll*

    Look. I’m a white woman who is visibly, “non-passing”, trans and has mental and developmental disabilities, and yes, I cry a lot. And I’m telling you, that I have *turned on those white woman tears* as a mechanism to derail my being called out for racism. And I probably will again. And not just literal tears, but also the pouting, flouncing, etc Like maybe y’all ought to scan up and read my earlier comments about it.

    Did I recognize that at the moment? No. It took months before I recognized it. But that doesn’t make it any less real. My having major depressive disorder is used against me in a lot of ways, and so is the fact that I “don’t pass” and therefore am hardly anyone’s idea of conventional feminine white beauty, but it doesn’t make my white women’s privilege magically disappear, nor does it reduce the impact of my WWT.

    Or maybe someone can give me a plausible reason that does not involve *specifically* white women’s privilege that the trans women photographed at “fuck yeah cute trans chicks” are virtually all white, and furthermore, the photo descriptions utterly fail to mention that they’re white, as if to say “oh come on, do we have to *tell* you that ‘cute’ = ‘white'”?

  109. bitBM
    bitBM March 30, 2011 at 12:16 am |

    GallingGalla: *GG does a big freakin’ huge eyeroll*

    Look.I’m a white woman who is visibly, “non-passing”, trans and has mental and developmental disabilities, and yes, I cry a lot.And I’m telling you, that I have *turned on those white woman tears* as a mechanism to derail my being called out for racism.And I probably will again.And not just literal tears, but also the pouting, flouncing, etcLike maybe y’all ought to scan up and read my earlier comments about it.

    Did I recognize that at the moment?No.It took months before I recognized it.But that doesn’t make it any less real.My having major depressive disorder is used against me in a lot of ways, and so is the fact that I “don’t pass” and therefore am hardly anyone’s idea of conventional feminine white beauty, but it doesn’t make my white women’s privilege magically disappear, nor does it reduce the impact of my WWT.

    Or maybe someone can give me a plausible reason that does not involve *specifically* white women’s privilege that the trans women photographed at “fuck yeah cute trans chicks” are virtually all white, and furthermore, the photo descriptions utterly fail to mention that they’re white, as if to say “oh come on, do we have to *tell* you that ‘cute’ = ‘white’”?

    Like Shaun said, if it ain’t about you, don’t make it about you.

  110. bitBM
    bitBM March 30, 2011 at 12:26 am |

    Aaaaah! I’m sorry GallingGalla! I meant to quote Gabrielle’s post!

  111. Stephanie
    Stephanie March 30, 2011 at 12:51 pm |

    The construction of white femininity has absolutely been used to uphold white supremacy and patriarchy. And I agree that “white privilege” alone is not sufficient if the discussion we’re trying to have is one about how white privilege itself is gendered, and why, and how that looks and how it functions and how white women are complicit in it.

    But qualifying privilege as “female” is inconsistent within the framework we’re all used to using, where privilege is labeled according to the benefits a particular facet of your identity affords you over those who can’t claim that identity. Within this framework, “female privilege” would be assumed to refer to privilege that women hold over men. Prefacing “female” with “white” doesn’t erase that implication. It just ends up sounding, well, additive: “white female privilege” seems to imply that white women hold power over people of color as a class (regardless of gender) and that they hold power over men as a class (regardless of race).

    But white women don’t hold power over white men, and there has to be a way to reflect that, not necessarily because I care all that much about white women but because if “female privilege” comes to be understood as something which exists as such, it can and will be used as a weapon against women in any situation where they are perceived to have an advantage over similarly-situated men. Or do we think that there’s no risk that “female privilege” could be used to explain the fact that, e.g., black women are at a much lower risk of incarceration than black men?

    “Privilege” is a useful term, but it’s not a particularly complex term, and sometimes it’s the wrong tool for the job. I’m just wondering if there isn’t a way to make our language fit the theory, rather than the other way around.

  112. Medea
    Medea March 30, 2011 at 4:14 pm |

    Nanette: Why?

    I’m not sure, since I’m not in agreement with them. A resistance to the idea that being female could ever entail any kind of privilege?

  113. Intersectionality, Race & Etc—Examining Privilege Again « Feminism is Not a Four Letter Word

    […] Musings posted a follow-up rightfully criticizing some of the reactions of commenters on Feministe, but it’s not without problems […]

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