My beef with the Ivory Tower of Feminism

Jul 27, 2011 @ 10:42 am | By TheFeministGriote | 4 Comments

Last week I read the book Full Frontal Feminism by Jessica Valenti. It was an interesting read. Valenti seeks to make a case about why feminism is important and why more younger women should embrace the movement. Valenti did not hide the fact that she was not the “academic” type feminist. The book is written for the facebook/twitter generation. The books plain language and well placed expletives is sure to attract and appease the younger generation of women. This book in an introduction to feminism therefore seasoned feminist may not like the book especially how the author glossed over the history of feminism, but again I understand the larger point she was trying to make.

The one thing that I loved and disliked about the book was the section on privilege. Feminism is always regarded as an educated white woman thing. Women of color, lesbians, and pro-feminist men are forced to get in where they fit in. Naturally I was elated when Valenti a white woman called out feminism on its racist, classist, and exclusionary practices. As soon as I was about to do the dougie in excitement the privilege of the author reared its head. Valenti said:

“There isn’t a “double oppression” or a “triple oppression”; it’s just an intersection of oppressions that plays out differently in every woman’s life”

And this is the point where I had to quell my ‘angry Black woman’ rage.  Yes there is such a thing as intersectionality and I would like to thank the ivory tower of feminism for recognizing that. But at the same time trying to erase the validity of “double/triple” oppression is not the next step in understanding. Just because it is impossible for white women to experience multiple oppression does not make its existence less real. There are times where I am discriminated against because I am Black other times because I have ovaries and on those special occasions I get the two-for-one deal sexism and racism. For the purpose of this blog I will not even talk about the ways in which my being Haitian-American has marred my life. With all these built in ‘strikes’ I do not simply consider myself a minority I am a double minority not because I am looking to play the victim role or win sympathy votes, but because that is what I am plain and simple. Black men are oppressed, but because they are men they have patriarchy and male privilege on their side. Two things as a Black woman I cannot access which compounds my oppression. The problem is by minimizing the way in which people are oppressed or taking away their language and right to contextualize their oppression shows ones callousness and privilege!

The way in which a white woman would experience oppression is not the same way a dark-skinned lesbian Latina would experience oppression(see the difference there). One has privilege on her side always while the other is a minority within a minority which is not the same thing. We do not live in a post-racial society race matters especially if you are a minority. Gender, race, socioeconomic status plays itself out in a very complex way in the lives of people of color. Seeking to lump all oppressions together into one prepackaged deal is a dangerous game.

Oppression is oppression true enough, but they way in which people internalize these oppressions and they way these oppressions manifest themselves is not monolithic. It appears that even when white feminist women are cognizant and aware of their privilege they still seem to lack depth and understanding. As a woman of color it is not my job to explain to the ruling class/oppressor how I am oppressed. Those who experience double/triple oppression should lead the conversation on what it is and what it isn’t!

By: @FeministGriote

What do you think about multiple oppression is it real or not?

Categories: Mind Over Chatter

4 Responses to “ My beef with the Ivory Tower of Feminism ”

  1. As usual: on point.

    : )

  2. Actually, I disagree with the premise that the oppressed are not obligated to teach the oppressor about what it’s like to be marginalized. But I suppose that depends on what you define as “teach”. Spaces for ethnic, GLBT, disabled, (etc) women are not readily and widely available. So the ability to talk to other women – who do and don’t fit into those categories – is sorely limited. White women don’t create a space for black women to speak, and when black women DO speak, white women aren’t listening or they’re exposing their privilege by undermining the black female experience.

    I said all that to say that it is important to educate white people (and other privileged) people about what it means to not have that kind of power. It is how I learned about ableism – a friend of mine is disabled and I learned about this kind of privilege through her. I’ve learned about fat hate by reading blogs and having friends who are treated as second class citizens because of their size. I have learned about sex workers, slut shaming, biphobia by reading blogs written by these people. By being friends with these people – and in that way they’re teaching me about their oppression. Because there’s a lot that I don’t know, and there’s a lot that I can never know.

    So I definitely agree that everyone should ask each other questions and engage one another in meaningful conversations. That we’re all obligated to teach one another about what it’s like to be that person. It is only through compassion can social justice really take place. I believe that justice is possible without equality, but first we need to understand in way ways are we unequal.

    Now – with the multiple oppression status. I can agree with the basic premise of that. As a queer, black, female I was once told that I have a triple oppression. It’s a layered experience that is difficult to disentangle. I can no more stop being black than I can stop being a biological female. And oppression means being treated different because of these things I can’t control – as if I am being punished for it.

    So I definitely agree with having a variety of layers when it comes to oppression.

  3. Phoenix Rising | August 1, 2011 1:48 am

    Another very astute post. As a black (racism), lesbian (heterosexism), female (sexism), I have experienced multiple oppression. It is just as real as the term “post racial US” is false. However, I do agree with Tatiana that it is necessary for us to “teach” our oppressors. Some if not all have inherited their privilege and don’t quite understand the affect it has on the unprivileged group. That “teaching” can take many forms such as this blog site or in the manner that one lives their life in a fashion that meets oppression head on.
    Once again, another great post. I am learning so much from you.

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