What 'white feminism' is and why calling it out isn't the end of the world

"My feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullsh*t." — Terri Lee Flavia Dzodan

Comic strips originally published on Everyday Feminism.

Feminism benefits everyone. "White feminism," not so much.

What is "white feminism"?


GIF from "Parks and Recreation."

There are a lot of long answers from feminists more qualified to break it down than me (like this one involving pizza), but the short version is that it shies away from acknowledging different people experience different oppressions based on what and how many marginalized groups they belong to.

Why does that matter? If you've experienced one kind of oppression, isn't it like all others?

Actually, no. And it's not a competition about who has experienced more or worse oppressions — it's just the ability to acknowledge that growing up as a white, affluent, straight girl is going to come with a different set of crappy experiences than growing up as, for example, a low-income white girl or a middle-class, black, queer girl.

It's a charged topic, to be sure. Here's where the communication meltdowns usually go wrong.

1. People who have "white feminist" tendencies pointed out to them don't often say: "Hey, thanks for pointing out my blind spot. I'll do some reading about this and try to do better." Instead, it's usually more along the lines of: "It's really hurtful that you don't acknowledge my place in this struggle with you, and you should be nicer to me. We're on the same side."

2. Intersectional feminists (feminists who experience other types of societal ick, like racism or homophobia) are often exhausted with having to coach such things both internally with feminists and externally with non-feminists, so sometimes they don't really have the patience to "be nice about it." That burden shouldn't be on them when a supposed ally is falling down on the job of being a complete ally. It's kind of maddening for people of multiple oppressed groups to be expected to repeatedly choke back their emotions about their plight to deliver guidance to a set of people who can't choke back their own emotion for a hot second to realize they're not being picked on when they're asked to do better.

3. The whole time this is going on, feminism's critics are misunderstanding this crucial moment in feminism's advancement, hoping it's a fatal crack in the movement.

Well, it's not. Sorry to disappoint you, misogynists.

GIF from "30 Rock."

What it is is a painful and messy but necessary process that's moving feminism on to its next level — which is being a tool to wrest back agency for everybody.

So, this whole "white feminism" thing is not an easy conversation to have. Luckily, the brilliant cartoonist Alli Kirkham from Everyday Feminism figured out how to show some important parallels in an easy way.

Like how some feminists totally get how to explain their own struggle but forget how that feels when they're being told they're playing the role of oppressor.

Comics by Alli Kirkham/Everyday Feminism, used with permission.

And how the same silencing techniques that are hurtful to them are hurtful to others, too.

You can read the rest of the spot-on comic here.

What can a feminist do when they have "white feminist" tendencies pointed out to them?

Here's a simple plan of action you can bookmark and share with friends.

It's not complicated. Pause, breathe, recognize it's not an attack but a request to do better, and say:

"Hey, thanks for pointing out my blind spot. I'll do some reading about this and try to do better."

And then actually do it. We're gonna get there, fabulous feminists. Together!

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On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

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Cadbury has removed the words from its Dairy Milk chocolate bars in the U.K. to draw attention to a serious issue, senior loneliness.

On September 4, Cadbury released the limited-edition candy bars in supermarkets and for every one sold, the candy giant will donate 30p (37 cents) to Age UK, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly.

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Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

WE Teachers
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