I am currently reading The Intersectional Internet as I prepare my dissertation proposal. Digital sociologist Jessie Daniels writes about White feminism and its dominance of online activism by women in the chapter “The Trouble With White Feminism: Whiteness, Digital Feminism, and the Intersectional Internet”
According to Daniels, White feminism in the digital era continues to reinforce White supremacy because it refuses to acknowledge racism:
To the extent that liberal White feminism articulates a limited version of equality whiteout challenging racial inequality, White feminism is indistinguishable from White supremacy and becomes a useful ideology with which to argue for equality for White women within a White supremacist context.” 1
Daniels describes White feminism as rooted in colonialism. Race shapes White femininity. The liberal values of White feminism can be used to uphold White supremacy as Daniels describes with three case studies.
Not All Feminism is Created Equal
Daniels critiques three incidents of White feminist activism that incorporates digital technology to promote its values. Careful to note that White feminists often silence women of color in defense of themselves, Daniels reveals where these efforts fall apart:
Lean In and the Ban Bossy campaign – Who Struggles With Bossy?
Led by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, the “Ban Bossy” campaign attempted to help girls ‘lean in’ on the premise they choose not to be leaders because they fear the term ‘bossy.’
An intersectional analysis reveals while most White girls indeed do not see themselves as leaders, most Black and Latina girls do. Thus, as Daniels writes, the “Lean In” approach is “a form of liberal feminism long interwoven with Whiteness, class privilege, colonialism, and heteronormativity”2
One Billion Rising – Who’s Rising?
One Billion Rising, a campaign led by playwright Eve Ensler, intended to uplift women victims of sexual violence. Daniels notes this campaign received criticism due to:
- Erasure of an existing movement by indigenous women of color
- Creating a false equivalency between sexual violence in the US and the Democratic Reublic of Congo
- Proposing the incarceration of men of color perpetrators of as a solution to systemic sexual violence (i.e. carceral feminism).
The Future of Online Feminism – White to the Future?
The Future of Online Feminism refers to a report produced by the cofounders of Feministing.com. Those who advocate online feminism from this perspective also argue that feminist blogging needs economic support. According to Daniels, the report received criticism due to its inaccurate history of online feminism (which centered White women’s activism). Daniels also notes this desire for corporate sponsorship suits White feminist ideals of parity with men, rather than critiquing the system that creates and sustains this inequality.
What Should White Feminists Do?
Daniels concludes that challenging White feminism requires recognizing that race includes White people. Beyond that, Whiteness has shaped who is privileged on the Internet. Daniels writes “to speak about White feminism, then, is to speak against a social order.”3 In order to do so, White feminism has to give way to a form of feminism that incorporates intersectionality, thus centering queer women, women of color and women with disabilities.
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