diving deep: toxic, performative and white feminism

The day she shook me awake, I was working in a retail shop. She walked in, quickly making loud remarks about her feminist and leftist views. She kept talking although I didn’t engage with the one-sided conversation or praise her performative progressiveness. All of a suddenly she seemed to try to get me in a “gotcha” question when she asked “did you march? I hope you did.” (in reference to the 2017 Women’s March in DC). I answered with a “you bet I did”, reflecting on the energy and beauty of that experience. She proceeded to name the reasons why people marched that day, like she understood everyone’s agenda:

“we marched for our rights!”
“for the women who have been discriminated against!”
and ever so casually ended with:
“and for the women who have been sexually assaulted… but I wouldn’t know anything about that because I don’t drink.”

It felt like my skin burned and fell on the floor in that moment. Here, a supposed feminist stood before me, with her loud banter alluding that a woman who drinks alcohol is deserving of sexual abuse and rape.

As a survivor of sexual violence (yes, when I was drunk & incoherent) I wanted to escape. I wanted to scream. I wanted to hurt her. But I just stood there, finished her transaction & watched her walk out the door with an interaction with would impact me for a year, making me relive the trauma I endured & destabilized all the work I had done. This moment will be blazed in my mind forever. To correlate this violence with drinking, a date or a short skirt is the most anti-feminist & dangerous thing I had heard, but this isn’t new. This particular “feminist” has carbon copies, manifesting in other ways.

 

She is the person who makes their “wokeness” visually present with expensive feminist apparel and bumper stickers but sends her kids to the “safe” and “better” private schools (white flight).

She is the organizer of women’s spaces and networking groups but caters them to privileged white women. She often sprinkles in women of color to appear “diverse”.

She is the one proclaiming “but all lives matter!” while never taking inventory of how white supremacy has benefited her entire existence.

She is the “love and light” type who doesn’t find the need to listen to marginalized voices and concerns, always dismissing real issues of injustice with spiritual bypassing.

She is the woman who believes trans women are not deserving of womanhood and therefore doesn’t make space for them.

She is the business owner who sells woman-powered prints, liberal apparel and goods but stays silent when sexual assault happens to other women in her community, but a fellow business owner.

She is the woman with dreadlocks, yoga and burns sage but never grazes over the topic of cultural appropriation or the harm she causes to indigenous people.

She becomes offended when people tell her she is using the incorrect pronouns. She doesn’t “understand” why someone’s preferred pronouns are so important to their gender identity.

She centers herself in conversations about race or injustice, seeking praise or good white woman cookies. In doing this, she takes away and minimizes the real issues and work to do.

She was me when I didn’t stand up to a “healer” in this community who harmed women I know. She was me when I was heavily capitalizing on wellness retreats for white women. She was me so many times.

She shows up everywhere. She even shape shifts.

 

I share this because we need a wake up call, we need to understand how our version of feminism can be one-sided, benefiting only ourselves, our views and the people that are in our social circles. We must do better, we must call in all the she in our lives, we must have difficult conversations, we must get uncomfortable and open our minds.

Some of my favorite resources that have made me get real with myself, that I share with others and has sparked a change in the way I show up in this world.

Unblocking White Supremacy and Fragility in the Wellness Industry” by Maryam Ajayi

“When Feminism Is White Supremacy in Heels” by Rachel Cargle

“White Ladies Finding Themselves Sisterhoods” by Rachel Rice

“I Need to Talk to Spiritual White Women About White Supremacy” by Layla Saad

“The Heart of Whiteness On Spiritual Tourism and the Colonization of Ayahuasca” by Bani Amor

Bethany Frazier