In defense of ‘white feminism’ and silly pink hats


photo by Victoria Tomeo

A participant of the Women’s March demonstration at Lake Eola sports one of the infamous pussyhats.

Peyton Whittington, Managing Editor

It is not clear when ‘white feminism’ became a rallying cry for liberal Twitter trolls, but the term’s true essence probably arose during the suffragette movement. Despite the goddess-like status of suffragette leaders like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton in history books, they were known to deny black feminists a place at the table and used the reality that a black man could vote when a white woman could not as a reason to mobilize their efforts.

This breed of feminism that is only supportive of white women represents the true meaning of white feminism. It is a selfish, inconsiderate and distinctly anti-feminist world outlook. Feminism’s whole gig is to help amplify the voices of all female-identifying people and better society along the way; therefore, white feminism is not feminism at all, but merely a means to further one’s self-interest. Case closed, right?

The problem is, white feminism does not mean what it sounds like any more. White feminist has become synonymous with someone who does not walk the line of what Social Justice Warriors find offensive or someone who has the audacity to be a new member of the feminist movement.

The heart of this issue lies in a post on the Women’s March Facebook page by ShiShi Rose, a black activist and Women’s March Instagram administrator, wherein she says “You [white feminists] don’t get to join because now you’re scared, too. I was born scared.”

While it is indeed imperative that white social justice activists acknowledge their hefty white privilege before moving forward, what do Rose and people like her think white feminists can do? In the same post, she states that this is a time for white activists to listen and consume black media. This is wise advice, considering one must first learn from the oppressed if they are to advocate for their rights. But does this mean that white activists are forbidden from speech and action altogether? It is difficult to participate in a movement that criticizes alt-right sympathizers, bystanders and activists alike.

For a clearer picture, rewind to the Women’s March on Washington on Jan. 21. The march was a beautiful display of solidarity and inclusiveness worldwide, and for a moment, everything was beautiful and free of judgement. Then, the alt-left went searching for things to nitpick.

When some people took to social media to identify pussyhats (the connotative head gear worn by Women’s March activists) as transphobic and racist, I thought it was a joke. Some believe the hats, mocking politicians working to regulate women’s reproductive rights and that specific body part, are uninclusive and discriminatory. The Twitter hashtag #BeckyInThePinkHat was created in response.

To debate over the morality of wearing a knitted hat seems ridiculous when bigger issues are at hand. As seen with the shun of the pussyhat, the Social Justice portion of society has carefully constructed a minefield of offensive behavior. This makes the left appear like an exclusive club only for the most “woke,” veiled as an effort to weed out white feminism.

The real issue is not white feminism, but the alt-left’s glorification of triviality. Sure, there are people out there whose biggest concern is being able to show their nipples on Instagram, but is it fair to call their frustrations offensive? Moreover, is it wise to divide an already fractured party for the sake of spiting ‘white feminists?’ While it is true that some people are fighting for causes way less serious than preventing college rape or promoting Planned Parenthood, this is not a reason to write off the actions of all feminists of a particular race or social status.

The bottom line is that if people are out there trying to make the world a better place, let them. Don’t be a backseat driver on other people’s way of expressing their concerns over social justice issues. Internal dissension is the last thing the left needs right now, and rocking the boat over something as simple as a pink hat is dangerous.

Stay focused. Stay progressive. Let them wear the stupid hats.