We all like to think that we know what feminism is, but in reality there are so many definitions that it’s hard to say exactly what feminism is and isn’t. Made mainstream by several celebrities, a lot of people believe that feminism is “the radical notion that women are people” and frankly, I hate that definition for it completely ignores the idea that men and non-binary people cannot find aid from the feminist movement. To me, feminism is the belief that each gender should be equal and that we should be helping each other to create an overall better quality of life, which includes the success of people of any gender, religion, race, and sexuality.
For many women, a big part of feminism is trying to get rid of the idea that all women hate each other. I love that idea, I want to see all women succeed; I love women helping each other, cisgender girls helping their transgender sisters, women standing up for each other, and eliminating the whole “I’m not like other girls” trope, but a lot of white feminists believe that you cannot speak out about oppression without stepping on successful white women.
Of course, the most recent example of this is the Taylor Swift and Nicki Minaj issue. Thankfully, Taylor apologized and claimed she learned something, but a lot of white celebrities are only vocal about feminism when it works for them. The notorious three who do this are Taylor Swift, Lena Dunham, and Tina Fey. Feminism is only on their lips when an issue is tidy, tame, and trendy. Where are their voices when it comes to Sandra Bland, or the issues of sex trafficking? For the most part, celebrities are on the quiet side, but these three are celebrated as feminists and are basically excessive sprinkles on an ice cream cone. Considered by many the best, but actually just some powdery sugar shit. White feminists are usually white women who will think weaponized femininity is the end all be all of beauty and that a winged eyeliner is more powerful than a rallying cry. Most of these feminists only really want to know what’s in it for them.
So what can you do to stop this feminist ideology? First of all, feminism works on different scales and that for the most part, the idea of a bra burner barely exists anymore. Another thing to keep in mind is that you should not demand a reward for being a feminist. Feminism is not only about women, it’s about the systematic oppression of people being recognized and destroyed.
It’s incredibly important to let people who have even less privilege than you be heard. If you are in a situation where there is an option of a person who has less privilege than you to talk, let them be the one to speak. It doesn’t matter how many friends you’ve had or how many books you’ve read, second-hand experience and first-hand experience are worlds apart.
Going back to Nicki and Taylor, the best thing Taylor could have done instead of offering Nicki to come on the stage when an acceptance speech was about to happen would be to say something like “What’s the deal,” or say “I completely agree, let’s change this.” Taylor’s reaction of “I thought you were better than this” blew me away but I wasn’t surprised. Nicki was not putting down Taylor, she was just asking for the reason behind the MTV nominations. Thankfully, after somebody explained to Taylor why she was wrong, she apologized and everybody moved on. In these situations, if somebody says, “Hey, you’re wrong,” it’s your turn to say “Tell me what to do to be a better ally.” Learn from the people around you, educate yourself, and encourage other people who are in the same position of power as you to do the same. The idea of white feminism can be eradicated if we learn our privilege, when to let others speak, and how to identify a good feminist ally.