#SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen is currently trending and has been for the past few hours on Twitter. Before I joined the ruckus, I decided to see what the hashtag was all about. I wasn't surprised to see that it was people of color calling out white feminists for their privilege.
Let me explain: The hashtag originated from a well-known Tweeter by the handle @Karnythia. This isn't a hashtag that is trying to be "racist towards white people" or demonize and hate on white women. Its entire goal is to start a conversation and hold these women accountable regarding how they want equality for all and how they're fighting for all of us. Let's be honest, the face of feminism has long been a white woman. As I point out in my use of the hashtag:
Or as The New York Times clearly shows:
When I read the various tweets with the hashtag, I tend to agree. As a Latina woman who grew up being made fun of for being Hispanic (first thing that came to mind was being made fun of for having the middle name Guadalupe - no it's not funny when you compare it to Guacamole or when you decide to introduce me to your friends by that name just to be funny), I completely understand the feeling that women who consider themselves feminists, white women that I even look up to, seem to think that they're allies. In reality, however, they are all talk and no real action.
Recently I had lunch with a good friend, and he asked how I felt about getting my major in Women and Gender Studies since he heard that it's basically learning about white women, which I’m inclined to agree with. The primary feminist group on my campus simply ignored my critiques that women of color were not being truly represented by them. Instead, I was simply told, "Oh well, we believe in equality for all." I can even think of a few times when I was on Facebook and saw white women post articles about women of color, ignore my comments regarding my own experiences as a Latina, and carry on talking to other white feminists discussing something that they have no real clue about.
This hashtag also reminded me of critiques of recent SlutWalks and, most importantly, reclaiming the word "slut." I tend to agree with some critiques from women of color that there is no use for reclaiming the word and that the SlutWalks really do ignore what "slut" means in the context of women of color. As the blog, To The Curb explains:
Whether white supremacist hegemony was SlutWalk’s intent or not is beyond my concern – because it has certainly been so in effect. This event will not stop the criminalization of black women in New Orleans, nor will it stop one woman from being potentially deported after she calls the police subsequent to being raped. SlutWalk completely ignores the way institutional violence is leveled against women of color. The event highlights its origins from a privileged position of relative power, replete with an entitlement of assumed safety that women of color would never even dream of. We do not come from communities in which it feels at all harmless to call ourselves “sluts.” Aside from that, our skin color, not our style of dress, often signifies slut-hood to the white gaze.
In Shantyana Lledin's piece "I'm Not Your Spicy Latina", I feel as if I'm reading from my own experience:
I’m also not flattered by the men who yell “culo” at me on the street. Do they know they’re just yelling “ass”? I think most women have encountered this kind of sexual harassment. But I do notice that when women of color are harassed in this way, their race or ethnicity is acknowledged.
Women of color have to contend with both sexism and racism. This racism is usually masked and accepted. I’d argue that it’s even marketed, especially in pornography. I’ve come across many titles or descriptions containing phrases such as: ghetto booty, yellow fever, and spicy Latina.
So when people tell me I must be a “spitfire” or a “freaky girl” in bed because I am Hispanic, I am not at all flattered. They’re working on stereotypes created long ago to subordinate women of color and cast them as the inferior “other.” What’s frustrating is that people are not aware (choose not to be aware) of these stereotypes and where they came from. No matter how accepted stereotyping people seems to be, I take it as another way my body and sexuality are disciplined by others and my agency taken away.
While I fully acknowledge that white women can be and are sexually harassed, and of course their stories are completely valid and need to be heard, they probably can't wholly understand how one's race/ethnicity is linked to that sexual harassment. I've never felt so ashamed as when guys would tell me that I must be naturally more sexual since I’m Hispanic. White women should take that into consideration when they're telling women that they need to stand up and reclaim that word without realizing it's connection to race and ethnicity.
Even though #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen might seem really in-your-face and strong, women who consider themselves allies to women of color really needed to be called out on their privilege. It's exhausting going to various events that are supposed to be about the empowerment of women when I often end up being the only women who isn't white. I'm not saying we must force diversity, but those who truly believe in intersectionality should really think about if they're actually working towards that or merely reinforcing the idea that #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen.