Study Hall: White Women’s Role in Dismantling the Patriarchy

In the white feminism piece and the more recent trans women piece, there was a critique of what women, mainly white women, have to do. But if we are all dealing with a patriarchal society, why is the onus on us to fix things?

Feeling like the weight to address the injustices of the patriarchy and/or white supremacy is unevenly or unfairly placed on you is understandable, especially if you’re also marginalized. 
I think it comes down to one’s privilege and how it allows somewhat of a buffer or reprieve from experiencing the entirety of these unjust systems compared to just having to act against them. White supremacy and the patriarchy don’t affect us all the same. Thus, we cannot stop the work once our issues have been resolved or push back when our possible complicity is confronted. 

This is why we talk about being intersectional and centering the most marginalized. It forces us to work towards total liberation of all and not surface-level fixes for some. Not doing so or not acknowledging how you can be marginalized and still benefit from this system encourages them to still exist. Read how abortion was still criminalized in a Roe v. Wade world. 

Mainstream, or white feminism, imagines a world somewhat like Barbieland, where women are all starting at 1. Therefore, women’s biggest obstacle is men and the patriarchy. This ignores how race, gender identity, sexuality, status, etc. can push that starting point into the negatives. It’s why America Ferrera’s “Barbie” speech on the societal expectation for women can be so poignant and resonate (I cried during the movie and again rereading it now) and still feel flat. This type of feminism positions our current struggles as collectively trying to overcome beauty standards, traditional gender roles, sexism, the pay gap and promotions, and, more recently, lack of abortion access. But many of us still struggle to find housingget jobs, and even be seen as women. 

Not to mention white women have benefited from the work of those more marginalized. And due to white supremacy, they have a unique power to uphold or dismantle the toxic notions of womanhood. 

So while the work is not exclusively yours to bear, understanding your role and doing something about it is. This type of work requires engaging and sitting in the discomfort and examining our individual roles in both the building/sustaining of these systems and their dismantlement. 

To quote Andrew here, “Solidarity is a practice. It’s not something we are or believe: it’s something we do. We can stand with others to dismantle the political and economic institutions that harm them and us, or we can choose to look away.”

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