Friday, August 16, 2013

White Feminist Privilege And Hugo Schwyzer

As I've written recently on feminist topics, the near-total and very public meltdown of a formerly prominent self-avowed male feminist academic has brought to the surface lingering anger at the myopia of many white feminists toward their own privilege.  One of the long-standing bills of complaint against Schwyzer was his often vicious attacks on women of color, including threats to their professional careers.  With his admission - in the midst of much narcissistic argle-bargle in which his confession of sins became an attempt at more attention from people sympathetic to his formerly expressed views - he has yet to come clean about his own pattern of bigoted behavior.  White feminists have been slow in admitting their own complicity in silencing the voices of women of color.  I thought, especially since one of the women named in this controversy, Amanda Marcotte, is someone I respect.  The complaint against Marcotte - that a book she wrote had a racist cover which was defended by Schwyer - is straight forward (and I should add, legitimate; had it been me, I would have pulled the book from the shelves rather than let it go out to the public, which speaks to a certain tone-deafness on Marcotte's part).

I should add I had never heard of Schwyzer before.  I had not heard of the incident involving Marcotte's book.  A person can't be aware of everything, even in communities to which that person pays attention.  I do think any man calling himself a feminist is troubling; I support feminist issues, but I would never call myself a feminist.  In much the way too many of my (white) Facebook friends put up images of a hoodie after the Trayvon Martin verdict in what was, to me, total ignorance of their own privilege - they will never be stopped and frisked because of their color; they will never be pulled over while driving because of the color of their skin; they won't be followed by security in stores because they are black; they won't be hunted by a vigilante because they are the wrong skin color for a neighborhood - I think part of my own duty as a white man is, as many women of color are now insisting white feminists should do, to shut up and listen.

I will admit my own myopia on this matter.  Just because I thought there was no color barrier in feminist communities doesn't mean there wasn't one.  On the contrary, I have often thought that some feminist pro-choice arguments were and continue to be remarkably racist.  Recognizing this one blot over here, however, doesn't excuse any instances where I failed to see how my own privilege blinded me and closed my ears when there were voices I needed to hear.

There is a lot of soul-searching going on, and for some African-American women, it's too little too late.  That this soul searching is necessary is evidence enough of the unexamined privilege of white feminists, and their continued silencing of the voices of African-American and Latina voices, ignoring their realities, and limiting the reach of cfeminist discourse by insisting white women's experience is normative for all women.  That someone like Schwyzer was able to find a favorable audience among white feminists, all the while displaying very public disdain for African-American women, and displaying symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder along with addictive behaviors should demonstrate we have a long way to go.

Virtual Tin Cup

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