I think their whiteness and their womanhood is intersecting to produce a particularly obnoxious response to patriarchy and marginalization. I’ve been thinking a lot about this.
So, Aida Hurtado and Audre Lorde both talk about this. And they are way more articulate than I am, so I’m not in any way reinventing the wheel. Both of them make the argument that white women and women of color hold different relational positions to white men, who are the gatekeepers of privilege, resources, opportunity, etc. White women’s position to white men is that they are groomed to be coddled lovers - it’s one of seduction, a promise of spill-over privilege. Women of color are raised to be something else again and are rejected as visible lovers of white men.
The effects of this phenomenon are pretty broad, I think. We can see how this impacts constructions of femininity, beauty, motherhood. It explains the historical distrust of feminists of color towards white feminists. And I think it explains some things about the white feminists who are transphobic binarist radical assholes, too.
One thing I keep hearing over and over from these radical feminists is that trans* folks are just godawful because they are trying to take over women’s spaces. “Why can’t we just have one thing to ourselves?!” is a really common thread here. What I hear when a radfem says this is the following:
Look, I don’t want to share my victimization at the hands of patriarchy with anyone else. I can’t believe you trans* people have the audacity to come in here and try to be included in conversations that are clearly about me and my experiences and how I’ve been marginalized. I am scared that by including you on the fringes of a conversation that is already centered on me that white men will not listen to me anymore and nothing will change for me - but I do believe that white men will compromise with me if they just knew how victimized I am.
And I think this response - this feeling of entitled victimhood and a belief in the power of proclaiming victimhood - is related to the benevolent sexism encoded in white women’s positionality as seduced by white men’s privilege. White women are controlled by being ‘rescued’ by white men over and over - and sometimes they are actually protected. The lines between help and harm, affection and subordination get really blurry until white women are pretty much socialized to think that
a) their voices are heard and cared about by those in structural positions of power, which is probably why white middle class feminists really fucking believe hardcore in electoral politics, and
b) that there is bargaining power in expressing victimhood. And there is for them, because they are coddled and seduced and protected from the big scary world. But it doesn’t work that way for women of color at all.
I think these two lines of thought explain why white radfems get so viciously angry towards trans* people. Defining womanhood as something outside of a binarist biological deterministic framework scares them because the fact of their skin-deep whiteness and femaleness has given them a lot of protections and a close proximity to powerholders. Defining womanhood in a fuzzier more inclusive way threatens their positionality with white men. Hence thereal womanbullshit and the accusations that trans women are really just dudes trying to take over women’s spaces.
The other big thing here, and I think this is where the shit really hits the fan, is that because they are white women, these folksfeel entitled to have their own spacesbecause historically white women have been allowed to have spaces of their own by white men.Women of color have not. But white women have had parlors and sewing circles and shit like that. So there is an expectation that there is and should be something unique and special set aside for white women and a total refusal to question that assumption or locate it in a context of racial subordination.
The bottom line for me is that the spate of radfem awfulness is very much linked to white perceptions of what it is to be a victim - that you have moral high ground that will be respected, that you are allowed a space to heal and recover, that people will listen to you if you speak to your experiences. People of color have been victimized in more violent, more blatantly oppressive ways and have learned that for them none of that is true. For me, this radfem response to the perceived “trans* invasions” of their spaces is an example of an unchecked and very specific form of white privilege embodied by (typically middle class) white women.
(note: I am white, and though I am genderqueer and fall under the trans* umbrella I am DFAB and have been read as and treated as a white woman fro most of my life)
this is an excellent and coherent analysis - one of the first i’ve read on tumblr which actually addresses how various forms of marginalization intersect.
it’s essential to note how space policing like such is often enacted subconsciously…not that intent necessarily makes any difference, but it does change how all of this stuff operates. many white women flat out don’t understand their racialized entitlement towards safe, separate spaces; they have been traumatized at the hands of white male protectors & cannot possibly begin wrap their heads around the bargaining power of articulating victimhood. trauma produces tunnel vision…. this does not excuse privilege denial or the perpetuation of horizontal oppressions, but it’s important to note because it impacts what strategies are and are not successful when it comes to guiding folks through the learning / unlearning process