Quvenzhané Wallis

If there were ever any doubts that white feminists are disengaged from and apathetic to the concurrent racism that Black feminists must navigate in an increasingly hipster and kyriarchal society, look no further than their deafening silence when satirical website, The Onion, called 9-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis a “cunt” on Twitter.

The arc of white feminist dialogue on social media in the wake of the barbaric, misogynistic tweet emerged as tepid awareness – maybe, possibly, there’s racism – before curving towards the indefensible position of their white, male counterparts – it’s just brilliant satire – before ultimately coming to rest at dismissal. The lack of concern that white feminists displayed for this little, brown girl could not have been more obvious even if they donned a head scarf and said a raspy, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” before scurrying off to chide Oscar host Seth MacFarlane for his song about boobs or the Academy for only awarding 9 out of 30 awards to women.

Because that’s all that’s important, right?

We’re in post-racial America, so we shouldn’t be so touchy about MacFarlane and Lincoln star Daniel Day-Lewis sharing a guffaw about Don Cheadle being mistaken for a slave while he’s in character. We shouldn’t care about Iron Man star Robert Downey, Jr. defiantly clapping as MacFarlane joked about the brutalization of a then 21-year-old Rihanna, because she went back to her abuser, so to hell with objectifying her for shits and giggles.

And we most certainly shouldn’t care about a 9-year-old Black girl-child being called a “cunt” on the biggest night of her life because there are more important white feminist things to be concerned about.

The silence — and in the case of XOJane writer, Mandy Stadtmiller, the defense — in the face of The Onion hiding behind a foggy, humor lens to perpetuate misogyny and racism has been disappointing, but, unfortunately not surprising.

Why?

Because for many white feminists — not all — the realization that they do not stand to benefit from acknowledging the intersection of race and feminism renders them mute. The conversation surrounding the lack of inclusiveness and diversity within the feminist movement is one that never progresses because many white feminists feign ignorance of their privilege. They are comfortable allowing their Black counterparts to march in their Slutwalks while protesters carry “Woman Is The Nigger Of The World’ posters because racism is not their battle. It’s ours.

They encourage us to shrug off our Blackness for the greater feminist good; the end result being a contemporary plantation tableau defined by Ole Miss and Mammie slaying the patriarchal dragon while the issues of racism and classism are hidden behind the veil of  “progress.”  And while this scenario is about as feel-good as The Help, expanding white privilege — feminist or otherwise — is not equality.

When Quvenzhané Wallis was called that horrible word and Black feminists rushed to fill the vast social media space with righteous indignation and even a love letter letting her know that she is cherished, valued, and worthy of protection, we fought that battle alone. Even Baratunde  R. Thurston, comedian and author of  How To Be Black, defended his former employers. While he made it clear that he would stay out of the fray, he peeped his head in juuuuuust long enough to let us know that though he felt bad for Quvenzhané and her family, The Onion deleting the tweet was kind of a huge deal.

Oh, well, that’s just swell! We’ll just grab our tampons, Afro picks and anger, and be on our way.

^See what I did there? That’s satire.

As the layers of this incident continue to unfold, Black feminists have been accused by misogynists of irrationalism in the face of microaggression and ignorance in the face of satire apparently so sophisticated that it floats just beyond our comprehension.  And during this condescending exercise in privilege, white feminists have largely remained silent. That is the travesty here. We can all take the outcry over Rush Limbaugh calling Sandra Fluke a “slut” all the way to the White House, but a 9-year-old Black girl can’t even get the support of white feminists in 140 characters or less.

 

Though I’m sure I will be called divisive for examining the very large cat that has apparently grabbed the tongues of  self-proclaimed feminist organizations and torch-bearers who would have essentially stormed the Bastille if any young, white girl had “playfully” been called a “cunt” in front of millions of people, I’m perfectly fine with that. In fact, I embrace it. Feminism is the flawed solution to a very complex equation, and to get to the root of any complex equation, one must divide. Unfortunately, it’s becoming increasingly evident that some people don’t want us to divide because then we’ll realize something isn’t quite adding up.

 Shirley Chisholm once said that “the emotional, sexual, and psychological stereotyping of females begins when the doctor says, “It’s a girl.”

For Black women, go ahead and add racial objectification to the list. And if the case of a 9-year-old Black girl has taught us anything, it’s that when it comes to combating intersecting cases of racism and sexism, don’t be surprised if we’re all we got.

Follow Kirsten West Savali on Twitter at @KWestSavali.

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  • http://www.clutchmagonline.com jenn dunn

    we dont need white women to speak up for us we as black women can hold it down for ourselves like we have been doing for so long

    • politicallyincorrect

      AMEN AMEN AMEN.

    • AnnT

      You are absolutely right. My problem with them is their “Get on board with us and we’ll support you” attitude.

      As a group, they don’t authentically support us. We’re just bodies with breast. We get told to wait in line behind them, and then when we justly complain about it, they want to throw rocks and hide hands and pretend that racism doesn’t exist because they’re “color blind”.

      Get outta here with that mess. Stop running to us for validation and then being willfully ignorant about our issues.

    • AnnT

      @ChillyRoad-They’re not, they just think they are. Just because a few Black women have hopped on board with the white feminism shtick, they automatically think we’re all with them. They exist as a monolithic entity, and assume we all think collectively too. I am not that one Black friend you have who speaks for all Black women.

      I couldn’t care less for the majority of them, just don’t put me on about understating the Black plight.

    • Nic

      Actually, they want you to get in line behind them, support them, do the work, and then be happy when they get the jobs, promotions, etc. B/c they do NOT want you to ever have as much as them.

    • NJ

      Agreed. The week prior to the Wallis debacle, local public radio in Minneapolis sponsored a discussion about whether or not Michelle Obama was using her bully pulpit effectively enough given her commitment to being Mom-in-Chief. As usual White feminists didn’t quite get why her decision to put motherhood and family first was quite the radical move for the first black First Lady. #annoyedashell

    • P

      Agreed. Is anyone else starting to get annoyed by the camp of sisters who seem adamant in their need for acceptance, validation or support from whites? The same ones who seem to follow every move that lena dunham makes and keeps asking why they won’t put us in their shows? Why as a black woman do you care so much about what white feminists are up to?

    • Guest1234

      Ok, yall. I’m only going to say this one time. If you don’t receive it, then that’s on you.

      I hear what you guys are saying, but you’re wrong. Black people built this country. It is the most powerful and wealthy country in the history of mankind. THAT’S WHY WE’RE ENTITLED TO A PORTION OF HER VALUE!!!! Culture is soft power – and it’s that kind of power that has led to unprecedented global influence. From jazz, to hip hop, to even the way we speak english, blacks have built American culture. And white people have been benefiting from it to the great exclusion of the people who have been doing the work.

      This isn’t about approval from Lena Dunham. It’s about the fact that she has NOTHING without black influence – and for all of our influence, we better darned well get paid. SO much of what we do has been appropriated and repackaged by white people who make money hand over fist and then turn around and poke a finger in our eye.

      Isolationism isn’t a good policy. If you think it is, ask the people of North Korea how that’s working out for them. We DO have to work with white people because they’re here, they’re the majority and, frankly, they ain’t ALL bad. We just need to consistently stand up for what is right, and for what we’re due for all the work we put into this place both economically and culturally. That’s not weakness. That’s intelligence.

      It reminds me of an episode of Mad Men when Don asks a Jewish business person about her people or heritage. And she replies with something like “I guess it’s because we thrive at doing business with people who hate us.” That was such a great observation, because that’s what all this is about. We HAVE to do business with people we don’t see eye-to-eye with. It would be foolish for us to leave all our value on the table because we’re pissed. That’s the secret to success.

      All the “we should make our own stuff” talk is nice in concept. But it’s not really feasible. Acknowledging that is not asking for validation. It’s just good business.

    • Misty

      Totally annoyed!

    • Janelle

      I see what you are saying, but I don’t think Black women are waiting for validation or support from white women/people. I think it’s more about their definition of feminism. Most Black women don’t want to be included in mainstream (white women feminist movement) feminism — but some Black feminist and in general Black women with no affiliation to Feminism want to ask America and mainstream media as a whole where was the support or care for a 9 year old Black little girl.

      And then not have any voice/action to defend a child or just show some concern for a CHILD. Yes, our petitions and social media comments/activism works – but truth is we don’t have the same mainstream media outreach/pull that some white women have. This could have been the perfect opportunity for anyone non-black to speak out in defense of a child. We as Black women often speak out and support general women’s issues – that have nothing with Black America and it would be nice the same from others. They DON”T have too – as the article stated “we are all we got” – Black women know that – – but don’t claim feminism and not support all women and children issues.

    • Keali

      THIS!!! I’m so over it I don’t know where to begin. Who cares what Lena Dunham does, what white feminist think, if other groups understand every and anything about black women. There are real issues facing black women and worrying about a lack of black female representation on Girls isn’t going to fix it. I guess it’s easier to discuss and fuss about the non- ssues instead of taking a good long hard look at the real issues.

    • Ms. Vee

      AMEN!

    • Anon

      Exactly! My main take from all of that is it is a group of overweight middle-aged and never had a child (or babymama) black women that keep leading that charge.

      They get the main press and platform b/c their livelihoods are reliant on begging.

    • http://gravatar.com/seritatheresa seritatheresa

      Exactly which white and which black feminists are you all talking about?

    • http://www.facebook.com/christelyn Christelyn Russell-Karazin

      Jenn,it’s not about white women “speaking for us,” it’s about building alliances to have a more powerful voice. White feminists understand how the power of additional voices–namely black women–lend to their power. However, many white feminists are pretty apathetic about our issues–there’s no reciprocity. And in my humble opinion, I don’t think it behooves black women to be the only ones “holding it down.” Smart and cunning people know how to build alliances to get things done. Stubborn people who think they don’t need anybody are like lone voices in the wilderness.

    • Tara

      Thank you for articulating what I think so many others did not. The best comment here thus far.

    • Tallulah Belle

      Hey, Jenn. You’re not a black woman. I saw you parking your car this morning and you’re a white dude. Shame on you.

    • http://www.clutchmagonline.com jenn dunn

      u told me u wouldn’t tell anyone. lol

    • Miss Jay

      After all, the white male who wrote those hateful things about this young Black female was raised by a White mother.

  • http://eclecticsoul1975.wordpress.com/ qweent

    You hit the nail right on the head, great article!!

    • Guest1234

      Agreed. I was pretty heated for a bit, but I really liked the way the article ends. We’re all we’ve got. And, you know what? That’s good enough for me.

      Shooot…. Black women have been changing the world with our own black hands since the day God put the first human on planet earth. There’s nothing we can’t do. That’s our gift. It’d be nice if white feminists were good friends to us, but they’re not. And that’s not our problem. Their crappy attitudes and uselessness ain’t gonna stop us from continuing to move mountains. I’ll take the team I’ve got any day of the week! There’s no finer group of people I’d rather stand strong with than black women. Rock on, ladies! I’m feeling empowered today.

    • http://gravatar.com/nolakiss16 binks

      Basically! Hence why I don’t identify with the feminism label as a whole because I’ am not really surprised that some of these women didn’t come to this beautiful young girl defense. Some of these women can’t see the forest from the trees if it is not in THEIR best interest then they don’t care. So I say good riddance, we as black women can build a stronger bond of sisterhood and be there for each other and build ourselves up and defend each other from TPTB and sadly that INCLUDES other women

    • Anon

      You are not a man. Even MEN understand the need for alliances. I don’t want to stand “strong”. I want to be protected… like every other woman of any other race or cultural group in the world. There ARE things I can’t do, and things I don’t WANT to do. Mainly, hold up an entire community. Women move “mountains” on a daily baisis. We raise the future. We set the standards. And in the case of so many immigrants, send money across the world to improve our families situations. Why are BLACK women supposed to do it alone and by ourselves, with NO support?

  • Ash

    This article is exactly why I started reading Clutch and stopped reading Jezebel.com. To be clear, they did write an article about this at some point.

    • EntertainMeh

      Yea, and that article was stating why the “Cunt” word isn’t a bad word….Jezebel.com are the worst kind of racists.

  • Sasha

    To answer the question/ title: NOWHERE which is typical when it comes to “feminists” in defense of WOC. They come out of the woodwork when White women are offended, like that idiot girl from Georgetown that Limbaugh called a slut who wanted us to pay for her birth control at a Catholic university but when there’s actually a cause for consideration such as this, they are no where to be heard. This is one of the many reasons why I will never identify as a feminist.

    • Fantastico

      Quvenzhané and the Law Student both deserve advocacy. Let’s not stoop to their level.

    • http://seritatheresa.wordpress.com seritatheresa

      Thank you for reminding me to take my birth control.

    • Sasha

      The law student does not need advocacy in my opinion, she needs to attend a public or non-Catholic university if she wants to receive birth control.

    • Anon

      B.S!!!! Black women need to stop taking the “high road” and just go and get theirs when it comes to feminists! I don’t agree with 95.5% of MRA crap, but I DO support them in their beliefs that feminists are mainly middle class and above white women who want the titles without the responsibilities.

    • Jen Jen

      Idiot girl? No, Sasha, no.

    • Sasha

      She’s an idiot. Everyone under the sun knows the Church’s stance on birth control. I am Catholic myself and if I was to be employed by a Catholic insitution, I would not demand they pay for my birth control which directly does against their own principles so in my opinion not only is she an idiot but she is also disrespecting the Church.

    • http://seritatheresa.wordpress.com seritatheresa

      I Catholic Universities shouldn’t include contraception in covered meds (that the women pay for – not the church) then my tax dollars shouldn’t fund Catholic institutions.

    • eshowoman

      @Sasha the Church doesn’t need Fluke to come along and disrespect them they did that all by themselves.

    • http://seritatheresa.wordpress.com seritatheresa

      She didn’t want the university to pay for her birth control she wanted her premiums to cover her birth control the same way the insurance premiums cover Viagra for men at the same University. That’s different from wanting a handout.

  • Annoyed.

    You don’t even know what feminism is. The next article should be “Why Does Clutch Think Its Ok to OVERGENERALIZE?” Don’t say ‘many’, say ‘some’. And feminism is far more than race or gender. But if you knew anything about it, you would understand that.

    • Guest1234

      I think you’re mistaken. Feminism is SUPPOSED to be far more than race or gender. But the white ladies who have the loudest bullhorn don’t much include women of other races or genders, for that matter. I’ve always thought the feminist discourse to be deeply unfair to men. But, back to the race issue. BLACK feminists aren’t the divisive ones. We’re just acknowledging that the WHITE feminists don’t include us. If you have a problem with the divisiveness of feminism today, that’s good. But you’re complaining to the wrong party.

    • Jen Jen

      Chillyroad, are you kidding me? You sound like the female version of Uncle Ruckus right now.

      First wave feminism was centered on gender equality, particularly the suffragette movement that gave women the right to vote. Guess what most black women were dealing with at that time? Jim Crow. Poll taxes. We were not made a part of this movement. When we were, we were actually told to march at back of the protest lines. Seriously! Look it up!

      Second wave feminism was about–among other things— the right to work outside of the home. Guess what? Black women were already doing that! In fact, they were working in many of the homes where white women were bemoaning their inability to work.

      But, we inserted ourselves into this movement (sometimes to the chagrin of our brethren in the civil right movement). Coretta Scott was making women’s right a part of the black civil rights conversation, Chicanas formed their own organizations. There are numerous other examples of women of color trailblazing at a time where our race and our gender sometimes made us seemingly partial members to their respective struggles.

      So, please save this “riding coattails” nonsense. You do a disservice to my mother and grandmother who worked in these movements for the sake of me, you, and every other woman color today. Go somewhere and sit down!

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