After last week’s election there have been many calls for white women to check themselves and stop voting to uphold the patriarchal monsters strangling democracy. This not long after Republican women, except for Lisa Murkowski who lost her job as a result, voted to confirm Kavanaugh. I assure you roughly half the white women in America are in a rage at the other half, who are gleefully voting away the rights of all women.
I touched on the subject of duplicitous, self-oppressing white women shortly after the 2016 election. Since we haven’t solved sexism in the interim, I was expecting them to shit the bed again, and they did. Before I get into it, I want to make it very clear where I stand on the subject of white women:
I am a white woman who is more afraid of what white women might do to me in the long run than what any man might. Men have transgressed against my body, intelligence, and voice in myriad ways, but women – primarily the conforming white ones – have transgressed against my very identity, safety, and trust in profound ways I am still only discovering. Men are brutal, but simple to understand; women are brilliantly cruel on a social, conversational, psychological, and emotional level.
It is devastating.
The punishment for being a woman who does not conform to gender expectations, the prevailing socio-political norms, or even fashion, is still the equivalent of death, even if we’ve done away with the Malleus Mallificarum and burning at the stake. Women who betray the patriarchy, especially if they are white, are facing isolation, public character assassination, and pulling of protective support. Powerful white men, unfortunately, find women of color easier to see as ineffective and dismissible. But when a white woman uses her voice to challenge authority, she is seen as being a bigger threat. She might get the other white women on board, after all.
New York Times columnist Alexis Grenell writes, “Betray the patriarchy, and your whiteness won’t save you.” In other words, our much-cited proximal power is instantly stripped from us and we are left without community or protection, resources or reputation. We are no longer white ladies. We are “sluts” “feminists” “witches” “accusers” “problems” and “race traitors.”
Ask Kathy Griffin – she poked the eye of the Establishment through a single image and was treated by the scariest sectors of government as a potential treasonous criminal. Most tellingly, supposed male allies threw her under the bus – her fellow comedians and Anderson Cooper to boot. Ask Amanda Knox. She was the roommate of a raped and murdered girl in Italy and lost so much, almost her own life, in the modern-day witch burning that her literal trials turned out to be. Because she didn’t behave “normally” shortly after finding out about the fate of her roommate.
As a white woman my behavior is strictly proscribed regardless of the lip service we give to the false idea that a woman can be however she wants to be in our “enlightened” times. As an opinionated, weird-ass non-binary female I can promise you this is utter bullshit. If you are off by one iota in how you communicate, behave, dress, move, think and address authority, you are tossed into the darkness.
Ask any trans woman, trans man, or autistic person how bad the consequences can be.
It’s so dangerous to be a woman in America that we still don’t give our level of misogynist violence the crisis coverage it deserves. Even in progressive discourse. The problem is so vast we have trouble seeing it all at once and instead separate it into different issues: domestic violence, work harassment, sexual assault (campus, military, domestic), serial murder, the murders of Black trans women, most white terrorism, and reproductive restrictions are all predicated on hatred for women.
As a “community” women are also at a particular disadvantage for cohesion. Women are distributed throughout the population differently. We are likely paired off, or desire to be, with an individual member of the group which oppresses us. White women are psychologically atomized, socialized from birth to be oppressed and oppressing, and threatened with violence or exile, in one way or another, every day. Especially within our communities and relationships.
It’s an extreme thing to ask a person who, without the approval of white men, has no leg to stand on and risks extreme social isolation and violence, to break rank. It has been difficult for the brave women I know who have already done so. We need to see how power is distributed overall in our culture – because race, gender, identity, and class work together in complicated ways to influence our elections.
It’s no good to berate enabling conservative white women in think pieces that they will never read. It’s no good to berate the white women who are already putting themselves on the line in this fight more than you know. Besides, there is little productive discourse between these two types of women.
No. Instead, if we want certain white women to stop propping up toxic white masculinity, everyone should do whatever possible to make the consequences less dire. We need to have better safety nets for helping women who lack to the resources to “go solo” for a while if need be should they become estranged from the Establishment, conservative families, or the men in their lives. Perhaps some gun control protections. Perhaps better wages for women. Paid maternal and domestic violence leave. Police oversight. Better housing and childcare. More enlightened education. More opportunities.
The missing rights that most American women are kept unaware they don’t have.
I can’t possibly be as vocal or as blunt as I want – it is a constant struggle to determine just how much hot water I might get myself into depending on what I say to whom and how. Being incorrectly female, incorrectly white, and disabled, I have to walk the fine line between liberation and exile in my every thought, word, and deed.
Just as every woman, even the white ones, must do in this America.