An Apology From a Former White Feminist
Posted by Caitlyn Martin
November 4, 2015
Generally speaking, if someone looks back at the things they said and did three years ago, they will at the very least cringe, if not want to go back and berate their former self, or potentially erase entire phases of their life. (Looking at you, blue-haired Caitlyn.) It’s understandable. We’re constantly changing and growing and, most importantly, learning. And you can learn a lot in three years.
Three years ago, I was a White Feminist.
To say that this makes me cringe is an enormous understatement.
A White Feminist is not just any feminist who is white; white people can be feminists without being White Feminists. According to Everyday Feminism, White Feminism is “feminism that ignores intersectionality.” This is a problem because it narrows the focus of feminism to one group—white, cisgender, generally middle-to-upper-middle class women, the least marginalized group that feminism targets.
Three years ago, if you had asked me what feminism meant, I would have said, “Wanting equality of the sexes.”
That doesn’t take into account that there is a difference between sex and gender, or non-binary folks, or the struggle of transwomen, or the lives of anybody other than cisgender females.
Three years ago, I didn’t consider the reality that feminism has to help everyone in different ways—class, race, and sexuality, among other factors, determine what you need from feminism. And different people are discriminated against differently.
Three years ago, if you had told me that wearing a sugar skull dress on Dia de Los Muertos (Yes, I actually did that…), no matter how cute it was, was cultural appropriation, I would have argued. But first, you would’ve had to explain to me what cultural appropriation is, because I didn’t know. And then I would’ve told you that I wasn’t appropriating it, I was appreciating it. You know, because cultural appreciation obviously involves wearing symbols associated with a culture without actually being educated on that culture.
Three years ago, I thought that being a feminist basically meant being pro-choice and wanting equal pay.
Three years ago, I had a lot to learn.
And I’ve learned a lot in the past few years. I know better than to demand “equality of the sexes.” I understand intersectionality and that everyone has their own needs based on their intersections. I flinch at anything mildly culturally appropriative. It’s still a learning process, and it always will be, but I am actively trying.
So I am here right now to say that I am sorry. To everyone who is ever, has ever been, and will ever be slighted by the impact of White Feminism, I am so, so sorry. I’m sorry that I used to be part of that movement. I’m sorry that I never considered your individual stories. I’m sorry that I appropriated other cultures and proclaimed myself “color blind” as a response to racism. I’m sorry that the issues facing queer and transwomen never crossed my mind.
I am sorry that I couldn’t see anything beyond my own problems.
I am going to continue to learn and grow and do better, and I urge any of my fellow former White Feminists to do the same.