I’m incredibly sheltered, being a sociology student; either racism just doesn’t happen or it is criticised and talked through to understand it. Race becomes politicised, so that it just isn’t an issue between students. In fact I’m a minority among the sociology department; there are far fewer white people than there are POC. Maybe we avoid a lot of racist gits because they all went to LSE, I can’t make those sorts of assumptions though.
A couple months ago I went home to my high school friends. This is a very diverse group, some more educated in social issues than others, but on the most part they’re all your average politics avoiding college students.
I was at dinner with a large group of friends one night and was relaying a story to a couple friends about something annoying my close friend Lauren*, who is from Southeast Asia, did a few days earlier. One of the women, Kate*, seemed really empathetic. Until she said, ‘Asians are so annoying, I hate them’.
I went from laughing about something else to feeling very uncomfortable. Kate obviously noticed. ‘I’m not racist though!’, and she began to try to explain away her racist comment.
I mean what do you even do when you don’t want to rock the boat too much but at the same time you feel the immense need to call bullshit? I tried not to make a huge deal about it but Kate seemed to know what I was thinking, considering she kept trying to justify herself for quite a few minute. This was so early into the night that I didn’t want to make it too awkward but at the same time she made me feel uncomfortable.
This is very similar to other experiences I’ve had when going back home. I have ‘friends’ who I found out started calling one of our black friends ‘Cotton Gin’. It’s dismissed as banter and our friend outwardly doesn’t seem to care, though he just might, and that is what especially bothers me. To be honest I haven’t transitioned well from non-political to political.
How does one balance friendship and calling out bullshit?
* Names changed
- Maximum Racist Aggression (cynicalafrikan.wordpress.com)
Most of us feminists have seen the quotes, or paragraphs. Many of us may have used it on friends, family, maybe on our blogs. It’s stuff like this:
If you believe in, support, look fondly on, hope for, and/or work towards equality of the sexes, you are a feminist. Period.
Now, I am a feminist. But I can understand why some people would not define themselves as one. There are, of course, the nobs who don’t believe in men and women being equal, and those who just simply aren’t educated enough on what feminism actually is. There are other types also which need to be educated and really wittled down to come to a feminist friendly perspective.
However, these are not the ones I’m speaking of. These are the ones who have real reasons not to identify as a feminist.
Some of the early feminists were incredibly prejudiced. The first wave of feminism consisted of middle class white women, some who believed that they needed the right to vote in order to out-vote Black people. They were cissexist, ableist, and racist, among other horrible ‘ist’s. Margaret Sanger, champion of birth control, favoured eugenics, fighting for forced sterilisation of those who she deemed were ‘unfit’ (i.e. those with disabilities) to reproduce. Even just recently there was a situation where, on an event page from London Feminist Network, some self-proclaimed feminists were claiming that transwomen could not be feminists, were not ‘real women’ and are part of the problem. WOC still have to fight in order to get their ‘specialty’ concerns heard.
These are huge problems which must be addressed. They are valid reasons to reject a feminist identity in favour of a more inclusive one. Many feminists (I’d like to think I’m included in this) do try to fight against the prejudices in feminism, and those feminists should be supported. Until prejudice in feminism is eradicated, however, the movement will always have conscientious objectors. And I sympathise with them.