Let’s learn to listen

Women, despite their awesomeness, can often be told to shut up when they say something people don’t agree with. Although male bloggers and writers can be told the same thing, the way they are dismissed is not the same as women often are. It would be wonderful to say that a hundred per cent of society believes men and women have equal rights to speak their mind, without it warranting rape threats and sexist dismissals. Unfortunately that’s what is happening right now.

If we look a little bit closer at this issue there is an easy pattern we can identify as well: most mainstream women writers are white and when women of colour are asked to write, it is mostly about their race. This isn’t a bad thing – of course we need this kind of perspective and writing – but I think women of colour have opinions on other issues as well.

I admire many Women Who Write. They aren’t perfect though, so they are not free of being criticized for their writing, but when this criticism is born out of gender-based or race-based hatred, it makes me disappointed in the world we live in.

Last week I discussed society’s expectations of women to look a certain way. And after mulling it over, I am becoming increasingly convinced that feminist writers or maybe just female writers in general are expected to be white.

I have also been following many women of colour who are very opinionated, and who I mostly agree with. I want to be an ally, but I have taken a few months to write about this because I am scared I will get something wrong and offend. Maybe this is why some white feminists are a bit hesitant of discussing problems and issues that women of colour keep close to their hearts.

Last night the discussion on twitter turned to Miley Cyrus’s appropriation of black culture to make money. Many white feminists think that criticism of Miley is ‘bullying’, ‘bashing’ and ‘slut-shaming’, since she is simply ‘expressing her sexuality.

Let’s make one thing clear: Miley can express her sexuality. It is unacceptable, however, that she does this by using and abusing a culture that is not hers and depicting such culture in a pejorative way. She’s trying to earn street cred by using the stereotype that women of colour are overtly sexual, more sexual than white women.

Even if women of colour were wrong in criticising Miley, the allegation that she is being ‘bullied’ and ‘bashed’ really confuses me. Miley is a white, rich woman who has so far done whatever she wants on stage and off it. She’s been allowed to use black women as props, nobody stopped her. How exactly is this privileged, rich, white pop star being bullied? Surely the only bullying going on here is by Miley, of women of colour. She is the oppressor.

Another thing that seems to occur a lot around women of colour feminists is the accusation that they live in a ‘bubble’. Well, maybe they do, but how is that a bad thing? Don’t women, in general, need safe spaces to discuss women issues? Don’t all women hold the right to exclude men from their own discussions when they feel they won’t understand?

This is the same thing. From what I gather women of colour have their own problems and their dynamics are different from white women. It just seems like white feminists are getting annoyed they’re being excluded, but let’s be honest here: why would they want to hear what we have to say about their problems?

However there are still issues white feminists should discuss with women of colour. Not to intrude, be aggressive and force solutions, but to understand how it could be solved, how they want it to be solved.

It seems that, much like men, white feminists are more keen on talking and not listening.

Here are the cool women of colour I’ve been following on twitter and who taught me a lot:

BlackAmazon
Mikki Kendall
Jemilah Lemieux
Trillma Dinkley
Awesome Luvvie

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4 thoughts on “Let’s learn to listen”

  1. Honest question here, outside of the main point of the article which I agree with 100%: I’m always a bit confused about the expression “women of colour”, since I tend to think of Woc as being women who don’t benefit from white privilege. Since I am mixed race, I would say I am “of colour”, yet all your examples of Woc are black. I don’t consider myself white, although I’m half, but I also wouldn’t pretend to have been subjected to the same type of prejudice as a black woman. Have I been wrong to identify as a Woc?

    1. I don’t think so. Although that’s a very good question, but I think it doesn’t really depend on what ‘society’ thinks you are but what you identify as, if you know what I mean. Since I am from Brazil I identify as white, but when I am in Europe or the US I guess it could be said I’m Latina, since I’m a lot browner than people there. I feel like as long as you realize your privilege it’s ok to identify as whatever? Maybe?

      But the reason I only concentrated on black women is that I’ve been following these BW on twitter so I’ve been trying to understand how their dynamics are, and i didn’t really look into other races/ethnicities. Maybe I should have!

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