(Editorial note: I am mentioning Hugo Schwyzer in this post in order to give readers a background about the current events. I refuse to link out to any interviews with him because I do not want to give him any more of a platform than I am right now)
There are is an important and necessary conversation happening in the feminist community right now. For readers who aren’t aware of #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen or its context, I will briefly summarize.
There is a man named Hugo Schwyzer. He was a women’s studies professor at Pasadena City College . He calls himself a feminist but has built his career on dismissing women of color and defending white feminism. These wrongdoings are further complicated by the fact that he is mentally ill and has a history of violence and sexual abuse. I am not saying that his mental illness is any reason or excuse for his actions, but it has created a situation in which his narcissism and egomaniacal qualities have prompted him to maintain an online presence that is both offensive and triggering. His need for attention is causing serious distress and harm to others and that is just not okay.
Mikki Kendall (@Karynthia), the creator of #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen, had previously been a target of Hugo’s, along with Sydette Harry (@BlackAmazon). Mikki launched the hashtag as a response to dismissiveness from white feminists who she was holding accountable for giving Hugo a platform, who she felt had previously maintained a publishing relationship with him at the expense of women of color and allyship. Mikki states in her recent piece at The Guardian:
“It appeared that these feminists were, once again, dismissing women of color (WOC) in favor of a brand of solidarity that centers on the safety and comfort of white women. For it to be at the expense of people who were doing the same work was exceptionally aggravating.”
Shanelle Matthews wrote a great piece about #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen for The Friskyyesterday and says the hashtag “called out the many reasons it is important for white women to stand in solidarity with women of color.”
The feminist movement, and its community, has a race problem.
I want to thank Mikki Kendall (@Karynthia) and Sydette Harry (@BlackAmazon) for igniting a very necessary conversation about what needs to happen in the feminist movement. A movement whose foundation is to promote equality CANNOT exclude women and voices of color. It CANNOT exclude trans women. This movement is not exclusive to white women and no matter how uncomfortable this conversation is for some people- tough shit. It’s a conversation that we must have and I hope that something fruitful comes out of it. We MUST be intersectional.
In the interest of full disclosure, it is an uncomfortable conversation for me to have. My whiteness gives me privilege and I will never have the experience of being a woman of color. I believe my role in this conversation is not to pretend that I can somehow understand, but to sit, listen and learn about how to be a good ally, show solidarity and ensure that moving forward, women of color are not excluded from feminism.
But- this is not about ME, or the feelings of other white feminists.
This is about making room for everyone at the table. So let’s start doing that.