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What Is White Feminism & Are You Practicing It Without Knowing?

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Though it's only February, 2017 has already proven to be an interesting year for women. In January, the Women's March brought millions to the streets to advocate for women's rights. In February, the #NeverthelessShePersisted hashtag stormed social media. In spite of these moves of solidarity, though, not all persons are thrilled with the state of modern feminism. In fact, you've likely seen the term white feminism used more than ever lately. So what is white feminism, and how can you work toward a more inclusive form of the movement?

Before diving into what white feminism means in the modern world, it's helpful to take a glance back at feminist history. As noted by RacismReview, many founders of the American feminist movement had some questionable, if not outright racist, views of people who weren't white. Basically, even the famed suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton expressed opinions that white women were more deserving of the right to vote than black men, as further noted by RacismReview. Although there were women of color suffragettes (see for example the story of Maria W. Stewart: America's First Black Woman Political Writer), the general movement catered to the needs of relatively well-off white women.

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Although recent years have seen an increase in the visibility of feminist WOC, as well as the general idea of intersectionality, plenty of people would argue that modern feminism still caters to that same section of the population: middle-class white women. By ignoring the issues of race, class, and even religion that don't typically affect them, many white feminists may strike POC as out-of-touch at best, and willingly blind to major issues at worst. White feminism is a reference to this short-sighted view of feminism that still arbitrarily favors some (white) women over others. To paraphrase Everyday Feminism's brilliant summation of the problem, "white feminists respond to anti-racism like men respond to feminism."

Granted, the problems of feminism, class, race, and intersectionality cannot be wrapped up neatly in a couple hundred words. However, there are some real-life things you can do to move toward greater awareness. As Samantha Darby brilliantly explained, you can be a white feminist without promoting white feminism, but this involves the task of recognizing and addressing your own privilege. After all, it's the attitudes — not the individuals — that make white feminism problematic. If you want to move past white feminism into a more inclusive framework, then facing uncomfortable truths is part of the deal.