White Feminist Fatigue Syndrome

A reply to Nancy Fraser

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In her re­cent piece in Comment is Free, “How fem­inism be­came capitalism’s hand­maiden — and how to re­claim it” Nancy Fraser draws on her own work in polit­ical theory to argue that fem­inism at best has been co-​opted by neo­lib­er­alism and at worst has been a cap­it­alist ven­ture of the neo-​liberal pro­ject. What ap­pears at first glance to be a reasoned self-​reflection, one that takes stock and re­spons­ib­ility for past al­li­ances and cel­eb­ra­tions of stra­tegic moves for the bet­ter­ment of women’s lives, at second glance re­veals the in­nate and re­pet­itive my­opia of White fem­inism to take ac­count, to con­verse and think along with Black and Third World Feminists.

Writing from the early 1970s on­wards, these scholars and act­iv­ists have sys­tem­at­ic­ally en­gaged a fem­inist cri­tique of not only state cap­it­alism, but of a glob­al­ised cap­it­alism rooted in co­lo­nial legacies. These fem­in­isms have not pri­or­it­ised “cul­tural sexism” over eco­nomic re­dis­tri­bu­tion. The lit­er­ature is vast, the ex­amples myriad, and thus, it’s all the more tiring when White fem­in­ists speak of second-​wave fem­inism as if it were the only “fem­inism” and use the pro­noun “we” when lamenting the fail­ures of their struggles. Let us just say there is no such thing as a “fem­inism” as the sub­ject of any sen­tence that des­ig­nates the sole po­s­i­tion for the critic of pat­ri­archy. For such po­s­i­tion has been frac­tured ever since Sojourner Truth said “Ain’t I a woman too?” There is though a fem­inist subject-​position, the one Fraser is lamenting, which has sat very com­fort­ably in the seat of the self-​determined, eman­cip­ated sub­ject. That po­s­i­tion, of course, is that which she iden­ti­fies as a con­trib­utor to neo­lib­er­alism. But that is no sur­prise, for both her fem­inism and neo­lib­er­alism share the same lib­eral core that Black and Third World fem­in­ists have iden­ti­fied and ex­posed since very early in the tra­jectory of feminisms.

The work of A.Y. Davis, Audre Lorde, Himani Bannerji, Avtar Brah, Selma James, Maria Mies, Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Silvia Federici, Dorothy Roberts and scores of others, have shattered the lim­ited and ex­clu­sionary nature of the con­cep­tual frame­works de­veloped by White fem­in­ists in the English speaking world. These scholars and act­iv­ists have cre­ated frame­works of ana­lysis that sim­ul­tan­eously sur­mount a chal­lenge to and provide a dra­matic cor­rective to both Black Marxist and anti-​colonial theory that failed fun­da­ment­ally to the­orise gender and sexu­ality, and Marxist and so­cialist fem­inist thought that con­tinues to fail, in many ways, to ac­count for race, his­tories of col­on­isa­tion, and the struc­tural in­equities between the so-​called de­veloped and de­vel­oping na­tion states. And yes, Mies, Federici, and James are white, but Black and Third World Marxist fem­in­isms as­pire to polit­ical solid­arity across the colour line.

The scholars we speak of have con­sist­ently de­veloped cri­tiques of cap­it­alist forms of prop­erty, ex­change, paid and un­paid la­bour, along with cul­tur­ally em­bedded and struc­tural forms of pat­ri­archal vi­ol­ence. Let’s take the ex­ample of rape and vi­ol­ence against women. In the path-​breaking Women Race and Class, A.Y. Davis ar­gued force­fully that many of the most con­tem­porary and pressing polit­ical struggles fa­cing black women are rooted in the par­tic­ular types of op­pres­sion suffered under slavery. Rape and sexual vi­ol­ence are faced by women of all classes, races and sexu­al­ities, as Davis noted, but have a dif­ferent valence for black men and women. The myth of the black rapist and of the vi­olent hy­per­sexual black male caused scores of lynch­ings during the ante­bellum era in America. This per­sistent ra­cist myth provides ex­plan­atory value for the con­tem­porary overrep­res­ent­a­tion of black men in prisons con­victed of rape, and led to the re­luct­ance on the part of African-​American women to be­come in­volved in early fem­inist act­ivism against rape that was fo­cused on law en­force­ment and the ju­di­cial system (Davis, 1984). The ex­pro­pri­ation of black la­bour rooted in the lo­gics of slavery re­peats it­self in the ex­pro­pri­ation of con­vict la­bour in the post-​slavery era, and today, in the un­free la­bour en­demic in the prison in­dus­trial com­plex. (Davis, 2005)

Sexual vi­ol­ence is thus un­der­stood as some­thing de­riving from slavery and col­on­isa­tion, af­fecting both women and men. This his­tory of black women’s bodies as com­modity ob­jects to be used, vi­ol­ated at the pleasure of white men re­mains as a psychic, so­cial, ra­cial trace in con­tem­porary American so­ciety. With re­spect to Native American and First Nations women, co­lo­nial era ste­reo­types of the “squaw” con­tinue in con­tem­porary ra­cial­ised ima­gin­aries, ren­dering Indigenous women vul­ner­able to forms of sexual vi­ol­ence that are always-​already ra­cial and re­call pat­terns of vi­ol­ence that emerged through the dis­pos­ses­sion of their lands, lan­guages, re­sources and yes, cul­tural prac­tices. (See P. Monture-​Angus, Kim Anderson, Sherene Razack)

Recent sug­ges­tions that fem­in­ists should turn their gaze to­wards un­paid work, the work of care, was ana­lysed by Patricia Hill Collins in Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Power and Consciousness. She em­phas­ises that for African-​American women, work in the home that con­trib­utes to their fam­ilies’ well-​being can be un­der­stood by them as a form of res­ist­ance to the so­cial and eco­nomic forces that col­lude to damage African-​American chil­dren and fam­ilies. Black fem­in­ists have also led the wages for house­work cam­paign, chal­len­ging bour­geois norms of the family eco­nomy. Following A.Y. Davis, we note that White fem­in­ists need to re­cog­nise when they en­gage polit­ical strategies that Black and Third World fem­in­ists have already been the­or­ising and prac­tising for a long time.

Ending op­pres­sion, vi­ol­ence against women, vi­ol­ence against men, par­tic­u­larly of the neo-​liberal variety, means em­bra­cing the his­tor­ical, ma­ter­i­alist, anti-​racist thought of Black and Third World Marxist fem­in­ists. Are the White fem­in­ists who per­sist in throwing in the word “race” or “ra­cism” in their oth­er­wise left-​liberal ap­proaches to fem­inism will­fully blind/​deaf? Are they un­able to cede the floor to Black fem­inism be­cause it would mean the loss of a cer­tain ra­cial priv­ilege? The per­sistent claim to uni­ver­salism, which is the core of this White fem­inism, renders the ex­per­i­ences, thoughts and work of Black and Third World fem­in­ists in­vis­ible, over and over again. Time’s up!

Brenna Bhandar, Senior Lecturer, SOAS School of Law.
Denise Ferreira da Silva, Professor, Queen Mary School of Business and Management.

  36 comments for “White Feminist Fatigue Syndrome

  1. 21 October 2013 at 7:54 am

    I hope no one will sus­pect me either of in­sti­tu­tional bias (for Denise) or in­sti­tu­tional nos­talgia (for Brenna) if I re­gister my con­grat­u­la­tions on a co­gently, power­fully written piece. This is the most thought-​provoking reply to Fraser I’ve read so far.

  2. nilmini
    21 October 2013 at 10:27 am

    Brilliant re­sponse, thank you. I have ac­tu­ally woven Fraser’s ana­lyses with Black and Postcolonial thought, but the point needs to be made ex­plict that her art­icle “dis­ap­pears” the polit­ical and in­tel­lec­tual la­bour of fem­inist of colour . A point also made re­garding in­ter­sec­tional theory by Nikol G. Alexander-​Floyd, which has also been co-​opted and en­acted by White fem­inism which al­lows race to be dis­ap­peared. (in Disappearing Acts: Reclaiming Intersectionality in the Social Sciences in a Post-​Black Feminist Era. ) When WF ask what can they do to “help” Black.migrant women, I say, MOVE OVER. That’s all. Indeed, I have long sus­pected that the great in­terest in Arab, African, Asian, Indigenous fem­in­isms and calls by WF for “transna­tional fem­in­isms” is more of be­nefit to WF than to the women act­iv­ists in situ, who are dealing with the is­sues. So many con­fer­ences and trips and re­search projects…and “ex­pert groups”. As Arundathi Roy said, There’s a lot of money in poverty”.

  3. Eugene Egan
    21 October 2013 at 12:54 pm

    Western fem­in­ists have been working hand in glove with the so=called ‘war on terror’ and have there­fore be­come part of the im­per­i­alist game-​plan.

  4. Ange-Marie
    21 October 2013 at 5:28 pm

    I ap­pre­ciate this re­sponse and would like to direct you to the Politics of Intersectionality book series, where we have taken this topic on dir­ectly with five dif­ferent books on a wide/​global variety of act­ivist topics. Books are more re­cent than PHC, as won­derful as her work is: 2011, 2012, & 2013…we are also ac­cepting ma­nu­scripts if you have one in this vein. Here’s the link: http://​us​.mac​millan​.com/​s​e​r​i​e​s​/​T​h​e​P​o​l​i​t​i​c​s​o​f​I​n​t​e​r​s​e​c​t​i​o​n​a​l​ity
    I co-​edit this series with Nira Yuval-​Davis, UEL

    • nilmini
      21 October 2013 at 11:14 pm

      Thanks Ange-​Marie, for that series. Has it been re­cently re­leased? It doesn’t al­ways come up on Google searches (in­cluding scholar). I would have thought they would be there, along with Nura Yuval Davis, Crenshaw, Lykke.

  5. 22 October 2013 at 1:45 am

    It’s a minor point, really, but when is the whole Cold War ideo­logy of the “Third World” going to end? While it may have once de­scribed a so­ci­opol­it­ical reality, that con­text has all but van­ished with the breakup of (the coun­ter­re­volu­tion in) the Soviet Union in 1991. Politics often seems to me a dead lan­guage.

    Fraser’s art­icle in The Guardian was okay, though the ending was some­thing of a let­down. I have no idea what “constrain[ing] cap­ital for the sake of justice” has to do with Marxism, which I’ve al­ways un­der­stood to ad­vocate the su­per­ses­sion of cap­ital for the sake of freedom. Still, the lame­ness of her eco­nomic re­dis­tributism aside, the ob­jec­tions listed here seem to miss the mark. How is the “stand­point” ad­vanced in this cri­tique any dif­ferent from a re­hashed ver­sion of stand­point epistemology?

  6. Chris
    22 October 2013 at 10:43 pm

    “White fem­in­ism”

    Now that’s an ad hom­inem. You can’t do that, it’s a lo­gical fal­lacy. By all means dis­agree with what she says, but you can’t bring who she is into the de­bate or you lose automatically.

  7. Jessica
    23 October 2013 at 8:26 am

    Nancy Fraser ar­gues either that neo­lib­er­alism has tricked us, or we’ve tricked ourselves, into the grinding gears of the cap­it­alist ma­chinery; whe provides good reas­oning and a veri­fi­able cri­tique of ob­serv­able reality… and your only an­swer is “check your priv­ilege, white feminists”?

    You be­lieve yourselves more in the right and mor­ally su­perior to white fem­in­ists simply be­cause of your race, which I guess makes you ra­cists. The irony.

    • Denise
      24 October 2013 at 2:50 am

      Jessica,

      Given that we em­ploy White Feminisms and Black/​Third World Feminisms to des­ig­nate racial-​political po­s­i­tions (not iden­tities, as you seem to have read it), it seems that you missed the point of our reply to Fraser. Here is is again:
      1 — The White fem­inist po­s­i­tion she writes from (and call fem­inist) could not have been tricked by neo­lib­er­alism be­cause it is no dif­ferent on­to­lo­gic­ally. That their pro­grammes and pro­jects were ap­pro­pri­ated is due to the fact that they were ‘ap­pro­priate’ to a lib­eral pro­gramme.
      2 — The call to them was not ‘check your priv­ilege’ but wake up and smell your fun­da­ment­ally lib­eral ‘coffee’!
      3 — We also say that the fem­inist pre­dic­a­ment she de­scribes — which is of a cer­tain fem­inism — it is only that of a cer­tain fem­inism which has re­fused to re­think it­self even after over 100 years of state­ments, ana­lyses, etc that show how lim­ited its un­der­standing of the con­struc­tion of pat­ri­archy it is.
      4 — What we say then is not that Black/​Third World fem­in­isms are better but that they have ad­vanced (con­tinu­ally ig­nored) cri­tiques of cap­it­alism which, be­cause of how (and that we didn’t say ex­pli­citly but is im­plied) ra­cial and co­lo­nial sub­jug­a­tion, de­marcate a polit­ical (as well as on­toep­istem­o­lo­gical) po­s­i­tion that sig­nals the limits of any eman­cip­atory (ra­cial, gender-​sexual, etc) pro­ject that is not a rad­ical cri­tique of liberalism.

  8. apwld
    23 October 2013 at 9:45 am

    When Nancy Fraser’s art­icle was re­leased we shared this with our mem­bers and so­cial media with the com­ment that, while making a crit­ical point, she had ig­nored the many fem­inist move­ments that chal­lenge neo-​liberalism. This art­icle sim­il­arly ig­nores fem­inist move­ments and fo­cuses only on aca­demic cri­tique. It would be great if fem­in­ists who have the power of in­ter­na­tional media and voice would ac­know­ledge the work of local move­ments who are genu­inely strug­gling to break and ex­pose the malevol­ence of neo-​liberalism. Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD).

  9. Brenna Bhandar
    23 October 2013 at 9:23 pm

    First, thanks for all of the pos­itive com­ments on the post. Thanks Ange-​Marie for drawing everyone’s at­ten­tion to the Politics of Intersectionality Books Series — Nira Yuval-​Davis’ work of course being es­sen­tial reading for those in­ter­ested in Black and Third World Feminisms.

    Chris/​Jessica/​Rolfe: The terms Black and Third World are used to de­note par­tic­ular polit­ical po­s­i­tions, not race or ra­cial iden­tity. Just as the term White fem­inist is used to de­scribe the polit­ical po­s­i­tion that we are cri­tiquing in this piece. Third World fem­inism is a par­tic­ular body of schol­ar­ship, and the term is not used to de­scribe par­tic­ular geo-​political form­a­tions; if this is still not clear I en­courage you to read Talpade Mohanty or Mies on this point. While stand­point epi­stem­o­logy does in­form some of the ana­lyt­ical frame­works de­veloped by Black and Third World Marxist fem­in­ists, their the­ories are not based solely on their ‘ex­per­i­ences’ as women of colour. Thus women who are ra­cial­ised as ‘white’ sub­scribe to and have been key fig­ures within these fem­in­isms. This is im­portant to grasp. If you still are having dif­fi­culty with this concept, please do pick up and read any of the au­thors we refer to.

    APWLD: Most of the women we refer to in the blog piece are life-​long act­iv­ists as well as aca­demics. And the wages for house­work cam­paign that we refer to, if you click on the hy­per­link you will see, is a fine ex­ample of local fem­inist or­gan­ising for con­crete polit­ical demands.

    • ka
      25 October 2013 at 10:38 am

      Is this only on smart­phone or might it be that the format­ting of this Site/​the copied nature made blanks in the text? Its hard to read be­cause for me its like this:
      ” so­ciety. With re­spect to Nat ive Amer ican and First Nations women, colo nial era ste re­o­types of the “squaw” con tinue in con­tem­porary ra­cial ised ima gin­aries, ren de­ring Indi genous women vul­ner­able to forms of sexual viol ence that are always-​already ra­cial and re­call pat­terns of vi­ol­ence that emerged through the dis pos­ses­sion of their lands, lan guages, re­sources and yes, cul tural […]”

      Yo u s ee all the _​_​in th e Te xt? Thi s makes it ver y hard to read.
      Is this only on Smartphone?
      It seems that the text was copy-​pasted out of a word or open office-​document and all the _ were transfered.
      For ppl like me with adhd ist hard to read-​reading good but com­plic­ated stuff is hard enough but all the _​_​makes it even harder.

      If its the fault of my smart­phone i ask for sorry( also eng­lish is not my native language)

      • Admin
        25 October 2013 at 11:12 am

        Sorry to hear you’re having prob­lems with the format­ting. The problem may be to do with your smart­phone. We have tested the site on a newish Android smart­phone and on iOS and it looks fine to us.

  10. Samia Bano
    24 October 2013 at 9:21 pm

    This is an in­tel­li­gent, in­sightful and thoughtful re­sponse to Frasers work. Many fem­inist scholars and act­iv­ists in­cluding Avtah Brah, Nira Yuva-​Davis and Floya Anthias (amongst many others)have raised these points for many years. For those in­volved in anti ra­cist and post co­lo­nial fem­inist struggles a cri­tique of the western lib­eral pro­ject must in­clude a rad­ical cri­tique of lib­er­alism (as Denise says) and one that goes beyond iden­tity politics and a crude ana­lyses of in­ter­sec­tion­ality. An im­portant intervention.

  11. Sarah
    25 October 2013 at 2:31 am

    This fight between “black and white fem­in­ists” stinks of fight over priv­ileges and aca­demic credits, rather than being mo­tiv­ated by a genuine con­cern for the dis­priv­il­iged, be it black, yellow, fe­male, in­tersex, old, dis­abled. As I see it, this re­sponse is written in a com­pet­itive spirit and so it is more in line with neo-​liberal logic that it tries to cri­tique by throwing in the such words as “Marxist”, “third world” “anti-​racist”. A little bit of self-​reflexivity would be spot on:
    Yes, prom­inent white fem­inist aca­demics are priv­ileged, they sit com­fort­ably in their chairs, but so do all men­tioned prom­inent black aca­demic; and yes, white fem­in­ists might pro­duce im­per­fect but still in­cred­ibly in­sightful the­ories, and so do black fem­in­ists. And yes prom­inent white fem­in­ists might have self-​inflated egos, but so might black ones – like most prom­inent people who climb high up the so­cial ladder, aca­demia not being an ex­cep­tion. What I am trying to say is, in­stead of fighting over aca­demic credits, I would prefer to see an act of solid­arity across the bound­aries of color, gender, that would join forces to fight in­equality in co­oper­ative, rather than com­pet­itive spirit. Good willed cri­ti­cism is wel­comed and pro­ductive, but I don’t see this art­icle as such. Sadly.
    Authors ex­pressed the es­sence of this art­icle in one of the con­cluding sen­tences of the last chapter: “Are they un­able to cede the floor to Black fem­inism be­cause it would mean the loss of a cer­tain ra­cial priv­ilege?” Ergo, this art­icle is about fight over po­s­i­tions within aca­demia, a world of priv­ileged. Very priv­ileged, What is evident from sur­plus of en­ergy and time that al­lows for pro­duc­tion of a mul­ti­tude of fu­tile articles.

  12. Elena
    25 October 2013 at 9:22 am

    Thank you for the art­icle that I hear as a re­minder of the prob­lem­atic of why white fem­inism (re­ferred to as an ideo­logy) re­peatedly ex­cludes Black, Third World, and more gen­er­ally minot­arian cri­tiques that ad­dressed the brutal ef­fects of cap­it­alism.
    It’s aim is, as the au­thors point is a call for solid­arity, but a solid­arity that does not forget past/​present fem­inist achieve­ments –struggles ac­cross the globe by re­du­cing themto a uni­versal ‘we’ that has been eaten up by neo­lib­er­alism. The fact that such groups exist and work against the neo-​agenda is an in­dic­a­tion of not yet being eaten up. So I see the art­icle as a call for solidarity.

  13. Brenna & Denise
    25 October 2013 at 12:29 pm

    To Sarah, wherever you may be, who­ever you are:

    Unfortunately, people not fa­miliar with these bodies of work, and who cannot tran­scend a lib­eral world­view based on iden­tity politics, can’t seem to com­pre­hend that this piece is about frame­works of ana­lysis, and politics. This is not about people who are ra­cial­ised as white or black, or to adopt your pe­cu­li­arly Lamarkian dis­course, “yellow”. This is about ideo­logy, as Elena men­tions, about cri­tique. It’s about the the­or­et­ical tools we de­velop to en­gage in polit­ical ana­lysis of things like neo-​liberalism. To say that this “is a fight between black and white fem­in­ists” is to en­tirely miss the point. The limits of your lib­eral frame of ana­lysis could be use­fully chal­lenged by reading the work of any of the fem­inist scholars we men­tioned. We named them in order to make people aware of these bodies of work, which seem to be quite routinely ig­nored by the likes of Fraser and others.

    Another im­portant fact to un­der­stand is that many Black and Third World fem­in­ists have not easily risen up the ranks of aca­demia, not only be­cause of ra­cism and sexism, but more to the point of this art­icle, be­cause their frame­works of ana­lysis chal­lenge main­stream un­der­stand­ings of his­tory, polit­ical eco­nomy, law, lit­er­ature, so­ci­ology, etc…. which have neither been easily ac­com­mod­ated nor em­braced by many aca­demic and other in­sti­tu­tions. Ask any of them! Between the two of us, we can re­count scores of Black Feminists who have oc­cu­pied pre­carious work con­di­tions for years be­fore being made per­manent (some­thing which sadly is be­coming the norm across the board); faced ra­cial and sexual har­ass­ment; have been denied tenure on the basis that their work is per­ceived as being out­side the per­ceived bounds of the dis­cip­line in which they are loc­ated; have worked for lower pay for years than their white male coun­ter­parts; and the list goes on… We find your com­ments that so easily as­sume that Black and White fem­in­ists have the same ex­per­i­ence of aca­demia to be steeped in a very lib­eral “colour-​blind” sort of men­tality, and to be woe­fully ig­norant of re­cent his­tory. (As an aside, and to dis­abuse your­self of the fantasy of people of colour easily rising up the ranks of aca­demia in the UK please see UCU’s re­port re­leased earlier this year: http://​www​.ucu​.org​.uk/​b​m​e​w​o​m​e​n​r​e​p​o​r​t​h​ere )

    Another point that we make very ex­pli­citly, which you have ap­par­ently over­looked, is that Black Feminists have had as a major ob­jective, a politics of solid­arity that does not only tran­scend the colour line, but en­gages a range of dif­ferent is­sues, from home­less­ness, to mi­gra­tion politics, to vi­ol­ence against women, to po­lice bru­tality, the list goes on… This has little to do with aca­demia; but rather, with politics. So we are not at odds on that point.

    It should be quite clear that aca­demic com­pet­it­ive­ness is the fur­thest con­sid­er­a­tion from the minds or mo­tiv­a­tions of the au­thors. Fraser touched a very raw nerve amongst Black Feminists all over the place, and we happened to re­spond to what we viewed as a deeply flawed ana­lysis. We are quite frankly per­plexed by this cri­ti­cism. The final chal­lenge “to cede the floor” has to do with the failure of main­stream, lib­eral and White so­cialist fem­in­ists to ac­tu­ally em­brace the frame­works of ana­lysis and modes of polit­ical or­gan­ising de­veloped by Black and Third World Feminists. Without re-​iterating the main ar­gu­ments here, all we can sug­gest is that you read Fraser’s piece, and then con­sider the sub­stance of our ar­gu­ments again. Having the read piece, though, as you have, as being about aca­demic com­pet­it­ive­ness, likely says more about your own pre­oc­cu­pa­tions than any­thing else. Unlike the people who have en­gaged in fairly strong at­tacks in the com­ment sec­tion (based on a lack of un­der­standing of the fact that Black and White are being used to des­ig­nate polit­ical po­s­i­tions, rather than iden­tity) we have no problem put­ting our (full) names to a point of view that is sure to win us no fa­vours amongst main­stream, lib­eral fem­in­ists or others, as this post so clearly at­tests to.

    • Tori
      9 April 2014 at 10:13 am

      This is a bit late, but I just wanted to take a mo­ment to sin­cerely thank you for this re­sponse to Sarah’s cri­ti­cisms. As a white fe­male who strives for an in­ter­sec­tional ap­proach to fem­inism, these is­sues are often dif­fi­cult for me to parse with people from a variety of back­grounds and life ex­per­i­ences, es­pe­cially older main­stream fem­in­ists who simply don’t seem to see things the same way. Your lan­guage here is a re­minder of how best to ap­proach such col­orblind ap­proaches in a firm but po­lite and ap­pro­priate manner. Thanks for writing a great art­icle, too.

  14. 27 October 2013 at 10:27 pm

    Thank you for this very useful art­icle and your equally helpful ex­plan­a­tions in the com­ment thread!

  15. gramsci1@hotmail.com
    4 November 2013 at 2:26 pm

    Martha Gimenez’ cri­tique of in­ter­sec­tion­ality theory seems to the point. I’ve sus­pected that the neo­lib­eral trends in white fem­in­ists’ writ­ings can like­wise be found in fem­in­ists of colors’ writ­ings. Await a sys­tem­atic re­view of the lit­er­ature. http://​www​.col​orado​.edu/​S​o​c​i​o​l​o​g​y​/​g​i​m​e​n​e​z​/​w​o​r​k​/​c​g​r​.​h​tml

  16. Raphael Neves
    9 November 2013 at 10:35 pm

    The art­icle is in­ter­esting, but I think it mis­reads Fraser’s ar­gu­ments. Fraser is con­cerned with second-​wave fem­inism be­cause it ar­tic­u­lated an am­biguous cri­tique against “state-​managed cap­it­alism” that has been re­for­mu­lated in in­di­vidu­al­istic terms. It somehow ended feeding neo­lib­eral dis­courses. So, it’s im­portant to no­tice, first, that Fraser is careful enough to point out that second-​wave fem­inism was am­biguous (as third-​wave fem­inism made us all aware). Second, when the au­thors men­tion A. Y. Davis’ book (1981) and Selma James’ Wages for Housework Campaign (1972) as ex­amples of how Black Marxist and anti-​colonial fem­inism are at­tempts to tackle neo­lib­er­alism, they simply didn’t men­tion that both are prior to Reagan ad­min­is­tra­tion (1981 – 1989) and, there­fore, the “dis­or­gan­ised, glob­al­ising, neo­lib­eral” cap­it­alism Fraser at­tacks. In Hegelian terms, one might say that Fraser’s point is that second-​wave fem­inism brought in it­self con­tra­dic­tions that al­lowed it to be co-​opted by cap­it­alist ex­ploit­a­tion and she’s trying to bring its “eman­cip­atory forces” back, without any pre­ju­dice to what has been achieved by other fem­inist struggles.

  17. Frances
    11 December 2013 at 2:16 am

    Sadly I feel this piece missed a great op­por­tunity to ac­tu­ally ad­dress the points made in ini­tial art­icle, per­haps from a WOC fem­inist per­spective, and do some­thing more than whine about not ad­dressing Black & 3rd World fem­in­ists. A better use of time and space would have been to ac­tu­ally quote the very fem­in­ists you felt were ali­en­ated and use their words to ad­dress each point.

    Ms. Fraser, re­gard­less of her aca­demic ac­col­ades or mis­step in not bringing race into the con­ver­sa­tion, brings up key points that fem­in­ists of color need to ad­dress for the be­nefit of each other and ourselves. By neg­lecting to dis­cuss Fraser’s ar­gu­ments and in­stead at­tack Fraser and white fem­inism as a whole, a fur­ther di­vi­sion was cre­ated, es­pe­cially among those of us who are in­ter­ested in fur­thering a mean­ingful dis­cus­sion about un­paid care-​giving and its value within the fem­inist movement.

    What I see here is a knee jerk re­ac­tion (de­fense) that pushes its own agenda while ig­noring and dis­missing a sister who is doing their best. This reeks to me of a type of sexism masked as fem­inism, in that a woman’s opinion is de­valued rather than ex­plored in a spirit of com­munity, pro­cess, and, mutuality.

    I lov­ingly chal­lenge you to dis­cuss Fraser’s points through your (our) lens and dis­cuss feminism’s role is modern cap­it­alism. Fraser’s points included:

    –Critique of the family wage
    –Over focus on iden­tity politics
    –Critique of welfare-​state paternalism

    We are all learning. Let’s focus on re­spect rather than di­vi­sion. What we have in common & where our dif­fer­ences can en­hance our work, whether it’s paid or not. Thank you.
    F

  18. Tired too
    4 January 2014 at 10:14 pm

    I’m not sure if I posted this here be­fore, and it wasn’t ap­proved as a com­ment, or if I thought about it and thought I posted, but didn’t. In case it was my error, I want to post again, but if it wasn’t, apo­lo­gies for the duplication.

    As a person with chronic fa­tigue syn­drome, I find the use of “White [or any he­ge­monic meta­phor] fem­inist [or any person type]” deeply up­set­ting. Its an ablest use of catchy meta­phor to ex­plain what is also a le­git­imate and valid ex­per­i­ence. I get being tired of some­thing that is re­peatedly deeply, struc­tur­ally un­fair, re­pressive and dam­aging and aware of it. However, the use of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, a dis­order whose name has been used to deny people basic rights as hu­mans — and has been con­flated with white women them­selves to the det­ri­ment of all people with CFS/​ME/​Fibro/​GWS etc. — as a catchy lit­erary meta­phor to in­voke a feeling re­garding an­other he­ge­mony is in it­self re­peating deeply, struc­tur­ally un­fair, re­pressive and dam­aging ableism and being un­aware of it.

    I’m not angry in as much as, I know that if you ex­per­i­ence priv­ilege in an area, it is simply in­herent that it is dif­fi­cult to see why this helps per­petuate dis­missive de­structive re­pres­sion on those not blessed with your priv­ilege. In this case, those who re­ject the he­ge­mony of white­ness in fem­inism or the gen­eral public sphere (he­ge­mony being the im­plicit struc­turing that white bodies or white fem­in­ists needs and ex­per­i­ences are more im­portant than all others) cas­u­ally take up this meta­phor be­cause it rings true to them — ie their ex­per­i­ence as able bodied people who have never ex­per­i­enced the de­struc­tion of not only chronic fa­tigue syn­drome, but the hideous con­sequences of the treat­ment of the name of the dis­ease. It com­pletely ig­nores its place in an ableist struc­ture re-​inforcing ableist op­pres­sion. It does so in part by not taking into ac­count those who have dis­ab­il­ities, and par­tic­u­larly those who have been dis­abled by this dis­order or the label of this disorder.

    What I mean is, in re­peating this catchy title that ap­peals meta­phor­ic­ally to how you feel, you don’t even think about the im­pacts on people with CFS. Because you don’t have it. You don’t ex­per­i­ence it. And that is your priv­ilege. Its one I’m glad you have, but also means that re­pressive tropes like this can flourish, even — or es­pe­cially — in spheres where re­pressive struc­tural he­ge­mony is seen as a thing to be re­moved in order to provide all in­di­viduals with equal rights, autonomy and value.

    I guess what I’m saying is, please out of re­spect for those that have suffered and con­tinue to suffer, please find an­other way of saying that you are tired of the needs and dir­ec­tion of White [or any other op­pres­sion hier­archy] fem­in­ists [or any­thing other type of people] being placed su­preme above all else. In fact, how about just saying that. “I’m tired of White fem­in­ists being every­where, de­ciding everything.” rather than co-​opting our pain out of the ig­nor­ance of privilege.

    Again, I un­der­stand this may not be in­ten­tion­ally harmful — you may not have even thought of this in the search for a good lit­erary al­lu­sion. Which is why as a person with CFS I’m sharing it. You can’t know what you don’t know!

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