Kumbaya Feminism

I cringed when I read about Patricia Arquette’s oblivious comments at the Oscars. It wouldn’t have been so bad if there had been an immediate, “Whoops! I’m so sorry, I definitely should’ve phrased that differently and not implied everybody else’s struggles are totally over.” It’s too easy, when you’re a white feminist, to get wrapped up in your own problems and forget that other people are dealing with far more shit than you are. It’s far too easy to assume the black feminist in the room faces the same issues you do. And then you end up blabbing something that comes across as dismissive, erasing the existence and concerns of huge swathes of people and then wondering why they’re mad at you.

At its worst, we end up with “kumbaya feminism.”

Second, I’m not here for kumbaya feminism. Kumbaya feminism demands that Black women take a backseat to whatever interest of the day white women deem most important. Kumbaya feminism castigates as “divisive” any Black woman who dares speak out against the White Feminist Industrial Complex. Kumbaya feminism is little more than trickle-down feminism. It posits that rising tides lift all boats and ignores the fact that the boats of most Black women (and, indeed, other women of color) are rigged with anchors. Besides, if my speaking out against centuries-old erasure of Black women in the struggle for women’s equality constitutes “eating our own,” then pass me a knife and fork and some hot sauce because I’m hungry.


Please go read the rest. And at all costs, avoid kumbaya feminism.

Image shows an orange and white cat with its paw on the nose of a small gray dog. Caption says, "Shhh.... Singin not your strong suit."

Kumbaya Feminism

5 thoughts on “Kumbaya Feminism

  1. 1

    My mother, who was Mexican American, may very well have complained more about white women than white men. She was more likely to end up dealing with white women or be in competition with them.

  2. 2

    There was a second chapter to this affair that was even more illuminating. Among the many White Feminists whose feelings were hurt by criticisms of Arquette, was a prominent Liberal podcaster named Nicole Sanders. Sanders didn’t understand why people were being so hard on Arquette and responded to a tweet mentioning “intersectionality” with “what the fuck is that supposed to mean?” So Imani went on Sanders’ podcast and (to my ears) calmly explained the concept of privilege and intersectionality about as nicely as possible. Here is Gandy’s written take and you can watch the video on the hyperlink in her piece to see/hear for your self. Sanders seemed to get the jist of privilege and was largely on the same page but she just couldn’t get out of victim mode. After the segment ended she went right back to her initial stance, as if she hadn’t absorbed a word. She continued to rant about the whole affair on Twitter and doubled-down on the #allwomen mentality that had initially gotten Arquette in trouble. Shortly after that Sanders quit Twitter. The whole thing was really bizarre, but a fantastic example of just how hard it can be to get someone to see their own privilege and how easy it is to get defensive about these issues and instead of moving forward, to dig in even deeper and refuse to budge.

    If that’s not enough, Imani discussed all of this on several episodes of The Week In Blackness with her fellow podcasters. It’s quite funny as well as informative. You can hear the podcasts herehere (episodes for Feb 24, 25 and 26.) I feel like that week taught me a ton about privilege and how hard it can be to get people to wrap their heads around it.

  3. 4

    To add to Ebeneezer’s comment, I understand that in that incident with Sanders there was a few days later a White guy going on her show to also try to explain to her. As well as the early attempts on Twitter. Seemed like she understood male privilege fine, but not White privilege. Besides some jerk moves like assuming that ‘intersectionality’ was some new made-up word on Twitter, and just completely missing what the criticism of Arquette was about. I still have difficulty understanding how anyone finds that a difficult concept to grasp.

    Anyway, I’ve heard bits about the tickle-down and kumbaya problems with feminism. Which seems very much like what’s been going on with atheism. History says it’s not new at all that groups working on certain rights tell some of their more marginalized members to just shut up and wait their turn. Why is it hard to understand that this has been very problematic before, and offensive and divisive now?

  4. 5

    Yes. I forgot about that! It may be on the last TWIB podcast from the link I posted (or it may be one after that date range) but they had the guy on TWIB after his attempt to explain things to Sanders (he’s a friend of the TWIB crew.) Anyways, yes, his visit was just as friendly, patient and instructive as Imani’s and it was truly bizarre that it still fell on deaf ears. Again, to me, a pretty good example of the denial power of privilege (is privilege a form of Bias? It should be.)

Comments are closed.