While I am all for equal pay, I am not here for white women who think that gender inequality is the only inequality left in the world, especially not rich ones. Despite the copious amount of praise I saw last night and this morning for Patricia Arquette’s call for equal pay, she squarely placed herself in those dubious ranks with her follow-up remarks on the matter.
“It’s time for all the women in America, and all the men that love women and all the gay people and all the people of color that we’ve all fought for to fight for us now.”
A perfunctory glance at the history of social justice reveals that while people of color have always showed their support for women’s rights, white feminists have always been and continue to be exclusionary of non-white women’s concerns.
Lest I be accused of taking her out of context:
It’s time for women. Equal means equal. The truth is the older women get, the less money they make. The highest percentage of children living in poverty are in female-headed households. It’s inexcusable that we go around the world and we talk about equal rights for women in other countries and we don’t. One of those superior court justices said two years ago in a law speech at a university that we don’t have equal rights for women in America and we don’t because when they wrote Constitution, they didn’t intend it for women. So the truth is even though we sort of feel like we have equal rights in America right under the surface there are huge issues at play that really do affect women. It’s time for all the women in America, and all the men that love women and all the gay people and all the people of color that we’ve all fought for to fight for us now.
When have white feminists “fought for” the rights of people of color? More specifically, when exactly has white feminism prioritized the rights of people of color?
Was it during the First Wave?
nor is it fair that a plantation Negro, who can neither read nor write, whose ideas are bounded by the fence of his own field and the price of his own mule, should be entrusted with the ballot. We ought to have put an educational test upon that ballot from the first. The Anglo-Saxon race will never submit to be dominated by the Negro so long as his altitude reaches no higher than the personal liberty of the saloon, and the power of appreciating the amount of liquor that a dollar will buy. New England would no more submit to this than South Carolina. ‘Better whisky and more of it’ has been the rallying cry of great dark-faced mobs in the Southern localities where local option was snowed under by the colored vote.[…]
I pity the southerners, and I believe the great mass of them are as conscientious and kindly intentioned toward the colored man as an equal number of white church-members of the North. Would-be demagogues lead the colored people to destruction. Half-drunken white roughs murder them at the polls, or intimidate them so that they do not vote. But the better class of people must not be blamed for this, and a more thoroughly American population than the Christian people of the South does not exist. They have the traditions, the kindness, the probity, the courage of our forefathers. The problem on their hands is immeasurable. The colored race multiplies like the locusts of Egypt. The grog-shop is its center of power.
It couldn’t be then. That was when white suffragettes spoke disparagingly of black men, taking advantage of white supremacy in order to further their cause.
How about the Second Wave? One of the biggest voices in that particular movement was Betty Friedan, who wanted to liberate women from lives of housewifely drudgery, completely ignoring the significant subset of the population, i.e. women of color, who were already compelled to work out of necessity.
When Friedan wrote The Feminine Mystique, more than one-third of all women were in the work force. Although many women longed to be housewives, only women with leisure time and money could actually shape their identities on the model of the feminine mystique.
So much for Second Wave. Bored, educated white ladies mattered more than women of color.
That brings us to the Third Wave, the arguably current one. In it, we have women like Arquette erasing the problematic history of non-intersectional feminism and other white women with platforms rushing to defend her by characterizing criticism of her as “tear[ing] her down” (because she’s at least not as bad as a blatant racist or a domestic abuser, scraps being a feast during a famine and all). She echoes the way that Sheryl Sandberg tells women to lean in without acknowledging her racial privilege and advocates for feminism-lite in one-percenter style instead of working for economic equality for all women.
It’s Monday, not Thursday, so here’s a good chart from a very good article that considers the wage gap from a more intersectional perspective. The title says it all: The Gender Wage Gap Is A Chasm For Women Of Color.
It’s a chasm with a long and storied history, one that white feminists might want to at least peruse before making statements about how people of color need to fight for them even more than we have before.