“A brand of feminism centered around the ideals and struggles of primarily white women. While not outright exclusive, its failure to consider other women and its preoccupation with Western standards and the problems faced by the “average woman” is often alienating to women of color, non-straight women, trans women, and women belonging to religious or cultural minorities.” – The Urban Dictionary
White Feminism is now a popular term owing to the abundance of white celebs taking advantage of the movement to further their own interest and career, usually without extending female solidarity or tackling relevant social issues such as trans-women’s rights, Hollywood’s whitewashing, invisibility of the disabled, police brutality, cultural appropriation, or institutional racism.
While this type of feminism raises a certain level of awareness to SOME feminist issues, it is harmful in that it paints a negative picture of the overall movement and thus gives dumb, ignorant boys an excuse to create sexist memes so they can call anyone who gets offended as “feminazis who can’t take a joke.” Do not misunderstand me, I do not blame White Feminism as the sole reason why people, especially on the internet, immediately reject the importance and essence of feminism (sad online gnomes who are super bored with their lives and are desperate to be edgy should be held accountable for their own short-sightedness). My point is I would be very unglad if young women were led to believe by their idols that women’s rights, solidarity, and empowerment are purely about #squadgoals, #actlikeaman, and #fuckdiets.
“White feminists don’t recognize the greater degree of misogyny faced by women of color, LGBTQ+ women, women with disabilities, or women facing class oppression… It erases the experiences of women who are not white, heterosexual, cisgender women. White feminism tightly constricts the boundaries of what it means to be a “woman” instead of being inclusive of all women.” – Rebecca Vorick, Feminism 101: What Is White Feminism?
Whether as individuals or celebrities, I don’t hate the women that I will list below, but I do loathe their rejection of intersectional feminism, their habit of whining “you’re anti-feminist!” towards critics, and their collective willful inability to acknowledge and learn from their white privileged ways.
So here I present to you the role models for White Feminism and why they hella suck:
The Holy Trinity
1. Amy Schumer
“Schumer only wants to be a part of feminist or body-positive narratives when they suit her.” – Meghan Demaria
The first time I discovered Amy was from her movie Trainwreck after it got rave reviews from critics despite her character being obnoxious as hell. Hollywood was abuzz with this funny, feminist, body-positive woman. Then I came across this article on her racist antics specifically about her controversial video parody of Beyoncé’s pro-black Formation. I googled more and found out she’s said a ton of racially insensitive things such as that time she joked Mexican men are rapists; or when she was bummed because no lesbians hit on her at a lesbian bar (was she thinking “these women will hit on me because they’re lesbians, amirite?!” or what?); or when she implied men of color cat-call women more than white men do.
“You shouldn’t criticize her! She is a funny woman and it’s super hard for women to succeed in comedy and she also has awards!!!” – If your career is built at the expense of minorities whom you mock and dehumanize, then your comedy is probably lazy, gross, and stale tbh. To quote Nathan Robinson “Jokes about race aren’t necessarily racist jokes,” but Amy’s jokes, as the Guardian explains, “repeatedly delves into racial territory tactlessly and with no apparent larger point.”
If people point out repeatedly you are racist and you can only respond along the lines of “I have a racial blind spot and being offensive is just how comedy operates ,” MAYBE you should self-reflect and make an effort to see WHY you’re constantly criticized for your tasteless words instead of issuing another hollow “Sorry, my bad.” Amy’s PR apologies, like many forced White Feminist apologies, count for nothing until she stops making feebleminded jokes that cater exclusively to a white American audience. Contrary to what Amy has claimed, she doesn’t take responsibility for her words and doesn’t use criticism against her in order to evolve as an artist and person. Instead she firmly stands her ground, proceeds to produce the same tired material, and shouts “I’m not racist!”.
TLDR, Amy, making “unlady-like jokes” and being slightly chubby does not a feminist make. No volume of laughter can drown out the fact you’re a racist.
2. Lena Dunham
Lena, Lena, Lena. Oh, god, where do I begin?
“A 20-something white woman who grew up in wealth, likes to get naked and have sex on TV and call it feminism.” – Rebecca Carroll
If White Feminism were a video game, Lena Dunham would be that aggravating, seemingly unbeatable self-entitled boss villain at the end of the game that suddenly comes alive after you finally defeat it, cackling at you as it escapes into Video Game Part 2. Without her, the other mini-bosses might not have been enabled. She is the head of the White Feminist hydra whose foot-in-the-mouth disease reaches far and wide.
Which brings me to why she’s tied with Amy and why she is THE poster child for White Feminism (I only placed Amy first because I personally find her more unbearable). Because Lena, Amy, and friends are praised as feminist heroines, they and their careers get away virtually unscathed if they carelessly make racist, homophobic, or transphobic remarks. While Amy is guilty of proudly creating insipid humor, Lena’s affronts are more unsettling.
She’s incredibly narcissistic as shown when she ranted (as in seriously, as in not a joke) about being offended by a black man not flirting with her and when she confessed she’d never had an abortion but wished she had one (gurl, there are other ways to draw awareness on an issue without making it about yourself); her tv show Girls supposedly represents feminism but only casts white girls and downplays sexual assault; she repeatedly objectifies black male bodies; she stated unbelievably ignorant gibberish about India and penned a sexist essay on Japan; she tweeted a racist joke about Asians; her view towards Rihanna’s abusive relationship is perplexing; she doesn’t acknowledge her success was heavily influenced by her wealthy family’s connections; and she may have outed her sister to their parents without consent.
There’s also the questionable incident with said sister that Lena wrote of in her book… I mean kids do weird crap and girls should be allowed to discover and explore their bodies and do naive stuff, but IDK what to say about this one so I’ll just quote this anonymous comment on Jezebel’s article: “Why are we acting like this is only about her touching her 1 year old sister’s vagina when she was 7 and not also about emotionally coercing her sister into sleeping in her bed and then masturbating while she sleeps? And about paying her sister in candy to give her long kisses on the lips? And about paying her sister in quarters to let her put ‘biker chick’ makeup on her and calling her ‘sexual property’? And about watching whatever her little sister wants as long as her sister would ‘relax on her’ while they watched tv? Why are we pretending this is about once incident and not a decade of behavior documented by Dunham in her own book? You’re leaving a lot out, and I’m not sure why.”
And this one by redditor scdi: “Her actions at 7 were due to bad parents. Her actions at 17 were due to her being a child molester. The real question is what else happened those 10 years that she thought was too bad to put into a book.”
Plus this one by Victoria Brownworth: “Is sex abuse okay when a rich white woman does it, is hipster sexism here to stay and is it okay to parade your victim across the Internet if you are a woman and she’s a lesbian?… Arguing that women get a pass on sex abuse of siblings that would raise more than just an eyebrow if the perpetrator was male is both the antithesis of feminism and victim-blaming.”
While I’m all for women being shameless in their self-love, there’s nothing really new or groundbreaking with Lena’s capitalist-centric feminism. Her work has indisputably raised the spotlight on important women’s issues such as abortion and sexual autonomy, but is that enough given the harm she’s done to feminism, to people of color, to LGBTQ+? She invites women to support her and her show because girl power, but hasn’t bothered to address intersectionality and diversity, much less internalize any negative comments towards her regarding the above-mentioned stunts.
Lena Dunham’s feminism is tone deaf. There’s nothing empowering about a classist, rich, privileged white girl who, like her counterpart Amy, contributes nothing profound or of actual substance for women’s issues and is averse to improving her advocacy. I just… I can’t anymore. Lena, please ssssh.
If you’re like me and you’re done with Lena DONEham, check out some of the silly things she’s said here.
3. Taylor Swift
My problematic fave! Who knew she was trouble when she walked in? T-Swizzle’s damsel-in-distress feminism may not be as toxic as Lena Dunham’s, but it’s still clear as dishwater.
Taylor primarily rose as a status symbol for geeky shy girls, but even then people were already dissing America’s sweetheart. Somewhere along the way it became uncool to hate on Tay-Tay (whether legitimately or not), especially after Kanye stole her moment during the 2009 VMA.
Alas, regardless how polished and sweet your public persona is, if there’s dirt under all that sugar it’ll inevitably seep through bit by bit. Besides, any person who learns his/her feminism from Lena Dunham should not be trusted.
I’ll say Taylor is a hypocrite. Once upon a time she asserted she was not a feminist until one day she realized feminism is pretty rad and helps her brand as an artist (plus it can be handy to dismiss your critics as “unfeminist”). Of course it’s perfectly fine to change your opinion as you mature and learn from your initially confused view of feminism, but we’ve yet to see Taylor own up her missteps and strive for change.
She built an empire by portraying an angelic female whose biggest enemy is the sexual other female who steals her man’s attention, and she exemplified this when she shit on Camille Belle’s career because Camille dated Taylor’s ex. She called her clique of BFFs to film a music video to drag Katy Perry after a feud. She accused Nicki Minaj of “pitting women against each other” thereby overshadowing Nicki’s discussion on her legitimate struggles as a black female artist… and yet it’s Taylor’s character that’s being assassinated? K.
Additionally, Taylor seems to be unaware of her privilege as a white woman; she culturally appropriates POC and uses them as props in her videos; her #squad is not inclusive; and her latest drama with Kanye contributes to the stereotype of the angry black man vs the innocent, faultless white woman. She also contends that if you are female and you do not support her, then there is a special place in hell for you. Her self-serving feminism needs work because her white privilege is showing (and probably stressing out her PR team) and her constantly being marketed as a modern feminist despite her problematic-ness may detrimentally impact her young, impressionable fans.
For more examples of Taylor Swift’s misguided feminism, I compiled a page of quotes on Quote Catalog which you can view by clicking here.
4. Tina Fey
“Fey then transitioned into ripping on “slutty” women in general, women who code as falling on the lower rungs of America’s class society. Women who dare to use their sexuality to get by (or ahead) in a game that’s doubly rigged against them… Why, then, does she think it’s okay to turn around and dehumanize a subgroup of women that’s already dehumanized by society?… It’s possible Fey resents these women to catering to the male gaze for their own benefit.” – Jamie Peck
Tina, while undoubtedly very talented and funny, has stated in a 2009 Vanity Fair interview that (after her husband visited a strip club) she disapproves of strippers because “we need to be better than that”. Meanwhile she has no qualms about slamming sex workers as the punch line to her jokes. Self-worth does not equate to modesty, Tina!
Besides these, she was complicit in a cast member’s termination from 30 Rock because the actress was not conventionally attractive. Then there was that episode from her other show Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt that bordered on racist and the other one that parodied a famous doctor’s appearance which may or may not have added to the doctor’s depression.
5. Jennifer Lawrence
I wouldn’t have included J. Law here but then she wrote that patronizing open letter about the US Presidential elections expressing that loving your neighbors was the answer to ending racial violence.
While we’re here, I’ll point out she says a lot of dumb shit believing she’s being quirky (like that time she roasted a foreign reporter for using his phone’s translator) when she’s actually being an asshole. Recently she also desecrated and destroyed a sacred Hawaiian relic by scratching her butt on it because, again, she thought it was funny even after guides specifically asked her NOT to touch said relics. Ha. Ha. Ha. I guess?
Hopefully Hollywood realizes feminism isn’t mainly about women eating pizza and not being a size zero.
6. Miley Cyrus
White Feminism, what’s good?
Like every other proper White Feminist, Miley Cyrus uses the movement for her own agenda, exploits people of color, and remains mum on important topics such as Black Lives Matter. She is kind of an expert in perpetuating misogynoir and appropriating black culture. Like she’s so good at profiting from black people and reformulating black culture into her own style (then whitesplaining about it) that Nicki Minaj called her out on the 2015 VMA stage.
Thankfully, Miley’s antics seems to have simmered down recently. Let’s hope other White Feminists take heed.
7. Meryl Streep / Caitlyn Jenner / Tilda Swinton
This last one was confusing. There are just too many White Feminists to choose from! So I merged three instead.
Remember that time Meryl Streep erased black people’s struggles by saying “We are all African“; or when Caitlyn Jenner (as important as her visibility is) transitioned but denied that same right for other trans-people?; or when Tilda Swinton broke my GOT-fan-girl heart by playing the asian-friend card with Margaret Cho to make herself feel better about accepting a role as a whitewashed character?
Hollywood is flocking with White Feminists who range from annoying to problematic to downright toxic. As much as Western Media tries to shove them down my throat as exceptional feminist figures, they do not successfully represent my generation, my gender or gender’s issues, or my feminism.
If you want some examples of non-White Feminists, see: Zendaya, Angela Davis, Ariana Grande, Laverne Cox, Mia Mingus, bell hooks, Malala Yousafzai, Matt McGorry (yes, males can be good feminists, too), Amandla Stenberg, Carrie Fisher, etc.
Some of you may complain “Wow, those links hurt my eyes!,” but please read the sources. I encourage everyone, especially dissenters, to first click the links above if you have questions regarding the incidents, people, or statements written. The thought pieces/web pages the links lead to will likely be able to address your queries and offer more context and in-depth analysis regarding specific issues.
We need to become responsible for actively educating ourselves rather than jeering “feminazi spotted!” should a feminist raise a concern. On the other hand, although it’s easy to call out White Feminists and leave it at that, this by itself will not help advance the feminist movement or strengthen solidarity. So if you spot a White Feminist, do not just call them out – call them in, too. Encourage others to practice intersectionality and inclusiveness just in case they have not been schooled on the broader philosophies of feminism.
Last notes: critiquing White Feminist celebs does not diminish whatever kindness these ladies have done for others or commendable work they’ve accomplished in their fields or in charities (such as Meryl’s inspirational Golden Globes speech or Taylor’s altruism for her fans). You can simultaneously be a good celebrity and generous person, and still be a White Feminist.
I acknowledge the celebrities mentioned may have already offered apologies or addressed certain matters. That’s fine – everybody’s activism is messy or imperfect, and it is understandable that a public figure’s learning process can be more challenging. As long as one is visibly trying to make an effort to do better it should be okay. Unfortunately most of the people I mentioned don’t seem to care much.
Having well-meaning intentions that falter in execution is simply not good enough anymore.