Patriarchy, White Feminism, and Intersectional Feminism

“This country, with race, with everything, we won’t look at it, but we have to look at it, because that’s the only way we can heal it. Then you get to move on and be free. But people are so scared of looking at it.”
-Rose McGowan

“Courage is the most important of all the virtues. Because without courage, you cannot practice any other virtue consistently. … It is only with courage that you can be persistently and insistently kind and generous and fair.”
-Maya Angelou

Patriarchy tells all women what they should think, do, or feel.
White feminism tells women of color what they should think, do, or feel.
Intersectional feminism does not presume the authority to tell some else what to think, do, or feel, particularity someone else with a different experience in the world.

Patriarchy tells women how they should interpret the action, or lack of action, of men when a woman names a man’s action, or lack of action, as problematic.
White feminism tells WOC how they should interpret the action, or lack of action, of white women when a WOC names a WW’s action, or lack of action, as problematic.
Intersectional feminism does not presume the authority to tell a WOC how she should interpret the actions of a white person when a WOC names an action or lack of action by the WP as problematic.

Patriarchy isn’t interested in identifying areas where one could individually better support the well-being of all women.
White feminism isn’t interested in identifying areas where one could individually better support the well-being of WOC.
Intersectional feminism consistently challenges oneself to identify areas where one could better support the well-being of WOC.

Patriarchy rejects, dismisses, or minimizes a woman’s critique of patriarchy by employing the “crazy woman trope” — calling her “hysterical” or “emotional” instead of passionate.
White feminism rejects, dismisses, or minimizes a WOC’s critique of white feminism by employing the “mad black woman trope” — saying she is “lashing out” or being “aggressive” instead of passionate.
Intersectional feminism listens to the voices of WOC and truly considers the point(s) they are making.

Patriarchy rejects, dismisses, or minimizes a woman’s critique of patriarchy by calling her “divisive,” “offensive,” or “ignorant.”
White feminism rejects, dismisses, or minimizes a WOC’s critique of white feminism by calling her “divisive,” “offensive,” or “ignorant.”
Intersectional feminism understands that WOC are rightfully pissed off and scared at the particular set of painful realities POC face in this country, so when a WOC articulates a critique, it is the responsibility of the WW to focus on understanding the problem and identifying action(s) the WP can take to address or mitigate the problem.

Patriarchy ignores the substance of any woman’s critique by tone policing and/or focusing on how the woman didn’t communicate it in a “proper” or “correct” way.
White feminism ignores the substance of WOC’s critique by tone policing and/or focusing on how the WOC didn’t communicate it in a “proper” or “correct” way.
Intersectional feminism is not interested in how a message is delivered, but instead focuses on understanding the problem the POC is naming and identifying action(s) the WP can take to address or mitigate the problem.

Patriarchy is obsessive about claiming a man’s innocence and goodness when a woman talks about an assault she’s endured, ironically causing the woman pain and isolation at not being heard (known in psychology circles as as secondary trauma).
White feminism is obsessive about claiming a WW’s innocence and goodness when a WOC talks about an assault she’s endured, ironically causing the WOC pain and isolation at not being heard (known in psychology circles as as secondary trauma).
Intersectional feminism knows that focusing on the WW’s innocence is white privilege and a devaluation of WOC, so she sits with any discomfort, seeks to understand the WOC’s point of view, and examines why it makes the WP uncomfortable.

Patriarchy doesn’t look inward or at structural patriarchy when a critique is given about men, but instead gets defensive with some version of “But I provide for my family! And I’m nice to my female colleagues!” or “But I’m married to a woman!” or “You’re painting everyone with a broad brush!”
White feminism doesn’t look inward or at structural racism when a critique is given about WW, but instead gets defensive with some version of “But I’m nice! But I’m a good person!” or “But I’m not a racist!” or “You’re painting everyone with a broad brush!”
Intersectional feminism understands that defensiveness is a reflex when a critique is given of WW, but in order to be a woman for all women, one needs to move past the defensiveness and make efforts to support the well-being of WOC.

Patriarchy centers the feelings and experiences of a man, instead of the woman who is naming an injustice.
White feminism centers the feelings and experiences of a white woman, instead of the WOC who is naming an injustice.
Intersectional feminism centers the feelings and experiences of the WOC naming the injustice.

Patriarchy reads or hears a woman’s critique of patriarchy and says, “Nothing here applies to me.”
White feminism reads or hears a WOC’s critique of racism and says, “Nothing here applies to me.”
Intersectional feminism takes in new information about the lives and perspectives of WOC all the time and adjusts understanding of how to better support the well-being of WOC.

Patriarchy doesn’t consider the exasperation women feel after centuries of trying to convince men of their equality.
White feminism doesn’t consider the exasperation WOC feel after centuries of trying to convince white people of their equality.
Intersectional feminism knows that WOC have received centuries of messages that her life and perspective aren’t not respected or valued, considers how painful and marginalizing that is, and thus seeks to always respect and value a WOC’s perspective.

Patriarchy rejects a woman’s critique by saying, “I’m entitled to feel however I feel about the woman’s point of view” without truly taking the time and effort to examine why the woman would have that point of view.
White feminism rejects a WOC’s critique by saying, “I’m entitled to feel however I feel about the WOC’s point of view” without truly taking the time and effort to examine why the WOC would have that point of view.
Intersectional feminism understands that because white women and black women have very different experiences, white women need to listen to black women to understand what their experiences are.

Patriarchy insists an opinion by a woman is wrong, because the man knows another woman who holds an opposing opinion. That’s to say all, all women are a monolith, and the woman the man knows –and the man– can speak for all women, thus negating other women’s points of view.
White feminism insists an opinion by a WOC is wrong, because the white person knows at least one other WOC who holds an opposing opinion. That’s to say all, all WOC are a monolith, and the WOC the WP knows –and the WP– can speak for all WOC, thus negating other WOC’s points of view.
Intersectional feminism knows that there is a diversity of opinion, and everyone’s critiques and opinions must be welcomed if we are going to create a true democracy.

Patriarchy says, “Those women complaining about sexual assault and harassment just need to suck it up and work harder.”
White feminism says, “Those women of color complaining about the racism they experience just need to suck it up and work harder.”
Intersectional feminism knows that it is up to each of us to dismantle patriarchy and racism and that it is ignorant to put the entire responsibility on the person who is assaulted.

Patriarchy is practiced by men who don’t have close, trusting, emotionally intimate relationships with women.
White feminism is practiced by white women who don’t have close, trusting, emotionally intimate relationships with WOC.
Intersectional feminism is practiced by white women who have built close, trusting friendships with the WOC, wherein the WOC feel safe to openly talk about the particular difficulties she faces as a black woman.

Patriarchy is practiced by men who don’t seek information about the experiences and perspectives of women from speakers, books, articles, YouTube, and other sources of information.
White feminism is practiced by white women who don’t seek information about the experiences and perspectives of WOC from speakers, books, articles, YouTube, and other sources of information.
Intersectional feminism is practiced by white women who seek information about the experiences and perspectives of WOC from speakers, books, articles, YouTube, and other sources of information.

Patriarchy says, “Why do we need to talk about women’s salaries as compared to men’s salaries? Women are doing fine in the workplace now!”
White feminism says, “Women get 79 cents on the dollar compared to men.”
Intersectional feminism says, “Women get 79 cents on the dollar compared to men, and black women make 67 cents to every dollar made by a white man.”

Patriarchy presumes to understand a woman’s life and to have little to learn from her about her experience as a woman.
White feminism presumes to understand a WOC’s life and to have little to learn from her about her experience as a WOC.
Intersectional feminism knows that we’re flawed feminists and have so much about our black sisters’ experiences.

Patriarchy gives men the authority, with little knowledge of a woman’s actual life or circumstance, to prescribe solutions for the particular set of difficulties she faces.
White feminism gives white women the authority, with little knowledge of a WOC’s actual life or circumstance, to prescribe solutions for the particular set of difficulties the WOC faces.
Intersectional feminism knows that it is her responsibility to listen to WOC and learn from the WOC what she needs.

Patriarchy practices internalized superiority of men.
White feminism practices internalized superiority of white people.
Intersectional feminism fights against and internalized racial superiority.

Patriarchy ignores voices of women.
White feminism ignores voices of women of color.
Intersectional feminism elevates voices of color.

Patriarchy is not interested in hearing about issues that women face due to their gender.
White feminism is not interested in hearing about issues that women face due to their gender and race.
Intersectional feminism focuses on hearing about issues that affect women of every race and ethnicity.

Patriarchy centers men by requiring that a critique of patriarchy be given gently and with a certain and reassurance to a man that “I know you’re a good person.”
White feminism centers white women by requiring that a critique of white feminism be given gently and with a certain and reassurance to a white woman that “I know you’re a good person.”
Intersectional feminism knows that, when talking about issues of race, we focus on POC’s needs, not WP’s needs.

Patriarchy says, “If women are upset about something, they should figure it out. I don’t need to be involved.”
White feminism says, “If women of color are upset about something, they should figure it out. I don’t need to be involved.”
Intersectional feminism says, “I’m a woman for all women, and I thus need to listen –truly listen– to POC and take action to support their well-being.

Patriarchy tries to excuse, rationalize, or explain away a critique about patriarchy by saying, “but you don’t know if… [insert specific scenario the man just drummed up].”
White feminism tries to excuse, rationalize, or explain away a critique about white feminism by saying, “but you don’t know if… [insert specific scenario the white woman just drummed up].”
Intersectional feminism knows that to not perpetrate secondary trauma, it is the WP’s responsibility to understand the critique rather that reject it.

Patriarchy consciously and unconsciously works to have men dominate in every aspect of life — from everyday conversation to the make-up of the Boardroom.
White feminism consciously and unconsciously works to have white mena and women dominate every aspect of life — from everyday conversation to the make-up of the Boardroom.
Intersectional feminism knows that everyone must be represented and have their voice valued.

Patriarchy can’t handle a critique of patriarchy and thus quickly tries to shut the critique down.
White feminism can’t handle a critique of white feminism and thus quickly tries to shut the critique down.
Intersectional feminism is grateful every time a WOC expresses herself, because it is an opportunity for the WW to learn how to be a better woman for all women.

Working towards a world where pain and suffering isn’t caused by a fellow human. Twitter @corinne_shutack

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