#SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen when WOC are treated as teaching tools & resources, not actual people by Big Name Feminism
— Mikki Kendall (@Karnythia) August 12, 2013
A whole lot else happened in the past week a little more related to our usual genre bent, and there will be a post about all of those news bits later, but I thought this issue deserved some space of its own to breathe.
By now at least some of you will probably have heard about #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen. Some of you may even have opinions all your own about such a thing’s existence.
Here is what I will say about it: Nothing.
I am white. Not only am I white, but I have spent most of my life in middle class white-dominated suburban areas. And while I may prefer to identify as lower middle class, the fact still remains that I have had privileges not offered to a huge percentage of the world population due to circumstances wildly out of my control. So, I will not comment on any tweet or comment that has been hashtagged with the above; I will, as Shelby Knox put it, “take a damn seat and listen.” Because that is my job right now.
What I will do is provide some context for the twitter phenomenon just in case you — like me — have found yourself totally out of the loop on this one. So here is a list of facts that will better help you understand what’s happening.
1. Who started it?
The hashtag was coined by Mikki Kendall during a twitter conversation regarding Hugo Schwyzer and his recent “quitting” of the internet.
2. Who is Hugo Schwyzer?
Hugo Schwyzer is a professor of history and gender studies at Pasadena City College who once tried to kill his wife by poisoning her with fumes from a gas stove. After allegedly recovering from alcohol and drug addiction, he declared himself a “male feminist” and has subsequently written articles for a number of publications including The Atlantic and Jezebel just to name a few. Recently, he took to twitter declaring he would be taking a break from the internet because of a recent sex scandal and because certain people bullied him enough to make him quit. Only he didn’t say “certain people,” he named Chris Randle and Malcolm Harris. I’ll get to that later.
A little over a week after his departure from the interwebs, Schwyzer came back on twitter to confess that he is a total fraud. He is not an expert on gender studies and, in fact, only took two undergrad courses in the subject. Pasadena City College knew this fact and made him a professor in this discipline anyway. Despite all of this, Pasadena City College has allowed him to simply take a sabbatical while he seeks mental health treatment.
3. What does this have to do with race?
The big thing you have to understand is that what Schwyzer calls “bullying,” a rational person might term “calling bullshit.” While Schwyzer was being published on supposedly female-friendly sites writing big-minded articles, he was actually doing some bullying of his own. Namely, he was cyber stalking and harassing women of color when they dared criticize some of his more racist and/or sexist ideas. To top it all off, even when leaving twitter Schwyzer decides to name two men as the instigators despite the fact that WoC have been calling him out repeatedly online. Chris Randle and Malcolm Harris gave a great interview on the subject at The Hairpin here and rightly call Schwyzer out for this last act of misogyny.
Mikki Kendall has been a particularly vocal adversary to Schwyzer which leads us to…
4. Why #solidarityIsForWhiteWomen?
Despite claiming to fight for women, none of the editors who chose to publish Schwyzer’s work have apologized for giving the man a platform and subsidizing his life. During Schwyzer’s reign as the leading “male feminist” voice in America, those publications and blogs actually chose to vocally defend his work and delete the comments of those readers who they felt were overly critical of the author. Mikki’s point is that feminism too often involves conversations that exclude women of color, keeping them in a position of “other.” When women came to these organizations to complain about Schwyzer’s treatment of commenters, they were either ignored or told to please go away now.
#SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen is Kendall’s way of starting a conversation where women of color can air grievances about the ways mainstream feminism often discriminates against, mocks, or flat out ignores issues relating to color. I dare you to read those tweets and not be just a little cowed.
So there is your cheat sheet. Like I said, I won’t act like I know anything about the experiences or issues being put forth by these women. All I will say is that, if we ever linked positively to anything Schwyzer wrote, we apologize whole-heartedly and sincerely. If you want to read a little more on the issue, here are a few articles at Buzzfeed and Al Jazeera. Kendall also gave an interview of her own here.