Twitter Feminist Privilege
#SolidarityIsForWhiteWoman, the hashtag created by feminist writer Mikki Kendall, gave women of color a platform to argue that mainstream feminism tends to focus only on the issues of middle class heterosexual white women. That's a debate that stretches back as far as Seneca Falls, and was also the catalyst for MacIntosh's examination of her own privilege.
"About six years earlier, black women in the Boston area had written essays to the effect that white women were oppressive to work with," she said. "I remember back to what it had been like to read those essays. My first response was to say, 'I don’t see how they can say that about us — I think we’re nice!' And my second response was deeply racist, but this is where I was in 1980, I thought, I especially think we’re nice if we work with them ... I came to this dawning realization: Niceness has nothing to do with it."
Niceness has everything and nothing to do with Twitter feminism wars, which basically boil down to this: some white feminists argue that black feminists have created a toxic online atmosphere and "bully" them — that's more or less the argument in Michelle Goldberg's January story for The Nation. Some feminists of color agree to an extent — Brittney Cooper of the Crunk Feminist Collective said, "I actually think there’s a subset of black women who really do get off on white women being prostrate." In fact, most of the comments in Goldberg's piece were from black women. Online, many white feminists added that they felt afraid to bring up the same point. And yet, some white feminists agree with feminists of color that there are works by feminists from marginalized groups that ignored, which is why Twitter is so important.
MacIntosh argues that "the key thing is to let people testify to their own experience. Then they’ll stop fighting with each other." So far each side is testifying to itself — the other side isn't listening. Every criticism feminists of color make isn't necessarily valid: "Ban Bossy" doesn't exclude and ignore the experiences of women of color — it's Sheryl Sandberg testifying to her experience. At the same time, asking feminist of color to talk about their experiences on a former slave plantation wasn't as inclusive as Ani DiFranco thought it would be.
White Male Princeton Freshman Privilege
"I do not accuse those who 'check' me and my perspective of overt racism, although the phrase, which assumes that simply because I belong to a certain ethnic group I should be judged collectively with it, toes that line," wrote Princeton freshman Tal Fortgang in "Checking My Privilege," an essay on how telling people they're privileged without knowing their life story is a form of prejudice.
The biggest problem with Fortgang's essay is that his point of view is crafted by privilege: if you work hard you'll be successful — institutionalized racism and sexism are a myth. "It’s not a matter of white or black, male or female or any other division which we seek, but a matter of the values we pass along, the legacy we leave, that perpetuates 'privilege.'" Fortgang completely rejects the idea that race, gender and class inhibit or benefit people, even while acknowledging that he benefits from the financial success of his parents. At the same time, he manages to capture the dismissiveness of the phrase "check your privilege."