White Feminists Gotta Go: Amy Schumer’s White Woman Foolishness

By attempting to replicate Beyoncé’s “Formation,” Schumer is firmly placing herself, as a white woman, at the center of a story where she has no place: black women’s self-love and sexual freedom.

Amy Schumer in 2015 Theo Wargo/NBC/Getty Images for "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon

White feminists gotta go.

This age-old adage was affirmed Sunday when the painstakingly pale Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn desecrated timelines and Tidal subscriptions everywhere with their sub-basic brand of white feminism.

In a poorly executed attempt at parodying Beyoncé’s pro-black anthem “Formation,” the CultureVultureTwins™ and their black friend dressed up in dirty T-shirts, bulletproof vests and straw hats to offer what can best be described as the white feminist Pinterest board on how to execute ironic racism and completely dislocate black women from artwork created for us, by us. There have been good, thoughtful, funny parodies of “Formation”—Schumer’s isn’t among them.

The video received swift and immediate backlash from black women who presumably saw two white women lip-synching about their “Negro nose and Jackson 5 nostrils” as a slap in the face to actual black women with Negro noses and inspired Twitter maven @FeministaJones to incite black Twitter to trend #AmySchumerGottaGoParty.

That Schumer’s video premiered on Tidal, the streaming service pioneered by Jay Z and co-owned by Beyoncé, has been used to deflect criticism that her parody of “Formation” contained racist imagery and was antithetical to Beyoncé’s intent in the creation of “Formation.”

Unsurprisingly,  after Schumer used women of color as props in her parody of a song written by a black woman celebrating her black and mixed-black heritage and loving her black-ass self, she responded to critics with flippant dismissal.

While a deeper conversation is necessary about the women of color who were complicit in the creation of this foolishness, placing responsibility solely on their shoulders when it’s clear that they were not the focus of the video and were used as little more than props isn’t particularly constructive in this moment.

Schumer’s choice to parody this video is emblematic of a larger problem with white feminism: the long and storied history of cultural and intellectual gentrification of black women’s work in support of a feminism that actively and unrepentantly violates black women and women of color in the name of “women’s equality.”

To better understand the dismissal of Schumer and her white feminist sistren like Lena Dunham, Sarah Silverman, et al., we must resurface the ongoing debate about the inherent whiteness of feminism—not feminisms that black women and women of color have practiced for centuries, but the model of feminism popularized by suffragette white women that continues the tradition of fashioning “women’s empowerment” through the lens and experiences of white, middle- and upper-class, cisgender women and repackages itself as the wholesale representative of all women’s experiences.

This narrow and basic conception of feminism patronizingly tells black women and other women of color to “lean in” while categorically ignoring the structural impact of racism, sexism, xenophobia, cis-sexism, homophobia, hyperincarceration and classism in our lives.

It is why Donald Trump would heartily win the presidential election if only white women voted, but “women” are being named as the constituency that “will defeat Donald Trump on election day.”

To reduce the backlash Schumer faced to Beyhive sensitivities is incorrect. By creating this video, she was not simply dishonoring the biggest cultural icon of our generation; she was firmly placing herself, as a white woman, at the center of a story where she had no place: black women’s self-love and sexual freedom.

What makes “Formation” uniquely powerful is the explicit blackness of both the imagery of King Bey’s video and the lyrics of the song.

In her most recent recording project, A Seat at the Table, the younger Knowles sister, Solange, tells us that when it comes to black culture, some “s–t is for us, some s–t you can’t touch.” White feminists’ inability to be anti-racist, reflective and anti-oppressive human beings continues to validate why so many black women are uncomfortable being labeled as “feminists,” in turn choosing to identify as black feminists and/or womanists to describe a politics that supports the fullness and complexity of our lives.

I don’t know Schumer’s intention in making this poor and pathetic excuse for comedy, and frankly, I don’t care. I am unwilling to thoughtfully nuance the moral constitutions of white feminists who are blatantly unashamed of the toxicity of their whiteness.

What I know for sure is that until white feminists get it together, they can’t sit with us.

Also on The Root: ‘When and Where I Enter’: The Racist Expectations of Whites-Only Feminism

Samantha Master is a black-queer-feminist activist, educator and member of the Black Youth Project 100. Follow her on Twitter.

Comments