For once ... I’d like to be wrong. For once, I’d like white feminists to not be so damn predictable.
For once, I’d like white feminists to prove me wrong and do the complete opposite of what I expect them to do. For once, I’d like them to deviate from their typical play where they throw us—black women—under the bus by spiking us into the ground and abandoning us when they don’t need our labor or our “strength” anymore.
But then again, I’m probably asking for too much.
To explain, about two weeks ago, news broke that (in)famous movie producer and Hollywood power player Harvey Weinstein had preyed upon countless white women in Hollywood (and most likely women of color, too, who have yet to step forward, for a variety of good reasons).
Since then, Weinstein has rightfully been shamed, disgraced and dragged by Hollywood celebrities and civilians. But no one has quite come close to dragging him like actress Rose McGowan. McGowan was always vocal about sleazeballs like Weinstein, even prior to the New York Times and the New Yorker posting their explosive exposés. But regarding this ordeal, she has emerged as a Katniss Everdeen of sorts, coming for every famous male actor who either dismissed her or did something trifling back in the day, too.
Obviously, I support this. Cis, straight, white male violence impacts us all, and I’m all for that being dismantled and taken out. What I am not for is white women co-opting the struggles of black people—black women specifically—to do this. Which is why we are gathered here today.
Despite all the goodwill McGowan collected over the past couple of weeks, she managed to fuck that up in one week by tweeting out a now-deleted tweet that equated [white] women (because that’s who she meant) with the premier slur for black people. This was her way of shaming James Corden for triflingly joking about the Harvey Weinstein scandal.
She, essentially, went full white feminist.
Of course, this was expected. White women historically and embarrassingly continue to drop the intersectional ball. But even with that being the case, there are some other reasons that the fact that white feminism is rearing its basic-ass head this time around shouldn’t be all that surprising:
This past week, before her horrendous tweet, McGowan was suspended from Twitter because of what some saw as her speaking out against the culture of silence that aggravated sexual violence in Hollywood’s inner circle for decades. While she was reinstated later, cries to boycott the platform over her suspension rang out from a particular subset of Twitter (I’ll let you guess who). The plan was for women to boycott Twitter for the day by not tweeting at all.
I caught wind of this boycott Thursday evening (the night before) and briefly considered it when I thought: What sense does it make to protest being silenced ... by being silent? It sounds like some rhetorical circle jerk, but think about it: If the powers that be want you to shut the fuck up (especially in online spaces like Twitter), why would you do that? Why give them what they want?
To black femmes like me, it appeared to be counterintuitive, but also showed one thing:
White women are often the only people who can afford to stay silent.
That silence was an option to begin with proved that point, but it also showed the immense cognitive dissonance white feminists display when they try to engage in matters of social justice.
For black women, silence is often equatable to death. We go through enough silencing, suppression and harassment over our voices day in and day out (which I’m about to get to). So who exactly thought it wise to tell us that we should totally volunteer to give up our voices for the day? Hmm?
Thankfully, our favorite social media superstar, April Reign, fixed that glaring oversight with an adjacent protest (#WOCAffirmation), but that still doesn’t even begin to tackle the central issue many of us had with the boycott to begin with. Even if one were to excuse the method that was employed, there’d still be one problem left:
Indeed. The whole reason I abstained from boycotting was the fact that I could not get behind the insulting transparency of taking up arms for Rose McGowan but leaving black women like Jemele Hill and Leslie Jones to be devoured by the wolves.
Both examples are painful reminders of what happens to black women who are loud and proud with their voices. Hill, a private citizen, was harassed by the White House—by 45, the (unfortunate) president of the United States—for correctly referring to him as a white supremacist. She was almost replaced at ESPN for her first “offense” and then unceremoniously suspended by the network for her “second” offense.
And while black women came out strong for her (as per usual), there were crickets from the same people who would have rioted for McGowan. No call for a Twitter boycott. No assistance from Twitter to stave off 45’s attacks.
But that last part is unsurprising. Twitter has never cared about the harassment of black women on its platform. No, it would rather give us all 280 characters to waste and circular-profile pictures because why the fuck not?
And there’s no greater example of this than Leslie Jones. After accepting what she thought was going to be a fun and harmless role in the Ghostbusters reboot, Jones endured harassment for months. This escalated and reached a fever pitch when Milo Yuckyanduntalented intentionally went after her.
I’m not gonna rehash everything she was called or likened to, but Twitter took no action until Jones herself retweeted and quoted-tweeted the harassment as a “LOOK AT THIS SHIT” tactic for someone to pay attention to.
After days of the onslaught, Twitter finally (begrudgingly) banned Milo from Twitter. And even then, support didn’t come for her until #LoveForLeslieJ was created by @MarsInCharge—who is, wouldn’t you know it, a black femme. And with that hashtag came the punctuation of an eternal point:
The only support that black women have in this world is the support that we give to one another and ourselves.
And speaking of support for black women:
2. McGowan’s limp, disjointed, two-tweet “apology” demonstrates a profound lack of intersectionality and proves that she cannot be bothered with either repentance or accountability.
There were some who held out hope (I was not one of them) that even with McGowan’s fuck-ass tweet, she’d own up to her gap in logic and apologize accordingly. This is not what happened. Instead, we got a painfully underdeveloped “apology” split up in two pathetic tweets. One quite frankly blamed it on weed, and the other was her apologizing to “any ‘POC’ that were offended.”
I don’t know this “POC” to whom she is referring. I really don’t. You know why? Because she didn’t further marginalize, minimize or Columbus the struggle of “POC” when she made her offending tweet. She further marginalized, minimized and Columbused the struggle of black people. Specifically black women ... who, for the last time, live at the intersection of both (hello, misogynoir).
Regarding McGowan’s tweet, “nigger” is not a historical slur against “POC.” It is a slur against black people. Black. People. Referring to white women as such is not only gross hyperbole but is fundamentally false. White women are not black and therefore will never know that struggle.
Equating yourself to such because you have the misfortune of coming just below Chet Cheterson on the privilege pyramid does not a nigger make.
So instead of co-opting the struggle of black people by making false equivalencies such as these, McGowan should have been preoccupied with putting in some damn work and finding some way to call out James Corden without throwing black women (and black people at large) under the bus. Again.
But since that didn’t happen, since she used the specific pain of black women to make that gross analogy, that same fucking specificity should have been employed to apologize to black women.
Not “POC.” Not “WOC.” Black women.
If McGowan can tweet that shit with her chest, she should be able to apologize with her chest, too.
And make no mistake.
While I greatly empathize with McGowan’s pain and the pain of any survivor (which was well-documented this past weekend with #MeToo), white feminists like her shouldn’t let John Lennon and Yoko Ono get them fought. Because white women are not the “nigger of the world.”
And they never will be.