It was a joy and honor to share two White Noise Collective workshops at the 13th Annual White Privilege Conference in Albuquerque. This year’s overall theme was “Intersectionality”. Both times we had a full room of wonderfully engaged participants, intergenerational perspectives, fascinating insights and Theater of the Oppressed explorations. As people entered the room, we asked them to write a word or phrase in response to nine questions that were up on the walls on large sheets of paper, to get us collectively thinking about some of the dynamics, tensions, stereotypes and possibilities of this intersection. A number of participants asked if we would share the responses, and so here they are in their fullness, compiled and combined from both sessions.
Thank you to everyone for your openness, presence, enthusiasm, constructive criticism, and inspiration!
What is the role of white women holding up the system of white supremacy?
Passivity/submission * silence is acceptance * non-confrontational * submissive * partnering * management * keep quiet * amnesia/numbing of pain after witnessing racist violence done by white men * majority of K-12 teachers * keeping the peace * seeking power * silence <-> complicity * focusing activist efforts on feminism (white women) * history of protecting whiteness in the name of protecting white women * being afraid to challenge white males * fear of perception of “bitch” – “unhappy” – “cold”, etc. * ignorance/turning a blind eye/unaware/allowing racism/white privilege to grow within another generation * white feminism is exclusive of women of color * expecting someone else to do the work * staying silent * trying to be “one of the boys” * we are complicit beneficiaries of this system * we live with and raise white men and women who benefit from white privilege * being too comfortable with it; buying into stereotypes * “seeing” gender over race * we benefit from white supremacy * assuming silence/complacence with institutional violence * we are in the middle ground and can pass on problem behaviors or stop them * we put ourselves in front of women of color and silence their voices * how we treat others – microaggressions * socializing their children to view the white-dominated structure as normal * comforting people who are anxious (should be anxious) about their own abuses of power * diffusing energy, forestalling conflict (conflicts that should be expressed)
What role do white women have in disrupting white supremacy?
Challenging the powers * challenging their own power/privilege * challenging the status quo * speaking up * challenging/refusing if possible racial privileges and advantages * believing in themselves * better relationships with women of color, sharing power * raising anti-racist children * supporting each other * forming non-competitive relationships with other white women * mothers not teaching their sons to be patriarchs * challenging other white people * working as allies with POC in institutions where we have power/are given credibility * living our truth, finding/bring/participating authentic selves * acknowledging and challenging their oppression – this is a big one! Especially in relationship to educating our children! * the intersection of being oppressed and privileged – lives serve to remind that things are complicated * listening to others with openness * recognizing privilege and disrupt it through experience of their own oppression * confronting our own privilege while demanding our own inclusion * solidarity/coalitions/using our privilege to “get it done” * paying attention * disrupting the cycle in our children * listening and believing the stories of women of color * drawing on experiences of gender oppression to make parallels * using “power” of white race to challenge it…* becoming educated, changing our own beliefs and actions and then passing those beliefs and actions onto our children * realizing the privilege that exists within us and the oppression * an active, essential role * lovingly dismantle it
Why is an intersectional analysis important?
Women experience power inequality * recognizing that the “essentialism” of being a woman is often only described from a white woman view * because we contain the effects of multiple –isms, sexism + our whiteness – they will come out whether we discuss then or not * so we understand both * our liberation will never come while others are oppressed * being in touch with the impact of sexism on us can make us powerful allies for racial and LGBTQ justice * my gender is different than yours because of my other identities and experiences * I’m more complicated than I look * I cam not reducible to one part of my identity * representation of different class and educational levels * because that is how power functions * white women have as much white privilege as white men * understanding * to take a critical but loving look at oneself * to move past racist histories in feminism * because systems of oppression are complex and not uni-dimensional * to understand how complicated people are, move beyond skin color, because we have differential levels of power, privilege and oppression – depending on our identities * to share this analysis with our children, girls and boys * to understand ourselves and others * we wear many hats, which all provide meaning and shape experience* it is essential for collective liberation
What barriers do white women have to working with each other for racial justice?
Competitiveness * socialized to be “nice” * “it’s not my problem” * no time * “I’m not part of the problem” * white liberal guilt/emotions * non-saliency of whiteness * perceived obligations to white men * inability of white women to relate to people of color * we too often put each other down * self-absorption * trying to “one-up” each other!! * class difference * “I don’t say racist things, therefore I’m not racist!” * we’d rather connect with POC * fear of being “wrong” * individualism * our own privilege * acrimony * feeling like need to be perfect * all or nothing approach * fear of the unknown * judgment * lack of communication with one another – frank conversations * feel need to be polite * fear of conflict * not being comfortable with our own voice * fear * trying to one-up each other * different levels of racial consciousness * wanting to fit in…* issues of class * internalized oppression – tearing each other down * we take ourselves too seriously * confronting our internalized racism/how we fall short as activists
What white women images are we shown in the media?
Sexualized * Barbie doll * skinny with long hair * “no brains” * able-bodied * only exist in relationship to men * virgin/whore * nice * blonde, blue eyes, thin, tall * heterosexual * smart, strong ones are evil or alone * self-absorbed, not caring about women of color * skinny, the “ideal” image of beauty * model-perfect body * married/mother * sex kittens and models of virtue * NO strong opinions * silky hair * only beautiful with make-up * conflicting: some smart and open-minded, some hateful and oppressive, others dutiful * objects * sluts! * stealing another’s man * hating on other women ! * skinny * sexy * mothers – wives – daughters: primary roles * white women as supporters of men in power * consumers – decision makers of household purchases * unsatisfied with all things – buy more! * passive victims * skinny * cheerleaders * thin, fashionable consumers * politeness * skinny * long hair * saviors * nurturers * nagging our husbands * heterosexual * soccer moms and working moms * skinny * cheerleaders * plenty
(these next four were labeled as stereotypes)
How do white females show emotion?
Hushed voices * chocolate, ice cream and a chick flick * cry * shut down and avoid communication * cry * tentatively * defer to men * cry * journaling * internalize * perfection * with restraint * not supposed to show anger – hold it in * “with class” * physical symptoms * in private * crying * crying, but being embarrassed about crying * through cracks in “always happy” veneer * high pitched strident voice * body language/facial expression * avoidance/coping “retail therapy” + “chocolate makes it better!” * talk it out * touching someone with whom she feels empathy * tears * hand gestures * anger – passive aggressive comments * cry * scream * in their eyes * vent * we are told not to feel marginalized when we do * verbally * internalized anger/self-hatred – eating disorders* avoidance* body language * tears * assume it’s personal
How do white females communicate?
Politely * passive-aggressive * connecting * talk * beat around the bush * self-critical * apologetic * mirroring those around us * thinking a lot about what the listener may think of me!! * relationship aggression, sometimes * softly * relationally * primarily face to face * pouting * manipulation * “kinda”/”maybe” * relationally * sweetly * without thinking through * compromise/capitulation to avoid direct conflict! * sharing excitement * body language * so many words!! * over-processing microscopic interactions – letting them crowd out more important stuff * with manipulation * touching – hugging, using hands, looks * subtle back-stab, emotion, faux listeners * with subtlety * tears * gossip * verbally * behind the scenes * in the hallway, the bathroom, in the meeting after the meeting – not in the center of the workplace * gossip
What do white females value?
Respect * equality (in general) * being taken seriously * self-expression * family * financial security * personal growth * fidelity/loyalty * equality with men * their work * comfort * being valued by men * body image * looking beautiful * marriage * our image * friendship * connection * being helpful * independence * $ – what others think * education * understanding * niceness * body image * family * security yeah yeah yeah * body image * respect * relationships * giving * having a family * their own security! * religion * voice, progress, options * connection * connection with spirit * companionship/partnership * do we have collectively shared values? * providing others with support & comfort * inclusion * success * status * connection * friends with other women who share same values * giving
What defines status for white females?
Media * family * education * job * husband’s work * my work * vocab/accent/language * desirability * married * femininity * connections * motherhood * education * $ * appearances * desirability * children/fertility * educational achievements at elite institutions * weight/dress size * popularity * beauty (natural or constructed) * money * charisma * a seat at the table * beauty * privilege * physical appearances * power * education * clothing * presentation: hair/make-up/”personal upkeep” * class position * I wish I knew * rich husbands * adherence to normativity * powerful husband * as mothers * voice being heard * education – yes! * rich husbands
What a list! Please feel free to share reflections on any of these themes – we’d love to hear your thoughts.