It’s frustrating dealing with liberals, fighting over the word ‘feminist’, when we’re all clearly united against patriarchy. Who are these man-hating feminists denouncers speak of? I have nothing against the term “womanist,” coined by my favourite novelist Alice Walker. This is especially true since I have familiarized myself with generations of earlier feminist work by elite, white women who seemingly ignored the women of colour whose labour gave them the leisure time to write and publish those works (for more on this, see bell hooks’ iconic 1984 Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center, or Patricia Hill Collins’ ground-breaking 2000 Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment ). Yet, why do we allow ourselves to be so split? As early as 1851, proto-feminist Sojourner Truth delivered the words ‘Ain’t I a Woman’ decades before Suffrage, yet we allow illiberals to divide-and-conquer – us! We, liberals, split hairs with one another at every turn, meanwhile right-wingers organise towards our total demise.
So, for your reading pleasure, I’ve totally copied Peggy McIntosh’s Invisible Knapsack of White Privilege (1989). I’ve inserted “gender” where she originally wrote “race,” inserted “patriarchy” to speak of culture, and used the F-word – “feminist” – where she speaks of people of colour. Here we go:
- I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my gender widely represented. Unless the topic is gender, most of the coverage in entire sections is devoted to my gender, such as sports and economics.
- When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization,” I am shown that people of my gender as leaders of policies and thought.
- I can be sure that boys will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence, relevance, intelligence and dominance of their gender.
- I can be casual about whether or not to listen to a woman’s voice in a group in which she is the only member of her gender.
- I do not have to educate boys to be aware of systemic sexism for their own daily physical protection.
- I can be pretty sure that my male children’s teachers and employers will tolerate them if they fit school and workplace norms; my chief worries about them do not concern others’ attitudes toward their gender, because ‘boys will be boys’.
- I can talk with my mouth full and not have people put this down to my gender.
- I can swear, or dress in second hand clothes, or not answer letters, without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty, illiteracy or lack of beauty of my gender.
- I can speak in public to a powerful male group without putting my gender on trial.
- I can remain oblivious of the language and customs of women who constitute the world’s majority without feeling in patriarchal culture any penalty for such oblivion.
- I am never asked to speak for all the people of my gender group.
- I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my gender.
- I can criticize our government and talk about how much I fear its policies and behavior without being seen as an outsider to patriarchal culture.
- I can be pretty sure that if I ask to talk to the “person in charge”, I will be facing a person of my gender.
- If I declare there is a sexist issue at hand, or there isn’t a sexist issue at hand, my gender will lend me more credibility for either position than a woman will have.
- I can choose to ignore developments in feminist writing and feminist activist programs, or disparage them, or learn from them, but in any case, I can find ways to be more or less protected from negative consequences of any of these choices.
- Patriarchal culture gives me little fear about ignoring the perspectives and powers of women.
- I can easily buy posters, post-cards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys and children’s magazines featuring people of my gender in a non-sexual way.
- I can be pretty sure that an argument with a colleague of another race is more likely to jeopardize her chances for advancement than to jeopardize mine
- I am not made acutely aware that my shape, bearing or body odor will be taken as a reflection on my gender.
- I can worry about sexism without being seen as self-interested or self-seeking.
- I can take a job with an affirmative action employer without having my co-workers on the job suspect that I got it because of my gender.
- If my day, week or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether it had sexist overtones.
- I can think over many options, social, political, imaginative or professional, without asking whether a person of my gender would be accepted or allowed to do what I want to do.
- I can arrange my activities so that I will never have to experience feelings of rejection owing to my gender.
- If I have low credibility as a leader I can be sure that my gender is not the problem.
- I can easily find academic courses and institutions which give attention only to people of my gender.
- I can travel alone without expecting embarrassment or hostility in those who deal with me.
McIntosh notes, and I concur: My schooling gave me no training in seeing myself as an oppressor, as an unfairly advantaged person, or as a participant in a damaged culture. I was taught to see myself as an individual whose moral state depended on her individual moral will.
“Womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender” affirms Alice Walker in acknowledging the interconnectedness of gender, race and class theory and oppression. Sit down when feminists rise at (y)our own peril. Please, dear liberals, let’s stop playing the who-more-woke game and get in-formation!