Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Oppression or Suppression of White Women

I stumbled upon a thread written over at Rachel's Tavern over a year ago (A Really Ignorant Comment–I Have No Race, No Culture, No Nationality) It's a discussion of how some people try to use their white privilege to disavow any responsibility for the way that their actions (and the system they uphold) contribute to the oppression of women of color. Overall, it's an interesting thread. There's one comment in particular that I've been thinking about ever since I read it. It had to do with some one's statement that white women are oppressed. I wish I could just link to it directly and I wish I knew some means of getting in touch with the person who wrote it but there doesn't seem to be any way to do that, so I'll just post it here for those who can't go through the entire thread just to find it.

White women are not oppressed.

White women are, and always have been suppressed.

There is a world of difference in how white women in America, and the world over have lived their lives being suppressed by the white men of their race.

But, there is not a white woman alive who can truly say that she is oppressed.

ONLY WOC can truly claim that word.

Oppression involves being crushed, burdened, physically AND mentally torn apart by the abusive power of those who can wield that unjust, cruel, abusive, vicious RACIST AND SEXIST power over you.

Oppression.

In BOTH body and mind.

Suppression involves the putting down of a person by authority, to stop, to prohibit, to keep from them that which they would act upon if their were no taboos or prohibitions in place, which includes prohibitions of the prevailing societies norms of that time, in this case, chattel slavery:

-white women could not have sex with black men (but, white men could rape all the black women and girls they wanted like gluttonous savages)
-white women were taken out of the fields (early part of the colonial America), and put into the home [whether she was a poor white or upper-class slave holding wife]; black women were worked like beasts in the field with the black men slaves, worked as if they were BOTH a field animal and as if they were men—-black women were not accorded person hood, nor WOMANHOOD.

White women were suppressed. They do not have a history of being oppressed.

If any two groups of women in America can tell you about oppression, it is Native American women and Black American women: facing daily mass gang rapes by white males (Native American/Black American women); watching your children being butchered during so-called “Indian Wars” (NA women); watching your children that you carried for nine months close to your heart, sold away from you (Black American women); seeing your land that once stretched as far as the eye could see before the coming of the white man—seeing your whole country taken from you—piece, by piece, by piece—by theft, trickery or outright genocide.

Seeing your culture torn to shreds, your traditions scattered to the winds, your body used as a receptacle for the most basest and degrading form of male hatred ever done against two groups of women.

Yes.

NA women and Black American women know of what oppression is.

White women never have.

White women share gender with Black and NA women.

And there the similarities end.

Oppression.

White women never have lived through the hells that Black, Native American, Asian, Latina women have suffered at the hands of racist, sexist, genocidal, imperialist white males.

White women know nothing of oppression.

Not being able to work and acquire wealth alongside the white man is nothing compared to the hells that WOC have endured in this country and this world, ever since Europeans left Europe.

And white women are the last to advocate agency, responsibility, and autonomy when the fit hits the shan.

In the 1800s they ran when WOC needed the solidarity of white women.

In the last century they ran when WOC needed for white women to stand shoulder to shoulder in true solidarity, but, white women as always thought of themselves first, and foremost.

Oppression.

Not white women.

Black women
Native American women
Asian women
Latina women

Those women truly know the real, hard, vicious hellish meaning of the word oppression.

17 comments:

Trinity said...

Nitpick: "White women cannot be oppressed" is false (there are other axes of oppression, such as disability, trans status, etc.) "White women cannot be oppressed for being white" is true.

I know what the author was trying to say, but it tweaks my brain to see someone *ignoring intersectionality in the middle of pointing out intersectionality.*

BLESSD1 said...

Damn Bint...that is quite the powere little piece of truth there.

dmarks said...

I think there was too much generalization there.

bint alshamsa said...

I agree with you both, dmarks and Trinity. It seems a bit reactionary to me. It completely ignores the role of disability in this culture. People with disabilities have experienced many of these same kinds of assault that the writer mentioned and that includes those PWD who happen to be white.

Our children have been taken from us (because we aren't fit to parent). Our homes have been taken from us (when we're forced into institutions like nursing homes). Our bodies have been and still are raped at alarming rates. Our bodies have been used as guinea pigs by the medical establishment for the good of "society" (which of course doesn't acknowledge us as equal members).

shiva said...

Frankly, i thought (until i scrolled down and saw nothing after the end of the quote) that you were quoting this in order to brutally fisk it.

Amanda Baggs is a white woman. So is Anne McDonald. Go ask them (and the thousands if not millions of others with similar life experiences) if they have been oppressed.

bint alshamsa said...

Shiva,

I've been having some problems with one of my hands so I wasn't really able to type up an analysis of it when I posted it. A quick cut 'n' paste was about all I could manage. I did try to address the problems with it once my hand stopped hurting so much.

I think it might be a good idea for me to move my response to it from the comments section and place them at the end of the post.

Daisy said...

What does "white" mean?

I ask because
Irish people didn't used to be considered white.

Anonymous said...

bint ashamsha , i a white woman of north africa and i have always been oppressed . the opressor ? not especially a white'european man , it's the muslim arab man who opressed for EIGHT centuries WHITE WOMEN in Spain ! there is a hint of jealousy and lack of seriousness in what you say , you forgot that as a mullatoo the likes of you showed superiority on ENTIRE black women and the lesser you are black , the more you are prefered y ... black men! may be your problem is that you don't earn desire from white man , what a dream to have someone like paul Newman.
another point : asians have their hierarchy in color : white is beatiful !!!
what oppresion feel the asians when 95 % white men have , once in their life yhe yellow fever . don't accuse white women , being white give us no privilege
hahina

belledame222 said...

I thought she used to have a blog. "Beautiful, Also, Are the Souls of my Black Sisters," was it?

I remember arguing with her a tad, but ultimately letting it go because all things considered--what she was responding to (fucking Blanche and kittywhosis) as well as overall context--it felt too much like defending people I really didn't want to be defending to keep picking at the generalizations and other shit that was bothering me.

that said, yeah, I still think it's too...eh. rather sweeping. and I say that as someone who as it later turned out might -not- be as implicated on account she had exemptions for Jews and Eastern Europeans, I mean I have no attachment to "I am TOO a member of an Oppressed Class," myself, but...still not really feeling it.

and while I saw her point and agree with trinity ("white women cannot be oppressed -for being white-," which is undoubtedly what she was saying), the semantic distinction between "oppressed" and "suppressed" seemed like angel pin-dancing to me. What does that mean, "suppressed but not oppressed?" And then we're arguing about entire swaths of the population...shrug.

mostly her point was at Blanche: you really need to STFU now with your attempt to smack down a bunch of WoC with -Virginia Fucking Woolf- for flying fuck's sake, and as for the chattel, slavery, etc. you're invoking: what d'you mean WE, white woman?

...which, no argument from me here.

in general though, not my cuppa, that rhetorical style.

bint alshamsa said...

Hahina,

ahlan wa sahlan! I'm so glad that you've come and shared your viewpoint here on My Private Casbah. I think you may be confusing my words with the comments that I was quoting. I think it is absolutely possible for white women to be oppressed. The discussion was mostly about whether white women were ever oppressed for being white.

On this blog I talk a lot about the differences between types of oppression and the that they intersect with each other. Your situation brings up some very complex issues.

For instance, some Muslim arab men are white so, if/when you are oppressed by them, is it because you are white or is it for some other reason? Could it really be oppression stemming from nationalism instead?

With regards to what you suspect about me, well, I do think it's more than a bit wrong for several reasons. For one, I'm so dark that I'd probably been right out there in the fields with the other "entire black women" regardless of what my heritage is. There have very few people who, upon meeting me, assumed that I was anything other than simply black.

And your idea about me being able to "earn desire" from a white man, is also kind of silly. Actually, it's very silly. As a matter of fact, my life-partner is white and he isn't the first white person who has desired me. Paul Newman was gorgeous but I'd choose the guy I have at home over him any day. By the way, I don't have to do anything to earn desire from anyone. I don't know what you're used to having to do to get men of any color/race/ethnicity to desire you but I've found that just being myself is enough to get more attention than I'm even interested in responding to. So what is there to be jealous of when I have had the greatest guy anyone could ask for right here with me for the past ten years?

Lastly, the sexualized exoticization of Asian women by white people does not negate the existence of white privilege. Have you ever considered the fact that many Asian women don't want to be objects of desire to white men? That you aren't even aware of how this "yellow fever" contributes to the oppression of women of color is even more evidence of the white privilege that you're claiming doesn't exist.

bint alshamsa said...

Daisy,

That is one of my favorite books of all times!! I knew there was a reason why I liked you so much! We have so much in common. Thanks for mentioning that book.

I would love to write more about this issue of "what does white mean". Once my finger gets better, I might try to tackle it. Of course, I'd LOVE to hear your take on it, if you'd be interested in giving it a shot.

bint alshamsa said...

Belle,

It just so happens that I stumbled onto that blog just a couple of hours after reading your comment. I'm going to check it out and see if it's the same person.

Anonymous said...

"watching your children being butchered during so-called “Indian Wars” (NA women)"

Just thought I would mention that African American soldiers voluntarily participated in the atrocities against natives during the Indian Wars and helped bring the white man's law and order to the frontier.

Just thought it was sort of interesting, things aren't as black and white as one would think.

bint alshamsa said...

Anonymous,

That is something that points to the complexity of this issue. Just yesterday, I was conversing with my brother (a Republican) about whether it makes sense for black people to join in the (mostly white) movement to force immigrants to speak English. Whenever I see groups like the Minute Men and there's a black person with them, I always wonder how it is they justified their allegiance with that cause.

Vernon said...

It seems evident why blacks have been compelled to take part in some of the same things being criticizing as "white" atrocities against people of color. It is the same reason black slaves in various parts of North and South America had no issue beating other slaves or carrying out harsh and brutal punishments and torture against people of their own kind - self-hatred and desire to be like the oppressor. Psychologically this gives the feeling of power to the oppressed. A feeling of power that is non-existent in others who are oppressed were it will manifest as apathy, self-loathing, depression, and feelings of hopelessness. It is this desire to be like the oppressor that is one of the symptoms of the oppressed. Would you want to feel inferior or feel powerful and dominant? The problem persists until one's own social status as the oppressor or the oppressed can be self-identified. Unfortunately, it seems evident that many Buffalo Soldiers failed to realize their oppression in the deepest meaning of the word. True observance of oppression leads one to believe, that oppression of any kind is unacceptable.

Drop the Hate, You Might Live Longer said...

Hate-filled and spiteful little creature, aren't you?

It's no wonder even your own body doesn't want you on this earth for much longer.

bint alshamsa said...

Drop the Hate,

You fail. I guess you haven't heard, I'm set to be here for a while, so your little theory just doesn't hold up. LOL