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the narrative reproduction of white feminist racism

Research paper by Terese Jonsson

Indexed on: 12 Aug '16Published on: 01 Jul '16Published in: Feminist Review



Abstract

Abstract White women’s racism has been the topic of many critiques, discussions and conflicts within British feminist theory and politics over the last fifty years, driven by women of colour’s insistence that white feminists must take on board the significance of race in order to stop perpetuating racism. Yet still today, feminist academia and activism in Britain continues to be white-dominated and to participate in the reproduction of racism and whiteness. This article examines the role of dominant historical narratives of feminism in enabling this reproduction, arguing that there is a direct correlation between how the feminist past is constructed in relation to race and racism and how feminist theory and politics are articulated in the present. Focussing on three contemporary feminist texts that address feminism itself as a subject, it highlights three techniques used in these texts that, it is argued, are commonly employed in the narrative reproduction of white feminist racism. These are: (1) the erasure of the work of British feminists of colour; (2) white feminist co-option of work by feminists of colour; and (3) the narration of feminist theory and politics as having ‘moved on’ from racism. These techniques lead to evasion of the topic of white feminist racism, both historically and in the present. They also reinforce the construction of British feminism as a story that belongs to white women. The article argues that in order to work towards ending white supremacy, white feminists must relinquish control of the feminist narrative and stop moving on from the topic of white feminist racism.AbstractWhite women’s racism has been the topic of many critiques, discussions and conflicts within British feminist theory and politics over the last fifty years, driven by women of colour’s insistence that white feminists must take on board the significance of race in order to stop perpetuating racism. Yet still today, feminist academia and activism in Britain continues to be white-dominated and to participate in the reproduction of racism and whiteness. This article examines the role of dominant historical narratives of feminism in enabling this reproduction, arguing that there is a direct correlation between how the feminist past is constructed in relation to race and racism and how feminist theory and politics are articulated in the present. Focussing on three contemporary feminist texts that address feminism itself as a subject, it highlights three techniques used in these texts that, it is argued, are commonly employed in the narrative reproduction of white feminist racism. These are: (1) the erasure of the work of British feminists of colour; (2) white feminist co-option of work by feminists of colour; and (3) the narration of feminist theory and politics as having ‘moved on’ from racism. These techniques lead to evasion of the topic of white feminist racism, both historically and in the present. They also reinforce the construction of British feminism as a story that belongs to white women. The article argues that in order to work towards ending white supremacy, white feminists must relinquish control of the feminist narrative and stop moving on from the topic of white feminist racism.