Laci Green. Courtesy of her channel on YouTube
Let’s get this out of the way first. I am a white man writing a critical article about privilege in a group that is still marginalized but which I do not belong to. I’m doing that to expound on an idea expressed to me by a white female friend who didn’t want to soak up the hate mail and gifted it to me instead. There is no way this will not be problematic in some ways. I accept that, and I welcome criticism in the comments or on my professional Facebook page. So, content warning: mansplaining.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who viewed the number of white women who voted for Donald Trump with a mixture of confusion and dismay. A majority of white women, 53 percent, did so. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not letting white men off the hook in the slightest. We voted for Der Gropenfuhrer to the tune of 63 percent. I consider my group to be the primary demographic responsible for the election outcome, and I find any attempt to wave that blame away as “just something we do” to be disturbing and wrong — no one owns this dumpster fire like white men.
However, the white women vote split was an unexpected boost to Trump’s win. Many of us assumed Trump’s chances to win a female majority in any racial demographic to be negligible after the famous pussy grabbing recordings surfaced. And there were all kinds of think pieces on the secret places online women were congregating to cheer on Hillary Clinton, hinting at a silent majority that would catapult the former Secretary of State into the Oval Office. That majority never materialized, however, and one of the most prominent of those groups, Pantsuit Nation, turned from safe space into a milquetoast white feminism money grab.
I have a theory, and it isn’t a pretty one: white women are becoming the new white men. More accurately, they are becoming identical to the type of white man who always talked a good game on equality, but could not be really counted on to perform the necessary labor in the clinch.
You might have heard about the recent ideological turn of prominent YouTuber Laci Green, who achieved her fame for her feminist sex education videos. I’ve linked to her in articles in the past because she was a very good source of accessible information. Now, she has begun flirting with the alt-right, reactionary YouTube community. Increasingly, her online presence has been an attempt to position herself as the middle-ground between what she considers the far left and the alt-right, and in doing so has begun dancing with prominent personalities most notable for being part of large-scale harassment campaigns against feminists. If you want any proof of her shift, consider that Milo Yiannopoulos wants to interview her from his place in his well-deserved exile.
I bring up Green because she is a perfect example of my premise. In this great article by Martin Hughes, he describes the very real threats that Green has received from the swirling chemical toilet that is often Tumblr feminism. After being confronted over the use of the word “tranny” in an earlier video, she apologized and removed it, but was still being harassed by angry fans. The non-acceptance of her apology seems to be a driving catalyst of her turn, according to a recent video. As Martin says, though, apologies are not about you. They are about the people you hurt, even if those people don’t react with forgiveness.
And that’s what I see in too many white women lately. They act too much like the white men who gift their allyship with the strings attached that you never be upset with them if they fuck up. Real progress will involve even the people who share your beliefs sometimes being mean to you about your mistakes. The answer is to change your behavior — not your beliefs — in order to find a more sympathetic group. At least, that’s the answer if your beliefs are sincere and not just pretentions of convenience.
These sort of defections are incredibly harmful, especially to women of other races who require the numbers of the white women demographic to do things like win presidential elections. As Dahleen Glanton of the Chicago Tribune wrote…
“Black women thought you were serious about breaking that glass ceiling. But when you were close enough to touch it, you turned around and walked away. Maybe it wasn’t all that important to you after all.”
My theory for this is very simple. As white women make gains in equality with men, their comfort level rises. Not to say that they have achieved equality. Gender equality does not exist anywhere in the world. However, the level of inequality for many is apparently still comfortable enough of an existence to allow them the luxury of taking a chance on a man unqualified to be president, a man who actively works against the interest of women. In fact, many of these women seem comfortable fraternizing with men who make their livelihood trying to drive women they don’t like off of speaking platforms. They choose to prove their female empowerment and independence by not voting for a woman.
In doing so they throw people of color, who overwhelmingly voted for Clinton, under the bus. There’s a reason that Angela Peoples showed up to the post-inaugural women’s march, not with a pink pussy hat and a sign about sisterhood, but with one saying “stop killing black people.” The marches were inspirational, yes, but Peoples serves as a sober reminder that progress towards equality will require an examination of whiteness and its effects. Because you look around the world we have lived in since January, and you shouldn’t count on women of color to save us from ourselves. They don’t have the numbers yet. At least, not in the right places to tip the Electoral College. White people, including women, need to get serious about our obligations to the rest of America.
As I freely admitted in the first paragraph, I’m almost certainly not the person to be making this case, which is why I’ve tried to link to the writings of people of color whenever I could. My only hope is that the cool girls, the girls that can hang, the ones who want to be just one of the boys, and the ones who support the patriarchy either because of racism or because it suits their own ends, will listen to a white man saying things he maybe shouldn’t.
I mean, it worked for the president.