Taylor Swift attempted to bring the Infamous Swift-Minaj Twitter Fiasco of 2015 to an end today, tweeting out an apology to her followers and to Nicki for reacting negatively to Nicki’s well-deserved criticism of the MTV Video Music Award (VMA) nominations. If you recall, Nicki took a bite out of the racist, sexist, fatphobic music industry after her jaw-dropping, subversive “Anaconda” (which in my opinion should be immortalized forever as modern art) didn’t snag a Video of the Year nomination.
Now that Taylor has apologized, we can all move on, right? Well — I’m glad Tay apologized, but her tweet left me thinking, “Yes … and?”
Taylor’s reaction to Nicki’s tweets is just the most recent instance of white feminism rearing its ugly head this year. It stole the spotlight earlier this summer when Rihanna’s “B*** Better Have My Money” flummoxed “feminists” — who called it woman-hating, anti-feminist, bla bla bla, without understanding its more complex messages of racial imbalance between white and black women (and just in general, diluting feminism down into a oversimplified political ideology of solidarity, which it isn’t and shouldn’t be, but that’s for another article entirely).
Then there was that time when Miley Cyrus used black female bodies for props. And the other time she used black female bodies for props. And then that time Lily Allen tried to make a subversive, feminist video, but just made a video where she used black female bodies as props.
I could go on.
The point is: we need to start talking about white feminism, and how it isn’t feminism at all.
What’s white feminism?
White feminism is the misunderstanding and misuse of feminism that fails to acknowledge (and sometimes completely excludes) issues that affect, specifically, women of color.
White feminism praises Miley Cyrus for expressing her sexuality but calls Nicki Minaj a slut for doing the same thing.
White feminism swoons over Kylie’s cute and edgy cornrows but comments on Zendaya’s dreads as smelling like “weed.”
White feminism picks Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” for video of the year — a video packed with traditionally-attractive women — and punt-kicks Nicki Minaj’s video to lesser categories, even though both videos broke the same kind of records. This blatant racism and sexism are what Nicki was calling out — not you, Taylor.
White feminism sees and celebrates the accomplishments of white women. And it criticizes and ignores the rest.
White feminists want to treat all women equally, which can seem noble, but it just isn’t true. Women aren’t all the same. Black women and their communities have entirely different issues and concerns than white women, or Latina women, or Asian women — and many of these issues stem from white privilege that white women benefit from.
But wait! #NotAllWhiteFeminists! Why are we pitting women against each other? Isn’t this what Taylor meant? Why all this “Bad blood?” Can’t we “Shake it Off?”
Use all the Taylor Swift lyrics you want, but white feminism is very real, and it’s important we start saying it out loud. Fear of the name only increases fear of the thing itself.
We call feminism feminism, and not humanism or equalism, because the movement is about acknowledging gender disparity. We call white feminism white feminism because white women are the ones benefiting from it. I tip my hat to Tina Fey, Lena Dunham, Lily Allen and, yes, Taylor Swift, for the good that they’ve accomplished. But they are white feminists, every one — each one failing to use her platform to help her sisters of color. And they are not the mouthpieces of my feminism.
Taylor, now I’m speaking directly to you.
You’re a great role model for a lot of reasons, and your accomplishments in music and charity shouldn’t be dragged. But your apology? Band-Aids don’t fix bullet holes, sister.
To become a true spokeswoman for feminism — one who deserves Nicki’s presence on stage with you — you need to start speaking out about your own privilege, challenging body norms and using your power to prop up women of color, not use them as props.
Post a real apology. Retweet Nicki’s scathing, on-point commentary about the VMA nominations. And while you’re at it, maybe you should take an African-American studies class just to better understand what the heck Nicki is even talking about — and please, for the sake of feminists everywhere, take your bestie Lena Dunham with you.