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March 22, 2017

Women’s Marches and white feminism

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/ Daily Collegian)

Femininity, in all its forms, is undoubtedly undervalued. For this reason, all displays or expressions of femininity are an adamant and powerful form of social disobedience. Still, the Women’s Marches were not overwhelmingly defiant or angry responses to the lack of autonomy and power that feminine-identifying individuals have in this oppressive patriarchal society. Instead, the tone of these gatherings were celebratory. The purpose of these marches seemed to be uplifting feminine identities on the basis of their being white and cisgender.

Altogether too often, the assertion of femininity by white, cisgender individuals is based in white supremacy and transphobia. These expressions of identity are invalidating to many marginalized communities – trans people and people of color have long been rejected by society because their bodies do not fit the norms of being cisgender and/or white. The gender binary, an invention of European origin, has long enforced whiteness as the norm along with other standards of beauty dictated by men, thereby marking deviant feminine bodies as other, even as disgusting.

These marches were particularly upsetting given the current state of affairs in this country and beyond. The Black community, for example, has been powerfully protesting racial violence since the era of slavery in the United States. These Women’s Marches did not express distress about the rates at which transgender people and people of color are murdered in this country; instead, they were about camaraderie between people whose genitals match up with the extremely popular pink pussyhats, a symbol that is representative neither of womanhood nor femininity. To define having a pink vagina as a prerequisite for being a woman is to invalidate the many trans women who do not necessarily have vaginas and the many women of color whose genitals are not pink.

To be certain, the general sentiment of “fascism is vaguely bad” that is extraordinarily common amongst white folks is being heard over the death cries of trans people and people of color in this country. This is not to say that many or even most of these white liberals were not well-intentioned; Trump and the atmosphere of conservative, misogynistic politics in general are a remarkable threat to the bodily autonomy of white, cisgender women among many other groups. Access to abortion, for example, has already been directly targeted by the new administration. But the violence against other marginalized groups is so blatantly ignored by the mass media, politicians and most of society that it seems unfair for white cis women to center themselves, especially when they do not even use their voices to fight for their own rights.

White, cis women holding tight to a type of femininity that centers whiteness and being born into a particular type of body with a vagina makes it so that people of color, trans people and people who identify as a part of both communities find it continuously impossible to be accepted and valued by society. In order to break this form of oppression, it is critical that we expand our definitions of femininity and beauty to include people of all types who desire to exude gentleness, compassion and sensitivity. After all, in order for our societies to become less violent and more free, we undoubtedly need more of all of those things.

Colleen Dehais is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at cdehais@umass.edu.

Comments
5 Responses to “Women’s Marches and white feminism”
  1. Squirrel657 says:

    “These Women’s Marches did not express distress about the rates at which transgender people and people of color are murdered in this country”

    93% of black murder victims are murdered by other blacks.

    Source: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/feds-49-of-murder-victims-are-black-men/

  2. Sitting Bull says:

    This is some serious pysch-babble. It seems copied straight from a syllabus somewhere. Look up the term oppression. It does not exist in the United States. It is scary that “identifying” as a human with the body parts one was born with is becoming anathema on college campuses.

    “… trans people and people of color have long been rejected by society because their bodies do not fit the norms of being cisgender and/or white.” Such utter nonsense has almost never been printed, even at UMass with its illustrious history of nonsensical causes. Transgender and gay people have been rejected, shunned, violated and killed in almost every corner of the Earth to this day! By their own people of every color, stripe, religion and creed. Humans the world over reject these outliers out of fear, disgust, false morality and as un-natural. This is not to condone such behavior – far from it. But it exists everywhere. It has nothing to do with being white. I am so sick of the overt racism perpetuated by this university. Been going on for decades.

    What are we really talking about here? According to the Washington Post (as of 2014): More specifically, 1.8 percent of men self-identify as gay and 0.4 percent as bisexual, and 1.5 percent of women self-identify as lesbian and 0.9 percent as bisexual. The results are generally in the same ballpark as past estimates — and far below the long-debunked 10 percent estimate. As such, being gay, bi or trans is quite a statistical anomaly. That doesn’t mean that these communities shouldn’t be treated with respect, but it also shows that this incessant desire around here to elevate these populations to some mythical status is also quite misplaced.

    With the numbers being what they are, these people will always be outsiders to a large degree. It doesn’t have to be that way, as long as these groups keep the sexual politics and incessant demands (not to mention the distasteful comparisons to Black Americans struggle for civil rights) to a minimum. Also bothersome to us crackers is the incessant drivel that “people of color” are somehow all of the same status from a civil rights standpoint as Black Americans. That is a shameless attempt at racism against whites and patently intellectually false. All that argument does is seek to “pad the numbers” of the aggrieved to gain the “advantage” in controlling the national political agenda. All tactics of warfare. So forgive those Trump voters who see past all of this nonsense.

  3. David Fitzgerald says:

    thank you Colleen Dehais

    “Still, the Women’s Marches were not overwhelmingly defiant or angry responses to the lack of autonomy and power that feminine-identifying individuals have in this oppressive patriarchal society.”

    perhaps you could explain this, because I thought actual oppressive patriarchal societies existed in countries such as Iran and Saudi Arabia

    our society is such that nowadays much more than half of all college students are female

    isn’t this a good thing?

    perhaps for your next column, you could research the human rights of females in Iran and Saudi Arabia, and use that research to explain in more detail what an oppressive patriarchal society actually is

  4. David Hunt 1990 says:

    I find it ironic that, in 1979 as the Islamic regime took power in Iran, women fought against the hijab and other markers they were men’s property.

    Now, feminists adopt those same markers.

    The Top 10 Most Ridiculous Crimes and Punishments in Iran.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ewBzIwQfzBw

    The Top 10 Discriminating Rules Against Women in Iran.

  5. Carrie says:

    As a White Liberal Feminist, I find this post to be quite offensive. Feminism is rooted in White supremacy? WTF? and then this run on Gem… “Still, the Women’s Marches were not overwhelmingly defiant or angry responses to the lack of autonomy and power that feminine-identifying individuals have in this oppressive patriarchal society. Instead, the tone of these gatherings were celebratory. The purpose of these marches seemed to be uplifting feminine identities on the basis of their being white and cisgender.”

    http://www.vox.com/first-person/2017/1/21/14346568/womens-march-washington-photos-diversity

    https://www.womensmarch.com/principles/

    The author of this badly written, anti-woman, anti-feminist, inane post needs to reflect on the way she speaks of Women (Cis-Women I mean) and feminism as a whole. I was once a strong supporter of the trans-community, but rhetoric such as this, has led me in a new direction. It has forced me to defend myself in the face of MEN, (Trans women are MEN biologically, that’s a fact) who seek to tell me what it means to be a woman, what my issues should be and I how I should conduct myself in regards to my political/social activism.

    If you think you are somehow defending trans-women by calling women “pink pussyhats” you’re sadly mistaken. Trans-women will never have the experiences of a biological female and this idea that the female reproductive system should not be a Women’s issue because Trans-women, having the biology of a male cannot relate to it, is doing the opposite.

    And BTW your comment about Black Women’s pussies, was not only disgusting but it was also incorrect because, “THEY ARE ALL PINK ON THE INSIDE.” But that would follow your basic premise, which is based on the opinion that the way you dress, the way you alter yourself through surgery, hormones, wigs and makeup is what makes a woman a woman.

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