Feminism: Black, White, and Shades of Gray

I recently read an article on none other than U.S. national treasure, Miley Cyrus.  You see, while I have never exactly been a fan of hers, I can respect some of her ideas – especially her recent ones. Ok, so mostly he recent ones. Ok. Only her recent ones.

Miley has been very outspoken about her criticisms for the way that society pigeonholes women. Most notably she has made statements about the perception of women’s breasts – mainly nipples – and how the censorship and ick factor of women’s nipples is kind of, well, bullshit. And it totally is. In fact, I was watching a clip of Miley on Jimmy Kimmel making this exact point, and I couldn’t help but smile at the points that she was making. The over-sexualization of women’s bodies is something that really needs to be thrown away in the garbage. Like now. Let’s kick it to the curb. When’s trash day?

But – and it’s a big but – as I watched this video I saw some related links/comments referencing the recent statement that Miss Cyrus made about the Nicki Minaj vs. Taylor Swift Twitter-tastrophe. Let me tell you, the respect that had grown for Miley quickly plumetted. One-hundred to zero, real quick.

Miley openly dismissed Nicki’s points because Nicki had come across as “angry” and “mean.” I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. Why? Because I am over this pseudo-feminism. Miley has no problem advocating for the FREE THE TITTY!!! campaign yet she openly admitted that she can overlook Nicki’s comment on the industry’s dismissal of women of color simply because Nicki wasn’t polite about it. This is a prime example of what is commonly referred to as white feminism.

“White feminists” are women who advocate to be equal to that of men (they dress up as Rosie the Riveter and talk about how amazing the suffragettes were) but who fail to support, and even worse, to acknowledge, that women of color have struggled in a way that white women will never understand.

Do they know what it feels like to grow up in a world where every leading lady has porcelain skin? Do they feel adolescent shame when they look in the mirror and don’t see themselves as beautiful because the “ideal” woman is shoved in their face everyday – whether it’s a pop star, book character,or Disney princess? The answer is no. White women simply do not have this experience.

And that’s not a crime. Ignorance is not a crime, but you know what is? Parading around as a feminist who is liberated and socially-aware, only to knock down another woman because her struggle is not relevant to you.

Taylor Swift made an ignorant comment, and the moment I saw her reaction to Nicki’s tweet I cringed in embarrassment. I am a fan of Taylor Swift’s music, much more so than Nicki Minaj’s, and as a fan, I felt shame for Taylor. What Taylor saw as a personal attack and “pitting women against women” (irony considering Taylor’s nominated music video was essentially a drawn out and over-done fuck you to Katy Perry) was really just Nicki pointing out how flawed our society is and how women of color are not represented nor given the recognition that they rightfully deserve.

Bottome line for those who consider themselves feminists: Feminism is not just about over-sexualization. It is not just about getting the same income as a man. It is first and foremost about supporting your fellow woman, and acknowledging that every woman experiences different prejudices and dismissals. See things from their perspective. Acknowledge their pain and their struggle, and fight for it as if it’s your own.



What could be more racially ignorant than the song “What makes the red man red?”  in Disney’s 1953 version of Peter Pan?

Well, erasing the Native American part all together.

In the upcoming feature film, Pan, directed by Joe Wright, the character “Tiger Lily” is being played by Rooney Mara, best known for her role in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. She played, well, the girl with the dragon tattoo.

The character of Tiger Lily was in the original Peter Pan novel written by J. M. Barrie and was most definitely Native American. There’s supposed to be a whole section of Neverland that is home to a Native American tribe, and Tiger Lily is the chief’s daughter. Sounds like a great opportunity for Mara to expose herself as an actress…but a missed opportunity for the filmmakers to portray accurate representation of a Native American character. The moment I saw the movie poster I was appalled. There are Native American women actresses out there who could have played the part, but instead they gave it to a porcelain skinned woman.

Here is the problem: there is not enough representation in the media and pop culture of POC. This is so dangerous because it affects the way others perceive POC, and it affects the way POC see themselves.

As a young girl I was very insecure with the way I looked and did not feel comfortable in my own skin because there was no one who looked liked me on the TV. For a long time I resented my dark skin and my brown eyes because I did not look like the girls in the media who were portrayed as “beautiful”. All those women had fair skin and light eyes. I remember being a 13 year old wishing I looked like Emma Watson from the Harry Potter series, because that’s what was portrayed as desirable and relevant. I truly believe that if there had been more representation of POC then I wouldn’t have wanted to desperately to have fair skin and light hair.

Beauty aspect aside, I think that’s it’s most damaging to the way we perceive race in general. The term “white-washed” is throw around a lot, and I think for good reason. Pop-culture’s lack of diversity is not representative of the world that we live in. The fact that this was an intentionally Native American character in the original book is reason enough to cast a Native American actress. To erase her Native American identity entirely is offensive.

Another example of the new movie Exodus coming out, where Egyptians are portrayed by spray-tanned white people (this tradition dates back to Elizabeth Taylor and even further) is simply historically inaccurate. Egypt is on the continent of Africa, and I’m pretty sure they didn’t look anything like Christian Bale….

christain bale

Define “racism”

With the verdict of the the Ferguson trial having been announced, and riots occurring

all over the nation, the concept of racism has been a heavily discussed topic. Race has always been an issue that is regularly debated and discussed, but the events that have been taking place in Ferguson have become a catalyst for national discussion. This is a something that will go down in history. Michael Brown is the not the first black boy to be killed by a police officer, and sadly he won’t be the last (in fact, many have been killed since him). But the activists that have taken inspiration from this case are hoping to make it so that it is no longer a standard.

But, I’ve digressed. What I really want to focus on is the recent discussions of race themselves. One  very interesting concept that has been touched upon before is the very definition of racism. There is an argument held by many that no one but white people can be racist. Reverse-racism is also being debunked as something that can not be possible. Why? Because “true” racism is Prejudice + Power. And who is in “power”? Why, white people, of course.

Now, I 100% agree with the concept of white privilege. I believe that there is an injustice in our society that stands on the foundations of hundreds of years of oppression of POC. As a POC, I highly resent the imbalance in opportunities. I very highly resent the fact that a young black boy who peacefully surrendered to the cops was shot down and killed out of “fear”, when a white man who shot up a movie theater in Colorado was arrested peacefully.

That said, I disagree that POC can’t be racist. I believe they can be racist toward other POC, as well as white people. Someone said that POC can have a “racial prejudice”against white people, but that it is not actual racism.

To be racist is to think, speak, or act out on negative feelings toward someone based strictly on the color of their skin. White people, historically, have show to be more prone to racism. Our nation was founded by white men who believed they were superior to other races…and unfortunately that is the foundation upon which our society is based.

Because discrimination and racism is very much institutionalized in our society,  I believe that the power for change lies with those have the privileged. So, obviously: white people.

But I stand by the idea that racism is not so much based on power, but on perceived differences in general.