Using Racism to Excuse Sexism
You’ve probably seen this anti-street harassment video:
It’s part of Hollaback’s ongoing work to empower women by boosting empathy, understanding and change.
But the video has been called racist for over representing men of color.
Here’s what Dr. Brittany Cooper, a Rutgers University professor of women, gender and Africana studies, had to say about that:
I’m tired of men of color using racism as an excuse for sexism.
I care about the racial politics of this, but women should be allowed to occupy public space.
I think there should be coalition politics were men of color would say, “We are fighting for the right to occupy public space without harassment from the police, so we understand.”
Because the thing is, the fight for equality is much stronger when all of the more powerless parts of society join together.
Instead of attacking each other.
Hollaback has apologized for the unintended racism in the video, which over represents men of color in the editing.
Unfortunately, people in this country are bombarded by both sexism and racism. That leaves most of us unconsciously internalizing both, so that we often don’t notice when it’s happening inside our heads.
So we all have work to do.
We’re more sensitive to racism than sexism
Yet our culture is more sensitive to racism than sexism.
Not because we are less racist than sexist. But because women are somewhat divided in the fight against sexism, while people of color are united against racism.
I’ve talked about why that is, before. Here’s a summary:
- Women internalize the notion of being secondary and put down, so it feels more natural and normal to us than to men, who are taught they’re supposed to be number one.
- People of color have a memory of something different—a time in Africa or Asia or South America when they were number one. Most don’t know that there have been times and places that lacked sexism, so it seems more natural and normal, and is more accepted.
- Women fear offending those they love (95% of women have male lovers, after all)
- Sexism can seem sexy in a society that eroticizes male dominance
So women are less likely to notice or complain about sexism. Leaving us less united, and less likely to protest.
But that makes it easy to use accusations of racism as a means of denying sexism.
Women who stand up for themselves are attacked
Meanwhile, women who bring attention to sexism are attacked.
- The young woman in the video has been threatened with rape and murder
- A young woman who has critiqued sexism in video gaming has been threatened with rape and murder
- Egyptian women fighting for their rights have been brutally raped, and harassment is at an all-time high
- Rape and sexual harassment are increasing in India as Indian women gain equality
- In the 19th century US women who fought for the right to vote were jailed and beaten
In each case men who are desperately seeking to uphold a sense of male supremacy and privilege are desperately trying to hold down women who are fighting for equality.
Or as Hollaback put it:
When women demand change, they meet violent demands for their silence.
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Posted on November 7, 2014, in feminism, psychology, race/ethnicity, rape and sexual assault, sexism, violence against women, women and tagged feminism, Hollaback, psychology, racism, sexism, sexual harassment, street harassment, women. Bookmark the permalink. 50 Comments.