Adam's book notes

Hood Feminism

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Author: Mikki Kendall

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In the past, the feminism prioritised by White women was contingent on cheap labour from women of colour being available. These poor-paying and dangerous jobs always existed.

Both racism and distrust are taught.

Lectures about what is wrong with marginalised peoples' culture and communities are unhelpful. Instead the economic and racial privilege of others should be leveraged to help protect the less privileged.

Even being middle class doesn't fully protect you from the consequences of being in a body that is criminalised simply for existing.

Feminism shouldn't be just an academic theory, but rather enacted in the work you do and the people you do it for.

Issues such as food insecurity, access to education, safe neighbourhoods, a living wage and healthcare are feminist issues. Feminism often overlooks these basic needs, focussing on increase privilege for women who already have most of their survival needs met.

The Strong Black Woman stereotype - Black women being so strong they don't need help, care or protection - is unrealistic. Like all tropes about women of colour, even supposedly positive ones, they cause harm via dehumanisation and erasure.

Many feminist texts are written about marginalised peoples, rather than by them. The less privileged women appear as the object of conversations, a problem to be solved, rather than participants.

Even when basic needs are addressed, the focus is often on those less impacted. For example, when conversations about rape culture focus on the date rape of suburban teenagers, rather than the higher rate of sexual assault seen by Indigenous American, Alaskan women and sex workers. The latter in particular are not seen as the "right kind" of victims.

Solidarity is still for White women

The modern feminist movement has focussed on debates around last names, body hair, and the best way to be a CEO - primarily the interests of middle/upper class White women - at the expense of the problems marginalised women face such as food insecurity, education and healthcare which are not usually considered feminist issues.

Mainstream feminism insists that some women may have to wait longer for equality; that once White women get equality then everyone else will follow.

White women are usually centred even when others are at higher risk. Issues that don't affect them are ignored.

Trans women are often excluded, with prominent feminists taking the ideas from conservative bigots that womanhood is biological and determined at birth, rather than an often changing and arbitrary social construct.

There's an expectation that gender be prioritised over race, implying that the patriarchy gives all men equivalent power.

When the obstacles you face vary by race and class, then so too do your priorities.

Everything that affects women is a feminist issue, but every feminist doesn't need to be an expert on every struggle. The language they use though should promote the understanding that the impact of any given issue is different for women in differing socioeconomic positions.

Respectability politics occurs when marginalised groups try to internally control members to fall in line with dominant culture's norms. Respectability narratives sideline the needs of sex workers, incarcerated women or others that face difficult choices.

No woman has to be respectable to be valuable.

The claim that women earn 77 cents for every $1 earned by a man applies only to White women. Women of colour make less. White women also benefit the most from affirmative action policies. Whilst they are themselves an oppressed group, they have more power than, and the power to oppress, other groups of women (and e.g. men of colour).

White women are socialised to regard race as something to ignored - White is the default.

It can be hard for White women to hear that they have the power to oppress a man. Yet this ignores the history of White women having the power to get Black people killed. But choosing to be ignorant or claiming that intent is more important than impact is not feminist.

Sisterhood should be a relationship between equals. It doesn't mean people can't tell you when you're wrong.

Each woman's feminism will be shaped by the experiences they've been through.

Feminism can be marginalising, e.g. in arguments that women must be "saved" from wearing the hijab, or in the abortion debate when the idea that having a disabled baby is a terrible outcome is presented.

Solidarity cannot include saviour myths. A single group also can't realistically include everyone. The solution might be groups establishing common goals and working in partnership, with an acknowledgement that some places are not for you. We need to consider what it means for all women to stand in solidarity when in reality some oppress others.

Complaints that this makes activism harder for e.g. White women are irrelevant. It's not bullying or toxic to refuse prioritise other people's lives as more important.

Norms that prioritise the advancement of the individual at the expense of the community make this model of feminism impossible.

For many marginalised women, their community's men are valid partners in their struggles against e.g. racism even whilst remaining a source of problems regarding sexism.

Intersectionality helps us understand how a person's multiple identities combine and produce discrimination or privilege and should be more than a buzzword.

Many White feminists were shocked that, despite his terrible record on women’s issues, race, class, gender, and education, the majority of White women voters (53%) voted for Trump in 2016. His campaign focussed on the claims that immigration is the source of many problems, justifying White women's racism. The target for Trump's oppression weren't usually White, so it was seen as fine for White women to vote based on e.g. economic distress rather than feminist solidarity.

Being a good ally may mean enabling opportunities for others, rather than making your own voice heard.

Gun violence

Guns are a feminist issue, whether or not they're a issue in your personal life.

Mainstream feminism should engage with the fact that many women, particularly from low-income communities, regularly are at risk from gun violence. Women are 5x more likely to be killed when experiencing domestic violence if a gun is present.

There's a focus on the impact of gun violence on young men, but girls are similarly affected, for example dropping out of school at similar rates to avoid being in places with high risks of being shot.

Gun violence should be treated a public epidemic. Hundreds of girls are impacted by gun violence each year.

The media often presents gun violence as being a product of the intersection of being Black and in poverty, and that the way to avoid it is to keep away from places where poor Black people live.

Black people are more likely to be victims of gun violence than others.

Crime rates are higher and Black markets proliferate in areas that are socially and economically isolated from the mainstream. Violence becomes more common when it's the only way to solve disputes. This is why there's an increase in the rate of gun violence and resulting deaths in rural areas whilst there's a decline in urban areas.

This issue is made worse by the history of isolated Black US communities legitimately not being able to trust police. Gun culture originates in necessity.

Urban locations have more people and more media and hence crime is more publicised. But the rates are similar in rural areas, they're just less likely to be covered by the media. Crimes in White suburbs, with White perpetrators, are less likely to be highlighted

White privilege persists even in poverty, but being in poverty prevents access to the power and safety it brings for the rich. The policing system is designed to protect property owners. In areas without non-White people oppression focuses on economic and class status, targeting poor White people.

Poor White people are presented as morally and socially deficient, too insular and ignorant to participate in the wider world. This leads to a narrative that world is out to get poor White people, and that they should blame people of colour.

~3 million children are exposed to gun violence per year.

Children that are exposed to gun violence may develop hypervigilance and anxiety as a result of trauma.

Black women are have the greatest risk of being killed by guns out of all women, often as a result of intimate partner violence. Police violence, for example becoming "collateral damage" as a result of police misconduct, also adds to their risk but rarely features in feminist discourse. Engaging with the police is risky for them.

Many people associate a large group of Black people with crime. The myth of the "scary Black man" that embeds the idea that Black people are criminals in American's collective psyche.

For the feminist future we need to:

...make it possible for all of us to be safe from gun violence or none of us will be.


We often treat hunger as a moral failing on the part of the person concerned, judging people who use food banks or other subsidised food resources.

Poverty is seen as a kind of crime, ignoring the fact that those in poverty often have no good choice available to them.

Poor women may:

"Unhealthy" food choices often derive from a situation far more complicated than simply personal ignorance, laziness or neglect.

42 million Americans struggle with hunger. 2/3 of the households with hunger are headed by single mothers. 70% of the American poor are women and children .

The existing Government programs to assist them are not sufficient to fill the gap. Oftentimes there are also artificial barriers, such as limiting benefits to full time workers.

Instigating work requirements for benefits ignores the requirements mothers often have for childcare.

Society relies on charities to address hardship. But charities can't solve social ills without some amount of government funded programs.

Food insecurity is rarely seen as the feminist issue that it is, probably because many people in mainstream feminist circles have never long-term suffered from it.

Hunger affects you for a lifetime, shaping relationships with food, health and community. Acute hunger creates desperation, leading to choices that would otherwise be unthinkable. People turn to sex work or drug dealing when they can't earn enough to survive. The choice between starvation and crime isn't really a choice.

Boycotting bad retailers may hurt the people who rely on them for accessing food more than the corporation itself.

There's more enthusiasm for programs that combat obesity than for ones that address hunger, for example soda taxes.

It's rarely considered why soda is popular in houses with food insecurity. Soda is:

There isn't much evidence that soda taxes are effective in combatting obesity, or that your weight has a lot to do with health outcomes. Rather obesity is used as a political scapegoat, diverting attention away from policies that harm the health of low-income communities.

Fitness is a better measure of health than weight. It requires a multifaceted approach, including children having access to school recess and safe neighbourhoods to play in.

If the goal is to lower sugar consumption then it doesn't make sense to tax only soda. Cocoa and frappuccinos have more sugar in them but are seen as socially acceptable.

Soda taxes hit the people with the fewest options the hardest

Policies that try to police food tend to increase stigma more than help people who need access to better food. Programs that link access to food to labour or respectability - anything more than being someone who needs food - are more about shame than solving hunger.

The conservative narrative about laziness is wrong. ~40% of SNAP recipients are in work, using food stamps to supplement their salaries. Many of the rest can't work. Most food stamp recipients are children, elderly or disabled people in households where at least one person works.

Combatting hunger helps the economy.

People that work in the food industry - agriculture, processing, retail - enabling the rest of us to eat safe, accessible and palatable food are some of the worst paid employees, who may themselves have very limited access to resources.

Adequate nutrition enables communities to thrive, and women to fight for their rights.


A fast-tailed girl is a word some communities use to describe someone who is sexually precocious.

Girls are warned to neither be or associate with "fast-tailed girls". This is respectability politics governing the sexuality of young Black women. It's a wholly inadequate response to the problem of sexual violence.

The perception of whether you're sexually precocious matters more than whether you actually are. Once people think of you as being so any bad things that happen to you are automatically your fault.

40-60% of Black American girls are sexually abused before age 18. Many will be labelled as fast-failed in order to allow people to believe that it was their own fault.

There's no presumption of innocence granted to Black American girls outside of their community. Many within the community promote ideas that blame the victim for some lack of respectability.

Girls who are not deemed quiet and ladylike are demonised by the media. But they're more often the victims of violence than the perpetrators of it. They're often in dangerous situations because they have no other viable options. Some girls are trafficked, others see gangs as protectors where their family has failed them.

The emotional impact on girls who are victims or witnesses to violence can be severe. Girls in violence areas suffer from higher rates of posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, and substance use.

Interventions that focus on "at-risk" girls tend to be more about job skills and pregnancy prevention. They don't address the experience of abuse, violence, adversity, and deprivation that many have.

Despite the old racist tropes, Black women have always been more at risk of sexual violence than White women. No matter how respectable they were, White men could assault them with impunity. The idea that White men assaulting a Black women in America should have legal consequences didn't enter discussion until Recy Taylor was attacked in 1944.

Sex abuse is one driver of young women of colour later being imprisoned.

To combat rape culture we must challenge both the violence of the rapists, as well as those who control the system that privileges the rapists over their victims and those who normalise harassment.

Mainstream feminist articles often offer tips about how to fight strangers, what not to wear or consume, where not to go and the importance of testifying against any perpetrators.

Whilst these articles are well intentioned, they have an ethos of victim blaming - that rape is something a potential victim can prevent. It might be comforting to think you can protect yourself by following some tips, but the actual reason a victim is assaulted is because someone chose to attack them.

They also don't take into account disability, differences in fight-or-flight responses or the fact that most assaults are done by someone the victim knows.

Rape is always the fault of the rapist, but a complete assessment of rape culture must go further. Sometimes women who claim to be practicing empowerment are inadvertently passively directing rapists towards future victims by contributing to the hypersexualisation, particularly of women of colour.

...there's the problem of theoretically feminist White women who think "sexy Pocahontas" is an empowering look instead of a lingering fetishization of the rape of a child.

Taking the identity of Pocahontas may feel empowering but it's rooted in the myth of White women's purity vs other women's sexual availability. The costumes are based on a mockery of the cultures they claim to honour. The Victoria's Secret 'Sexy Little Geisha' lingerie campaign, featuring mostly White women, is another example.

1/3 of Indigenous women will suffer sexual assault, usually at the hands of a White man.

White men are the most likely group to commit sexual assault.

Objectification, which can manifest from race, class, gender and sexual orientation, is harmful. Women of colour often have to stand up against this alone, as the mainstream feminists who understand objectification when it impacts them can't understand their own role in this problem.

When considering rape culture we should focus on who is most at risk. Racism affects how much the reporter of an attack is believed and how much they have to fear when reporting it. Despite the pressure on women to report attacks, there are few culturally competent counsellors or police officers who are trained to not cause further harm, particularly in the case of sex workers, trans women and women of colour.

Rape is a tool of genocide, used heavily in colonialism and imperialism.

Women of colour are most likely to be the victims of police brutality. The second most common form of police misconduct is sexual assault. Police offers were charged with hundreds of sexual assaults between 2005 and 2013 (and 100s more groping incidents). We do not know what proportion of all attacks this represents is as police departments don't report that information.

Reporting rarely leads to justice.

The conditions for violence begins with manipulation, coercion and propaganda. The fear of imaginary Black rapists was used after the US Civil War to justify the White mobs that terrorised Black communities. It's now expanded to be part of a wider anti-immigrant sentiment.

Portraying Black women and Latinas as promiscuous, American Indian and Asian women as submissive, and all women of color as inferior legitimizes their sexual abuse.

Portraying men of color as sexually voracious and preying on innocent White women reinforces a cultural obsession with Black‑on‑White stranger rape, at the expense of the vastly more common intra-racial acquaintance rape.

Putting an end to these harmful stories is an integral part of ending sexual violence against women.

Enslaved Black women were not permitted to refuse White men's demands for sex, which led to the idea that Black women are "unrapeable". Trans women of colour and gender non-conforming people face a heightened risk.

Interventions like banning women from the military or trans women from bathrooms feed into rape culture.

The idea that sex workers can't be assaulted or serve as a release valve to prevent sexual violence relies on the idea that their bodies are disposable.

White bystanders are less likely to help Black people than other White people, even in emergencies.

We must:

Any system that makes basic human rights contingent on a narrow standard of behavior pits potential victims against each other and only benefits those who would prey on them.

It's Raining Patriarchy

Mainstream feminism has an unrealistic understanding of the complexity patriarchal influences exert on marginalised communities.

These communities are often socially and culturally homogeneous. Many are very concerned with respectability in response to the White patriarchal messaging that suggests respect is only due to people who are law-abiding, religious, and somewhat socially conservative. Many in the community work hard, avoid crime and violence and consume fewer drugs than their White counterparts, but still have a disproportionate risk of arrest and imprisonment, even for minor misdemeanors.

All communities have a minority of youths that rebel against their community's values, including breaking the law. Often they don't have the skills or credentials to get a job paying enough to live on, so turn to underground economies to avoid poverty.

Men in these situations may value subservience and submission from women to make up for the lack of respect they get in the wider world. The only place they can experience respect is from family.

Customs that are seen as anti-feminist - e.g. serving your husband food - may be part of a set of norms, values and habits that the community.

The need to constantly demand respect may manifest as hypermasculinity or aggressiveness. Engaging in gang culture can be a form of self-defense from the wider world.

The expression of fashion (gym shoes, hoodies et al) may be in defiance of respectability politics - history shows that wearing a business suit doesn't protect you from violence.

Black feminism acknowledges that fighting the toxic masculinity inside the Black community is different from fighting the external White supremacist patriarchy.

When the overall social narrative is that some people are disposable, communities instinctively replicate the same idea within themselves.

The toxic elements of Black and Brown hypermasculinity originate in part from the impact of low wages. Women have always needed to supplement the household's income.

Women are sometimes in charge, not through any feminist victory, but rather because so many of the community's men have been imprisoned or killed especially since the war on drugs began. Without enough men, many family customs and traditions are not available.

Acknowledging the lack of free men, women may feel the need to compete for partners by consenting to the highly patriarchal standards they believe are important to men.

It's hard to find space to tackle these issues when the whole community is being treated with disrespect and dehumanisation.

The only response to aggressive law enforcement available is to protest, but the act of protest may itself have violent consequences.

Crime is not down to laziness or irresponsibility. Much of the masculine identity focuses on being a provider and protector, which is hard to legally do when you can't access decent jobs.

The concept of respect has mutated so much that boys are killing each other over minor conflicts.

Black women are subject to one of the highest rates of intimate partner violence, whilst being blamed for low marriage rates and high crime.

Girls of colour are expected to perform social and emotional labour at the expense of their childhood. There's a racist practice whereby children of colour are seen as older than the actually are - "adultification" - removing any notion of their innocence. Respondents to a survey believed that Black girls needed less nurturing, protection, support, and comfort and were more independent, mature and knowledgeable about adult topics and sex than White girls. Authority figures respond by offering less protection, nurturing or support, particularly if the person isn't seen as a "good girl".

Code-switching goes beyond external changes such as changing your speech, hairstyle, makeup and body language.

Some feminists see the hood just as somewhere to escape from, a place where people can have no voices and need others to talk for them.

Intervention programs on topics including suicide, self-harm and healthy relationships do attempt to include girls but often don't focus on what the girls themselves want or need. Girls are seen as only capable of responding to their environment, without having any self-determination or agency.

Toxic masculinity also harms LGBTQIA youth.

The patriarchy isn’t dead, nor is it the same everywhere, and calling for solutions without addressing the impact of class and race evades the real problem.

Marginalised communities need to address toxic behaviours, but they're no more homophobic, intolerant or sexually violent than higher socioeconomic communities.

Sexism, racism and homophobia are intertwined with our idea of masculine behaviours - the "protector" role enables toxic masculinity.

Marginalised communities should reduce the number of structures that mimic patriarchal entities elsewhere.

Contrary to some White feminist opinion. Islam, the Black church and other communities have their own feminism so don't need "saving" - it may just not be structured in the same way.

If White feminists aren't explicitly invited in to these spaces they can still continue to challenge the White patriarchy and e.g. the prison industrial complex. This will limit the harm done to marginalised communities whilst they do their own internal work.

How to write about Black women

The dominant theme in the media, the workplace and the academy, especially for older Black women, is propriety.

This social expectation focusses on managing people's behaviour, especially Black women. To be respectable one has to perform gender and sexuality in ways that do not threaten traditional masculinity. Black women must manage their identities and reputations in order to fit into the acceptable mix of virgin and vixen constructs.

Respectability politics aims to control group behaviour by requiring adherence over autonomy. What is deemed appropriate is rooted in structural inequality.

Respectability gatekeepers may promote the dominant narratives without knowing why they come from, and how much of it is about copying other people's behaviour vs the behaviour having some intrinsic value. The opinions of these gatekeepers determine what is available to poor Black communities.

Misogynoir is a term to describe the specific misogyny directed toward Black women in American culture.

Black women are instructed to use self-care and self-correction in order to enable participation in an economy where even the worst jobs demand "respectability",

Working to prove to White America that Black people are worthy of full citizenship will never work. A system that requires assimilation is incompatible with equality or equity.

Respectability is financially and emotionally expensive - requiring changes of speech pattern, body language, wardrobe, hairstyle etc. so as to appear engaged and non-threatening. It requires stifling one's natural emotions. There are never any guarantees as to the "reward".

There's cultural pressure on any Black woman to not do anything that makes Black women "look bad".

Respectability politics let us avoid engaging with historical and contemporary events. Black people wore suits and ties during the civil rights movement and were still beaten, arrested and lynched.

American society treats people speaking African American Vernacular English similar to people who can't speak any English at all. All languages are a human inventions, all equally valid.

Within feminist circles, "respectability" governs who will be heard, be treated with autonomy and respect. Policing respectability in this way means that fighting for equality is made the responsibility of those most repressed. We should list to women in the poorest communities about what they want.

In one way society worships Black coolness, but the "woke" often seem frustrated when the creators of the coolness don't know as much theory as an academic professor about e.g. oppression.

When hip-hop artists, country musicians, or other popular media perform homophobia or transphobia, society likes to pretend that all the dangers faced by LGBTQIA come from disadvantaged people. In reality, those who most want to maintain the status quo are those that already receive the biggest rewards. But bigotry, including classism, certainly exists in marginalised communities too, much of it transmitted by institutions or media.

We need to be less concerned with appearance and more concerned with solutions.

Pretty for a....

Being pretty gives you privilege. People are more accommodating to you.

In general society expects women to have an hourglass figure, smooth, clear skin, and symmetrical features. But for people of colour there are differences based on how close you are to Whiteness in terms of skin colour, hair texture and body type.

To be considered pretty you have to look like you spent time in a beauty parlor. Styles that appear like no effort was made might be considered chic for White girls but Black girls often receive disapproval from their own community as well as those outside it.

Black women still benefit from being beautiful, but the racism makes that privilege tenuous and temporary.

Being attractive also has downsides, e.g. increased sexual harassment. There's often some victim-blaming around their appearance when victims report it. Women are sometimes supposed to feel flattered by the attention they don't want, irrespective of the disrespect or danger it may cause them.

People often perpetuate colourism unconsciously.

Darker skin adversely affects:

It's possible to experience colour-based privilege within your own society at the same time as experience colour-based oppression outside of your society.

Colourism has several roots, e.g.:

Today's "natural hair" guru influencers tend to be lighter skinned with looser curls.

Skin bleaching creams still sell well in many nations despite their association with mercury poisoning, skin damage, and liver and other organ malfunctions.

Looser hair texture is so associated with success that businesses and schools can bar access to people on that basis; a US court ruled that businesses may discriminate against people with dreadlocks as hair texture is considered a mutable characteristic.

Whilst Black feminism has been campaigning against colourism for years, mainstream / White feminist circles still ignore or exacerbate colourism and texturism.

Black women often report having higher self-esteem than other women but this doesn't mean they don't need the same care or concern around beauty. Much of the self-esteem is built inside their own community. Support for how the outside world values you isn't available to everyone.

It's easy to say that beauty is superficial and unimportant when your skin colour puts you at the top of the hierarchy.

Beauty is political - perceiving beauty in bodies that are not close to Whiteness is an act of culture-sustaining resistance.

Understanding that you're strong, beautiful and smart helps defend you against discrimination. The body positivity movement originated in the Black community. Their bodies were often seen as outsiders even in supposedly affirming places.

Beauty intersects with class: the quality and brand of hair products

Equity in beauty culture requires investment from all sides, not just those who are least likely to have the power and privilege to make the most lasting change.

Black girls don't have eating disorders

Our culture is accepting of eating disorders. We'll mask them with names like "clean eating" or just pretend their relationship with food is normal as long as the suffer looks like what we expect. Society rewards being thin.

The myth of the Strong Black Women deprioritises concerns about Black women's mental health.

It's assumed Black girls don't have eating disorders, with the stereotypical case being of a rich White girl. In reality, their lack of safety and security results in them developing coping skills, health or otherwise. Living in a society that treats girls of colour as less deserving makes them at risk of both developing an eating disorder and it going unrecognised.

Those who do access treatment are at risk of being exposed to more racism or other sources of trauma.

Girls in marginalised communities have the same mental and emotional issues as girls elsewhere, but are less likely to have access to the resources or language needed to address term.

Eating disorders are not usually about food, but rather an outward expression of other stressors - e.g. divorce, poverty or abuse. They're also easy to hide.

Whilst puberty can be a trigger in higher SES communities, the root of eating disorders for people of color, disabled people, nonbinary, and trans people is often in structural factors that have impacted their self-view throughout their life. They may feel like their body is the only thing they can control in an environment that limits access to anything else and treats your body as inferior.

The choice of foods that are widely promoted as healthy often leave marginalised people of different cultures feeling alienated. They may not be able to afford or access the ingredients, and the flavours might seem unfamiliar or unpleasant.

Thin White bodies are treated as the reference point for "healthy". Little research addresses racial, gender, disability or socioeconomic status differences, or the impact of identity on one's relationship with food. The lack of this information erases individuality and isolates those battling the condition from other groups.

Society often values the looks taken from other cultures on White bodies much more than the same look on the bodies from the culture that created them.

For marginalised people, mental illnesses around body image can appear to be a way to increase social status. Appearing as part of a certain category can improve your access to jobs and education.

When mental health resources are hard to access people develop coping mechanisms to displace rather than address the issue.

There's stigma about seeking mental health treatment, or an expectation that a sufferer should turn to religion rather than psychology or psychiatry in some cultures. It's also difficult to find a culturally competent provider. Many US people don't have appropriate health insurance coverage.

PTSD is a big problem for youth of colour. It can trigger eating disorders. Over and under-eating are common responses to anxiety and stress.

White supremacy infiltrates spaces purporting to be body positive. A focus on valuing White female bodies alienates others.

Representation matters, in the media and community.

With "vicarious traumatization" you can be traumatised by events you don't directly experience if for instance you witnessed or know people who have been through something similar.

Marginalised people have less access to mental health services and those that exist tend to be of worse quality. This can come from:

Feminists should work on improving the situation for those who are most vulnerable, for instance by lobbying legislators to improve mental health services. It should not be left up to marginalised people to fight for change alone.

The fetishization of fierce

The women who are most likely to be called fierce are usually those who face the largest risk. Tropes such as Angry Black Woman and Sassy Latina reinforce that and alter our perception of the women we are apparently celebrating.

People criticise even female superstars like Beyonce and Serena Williams for their take on female empowerment. They argue with their choice of clothes, being too strong, sexy, happy and not addressing the feminist goals that the critic deems appropriate.

The average women fighting the patriarchy is far less privileged, yet still we demand that they take risks, unprotected by e.g. racial privilege. We celebrate the courage of those who do without considering the potential consequences for them. Women who speak out are thought of more as sacrifices than saviours. We further penalise them if they don't say the right thing in the right way.

When confronted with the consequences, the cheerleaders of those exhibiting fierceness and speaking truth to power seek recourse in their own personal fragility, suggesting to any victims that the responsibility of protecting them is with the police.

Feminists often incorrectly assume that when such victims have asked for help from the state then their needs will be met.

The effect of taking a carceral approach is that feminism is treated as an individualistic rather than collective enterprise - the empowered woman should be able to do anything alone. It ignores the economic and racial realities that individuals face.

Victims such as sex workers or domestic violence victims are sometimes arrested for defending themselves.

The state provides many ways to report violence, but few ways to prevent it in the first place.

Those taking risks often have no backup plan. Winning a large money settlement may provide some stability, but the vast majority of victims lose and receive nothing.

Culture impresses upon us that low-income women are there to serve others, so there's no need to consider their needs.

Corporate feminist strategies that emphasise leaning in need to be replaced by those that involve supporting each other. Focusing on the victim would allow us to develop specialised services, resources, cultural competence and trauma-informed perspectives to those who testify, press charges or file lawsuits. We must give support to survivors afterwards even when they lose or are ineligible for the current victim-support services.

The hood doesn't hate smart people

Some feminists have the view that being smart in the hood is looked down upon, and aspiring to success is punished. They'll think anyone there who does well academically is an exception, worthy of respect and celebration, but only if they cut ties with their past. Their culture and community isn't considered "good" enough to support their aspirations. Assimilation rather than acculturation is required. Those who don't leave are are unworthy of engagement.

Being poor or from a poverty-stricken area is seen as something to be ashamed of, even though it's not under our control.

People with the least resources tend to be the most generous. The only thing the hood lacks is resources.

An idea based in White supremacy is that Black Americans have no culture of their own or defend. Anyone can take from it as they wish without considering the sacrifices made to get there - the commodification of Black cool.

There's a false narrative that Black Americans are lazy, that they don't take advantage of opportunities. It shows a lack of understanding of the impact of generational racism and prejudice.

No community dislikes learning and success. Nerds are everywhere, but only some people are able to access the stereotypically-associated lifestyle.

The stereotype of what it means to be a person of colour leads others to have the idea that being smart is "acting white" and hence discouraged in their communities. This validates the experience of adults who remember feeling different and ostracised at school. Ostracism is a perfectly normal occurrence but is usually taken to be driven by more straightforward things like fashion, hygiene or social awkwardness where it occurs other communities.

That idea also entirely ignores whether those who were academically successful were supported at the expense of others. It also implies that the educational fix is down to adjusting attitudes rather than actual investment, blaming a child's academic struggles on themselves.

By making the lack of opportunity about cultural pathology instead of broader factors like inequality, racial bias, and segregation, survivors can cozy up to whiteness and absolve themselves of any meaningful responsibility to the community.

Missing and murdered

When White women go missing it tends to generate a lot of media coverage - "Missing White Woman Syndrome". Women from marginalised communities rarely receive much attention. Instead drugs or risky behaviour are blamed, or just an unevidenced assumption that they simply moved to somewhere else.

The cases of murdered Black and Brown women are rarely solved.

Black Americans represent 34% of missing persons, despite being only 13% of the total population.

Grassroots campaigns are useful to generate attention, but do not make up for the absence of mainstream news coverage or governmental efforts.

The US government does collect racially specific data on missing people allowing us to quantify how many missing people are Black. Typically though it's a binary Black/White categorisation.

Only in the last decade has the FBI tried to track how many missing Indigenous women there are.

Women, girls and LGBTQIA people experience higher levels of gender-based violence throughout the world, including femicide (the murder of women).

Many Latinx asylum seekers in the US are these people trying to escape from physical and sexual violence at the hands of gang members and others.

The rates of violence against women and girls in the West are amongst the worst in the world, despite the common sense other places are less civilised and more dangerous for women.

The greatest threat to someone with disabilities may be their caregivers, for example if the caregiver values their own comfort more than the rights and well-being of their charge. The power dynamic plus a lack of alternative care options can trap victims in dangerous circumstances.

To combat these problems the government should listen to the communities that are most impacted. However these communities , particularly in trans or nonbinary cases, are not respected or given resources and have the most to fear from the police.

The rate of violence against trans people is growing in the US. ~ 90% of trans people who were killed are people of colour.

If you don't fit into the desired victim narrative then defending yourself can lead to imprisonment.

The amount of concern for missing White women must not be reduced; but rather the same concern should be given to all.

We don't know if missing-persons coverage assists in the resolution of cases. Nonetheless, equal representation in media is important as it alters how we perceive who has value and who we should be sympathetic to.

The friends and families of missing people often have social, economic and legal implications to deal with.

Gender-based violence is an obvious feminist issue, but there's so far no unified response that's inclusive of everyone (trans, Black, Islamic, immigrants etc.).

The focus should be on those most vulnerable to violence.

Fear and feminism

Mainstream, White-centred feminism has failed to improve the safety, power and wisdom of both women of colour and White women. White women may live in a gilded cage, but it's still a cage.

It's supported White supremacy to the extent that 53% of US White women voted for Trump who has a history of disrespecting and abusing women, along with the system that supports him

Conservative feminism is feminism for women who believe they will be safe within a patriarchal white supremacist society. Adherents are happy to benefit from feminism and affirmative action, whilst simultaneously undermining the ideas that allowed them to access it.

As well as "Which women are we empowering?" we must ask "What are we empowering them to do?". White women can be active participants in racism. Anti-choice legislation has been created by women. Accept that women have the power to do harm.

When White women feel uncomfortable or threatened they'll often turn to the patriarchy for protection, believing the police are there to help them without acknowledging that they're a source of violence for other women.

Women in the hood must challenge patriarchal ideas but oftentimes with a nuanced solution that acknowledges the issue that oppression comes from many directions, sometimes including White feminists.

Feminism that comes from a place of fear, that prioritizes not being afraid or not being uncomfortable over being effective, is dangerous.

"Feminist" policies that increase surveillance or state power may make spaces unsafe for some women.

Not challenging or refusing to support some White women for fear of alienating them even when their racism damages other women makes the idea that feminism should create safety for all impossible.

There are people who prefer the status quo in all communities, but the impact of white fragility means that often mainstream White feminists prefer being polite to being effective. They appear to be worried that pushing back too hard will lose them the existing power they've fought for.

Some feel threatened by immigration, resulting in supporting anti-equality efforts. They prefer to blame "the Other" for their lack of power and opportunities rather than their own fathers, brothers and husbands. Family unity is prioritised over difficult conversations. They may realise that e.g. racial discrimination and xenophobia are damaging but still not wish to confront family members that support those ideas.

Race, poverty and politics

A president being better than the last Republican one doesn't make them good for everyone.

Welfare reform has often been about punishing rather than ending poverty.

In the context of the working class in the rust belt, some politicians talk as though they understand that poverty isn't a moral or personal failure but rather the result of poor policies and opportunities, whilst still considering inner city poverty as a moral issue.

Low voter turnout isn't down to laziness or a lack of education. Rather for people who live in long-neglected areas it just doesn't seem like which party wins is important.

The idea that the working class is made up exclusively of white people in rural areas who justifiably vote based on economic anxieties ignores the harm being done to communities of colour, local and abroad.

Meritocracy is a myth, enabling us to ignore the impact of bigotry.

Black success makes part of American society angry.

Historically the women's suffrage movement has been about giving White women equal power to White men. Giving them power doesn't ensure that they back policies or candidates that are beneficial for all women. White women's right to vote has enabled much White privilege to remain.

Racist and sexist candidates are successful irrespective of facts or finances.

Bernie Sanders supporters would call anyone who didn't support their candidate "low information".

69% of Republican women supported Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

When some victims are seen as disposable, then eventually all victims are disposable

Whilst Black or Latinx or Asian voters are often treated as a monolith, we don't expect women to vote as a block.

No politicians prioritise the needs of the poorest in society.

Black women aren't necessarily better informed about politics, but poor people do understand what's necessary to survive. It's not a zero-sum game. If sharing resources with your neighbours helps you both make it through the month then you'll want everyone to have more resources.

...the question shouldn’t be “How are Black people voting?” It should be “What can we do to change the way white people are voting?

Dehumanization is the first step in justifying voting against the rights of other people.

Mainstream feminism should start focusing on protecting voting rights, particularly those of the marginalised. There's a widening gap between people having the right to vote vs having the access to vote. Factors include:


Children involved in the drug trade are often in deprived situations, where they may be responsible for paying for food or other necessities.

Post-segregation, harsh school policies and the increasing tendency to bring law enforcement into school creates a school-to-prison pipeline.

A "zero tolerance" mindset originated from the tough on crime policies of the 1980s-90s. Schools increasingly use law-enforcement tactics to deal with even minor misbehaviour. Children learn that adults value obedience of education.

Students of colour, and increasingly females, are disproportionately affected. LGBTQIA students or those with disabilities are also targeted.

Manifestations of teacher discrimination include:

Marginalised students targetted by teachers may feel shame and powerlessness, impacting their ability to create any positive relationships in the school. One study showed students reporting that an adult rather than a fellow student was involved in their worst school experience, with 80% claiming they'd been physically or psychologically harmed by a teacher.

Prejudiced teachers can disguise their actions as a method to encourage achievement due to a narrative that discipline is responsible for achievement gaps - even when it's their own actions that causes students to underperform.

Administrator discrimination is more prevalent than teacher discrimination, most commonly by exerting harsher punishments for the same actions in students of colour vs White students.

The commonest type of racial discrimination in education is harassment of students of colour by White students. When they respond, verbally or physically, they're more likely to be criminalised for their behaviour.

Police brutality is a risk for young women of colour from day 1.

US states spend $5.7 billion a year on the juvenile justice system. In an environment where schools are often underfunded they pay $88,000 to imprison a young person, vs average of $10,000 to educate them.

Middle class White feminists rarely argue for improvements in school conditions that aren't related to policing, e.g. addressing the bias in school funding and districting that currently benefits predominantly White schools.

Money used to increase the number of school police officers should be reallocated to mental health services, including counselling for at-risk students and their families.

There’s no safety in being profiled, in being surveilled and harassed in a place that should be about opportunities and not total obedience.

61,420 Black students were affected by Chicago’s 2002-2018 school closures vs 533 White students and 7,368 Latinx students.

There's no consistent training for becoming a school police officer, especially around interacting with children. They may misinterpret normal young person behaviour as inappropriate.

Schools fail students from low-income families by assuming that their parents lack ambition for them.

Where students don't see representations of themselves in success stories they have little to aspire to.

Feminists must advocate for universal access to high quality education; quality and quantity.

Whenever you see videos of children misbehaving in school we should ask ourselves why they're loud and angry, and in what ways has feminism helped them.


Increasing housing costs at a time where wages are decreasing are pushing marginalised women away from safe and stable housing.

Public housing and housing assistance programs are not sufficient to make up for these trends. Government cuts have reduced their size. New properties aren't being built to replace old ones. In some places properties sit empty for years due to inefficient bureaucracy.

Even though it's rarely treated as a feminist issue, the affordable housing crisis disproportionately affects women due to the pay gap. The pay gap also has a racial component: white women earn less than white men, and Black, Latina, and Indigenous women earn less than white women.

Challenges in achieving independent financial security are particularly problematic for people in abusive relationships.

Whilst it can affect anyone, it's most likely to affect cis and trans women because there's a financial penalty in presenting as feminine.

The housing crisis is a result of decisions, often made by people who are aware than marginalised people will be adversely affected.

In rural areas costs of living are typically low, but so are wages - the housing crisis exists everywhere.

Many people live in houses that are not fit for habitation, but have no real option to move out. Complaints to landlords may be ignored, or they might fear that the landlord will evict them as a retaliation.

People who can't afford a home often move in with family members to avoid being on the street. This type of homelessness often isn't recorded in the statistics.

In the US during 2016 four eviction cases were filed per minute.

Housing instability is both a cause and a result of poverty. Without secure housing it's harder for people to attend school, work and care for themselves and others.

Housing insecurity activists are usually under-resourced and overworked. Their work is challenged by gentrifiers, often young White women, who want to "solve" the problem by revitalising neighbourhoods with boutiques and coffee shops. In theory gentrification brings services and jobs to a community; in reality it provides opportunities for some people but criminalisation for others.

Gentrification pushes the most deprived residents away into even worse areas. A flood of high income residents into a low-income neighbourhoods causes a collision of social dynamics and expectations. The new residents may have different expectations around public order and the role of the state in enforcing it. White women may perceive heavily policed areas as safe, whereas women of colour see it as potentially violent interactions with the police.

Gentrification is a threat even to those who live in price-protected housing. If these developments have insufficient funding they may be permanently closed.

Most displacement is via direct means:

But there are also indirect methods that lead to particularly older residents feeling alienated within the community. The changing demographics undermine local institutions, reducing the services they use, the affordable stores and public meeting places. Even if long term residents can afford to live there they may feel unable to fully participate in their new surroundings.

There are already enough empty houses to house everyone.

Many people who are willing to use police resources to protect their preferred lifestyle are not happy to fund the services that are required to assist homeless people.

Feminist political candidates should commit to policies that combat homelessness, increase investment for low-cost housing and require developers to provide a sizeable quantity affordable housing within luxury developments.

Reproductive justice, eugenics and maternal mortality

In the US, Black mothers have a maternal mortality rate 3-4x higher than White mothers. Even when controlling for physical health, access to prenatal care, income level, education, and socioeconomic status the rates remain higher.

Abortion is commonly seen as a feminist issue. Access to health care in general should be too. Health care access is a right, not an optional commodity.

Before the Affordable Care Act, 45k people died per year in the US due to a lack of insurance. Far more will have died due to having reached their lifetime maximums or due to treatments that weren't approved.

Racial disparities in medical treatment and patient outcomes are driven by racist beliefs. Black, Latina and Indigenous women all face issues related to prejudice.

25-50% of Indigenous women were sterilised between 1970-76. Forced sterilisation rates in Puerto Rico are almost the highest in the world. In California, prisons authorised the coerced sterilisation of ~150 female inmates from 20016-2010.

It's inevitable that families of colour will have their right to have children contested in societies that don't value them. Reproductive justice typically focuses on the right to choose, access to contraception and so on, ignoring other obstacles other communities have.

There needs to be access to birth control, abortion and health care for all, including those who are in prison, immigration detention centres or are currently seen as unworthy of controlling their own lives.

Reproductive health care is concerned with bodily autonomy - something which trans people are often denied. Everything from access to basic health care to safe hormone treatments can be difficult to access depending on where you live and you wealth. They may find themselves having to engage with situations that trigger dysphoria in order to get any healthcare.

The Trump administration proposed to actively remove the ban on doctors legally discriminating based on gender identity.

41% of the trans community have attempted suicide. Discrimination, and the fear of it, means that trans people are less likely to receive preventative care and thus develop complications.

One reason given in support of abortion accessibility is that surrounding fetal disability. But this argument implies that being disabled is incompatible with living a worthwhile life. Given anti-abortion concerns have sometimes originated from an idea that abortion is eugenics in action, supporters of reproductive justice should be careful to avoid the language of eugenicists. Justice is about agency and autonomy, not a fight over the value of a disabled person's life.

The environmental racism, limited access to care, nutritious food and housing in marginalised communities mean that the risk factors for having a child with a disability are higher there. Resources are limited even for adults with disabilities, so a higher rate of abortion may make sense. It's that lack of resources that should be addressed by reproductive justice movement.

But the mainstream reproductive rights movement doesn't usually even consider disability. This allows the pro-life movement to claim that it's the side of people who support the right of disabled children to be born, even whilst voting to reduce the services available to assist disabled people.

When challenged about women who abort fetuses with disabilities, pro-choice advocates shouldn't ignore them, but rather centre the discussion on providing resources and support for those with disabilities, without buying into ableist ideas. The right to choose encompasses people with disabilities who should be able to have as much agency over their own fertility and sexuality as anyone does. People with disabilities are often unfairly assumed to be incapable of caring for children. No-one should force sterilisation on them without consent.

Most people who abort fetuses with congenital abnormalities do so because they either already have children to support, they're in poverty or experience other structural oppression such that they can't commit to adequately supporting a child with a disability. The abortion choice is thus influenced by class and race. Without an adequate safety net, having a child is expensive, and reproductive justice needs to address the support needed after a child is born, noting that children with disabilities may need higher levels of support.

The lack of institutions designed to help children with higher needs enables the argument that such children are burdens rather than addressing the problem of insufficient resources.

Society is less sympathetic towards parents when they're anything other than middle-class, able-bodied, cis, and White. The debate often turns to whether they have a right to have a child, not how to support them.

Social and environmental risk factors that associate with poor maternal health impact marginalised communities more than others. These include

Mass media and advertising tends to feature White mothers, even whilst historically White parents have often utilised people of colour to care for their children.

Telling people to limit family size as a solution for having inadequate resources devalues the existence of their families.

Feminist programs should work to increase quality health care and address racial bias amongst providers. It's important to defend maternity care as being a health benefit, but also to protect access to all healthcare, and not make it contingent on e.g. being employed. Supporting programs around child benefits or nutrition assistance are as important as defending family planning programs.

Parenting while marginalized

The most important concern for parents in marginalised communities is keeping their children out of gangs, and jail and from being shot. Sometimes avoiding deportation is the priority. There's no way to focus on making things easy for the child going through life.

Good parenting is often framed as making the choices that only people with excess income are able to make.

Police brutality is not often considered a feminist issue, despite the fact the second most common complaint is sexual misconduct. In discussions the sexual aspect is often hidden, with brutality considered as only being about physical violence

When the assumption is that all problems can be fixed by deploying more police some places can become more dangerous, especially for women of colour.

Parenting whilst marginalised is another feminist issue.

Black youth are most at risk from the biases of teachers (a profession that is mostly White and female) and police. It's hard to discuss over-policing what the archetypes of mainstream feminism are likely complicit in this oppression. Oppression of women can happen between groups of women. Feminism needs to examine its own biases. White feminists must confront their own racism.

Feminism must begin with the idea that all families matter. It's not just about who does more housework, but also how society treats children.

Fear of the existence of Black or genderqueer people doesn't reflect a real threat, but rather internalised racism.

Black, Indigenous and migrant children are more likely to be taken into foster care. The White Saviour myth claims that a child is better off with a wealthy parent, even if of a different ethnic or racial background.

Poverty forces parents to make choices that put the children at risk, e.g. leaving them at home alone. Stress makes parents numb, unable to meet their emotional needs. Most children taken into foster care are there because of neglect rather than abuse. If the concern was really about the welfare of the child then alleviating the poverty of their parents would be a key feminist issue.

Feminists must educate themselves about issues that other groups face. Consider whether you might take risks or break the law if that was the only way to improve the life of your children.

Allies, anger, and accomplices

Preventing trans people from using public bathrooms stops them engaging with everyday life.

Being an good ally is difficult, and only the first step.

Privilege not only blinds you to oppression, it blinds you to your own ignorance even when you notice the oppression.

Many allies react with defensiveness when challenged. Insisting that you can't be part of the problem because of what you've done for others instead of listening to their concerns is common. It's not for the ally to decide how good an ally they are.

Identifying as an ally is sometimes used as a way to let yourself off harmful behaviours.

Allies often demand that things should be comfortable for them; that people - often the marginalised groups - should teach them and treat them nicely.

To progress from being an ally to being an accomplice, where real work can be done, requires anger. Expressing anger is the only way communities become unoppressed. Anger is valid whether or not it's expressed eruditely.

Demands that marginalised communities be calm and polite are a method to control the conversation and are dehumanising to the people concerned. be aware of what is happening in their world is to be in an almost perpetual state of rage.

Social media allows marginalised people to be heard.

Feminism as a career is usually only an option for privileged people. You can't read many books on feminist theory if most of your day is taken up by activities necessary for your survival. The public work of feminists is always supported by the rarely-recognised efforts of caregivers, cleaners and others.

White feminism sometimes lies to itself about its intent and impact, enabling it to harm others. It refuses to acknowledge the truth that commonly its goal is to shift power to White women, whether or not the empowered women are ethical in other respects. It demands equal rights to oppress.

To be accomplices, feminists must challenge White supremacist people, policies, institutions and norms. They must be comfortable with following the instructions of marginalised groups, and prioritise action over talk.

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