Letters //

Dear White Feminist

A letter from Bridget Harilaou.

When you lament the gender pay gap of 17.5%, you continually forget that this statistic represents White wom*n – and that wom*n of colour, trans* wom*n and immigrant wom*n experience a gap of 30 – 40%.

When you exclaim how inconceivable beauty standards are for young wom*n everywhere, you forget that worldwide, beauty is held to a White standard that marginalises the skin colour, body hair, facial features and body shapes of non-white wom*n.

When you attack men of colour for sexist behaviour, and label their ethnicity, as though that information is an essential part of your experience, you use and perpetuate racial stereotypes that hurt all people of colour in Australia.

When you criticise our home countries as “backwards” and “oppressive” you forget all of Australia’s flaws, and tout your egotistical saviourism as if White feminism is the liberator of wom*n across the globe. Reality check: IT’S NOT.

Dear White feminist,

When you are outraged at the portrayal of wom*n in television and the media, you forget that wom*n of colour experience this sexism ON TOP of constantly being type-cast in supporting roles with ethnic stereotypes and jokes following them everywhere they go.

When you label me as loud, rude and lacking in manners you put White culture in the top of a hierarchy in which my method of communication, manner of eating food and embodiment of culture is inferior – and YOU have the privilege of shutting down this conversation whenever YOU want, because I have spent so many decades being ashamed and embarrassed of my ethnicity that I feel voiceless and oppressed into silence.

When you call my mother ‘cute’ you are patronising a strong, resilient and intelligent wom*n who has struggled with a chronic illness, speaking a second-language, and racist fucks like you every day she’s lived in Australia – get the fuck out.

When you think my family is crazy, you forget that our parents had to sacrifice and fight for every opportunity we have had in this country, and that they may have come from nothing – you forget that you are so entirely privileged and ignorant that you measure their sanity and ours with a White measuring tape that humiliates and demeans all people of colour.

Dear White feminist,

When you grow out your body hair or have the audacity to comment on how this affects ‘wom*n’ you completely forget and erase the experiences of wom*n of colour. You will never understand what it is like to be compared to a gorilla or told to shave your arms by your classmates and you have NO AUTHORITY on the subject of how it affects us. Do not try to compare or impose your blonde or fair haired/skinned experiences upon those who have been bullied and policed about their body hair since pre-school.

When all of your racist behaviour, microagressions, ignorance and White privilege go unacknowledged, you are no more a feminist than Tony Abbott, because if you believed in equality for ALL wom*n, you would fucking educate yourself.

Dear White feminist,

It is possible for you to help create an inclusive space for all wom*n to feel supported and heard, but you have to actively listen, learn and understand. You are still responsible for the oppression of people of colour until you actively change yourself. The key is, instead of starting with “But I’m not racist,” start with, “I experience White privilege and I have oppressed people of colour my entire life, but now I am taking responsibility of this and making a change today.

Bridget Harilaou

Filed under: