Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Why So Many Womanists and Feminist Women of Color Describe White Feminism as Racist: A Case in Print

Ann E. Cudd, of Kansas University, pictured atop the series of photographs coming up later, is the co-editor of a feminist philosophy anthology (book) described below. Kansas University produces a calendar honoring the women in their academic institution. Here's the layout of two images from one year's calendar, and see if this strikes you as grossly racist as it does me. (The two spliced images--put together for their website or calendar, are from *here*. It looks to me like it could be a poster for White/Aryan Surpemacy:

From left: Delia Kimbrel, Santos Nunez, Vedrana Balta and Alexandra Baldwin.

If there are borders around these images above, then please click on the link above them, because it is how they appear without the border that is most striking.

You have to do a fair amount of intentional work to arrive at that image, above. Note the women on the left are not standing up. They are tilted, so that their gaze is directly "up" at the TALLER VERY WHITE (ARYAN) WOMAN. This is fucked up and the designer of the image is to blame, but someone else had to approve this image being presented on their website.

But let's move on to the book Ann co-edited. Not only does it centralise white-anglo-euro perspectives as "definitional" of what constitutes philosophy and philosophical concerns, but it also does what so many white-dominated anthologies do that are multi-racial/multi-ethnic: the discussion on race must not be about how problematic "whiteness" is, but will, almost always, be about Blackness. In this volume, Blackness is discussed by African American professor of many academic disciplines, bell hooks. The subliminal message, often reinforced by men is that women of any race do not really "do" philosophy. When white women "do" philosophy, it is often termed something else, like "theory". And when white feminists put together an anthology of feminist philosophers, it follows that Black women, and many other women of color, only write "thought" or "theory" or about subjective person experience and white women and white men write "philosophy". Sometimes women of color aren't even recognised as being the thinkers, but rather the "subject" to be studied by whites. See, for example, from the journal Radical Philosophy, this:




Knowing the Difference

Straight Sex


Being in Time

Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre



*          *          *

I will go out on a limb to say that even though a very high percentage of women are Chinese in this world, the discussion of "philosophy, feminism, and universalism" isn't written by a Chinese woman. I could be wrong. But something about the mentioning of two white philosophers by name and then having a category called "Chinese women..." doesn't give me hope. Nor does it give me hope that it was not written by any women who are Chinese:

Jean Grimshaw and Kathleen Lennon
Issue: 74 - November/December 1995

I knew nothing at all about this journal before composing this post. I have studied philosophy, many philosophies, African, European, Asian, and Indigenous, mostly that of women, but by some white euroboys. This is what the journal descibes itself as being:

Radical Philosophy is a journal of socialist and feminist philosophy. It was founded in 1972 in response to the widely felt discontent with the sterility of academic philosophy at the time (in Britain completely dominated by the narrowest sort of "ordinary language" philosophy), with the purpose of providing a forum for the theoretical work which was emerging in the wake of the radical movements of the 1960s, in philosophy and other fields.

Radical Philosophy is not committed to any particular philosophy, ideology or political programme.
[Added emphasis is mine, JR's].The purpose of the journal is to provide a forum for debate and discussion of theoretical issues on the left. It encourages the serious and informed discussion of such issues in clear and non-technical language, aimed to reach a wide audience.

As well as major academic articles, it has a large and diverse book reviews section (covering 12-15 books per issue), as well as News and Commentary sections. It is an attractive, competitively priced, large format (A4) publication, with graphics and ilustrations. It is probably the most widely read philosophical publication in Britain, and has a large circulation throughout the English-speaking world.

*          *          *
I would make the case that the UK journal is, consciously, willfully, or not, quite committed to a white supremacist ideology and political programme, and to not name it is to make it impossible for them to correct it. And as such it is not practicing feminist values or valuing feminist practice, if "feminist" means challenging the forces that harm women-as-women. Racism (white supremacy and white dominance) harms women-as-women. In media, in academic institutions and public and private schools, in white religious institutions, in all major sectors and systems comprising US and UK society.

The literary subject of this post, though, is a book on feminist philosophy, and most of the contributors' images appear below. Some do not, but they are well-known to be white people, or, in the case of Catharine A. MacKinnon, she is a white woman who has been featured, with photo, on this blog before. I am making no determination, at all, about which, if any, of these white contributors to this anthology is racist, overtly or in regular practice, or to what degrees they are racist. I cannot say, as I'm not familiar with any of them, except bell hooks, Marilyn Frye, and Catharine A. MacKinnon. I thank bell hooks and Marilyn Frye, particularly, for all their fine work to address a virulent form of misogyny called white supremacist racism. I would feel more strongly about putting MacKinnon in the category of overtly anti-white supremacist had she not written an essay called "From Practice to Theory, or What is a White Woman, Anyway" without substantively addressing that very serious social problem of white women structurally, if not also interpersonally, oppressing women of color, systematically and systemically, and with as much refusal to stop as men demonstrate in refusing to give up male privileges and power. Her essay appears in her book, Women's Laws, Men's Lives and it can be read from that text *here*. It also exists on a webpage, *here*.

The point of this post is to note how often white-euro-anglo-centric anthologies and other writings produced in the West are white supremacist. One is told of a global community made possible by the internet. Yet we know that the internet most benefits white men.

However, given the degrees to which some levels of interconnectedness among universities and colleges and communities do exist across the globe, there is no honorable reason to have an anthology be so centralised on the experiences, analysis, worldviews, and politics of a global minority group of people: whites. Even a book about whiteness would be woefully lacking in understanding and analysis if its contributors were all white. Dare I say it, I doubt such a book could be effectively written. That "Men's Studies" pretends men can know enough about men to turn out volume after volume of anthologies "all about men and only by men" is utterly alarming and reprehensible to me.

If this book was described as being, consciously, primarily white, as seeking to locate itself in a white-euro-anglo tradition, with the intention not to do much to break out of that, well, then at least they're honest about what they are doing. But too often, whether or not it is happening in this particular book, the views of whites are presented as sufficient--more than adequate--to represent all of humanity, in this case, women. The views and values of white women, I contend, cannot possibly represent "women" globally, or even women in the West, or, even, WHITE women in the West, for the same reasons I state above about men writing about men.

Because most women experience white supremacy in a way that white women do not: as a source of subjugation and oppression, marginalisation and lack of status and prestige. Whiteness doesn't carry the stigma or enforced denigration of status and social standing, in white male supremacist societies, that being "of color" does.

For the structure and content of the book, see below. And note the cost: $190. I know many books designed only to be read by white academics are this expensive. But that is a problem, isn't it? Clearly this book is not intended to be read by poor people, who are, of the literate people in the world, the vast majority. Not only are most literate people not wealthy, but they are also not white. This collection is a product of the white male supremacist academic system. Yes, it deeply and seriously challenges white male supremacy and domination in many ways. And it may well be an excellent book for this reason. But it reinforces this notion that feminism is white. And that is a serious and oppressive problem, in the view of this blogger. Below the information about the book, and its contents, are as series of images, of most of the contributors to this volume. I speak more about that later.

I cannot comprehend how an anthology on any subject, but here on philosophy, could be published with any sense of racial ethics or social responsibility, while completely ignoring and invisibilising Asian, Latina, Indigenous, Arab, and non-African American Black women's philosophical and political viewpoints and intellectual contributions. There is still an old white men's club, that works well to keep women's voices out. There is, here, an old white women's club that does the same with women of color. Intentionally or not, this is oppressive and harmful to women: women of color. And feminism, as I understand it, opposes, challenges, confronts and resists those social forces that harm women-as-women. To centralise white women as "women" is to turn women of color into non-women, and to pretend that they are only raced, not gendered, or that race, itself, isn't gendered. Why is white supremacy still being protected and privileged by whites? That question needs some more white people thinking on it and writing about what they conclude.

Feminist Theory - a Philosophical Anthology


Published by:
John Wiley & Sons (UK)



Feminist Theory: A Philosophical Anthology addresses seven philosophically significant questions regarding feminism, its central concepts of sex and gender, and the project of centering women’s experience.
  • Topics include the nature of sexist oppression, the sex/gender distinction, how gender-based norms influence conceptions of rationality, knowledge, and scientific objectivity, feminist ethics, feminst perspectives on self and autonomy, whether there exist distinct feminine moral perspectives, and what would comprise true liberation.
  • Features an introductory overview illustrating the development of feminism as a philosophical movement
  • Contains both classic and contemporary sources of feminist thought, including selections by Mary Wollstonecraft, John Stuart Mill, Simone de Beauvior, Kate Millett, bell hooks, Marilyn Frye, Martha Nussbaum, Louise Antony, Sally Haslanger, Helen Longino, Marilyn Friedman, Catharine MacKinnon, and Drucilla Cornell.


Ann E. Cudd is Professor of Philosophy and Director of Women’s Studies at the University of Kansas. She is co-editor of Theorizing Backlash: Philosophical Reflections on the Resistance to Feminism (with Anita Superson, 2002).

Robin O. Andreasen is Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Women’s Studies at the University of Delaware. Her work has been featured in many journals including The British Journal of Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of Science, and Biology and Philosophy.

[Julian is pressing pause here.] Before we get into the details of the table of contents, let's make sure we see what has happened thus far. Here are the co-editors, who selected the rest of the material in this book:

[photo of Ann Cudd is from here]

[photo of Robin Andreasen is from here

Mary Wollstonecraft, John Stuart Mill, Simone de Beauvoir, Kate Millett, Catharine A. MacKinnon, Marilyn Frye: all quite white. Marilyn Frye is one of the few white radical feminists who addresses "race" as the problem of "whiteness", and "racism" as a serious problem in white feminism. MacKinnon routinely and regularly confronts the premises and practices of white male supremacy, including by addressing how women of color are impacted by it. As noted above, I do have a problem with one of her essays on "White Women" but generally, as white writers go, I find her work to address racism as a problem for women, and, in my read of her work, anyway, she doesn't invisbilise women of color. She understands and writes about women of color as being centrally within the population of people harmed by male supremacy: women.

But none of the others listed just above are known for addressing women of color, for even noticing women of color in any centralising, prominent way--as if women of color's humanity must be known to discuss matters pertinent to and about "humanity". This is racism, folks. Now, on with the table of contents, and then on with the images of these contributors.  
[I now unpress pause.]

Table of Contents


I. What is Feminism?.
1. Of the Pernicious Effects Which Arise From the Unnatural Distinctions Established in Society: Mary Wollstonecraft.
2. The Subjection of Women: John Stuart Mill.
3. Introduction from The Second Sex: Simone de Beauvoir.
4. Theory of Sexual Politics: Kate Millett.
5. Black Women: Shaping Feminist Theory: bell hooks.

II. What is Sexism?.
6. Sexism: Ann E. Cudd and Leslie E. Jones.
7. Oppression: Marilyn Frye.
8. Five Faces of Oppression: Iris Marion Young.
9. On Psychological Oppression: Sandra Bartky.

III. What is Gender?.
10. Pre-theoretical Assumptions in Evolutionary Explanations of Female Sexuality: Elisabeth A. Lloyd.
11. Natures and Norms: Louise M. Antony.
12. Subjects of Sex/Gender/Desire: Judith Butler.
13. Gender and Race: (What) Are They? (What) Do We Want Them to Be?”: Sally Haslanger.

IV. Is Knowledge Gendered?.
14. The Man of Reason: Genevieve Lloyd.
15. Feminist Epistemology: An Interpretation and a Defense: Elizabeth Anderson.
16. Can There Be a Feminist Science?: Helen E. Longino.
17. Rethinking Standpoint Epistemology: What is "Strong Objectivity”?: Sandra Harding.

V. Is Value Gendered?.
18. The Need for More Than Justice: Annette C. Baier.
19. An Ethic of Care: Joan Tronto.
20. Vulnerability and the Moral Nature of Dependency Relations: Eva Feder Kittay.
21. Feminist Contractarianism: Jean Hampton.
22. Women and Cultural Universals: Martha C. Nussbaum.

VI. What is a Self?.
23. Autonomy and Identity in Feminist Thinking: Jean Grimshaw.
24. Autonomy, Social Disruption, and Women: Marilyn Friedman.
25. Forgetting Yourself: Anita L. Allen.
26. Outliving Oneself: Susan Brison.

VII. What Would Liberation Be?.
27. Conclustion from The Second Sex: Simone de Beauvoir.
28. Difference and Dominance: On Sex Discrimination: Catharine A. MacKinnon.
29. Toward a Humanist Justice: Susan Moller Okin.
30. Feminism, Utopianism, and the Role of the Ideal in Political Philosophy: Drucilla Cornell.

*          *          *

One needn't look any more deeply into the text than to see the races of the vast majority of contributors (all but two are white) to determine that it is racist. This is institutional racism at least: the racism found in the white male supremacist academy, in white male supremacist publishing, and in Western philosophy and other fields of white intellectual investigation such as the West's humanities and social sciences. But before I say more, I want to make sure that my hunch is right: that most, if not all of the contributors selected by two white editors, are also white. So let's have a look at the contributors, to see if we can discern any "race issues" here:

 [photo of Leslie Jones is from here]

[photo of Iris Marion Young is from here

[photo of Sandra Bartky is from here]

[photo of Elisabeth A. Lloyd is from here]

No photo of Louise M. Antony was found by me.

[photo of Judith Butler is from here]

[photo of Sally Haslanger is from here]

No photo of Genevieve Lloyd was found, but she's white (Austrian).

[photo of Elizabeth Anderson is from here]

[photo of Helen E. Longino is from here]

[photo of Sandra Harding is from here]

Photo of Annette C. Baier not found, but she's a white New Zealander.

[photo of Joan Tronto is from here]

[photo of Eva Feder Kittay is from here]

[photo of Jean Hampton, who very sadly died far too young, is from here

[photo of Martha C. Nussbaum is from here.
Don't let the last name fool you: her upbringing is as U.S. WASPy as it gets.]

No photo of Jean Grimshaw was found.

[photo of Marilyn Friedman, who is white and Jewish, is from here]

[photo of Anita L. Allen is from here]

[photo of Susan Brison is from here]

[photo of the late Susan Moller Okin is from here]

[photo of Drucilla Cornell is from here]

I think that a book that is so well organised around the ideas and perspectives of whites cannot help but be racist and white supremacist. And I feel exactly the same way about books by men: they cannot and do not represent or speak for "humanity", but they do, far more than they wish to acknowledge, tell us a lot about "manity". Not enough in a self-critical voice, but a lot. All of this is why I try to centralise the experiences, analysis, philosophies, and politics of women of color on this blog. Because I do want to know what is happening to humanity, and how oppressed humans are contending with this harm and horror.

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