Don’t Shush Me: The Problem with Feminism

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This post is a letter to someone I don’t know who demanded an explanation — how well do you know Kate? — for my Facebook comment on a blog post written by her friend, Kate, an acquaintance of mine, where Kate discussed her white feminism.

Kate has since deleted her post on Facebook, and with it my comments, in what seems like another effort on her part to silence my voice and smother my opinion. She claims the conversation “devolved,” when in fact, the conversation was just getting interesting, moving away from her friends telling her how amazing she is into an honest and brutal discussion of white women and their treatment of women of color.

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But I’m a writer and I save damn near anything I write that’s more than two sentences because you never know when you’re going to need it, so I have my comment about Kate, the one that possibly inspired her determination the conversation “devolved”, and am going to share it here.

I’m not doing so to be mean-spirited but rather, to ensure my voice isn’t (once again) stifled by another woman who gets bent out of shape when I share my opinion and rather than listening to what I have to say, acknowledging my truths and my reality, she pulls out her white feminist card and puts me in my place.

I recently read a piece by another woman of color, Jamelia, a British R&B star, where she tweeted the racism she endured while traveling via train with her daughter. In the piece she talks about the comments she received from folks wondering why she felt the need to share her experience, that she had a chip on her shoulder, and that she was attention-seeking by tweeting her experience. Jamelia’s response sums up my reason for this post quite well:

“If I was to tweet every single racist incident that happened to me as it happened, you would be on the floor. The problem is that we don’t tell you, we speak about it amongst ourselves and you get to carry on about your day not realizing you’ve ruined ours.”

It’s about stepping outside yourself because not everything is about you. It’s about making sincere efforts to effect change, not pretty moves that make you look like racism’s caped crusader. It’s about listening and allowing others to speak, even when what they’re saying makes you horribly uncomfortable.


*Moe is also a woman of color

Dear Moe*,

I wondered how long it would take you to confront me. A sarcastic *clap clap clap* to you, too. Now Kate and her friends can feel legitimized by your defense of Kate: the other WOC said Kate’s okay so phew, we’re good. Let them fight it out and we’ll just keep patting each other on the back for being so righteous and aware.

You are absolutely right, Moe – I don’t know Kate. We know some people in common and follow each other on social media. Acquaintances, yes. Know each other, no. Which is why all of this is so interesting because despite the fact she doesn’t know me, that didn’t stop her from coming onto my Facebook page this summer and telling me how to behave. Where’s the section of Kate’s piece where she admits to that? Where’s the section of Kate’s piece where she tells her readers how I posted a piece on how silly I found those safety pins and wow, did that get Kate’s panties in a wad? I didn’t direct my post at Kate, I wasn’t thinking about Kate, I was speaking as a proud woman of color who is unafraid to say she thinks sometimes white people are clueless and those safety pins are the perfect example. Did Kate tell you how she told me now was not the time to “be divisive”? That my discussion of race – my everyday reality as a woman of color – did not work within the paradigm of her whiteness and hence, I needed to be quiet. Because I don’t see her saying it anywhere in her piece or in this thread.

What I see is Kate very conveniently staying quiet and portraying herself as the victimized white woman being attacked by the angry WOC. Even you used the word “attack” without knowing the details of our interaction, details Kate has very conveniently kept to herself, details I would have kept private as well, but since you seem so eager to know them…

I don’t think I responded to Kate when she took it upon herself to shush me, mostly because there’s no point. The Kates of the world are a dime a dozen, there’s nothing special about her and I have better things to do than school white women on how to be decent human beings. But I am a writer and a poet, so true to my art, I wrote a poem inspired by Kate’s need – and white feminism generally – to put me in my place, and then I kept it moving. I didn’t speak to Kate again, and honestly I didn’t think about her at all.

Then lo and behold the other night she messages me that she “wrote a thing” on our interaction re: the safety pin and she attached it for my perusal. I read that piece that in NO shape or form acknowledges her behavior but instead discusses how she made me “feel so much less” – wait, what? Huh? When did that happen? How did me speaking my mind and her taking umbrage with that turn into her making me “feel so much less”? – and it’s nothing but entitled drivel wrapped in white Privilege, tied with a bow made of my brown skin. Exactly what I would expect from someone like her, the kind of woman that goes on another woman’s page and tells that woman how she should conduct herself. THAT is the kind of woman Kate is. That piece is self-serving nonsense and Kate is just one more woman congratulating herself for being wonderfully white.

But you know what? Even though I wanted to publicly shame her for writing that nonsense, I didn’t. Instead, I replied to her message privately and gave her my brutal opinion. I let her know exactly how I feel, exactly how [some of] my black and brown sister’s feel: we don’t need white women to amplify us. White women do not legitimize us. I told Kate she needed to understand that, she needs to hear what I’m saying, and only then is her work sincere. You know what Kate did? Nothing. She never responded to my message, ignored every single word I typed to her, and posted this piece of garbage anyway, then basked in the glow of The Kates telling her how amazing and wonderful she is and how glad they are to have her to teach them. (Which is so funny because I told her that was exactly what would happen.)

Kate is not special, Kate is a narcissist wearing cutesy twee clothing. Kate sits on my brown back to paint her self-serving picture of her woke white feminism. That’s who Kate is. Keep her. Keep defending her. She’s all yours.


Kate has since edited her post and deleted the “feel so much less” language — it now reads “feel even further marginalized” which is no better in the dripping-condescension- and-oozing-white-privilege department and still utterly bizarre since I cannot figure out how me posting a piece on the silliness of wearing a safety pin has anything to do with her. At all. Either way, it’s an interesting move on her part since she never acknowledges editing-after-the-fact on her blog, she never once contacted me and said wow, your words made me realize this phrase is so not cool and I’m going to edit it. Nothing. She has not spoken to me since and has in fact, unfriended me on Facebook.

Instead Kate claims she edited it prior to publication, that it was still private when she sent it to me, but that’s not true because soon after she sent it to me, I sent it to all of my friends and we ALL read that “feel so much less” language, and we all sat there and said WTF, so that piece was very much in the public domain. Kate’s actions are telling in that they undoubtedly make me look like the crazy WOC to her friends and fans. And that’s okay – let Kate live with her revisionist history. What’s not okay and makes me sad is the fact neither Kate nor any of her friends will glean anything from her interaction with me. They’ll walk away from it thinking I have a chip on my shoulder and wondering, as one of her friends did, why I can’t just be nice.

THIS, all of this, is precisely why women like me usually keep our mouths shut – what’s the point, white feminists only like to hear one thing: their own voices.

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*update 1: in my letter to Moe, which was originally a comment on Facebook to Moe, I mention that the safety pin and Kate’s need to shush me took place in the summer when in fact, I believe the safety pins are post-election nonsense. I wrote that comment at 6:17 in the morning, so please forgive that error in detail.

*update 2: I’ve tried to reach out to Kate on Facebook Messenger and her blog piece – which is still live – and she’s yet to engage me in any sort of conversation. Which is cowardly, and is also ironic. NONE of this would have happened had she not sent me her post in the first place. There’s a Toni Morrison quote that is quite fitting for this situation – it reads:

“The function, the very serious function of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being…”

That has been my exact experience with Kate and The Kates. So now back to what matters: The Kid, The Pup, the bearded dragon, my family, my friends, and my words. Always my words. Ciao.

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8 thoughts on “Don’t Shush Me: The Problem with Feminism

  1. Wow. It sounds like Kate needs to step back outside of herself and reevaluate her life as a woman, not a white woman, a woman…because after a while the judging people based on appearance gets old real fast. She needs to put herself in others shoes before making such harsh comments, but I think we all do that. I know I do. I’m sorry she acted so cruelly to you. You didn’t deserve that. I know that bullying type of people all too while unfortunately. I grew up with it all my life. Consider this a temporary roadblock, my friend and I know that you’ll crawl out of the ashes a tower of strength. As a writer, I describe people’s race at times, but I see past their color to acknowledge them as a friend and person I can trust. My trust issues don’t come from whether or not a person is a particular color, it comes from whether or not this person black or white etc is a good person at all. Because you are a good person, Madhuri, you tried your best to help Kate understand where you were coming from. You did your part and now she needs to do hers. Maybe someday she’ll realize the truth, but don’t expect it. Just know in your own heart that you did all you good. I’m proud of you for a job well done. Your friend, Meredith

    • Thanks for reading my piece, Meredith. I should clarify that I don’t feel like Kate acted “cruelly”, she is just clueless. And incapable of listening to voices and opinions that do not comport with her own. That is my problem with her and women like her and feminism in general.

      A friend shared this quote with me last night and The Kates of the world would do well to read it and learn it: “Sexism is NOT my only struggle. You don’t get to silence me or other Black women to dodge accountability of unpacking your racism.Regardless of your intentions, white feminists should not be speaking for Black women or women of color unless asked to do so because that is what allyship looks like. Begging me to keep quiet because it makes you feel uncomfortable is not my problem.”

      That’s what I tried to explain to Kate, problem is she’s not interested in hearing it. Oh well *shoulder shrug* I tried. And now, back to writing my books…

      XX

      • Well, I know you a little better than I know her so I was concerned for you. That quote makes sense. You and I have a huge support system. Keep writing and inspiring. I’ll be watching you every step of the way!

    • thanks babe. Thought you’d like this quote: “Sexism is NOT my only struggle. You don’t get to silence me or other Black women to dodge accountability of unpacking your racism.Regardless of your intentions, white feminists should not be speaking for Black women or women of color unless asked to do so because that is what allyship looks like. Begging me to keep quiet because it makes you feel uncomfortable is not my problem.”

      Kate needs to memorize every. damn. word.

      XX

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