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by Elise Loehnen and Cadence13
Pulling The Thread with Elise Loehnen

The Legacy of White Feminism (Kyla Schuller)


“There's a fantasy in argument, in Lean In, or Girlboss style corporate feminism that says, once you have women in charge of your company, then your company is feminist, right. Your capitalist reforms can start and end with who has the corner offices. Right. Who's populating the executive suite. And so that's not even reforming capitalism, that's just trying to save it.”
So says Kyla Schuller, Associate Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Faculty Director of the Women’s Global Health Leadership Certificate Program at Rutgers University. Today we dive into her heady new book, The Trouble with White Women: A Counterhistory of Feminism, which takes on the numerous ways in which feminism, so narrowly framed around the issues of white women, has in turn marginalized the experiences of women of color for hundreds of years. And the title has double-meaning: Because even though white feminism has been problematic, it’s also painted white women into a corner, left wondering how we got here.
There have always been multiple kinds of feminism, Schuller says, a self-serving version dominated by white women, and an intersectional version dominated by women of color. White feminism, the mainstream feminist ideology, positions women as a redeemers, a salvific force whose mere presence in positions of power is enough to redeem that same power entirely. In sharp contrast, Schuller notes, intersectional feminism is an account of power, a place to interrogate the ways in which gender, sexuality, race, ability, and climate precarity coalesce to shape our lives. Only when we acknowledge these multiple, simultaneous identities, and come together across identity and power positions, will we form a strong enough political bloc to make enduring structural change. 

Episode Highlights

Against the white woman as a civilizing force…(7:14)

Harriet Beecher Stowe/Harriet Jacobs…(12:44)

Alice Fletcher/Zitkala-sa…(27:07)

Margaret Sanger, a eugenic feminist…(40:02)

Betty Friedan/Pauli Murray…(49:28)

Mainstream feminism and the optimization of women…(52:28)

More from Kyla Schuller  
Kyla Schuller’s Website
Buy her new book, The Trouble with White Women: A Counterhistory of Feminism
Read her first book, The Biopolitics of Feeling: Race, Sex, and Science in the Nineteenth Century
Follow Kyla on Twitter
Dig Deeper
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl - Harriet Jacobs
American Indian Stories - Zitkala-sa
Writing by Pauli Murray
Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower - Brittney Cooper
Intersectionality - Brittney Cooper, The Oxford Handbook of Feminist Theory
The Nap Ministry - Rest is Resistance
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by Elise Loehnen and Cadence13