Chapter 5 Summary
In this chapter, Reni Eddo-Lodge examines how race and feminism interact.
Eddo-Lodge begins the chapter by recalling her frustrated response to Girls, a show that was touted as “the most feminist television show in decades,” despite its “starkly white” representation of a group of young women living in New York City.
The show brought questions about “feminism’s race problem” to the fore. For Eddo-Lodge, the upsetting part of the ensuing debate was “the ease with which white people defended their all-white spaces and spheres.” White feminists who claimed to want “a better world for all women” seemed to not “give a shit about black people and . . . women of colour.”
At the end of 2013, Eddo-Lodge appeared on the show Woman’s Hour, alongside other feminists, to reflect on the year. During the segment, the discussion was framed in a way that assumed that race in feminism was a problem for Eddo-Lodge and not her White peers. One of the other women on the show, Caroline Criado-Perez, made a comment that seemed to equate Eddo-Lodge’s anti-racist work with “vicious and abusive messages” she had received from people online.
Eddo-Lodge clarified her stance in a blog post, and Criado-Perez apologized over Twitter. Despite her apology, other White feminists “[swooped] in” to support Criado-Perez, accusing Eddo-Lodge of bullying.
Feminism, Eddo-Lodge writes, “was [her] first love.” She discovered feminism in university, and it was feminist thinking that paved the way for her anti-racism. Eddo-Lodge began traveling to attend feminist conferences, to spend time with women who “got it.” As she delved deeper, however, she became troubled by the fact that her feminist circles were “almost all white.” Most White feminists “couldn’t understand why women of colour needed or wanted a different place to meet.”
Eddo-Lodge was discouraged from talking about race among White feminists, so she began to meet with a group of Black feminists every month. With this group, Eddo-Lodge explored the concept of intersectionality, “looking at the ways race and gender intersect to create barriers and obstacles to equality.”
Although the word was only coined in recent history by Kimberlé Crenshaw, a Black feminist, the experience of intersectionality had been spoken about long before by Black women, from a speech made by Sojourner Truth in 1851 to poetry, essays, and lectures by other Black women.
These women have expounded on how much “richness and depth there is to be found when examining those intersections” between racism and sexism. “In the analysis of who fell through the cracks in competing struggles for rights for women and rights for black people, it always seemed to be black women who took the hit,” Eddo-Lodge writes.
This idea of intersectionality was not greeted with support from White feminists. The term was criticized as too academic and complex. Coupled with this, there was “a hatred of the idea of white privilege.” In both right- and left-wing media, Black feminism was “reduced to nothing more than a disruptive force.” In the “historical context of establishment clampdowns on black struggle,” White people with different political views joined together to discredit the work of Black feminists.
Feminism has gained ground since the 1990s and 2000s, when the idea of a “scary imaginary feminist that no woman would ever want to be” was prevalent. Since then, the stigma around the word feminism has been “shattered” as more and more people call themselves feminists; according to Eddo-Lodge, feminism is “thriving” in journalism, social media, television, and film.
Within feminism, however, racism is not prioritized. Phrases like “White feminism”— which attempts to point out the Whiteness of feminism—have been met with backlash. In response to this, Eddo-Lodge writes: “If feminism can understand the patriarchy, it’s important to question why so many feminists struggle to...
(The entire section is 1,112 words.)