#FTF: Catharine MacKinnon on what makes a white woman

What makes a white woman? Oh, you mean other than listening to Bon Iver on vinyl, exhibiting a zombie-style attraction to Whole Foods even when the bank account is in the red, and equating oneself with Ghandi during exercise classes? I really couldn’t tell you. (Yes, he does say “bitch” in that video…No, I’m not condoning it and yes, I do have Bon Iver — and Coldplay — on vinyl.)

Catharine MacKinnon
Catharine MacKinnon

I jest, but I’ve decided to turn to Catharine A. MacKinnon, feminist and legal scholar, for her insights on the matter of what makes a white woman.

In MacKinnon’s essay, “From practice to theory, or what is a white woman anyway,” she sets the groundwork by asserting three key points in regards to feminist theory. First, she states that postmodern theory is little more than an elitist practice of “talking heads” where, instead of “theory and practice,” once gets “discourse unto death.” Her point here is that, unlike feminist theory recorded in other eras, postmodern (or poststructuralist) feminist theory does not equip the women’s movement with tried and true tools for resistance. Instead, it creates hierarchy by relegating feminism to the ivory tower (which is overwhelmingly occupied by men of the upper class). I once thought it would be a barrel of monkeys to bring up Foucault at a bachelorette party after a few glasses of wine. Turns out I was painfully wrong because the subject was painfully irrelevant to the lives of women I was sitting in a room with. It’s not that women don’t get it. It’s that most of us don’t care.

Secondly, she poses that the women’s movement is not about putting theory into practice, but instead involves documenting practice that has been in use — by women, successfully — for many years and calling it theory.

Thirdly, she argues that theory that doesn’t work very well in practice is bad theory. MacKinnon also posits that theory or practice that doesn’t work for women of colour, is theory that is not going to work well for white women either, in the long term. This is not to say that white women haven’t benefited materially from pushing women of colour into the margins, because we have, just as men have benefited materially from pushing women to the margins, and those of upper and middle class have benefited materially from oppressing the working class.

Her point is that when we buy into male-projected stereotypes about white women — that we are all “effete, pampered, [economically] privileged, protected, flighty, and self-indulgent,” flipping our hair, primping our nails, not needing to work, revelling in our own “purity,” and fussing about trivial things all day — we obscure realities that we share, the realities of being socialized into material disadvantage by sex (she calls this process “gendering” where some other theorists would say that gender involves a separate line on the “axes of oppression”).

MacKinnon argues that sex-disadvantage means being given unequal pay for the same or equal work, being given less prestigious work opportunities than our male coworkers, being sexually abused at higher rates as children, being battered by our male partners, being deprived of reproductive control (ever notice that most employers will pay for Viagra but not birth control pills under health benefits?), being objectified in pornography (including sexualized racism), and being funnelled into prostitution. For many females, this is a part of what it means to be “women” even without multiple and compounding oppressions. She wants us to ask, “Why is it that the only form of oppression where men are not included is so mocked and trivialized?” Who does this benefit?

MacKinnon’s article is not directed at women or men of colour and the point of mine is not to “tone police.”

There are several ways in which I disagree with the piece. For example, I’m not sure why she says that white women and their children are the largest population of the poor. This is an outrageous claim. I can’t imagine which location she is referring to where this phenomenon exists, but it would have been worth specifying. On the other hand (my yuppie jokes aside), I do think it’s worth analyzing where the stereotype of the “pearl-clutching,” prudish, re-embodiment of the Victorian era originated and whether it reflects reality. Most of all, it’s worth asking who, ultimately, benefits from it.

I would venture to say that the answer to those questions is not “women of colour” but “white men who are unwilling to concede power.”

Jess Martin
Jess Martin

Jess Martin is a public relations professional, an aspiring writer, and an assistant editor at Feminist Current. She prefers to write about feminist topics, disability, or environmental issues, but could be persuaded to broaden her horizons in exchange for payment and/or food.

In her spare time Jess can be found knitting, gardening, or lying in the fetal position, mulling over political theory that no one in their right mind cares about.

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  • Sass

    It actually makes perfect sense that the largest group of poor people (in the U.S.) is white women. See data here – http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/poverty/data/incpovhlth/2013/table3.pdf. Most poor people are white; and more women than men are poor. I’m sure *percentage wise* women of color face greater poverty. But *numbers wise* white women are the majority.

    • Roberta Canfield

      If Jess would check the 1996 census (and if we can believe such things) she would see that MacKinnon is correct in
      her assertion that “most poor people are white; and I would type more but am clutching my pearls in my most prudish way.
      Cheers
      rc

      • Jess

        My point is not that there is a high population of poor white people SOMEWHERE. My point is that she doesn’t specify where that place is and how it is calculated based on the ratio of white to POC. Globally, white people are not the largest population of the poor.

        • Erika

          Yes, it would have been better to specify the USA and reference census data. MacKinnon didn’t say whites were the largest population of poor people globally. We Americans sometimes discuss things about our own country. Most people would understand from context, just as they do with other national stats.

    • Maureen Master

      I think the problem is that she did not specify “in the United States” or point out that other races are overrepresented in poverty by percentage in the US. She simply states that “the majority of the poor are white women and their children” without qualification or footnote. (The footnote mentioned in another comment actually refers to the statement about the median income of white women compared to Black men.) The majority of the poor in the world are, indeed, women and children, but they are, for the most part, not white. While white women and children in the US likely make up the largest group among the poor, other races are overrepresented and experience poverty at higher rates, as others have pointed out. It would have been helpful for her to state that clearly.

  • Astrid

    “I can’t imagine which location she is referring to where this phenomenon exists, but it would have been worth specifying.”

    It was in the US in 1989 It’s in her notes:
    16 In 1989, the median income of white women was approximately one-fourth less than that of Black men, in 1990 it was one-fifth less. U.S. Bureau of the Census, Current Population Report (1991, p. 60).

    • Jess

      Yes, but when we look at these numbers proportionally (taking into account what percentage of the population is white vs of colour), the claim is misleading. Also, it would make more sense to compare white women to black women rather than black men to make a solid argument.

  • J. Renee Bernard

    Everything is built on patriarchal lies. The only way is complete separatism from ALL males. In general, people do not give a shit, both men and women, and certainly not just white people (although males and white people are the worst!). A culture of resistance must be created by separatism and group living with our sisters that are like-minded, preferably radical feminists and our daughters. White women should be using ALL of their resources to make this happen, but they will not. Simply because they don’t give a shit. Their feminism (and it is a white womens) only revolves around their own experiences and beliefs, which have diluted the power of the movement and minimized the scale of problem, failure to name the problem, and denial of the source of the problem: male species. Essentially, what makes a white women is a white male and white women are the most male identified. Women’s movement desperately needs practice……white women aren’t so good with that unless it involves promises from a male ally.

    That was a rant…..not organized thought but hopefully you get it lol

    • Pam Harrison

      As much as I have tried to entertain other pathways as to how women can attain liberation, I must say, in my deepest heart I have come to the same conclusion: women would be better off separating themselves from men. They can then have control over theirs, and their children’s lives. Economically, socially and politically the current systems do not provide any motivation for men to give up or adjust their power, which is enabled through those systems. Men cannot even identify their privileged positions. Women should stop peering in, with their noses pressed against the window, and turn and face another way, and create their own world. And men can have whatever world they want, and then have to negotiate with women for any “interaction” they may seek (between the economic, socially and political systems). I also find it disturbing to be considering ‘white women” and then refer to things that apply to all women. To make a discussion about what makes a white women, without talking about coloured women (is that term acceptable?) does not make for a good point of view to me.

    • Morag

      Are white women really the most male-identified of women? I’m asking this honestly, because I’m just not sure.

      I can see what you mean by white women having the most to gain by aligning themselves with white men — the men on top. But it still seems obvious to me that all women around the world, no matter their class or ethnicity/race, may gain status and legitimacy, at least in their own communities (if not beyond), and a sense of security (both false security, and actual, material security) via men.

      So I think women of all races are, or can easily become, male-identified — albeit for different reasons due to different degrees and types of oppression. If a woman is a member of a persecuted minority, she will align herself with the men (especially, her male children, her brothers, etc.) in her group, rather than other women outside of that group. This is especially true in the case of genocide (past or recent) where protecting/reproducing children, language and the culture is important and potentially healing.

      Same with any woman who is subjected to discrimination, racism or religious intolerance: she will identify with the men who experience the same, more so than she will with other women who are not members of her race or religion. I’m speaking broadly, of course, and not about individual exceptions. And I would also say that many lesbians, of all colours, can still be male-identified in these types of circumstances. This holds true, of course, even while the men of that particular race/group blatantly abuse and oppress “their” women.

      For white women who are not poor, but privileged or at least materially/socially comfortable and secure, I agree that this male-identification may be mainly about status and power, and that maybe they really don’t give a shit about other women. But what about poor and much less privileged white women without resources who, I’m assuming, would comprise the majority of white women? Wouldn’t their reasons for identifying with males be — not the same — but comparable to non-white/marginalized women’s?

      If I recall, Andrea Dworkin talked about this in one of her books — that, for example, Jewish women will stand by Jewish men for all kinds of compelling cultural and historical reasons, but that the Jewish men take this loyalty for granted, and will easily turn their backs on these same women when they experience oppression AS women. It’s a huge problem for women’s liberation. And paradoxical that the very (male-created) problems that create wedges between women are actually what we have in COMMON as a class: divided loyalties (motivation: survival), or simply women choosing men over women, (cowardly, selfish motivations).

  • pbutterfly2000

    I find it vaguely racist that a white woman would separate white women from women of color in this way. I generally love McKinnon’s work, but race, class, and gender are separate issues that need to be tackled separately, even if someone might find themselves in one or more intersecting categories. Women of color face most if not all of the same oppressions she has listed here as being the exclusive burden of white women (including being seen as princessy, duplicitous, spoiled, stupid, privileged because of not having to work as hard as men, and empty-headed), and also they face other oppressions that white women don’t have to face, such as being seen as subhuman or nonhuman because of their race.

    • Erika

      In fairness to McKinnon, I do not see where she writes that these burdens are “exclusive” to white women. Also, where do you get this idea that women do not have to work as hard as men? I come home from work and do a 2nd shift, caring for my family, cooking and cleaning.

    • Redwolf

      I find it problematic when it’s cast white vs colour – as is pointed out in the article Mackinnon says theory and practice which doesn’t meet the needs of women of colour won’t meet the needs of white women either. What she is talking about is women as a class, and women are seen all the time as less than, less than human, and certainly less than any male. She says “It is not only or most fundamentally an account of race or class dominance that is missing here, but an account of male dominance.” Intersectionality is all and good, but it prevents full analysis of what is happening with class: woman and ends up being about finely grained differences between different groups of women depending on their individual condition and doesn’t focus on discrimination specifically for being a woman.

      From the linked article – “Beneath the trivialization of the white woman’s subordination implicit in the dismissive sneer “straight white economically privileged women” (a phrase which has become one word, the accuracy of some of its terms being rarely documented even in law journals) lies the notion that there is no such thing as the oppression of women as such. If white women’s oppression is an illusion of privilege and a rip-off and reduction of the civil rights movement, we are being told that there is no such thing as a woman, that our practice produces no theory, and that there is no such thing as discrimination on the basis of sex. What I am saying is, to argue that oppression “as a woman” negates rather than encompasses recognition of the oppression of women on other bases, is to say that there is no such thing as the practice of sex inequality.”

      No woman shares her oppression on grounds of sex with any male, and I’d say intersectionality blurs this and removes this from consideration when it should be central when we are talking about feminism. This doesn’t mean to say that those other oppressions don’t exist or are not relevant at other times but that in this case one thing can take primacy, other movements can and have addressed with effect things like racism and so surely women can have that as well without the constant dismissal of not being properly inclusive when the movement is inclusive of all women and rightly excludes other things that would necessitate the inclusion of men and distract from it’s aims.

    • Diana

      Are white women never treated as subhuman? And let’s not just think about rich, pretty white women. But also about poor, “ugly” white women, prostituted women etc.

  • I’m not sure why she says that white women and their children are the largest population of the poor. This is an outrageous claim. I can’t imagine which location she is referring to where this phenomenon exists

    While blacks and Latinos are disproportionately poor, there are millions more poor (non-Hispanic) white people in the US than poor people from any other racial group. This holds true for both “regular” poverty and deep poverty (income less than 50% of FPL).

    But class is a non-issue for most of the left–including the overwhelming majority of feminists–and most middle class whites assume that their experiences of whiteness in America are universal. Which couldn’t be further from the truth.

    I was 13 the first time I was stopped and searched by police because we lived in a neighborhood with a lot of street prostitution and they assumed I was a hooker. My hardworking, law-abiding (white male) partner who doesn’t even drink alcohol or smoke weed has been stopped, searched and questioned by police so many times he lost count.

    The other week a (white woman) friend of mine was thrown in jail and called a liar and drug addict in front of her 9 year-old daughter for no reason other than that she is a low income woman. She’d just picked up her daughter from a friend’s apartment after work and was driving the family clunker when a cop pulled her over for no reason (claimed she took a turn too wide. Right). After the usual license/registration/insurance/warrant check, cop asks her in front of her daughter, “So how long you been doing meth?” She tells him she don’t do meth or any drugs. Cop calls her a liar. Says he can tell she does meth by looking at her. My friend definitely does not do drugs. But the cop didn’t believe her. Though she was furious that he was calling her a drug addict and a liar in front of her daughter, she remained polite and respectful because she knows what happens to poor people who argue with cops. He asked for permission to search and she consented thinking this would be over soon. Not this time. Though he found nothing, he told her he’s taking her in for suspected DUI. Her car was impounded and she had to beg the cop to let her husband come and pick up her daughter instead of handing her over to CPS like he was gonna. She had to spend the night in jail where cops sexually harassed her and she was searched and drug tested, while her car was searched a second time. Of course they found nothing but she still had to pay to get the car out of impound.

    None of this is at all unusual, yet I have never seen a single article criticizing class-based profiling. And it’s extremely rare for anyone to protest when poor white people are beaten or killed by police.

    I kind of suspect that many middle class lefties believe we deserve it. After all, to many of you we are trash. Poor white trash. Trailer park trash. Total losers who have all that privilege and still can’t get anywhere. We must be really stupid. Or lazy. Or something. We’re well aware of your contempt. And yes, I know it’s not everyone. But it’s way too many.

    Whole Foods? Exercise classes? Coldplay on vinyl? Not part of my life. Or the life of any white person I know. And I have no idea who/what Bon Iver even is. We have way more in common with our non-white lower class and working class friends and family than with middle class and upper class white people.

    Middle class lefties (regardless of race) typically know NOTHING about the lives of poor white people but that doesn’t stop them from having all kinds of ignorant opinions about us. Race matters, but class matters too. A lot.

    • L

      Sasha,
      I have often wondered why the lives of poor whites (especially women and children) are not discussed as frequently (at least in mainstream press).

      When I see articles critiquing racial profiling, there is often a nod to class without much analysis (i.e, articles will discuss police disproportionately stop/arrest/ search low-income blacks without really delving into significance that class plays).

      I read an article awhile back that talked about how many people who label/view themselves as middle class are really working class. These people then align themselves with the ideology and politics of the upper-class because they see themselves are closer to or part of that group.

      I think it’s important for politicians that poor white people are viewed as a myth or rarity because it feeds into this racist idea that the high rate of poverty amongst people of color proves that it is some defect of blacks or Hispanics or immigrants. Working class and low-income whites force people to admit that poverty is systemic (capitalist, neoliberal and conservative systems) and cannot be attributed to “racial inferiority.”

      As you said, race matters, class matters and, I am happy to see that there is more discussion about race (as opposed to this idiotic insistence that we live in a post-racial world and there is no racism), the discussion of class also needs to happen.

      • Erika

        If you support yourself primarily through working, you are working class. Period.

      • “I have often wondered why the lives of poor whites (especially women and children) are not discussed as frequently (at least in mainstream press).”

        I think it has to do with the fact that discussions of class, which do not rely on stereotypes (e.g. by infering that one’s language choices, style of clothing or other consumer choices determine one’s class) often lead to Marxism or some other kind of revolutionary socialism (assuming that such discussions are carried out by people who value equality) and liberals are scared of that. It is much easier to rant against middle-income whites than it is to confront the people with the real power in this situation (i.e. capitalists and politicians).

        I know I rant about white, middle-income liberals myself (particularly liberal men), but I never mean to infer that they are the ultimate cause of the serious problems our world faces (e.g. climate change, poverty, imperial wars, police brutality, violence against women, etc.) They don’t have the power to control these sorts of things. Even acts which seem more personal (e.g. domestic violence) have their origin in cultural forces (e.g. gender indoctrination and violent media, especially pornography.) We have to recognise this fact if we are going to be political radicals (i.e. people who get to root of the problem.)

        Of course, middle-incomes whites should be held accountable when they do things that are seriously harmful (e.g. commiting rape, sexual assault, racist murders, etc.), but these actions should not be seen as individual problems, nor should they merely be seen as problems with a group (e.g. white people, middle-income people, males, etc.) although recognising the collective, social nature of the problem is a step forward. We have to ask who and what made whites, middle-income people, males, etc. the way that they often are (greedy, materialistic, dominating, violent, etc.)

        “I read an article awhile back that talked about how many people who label/view themselves as middle class are really working class. These people then align themselves with the ideology and politics of the upper-class because they see themselves are closer to or part of that group.”

        I think this has to do with people having a superficial understanding of class (one that is focussed on physical appearances and the consumerism) that ignores the power that capitalists have over the rest of us (or else is based on a social-approve centered, liberal understanding of power.)

        I have seen liberal academics create triangle-shaped diagrams that are meant to represent hierarchies and placing middle-income whites in nuclear families (often they do not even have the decency to seperate males from females in these diagrams) at the top of these diagrams and “subversive” people on the lower levels (including their best friends, the sadomasochists), with loving, monogamous gays in the middle (because I guess merely being gays is not subversive enough nowadays.) These diagrams are meant to resemble the class diagrams that have historically been created by revolutionary socialists, but they are in face grotesque distortions of them. Women (even middle-income white women) who submit to traditional marriage arrangements do not gain power as a result of their conventionality. All they gain is pampering and social approval which seem to be the only things liberals care about, in fact that is what their ridiculous hierarchy diagrams seem to be based on.

        Pampering is not the same thing as power. Being pampered and approved of will not enable you to make decisions regarding the exploitation of workers, the use of non-renewable resources, the use of the police and the military, the creation of cultural products (e.g. films, television shows, books) or any other important matter. This is why the Marxist understanding that capitalists are those with control over production (and thus over the labour of others) is still important and relevant to the modern era. In fact it is more relevant, because while the living standards of workers in the West are higher than they used to be, the capitalist class has even more power over them than it used to. They are simultaneously pampered and disempowered (which also happens on a smaller scale to women in higher-income homes).

        Of course there are distinctions among workers in terms of income and the kind of labour they perform. This is why I sometimes talk about middle-income people as opposed to low-income people or mental labours as opposed to manual labours (distinction which are in fact recognised in traditional radical leftism, even if academics prefer to simplify our ideologies and then attack us for being simplistic.) But being a better off worker is not the same as being a capitalist. The same way that being a better off women (e.g. a white women or a middle-income women) does not change the fact that one has been indoctrinated into femininity. In fact the pampering such women get is part of that indoctrination.

        “I think it’s important for politicians that poor white people are viewed as a myth or rarity because it feeds into this racist idea that the high rate of poverty amongst people of color proves that it is some defect of blacks or Hispanics or immigrants. Working class and low-income whites force people to admit that poverty is systemic (capitalist, neoliberal and conservative systems) and cannot be attributed to “racial inferiority.” ”

        That is a possiblity, although right-wingers also have insults they can use against poor people as a whole (regardless of race) such as “lazy”, “welfare bludger”, etc., which imply that poverty is an individual problem, caused by bad life choices. I think your comment might actually provide a better explanation for why liberals do not talk about poor whites. While they do not claim that non-whites are “racially inferior”, they do like to attribute everything to bad feelings of some kind (either feelings of inadequacy or prejudiced feelings on the part of others), rather than systemic, material conditions. They talk about bad, prejudiced feelings towards poor people too, but they cannot use it to explain the existance of poor people, so they are kind of stuck without an explanation for poverty that does not either blame the victim (by claiming that poor people are holding themselves back with their own bad feelings) or force them to examine material reality instead of focussing exclusively on negative thoughts and prejudice. Of course, prejudice is a real problem, but I think that it has its originals in material hierarchies (such as capitalism), rather than the other way around.

        But yes, you are totally right. Race and class do matter and not just to the poorest or most non-white people. The fact that we live in a world with economic, gender and racial hierarchies effects everyone.

        • Non-PC RadFem

          “In fact it is more relevant, because while the living standards of workers in the West are higher than they used to be, the capitalist class has even more power over them than it used to.”

          Absolutely, but even those improved living standards are/were really based on debt, and not on real income increase. For 30 years or more there was this culture of ‘buy now pay later.’ Acquiring things on credit gave people the illusion of prosperity. But that ended with the financial collapse of 2008, when credit dried up and people maxed out on the debt they could accumulate without risking bankruptcy.

          To tie up with L’s comment regarding how the working-class identify as middle-class; I think it’s really a form of mass delusion. These people also think they’re ‘home owners’ when in reality all they have is the liability of a mortgage. They are in fact tenants to the bank which actually owns the house, not them.

          “[..] Of course, prejudice is a real problem, but I think that it has its originals in material hierarchies (such as capitalism), rather than the other way around.”

          Bingo! That’s why liberals are the phony left, the champagne socialists. They know darn well lack of opportunities, income inequality, stagnant wages, declining social mobility (etc) are at the heart of the matter, but they can’t address it without criticizing Capitalism, the very system from which they’ve probably benefited from.

          So, they ponder endlessly about their own belly button lint; it’s just prejudice from those awful people who aren’t as open-minded and caring as, we, liberals are. So, let’s do our bit and vote a nice liberal into office.
          Even though Obama and the Democrats (with Hillary on tow) are just as much the warmongers, pro-corporatist, pro-imperialist, pro-banksters as the Bushes are.

          And I appreciate that’s a very American-centered example, but the phony left party/parties exist in pretty much the whole of the Western world, it’s not just an American anomaly.

          Just last night I saw an English ‘comedian’ mocking the yank two-party system, he said [I’m paraphrasing]: you got a choice between a right-wing party, vs. a very right-right wing party.
          Ha-ha, funny, right? Totally lost in him was the fact that the UK two-party system is no better; phony left [so-called “Labour” Party] vs. the right [Conservatives].

          • andeväsen

            The US’s history with traditional right and left is more conflicted than its current status would suggest. Don’t forget it was the Democratic party which led the Confederate states into civil war to defend Southern slavery against the Republican pro-emancipation northern Union. The US labo(u)r movement was a strong one until the mid-Cold War period. It is fairly recently that a uniform march to the right has taken place in the States and even more recently that Euro politics have caught up (Podemos and Syriza the notable exceptions). Listening to this month’s UK Labour party hustings is at best like witnessing Gollum/Smeagol’s self-talk and at worst a horrible, slow-motion seppuku where the victim and perpetrator is the UK left.

          • Non-PC RadFem

            Oh! – andeväsen – you again… *eye-roll* :/

          • Non-PC RadFem

            @andeväsen: There’s a chance my wires got crossed and I confused you with someone else with a very similar moniker to yours (from another comment board), in which case I apologize.

          • andeväsen

            No worries – barring Sarah Ditum’s and Becca Reilly Cooper’s blogs, almost all my feminist commenting is on here. Thanks for clarifying!

      • bfgs

        There have been cases of nonwhite (usually black) people who are wealthy and celebrities – including Oprah Winfrey, Henry Louis Gates Jr., and Danny Glover, as well as others who are not famous – who are still racially profiled, so racial profiling can happen regardless of class. However, I think that most of the recent black victims of police brutality have been working class or poor.

        (I’m a nonwhite woman who’s been middle class and working class)

    • Rich

      “I kind of suspect that many middle class lefties believe we deserve it. After all, to many of you we are trash. Poor white trash. Trailer park trash. Total losers who have all that privilege and still can’t get anywhere. We must be really stupid. Or lazy. Or something. We’re well aware of your contempt. And yes, I know it’s not everyone. But it’s way too many.”

      Very true. But I think the main reason for it is that poor white people mess up their worldview. It complicates the simple white = oppressor/everyone else = sainted oppressed groups (except those pesky Asians who might as well be white, the way so many appear to keep getting into Harvard).

      • bfgs

        “It complicates the simple white = oppressor/everyone else = sainted oppressed groups”
        This comment sounds awfully resentful about discussions of racism. Nonwhite people, not liberal whites, have forced much of the acknowledgement of white privilege and racism within lefty circles. (though white people like Peggy McIntosh and Tim Wise are most famous for it.) White people have white privilege, although they can experience oppression based on gender, class, sexual orientation, disability, etc.
        Lefty white people show preference to white people in oppressed groups over people of color. Nonwhite people have pointed this out over and over again. For example, the most well known LGBT hate crime victims are white, although in recent years the majority have been POC.
        I suspect that class is not often discussed (compared to other social justice movements) because working class and poor people have less time or access to internet and the media. I read a statistic recently that ~40% of working class people in the UK don’t have reliable internet access, and an even smaller fraction of those have the inclination to write about class issues.

        • bfgs

          EDIT – I’m not denying classism, and, having spent some of my life working class, have dumped middle/upper class “friends” for their privileged attitudes. However, I’ve noticed that the loudest voices in marginalized groups are usually middle-class, educated and privileged on other grounds. With working class, and especially poor, people, that’s not going to happen as they are by definition *not middle class*.
          These loud voices in marginalized groups will also force conversations about gender, race, sexual orientation etc., but since working class people are rather underrepresented online*, no one’s there to force a conversation about classism.
          Marginalized groups will tend to take care of “our own” with regards to poverty, but may neglect those in the corresponding privileged group. (For example, middle-class POC will raise awareness for poor people, for class as a racism issue and for poor POC but not necessarily poor whites in particular.)
          Speaking as a POC, I think that some of us are uncomfortable with how classism has been used to deny racism. The existence of poor whites may be used to shut down discussions of white privilege, and poor/working class white people can be just as aggressively racist towards us as middle class white people. In the movie Selma, there’s a line about how even desperately poor white people can take comfort in the fact that even if they’re poor, at least they’re not black.

          *my observation, maybe not 100% true.

          • Non-PC RadFem

            “[..] However, I’ve noticed that the loudest voices in marginalized groups are usually middle-class, educated and privileged on other grounds.”

            True, that’s because they probably have the time and the means to do so, while the working poor have to spend every waking hour slaving away just to make ends meet. There’s a fantastic book on this issue; Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America. If that doesn’t put to rest the upper crust unfounded notions that the poor are just lazy, nothing ever will, really.

            And I think it was Noam Chomsky who said that the educated scholar class has the moral social obligation to speak on behalf of those who can’t, adding that; they’re failing miserably at this duty and they should all hang their collective heads in shame.

            “Speaking as a POC, I think that some of us are uncomfortable with how classism has been used to deny racism. The existence of poor whites may be used to shut down discussions of white privilege, and poor/working class white people can be just as aggressively racist towards us as middle class white people. In the movie Selma, there’s a line about how even desperately poor white people can take comfort in the fact that even if they’re poor, at least they’re not black.”

            It’s just good ol’ divide and conquer tactics.

            If the working poor would galvanize, setting differences of race, sexual orientation, sex, and whatever else aside, they would be just as unstoppable as they were the first time around, if not stronger. And that’s what ‘they’ are trying to prevent by slicing us into smaller, more manageable groups that when we’re not distrusting of each other, we’re playing silly oppression olympics games against one another instead of turning our collective attention towards those who are oppressing us and purposely keeping us in the poor house for their benefit.

          • L

            “True, that’s because they probably have the time and the means to do so, while the working poor have to spend every waking hour slaving away just to make ends meet.”

            Bingo! It really doesn’t bother me when people who have wealth or a public forum speak out in support of the working class people in prison and so on. We need people in positions of power to challenge these ideas that racism and sexism don’t exist, that poverty is solely the fault of the person in poverty and that immigrants are to blame for everything.

    • Mark

      Thanks for speaking from the heart Sasha, and using direct, to the point language. Loved it.

      ‘Class is a non issue for the left’. I agree, the left really needs to get some teeth, step out of their comfort zone and start talking about class…in language that people can understand. The language used has become enclosed, self referential and exclusory.

      I’m from Australia and we really are in dire straits atm. We are starving for some leadership from someone, anyone from the left.
      Sorry if I highjacked the conversation, just got excited by Sashas post.

    • Non-PC RadFem

      [In response to Sasha’s great and heartfelt post]:

      Poor and Low-Income people, unless they have some other factor compounding on their situation: they’re from an ethnic minority, they’re gay, they’re disabled, they’re caring for a disabled/elderly relative, they’re single parents (etc), are: more or less invisible to nearly all the social justice movements.

      It is extremely alienating to be reading all the time how other groups have it so bad, when your own group is also struggling just as much and we’re hardly ever mentioned or given any consideration at all, just like the example you gave of your friend.

      The subject of Class-War was killed back in the 70’s [I believe], although, now it’s even more relevant than it was then.

      Quote: “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.” – Warren Buffet [2006]

  • Philip Rose

    ‘being deprived of reproductive control (ever notice that most employers will pay for Viagra but not birth control pills under health benefits?)’
    I notice that quite a few articles online tend to assume that the USA is the same as everywhere else.
    In the UK abortion is relatively easily available (except in Northern Ireland) and the vast majority of health care is free. It’s much the same in most of Europe.
    We also have much better allowances for maternity leave and stacks of laws to enforce equal pay.
    From what I can see, the USA and Canada has a long way to go.

    • C.K. Egbert

      Abortion rights, as far as I understand, are still restricted. In addition, women in labor are being denied epidurals and pain relief in the UK. It’s not simply a matter of reproductive “choice,” it’s the fact that women’s health, safety, and comfort are considered not only irrelevant but violable for the sake of the fetus.

      http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/news/uk_news/Health/article555691.ece

    • andeväsen

      I notice that some commenters assume that apart from the USA and Europe, the rest of the world is irrelevant. The fact remains that most women are deprived of reproductive control. European women’s “stacks” of equal pay laws and hard won maternity benefits are a minority. Even if we are being Eurocentric, abortion is more difficult to obtain in many continental European countries compared to GB.

    • Erika

      I think those articles are simply primarily written for American audiences. We understand that other countries work differently, but it would make for long and tedious commentary to have to list every difference elsewhere when 90+% of the readership audience is American. I am glad that things are somewhat better in Europe. That gives us Americans an example to point to when negotiating for the betterment of our own country’s policies.

  • CA

    Sasha – your comment about living as a poor white woman really struck a chord with me. As a mother and college student I am constantly reminded of the huge gap that exists between the middle-upper class white women and poors (self-identified). I was recently offered a job at a gas station making $7.85/hr. Childcare where I live runs about $9/hr, but my husband makes just too much to qualify for a subsidy. There are so many little things that just keep us stuck in this cycle, I feel like we’re never gonna make it out.