I could start this post by asking, why do liberal white women ignore white supremacy? But the answer lies in the question. It’s because of white supremacy. White supremacy breeds arrogance and entitlement in us too.
Case in point is the new Freeform show, The Bold Type. Guilty admission – I’m watching it. Guiltier admission – I’m watching it because I saw ads for it while watching the end of Pretty Little Liars. And I decided I must DVR it. Anyways, while some of the show is contrived, a lot of it is spot-on in terms of the ramifications of misogyny. At least the ramifications of misogyny for white, (upper?) middle class, college-educated, straight, cisgender, able-bodied, American white women. And I don’t want to belittle the experience of misogyny for any woman because it’s always terrible. And yet… when we (white ciswomen) blatantly ignore and deny systemic intersections of oppression, it can make our efforts to fight misogyny seem, well, at best belittling to others, if not downright supremacist to others.
I just watched the third episode so I’m still one behind. But to date, the show has yet to bring up the R word (race). Seemingly liberal shows should bring up race in general. And in this show’s case one of the protagonist’s is a young woman of color named Kat. And one of the main supporting characters is a young black male. Well I guess race came up a little in one of the episodes featuring Adena, a supporting character who is Muslim. But even then, it seemed more focus was paid to her sexual orientation. AND the person who asked an ignorant question about her hijab was Kat. Duuudddeee, it is so much more likely a white girl would ask that question. At least I think so. And maybe race came up once with the black male character but I can’t remember, which means it probably wasn’t meaningful.
So in the last episode I watched, Kat is the target of internet trolling. All of the trolling is sexist, some of it includes rape threats and revenge porn. These are forms of internet misogyny that all women experience, especially if they stand up to sexism. However if the woman is a woman of color, her race will also be used against her. None of the trolling referenced Kat’s race and the show missed a huge opportunity to raise awareness of the intersection of sexism and racism.
Just last year, Leslie Jones had to flee the internet after Ghostbusters came out. All of the female stars of that film were harassed online but none of them experienced it to the extent that Jones did. The other three stars, Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy and Kate McKinnon are all white. In an effort to increase empathy for Jones (which I shouldn’t have to do but because of white supremacy I have to), let’s take a moment to consider this. All of the main actresses did an awesome job in this female-lead film that was funny (it made me lol!). All of them should have been able to celebrate after its release and remember it as a happy time. By all accounts it seems all of them were able to, except Jones. The exhilaration of accomplishment was stolen from her. Everyday she has to live with the oppression of sexism and racism and those systemic injustices further terrorized her when she experienced success. Have you any idea what it’s like to be forced off social media? While that may sound like a first world problem, think about it. In developed countries, the internet has become a means of community, connection and livelihood (and this is true in at least some communities of many, perhaps all, developing countries too). If you can’t be on the internet, consider the enormity of what you miss out on. You are denied all sorts of opportunities to socialize, network and access to all sorts of opportunities. Indeed being made to fear being online is a twenty-first century tool of oppression. One that, like all tools of oppression have always been, stalks and corners us at all times but this one feels even more insidious because it occurs on so many platforms simultaneously often from unidentifiable but all too real sources.
This shouldn’t have happened to Jones. And it shouldn’t happen to anyone.
So it should not be ignored. Opportunities to shed light on experiences of oppression, especially intersections of oppression should not be overlooked. I commend The Bold Type for showing how women are humiliated and threatened online. But the experience, IRL, would have been even more complicated and terrifying for Kat. And that should have been accounted for.