Go After the Privilege, Not the Tits: Afterthoughts on Alexandra Wallace and White Female Privilege

By Sexual Correspondent Andrea (AJ) Plaid

As soon-to-be-former UCLA student Alexandra Wallace packs her stuff and leaves the university due to fear for her life, I’ve watched how some people and the press reacted to her.  As Colorlines and other blogs noted, combating her anti-Asian racism with life-threatening misogyny really wasn’t the best social-justice idea:

Nor combatting racial stereotypes with…racialized sexual stereotypes:

and

Or even having a “yeah, you’re racist, but I’d still fuck ya” vibe, a la the guitar-strumming crooner, in an otherwise witty comeback song:

As blogger and GRITtv ‘s senior writer/web manager Sarah Jaffe said, the move of some Asian American men who “stereotypically not seen as sex objects, putting the white woman in her proper place AS sex object or, ‘Shut up bitch, you’re just there to be fucked’ in essence…”–which the Black woman expounds on in her clip–is just a kyriarchal pile-on.

I do believe is Wallace could have been criticized in terms of one of the most taboo—yet most needed—conversations: white female privilege.

Of course, when this phrase is put into the public square of ideas, quite a few white women, both feminist and non, will storm in with their vociferous exceptionalizing  to this privilege—more specifically, how their individual selves are the exceptions to this because of mitigating identities and circumstances: they aren’t able-bodied; they don’t fit the blonde-and-blue phenotype; they aren’t slender and/or or buxom; they are poor or come from poverty; they are not educated and/or hipsters; they are in interracial relationships; so on and so forth.  Usually, the exceptionalizing derails the conversation into silence.  But for a person without that privilege, especially if the privilege is based on that person’s degradation or erasure, the mitigated advantage is still an advantage.  The mitigation(s) shape(s) the privilege as that of gradation, not kind. 

But, as Audre Lorde said, silence doesn’t protect … in this case, the privilege getting read.

So, if I had to unpack the White Female Privilege, it would look something like this (and I’m citing and paraphrasing heavily from Alienation, Peggy McIntosh, Mary Dee Wenniger, Nsenga Burton, and ballgame, and this list isn’t exhaustive):

  • Can benefit from their association with white men as a wife, daughter, sibling, and mother.
  • Have all their faults and flaws into perfect imperfections.
  • Easily buy posters, post-cards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys and children’s magazines featuring women like them.
  • Can swear, or dress in second-hand clothes, or not answer any communications without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty, or the illiteracy of their race.
  • When told about our national language or about “civilization,” they are shown the people of their color made it what it was.
  • Can turn on the television, open a newspaper, or go online and see people of their race widely represented.
  • Can remain oblivious of the language and of persons of color who constitute the world’s majority without feeling in their culture any penalty.
  • Are feel free to exhibit a wide range of emotions, from tears to genuine belly laughter, without being told to shut up.
  • Can use the “sheer fear of tears” to their advantage. (Sarah Jaffe calls this “White Lady Tears.”)
  • Are not compelled by the rules of their gender to wear emotional armor in interactions with most people.
  • Are allowed to be vulnerable, playful, and “soft” without calling their worthiness as a member of their race being called into question.
  • Are seen as the embodiments of value and purity and, due to their phenotypes (especially if it’s close(r) to the blonde-and-blue-eyed ideal), be considered worthy of protection—including having nations go to war over this purity and piety–and instantly become the objects of universal desire.
  • They are seen as the default and the ideal embodiment of physical beauty and sexual attractiveness.  This idea(l) is replicated, despite the efforts of visual diversity, in all form of media, from paintings to plays to porn.

But don’t just take my word for it. As a couple of people pointed out on Tumblr a while ago:

we here on tumblr have found every single way imaginable to admire white girls. soft white girls, fat white girls, dreadlocked white girls, naked white girls, bicycling white girls, hairy white girls, clean white girls, white girls in shower, white girls catching butterflies, white girls cooking, white girls cooking naked, white girls with babies, white girls with kittehs, white girls with tats, white girls in catholic school girl dresses, white girls with hippy clothes….what fucking other ways in heavens green earth and jesus can we find to admire white girls?

… and yet i still see a whole lot of “admire my hotness” white girl shit. and a whole lot of it involves white girls appropriating ish and acting innocent while doing it.

Or, in Wallace’s case, post a virulently anti-Asian rant (complete with her “innocent” claims of having hometraining and how her rant isn’t about her “Asian friends”) on YouTube then fauxpologize with some nonsense about “not knowing what possessed her to do it.” To that, I’ll say here what I said in a comment section regarding this: “At some point, even the Devil would roll up and say, ‘That one’s on you, homie.’”

And what’s on her is her unchallenged white female privilege.  To me, Wallace’s tirade pivots on Jaffe calls the Sarah Palin Thing, “where you can say more outrageous shit because you’re a pretty white lady.”  Wallace visually presents as the physical and sexual ideal of the “all-American” blonde white girl-next-door doing something so not-PC, the “pretty white lady” who thinks she can get away with this verbalized racism—which Wallace attempts to get across as some sort of racial “truth-telling”–because it would be more “palatable.”  I also wonder if she thought—since she seems to deeply believe in some anti-Asian stereotypes, like they function in “hordes” bent on “taking over” her beloved UCLA with their familial “ways”—that Asian Americans wouldn’t push back because of the stereotype of their being “quiet.”   (She found out quite differently.)

Combine all this with, at the time, what Wallace may have perceived as having a platform for more of her racist views due to her newfound “internet fame” with her first clip and the revealed bikini photos—her father admitted on his Facebook page that she was creating a vlog of similar rants–probably reinforced something Arturo observed about the photos: “After all, there’s a certain sector who’s perfectly willing to forgive/accept her views because she’s ‘hot.’”  Again, Wallace found out quite differently, with UCLA Chancellor Gene Block speaking against it in a video as well as in an email along with other people responding to it with sometimes life-threatening viciousness.

At this point, though, this particular saga seems over: even though UCLA stated Wallace was within her free-speech rights as a student, she is gone.  But that doesn’t mean that white female privilege left with her.

Image courtesy of You Offend Me, You Offend My Family

  • Pingback: Intersectionality, Race & Etc—Examining Privilege Again « Feminism is Not a Four Letter Word

  • http://restructure.wordpress.com/ Restructure!

    I’m a woc, and I’m bothered by the term “white female privilege”. Maybe it should be “white-female privilege” or “female white privilege”?

    Reason: I’ve run into a lot of men’s rights activists (MRAs) lately on the Internet, and they keep talking about “female privilege” as things like having the door held open for you and “being served first in restaurants”, which they allege balances out the gender gap in wages. (Scott Adams is not a MRA, but MRAs agree with his arguments.)

    Of course, when MRAs talk about “female privilege”, they are usually talking about white women, or even upper-middle to upper class white women, so they don’t include us women of color in the “women” category either. I’m not served first in restaurants because I don’t go to upscale restaurants, yet some MRA (or maybe just misogynist) told me that my perception that I’m not served first is because “the privileged do not notice their privilege”.

    I just think the term “white female privilege” will be perceived as women of color affirming misogynist (white-majority) MRAs who don’t recognize our humanity either.

  • http://twice-immigrant.livejournal.com/ CaitieCat

    Excellent post, cogent analysis, couldn’t agree more. It’ll be nice to have something to point to when I try and explain that the complexities of intersectionality mean that two people could each be privileged with regard to one another, depending on where/how/amongst whom they’re interacting. I’m a white trans woman – in a conversation with a black cis woman, we each have areas of privilege with respect to one another’s lives.

    Excellent post.

  • http://twitter.com/AdiosBarbie AdiosBarbie.com

    As a bi-racial, bi-cultural woman I’ve learned how I have used my own “tears” and rage to get attention for my views and perspective. While I wasn’t conscious of it, I now know my manipulation of “tears” worked with my white friends and family and was absolutely rejected by my Latino and Black family and friends. My manipulation of “rage” however seemed to have more influence with the POC in my life. I became aware how I would code switch depending on who I was talking to.

    The insertion of emotion as a tool to manipulate listening leads to a mutual lack of power in our communications. Words are not heard, instead it becomes about placating or hampering emotional extremes. Where is the power in that?

    Are “white women’s tears” used because the privilege of white men has made white women feel they can’t speak from truth and power–instead they default to the role as victim? I donno. I do know it is a default form of white female communication strictly reliant on the role as victim to be loved, supported, considered.

    • Anonymous

      whoa. that felt like you were talking directly to me. I have to go think about this for a while. but wow. I didn’t even realize I was doing that. And I was.

      who knew you could code switch emotional stuff? (or that my subconscious was that intelligently self-serving?)

  • Anonymous

    This totally blew my mind. Thank you!

    (White feminist now critically contemplating my privilege like whoa.)

  • AndreaPlaid

    Figarophilliops, let me Cliff Note my post for ya: there was a better way to criticize Alexandra Wallace’s racism without reducing her to sex object and threatening her life. It’s called calling out her racialized gender advantage, or White Female Privilege. Because that’s exactly what, in my estimation, she played on and what several of her critics bungled due to their own nasty interlocking –isms around race and gender.

    Now my post and the links may not have changed *your* mind. That happens. However, considering this thread and the thread at Feministe(Thanks, Steph!) it seems to have caused some mental gears to spin, quite a bit of discussion, and some minds to change. Then, I have done my job.

  • Anonymous

    I simply want to respond to say I completely agree with these notions. It seems like it’s a misunderstanding of/ dispute about terminology, and not the fundamental idea of white women’s relative position in society.

  • Jen

    Thanks for this blog. It reminds me that I need to seek out more intellectual arguments about the reasons for what I see happening in the world around me, rather than just watch you tube videos and chalk them up to being, for example, the moronic rants of skanky looking blonds.

    I’m white and female, and even though I don’t fit the tall skinny blond stereotype, I’ll totally cop to benefiting from a specific kind privilege that comes from me being just being me.

  • Anonymous

    A white man cannot cry and expect people to rush to his aid. That is part of the constraints of masculinity. A black woman cannot cry and expect people to rush to her aid – racialized stereotypes cannot allow for black female vulnerability. A white woman may be maligned for crying publicly – but it is equally as likely people will rush to their aid. (There’s even a book being reviewed in this month’s Marie Claire, a publication aimed at white women, which explains it’s okay to cry at work and it’s a natural response for women. This book will never appear in Essence.) As I said above, white women occupy a different space in society – why is it so hard for you to admit that?

    • Anonymous

      I totally agree that white women are privileged over black women. All I mean to say is that the response to ‘white women’s tears’ is rooted in sexism and therefore not a privilege. Similarly, not being subjected to the draft is an *advantage* I have as a woman, but I wouldn’t say it’s a *’privilege’*, because it stems from the same sexist notions about women being fragile and needing protection. It’s clear that everyone should be able to cry and should be helped when they do, and that everyone should be free from conscription, and that that’s a goal we have to work toward. But I reject the notion that positive discrimination is ever a true privilege.

      Maybe I’m simply disagreeing about the terms here. I really don’t mean to reject any fundamental notion of white women’s relative position in society. I hope this clarifies things.

  • Arkstar

    Some few of your bullet list seems to be directly white privilege, I would say indistinguishable in form between white men and white women:

    # When told about our national language or about “civilization,” they are shown the people of their color made it what it was.
    # Can turn on the television, open a newspaper, or go online and see people of their race widely represented.
    # Can remain oblivious of the language and of persons of color who constitute the world’s majority without feeling in their culture any penalty.

    whereas the rest of it is, I think, spot-on with the exception, again, of

    # Are feel free to exhibit a wide range of emotions, from tears to genuine belly laughter, without being told to shut up.

    because, really? “Ladylike”, the role-model term for white femaleness I grew up with, specifically entailed emotional restraint.

    • AndreaPlaid

      You know, Arkstar, I see where you’re coming from and realize that I didn’t expand this far enough. So, here it goes:

      * When told about our national language or about “civilization,” they are shown the people of their color made it what it was.

      * Can turn on the television, open a newspaper, or go online and see people of their race widely represented.

      * Can remain oblivious of the language and of persons of color who constitute the world’s majority without feeling in their culture any penalty.

      So,

      * When told about our national language or about “civilization,” they are not only shown the people of their color made it what it was, they are shown that they are the physical embodiments of it. (Examples: the US’ Statue of Liberty, Lady Justice, and Betsy Ross as well as Eugene Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People from France.)

      * Can turn on the television, open a newspaper, or go online and not only see their race widely represented, but see themselves in a constellation of roles that usually reinforce the idea that they are the default and the ideal of pulchritude, sexuality, value, and purity either as a stand-alone notion or in concert with the other ideals. (Along with what I link to at Tumblr, two recent examples off the top of my head: Bella from the Twilightfranchise and Sookie from True Blood.)

      * Can remain oblivious of the language and culture of persons of color who constitute the world’s majority without feeling in their culture any penalty. ..on this one point, I’ll withdraw it as an exclusively “white female privilege,” even though there seems to have been quite a few white women who have been on this tip in the pop-culture landscape, such as Rosie O’Donnell…The Real Housewives of Orange County…Amy Sedaris…Wallace definitely used that language privilege on her attacking Asian and Asian Americans going to UCLA.

      As for this:

      * Are feel free to exhibit a wide range of emotions, from tears to genuine belly laughter, without being told to shut up.

      Go back and read others’ responses to the concept of “white lady tears” and how that plays out in along race and gender. Also, I remember a study that was done on how
      young Black girls are disciplined in classrooms because they/we are seen as “loud.”

  • Sewere

    Andrea and Latoya,

    Y’all are the most patient folks I’ve had the pleasure knowing.

    @Karen, tinfoil and Elusis, Seriously, this shit has got to stop. If there’s no such thing as white female privilege then what the hell was Sojourner Truth talking about, what led to Emmit Till’s death and why the fuck is there a difference between news coverage of missing white women compared to missing women of color? Actions have a cost benefit value, because it comes at a cost doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have its own benefits, even if the benefits are fleeting.

    • Karen

      I didn’t say that white female privilege doesn’t exist. (IT DOES.) I said that I don’t think it has necessarily protected her *in this case*. Being female, in this instance, I think has actually been a factor in her being threatened with violence. Being a white female didn’t save her from being scared out of school.

      Oh heck yes, I absolutely believe that white women are given more protection/privilege in our society as compared to women of color. Not denying that. I’m just wondering where you see that particular intersection of race and gender privileging her in this context. ‘Cause I’m not seeing it.

      Should she have not apologized? What should her apology have looked like instead of what she wrote? Should she have hidden the fact that she feared for her safety?

      God knows, I’m not defending Wallace, her actions, or white female privilege. I’m arguing that white female privilege, while owned by Wallace (and me and a whole mess of other white women), did not protect her here.

      Caveat: Before this turns ugly, I want to say that I’m enjoying this conversation! Racism needs to be unpacked and discussed often to be combated, and I’m glad to do it with intelligent people in a respectful forum.

      • AndreaPlaid

        ::scans post:: Oh yes, here it is.

        Again, Wallace found out quite differently, with UCLA Chancellor Gene Block speaking against it in a video as well as in an email along with other people responding to it with sometimes life-threatening viciousness.

        So, Karen, I did state, i so many words, that Wallace’s white female privilege did not work out the way she probably thought it would. However, that doesn’t mean she exercised/leveraged her privilege. Again, your statement suggest that privilege constantly works correctly all the time and, because it didn’t fully function in a particular case, it must not have worked at all–and, ergo, the privilege must not exist. To that, I call bullshit.

    • AndreaPlaid

      Ahhhhh, Sewere! ::tacklehugs::

      Bro, thanks for the back-up!

  • Scullars

    Privileges may often have demerits that sometimes diminish but don’t necessarily eradicate the benefits derived. It’s a quid pro quo symmetry. Since privileges are subjective in nature, some folks may consider something like being on a particular man’s arm a privilege while others may not. You obviously wouldn’t consider this a privilege but don’t think that another woman wouldn’t. Sexism and racism can intersect or run parallel, but they have their fallout for a particular subsect at any given time, and will benefit or diminish accordingly.

    There are times I wish sexism work in my favor. For example, I’m a black woman who recently went to a grocery store and watched while the white female bagger diligently bagged the groceries of the petite, blond white woman in front of me (who had very few groceries) but when it came my turn and with my very large amount of groceries left me to bag my own (with the help of the black register worker). Understand, she just stood by and was not occupied.

    Sometimes Black women are perceived as the “mules” of the world who are often left to be “strong” and handle their own burdens. I have diminished health and would love sometimes for someone to be “sexist” toward me and offer help.

    • Nicthommi

      Yes, and let’s not forget that white female privilege trumps every kind of privilege EXCEPT white male privilege, as has been so well stated.
      So for example, it might SOMETIMES have drawbacks in comparison to white male privilege and within the white male hierarchy, but it will always trump black women, black men, Asian women, Asian men, etc.
      You’ll get labeled hysterical perhaps if you break down crying while talking to a white male, whether it is in a professional or personal interaction. However, why not consider what would happen if you, as a white woman, broke into tears while talking to a Black man? Or if you reported to someone (e.g. other men, the police, etc) that a black man had made you cry? Ever hear of Emmett Till? That is a great example of the power that your complaints and tears can have over a black man.
      If you get into a confrontation with me, a black woman, I’ll be labeled as uncouth, belligerent, bullying, etc., and my Ivy League education and upper middle class background will not protect me. You will win. Again, if a situation arises between us and others become aware of it, I will ALWAYS be seen as the instigator/perpetrator.
      And so it goes.
      So if we were to make this into a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors, your Rock would always smash my scissors, and you could insert any other gender race combination in there and you’ll rule until Paper (the white man) comes in (and even then, it’s not as certain as the actual game b/c you can use certain things to your advantage with white men too-tears, claims of assault or abuse, etc.)
      My femininity, fragility, and need for help are NEVER seen as being as great as yours, and sometimes, they are not recognized at all. Men will drop doors in my face, let me struggle with heavy boxes or bags, and let me come to harm in a way that you will NEVER know.
      I’d happily settle for the 2nd chair position that you were born into…

      • Au Soleil

        brilliantly put! THANK YOU.

  • Anonymous

    You’ve given me a lot to ponder with this article, and I’ll be spending most of my unusually busy day thinking about white female privilege. Then I happened upon this article by Scott Adams, of “Dilbert” fame, and my mind exploded: http://tinysprout.tumblr.com/post/3713649989/scott-adams-dilbert-deleted-post . (This is a rescue of the already-deleted article which originally appeared on Adams’s blog.)

    Much to think about today, indeed. Keep provoking me, this old white broad is trying hard to keep up!

  • http://evesalexandria.typepad.com Nic

    The fact that white women’s privilege is very often tied into restrictive patriarchal assumptions about gender performance doesn’t negate the fact that it *is* a form of privilege. Yes, there are all manner of stupid, paternalistic assumptions about female fragility built into the way that ‘pretty young white woman missing’ stories get tons of media coverage – but that attention generally translates to a mobilisation of resources to help/avenge said white woman that a missing WoC could only dream of.

    Privilege is a trap, and not just because of the intersectionality of which Wallace has fallen foul. Even white male privilege, after all, has to be maintained through gender performance, of a very narrow and ultimately harmful version of masculinity. The patriarchy hurts men, too.

  • Anonymous

    Interesting conversation. Some folks are really choking on the idea of a specific type of privilege based on being white and female, preferring to draw that into the larger catch of white privilege.

    But I think AJ is right on this one – privilege isn’t just about the person experiencing it, but also the damage they can do to others who do not wield it. When Lisa discussed the shifting pyramid of kyriarchy, she made sure to include this note:

    When people talk about patriarchy and then it divulges into a complex conversation about the shifting circles of privilege, power, and domination — they’re talking about kyriarchy. When you talk about power assertion of a White woman over a Brown man, that’s kyriarchy. When you talk about a Black man dominating a Brown womyn, that’s kyriarchy. It’s about the human tendency for everyone trying to take the role of lord/master within a pyramid. At it best heights, studying kyriarchy displays that it’s more than just rich, white Christian men at the tip top and, personally, they’re not the ones I find most dangerous. There’s a helluva lot more people a few levels down the pyramid who are more interested in keeping their place in the structure than to turning the pyramid upside down.

    So let’s pull out some of these ideas.

    A lot of people like to look at privilege like it is a linear scale – you rank from the top (able bodied, wealthy, white, straight, cis, men) and keep heading down. But I personally think of it as kind of a grab bag of sorts (not quite a knapsack, but whatever works) we have different things afforded to us depending on who we are and occasionally, what we have accomplished.

    Not all of these things are “privileges” in the strict sense of the word, because many of these things have downsides or consequences. But they can be leveraged in one’s favor depending on the scenario. The first 10 episodes of the Addicted to Race podcast include a lot of conversation about mixed people who self-fetishize. Carmen and Jen spent a lot of time debunking those myths, and showing how that plays into existing racist norms. So why do people still do it? Because, in the short term, it became a net benefit. In the long term, it’s harmful – but a lot of folks are thinking about the immediate situation, not the structural impact. You may be disadvantaged in many ways, but if you can capitalize on something to benefit yourself that hurts other people – I believe that is what Andrea is getting at when she talks about a mitigated privilege.

    Standing on their own, the tears of white women are a liability. Crying is coded as irrational, manipulative, bullying behavior most of the time. However, if those tears are leveraged against someone who lacks that brand of privilege, the immediate response is sympathy. The onus then shifts from the crying agent to those who “provoked” the tears to deal with the scenario. Thus, this liability can also be leveraged as a way to shut down and silence people with less relative privilege.

    Or, to put it in RPG terms:

    Some privileges are a double edged sword. They hurt both the wielder and the recipient of the blow. However, if you know that wielding the sword will damage your health by 5, and the strike you land on your opponent will damage them by 30, and the sword is the only weapon available to you, would you use it?

    Again, it is very difficult for some folks to construe being seen as weak, delicate, or fragile as any kind of benefit – it implies you are in need of protection, that you cannot be out in the world on your own. But for other folks, who are never seen as worthy of protection look at the rush of folks to aid this tearing lily and think “must be nice.”

    Now, the Alexandra Wallace issue is quite complicated. It is like a kyriarchy battle ground – Asian males leveraging their gender privilege trying to combat Wallace’s racist attack, black females leveraging stereotypes about white women’s nature to fight against her racism, Wallace leveraging every privilege she has to stem the onslaught. Now, it is true that women who do or say things online face much harsher penalties than men pursing the same actions (word to Boxxy, Kathy Sierra). But check the full text of Wallace’s apology:

    In an attempt to produce a humorous YouTube video, I have offended the UCLAcommunity and the entire Asian culture. I am truly sorry for the hurtful words I said and the pain it caused to anyone who watched the video. Especially in the wake of the ongoing disaster in Japan, I would do anything to take back my insensitive words. I could write apology letters all day and night, but I know they wouldn’t erase the video from your memory, nor would they act to reverse my inappropriate action.

    I made a mistake. My mistake, however, has lead to the harassment of my family, the publishing of my personal information, death threats, and being ostracized from an entire community. Accordingly, for personal safety reasons, I have chosen to no longer attend classes at UCLA.

    What is she stressing? What buttons is she trying to press?

    If you don’t want to call it privilege, that’s fine. But look critically at the way in which people like Wallace are positioned in society (and what that means for the rest of us) before you dismiss what AJ is saying out of hand.

    • LC

      I pretty much agree with everything you said.

      This line from Lisa just rang a bell with me now: There’s a helluva lot more people a few levels down the pyramid who are more interested in keeping their place in the structure than to turning the pyramid upside down.

      There was a study about bullying that came out recently that showed more bullying behaviour from people just below the top of the social ladder than the ones at the very top. Presumably because the ones at the very top don’t have to worry so much about where their place is and if they might get dragged down.

      Hardly news, but re-reading that line just made the connection flash in my head.

    • http://profiles.google.com/lukedani luke blue

      Mm, thank you. This makes a lot of sense to me. Especially:

      “Not all of these things are “privileges” in the strict sense of the word, because many of these things have downsides or consequences…So why do people still do it? Because, in the short term, it became a net benefit. In the long term, it’s harmful – but a lot of folks are thinking about the immediate situation, not the structural impact. You may be disadvantaged in many ways, but if you can capitalize on something to benefit yourself that hurts other people – I believe that is what Andrea is getting at when she talks about a mitigated privilege.”

      Important to recognize the complexity of the structure while keeping the focus on impact.

    • http://twitter.com/AdiosBarbie AdiosBarbie.com

      In terms of her response, let’s get something clear. She produced the video and the venomous words spewed were hers. This apology is not produced or distributed by her. Rather it was written by a professional damage control person advised by lawyers and follows the typical public apology formula.

      These words are not hers and so we must look at the implications of the meaning and impact of having an identity-less person actually wrote it and pretend it is Wallace. It’s typical and speaks volumes.

  • Jess

    I looked at the videos linked and honestly, I thought the music was actually a pretty good response.

    I get the sexism part in some of it, but especially in the last case I thought it was all turned on its head pretty effectively. Especially given the whole thing about Asian men not being sexualized (the way black men are, for instance).

    And as for going after white female privilege, well, doesn’t the fact that some of the very videos you post — the song in the last one in particular — kind of get into that? The whole love song is so damned funny precisely because it is this guy saying “Yeah, I really did this all because I was into you” and Wallace is the stereotypical beauty?

    • AndreaPlaid

      No, Jess. If each video would have done some variation of what Beau Sia did–which did a great job of explaining the general issues of privilege behind the rant–instead of going for the sexist cheap shots—including threatening her life, which has got to be the cheapest shot of all–then I would have been all right with what they said. However, their intentions of addressing Wallace’s white female privilege simply soured into the resulting variations of misogyny. And, as we say in anti-racism, it’s not about the intention, it’s about the result and impact.

      • Jess

        But that’s just it. Look, I get the sexism in the one video where a guy calls her a bitch, and I get it in the first one. But the last one (which I realized I had seen earlier) I kind of thought was a bad example.

        The guy in the music video in particular did NOT threaten her life. If anything, he kind of approached it with good humor, I thought. I mean. I’ve seen some of the stuff out there and I thought there are plenty of other things out there that would have more effectively made the point. But some of this wasn’t quite it, I guess.

        The “you’re racist but I would still fuck ya” thing — well, again, that’s the whole reason it’s funny.

        Here’s why: for those of us nerdy dudes who had the zero social skills/borderline Aspergers there is something in there, I can only draw some parallel to being in an abusive relationship. That is, the whole idea that you will take a lot of abuse from someone who is “hot.” This would be especially true for Asian kids who were expected to be nerdy students anyway. (Hello stereotype)!

        And touching on that gets right into some of the white female privilege you were talking about. I was thinking to myself, “Damn, how many times have I let someone walk all over me because they were (conventionally) pretty and I wanted so desperately for someone to love me, because getting the “right’ girl was always a big deal as an adolescent/college student?” If more men recognized that going on there would be fewer abusive relationships, IMO.

        That isn’t the same as forgiving anyone, by the way. Not at all. It’s just burying your resentment.

        The singer is — I thought anyway — basically calling all that to the surface, and couple that with the stereotypes of Asian men as non-sexy, and I think it comes together pretty well. I mean I dealt with it in many of the non-linear ways you point out — where I grew up the privilege battle was across religious lines as much as anything else. (I never bought into the linear models of that anyhow. As CVT pointed out everyone has privileges over someone else sometime).

        • AndreaPlaid

          Jess, your comment echoes a major sentiment I’ve heard from many white progressives when their racism is pointed out. It goes something like this: “I can’t be racist! I’m not part of the KKK/dragging a Black man behind a pickup truck/calling Obama a monkey/using the n-word/calling FLOTUS Obama a monkey/whatnot.” Just beccause the singer in in the last video didn’t threaten Wallace’s life doesn’t mean he wasn’t acting in a misogynist manner. As I stated in my first response to you, the reactions to Wallace curdled into “resulting variations of misogyny” In fact, the fact that the singer even came out with that frankly leering unstated sentiment is an example of everyday misogyny. Even our resident R guy Arturo said, on watching that video, “I had to back away from that” after reflecting how many women whom he knows have been approached in such a manner several and feel violated–not amused–by it, even when the men approaching them has some form of mitigated privilege. As I said, a mitigated privilege is still a privilege, and the singer, to quote Latoya, leveraged his gender privilege to participate in making Wallace a sex object even as he’s criticizing her racism.

          As usual, you and I need to agree to disagree.

  • Anonymous

    I find the list very thought-provoking in a good way, and I want to go sit with it because I think it’s full of some hard truths. I agree there’s some serious Sarah Palin shit going on here, and Mean Girls stuff, and “oh whoops, I’m just a girl!” fauxpology.

    I also want to say that the one item that stands out to me as anomalous is this one: “Are feel free to exhibit a wide range of emotions, from tears to genuine belly laughter, without being told to shut up.”

    I can say pretty confidently, with 37 years of experience at being a white woman, and working with a lot of families and couples containing white women, that this is definitely NOT something most white women experience. Tears get labeled “manipulative,” “playing on your gender,” etc. Laughing loud gets you labeled drunk, skank, shrieking, harpy, cackling, etc. – and can I hedge a guess that this happens to women of color too? I’ve seen multiple restaurant columns where people bellyache about the “shrieking group of women” at the table next to them – and man, have I had to endure the piercing noises some women produce in public, but I’ve also sat next to groups of men in love with their own voices and their loud guffaws, yet never seen them described in the misogynistic ways reserved for loud women.

    I also have to agree with Karen’s point that the privilege twig snaps pretty easily when you can climb out on it to say racist things in the guise of a kind of “pretty airhead blonde just spouting off and showing her rack” persona, but then the death threats start in a way they never do toward men.

  • Anonymous

    I have to think about some of the specifics on the list of elements of white female privilege to wrap my head around them fully, but I want to say that this is an issue I’ve been thinking about lately. I am a white female, and because of particular things that happened in my past with my family, I tend to feel like people don’t respect me or are suspicious of me, and that feeling has in many, many ways made me unaware of my privilege as a white female. Just because I don’t *realize* the privilege I have doesn’t mean I’m not benefiting from it. This is, I think, one of the central things about privilege – it tends to be invisible to those who have it. As a white female, I am not, in fact, followed around in stores by employees for example. I often feel like people in stores are suspicious of me, but that doesn’t change the fact that my material circumstances in browsing around in stores is very different from those of many women of color, and my risks are not the same. Understanding this experience is how I am able to internalize the idea of white female privilege, and I think this post provides more food for thought.

  • K.lo

    In my experience, white women’s tears aren’t just used against POC. In the workplace I see the divice used against white men just as often.

  • alison

    I have been thinking a lot about this. I think a lot of the attacks came from a gut desire to cut Ms. Wallore ace down to size and, alas, the way we do this is through reminders of how one transgresses from the perfect, unimpeachable ideal (in the case of Ms. Wallace, this meant misogyny, sizeism, classism, and beautyism). We want to hurt her because we feel hurt, we want to demean her because she has demeaned others, we want her to feel shame, disgraced and we all have learned that the best way to make one feel this way is to tell them that they are other, that no matter how hard they try, they will never really be a member of the club. So, sadly, we tell her she is ugly and fat and sexually easy, and stupid and JUST A GIRL because we know from our own experiences that this is the best way to hurt her. This isn’t right, but it is understandable. Just as the child who has been abused learns that abusing others is acceptable.

    And, then, to confuse matters even more, there is the suggestion that this was all just an attempt to get on a reality show, a publicity stunt which went awry.

    http://blogs.laweekly.com/informer/2011/03/alexandra_wallace_ucla_asians_publicity_stunt.php

  • Karen

    Hmm, you say that her white female privilege gives her the ability to do this?:

    “Or, in Wallace’s case, post a virulently anti-Asian rant (complete with her “innocent” claims of having hometraining and how her rant isn’t about her “Asian friends”) on YouTube then fauxpologize with some nonsense about ‘not knowing what possessed her to do it.’”

    Apparently, it doesn’t, considering the fact that she so feared for her safety that she left school. Had she been a big, muscle-bound man of any race, I wonder if that hypothetical individual would have been so afraid of violence that he would have left school.

    That’s the thing – freedom of expression should include freedom from violence, no matter what racist bullshit comes out of your mouth…you don’t deserve to die for saying it.

    So, uh, yes. I suppose I’m saying I agree that the criticism of her should be focused on her racist remarks, but I disagree when you say that her white female privilege has somehow protected her in this debacle. It clearly hasn’t.

    • snobographer

      I wonder if the men of color posting violently misogynist rants about Wallace have been receiving death threats for it. Haven’t heard anything.

  • Anonymous

    LoriA89, you don’t have white privilege “even though” you’re a woman; your white femaleness accords you specific privileges that I, as a black woman, don’t have precisely because I am not white female. Again, as I stated in my post, “But for a person without that privilege, especially if the privilege is based on that person’s degradation or erasure, the mitigated advantage is still an advantage. The mitigation(s) shape(s) the privilege as that of gradation, not kind. Again, go read what Alienation and Burton said regarding how white female privilege operates. While you’re at it, also read Latoya’s post, “On Being Feminism’s ‘Ms. Nigga,” on how race has played out for her in feminist activist circles. Oh, and check out one more thing: in the derailing link, pay attention to the sections about “But That Happens to Me, Too!” and “You’re Interrogating from the Wrong Perspective.”

    • third guest

      No, benevolent sexism is not an advantage, just as being a model minority doesn’t make you privileged. It makes you exoticized, it makes you objectivized. It makes you a trophy.

    • E.

      YES.

      Thank you.

    • Anonymous

      I do apologize if this is considered a derail though the idea of female privilege seemed central to this article.I rarely comment on Racialicious because I realize it is not my space, and it’s better for everyone if I just listen. Hearing the fallacy of female privilege, though, is one thing I feel I should speak up about, but I’ve spoken enough at this point.

  • Patty

    This is the best video response I’ve seen so far:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F84NWh8Uzok

    • Anonymous

      I really like what Beau Sia had to say, too, but it still didn’t get to the white *female* privilege that Wallace operated with. It’s like he grazes it before simply addressing it as just white privilege.

  • http://profiles.google.com/lukedani luke blue

    I have to say, I think this is about white privilege. I definitely see the ways this privilege functions/manifest *differently* for white women than for white men, but I think that difference is often about women in general having lower status in society than men due to patriarchy/misogyny etc.

    I notice that the examples given which highlight specifically white female benefits, mostly involve the women in question making themselves appear small, weak or fragile–disempowered, in other words. The “sheer fear of tears” (that made me laugh out loud, so true!) IS a tool that white women are able to access to exercise influence in a given situation, but its use comes at a high cost. When that woman makes herself into a fragile, needy little white girl, she IS gaining by siding with white supremacy, but is also, importantly, siding with patriarchy–a system which actively oppresses and endangers her, emotionally, spiritually, and physically.

    Likewise in the example of the privilege of association with white men: benefits come through white supremacy, but high and self-destructive costs come through patriarchy.

    I thoroughly agree with the author’s point that a more effective social-justice response to the Alexandra Wallace video could have been made (even though I think we all secretly loved Jimmy’s “ching chong! asian’s in the library” song), by highlighting the ways she both subtly and overtly activating white supremacy in her youtube rant. I equally firmly believe that dubbing a use of white privilege into which is enfolded a big fat submission to male supremacy (check out all those dumb little girl “like”s and don’t-hurt-me-i’m-fragile giggles) is counterproductive and fogs a clear vision of where power really rests in our society.

    • Anonymous

      Then I will recommend to you what I recommended to Sara: read the links by Alienation and Burton regarding how not only is there such a thing as white female privilege but also how it functions. Then come back and read my post.

      • http://profiles.google.com/lukedani luke blue

        @Andrea. Thanks, I checked out the links. The Alienation one particularly hit home with me, especially the final exchange between black and white feminists…definitely complicates and deepens my understanding of what your article is getting at.

        I do still feel strongly about my original position. This may be a language difference, basically (one that I believe is important for understanding that ways different systems of oppression function simultaneously–although never equally). The bottom line of the articles you referred me to, as well as your own, as they resonate with me, is that white women need to answer for their privilege, and not use other forms of oppression they experience as a smoke screen or derailing device.

        (I wish that I could think of a good web resource to flesh out my perspective on this. But I will say that the book, “Beyond Inclusion, Beyond Empowerment: A developmental strategy to liberate everyone” by Leticia Nieto has been especially formative for me in the ways I conceptualize intersections of oppression. http://beyondinclusionbeyondempowerment.com/ )

        • AndreaPlaid

          Great! Keep reading and keep listening…and go forth in joy, peace, and love. :-)

  • another language

    De-lurking to say: you have been so spot-on writing about this Andrea!

    I think one reason (as I’ve experienced it anyway) that White Female Privilege invites exceptionalizing is that the very privileges themselves can occasionally manifest as drawbacks. For example, I am thin and have blondish hair, so while I never had any trouble finding tons of dolls who looked exactly like me, I can also tell when people assume that I’m stupid because of how I look. But like you said, “the mitigated advantage is still an advantage,” absolutely.

    I’m also a UCLA alum and I must say that this story didn’t actually surprise me that much. There was some serious kyriarchal cluelessness going on while I was there, and a disturbing lack of diversity at times. My department (probably 125 people) had one black student.

  • Sara

    Why call it “white female privilege?” Is it not something white men also have?

    I’m not sure the tendency to “forgive”/ignore her views because she’s “hot” is a form of privilege. It seems like the same phenomenon we see when progressive views are “forgiven”/ignored in favor of attention to the speaker’s body.

    • Anonymous

      Actually, Sara, no. What I am getting across in the article is that Wallace’s white privileges are constructed, manifested, acted out, and acted upon due to her gender, as white men also have privileges that only white men can fully benefit from that white women don’t. I suggest reading the links, especially to Burton and Alienation, for an understanding of how and why white female privilege works. I also suggest reading the link about derailing, too.

      Furthermore–yes, thinking and acting as if one can say some vile ish and get a pass on it because the person saying it is viewed as the physical embodiment of what society thinks is beautiful–and in US society, that is still white and female–is not only a privilege, but it’s a very raw form of it, regardless of the political views spouted or held by by the person, be it a Wallace, a Palin, or even a Gloria Steinem.

      • Anonymous

        I read the links, and they really don’t do anything to rebut the argument that any sort of female privilege is actually benevolent sexism, something which may be temporarily beneficial but which ultimately oppresses women and furthers the goals of the patriarchy. White privilege is very much a thing, and it manifests differently for different white people. But there is no such thing as any sort of ‘female’ privilege, and to argue that there is hurts women of all races.

        • http://twitter.com/2zelda Alexandra Snider

          Of course there is female privilege; there is a hierarchy within each gender that spans age, race, religion, sexual orientation, appearance, class, ability. With any hierarchy privilege is going to exist between the groups. Sexism and gender inequalities exist all over the world for all women but there is a drastic difference between what women of a dominant group experience and women of an oppressed community live with.

          Denying the advantages that white women have over women of colour, or women with disabilities, or poor women, or queer women is what hurts women of all races.

        • MK

          While I agree that it would be oversimplifying to say that a white female privilege is nothing but a win/win for white women, it doesn’t mean that the RIGHT NOW benefit from it is automatically negated by the long-term consequences. That’s oversimplifying it too.

  • Ladyguerita

    I don’t mean to sound ignorant but can someone explain the “an benefit from their association with white men as a wife, daughter, sibling, and mother” privilege to me?

    • guest

      It is a higher level of respect present in interactions. Example of this was in buying a car. I went and looked at cars then took my dad back to check out the few I had narrowed down. The salesman reacted much differently to me with my father present. I benefited from that association because the salesman automatically had more respect for my older father.

      • another guest

        I guess I have a hard time seeing that as “white female privilege” rather than just “white privilege.” Maybe it’s just semantics, but it seems a little weird to me to label an experience where, as a woman, you can’t get any respect until you bring a man with you as “female privilege” in any way. I kind of feel the same way about the original post. I definitely agree with the overall point, but I think I’d label most of it just plain old-fashioned “white privilege.” Maybe I’m just nitpicking about phrasing, though.

    • Faiqa

      You know how the girlfriend of the star football player got invited to all the right parties in high school? It’s like that.

      • Anonymous

        Perfect description, Faiqa!