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Feminists whose only anti-'privilege' is their sex?

(44 Posts)
BeyondTheWall Sun 26-Jul-15 10:10:47

This is more an ongoing stream of thought than a carefully considered OP!

I got called a tumblr feminist recently in a 'debate', had to google what the insult meant <clearly getting old> To start my random train of thought, i wondered if 'tumblr feminists' encompassed those with the "im alright, jack" attitude - who agree with for eg equal wages, but as they personally recieve them, they're not overly bothered with fighting for anything.

Then reading the nicki minaj thread and other 'white feminism' stuff

And something else about 'middleclass feminism' recently (though off the top of my head now, i cant remember what this was)

I was wondering if there is a link between these. Got me to thinking, is there a link between feminists who have more than one anti-'privilege' and their compassion for others with different anti-'privilege' (wish i could think of the correct antonym to use for this!).

Are those termed white feminists, middleclass feminists and tumblr feminists all the same people? Who also happen to be straight, well educated, gender-conforming and able-bodied (and maybe even young and thin?)

Is there any correlation between having less 'privilege' and more empathy for those with similar but different circumstances? Or is my hyperempathy squewing my thoughts on this?

I guess as well as generally discussing it, I wondered what posters personal circumstances re 'priliege' here were to go in the spreadsheet grin

MagicalHamSandwich Sun 26-Jul-15 10:48:28

I'm not sure about a correlation between privilege and empathy. TBH some of the most bigoted people I know are not exactly privileged at all.

On the other hand practicing empathy and actually 'getting' others are also not necessarily the same thing. My then 17-year-old sister took a holiday job in a factory and did her absolute best to help the women there fight for better conditions - except that they were much more interested in handbags and their boyfriends than my sister's revolutionary aspirations. From her POV she was putting herself in their shoes. They simply wanted nicer shoes without all the politics talk of some teenage MC revolutionary.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that this can be very complex indeed and that there is arguably no easy 'if A then B' type of formula.

almondcakes Sun 26-Jul-15 11:02:07

Tumblr feminist means something similar to social justice warrior. It is not the same kind of insult as white feminist.

BeyondTheWall Sun 26-Jul-15 11:34:32

Yes i know, but i was wondering if it was the same people, just in different arguments. Iyswim? So, say in a race-related discussion they would be called a white feminist, but in a random discussion elsewhere called a tumblr feminist. When all along they are just a privileged woman who cant see other viewpoints, but wants to be 'seen' to be saying the right thing. I guess yes, there is a difference between empathy and actually 'getting' it. So maybe i should rephrase the empathy bit?

I think tumblr feminist correlates with white/ablebodied/straight feminist insults in my eyes as they are only really thinking of the 'right' thing regards to their own situation, it simply doesn't occur to them that others have different experiences. And i wondered if there was any correlation (of course that doesnt mean all anti-privileged would automatically not be bigotted) between people 'getting' the situations of others and their own situations.

<realise this looks like i have spewed words out on a screen, hopefully the jist makes sense>

almondcakes Sun 26-Jul-15 11:48:33

I may be misunderstanding what you are saying.

Tumblr feminists are the people who stereotypically accuse other people of being white feminists, having straight or cis privilege etc.

I would say that people on Tumblr would claim to be a combination of female, young, trans*, queer, be fat, have physical or mental health problems and be well educated more than you would expect to see in the general population.

I don't think Tumblr skews particularly white, but it does skew Western (particularly US) and is somewhat wealthier compared to other social media sites. The reason for that is probably technological - Tumblr does not function well on smart phones. Many relatively poorer people globally access social media via smart phones but do not have access to a computer.

almondcakes Sun 26-Jul-15 11:51:06

Sorry, I mean that on average Tumblr users are more likely to be wealthier and western than say, FB or Twitter, not that Tumblr as a company is wealthier. Obviously it is tiny compared to FB and Twitter.

BeyondTheWall Sun 26-Jul-15 11:58:39

Ah, i think i see where we're getting muddled! I'm using 'tumblr feminist' as the insult, not as the actual population posting on tumblr feminism. So the stereotype of policing what everyone is saying to look good.

I guess my question stands regardless though? (And this has helped me actually phrase it as a question, so thank you grin )

Do feminists who are 'intersectional' in some way (now i am doubting my use of intersectional though!) 'get' those who are intersectional in others better than straight, white etc feminists?

almondcakes Sun 26-Jul-15 12:08:56

My personal feeling is that to answer that question you have to look at people you know in real life, not strangers on the Internet. There is something about the Internet that reduces empathy.

I actually don't think I know anyone well in real life who isn't experiencing multiple disadvantages.

WhirlpoolGalaxyM51 Sun 26-Jul-15 12:20:20

I'm not sure that privilege = lacking in empathy, always, but there is probably something there. Like not all wealthy people are tories, but actually, probably a lot of them are.

It's to do with experience isn't it? It is hard to understand things from another person's perspective, combined with defensiveness if for this particular thing, actually you are part of the problem, which is hard to swallow.

I don't think an assumption that eg a white feminist won't care about black women / racism is fair, I do however think that a white feminist won't really understand, the same as men don't really understand what feminists are talking about and non disabled people don't understand what disabled people are talking about because they haven't been there.

But yes I do think it is hard often to even notice bad things going on if they don't directly affect you and yours. Whether this makes them "bad people" or not, depends on how they react when the bad things are pointed out I guess.

Trills Sun 26-Jul-15 12:20:40

If someone uses "tumblr feminist" as an insult, I would assume they meant that you are a feminist who doesn't take any action or speak out in real life or do anything that would ever inconvenience you, you just post pictures on tumblr and think that's a big enough contribution.

almondcakes Sun 26-Jul-15 12:30:16

I thought what Beyondthewall was asking was if, for example, you were a black straight woman, would you have more empathy for a white lesbian woman than a white straight woman would?

Does having multiple traits that society creates disadvantages around make you have more empathy for people who are experiencing different disadvantages to you?

WhirlpoolGalaxyM51 Sun 26-Jul-15 12:40:51

On no evidence whatsoever I'd say possibly, but actually, not sure at all grin

Thing is you don't know what people's life experiences are do you? Past the things you can see (colour / sex / disability when visible) you have no idea what people's experiences are.

It would be interesting I guess, to take "empathetic" people and do a questionnaire about life experiences, and non empathetic ones. A person who appears very privileged may have suffered a lot as a child, or have mental health issues, or be a carer, or anything.

Then, upbringing, what the prevailing beliefs are in the society you live.

Then, religion I guess, some people take the really good, or the really bad, interpretations and run with them. Some religious people do spend all their time trying to help others. Whether they are empathetic or just following their god, I don't know, probably varies. Socialisation - women are socialised to be more empathetic than men. Does this make a difference?

At heart I think all of this is a stick to beat women who are apparently privileged but who are trying to do the right thing. Is it better to have people with privilege (money, power, authority) on your side than not? I would say yes, and with an aim to open up that power to groups who have been previously denied it. Men to women, white people to non white, straight to gay and so on and so forth.

BeyondTheWall Sun 26-Jul-15 12:41:15

Yes almond, that

Its not that i think they may have an understanding of the exact situation (any more than a random man understands feminism), but they understand having multiple disadvantages, which puts them on an easier starting point for empathy. I think?

I dunno, like i said, i'm thinking out loud grin

WhirlpoolGalaxyM51 Sun 26-Jul-15 12:41:47

Because if you are the group lying in manure at the bottom of the heap and you can't / haven't got anyone with any power on your side, then you aren't going anywhere, are you. Short of a revolution. Which can happen, obviously grin

BeyondTheWall Sun 26-Jul-15 12:42:57

I'm not trying to beat anyone with a stick! I couldnt think of a title that summed up my ramblings blush

almondcakes Sun 26-Jul-15 12:55:19

One of the things that increases empathy is feeling you have common experience with another person or group. So if person X thinks, 'I experience multiple disadvantages and, although their disadvantages are different, person Y experiences multiple disadvantages just like I do' then they are more likely to feel empathy for person Y.

If person Z thinks, 'even though our lives are really similar in every other way, my daughter person Y is a lesbian and as a straight person I can't possibly understand their experiences,' then they are far less likely to feel empathy.

So it isn't the multiple disadvantages that create the empathy, it is taking the stance that you have common experience with other disadvantaged people - i.e. that ideology that fell out of favour - solidarity.

WhirlpoolGalaxyM51 Sun 26-Jul-15 12:56:22

No not you OP! People who use "X feminist" as insults.

BeyondTheWall Sun 26-Jul-15 13:04:29

<thumbs up>

Then following on from that, do you think it is likely that those being accused of white feminism etc may be the same (if straight/white/able) people being accused of able/heteronormativism? As they are again thinking that as the common experience doesnt apply, they couldnt possibly understand?

BeyondTheWall Sun 26-Jul-15 13:05:55

<thumbs up to whirlpool too > phew grin

WhirlpoolGalaxyM51 Sun 26-Jul-15 13:10:54

I think you need to tread very carefully and listen very carefully when dealing with something that is not in your personal experience.

I don't think that not having the personal experience is a bar to genuine empathy / wanting to help though.

almondcakes Sun 26-Jul-15 13:26:32

Beyondthewall, I think it is really complicated.

Frequently, people who accuse other people of being white feminists, having cis entitlement or acting like a tumblr feminist are themselves lacking in empathy or at least having a day where they are not being very empathetic.

I mean, I probably have referred to someone as a tumblr feminist, or at least got somewhere within that arena of insults. I doubt I did so during a day of great understanding and empathy.

So if someone is 'accused' of one of these crimes, frequently it reflects badly on the accuser. I mean the valley of calling someone a white feminist, cis male privilege holder is really close to the land of die in a fire, rape threat, die cis scum, white male tears, isn't it?

InnocentWhenYouDream Sun 26-Jul-15 17:53:45

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

AskBasil Sun 26-Jul-15 19:35:11

"At heart I think all of this is a stick to beat women who are apparently privileged but who are trying to do the right thing. "


I think empathy is classless. If you look at most of the big revolutions in history, they were led by posh people, who had an enormous amount of anger and empathy and desire for justice.

There are people who are really poor, have had incredibly hard lives and are incredibly vicious about other poor people, with no empathy at all.

And there are rich people who are v. compassionate and lefty and horrified by the idea of the bedroom tax and limiting tax credits to 2 children etc. and imagine how they would feel if they were having to cope with that.

Lived experience might make someone more empathetic, but I suspect that those people who are, might have been anyway, with or without their lived experience.

etKrusTe Sun 26-Jul-15 19:41:54

Obviously I don't think I fall in to this category (!!) but I have been shocked by the lack of joined up thinking from some of my friends in recent years. They seem to think that because they managed to have a career and a husband and keep their own sur name, that that's it, women are equal. But these are women who had good educations and privileged childhoods, with two parents telling them how wonderful they are; clever women; attractive women; white women; privately educated women............ and they seem to think, this is it, we're here now, women are equal If you're a cleaner on 8£ an hour, it's your ''fault''.

The lack of empathy or the lack of inclination to understand a much bigger picture astonishes me..

But yes I know what you mean OP, I have two disadvantages. I'm a woman and I'm a single parent. I think you are right in that it's a bit like cholestorol. ON its own its not necessarily a problem. With another issue, it is a problem.

WhirlpoolGalaxyM51 Sun 26-Jul-15 20:11:58

It's odd isn't it.

Would they be that way, if they weren't advantaged? Is it just personality?

I am a privileged person, fundamentally, I can see that & I seem to spend my time railing against things like institutional racism in the police, bad treatment of women around the world, the tory scumbags, social housing being shut down for redevelopment and the people being moved out and far away, all sorts of stuff.

A lot of it is just personality?

I suppose maybe there is a large subsection of people involved in various causes who are only in it for the parts where it impacts them and theirs personally? And they get a bad rep for everyone else?

Like the unions, when I some union types talk about "standing up for the workers" it seems to be white men they have in mind, maybe non white men a bit, they are rarely raising hell on behalf of the woman cleaning the bogs. A lot of these liberal / lefty types are just as shit as the right-wing when it comes to people who aren't "like them" - it's the same old boys club just in a different class / wealth / political tribe.

Anyway. Not sure where I'm going with that grin

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