Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

White feminism “is not feminism”, says Gloria Steinem

gloria-steinem-white-feminism.jpg

The disparaging term “white feminism” is used to describe the ethos of a very specific type of woman. Generally speaking, a “white feminist” is not just a feminist who happens to be white. Instead, a “white feminist” is a middle-class Caucasian woman who believes she’s committed to advancing women’s rights, but who rarely stops to consider how sexism affects women who aren’t exactly like her. She doesn’t think about how issues of racism and sexism can overlap and intersect, and becomes defensive and upset when asked to do so.

Gloria Steinem is a feminist, and she is also white. But, in a new interview, the activist, writer and leader says that the concept of white feminism “alarms” her.

“If it’s white, it’s not feminism,” she tells Vice magazine. “By definition, [feminism] includes all women.”

gloria

Gloria Steinem (far left) with other feminist activists in 1972: Bella Abzug, Shirley Chisholm and Betty Friedan.

Steinem, 82, has been a prominent figure in the women’s movement in the US and around the world since the early 1970s. Over the years, she’s engaged in feminist debates with all kinds of women – perhaps most notably Betty Freidan, the author of The Feminine Mystique.


Read more: “What I want you to know”: four feminists share their call to arms for International Women’s Day


Consequently, she rubbishes the notion that it’s somehow unsisterly, or a sign of “feminist infighting”, to critique another woman’s thinking, particularly when it comes to the important matter of race.

“It’s not infighting to point out racism,” she says. “That’s important – just like it’s not infighting to point out sexism.”

gloria steinem

Gloria Steinem speaking at the Women's March on Washington in January.

It’s essential that white women are told when they’re inadvertently thinking or behaving in white-centric way, says Steinem. “We need to do this because we [white women] are not raised to understand the long-term impact of institutional racism.”

Steinem also offered her take on why 53% of white women in the US voted for Donald Trump as president. (In contrast, 94% of black women and 68% of Latina women voted for Hillary Clinton.)


Read more: Harriet Harman: “We can’t turn back the clock on gender equality”


“[A majority of] white women have traditionally voted Republican because they are dependent on their husband’s income,” says Steinem. “They are voting for their husband’s interests.”

She adds: “It has always been true that since the beginning of the women’s movement in this country, African-American women were twice as likely to support the movement and the issues of feminism as white women were.”

There is still work to be done before mainstream feminism is truly inclusive. But if we’re to move forward, Steinem says that we should take pride in discussing subjects that might make us feel uncomfortable.

“I’m very proud of the women’s movement for being the most diverse of any social justice movement, and for having these important conversations,” she says.

Images: Getty, Rex Features

Related

Charlotte Olympia HOPE Clutch 695.jpg

Designer fashion pieces that donate 100% of profits to charity

emma watson.JPG

Watch: Emma Watson stops a reporter mid-interview to help a sister out

iStock-512166486.jpg

The most empowering feminist books: women pick their favourite reads

More

The best A-list Instagrams from the weekend

From Ella Eyre’s autumnal spirit to Serena Williams’ mother-daughter selfie

by Nicola Colyer
16 Oct 2017

Nigella Lawson reveals why red is the ultimate foodie colour

As she tracks her gastronomic love affair with all things crimson

by Kayleigh Dray
16 Oct 2017

Big Bang Theory star faces fierce criticism for Harvey Weinstein op-ed

“I have almost no personal experience with men asking me to meetings in their hotel rooms”

by Moya Crockett
16 Oct 2017

Kate Hudson’s brilliant comment in response to seeking male approval

She might even bring back the Mullet

by Susan Devaney
16 Oct 2017

Kate Winslet defied boss when she left Weinstein out of Oscars speech

“I remember being told, ‘Make sure you thank Harvey if you win’”

by Kayleigh Dray
16 Oct 2017

Evan Rachel Wood wants you to know why she hasn’t named her rapists

Everyone needs to watch this powerful and emotional video message

by Kayleigh Dray
16 Oct 2017

James Corden apologises for those “offensive” Harvey Weinstein jokes

After Rose McGowan furiously dubbed him a “f**king piglet” for making light of the scandal

by Kayleigh Dray
16 Oct 2017

Sophie Turner and Joe Jonas confirm engagement with in-sync posts

But don’t worry, GoT fans: Maisie Williams is still the big love of Turner’s life!

by Kayleigh Dray
16 Oct 2017

The best A-list Instagrams from the week so far

From Kristen Bell’s magical find to Ariana Grande’s touching tribute

by Nicola Colyer
13 Oct 2017

JK Rowling nails the huge problem with this viral sexual assault tweet

Twitter has applauded the Harry Potter author for this expert takedown

by Kayleigh Dray
13 Oct 2017