ActivismDesignfeminism

The [White] Lady Doth Protest Too Much

Hello. Hi. Nice White Ladies. Yes, you there, with the face. Can we chat for a minute?

I understand you have the best of intentions when you make your efforts to make sure NotWhite Ladies know you support them. I know that holding conversations involving race is sometimes difficult. But please, please, for the love of little green apples, would you please check in with a friend or three or look at Twitter or Google or just count to 100 before diving headfirst into a full-on tshirt campaign that’s basically #NotAllWhiteWomen?

Yep, there’s a whole set of stuff, from shirts to mugs to buttons, that literally says “Not This White Woman.” Which is nice and all, but what are you… not doing?

Voting for Trump.

The creators of these items (a pair of white women) really, really want to make sure that everyone knows they are NOT among the 53% of white women who voted for Trump. On their website, they say:

“We’re used to sharing our social/political beliefs on social media but as the election showed us, we’re all preaching to ourselves… We want the world to know what kinds of people we are.”

Yes! Good! This is excellent. Tell the world that prejudice and hate are not okay.

But consider how your message is coming across to the folks you want to hear you.

Outside the context of the site that’s selling them, wearing the tshirt doesn’t actually tell anyone what it is you’re not doing. Or what you didn’t do. Nor does it do a very good job of signalling that you are safe, that you are supportive, that you are anything but painfully aware of your whiteness and don’t want to be judged for it.

(…goodness, that’s a terrible feeling, hmm?)

I mean, yes, it’s great that the profits are going to Planned Parenthood. It’s great that you want to show marginalized folks that you support them and not the racist cheeto. But how about, instead of buying a tshirt to make sure everyone knows you’re not one of THOSE women, why not go do something that shows the world what you are? Stand up for the things you believe in rather than wearing a slogan indicating your unhappiness about being so unfairly lumped in with all the other people who look like you do.

Make a statement that’s positive rather than denying a negative. Tell the world: what do you stand FOR?

There’s a ton of positive stuff you can do that would be more productive than virtue-signaling with a tshirt. Make a donation, volunteer your time, go to a rally or protest, plan a script to have that Difficult Conversation with an otherwise-reasonable individual, talk to your other Nice White Lady friends about the ways you can learn and grow and be better humans.

If you really need to wear a tshirt proclaiming your support, wear one made for the ACLU or Planned Parenthood or the SPLC or Border Angels or NARF or BLM or any of the innumerable organizations that are already out there and organized and doing the work you so badly want everyone to know you support.

And really, now is a GREAT time to Do A Thing that will indicate your lack of support for, nay, active protest against, the laundry list of -isms represented by the incoming administration. There is, of course, the Women’s March on Washington being held on the 21st, and if you’re not in or can’t travel to DC, there are literally hundreds of sister marches happening around the world.

There are also loads of other events happening between now and then, even if marching isn’t your cup of tea. You can even do helpful things on your own! Write or call your representatives. Attend an event. Educate yourself about bills and laws in the works on both national and state levels, and pay attention to local politics, too.

 

Yes, tshirts are a fun way to show your alignment with a particular message… but you want to make sure people are receiving the message you actually want to send. And the message isn’t bad, but the gesture is more than a little tone-deaf.

On a positive note, the creators of this message do acknowledge that it’s “a drop in the bucket in the grand scheme of things, so we’re also staying vigilant and active in dozens of other ways.” Which is good! We’re all looking for ways to help and support each other in the face of increasingly divisive rhetoric. This one just misses the mark, and I hope it can become a learning experience, a conversation-starter, and maybe even spur that moment of realization and coming-together that was originally intended.

Still, we can do better, white ladies. Let’s do.

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Beth Voigt

Beth Voigt

Beth is a graphic designer in Chicago, a superhero in her own mind, and absolutely nothing on TV. She wrangles fonts professionally, pummels code amateurishly, and has been known to shove fire in her face for fun. Fond of volunteering, late-night bursts of productivity, and making snacks, she dislikes grocery shopping and public transit and is only on her second smartphone. Her opinion is that you should try everything twice; if you don't like it, you were probably doing it wrong the first time around.

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