Riot Grrrls: What White Feminists Should NOT Buy, Sell, or Wear

White and non-black feminists: sorry, this symbol is not for you and does not represent your struggle.
White and non-black feminists: sorry, this symbol is not for you and does not represent your struggle. | Source
NOOOO.
NOOOO. | Source

Black Feminist Symbols

A quick internet search will bring up all kinds of feminist pins, t-shirts, bags, you name it with this symbol printed on them.

Which is rad... if you're a black feminist. Many feminists make the (often innocent, admittedly) mistake that this is a generic feminist power symbol, when in fact it's a combination of the feminist venus symbol and the black power symbol, and was created by and for black feminists/womanists specifically and exclusively.

Frida's rolling over in her grave right now.
Frida's rolling over in her grave right now. | Source
Frida is NOT impressed to be a product on your "riot grrrl" Etsy.
Frida is NOT impressed to be a product on your "riot grrrl" Etsy. | Source

Frida Kahlo ANYTHING

I love Frida Kahlo, you love Frida Kahlo, we all love Frida Kahlo! She was an amazing, trail-blazing woman and a talented artist, and her adoration is well-deserved. However, people forget that she was an outspoken communist and therefore extremely anti-capitalist, so a white girl printing her face on a t-shirt or a button and selling it on Etsy really is super disrespectful to her memory.

So white feminists (or anybody really, but mainly white girls), please do not buy or sell t-shirts, pins, iphone cases, etc. with Frida's face on it.

If she were alive today to witness this phenomenon, she'd call you a gringo and laugh in your face.

*sighs loudly*
*sighs loudly* | Source
Even Buzz notices this shit.
Even Buzz notices this shit. | Source

*Casual Cissexism*

Uteruses and vaginas are demonized in our culture, so by all means we should celebrate our bits, and there's nothing wrong with showing pride towards your ovaries - just don't equate having them with being a woman.

Plenty of women don't have vaginas, or ovaries, or uteruses, etc, and some men do have these organs. We cis girls can love our vaginas, so long as we recognize that a vagina does not equal womanhood or even femininity. Don't be that trans-exclusionary feminist who ignores or demonizes trans women.

President of what? The "Women for White Supremacy" club?
President of what? The "Women for White Supremacy" club? | Source
Marsha P. Johnson: a WAY better feminist than Susan B. Racist ever was.
Marsha P. Johnson: a WAY better feminist than Susan B. Racist ever was. | Source

Iconography of racist and trans-exclusionary feminists

Susan B. Anthony, celebrated feminist icon, was a racist. But, you may argue, she helped improve women's standing in society! Yes, that's true. She helped improve the social standing of white women.

There are a million and one better feminist icons than white supremacist or trans-exclusionary women of her ilk. Why get a Susan B. Anthony poster when you could get a poster of Angela Davis, bell hooks, Julia Serano, Sylvia Rivera, or Marsha P. Johnson?

And if you want to honour feminists of old, why not celebrate Sojourner Truth and other black and women of colour feminists?

Get your heroes straight, girl!

Notice how the population of any Slut Walk is 90% white girls. Also, notice the appropriation of the black feminist symbol. Yikes.
Notice how the population of any Slut Walk is 90% white girls. Also, notice the appropriation of the black feminist symbol. Yikes. | Source
I guess, but... consent is more NECESSARY than it is "sexy."
I guess, but... consent is more NECESSARY than it is "sexy." | Source

Obnoxious Sex-Positivity

Okay, you like sex. Maybe you like sex a lot. Cool, there's nothing wrong with that! But sorry to tell you, there's nothing radical about that, either.

The fact of the matter is, women of colour (especially native women), women in poverty, queer women, and disabled women are more likely to experience sexual violence and harassment than heterosexual, middle-class white women, so reclaiming the word "slut" or proclaiming how much they love sex is not necessarily going to be liberating for them. The appeal of sex-positivity/reclaiming the word slut, etc. has a lot to do with white privilege, class privilege, and able-bodied privilege.

Of course, women of any background or experience can be sex-positive or reclaim the word slut if she wants to; just be respectful about it and don't expect all other women to do or feel the same.

P.S. there are also rape victims/survivors, asexuals, ace-spectrum women, etc. who have little to no interest regarding sex, so sex positivity isn't *necessary* for feminism.

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Comments 5 comments

Hannah Elise profile image

Hannah Elise 2 years ago from New York

Fantastic, fantastic, fantastic article.


ms_independent profile image

ms_independent 2 years ago from Canada Author

Thank you!! I'd been meaning to write this one for a while!


Sugar Epiphany 18 months ago

Your critique of the raised fist and the woman symbol didn't match my memory, so I looked it up. According to wikipedia, the raised fist has been used for centuries across many cultures and is not specific to the BlacK Power movement. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raised_fist


Patricia 12 months ago

IN THE US the "Black feminist symbol" is a black feminist symbol. In the rest of Europe it is not exclusive to black people, and it was actually in Europe it was first invented. This is very US-centric.


Danielle 3 weeks ago

I'm really confused by the raised fist symbol. As a modernist scholar and someone who studies 20th century history, I have always associated this symbol with socialism. Yes it definitely has the connection to Black Power in the US, but that isn't/wasn't what this symbol was exclusively used for. I'm not sure you can call it appropriation in this case if white/black/etc. feminists use a socialist symbol (coopted from ancient tradition and other social movements) that was later coopted by the black power movement. Feels like a stretch.

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