Cover Image: Against White Feminism

Against White Feminism

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Member Reviews

An important and difficult read that is soon to become required reading for intersectional feminism. Zakaria tackles the blind spots that prevent true equality and really pushes white women to think about how they benefit from and promote inequality. 

5/5 Stars

Thank you to NetGalley and W. W. Norton & Company for providing me with an e-arc of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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Thank you, NetGalley for a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.

In Against White Feminism, Zakaria highlights how feminism has continuously ignored the needs of women of color. She effortlessly blends examples from her own life and connects them to white feminist movements throughout history and the present day. Zakaria has obviously done her homework and is well-spoken on the topic. I think this is an important work for any feminist to read. 

Zakaria states her thoughts clearly and includes many examples to make her point. I have found myself taking my time to read through each chapter because it's a lot to digest. There are a lot of different ideas in this book (and some new ideas to me, although they're probably not new to non-white folk) and it's also helped me view the world and womanhood from a different perspective. I'm interested to read more non-white feminist theory, specifically Muslim feminist theory, and I'd like to learn more about the time periods and historical references she made throughout the book.
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This book took a more global approach to the impacts of white centric feminism than I had expected. That isn't a bad thing. It was an educationally different thing than what I had anticipated reading. White privilege impact how feminist doctrine has been formed. The book pushes for these to be removed from the fight for women's rights by recognizing that the issues of feminism aren't just those issues facing white women. Unlike a few other books on this subject I have read, this book placed a larger emphasis on the commercialization of feminism. While being told they are independent and equal to men, women are at the same time being told that this cigarette will make them sexy thereby immediately objectifying them. It continues to provide multiple examples of how colonialism brought about the unequal view and treatment of brown women versus white women. In the UK and USA, women were burned at the stake while in India, British colonizers made it illegal for a widow to burner herself on her husband's pyre. Really, it was about control. It still is. Women, white women, need to recognize that the privilege they receive as second class white citizens is just that and only at the convenience of white men. All women need to consider the concerns for all women and provide a united front.
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What a provocative and searing read!  White folks tend to think that as soon as other voices are elevated, it means that their White voice is being erased (not true).  This read brings to the forefront what everyone needs to be reading; it is challenging and defiant and oh, so needed.  Deconstructing and dismantling white feminism does not mean erasing whiteness and it doesn't equate whiteness with being bad or inherently racist - it just means that we need to be aware of who we are, our identity, and if white voices are to be heard - whose voices is it stamping out?
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This book is an important take on the state of feminism in the United States, though it can also be applied to the global feminist movement, as well. Despite the inflamatory title, Zakaria isn't trying to exclude anyone from feminism. Rather, the intent of this book is to expose how whiteness has detracted from the ultimate goals of feminism while also silencing the voices of feminists/allies of color. "White" feminism is the movement of feminism built upon the same power structures that have restricted the rights and voices of people of color and the LGTBQ communities. White feminism is less about the race of feminists, and more about the ignoring of the power structures that allow white scholars, activists, and politicians to be the de facto spokespeople for the feminist movement because those avenues are more easily accessible for non-POC. Overall, an interesting, eye opening, and potentially inspiring read addressing the possible futures of feminism.
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Against White Feminism is a beautifully written critique of white feminism. It's feminism, philosophy, with a touch of the personal, which hooks the reader from early on before delving quickly into the unspoken but seething  division within feminism between women who write about it (who have voices) and women who live it (who have the "scars and sutures" from the fights).  Zakaria, having a voice as well as the scars, is in a unique position from which to critique feminism. She says she has been inspired by women such as Spivak, and tears down feminists such as de Beauvoir. She will make white feminists feel uncomfortable, but she points the way to solutions, such as the importance of documenting the stories of Black, Brown, and marginalized women's experiences to create a different feminism.  After all, as Zakaria writes, the system we have has failed most women and we need to build a better one, together.
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Really refreshing new look on White feminism.  I really appreciated and enjoyed the points this author made.  I also liked that she was Muslim, so it was a different take on what non white and non black person thinks of the issues with current day feminism.
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In Against White Feminism, Rafia Zakaria investigates White Feminism, or feminism steeped in white supremacy and capitalism that centers on the needs and existence of white women. 

Zakaria brings the reader alongside a thorough examination of the pitfalls of White Feminism, primarily through historical and contemporary examples. Zaharia highlights a patronizing and dangerous trend in which white women are presumed experts in liberation, despite lacking the knowledge and cultural competency to be effective, too frequently resulting in more harm than non-action. 

I learned so much from Zakaria’s intentional research, and I found her analysis to be both accessible and engaging. I really enjoyed this work, and I highly recommend it!
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In Against White Feminism, Rafia Zakaria pens an informative narrative of how whiteness is embedded into the very foundation of American (to some extent even global) feminism. Since it’s conception in the 1800s, feminism has sought to improve the lives of women global, but at the fault of doing so through a predominately white, Western lens. Despite its cries of and for inclusivity and solidarity, it is the elite white woman who have left their lasting marks on the movement at the expensive of silencing the Black and brown voices they claim to help.  Highlighting her own experiences with exclusion from feminist forums, as well as exclusion of Black and brown global voices, Zakaria calls for a re configuring of feminist discourse to highlight common ground issues faced by women global, not just those that affect the white narrative. 

Zakaria highlights early on that eliminating white feminism is not the elimination of white women from feminism but removing centuries of white supremacy and capitalism from the common spaces of feminism, such that Black and brown voices can carry equal weight in their narratives. This book forces all those who consider themselves feminists to truly consider the voices that carry weight and the harm being done to marginalized communities by perpetuating the current form of feminism in today’s society. 

This is a must read book for every feminist, years too late in its making but crucial to the movement going forward.
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"Against White Feminism" by Rafia Zakaria is about how the feminist movement, with its primary focus on white women, has historically excluded women of color. From Sojourner Truth's "Ain't I a Woman" speech during the women's suffrage movement to white, female-led NGOs, white, upper-middle class women have both willingly denied a voice and decided what is best for women of color in the United States and around the world. While there is not 100% equality between white women and white men, there are privileges afforded nevertheless, and it is from this privilege that white women have shaped and defined what we are taught is feminism. The feminist ideals of capitalist-influenced sexual freedom, an emphasis on women's empowerment, and the disruption of cultural practices deemed unsavory have had severe, irreversible consequences on black, brown, and Asian women across the globe. This book also forced me to think critically about some of the female journalists, authors, and photographers that have profited off how they exposed women in other countries. I really hope that all white women who consider themselves feminist will read "Against White Feminism."
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Against White Feminism will be a hard pill to swallow for a lot of white feminists, but it is something that needs to be strived for in order for all women to be included in feminism.

Rafia Zakaria states that a white feminist is someone who does not consider the role that whiteness and its inherent racial privilege that has led to universalizing white feminist concerns and goals and liberally applying it to all feminism and feminists. 

Zakaria also asserts that a white feminist is not always white and that someone can be white and a feminist without being a white feminist. Her argument for this work is that whiteness and white supremacy needs to be removed from feminism in order for feminism to evolve into something better. 

The topics discussed here range from white feminists imposing their feminist views across the globe to “honor” killings and female genitalia cutting. The latter is something that I have only previously considered from a western viewpoint, but from reading this I have learned that programs fighting against FGC are creating new problems for these communities which are highly invasive and traumatizing for the young girls affected. 

I’ve already tried to discuss this book and the topic of dismantling white feminism with some white women and their knee-jerk reaction is “why” with a somewhat hurt or confused look on their face. After some discussion I can tell that either they will keep thinking on it or their defences come up and they make throwaway statements like “oh, so feminism for everyone except white women.” 

So clearly this book needed to be written. Rafia Zakaria did a superb job highlighting these issues and providing a guide on how we can move forward.
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