What was “white feminism” — if it was a phenomenon divorced from what’s been lately dubbed “mainstream feminism,” or previously “liberal feminism,” or sometimes “marketplace feminism” — is now forever linked to that 53 percent of white women voters. Whatever feminism means to women who can vote in the United States, it was not enough to turn their votes away from a man accused of serial sexual assault, a man who would seek to punish those who terminate pregnancies — both long understood as unalienable feminist litmus tests. Whatever feminism means, after the election, it was understood as insufficient to elect a powerful, wealthy, perfectly qualified white woman.
“Mainstream white feminists consistently make the fatal mistake of presuming that their motivations are stimulating to every woman,” wrote Tamara Winfrey Harris at Bitch. “Self-reverential, non-intersectional feminism doesn’t speak to most women of color, but here’s the real rub, at least when it comes to progressive politics: It doesn’t speak to most white women, either.”
For all the rights white women have gained in the last century (highlight reel version: suffrage, divorce, contraception, employment) perhaps, for some of those women, once they got theirs, that was enough? If you, a white woman voter, can afford to travel wherever you need to for an abortion, does a prohibition on Medicaid covering abortion matter to you? If you, a white woman voter, are without a criminal record, does the disenfranchisement of women with felony convictions matter? These are the calculations white women, including white feminists, make across the political spectrum. These restrictions, they can see, largely fall on women of color and women in poverty.
What is absent from the lives of too many white women, then, isn’t feminism. It is a sense of justice that still fights as if it really believes that, until all women are free, no women will be.