When I have conversations about feminism, they go one of three ways. Either it’s me, five glasses of Cava deep, singing happily into the ideological echo chamber that is my close friendship group. Or, it’s me trying to explain feminism to non-feminist men without crying angry tears. The last reaction, which is arguably my least favourite, is when I speak to other white women who tell me that because they ‘don’t need feminism’ they are uncomfortable identifying as feminists.
In a society where female success is pretty entangled with male approval, I can understand why women are afraid of openly challenging the very fabric of patriarchal oppression. But, not only is that excuse a little superficial, it’s also incredibly ignorant.
Noura Hussein is a 19 year old woman who has just been sentenced to death in Sudan for stabbing and killing her husband. Noura was forced to marry a much older man when she was 16. His family held her down so he could rape her, and when he tried to rape her again, she stabbed him. She fled to her family’s home, they turned her into the police and disowned her. The facts of this case scream injustice and support for Noura has been overwhelming, with JusticeForNoura trending on Twitter. Her sentence, however, has not been changed.
Feminism is not just about white women. White women, as oppressed as we are, are sitting pretty at the top of the female food chain. I can see why in the face of injustices such as those facing Noura Hussein, the problems I write about seem trivial. What are DJ Khaled’s wife’s lack of orgasms in the face of horrific sexism such as this?
But these issues are connected. Underlying almost all patriarchal oppression is the idea that women are not people, we are usable and consumable goods. That sentiment is the same whether it is expressed through a guy shoving his hand up my skirt in a club or a man raping his 16 year old wife. The latter is an extreme manifestation of sentiments that we constantly encounter.
And even if we put all that to the side, even if you can argue that white women have it real easy and we have absolutely nothing to complain about, shouldn’t we be helping? Shouldn’t we be using our privilege to support and empower less fortunate women in whatever ways we can? White saviour syndrome is incredibly problematic, and I have no time for people who think we should rock up in Sudan and tell all the women there how un-empowered they are, because not only is it far more complex than that, that’s also incredibly patronising. But as our brand new, real life princess, Meghan Markle once said ‘women don’t need to find a voice: they have a voice. They need to feel empowered to use it and people need to be encouraged to listen.’
If you’re white, and you’re a woman, and you don’t think you need feminism, there are just two things I would say. First of all, you do babe. All that internalised misogyny must be exhausting to carry around. And if you are adamant that you don’t, please look around you. The experience of women does not begin and end in the Western world. We need justice for Noura and for the countless other women who suffer unimaginable injustice everyday. Look outside yourself, and help.