This discussion focuses on the construction of whiteness; the privileges that race afford white women, and feminist strategies to overcome racism within mainstream feminism. As a white women, I do overlook my privilege for being white and middle-class. U.S. typical feminist believed as an important concept of womanhood based on the normative model of middle-class white women’s experiences, to a recognition that women are, in fact, quite diverse and see themselves differently. It begins with the question of the social construction of gender and the conventional feminist assumption that ‘woman’ means middle class white woman. The challenge to this assumption is then posed by women of color, poor women, immigrants, and lesbians.
Feminists in the U.S. have worked strenuously to address the question of difference among women, together with what unites women in common contexts of struggle. The focus on difference, as well as identity, however, often overlooks the actual lives of many women of color who struggle not so much with how to enlighten themselves of a certain identity, but with how to establish one in the first place. Concentrating on identity and difference, by working to obliterate or represent it, also tends to the neglect of power relations that establish, hold apart, and bring together such differences in the first place.
As Audre Lorde has made clear, “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” The conclusion explores how feminists unite to struggle against systems of domination and exploitation, and work to give up privileges bequeathed by these systems, admittedly an uncomfortable proposition for those benefiting from power, to dismantle the “master’s house” and the multitude of oppressions that it sustains.
Feminists in the U.S. have set out to identify, expose, and subvert the longstanding gender stereotypes that have been used to dominate and subordinate women. Central to any theory of feminism, then, is how terms like “woman,” “female,” and “feminine” are construed or misconstrued. The women in the U.S. suffragist movement spoke of and fought for women’s rights, using the term woman to signify all women. What they failed to recognize was that their notion of womanhood was modeled on the experiences and problems of a small percentage of females who, like them, were almost exclusively white, middle-class, and relatively well-educated. However, the assumption that middle-class white women’s experiences represented all women’s experiences was not only made by the early Suffragists, but continued to shape the ideal of womanhood well into the second wave of the American feminist movement and beyond.
Overlooking the lives of women of color by assuming that the experiences of white women were representative of the lives of all women, feminists imagine a unity among women’s experiences that simply does not exist. According to bell hooks, this ideal of gender solidarity is built upon an assumption of sameness that is supported by the idea that there exists a common oppression of patriarchy around which women must rally.