Let’s get one thing perfectly clear: Sarah Ditum is constitutionally incapable of directly stating what she means. She has been trained in a feminist tradition that trades almost exclusively in equivocation and doublespeak. This is one aspect of debunking TERFs that makes the task so grating–the ambiguity, rather than being a sign of the TERF’s lack of principles, instead reflects poorly on the critic since we sometimes guess incorrectly at what they’re trying to say. From there they can swoop in and claim that they actually meant something else, which, again, should be considered evidence that they are shitty communicators rather than evidence the critic has misunderstood. So I confess, I’m at a backfoot here, squinting at Egyptian hieroglyphs without the benefit of a Rosetta stone.
Feminists have spent decades trying to get the value of women’s unpaid labour recognised, to basically no avail. The trouble all along, it turns out, was the framing: instead of saying women deserved credit for their contribution to the economy, feminists should have said that women deserve blame. Because blame is one commodity where people are happy to give women their due. The obvious absence of women from the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia – where female counter-protester Heather Heyer was killed by a car allegedly driven by an alt-right supporter called James Alex Fields – could have lead to a discussion about the male near-monopoly on violence. Instead the impulse to cherchez la femme kicked in early and hasn’t let up since.
This isn’t particularly difficult, Ditum.
I’m not sure what point Sarah Ditum is trying to make. Are we supposed to infantilize white women who support white supremacy, or hold them accountable for their views as if they were–you know–responsible adults? She seems to have no problem suggesting men (“males”–she will be very insistent on this point for reasons that should be obvious to anyone familiar with TERFs) be accountable for their violent actions.
Here the first of only two pieces of evidence Ditum provides for this ceaseless “cherchez la femme”
Don't be fooled by the mostly-male white supremacists in Charlottesville. The 53% of white women who voted for Trump are there in spirit too
— Jessica Valenti (@JessicaValenti) August 12, 2017
Is Ditum unaware of how white women have had a direct hand in white supremacy? The purity of white women was, and continues to be, a rallying point for racist xenophobia. It’s one thing for a white woman to be put up on a pedestal against her will–another entirely for her to deliberately exploit that pedestal to incite the murder of an innocent black boy. How, exactly, is it anti-feminist to acknowledge the exploitation of “white women’s purity” by white patriarchs (and white women themselves) to justify racist violence?
I mean, the obvious answer is “because you’re also a fucking racist,” but let’s not jump to conclusions.
Lastly, that “obvious absence of women” is actually a point of policy of many white-supremacist-and-adjacent groups. One of the tenets of the Proud Boys is “venerate the housewife.” No shit the wives aren’t going to be in the march. One of the clues the much-demonized antifa are radically egalitarian is that women are among their action groups–and by contrast, that any images capturing these white supremacists hitting specifically women or trans antifas are shared as favourable propaganda by said white supremacists.
Seriously, I know TERFs are absolutely abysmal at this whole “empowering women” thing, but come the fuck on. This has to be the most egregious demonstration I have ever seen of the motivating animus of Ditum’s stale-ass feminist moralizing is finger-wagging at less powerful groups.
Back to Ditum:
First, we had the hot-takers whose hot take was that just because women weren’t at the rally didn’t mean they weren’t in some important sense really there. (Actually, yes it did because that’s how space and time work, but what’s a little physics when there’s woman-blaming to do.)
White women didn’t have to be physically present for their allegedly defiled purity to provide the pretext for lynchings either.
Someone must have laundered the swastika T-shirts, reasoned the hot-takers, and fed those Aryan mouths – heck, didn’t these racist guys have moms who should have raised them properly? (I’m pretty certain it’s a physical necessity for them to have had dads too, but what’s a little biology when there’s women-blaming to do?)
And? Ditum hasn’t actually disputed any of this. Perhaps she’s too used to being an armchair liberal to realize how much support and logistics goes into these rallies. They are literally not possible without all the satellite work–the work that was delegated to their “housewives.”
Then, there was an actual mom. Field’s mother Samantha Bloom appeared in an interview where she seemed strangely placid and said things like “I don’t really talk to him [her son] about his political views” and “Trump’s not a white supremacist” and (the most grotesque evidence of white witlessness) “he had an African-American friend”. But the video, in the most widely circulated edit, was close-cropped and shot from a strangely high angle angle. Pull back, and you can see that Bloom is in a wheelchair. At her son’s arraignment hearing, we learned that she had called 911 in fear of him several times: she variously reported that he hit her in the head, he spat in her face, he threatened her with a knife. The more you open the frame, the less the privileged-white-lady-enabler narrative holds.
I am not ungenerous. I’ll grant Ditum this one. The latter portion suggests she “didn’t think about it” because she was terrorized. It sounds exactly like the sort of non-committal statement abuse survivors make when asked in public about their treatment from their abuser.
None of this is a denial of the existence of female white supremacists,
Just denial of their impact. “They exist, they’re just unimportant wimmin” is suddenly a feminist statement???
who are obviously a fact both now and through history. But look how easily commentators slide from “there are female racists” to “women are central to racism”
Valenti’s argument was white women were “there in spirit, too,” not “women are central to racism.” Nor does this point follow-up on the observation that Bloom was unfairly depicted through manipulative editing techniques.
It’s worth noting that this is perfectly in line with Ditum’s techniques. Ditum has carted a full load of straw into this absurdist article. Nobody actually argued women were central to racism, just that they were contributors to it and that this contribution is often overlooked by invoking misogynist tropes of “useless women”–you know, like Sarah Ditum just did. This sort of persistent dishonesty is why I cannot respect her work.
So there it is, folks. A single feminist tweet pointing out that women have their contributions minimized in patriarchal systems and that we recreate this trope when we reduce their participation in white supremacy; and a shitty editor who manipulated footage of Bloom.
Clearly, this is the witch-hunt over which every right-thinking feminist shivers in fear.
Give me a fucking break. This entire polemic is just a veiled complaint that TERFs are criticized for being routinely racist (thanks for showing us why, Ditum) and trans-antagonistic.
Misogyny in the name of feminism since 1977: TERFism.