Against White Feminism

Reviewed by Shreyak Khanal

Against White Feminism is an intelligent critique of the current status quo of feminism and discourse on how to fundamentally reform the inherent whiteness of feminism. This is the culmination work of Rafia Zakaria who is writing from many different experiences: being a migrant from Pakistan, her interactions within feminist circles, as well as her experience of working on the board of directors of Amnesty International.

My initial scepticism going into this book was that Rafia would shape her narrative solely around herself, like she was finishing a personal vendetta. The inflammatory title is to blame, based on the title alone you might expect some controversial and racist views, however it is also the title that will draw the masses to the book. Rafia does not suffer from tunnel vision here in the sense that it is not solely about issues relating to her, nor is she justifying racism against white people. She is aware of the peripheral issues too. Rafia manages to draw both historical and contemporary references for her book to highlight the shortcomings of white feminism.

She succinctly highlights that feminism is adherent to the issues and ideals solely of white middle-class women. This ‘white feminism’ has been adopted as the universal standard, because it is condescendingly seen as the only tool for reform pertaining to issues for women. The author also clarifies that you do not have to be white to be a ‘white feminist,’ just enjoy the supremacist ideals of ‘white feminism’ and even people of colour can be ‘white feminists.’ She also details that largely this is due to the marginalisation of women of different cultural backgrounds regarding their experiences and expertise.

Against White Feminism, although a critical and analytical study, has its share of poignant and rage-filled moments. The author wears her heart on her sleeve and her humanity shines through her writing. I found her writing easy to empathise with and relate to. Ultimately in Against White Feminism Rafia is not striving for the removal of white women from the feminist forum, just the removal of supremacist ideals underpinned by colonialism and capitalism. Her writing is timely, exact and not lacking in analysis. The book is very digestible and hopefully heralds emancipation from whiteness in feminism. It is safe to assume that the book will end up on the must-read lists of many for this year. Despite that, my main criticism remains that due to the controversial title of the book, it is inevitable that it will be taken out of context, and some will be quick to dismiss the book altogether without engaging with the content at all.

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