I have experienced increasingly good fortune these past few years to find a growing collection of girl friends. Please note the difference between “girlfriends,” in the romantic sense (which, yes, I wouldn’t mind) and “girl friends” women I get to hang out with and talk about women stuff with. I think it is important for a woman to have other women to associate with and discuss the world in which we live without having a male framework of that world completely enforced on us. As a trans* woman I am so unbelievably grateful for these amazing ladies who have accepted me as one of their own. I have noticed something somewhat sad about this otherwise wonderful development. There are no Women of Color in any of my circles of friends any more.
I did have one such friend, but her and her husband’s lives made them drift out of mine. I think it is important to be aware of this, I think it is important for feminism to be aware of this. So much of what we discuss about women’s issues is from the point of view of white women. If the needs of WoC are ever addressed it is strictly in the context of race and not what it means specifically to be a woman of color. Other times we pretend to be in a post-racial society and go the other way, claiming that an issue can be discussed in terms of patriarchy when indeed it is a problem particular to WoC. We speak of intersectionality but rarely act on it or develop our ideas around it.
I have no easy answers to this. I would like to go places where I could associate with a broader range of people socially, but then it feels forced. This behavior is itself racist, and more than a little infantalizing of PoC. It is white knighting of a particularly noxious variety. Still, I think everyone would benefit from a greater diversity of friends in their social circle. White women, if they are truly interested in learning how other women’s struggles are different from their own without interjecting their own opinions on those struggles, could learn a lot, and WoC could have better allies out of it. Again, however, I just don’t know how to make that happen.
I do know that at the very least white women need to start listening when a PoC starts telling them that their experiences are not the experience of every other woman out there. It is unkind to enforce the continued erasure of WoC and it is counter productive to any efforts to our efforts to unwind the patriarchy. For all our sake we need to learn to listen and not just speak.