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Are White women hypocrites in expecting Black women to support white women gender initiatives

By Jean Mavrelis - 11.11.2016

Last night I couldn’t sleep, and was texting with a Black woman friend who is an attorney.  I asked if I could quote her:

“As a professional, I regularly hear white women question black women about why we are active in black professional associations and less so women’s professional associations. We are scolded for seeing ourselves as Black first and women second. They treat our point of view as disloyalty to them…. The hypocrisy of the situation is what is so maddening”

I agree.

I was conducting a women’s retreat for the federal government when a Native American woman asked, at the beginning of the session, “What about women of color”?

A white woman replied, “We’re talking about gender here, not civil rights”.  That exchange offered the group an opportunity to sort out who they were.  Sadly, most of the white women in the group assumed sexism could be compartmentalized from racism.

When we say “Women and people of color”, where are women of color?  They can be in both categories, but when white people say “woman” they generally mean a white woman, otherwise they mark the category: Black women, Asian women, etc.  We talk about our Black friends and are Latina friends, but we don’t mark “friend” if the person is white.  White is normative for white people.

Black women hearken back to Ida B Wells’ famous saying, “Ain’t I a Woman Too” when white women tried to get the vote without joining forces for Black suffrage.

Whenever we do a social mapping exercise in our sessions, we ask people to break into groups.  If there is only one Black woman, she will invariably prefer to be her own group, or join a group of Black men, because for Black women, race “trumps” gender.  They, as well as their co-workers, see themselves as Black before seeing themselves as women.

White women did not vote to protect immigrants from mass deportation, including children who were born and acculturated here in the U.S.

We didn’t vote against potential return to “stop and frisk” laws even as we watch police abuse of young black men. Race isn’t on white women’s radar.  White women have to see racism and xenophobia as our issues, too. Until that happens, Black women will see white women’s gender initiatives and issues as too one-sided–basically just theirs.

White women who voted against Hillary

By Jean Mavrelis - 11.11.2016

Who are the white women who did not vote for Hillary, when they did vote for Barack Obama, and probably would have voted for Michele Obama if she were running instead of Hillary.

They didn’t like Hillary.  They voted against her more than they voted for Trump.


They saw Hillary as a male identified mean girl who isn’t caring and nice. From the beginning, when Bill Clinton was running, she was taken to task because she said she didn’t bake cookies.  This was seen as an affront to homemakers.

“Who does she think she is?”

“She’s after power, or she would have left Bill.”

“She makes too much money for her speeches.”

“She’s hawkish.”

“Her voice is annoying”.

The litany goes on.

Little girls in elementary school will create an “I hate so-and-so” club if any girl acts too powerful.  White women are not encouraged to be competitive.  White women on my tennis team struggle with their own competitive instincts, and don’t like the other team if they seem mean and don’t smile.

I have written about 5 categories of white women in Corporate Tribalism: Narcissists, White male identified/assimilated, Obedient rule governed, People pleasers, and Evolved. The biggest category is the people pleasers.

Hillary is not in that category.  She seems more male identified to me, and what I’ve read about her childhood with her father backs that up.  But she could also be in the “evolved” category of women who can be for themselves and also, be for the good of the whole.  Hillary certainly showed she could be evolved in so afar as she can be for herself, and for women and children.  And she proved that legislatively.  But something about her was a little too male identified for many white women.

Hillary doesn’t exude warmth. People who have met her says she does one-on-one, but the camera couldn’t reveal that, and Hillary was held by white women to a standard of perfection around being a people pleaser – someone who is caring and nice.  She didn’t make it for many white women. They saw Hillary as part of the establishment.

What does the establishment mean to white women?  It means members of the “good old boys club”.  I voted for Obama rather than Hillary because I saw him having more womanist values than Hillary.  He was raised by a grandmother, while I’ve read that Hillary identified with her father.

Studies have shown that women in top executive positions are more male identified.

Well, that’s the game, she “leaned in”.  I have talked to women executives who said they had an epiphany, “At some point in my career I realized that if I wanted to get ahead, I was going to lose friends.  I couldn’t be for myself without shame or guilt the way white men can”.

Well, Hillary lost “friends”.  She didn’t have that elusive something white women “people pleasers” look for when they judge other women.

Trump didn’t have it either, but he is held to a different standard. Many women don’t expect him to “get it”.  They expect bravado, and their sense of a powerful man isn’t necessarily one who is caring and nice.

We need to begin raising sons and daughters who are valued for being evolved: being able to have agency (the ability to know what they want and go for it), and still keep in mind the good of the whole.  Hillary does that, but many white women didn’t trust it.

Evolved women, who saw Hillary as the subject of her life, had less of a problem, but still wanted her to be more “likable”.  They relate better to Elizabeth Warren who doesn’t come across as establishment male identified, even though both women combine caring with passionate advocacy for issues larger than themselves, something women identify with and respect generally.

Trump can be for himself without shame or guilt, but certainly has no idea how to be for the good of the whole group.

We will have to watch him like a hawk.  Or, as our Buddhist colleagues might say, we need to extend loving kindness.

I’d like to do both.