On Tuesday, Feb. 13, the Rainbow Resource Center held their biweekly “LGBTea Time.” This week’s topic of discussion was centered around white feminism and connecting it to race and gender as part of Black History Month.
The group gathered in their office, and approximately 15 people were in attendance, including members from Maine TransNet. This organization offers resources for those transitioning with the most accurate information and support groups as well as partnered organizations. More information can be found through their website and at the Rainbow Resource Center.
Before the discussion began, ground rules were laid out by Bella DiCaro and Aviana Coco, who led the meeting. Upon entering the room, each person was asked their name and what pronouns were preferred. The rules were simple: let everyone speak, respect the differing opinions and let the personal stories shared remain in the room and not tell them outside of the meeting.
The meeting began with an open discussion on white feminism and why it is problematic. “I think that white feminism is an extension of second and third wave feminism, where you call yourself a feminist, but do not support lesbians, black women, etc., and only fight for what you want but not the several identities of women in America,” Skylar Rungren said. “If you are identifying as a feminist, you should support all women, not just your type of women.”
There was also a quick discussion about non-intersectional feminism, which is where someone only believes in the woman part of feminism, but does not necessarily care about the fact that there might be other issues that people might face.
Further into the conversation, the Women’s March was brought onto the platform. While parts of the Women’s March are valid and appropriate to some, many find parts of it incredibly problematic. First, wearing the famous “pussyhats” is now frowned upon as they are not an inclusive symbol for all types of women.
The transgender community has faced backlash for decades. A big part of the discussion was talking about the Compton’s Cafeteria Riot, which happened in August of 1966 in San Francisco. The Compton’s Cafeteria that, at the time, was one of the few places where transgender people could hang out in public as they were not welcome at gay bars and cross dressing was illegal. Over the decade, the police began to receive phone calls from the staff regarding the transgender visitors, then made arrests, which launched a picket of Compton’s Cafeteria by the transgender community. While this protest was not successful, the riot broke out when an officer responded to a call regarding a trans woman who was accused of being rowdy. A great number of the police officers during this time were known for mistreating the trans community, so when the officer attempted to arrest this woman, she threw her coffee in the officer’s face, which started the riot.
After personal stories were shared, Coco and DiCaro began discussing the times in which these issues have happened in the media, beginning with the talk about an issue that occured during a book signing with Rose McGowan. McGowan identifies herself as a feminist, but her anti-trans bias leads many to believe that she fits more into the white feminist category. At one of her book signings, a trans woman accused McGowan of not doing enough for trans women, as McGowan said the following in 2015 regarding Caitlyn Jenner’s transition: “You want to be a woman and stand with us — well learn us. We are more than deciding what to wear. We are more than the stereotypes foisted upon us by people like you. You’re a woman now? Well f—ing learn that we have had a VERY different experience than your life of male privilege.” The woman was escorted out of the event and McGowan then canceled the rest of her book tour.
After a while, the discussion on feminism and how you can be an active member of the community was brought to the table. As an example, Coco described the situation that happened between Octavia Spencer and Jessica Chastain. The two were filming a movie together, both making far less than their male colleagues. Throughout this discussion between the two actresses, Chastain found out that Spencer had struggled even more as a black woman. Chastain empathized with Spencer, and eventually, the two fought together for a more appropriate wage, and ended up getting paid five times more than what they were originally asking for. This, Coco explained, is part of what feminism is and how to avoid white feminism.
The next LGBTea time will take place on Tuesday, Feb. 27 from 3 to 4 p.m. in the Rainbow Resource Center in the Memorial Union.