“The Uses of Anger” and White Feminism

In recent years, the term “white feminism” has entered the common lexicon as a way to describe an ideology that seeks “not to alter the systems that oppress womenーpatriarchy, capitalism, imperialismーbut to succeed within them” (Solis). While Audre Lorde does not use the term “white feminism” in “The Uses of Anger,” she highlights examples of how this approach to feminism fails to effect substantial change and instead promotes the continuation of a system that excludes and oppresses women of color. In her article “When Feminism Is White Supremacy in Heels,” Rachel Elizabeth Cargle discusses how she and her fellow black feminist activists responded to the murder of 18-year-old Nia Wilson. Cargle and her black activist community called upon white feminists to use their platforms to acknowledge the senseless murder of a black woman. While many white allies did, a large number of them also grew defensive and lashed out. 

This situation is analogous to Lorde’s example of white women addressing racism on college campuses. They blame their inability to properly confront racism on the fact that no women of color attend their events. Lorde writes, “In other words, racism is a Black woman’s problem, a problem of women of Color, and only we can discuss it.” This sentiment is apparent in the defensive responses of those white feminists. Too often in modern-day activist circles, black women are charged with the responsibility of educating white women and white people in general about the oppression they have faced. White feminist activists should prioritize stories like Nia Wilson’s instead of waiting for black activists to ask them for support. And when black activists encourage them to use their platform, white people should respond with genuine willingness instead of with their ego. “The Uses of Anger” aligns strongly with Cargle’s article, as Lorde states, “Oppressed peoples are always being asked to stretch a little more, to bridge the gap between blindness and humanity. Black women are expected to use our anger only in the service of other people ‘s salvation, other people’s learning.” White women’s rights activists should listen to Lorde’s words and work to educate themselves instead of waiting for black women to take on that emotional labor.

2 thoughts on ““The Uses of Anger” and White Feminism”

  1. Hello!
    I really enjoyed this post and I totally agree that making racism a Black woman’s problem is kind of ridiculous. It reminds me of the saying “boys will be boys” and the ways that the system blames rape culture on women. In the first place, victims shouldn’t have to take so many preventative measures in order to live safely; in the second place, we should not fault victims when any of these preventative measures fails. Instead, we should try our best to effect systemic change and raise conscientious men AND women to produce a safer future for everyone.

  2. I really enjoyed this connection! Lorde does an excellent job pointing out the lunacy of what we might now call “white feminism” in “The Uses of Anger.” Lorde points out how “every woman has a well-stocked arsenal of anger potentially useful against those oppressions” (Lorde). She challenges the white woman in her life to set aside their egos and recognize how everyone benefits from an end to racism. The concept of intersectionality also seems to be important in this call. Lorde states, of her own personal work of radical empathy, “if I fail to recognize them as other faces of myself, then I am contributing not only to each of their oppressions but also to my own” (Lorde). Any attempt at feminism necessitates this type of empathetic intersectionality. Otherwise, like you point out in the case of “white feminism,” it will only uphold the divisive systems of power and patriarchy!

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