The Trouble with White Women: A Counterhistory of Feminism

Bold Type. Oct. 2021. 304p. ISBN 9781645036890. $30. SOC SCI
Schuller (women’s, gender, and sexuality studies, Rutgers Univ.; The Biopolitics of Feeling) juxtaposes white feminism (as it has been practiced in the United States since the 19th century) with the intersectional feminism originating from women of color. She writes that white feminists have historically focused solely on gender and been willing to sacrifice marginalized women if they deem it politically expedient, often making gains at the expense of women of color. Schuller’s counterhistory highlights activists of color including Zitkala-Sa, Pauli Murray, and Sandy Stone. Notably, she discusses Stone’s trans activism and the coalition-building that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has practiced in Congress. Schuller makes the case that women of color have always faced multiple oppressions and she argues that concerns of gender discrimination cannot be divorced from discrimination of the basis of race, class, or disability. She offers the examples of Betty Friedan and Sheryl Sandberg to demonstrate that feminism’s work is not achieved when one white woman attains parity with other white men. Schuller concludes that feminism, as practiced by women of color, is a movement for social, economic, sexual, and political justice, and white feminism must recede.
VERDICT Schuller’s highly recommended feminist counterhistory is inspiring, and her arguments persuasive. She excels in letting the voices and lived experiences of women of color, trans women, and otherwise marginalized women come to the fore.
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