cover image Against White Feminism: Notes on Disruption

Against White Feminism: Notes on Disruption

Rafia Zakaria. Norton, $23.95 (224p) ISBN 978-1-324-00661-9

Attorney and journalist Zakaria (Veil) makes a lucid and persuasive argument that feminism must address its “problematic genealogies” of whiteness. She notes that British suffragists refused to support Indian self rule, while those in the U.S. demanded that white women get the vote before Black men, and critiques early feminist theorists including Simone de Beauvoir for centering white womanhood as universal. Zakaria, a Pakistani Muslim woman, describes her own dismissive treatment at the hands of white feminists, but the book’s strongest sections detail how Western aid organizations and feminist groups including the National Organization for Women alienate and devalue women of color worldwide. Among other topics, she dissects the culturally myopic attitudes embedded in sex-positive “empowerment” messaging and the “ruthless individualism” of white women journalists who seek to “gain access to the intimate spaces of Black and Brown women.” Zakaria also links “moral outrage” in the West over Muslim “honor killings” to the “agenda of colonialism,” which “involved manufacturing definitions of new crimes and new classes of criminality to make a point about the moral degeneracy of the people whose freedom, goods, and land were being looted.” Tackling complex philosophical ideas with clarity and insight, Zakaria builds an impeccable case for the need to rebuild feminism from the ground up. Readers will want to heed this clarion call for change. (Aug.)