Salvo 12.21.2020

The Woke Revolution Comes for White Women


These are strange times for white women in America. Only four years ago they seemed irreversibly ascendant. One of their own—a well-spoken, highly credentialed career politician—was considered the shoe-in for the presidency. Yet in an ironic rebuke to the feminist cause, Hillary Clinton, despite checking every box for admission to the White House, was defeated by a snarky old white male with no political experience and a crude, proud history of womanizing. 

Since then, the irony has grown thicker. Now white women are portrayed, not as assertive, brilliant superheroes who “lean in,” but as entitled busybodies—“Karens” who use their socio-economic privilege as a weapon of oppression against minorities. Ruby Hamad followed up her viral 2018 Guardian article, “How white women use strategic tears to silence women of color,” with a 2020 book White Tears/Brown Scars: How White Feminism Betrays Women of Color. For many, a May 25 Central Park incident in which a white female employee at Franklin Templeton attempted to deceive the NYPD into targeting a black male confirmed Hamad’s claims. White feminism, many now say, is guilty of perpetuating both the patriarchy and is its own oppressive power structure, a coercive and shame-ridden matriarchy.

With the Biden Administration-in-waiting set to promote the first female “POC” vice president, who will almost certainly be the frontrunner for the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee in 2024 or 2028, the idea of a white female national executive has lost its luster. We don’t need Hillary now that we have Kamala, whose remarkable unpopularity during the Democratic primary election was officially erased by the tens of millions of votes for her ticket in the general. “Nevertheless, she persisted,” the once-beloved slogan of the confident white woman, is so 2017. Now we have “I’m speaking,” Kamala’s declaration on intended behalf of all female persons of color—at least those who support her politically. 

Perhaps it is this growing resentment towards white women that explains another curious phenomenon of 2020—that so many white women are pushing to the front of the woke line, imposing the revolution most harshly on themselves. Their demographic, liberal legacy media and pollsters tell us, ensured the political demise of the bad orange man. (It may be their political effect on the white men in their lives may have had an even more significant tipping effect.) Theirs is the demographic placing sanctimonious liberal signs in their yards and inundating our social media feeds with the latest woke hobbyhorse, from BLM to the immediate, existential threat of white supremacy and totalitarianism. Theirs is the demographic screaming the loudest that kindness is everything. 

Indeed, this year I have frequently been the target of opprobrium from liberal middle-class white women. Several accused me of racism and bigotry when I posted an article on my Facebook wall about the number of police who were injured in the May and June riots. A satirical article I wrote for The Catholic Thing on the need for a “woke examination of conscience” to accompany the new woke religion elicited similar vitriol from a number of middle-aged white women.

Identity politics is inherently unstable and fickle. An ideological movement that blames white men for all of society’s problems will inevitably turn on other demographics (like successful white females) as soon as it becomes politically expedient and profitable. White women, sensing this either consciously or unconsciously, are thus increasingly on the defensive. The incendiary rhetoric once used exclusively against their male counterparts has found a new target, and the tactics of self-preservation are manifesting themselves in strange ways.

In June, the Washington Post published a piece recounting a 2018 Halloween party at Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Tom Toles’s home, at which a white woman satirically (and foolishly) wore blackface to mock TV host Megyn Kelly. The offending woman, who was fired from her job as a government contractor because of the WaPo story, sought to defend herself as another ostensible victim because her Jewish grandmother survived the Holocaust. 

In effect, woke white women must employ the most tenuous, risible tropes of identity politics to retain their victim status. White women can do intersectionality, too, they claim. “My husband is South Asian so I’m the parent of BIPOC children,” one asserts in self-defense. “I briefly went through a phase in college where I dated a girl,” another claims in solidarity with the LGBTQ community. “My genetics test says I’m eight percent Ashkenazi,” another announces. Yet even these efforts may not be enough—Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s adoption of two black children from Haiti was portrayed by woke commentators not as an exemplar of heroic virtue and sacrifice, but as covertly racist and colonialist.

Of course, white women still enjoy an unparalleled historic level of educational, professional, and economic success in America. They are the largest racial-gender demographic of university graduates. Between January 2015 and January 2020, representation of white women in senior-vice-president positions or the C-suite continued to grow by significant numbers. Only Asian-American women out-earn white women, and for years white females have had one of the lowest rates of unemployment among any demographic group. The 116th Congress had the highest number of women ever (24.2%), and the vast majority of them were white.

Having labored so rigorously for academic, professional, and political success, white women now face a new threat from a woke culture that doesn’t care about their character or personal story of overcoming adversity. It is motivated by the same mindless hatred and reductionism that demonizes white males. Anxious white women may try with all their might to retain their woke credentials, but as their political utility declines, they too will face censure and cancelation. No amount of tokenism—be it social media posts, bumper stickers, yard signs, or participation in corporate struggle sessions—will save them.

Indeed, the “Be Kind” messaging of white suburban women is inherently incompatible with a woke revolution that requires ever-new monsters to destroy. As the Allman Brothers sang, “there ain’t but one way out, baby,” and it’s to abandon the self-destructive racialism and reductionism of identity politics. Enough with the patriarchy, toxic masculinity, exploitative power structures, and oppressive white privilege: the racialist ideologues are stringing up your fathers, husbands, and sons. Only the most willfully obtuse, blinkered naïveté would allow anyone to think representatives of the white “matriarchy” aren’t next. When they are, who will hear their weeping?

The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.

The American Mind is a publication of the Claremont Institute, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, dedicated to restoring the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life. Interested in supporting our work? Gifts to the Claremont Institute are tax-deductible.

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