White Feminist Series: #6 Carol Gilligan Part 1
White Feminist ‘Victimization’ Industry: Psychology
This essay is from a series of nonfiction essays assigned to members of our BIWOC Writing group: each was assigned one white feminist and a documents/interviews, etc and told to underline the aspects of white feminism which damage the forward movement of real feminism.
I got approval to publish this one without author name, written by an Egyptian immigrant to the US, who was assigned the psychologist Carol Gilligan and her essay on the Women’s March of 2017.
I admit that the most surprising part of this essay for me was the way Gilligan condescends to Mallory, Sarsour, Perez, and Bland for resigning from the Women’s March — ostensibly, because they ‘stained’ it with anti-Semitism. This is absurd, as most BIWOCS know: we are leaving their marches — or in my case, have never participated — because white feminism should be a movement separate from real, intersectional feminism. The goals are disparate and women of color cannot afford to keep giving white feminists opportunities to damage us.
Gilligan states that these women of color resigned to remove the stain of anti-Semitism from the march, a statement dripping with internalized superiority. BIWOCs do NOT think of ourselves as a ‘STAIN,’ the way white feminists like Gilligan think of us. We DON’T want white feminists in our marches.
Gilligan projects her feeling that women of color are a ‘stain’ onto us, as if we have decided we’re a stain.
Gilligan doesn’t ask herself why any woman of color would want to be in her group, white feminists, when she thinks of us as a stain AND is projecting her own superiority onto us.
I present this anonymous essay by way of attempting to help BIWOCS and other intersectional feminists realize that we MUST have a separate women’s movement: we CANNOT ally with white feminists.
The article by Gilligan:
The essay by anonymous, Part 1:
“Carol Gilligan, the highly-supported academic feminist of the 1970’s and 1980’s who was lauded for writing ‘In a Different Voice’ typifies American white feminist Zionism. In her article ‘Discord in the Ranks: The Women’s March and the Jewish Question,’ published through New York University/Bronfman Center (2019), Gilligan offers an authentic example of the cognitive ‘omission/status quo’ bias and rhetorical ‘equivocation’ error that underlines the fundamental distortion of white feminist beliefs. Her essay also frames Jewish white women as ‘victims’ of ‘the left,’ revealing a clear-cut bias with regard to the Women’s March of 2017.
Indeed, it seems that this march and the circumstances which surrounded it — revealing the long-standing, centuries-long conflict between white women and women of color — provoked her essay. The multiple omission biases as well as the fundamental logical fallacy of equivocation are both used repeatedly in her essay, revealing her privilege as a white feminist. Ironically, her stance merely emphasizes her status as privileged rather than frame her as a ‘victim,’ as her words appear to desire. Gilligan manages to achieve the opposite of her stated goal: she emphasizes the biases and fundamental fallacies of white feminism, illustrating its fundamentally divisive nature even as she attempts to project this stance onto intersectional feminism.
One of the first questions Gilligan poses is ‘why is anti-Semitism rising on the right and the left,’ which implies that anti-Semitism and Zionism are conflated in her mind. That is, conservatives often utilize stereotypes about Jewish people in order to discriminate, while liberals tend to sympathize with Palestinians re: the conflict with Israel = Zionism. That is, to perceive both of these as anti-Semitic is to assume that empathy for the Palestinian cause is the same as anti-Semitism. This is implied though not overtly stated. (6)
Under the heading ‘The Question,’ however, Gilligan is much more overt: she casts Tamika Mallory and Ilhan Omar into villainous roles, demonizing them while neglecting to reveal the legitimate points of view of these women. Gilligan declares that Mallory supports the ‘anti-Semitic Farrakhan’ but she simultaneously neglects to mention that Mallory repeatedly disavowed his anti-Semitism even as she was being ostracized for underlining his help to her community. Mallory’s neighborhood underwent great improvements — concrete, real changes –due to Farrakhan’s work, yet Gilligan — along with a fleet of other privileged white feminists — wants Mallory to disavow him completely because her feelings are hurt.
Similarly, Gilligan frames Omar in a solitary villainous role, demonizing her while under-emphasizing her public apology. As if this isn’t bad enough, Gilligan condescends to Omar in typical white feminist fashion as if Omar might just be ignorant: ‘Omar, not being from a country imbued with the West’s history of anti-Semitism, may well have been unaware of the historical resonances of her comments.’ This noxious patronizing attitude is typical of white feminists and reveals their underlying white internalized superiority: Omar is either crude and anti-Semitic, or she is ignorant. Gilligan leaves no room for Omar as an individual, once again illustrating her own devotion to white feminism. (7). Omar is forced to render an apology in such a way as to claim ignorance, as if being scolded; women of color know this is forced, while white feminists like Gilligan sincerely believe that Omar is uneducated and ignorant because she is not from ‘the West.’ This hubris is displayed repeatedly, throughout.
Next, Gilligan proceeds to discuss the way the ‘left’ confuses support with Zionism and Judaism when in fact this conflation is made by white feminists and others. Gilligan uses several paragraphs to project this conflation onto women of color ‘on the left,’ who apparently do not want to include Jewish women in the march. This is not only inaccurate, it is a form of narcissistic projection: women’s march leaders like Mallory disavowed anti-Semitism, including that of Farrakhan, and Linda Sarsour has not only spoken publicly against anti-Semitism but helped clean a Jewish cemetery after an anti-Semitic attack. In addition, it is Jewish white feminists who conflate Judaism and Zionism, such as Betty Friedan, Letty Pogrebin (who, unsurprisingly, Gilligan quotes favorably), Emily Shire, and Eve Barlow, as well as white men like Jonathan Greenblatt, who persistently and deliberately conflates Judaism with Zionism.
Yet, Gilligan repeatedly scapegoats and scolds BIWOCs who she calls ‘women of color on the left’ who, despite overtly opposing anti-Semitism like Sarsour, are cast by Gilligan as anti-Semitic. Gilligan’s attitude is a form of privileged victim-blaming: why isn’t she calling out these white feminists above instead of criticizing Mallory and Sarsour? Friedan and Pogrebin have both silenced and marginalized women of color in the past, and while Gilligan underlines Mallory’s and Sarsour’s alleged discrimination, she fails to report the discrimination which white feminists have exhibited for centuries, inclusive of Susan B. Anthony, Alice Fletcher, and Betty Friedan.
Finally, the last sentence of this paragraph reveals Gilligan as a white feminist as she attempts to separate myriad political issues from just the one that impacts her:
If, however, we put this confusion between anti-Semitism and legitimate opposition to the policies of the Israeli government to one side for the moment, then we can ask: in the rise of anti-Semitism in America now, are we witnessing the recurrence of one of the oldest and most pernicious forms of racism, as well as a betrayal of the egalitarianism traditionally advocated by those on the left and which is one of the core values of feminism? (my emphases)
This quotation reveals the fundamental underlying problem as well as Gilligan’s self-centered white feminism: women of color are often unable to separate the sociopolitical circumstances from our reality: it is part of the ambience of our lives, part of our oppression. As a person of Egyptian descent, I understand that Al Nakba and the Iraqi war happened at least in part because Madeleine Albright identified very positively as a Zionist, and so thought the murder of 500,000 Iraqi children ‘worth it.’ It is not only Palestinians who understand the deep-seated oppression inherent in Zionism, though they are certainly its biggest victims; it is many, many others, subject to its hasbara and its apartheid crimes. Israeli apartheid is a model of degenerate collective behavior, a vision of what all of us could become if we allowed profound departure from human morality. Basing one’s lebensraum on the Al Nakba/Holocaust of another group is a degenerate ideology.
Gilligan’s desire to put aside sociopolitical realities in order to focus on her own culture exposes her privilege and her fundamental devotion to white feminism. I think of ‘racism’ against African-Americans in the US as the oldest and most pernicious form of racism, yet Gilligan is focused on centering herself — a white woman in the US — and her collective group. This attitude distracts from the central reality: African-Americans are subject to the most pernicious racism, and for centuries. Why is she centering a white collective group or, for that matter, ANY other group? Yet, she drones on, centering white Jewish women like her as the victims. It is typical of white feminists to: 1. Claim victimhood; then: 2. Use that ‘victimization’ as justification for centering herself. For a psychologist, she is not as subtle at hiding her motives as one might expect of a professional.
‘What I know about my question’ (9): Focus on ‘my’ is typical white feminist narcissism
Under this heading, Gilligan quotes James Baldwin with regard to Jewish people and whiteness. From Baldwin’s perspective, she writes, Jewish people did NOT experience their oppression in America but elsewhere, and in the US, Jewish people are white. Gilligan takes offense to this, describing in color-blind detail the way in which Jewish people are similar to African-Americans. Then, Gilligan reminds the readers that Jewish people had a natural antipathy to racism and that Jewish people ‘[risked] their lives for the cause of Black people’s rights and freedom.’ She lists a series of names of Jewish people who died to help African-Americans, framing them as martyrs — in a country which is characterized by the exploitation of Indigenous- and African-Americans. This stance centers a small subgroup of white people as ‘victims’ when, in the US, history indicates that African-Americans are the central victims in the US narrative. Baldwin is right, from my perspective: Jewish people are in the white, ie, oppressor, category in the US. Why does Gilligan utilize such repetitive tactics to grant herself this extra measure of delusional ‘victimization’ instead of simply facing facts?
The white feminist shadow of faux-victimization is exposed by these words: she minimizes the impact of whiteness for Jewish people and, further, casts some Jewish people as martyrs for African-Americans. Gilligan imposes the typical white feminist tool, victimization, to distract away from African-American and towards Jewish victimization.
Baldwin has simply stated a fact: it is true that the US imposed chattel slavery upon African-Americans for 250+ years and actively promoted it, while the German Holocaust happened in another country and lasted for less than a decade. As a result, Baldwin’s legitimate point of view indicates that he views Jewish people as white, in the group of oppressors, in the US. Jewish people, like many other groups — whether considered white or not — did NOT and do NOT experience exploitation in the US. Like many other people of color, I also view most Jewish people as white — most of them are of European, not Middle Eastern, descent. I view African-Americans as the distinctly- scapegoated group, and Gilligan’s attempt to center any white group by conflating them with African Americans as absurd. It is not fair to people in the group experiencing much greater oppression for those in the dominant class to claim victim status. White women receive most of the benefits of the privileged oppressor: whiteness.
What is the rate-limiting factor which prevents white feminists like Gilligan from acknowledging reality?
Gilligan’s privilege is once again revealed by her rapt attention at casting Jewish people as central victims in a country in which they are largely privileged — and African-Americans are the collective victims.
10–11: Gilligan explains the circumstances surrounding the Women’s March in highly biased terms, framing Vanessa Wruble as completely benevolent and demonizing a number of women of color in the movement without acknowledging the factual information to support them. Gilligan describes Wruble as a benevolent lover of African-American rights who went out of her way to include women of color. In typical white feminist condescending tone, she implies that the feminist movement is white and that white women are the ‘rescuers’ of women of color: Wruble rescued women like Mallory, Sarsour, and Perez with her tikkun olam — and they became ungrateful. Gilligan implies that, if it were not for Wruble, these women of color would never even have had opportunity, and she does this without a shred of irony or satire, exposing her hubris.
Women of color and intersectional feminists do NOT want white feminists in our marches: it is not that we are ‘kicked out’ and no longer have ‘opportunity’ due to our loud ‘n angry ingratitude. WE WANT TO BE SEPARATE.
Further, Gilligan overtly stereotypes women of color as ‘loud and angry,’ capitalizing on that long-standing canard. She states that Mallory and Carmen Perez, another leader, had told Jewish women they must face their own prejudice. Wruble perceived these women of color as singling out Jewish women — typical white feminist ‘victimization’ — even though both women denied that these words were spoken at all. Gilligan chooses to believe Wruble’s white feminist ‘victimization’ stance without even acknowledging that these women of color have their own point of view: they didn’t say it in the first place. Thus, Gilligan erases any agency these women may have, casting both Mallory and Perez in the noxious, dangerous stereotype of ‘loud and angry’ but also as worthless liars, and she, the white feminist, as victimized by these nasty Black and brown women.
Gilligan continues in this vein, using phrases which cast Wruble, the white feminist, as a victim, and Mallory, Perez, and Sarsour — the three women of color — as loud, angry and even violent. Gilligan crams in several forms of white feminist strategic manipulation in this paragraph:
Despite her misgivings, Wruble continued to work with the group until shortly after the march when Mallory, Perez, and Linda Sarsour, a Palestinian American activist, forced her off the steering committee. The reasons are still in dispute, but according to Wruble and someone who witnessed this rupture, Jews were considered inherently racist and deemed untrustworthy. (my emphasis)
Gilligan casts Wruble in the role of tolerant docent who, despite sensing the underlying hostility of these (ungrateful) women of color, continues to offer her help in such magnanimous fashion, brimming with tikkun olam and ready to sacrifice herself for these hostile BIWOCs. After establishing Wruble’s alleged vulnerability and mensch-like status relative to these loud ‘n angry women of color, Gilligan asserts that they ‘forced’ Wruble off as if these leaders were a bunch of nasty fifth grade bullies and Wruble the poor, poor pitiful me of a helpful white woman.
Gilligan completes her ‘victimization’ narrative by admitting there is ‘dispute’ on the matter but only emphasizing one side of the dispute in a cartoonish, extreme cast: Jewish people are victims of these nasty women of color. Gilligan never bothers to underline any actual opinions of these women of color; again, she grants only Wruble and herself a voice and dismisses women of color as automatically loud, angry, and ‘forceful’/violent without even attempting to consider their point of view, never mind obtaining any of their actual opinions.
Gilligan’s Repetitive Narcissistic Projection: Baldwin. AGAIN.
After establishing Wruble’s white feminist ‘victimhood’ relative to those loud ‘n angry, ‘forceful’ women of color, Gilligan parrots Baldwin’s sentiment as if it is her own, and deploys it against those who agree with him. Gilligan writes, ‘What would it mean for these movements to recognize that the identification of victim and oppressor can be in part a matter of perspective, location, and historical context?’ She asks this question as if towards Baldwin and those who agree when she is merely parroting his sentiment: Baldwin’s quotation indicates that he understands the very different context in the US between African-Americans and Jewish people, that he has already applied this notion of perspective, location, and historical context. So has Mallory, who states that Farrakhan has helped her community from the particular perspective of an African-American, in a location of poverty, and in the US historical context of centuries of chattel slavery. Baldwin’s quotation reveals complete understanding of the difference between African-Americans and Jewish people, a difference that is acutely obvious to me, a nonblack, nonwhite woman of color who has observed these behaviors as an outsider for more than 25 years in the US.
Further, Gilligan frames Zionism as a form of self-determination as if this is a fact rather than a widely, globally disputed biased perception: ‘it is only by ignoring Jewish victimhood that one can so easily ignore the parallels between Zionism and other claims for self-determination of oppressed people, including Palestinians’ (my emphasis). Gilligan takes for granted as real a belief that is not shared by all: many individuals as well as official international humans rights organizations view Zionism as a toxic and oppressive political movement, not a form of self-determination, which has rapidly become an oppressive apartheid regime. Again, because Gilligan refuses to acknowledge the difference between collective oppression and subordination — a difference she is all-too enthused to emphasize when it casts her as a victim — she cannot hear her own equivocation: Israel is an apartheid oppressor and Palestine the long-term victim. Israel merely reignites white supremacy’s colonization — facts indicate that Britain stole Palestinian land and then gave it to white Zionists — which is a form of land thievery and colonization and extends white supremacy as an empire.
In addition, many do not believe the Bible should play ANY role whatsoever in land distribution; this belief seems to be shared by Zionists only, whether they be conservative Jewish people or Bible-banging evangelical Christians. Gilligan’s biased view assumes, as a given, that Israel belongs to Jewish people; she does not interrogate the fact that the Bible is a personal text of allegories and poems, and shouldn’t determine land distribution. Her words expose her privilege: she assumes that Israel is vulnerable when it is extremely oppressive, extending violent global white colonization. To many people of color, Zionism is oppression, not ‘self-determination.’ Any form of ‘self-determination’ that depends upon the Al-Nakba/Holocaust of others is no real determination: it is merely schadenfreude — benefitting from the genocide of others — and thus oppressive to its core.”
Part 2 of this essay will be published separately.