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Against White Feminism: Notes on Disruption

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Upper-middle-class white women have long been heralded as “experts” on feminism. They have presided over multinational feminist organizations and written much of what we consider the feminist canon, espousing sexual liberation and satisfaction, LGBTQ inclusion, and racial solidarity, all while branding the language of the movement itself in whiteness and speaking over Blac Upper-middle-class white women have long been heralded as “experts” on feminism. They have presided over multinational feminist organizations and written much of what we consider the feminist canon, espousing sexual liberation and satisfaction, LGBTQ inclusion, and racial solidarity, all while branding the language of the movement itself in whiteness and speaking over Black and Brown women in an effort to uphold privilege and perceived cultural superiority. An American Muslim woman, attorney, and political philosopher, Rafia Zakaria champions a reconstruction of feminism in Against White Feminism, centering women of color in this transformative overview and counter-manifesto to white feminism’s global, long-standing affinity with colonial, patriarchal, and white supremacist ideals. Covering such ground as the legacy of the British feminist imperialist savior complex and “the colonial thesis that all reform comes from the West” to the condescension of the white feminist–led “aid industrial complex” and the conflation of sexual liberation as the “sum total of empowerment,” Zakaria follows in the tradition of intersectional feminist forebears Kimberlé Crenshaw, Adrienne Rich, and Audre Lorde. Zakaria ultimately refutes and reimagines the apolitical aspirations of white feminist empowerment in this staggering, radical critique, with Black and Brown feminist thought at the forefront.


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Upper-middle-class white women have long been heralded as “experts” on feminism. They have presided over multinational feminist organizations and written much of what we consider the feminist canon, espousing sexual liberation and satisfaction, LGBTQ inclusion, and racial solidarity, all while branding the language of the movement itself in whiteness and speaking over Blac Upper-middle-class white women have long been heralded as “experts” on feminism. They have presided over multinational feminist organizations and written much of what we consider the feminist canon, espousing sexual liberation and satisfaction, LGBTQ inclusion, and racial solidarity, all while branding the language of the movement itself in whiteness and speaking over Black and Brown women in an effort to uphold privilege and perceived cultural superiority. An American Muslim woman, attorney, and political philosopher, Rafia Zakaria champions a reconstruction of feminism in Against White Feminism, centering women of color in this transformative overview and counter-manifesto to white feminism’s global, long-standing affinity with colonial, patriarchal, and white supremacist ideals. Covering such ground as the legacy of the British feminist imperialist savior complex and “the colonial thesis that all reform comes from the West” to the condescension of the white feminist–led “aid industrial complex” and the conflation of sexual liberation as the “sum total of empowerment,” Zakaria follows in the tradition of intersectional feminist forebears Kimberlé Crenshaw, Adrienne Rich, and Audre Lorde. Zakaria ultimately refutes and reimagines the apolitical aspirations of white feminist empowerment in this staggering, radical critique, with Black and Brown feminist thought at the forefront.

30 review for Against White Feminism: Notes on Disruption

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jenna

    "The goal here is not to expel white women from feminism, but to excise whiteness, with all its assumptions of privilege and superiority, so as to foster the freedom and empowerment of all women." Against White Feminism is a brilliant analysis of how white feminism has traditionally and is currently failing to include all women, and how it upholds white supremacy. Author Rafia Zakaria describes why feminism is long overdue for a transformation so that it includes and works for the benefit of all "The goal here is not to expel white women from feminism, but to excise whiteness, with all its assumptions of privilege and superiority, so as to foster the freedom and empowerment of all women." Against White Feminism is a brilliant analysis of how white feminism has traditionally and is currently failing to include all women, and how it upholds white supremacy. Author Rafia Zakaria describes why feminism is long overdue for a transformation so that it includes and works for the benefit of all women, not just middle and upper class cis white women. Ms Zakaria mainly focuses on the (many) ways in which women of colour are harmed by traditional feminism but she also notes that traditional feminism excludes the needs of LGBQTIA2S people, instead centering around white, middle-upper class, straight, cis-gender women as though the rest of us either don't exist, aren't real women, or need to be "rescued" by the "true" feminists, the white, middle-upper class, straight, cis women. Anyone who calls themself a feminist should read this book and others like it, such as White Tears/Brown Scars: How White Feminism Betrays Women of Color. I learned so much from both of these books and am grateful to the authors for their insight and courage in speaking out. "When you are called out for white feminism, this is not a mere description of your racial heritage, something you may feel guilty about but can do nothing to change. It is a description of your words and actions. It is crucial that white women realize whiteness is not construed as a biological category but as a set of practices and ideas that have emerged from the bedrock of white supremacy, itself the legacy of empire and slavery."

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jasmine

    Against White Feminism will be a hard pill to swallow for a lot of white feminists, but it is something that needs to be strived for in order for all feminists to be included in feminism. Rafia Zakaria states that a white feminist is someone who does not consider the role that whiteness and its inherent racial privilege that has led to universalizing white feminist concerns and goals and liberally applying it to all feminism and feminists. Zakaria also asserts that a white feminist is not always Against White Feminism will be a hard pill to swallow for a lot of white feminists, but it is something that needs to be strived for in order for all feminists to be included in feminism. Rafia Zakaria states that a white feminist is someone who does not consider the role that whiteness and its inherent racial privilege that has led to universalizing white feminist concerns and goals and liberally applying it to all feminism and feminists. Zakaria also asserts that a white feminist is not always white and that someone can be white and a feminist without being a white feminist. Her argument for this work is that whiteness and white supremacy needs to be removed from feminism in order for feminism to evolve into something better. The topics discussed here range from white feminists imposing their feminist views across the globe to the topics of “honor” killings and female genitalia cutting. The latter is something that I have only previously considered from a western viewpoint, but from reading this I have learned that programs fighting against FGC are creating new problems for these communities which are highly invasive and traumatizing for the young girls affected. Namely, that girls who have not experienced FGC are falsely under the suspicion that they have and are now forced into an invasive medical exam by some well-meaning white feminist. This book clearly needed to be written. Rafia Zakaria did a superb job highlighting these issues and providing a guide on how we can move forward.

  3. 4 out of 5

    lark benobi

    This book was refreshingly empirical. I enjoyed its blunt truths. Although I'm a white person I didn't feel pushed away by Zakaria's thesis--I felt invited to re-examine the goals of feminism as they have been defined by Western white women. I was asked to consider all the ways that cultural bias, Western economic values, and the residue of colonialism have warped feminist thinking, and have impeded progress for all genders. I was moved by what Zakaria wrote about her personal experiences, and I This book was refreshingly empirical. I enjoyed its blunt truths. Although I'm a white person I didn't feel pushed away by Zakaria's thesis--I felt invited to re-examine the goals of feminism as they have been defined by Western white women. I was asked to consider all the ways that cultural bias, Western economic values, and the residue of colonialism have warped feminist thinking, and have impeded progress for all genders. I was moved by what Zakaria wrote about her personal experiences, and I was persuaded by her arguments. Although the title of her book feels deliberately antagonistic, the book itself is nuanced and inclusive, where I could see how white women have also been hurt by adopting definitions of female empowerment that are exclusionary and competitive and, well, male. I suggest you read it.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kerri

    “A white feminist is someone who refuses to consider the role that whiteness and the racial privilege attached to it have played,” Zakaria writes. And you do not have to be white to be a white feminist, she contends. This necessary book is a critique of how whiteness (not white women) has infiltrated feminism and how it should be razor-bladed out of the current form. What does this mean? Look around. Who are the feminists writing about feminism or the experts speaking about feminist policy or le “A white feminist is someone who refuses to consider the role that whiteness and the racial privilege attached to it have played,” Zakaria writes. And you do not have to be white to be a white feminist, she contends. This necessary book is a critique of how whiteness (not white women) has infiltrated feminism and how it should be razor-bladed out of the current form. What does this mean? Look around. Who are the feminists writing about feminism or the experts speaking about feminist policy or leading feminist organizations and what are their assumptions and goals? Do they acknowledge the disproportionate access and networks within their ranks? Zakaria’s critiques orbit her lived experience. For example, Zakaria grew up in Pakistan and saw the women in her life suffer and survive loss, discrimination, migration, and more without ever abandoning those who relied upon them. Part of the current feminist commandments don’t allow for such resilience (to stay rather than leave) and insist upon rebellion instead. Her argument is much more nuanced than my clumsy retelling but know this: Zakaria is a warm-hearted and sharp-eyed writer that brings compassion, intelligence, and a steady drumbeat of change to redefining term—feminism—a word that is old and soggy and full of white ladies yelling about things. This book is going to light fires everywhere, so if you are prone to combust, get right the hell out of the way. (for Lit Hub)

  5. 4 out of 5

    Meaghan

    This may be the most racist & hateful manifesto I’ve ever digested. Shame on you for spreading lies and hate. Not to mention rife with jealousy & self hatred.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Puppet Master

    Another racist book that attacks productive thinking and action. The intersectional Marxists won’t stop until they’ve alienated every “group” from all others. This book claims that white women somehow have different wants, needs, and values than women that aren’t white—mental acrobatics at its best. It also ignores all of the women, that aren’t white, that have played a role in American feminism. Another Marxist tactic—rewriting history. And simple-minded fascists eat it up, ignoring their famil Another racist book that attacks productive thinking and action. The intersectional Marxists won’t stop until they’ve alienated every “group” from all others. This book claims that white women somehow have different wants, needs, and values than women that aren’t white—mental acrobatics at its best. It also ignores all of the women, that aren’t white, that have played a role in American feminism. Another Marxist tactic—rewriting history. And simple-minded fascists eat it up, ignoring their families and humanity because of their psychotic, imaginary obsessions.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Lou

    Against White Feminism is a timely, important and fascinating polemic and essential critique that argues for the transformation of feminist ideology to be inclusive of every woman regardless of race or background; equality for all women not only those who hold white feminist values. Upper-middle-class white women have long been heralded as “experts” on feminism. They have presided over multinational feminist organizations and written much of what we consider the feminist canon, espousing sexual Against White Feminism is a timely, important and fascinating polemic and essential critique that argues for the transformation of feminist ideology to be inclusive of every woman regardless of race or background; equality for all women not only those who hold white feminist values. Upper-middle-class white women have long been heralded as “experts” on feminism. They have presided over multinational feminist organizations and written much of what we consider the feminist canon, espousing sexual liberation and satisfaction, LGBTQ inclusion, and racial solidarity, all while branding the language of the movement itself in whiteness and speaking over Black and Brown women in an effort to uphold privilege and perceived cultural superiority. An American Muslim woman, attorney, and political philosopher, Rafia Zakaria champions a reconstruction of feminism in Against White Feminism, centring women of colour in this transformative overview and counter-manifesto to white feminism’s global, long-standing affinity with colonial, patriarchal and white supremacist ideals. Covering such ground as the legacy of the British feminist imperialist saviour complex and “the colonial thesis that all reform comes from the West” to the condescension of the white feminist–led “aid industrial complex” and the conflation of sexual liberation as the “sum total of empowerment,” Zakaria follows in the tradition of intersectional feminist forebears Kimberlé Crenshaw, Adrienne Rich, and Audre Lorde. Zakaria ultimately refutes and reimagines the apolitical aspirations of white feminist empowerment in this staggering, radical critique, with Black and Brown feminist thought at the forefront. This captivating analysis addresses how whiteness and white supremacist concepts, whether purposefully or not, have made their way into the feminist sphere and permeated feminist thought, therefore, undermining the fight for true egalitarianism. Blazingly incisive, meticulously detailed and unfalteringly humane, Against White Feminism is a devastating indictment of the failures of mainstream Western feminism and a manifesto for the radical change needed to redeem the movement. The phenomenon of white feminism is an open secret: widely and persistently called out by women of colour, working-class and queer women, it remains glaringly, shamefully absent from feminist discourse. It traces feminism’s complicity with colonialism, capitalism, male hegemony and the military-industrial complex, from its earliest days to the modern world, while also drawing on case studies from the author’s work as an immigration attorney. I cannot think of a more necessary book to bring into the social and political consciousness right now. White feminism is an enormous subject to tackle and an essential one, and Zakaria’s proposal is note-perfect: steely and clear-sighted, accessible and persuasive. Her writing balances a commitment to holding its subjects (and readers) to account with a radical compassion and a capacity for hope. Highly recommended.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Gisele McGraw

    Intellectually lazy and gratuitously antagonistic--most likely with the goal of increasing sales by aspiring to be "provocative". The title is needlessly inflammatory and foments outrage much like Fox News. When you confound the notion of white women with women of privilege who are of Anglo Saxon or western European elites you essentially dismiss women who appear to be "white" physically but are Slavic, Persian, Romanian, Lebanese, Armenian etc... and you relegate their struggles and their contr Intellectually lazy and gratuitously antagonistic--most likely with the goal of increasing sales by aspiring to be "provocative". The title is needlessly inflammatory and foments outrage much like Fox News. When you confound the notion of white women with women of privilege who are of Anglo Saxon or western European elites you essentially dismiss women who appear to be "white" physically but are Slavic, Persian, Romanian, Lebanese, Armenian etc... and you relegate their struggles and their contributions to the dustbin with one pathetic reductionist, woefully inaccurate term. Well this Slavic woman whose immigrant mother and grandmother struggled to overcome deeply entrenched patriarchal values and misogyny is not impressed. This author is the flip side of a die-hard Trumpist fundie--different lens but same narrow, unhinged and unenlightened way of delivering her point of view. And it is just that--a point of view although deeply warped and myopic.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Cavar

    It pains me to rate "Against White Feminism" this way. But I'm very frustrated with this book, and somewhat perplexed. Significant portions contain fairly blatant (t)radfem/TERF/SWERF dogwhistles, from the sneering at women who are very sexually active, to the simplistic and inaccurate positing of "asexuality" as the nonsexual counterpart to a boogeyman "hypersexual culture." Then, there's the comparison of FGM, most of whose victims are children and even babies, with cosmetic surgery, largely a It pains me to rate "Against White Feminism" this way. But I'm very frustrated with this book, and somewhat perplexed. Significant portions contain fairly blatant (t)radfem/TERF/SWERF dogwhistles, from the sneering at women who are very sexually active, to the simplistic and inaccurate positing of "asexuality" as the nonsexual counterpart to a boogeyman "hypersexual culture." Then, there's the comparison of FGM, most of whose victims are children and even babies, with cosmetic surgery, largely attained by adults capable of consent, with no attention to the differences between bodily injury mandated by family members/communities and bodily injury glorified by society but not enforced. Lastly, there's the utter lack of trans people, particularly trans women, in this entire book, matched with an uncomfortable willingness to sympathize with reactionary feminists (even amidst rightful criticism) of the 70s and 80s, despite their racism. This, matched with a complete elision of the specific issues faced by trans women (and largely of trans women as a group, in general) under a system of racialized transmisogyny, is glaring; alongside the sexual politics of this book and its choice not to unequivocally reject the violently bioessentialist politics of reactionary feminism in decades past and today, makes it impossible for me to recommend this to anyone, despite its astute, forthright, and necessary observations about racialized misogyny.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    This book took a more global approach to the impacts of white centric feminism than I had expected. That isn't a bad thing. It was an educationally different thing than what I had anticipated reading. White privilege impact how feminist doctrine has been formed. The book pushes for these to be removed from the fight for women's rights by recognizing that the issues of feminism aren't just those issues facing white women. Unlike a few other books on this subject I have read, this book placed a la This book took a more global approach to the impacts of white centric feminism than I had expected. That isn't a bad thing. It was an educationally different thing than what I had anticipated reading. White privilege impact how feminist doctrine has been formed. The book pushes for these to be removed from the fight for women's rights by recognizing that the issues of feminism aren't just those issues facing white women. Unlike a few other books on this subject I have read, this book placed a larger emphasis on the commercialization of feminism. While being told they are independent and equal to men, women are at the same time being told that this cigarette will make them sexy thereby immediately objectifying them. It continues to provide multiple examples of how colonialism brought about the unequal view and treatment of brown women versus white women. In the UK and USA, women were burned at the stake while in India, British colonizers made it illegal for a widow to burner herself on her husband's pyre. Really, it was about control. It still is. Women, white women, need to recognize that the privilege they receive as second class white citizens is just that and only at the convenience of white men. All women need to consider the concerns for all women and provide a united front. Thanks to NetGalley and W.W. Norton & Company for a copy of the book. This review is my own opinion.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Diane

    In Against White Feminism, Rafia Zakaria investigates White Feminism, or feminism steeped in white supremacy and capitalism that centers on the needs and existence of white women. Zakaria brings the reader alongside a thorough examination of the pitfalls of White Feminism, primarily through historical and contemporary examples. Zaharia highlights a patronizing and dangerous trend in which white women are presumed experts in liberation, despite lacking the knowledge and cultural competency to be In Against White Feminism, Rafia Zakaria investigates White Feminism, or feminism steeped in white supremacy and capitalism that centers on the needs and existence of white women. Zakaria brings the reader alongside a thorough examination of the pitfalls of White Feminism, primarily through historical and contemporary examples. Zaharia highlights a patronizing and dangerous trend in which white women are presumed experts in liberation, despite lacking the knowledge and cultural competency to be effective, too frequently resulting in more harm than non-action. I learned so much from Zakaria’s intentional research, and I found her analysis to be both accessible and engaging. I really enjoyed this work, and I highly recommend it! I received an advanced copy of Against White Feminism from Netgalley and W. W. Norton in exchange for my honest review.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Hafsa Lodi

    Reading this book made me feel like a lucky, front-row listener to a lecture by Rafia Zakaria – because make no mistake, her tone is sharp, stern and highly critical of the mainstream “feminism” that is widely celebrated in the West. She’s seeking to shake up the world of feminism, which, as she aptly argues, should have never been a monolithic vision, since women of different races and cultures have unequal access to equality. “The white gaze has never been disaggregated from feminism itself. I Reading this book made me feel like a lucky, front-row listener to a lecture by Rafia Zakaria – because make no mistake, her tone is sharp, stern and highly critical of the mainstream “feminism” that is widely celebrated in the West. She’s seeking to shake up the world of feminism, which, as she aptly argues, should have never been a monolithic vision, since women of different races and cultures have unequal access to equality. “The white gaze has never been disaggregated from feminism itself. It has become the only kind of feminism we recognize or even have language for,” writes Zakaria. She delves into the history of British colonialism to show how feminism has always had a decidedly “white” slant and has often been contradictory, always serving the purposes of white people in power. For instance, she writes that colonizers viewed native women in India as backwards savages that need to be clothed (in the case of Hindu women who wore saris) – while American white feminists viewed Afghan women as pitiful females who needed to be de-veiled during the more recent “War on Terror”. My favourite chapter was the one that explored how feminism is often equated with sexual liberation, and how the Western, “white” media – Cosmo Magazine and Sex and the City for instance, have painted an individualistic, sexually-free picture of female liberation, one that has led to terms like “girl-boss” and “self-love”, often losing the whole collective sisterhood spirit of feminism. And, her sections discussing “secure-feminism” and its impact on America’s War on Terror were extremely enlightening, especially considering recent events in Afghanistan, where the Taliban have taken over once again.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Samantha

    [review of an ARC provided by the publisher] 4.5 stars Well-researched, lots of interesting history and global perspectives that center Black and Brown women. I always feel like these types of books won't get into the hands of people who "need" to read them (white people), but I will say that I as a WOC learned things I didn't know and gained a deeper understanding of how to center BIPOC women in feminist thought and action. And how to think more critically about the white feminist lens we apply t [review of an ARC provided by the publisher] 4.5 stars Well-researched, lots of interesting history and global perspectives that center Black and Brown women. I always feel like these types of books won't get into the hands of people who "need" to read them (white people), but I will say that I as a WOC learned things I didn't know and gained a deeper understanding of how to center BIPOC women in feminist thought and action. And how to think more critically about the white feminist lens we apply to everything, even when it doesn't fit.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Bob Hughes

    This book packs a powerful punch in a short space, and I think is destined to be on hundreds of 'books you must read' lists to come. Covering a broad range of topics, from her personal experiences as a woman moving from Pakistan to the US and navigating conversations with white friends and colleagues, to the harmful outlooks and decisions of international aid organisations, Rafia Zakaria argues powerfully about the dangers of one narrative- a white and often privileged one- dominating all discuss This book packs a powerful punch in a short space, and I think is destined to be on hundreds of 'books you must read' lists to come. Covering a broad range of topics, from her personal experiences as a woman moving from Pakistan to the US and navigating conversations with white friends and colleagues, to the harmful outlooks and decisions of international aid organisations, Rafia Zakaria argues powerfully about the dangers of one narrative- a white and often privileged one- dominating all discussions, and shutting out voices. She describes being invited to an event to talk about Pakistan, only to realise that she has been put on a stall where she is expected to dress 'conventionally' and go around 'selling' both her culture and some bangles to the white women in the audience. She describes leaving the event early to go and cry in her car, and you can't help but feel both sad for her, but also truly angry. And anger is at the heart of this book, in such a powerful, tear-down-the-system-and-start-again, kind of way. And its anger is also its strength- these are issues that we should be angry about, and part of Rafia Zakaria's power as a writer is channelling the rage she and many others rightly feel, and using it as a tool for empowerment, education and change. One section I found especially poignant was the one I mentioned above on aid. Rafia Zakaria points out how racist double standards radically affect how 'aid' is given, and even who is doing the giving. From journalists putting women in danger by not getting consent for photos that are then used to cover stories of abuse, to the assumption that non-white women need to be 'saved' from non-white men, to even Western (and often hyper-capitalist/consumerist) narratives (especially around sex and sexuality) being seen as the benchmarks of 'progress'. She is razor-sharp in her analysis of not only how we have reached this stage, but also what needs to happen next. There is too much to go into one review, but this book burns with passion and intellect, and is a vital voice that we owe it to ourselves and others to make sure we listen to. I received an advanced copy of this book from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Tram Bui

    Rafia Zakaria's new book is a thoughtful, forceful critique of white feminism. Zakaria identifies women guilty of white feminism, scrutinizes NGOs that fail to consider the realities of the women they "empower," and points out the inaccuracies behind the idea that Western culture introduced the idea of "women's sexual pleasure and its liberatory potential." Some notes: • On the division within feminism: "It is the division between the women who write and speak feminism and the women who live it, Rafia Zakaria's new book is a thoughtful, forceful critique of white feminism. Zakaria identifies women guilty of white feminism, scrutinizes NGOs that fail to consider the realities of the women they "empower," and points out the inaccuracies behind the idea that Western culture introduced the idea of "women's sexual pleasure and its liberatory potential." Some notes: • On the division within feminism: "It is the division between the women who write and speak feminism and the women who live it, the women who have voice versus the women who have experience, the ones who make the theories and policies and the ones who bear scars and sutures from the fight."  • While Indian feminist Gita Sen and DAWN defined "empowerment" in the 80s as a liberal tool of social and political transformation (a concept deemed too radical by many development organizations), the meaning has largely diluted. • On virtue signaling: "The implied goodness of the charitable act thus works to erase complicity in a global system that is instrumental in enforcing global racial hierarchies." • "The Muslim women whom the Western press loves most are the ones who visibly refuse to critique the West, focusing only on what is wrong with Islam/Muslims/Muslim societies, thus validating the colonial thesis that all reform comes from the West." • On the future: "If the Trump era has weaponized racial divisons to end conversation, my hope is to normalize the discussions so that we can move past being reactive and toward being transformative." This collection reflects that non-upper middle class, non-white feminists are made to feel that there's a limitation as to who gets a seat at the table. We are allowed to share personal, but only palatable stories so long as we don't make white women uncomfortable by pointing out their intersectional shortcomings and so long as we don't make them acknowledge their privileges in the system. While this book is provocative, Zakaria isn't trying to exclude anyone from feminism so much as expose how whiteness has detracted from the ultimate goals of feminism while also silencing the voices of many.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    Thank you, NetGalley for a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review. In Against White Feminism, Zakaria highlights how feminism has continuously ignored the needs of women of color. She effortlessly blends examples from her own life and connects them to white feminist movements throughout history and the present day. Zakaria has obviously done her homework and is well-spoken on the topic. I think this is an important work for any feminist to read. Zakaria states her thoughts clearly and inclu Thank you, NetGalley for a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review. In Against White Feminism, Zakaria highlights how feminism has continuously ignored the needs of women of color. She effortlessly blends examples from her own life and connects them to white feminist movements throughout history and the present day. Zakaria has obviously done her homework and is well-spoken on the topic. I think this is an important work for any feminist to read. Zakaria states her thoughts clearly and includes many examples to make her point. I have found myself taking my time to read through each chapter because it's a lot to digest. There are a lot of different ideas in this book (and some new ideas to me, although they're probably not new to non-white folk) and it's also helped me view the world and womanhood from a different perspective. I'm interested to read more non-white feminist theory, specifically Muslim feminist theory, and I'd like to learn more about the time periods and historical references she made throughout the book.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Brown Girl Bookshelf

    If you're in a fiction groove, we implore you to get out of it - even if briefly - for Rafia Zakaria's "Against White Feminism." Zakaria's work is destined for every "must-read feminist" list for its searing truth and organized research. Despite the hard-hitting title, Zakaria's thesis is inclusive: eliminating white feminism cannot be equated to dismissing white women from feminism; rather, we must collectively remove centuries of white supremacy and capitalism from the common spaces of feminism If you're in a fiction groove, we implore you to get out of it - even if briefly - for Rafia Zakaria's "Against White Feminism." Zakaria's work is destined for every "must-read feminist" list for its searing truth and organized research. Despite the hard-hitting title, Zakaria's thesis is inclusive: eliminating white feminism cannot be equated to dismissing white women from feminism; rather, we must collectively remove centuries of white supremacy and capitalism from the common spaces of feminism to enable Black and Brown voices to equally participate in the movement. Where Mikki Kendall's "Hood Feminism" fell short of historical and contemporary examples, Zakaria's work includes an overflowing amount of studies. The insertion of her personal experiences - moving from Pakistan to the U.S., escaping an abusive marriage, and witnessing inequalities as an attorney at a majority-minority firm - will, I hope, allow readers to not simply observe her zeal but buy into her words too.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Risa

    An ARC of this book was provided by the publisher via Edelweiss+ in exchange for an honest review. 4.5 stars? This is a good read, an important one, and not an easy one. It requires thought and processing time. Although the writer takes time to define key terms related to intersectionality, oppression, and identify, the text extends beyond a simple introduction to these ideas. It addresses current issues as well as selected crucial moments from feminist history. I learned quite a few things from An ARC of this book was provided by the publisher via Edelweiss+ in exchange for an honest review. 4.5 stars? This is a good read, an important one, and not an easy one. It requires thought and processing time. Although the writer takes time to define key terms related to intersectionality, oppression, and identify, the text extends beyond a simple introduction to these ideas. It addresses current issues as well as selected crucial moments from feminist history. I learned quite a few things from reading it and am considering other issues differently after some of the facts and arguments that the author presented. I think this will be a book that I also purchase (as a physical copy) and revisit in the future. I’m very glad to have read Against White Feminism this summer.

  19. 5 out of 5

    cave dweller

    Powerful, punchy and VERY much needed in our current climate, Zakaria's book is a call for attention to racial differences in the feminist movement. After finishing this all in one day and sitting with a lot of concepts and knowledge that was new to me (such as how deeply capitalist many aid initiatives are beneath the surface) i think it would be a crime for this book not to be considered required reading on its release within the next few months. It covers an extremely broad amount of ground i Powerful, punchy and VERY much needed in our current climate, Zakaria's book is a call for attention to racial differences in the feminist movement. After finishing this all in one day and sitting with a lot of concepts and knowledge that was new to me (such as how deeply capitalist many aid initiatives are beneath the surface) i think it would be a crime for this book not to be considered required reading on its release within the next few months. It covers an extremely broad amount of ground in detail and depth without ever losing pace or focus, and questions many of feminism's flaws when it comes to the acceptance of white women as the 'norm' and its failure to account for the unique experiences of WOC, or even consult them on their own issues. This book may cause some discomfort amongst many white feminists but that is essential to bring about change. I highly recommend this! (Recieved for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review)

  20. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    This book is an important take on the state of feminism in the United States, though it can also be applied to the global feminist movement, as well. Despite the inflamatory title, Zakaria isn't trying to exclude anyone from feminism. Rather, the intent of this book is to expose how whiteness has detracted from the ultimate goals of feminism while also silencing the voices of feminists/allies of color. "White" feminism is the movement of feminism built upon the same power structures that have re This book is an important take on the state of feminism in the United States, though it can also be applied to the global feminist movement, as well. Despite the inflamatory title, Zakaria isn't trying to exclude anyone from feminism. Rather, the intent of this book is to expose how whiteness has detracted from the ultimate goals of feminism while also silencing the voices of feminists/allies of color. "White" feminism is the movement of feminism built upon the same power structures that have restricted the rights and voices of people of color and the LGTBQ communities. White feminism is less about the race of feminists, and more about the ignoring of the power structures that allow white scholars, activists, and politicians to be the de facto spokespeople for the feminist movement because those avenues are more easily accessible for non-POC. Overall, an interesting, eye opening, and potentially inspiring read addressing the possible futures of feminism.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ceci - csquaredreads

    Feminists, add this book to your TBR. In AGAINST WHITE FEMINISM, Rafia Zakaria writes on the many blind spots of feminism that hinder true equality and instead promote oppression. This work is an essential piece of the feminist puzzle. Zakaria writes with clarity and brevity, providing not only historical and modern critiques but also necessary steps to make actual feminism a reality. The book excels at giving context while also getting straight to the point. Some topics covered: -What white femini Feminists, add this book to your TBR. In AGAINST WHITE FEMINISM, Rafia Zakaria writes on the many blind spots of feminism that hinder true equality and instead promote oppression. This work is an essential piece of the feminist puzzle. Zakaria writes with clarity and brevity, providing not only historical and modern critiques but also necessary steps to make actual feminism a reality. The book excels at giving context while also getting straight to the point. Some topics covered: -What white feminism is & how and why ANYONE can be a white feminist -Trickle down feminism - the false and dangerous assumption that empowering white and wealthy women will in turn empower BIPOC and low income women -The cultural superiority the west believes in, when violence against women is just as embedded in their society -How capitalism is incompatible with the feminism & co-opted feminism as a brand rather than a force for change This book reminded me a lot of HOOD FEMINISM in its writing and focus. I highly recommend it BUT I also recommend reading WHITE TEARS/BROWN SCARS by Ruby Hamad BEFORE reading this book. Hamad lays a lot of the foundational work to understand the points Zakaria is making, and Zakaria provides examples that build off and flesh out Hamad’s work. "When you are called out for white feminism, this not a mere description of your racial heritage, something you may feel guilty about but can do nothing to change. It is a description of your words and actions. It is crucial that white women realize that being white and a woman are not the criteria that make a woman a white feminist; it is instead refusing to recognize white privilege." "This is not an elimination of white women from feminism; it is an elimination of “whiteness” from feminism, in the sense that whiteness has been synonymous with domination and with exploitation. And this goal can never be achieved without the support of white women." Thank you W. W. Norton for the gifted ARC!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jade Marshall

    I never quite know how to review non-fiction that isn't narrativised... You don't have to look very far on GoodReads to find demonstrations of why this book is an essential read, not just for feminists, but for all of us. White people are so fragile and so defensive of whiteness that the mere idea of someone contending it in any way is an unimaginable offence. I doubt that many, if any, of these angry reviews came from people who actually read the book, because Zakaria's appraisal is an incisive I never quite know how to review non-fiction that isn't narrativised... You don't have to look very far on GoodReads to find demonstrations of why this book is an essential read, not just for feminists, but for all of us. White people are so fragile and so defensive of whiteness that the mere idea of someone contending it in any way is an unimaginable offence. I doubt that many, if any, of these angry reviews came from people who actually read the book, because Zakaria's appraisal is an incisive examination of the corrupting permeation of white supremacy, privilege and individualistic capitalism in feminist factions and organisations. In short: it is brilliant. Zakaria takes a global approach to her consideration of the inherent flaws in the movement, specifically picking apart the legacy of colonialism and its persistent roots in our ideologies and social structures.. Obviously there's a lot to unpack there, but Zakaria does an excellent job of presenting a non-white centred history of female emancipation, empowerment, liberation and activism alongside her discussion of the 'default' white feminist perspective and the harm that dominant position has caused other women. This book is an excellent starting point for anyone and everyone to begin to diversify their knowledge of feminism, re-examine the accepted standards of feminist and sociopolitical discourse, acknowledge their privileges, complicity and ignorance and, ultimately, become better feminists: better allies. Perhaps even better people. Huge thanks to Hamish Hamilton, Penguin General and NetGally for providing a digital copy of the book in exchange for this review. I hope this one finds its way into many hands.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    While I think Zakaria has some valid points, I found her approach to presenting them very inflammatory. Her extremely narrow view of the issues left me feeling like she was looking to find flaws in anything that didn't align perfectly with her life experience and world view, and I fear her approach will have the result of making readers apathetic, rather than causing them to consider her points and drive readers to take action. In short, I found it polarizing. I am a white women, who considers m While I think Zakaria has some valid points, I found her approach to presenting them very inflammatory. Her extremely narrow view of the issues left me feeling like she was looking to find flaws in anything that didn't align perfectly with her life experience and world view, and I fear her approach will have the result of making readers apathetic, rather than causing them to consider her points and drive readers to take action. In short, I found it polarizing. I am a white women, who considers myself a feminist for ALL women and I try to behave accordingly. I read this book because I wanted to learn where I might have blind spots and address them. I did learn a thing or two that I can improve upon, but many times while reading this book I found myself inclined to discount the author's assertions because of how narrow they were. For instance, Zakaria sites that Sophia Loren's autobiography had a list of recommended titles and "not one of the authors listed was an Islamic woman who didn't agree with [Loren's] views on the Global War on Terrorism". If that is the best objection the Author can come up with to Loren's reading list, that really causes me to doubt the other assertions the author made throughout the book about how "white feminists" were discounting women of color. How many of the Zakaria's recommended readings disagree with her view on [fill in your favorite controversial topics that is tangentially related to feminism], I wonder? I really think this was a lost opportunity to help women band together and work towards equality for ALL women, and it makes me sad that it will likely end up causing divisions and distrust amongst women of different backgrounds. I'm glad I read it - it elicited a very emotional response for me - but I won't be recommending it to anyone who is on the path to moving towards a more inclusive form of feminism, as I'd fear it would lead them to feel like they can do no right, and have the effect of polarizing them and throwing up their hands, thus setting back the fight for inclusive feminism.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Imaduddin Ahmed

    Zakaria's critiques of development aid and saviour complexes and writing on others' behalves centering the reader on the narrator, of fiction/media portrayals of white women bashing brown men, of semantics chosen for violence against brown and black women vs white women are really on point. Zakaria's critiques of development aid and saviour complexes and writing on others' behalves centering the reader on the narrator, of fiction/media portrayals of white women bashing brown men, of semantics chosen for violence against brown and black women vs white women are really on point.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Why-why

    I figured out what was wrong with this book!  Perhaps consider reading this book backwards:  Start with the Conclusion, followed by the last 2 chapters, then read from the beginning. As is, this came very close to getting a DNF around page 110.  To be fair, I'm not a fan of feminist tracts to begin with.  There are some bona fide, valuable truths in Against White Feminism but the first six chapters, let's just say it felt like some long stretches to make the connection to the argument "against wh I figured out what was wrong with this book!  Perhaps consider reading this book backwards:  Start with the Conclusion, followed by the last 2 chapters, then read from the beginning. As is, this came very close to getting a DNF around page 110.  To be fair, I'm not a fan of feminist tracts to begin with.  There are some bona fide, valuable truths in Against White Feminism but the first six chapters, let's just say it felt like some long stretches to make the connection to the argument "against white feminism."  More clearly anti-imperialist, anti-colonial, and anti-consumerist, it wasn't until Ch7 that finally got on topic critiquing racism within the institutionalized form of feminism existent today.  Then the Conclusion ends with a bridge toward "solidarity" with other groups, I think would have been better served as a start for the book, encouraging readers to keep an open mind.  Without it the book starts with and maintains anger and combativeness, an instant turn off to many of those very same people Zakaria is trying to reach. The last 70 pages are the makings of a 4 star book.  But no matter which order you read the chapters in, the first six are problematic.  Reaching to make a point, arguments are weak, faulty, and/or ill considered.  And in a number of spots it's critique from both sides, too much, too little, damned if you do, damned if you don't.  

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sara Broad

    "Against White Feminism" by Rafia Zakaria is about how the feminist movement, with its primary focus on white women, has historically excluded women of color. From Sojourner Truth's "Ain't I a Woman" speech during the women's suffrage movement to white, female-led NGOs, white, upper-middle class women have both willingly denied a voice and decided what is best for women of color in the United States and around the world. While there is not 100% equality between white women and white men, there a "Against White Feminism" by Rafia Zakaria is about how the feminist movement, with its primary focus on white women, has historically excluded women of color. From Sojourner Truth's "Ain't I a Woman" speech during the women's suffrage movement to white, female-led NGOs, white, upper-middle class women have both willingly denied a voice and decided what is best for women of color in the United States and around the world. While there is not 100% equality between white women and white men, there are privileges afforded nevertheless, and it is from this privilege that white women have shaped and defined what we are taught is feminism. The feminist ideals of capitalist-influenced sexual freedom, an emphasis on women's empowerment, and the disruption of cultural practices deemed unsavory have had severe, irreversible consequences on black, brown, and Asian women across the globe. This book also forced me to think critically about some of the female journalists, authors, and photographers that have profited off how they exposed women in other countries. I really hope that all white women who consider themselves feminist will read "Against White Feminism."

  27. 5 out of 5

    Tashi

    This book should be an essential read for any white person who identifies as a feminist. It goes into great detail and seamlessly weaves a narrative demonstrating the pervasive and everlasting bonds between white supremacy, white feminist violence, and the current iteration of the feminist movement(s) that are predominant in the Global North and predominantly white countries. It is also hilarious to note that the only people who have given this book one-star reviews on Goodreads are predominantly This book should be an essential read for any white person who identifies as a feminist. It goes into great detail and seamlessly weaves a narrative demonstrating the pervasive and everlasting bonds between white supremacy, white feminist violence, and the current iteration of the feminist movement(s) that are predominant in the Global North and predominantly white countries. It is also hilarious to note that the only people who have given this book one-star reviews on Goodreads are predominantly angry white people.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sally

    remember kids, misogyny is okay as long as you preface it with "white"! :) remember kids, misogyny is okay as long as you preface it with "white"! :)

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen Hylen

    As a white woman I was eager to read this book, as I had read a lot of articles written about it. The opening chapter made me want to put it down as quickly as I'd picked it up, as Zakaria pointed out the flaws in some of my favorite feminists. But I continued reading, hoping that I would learn something and learn something I did. I read a lot a books on race but the stories in this book really opened my eyes in a very different way. And I don't think Zakaria is discounting the works all of the w As a white woman I was eager to read this book, as I had read a lot of articles written about it. The opening chapter made me want to put it down as quickly as I'd picked it up, as Zakaria pointed out the flaws in some of my favorite feminists. But I continued reading, hoping that I would learn something and learn something I did. I read a lot a books on race but the stories in this book really opened my eyes in a very different way. And I don't think Zakaria is discounting the works all of the white feminists who have gone before her, she is simply pointing out how these women have left many out of the conversation. Some have done damage and that recklessness needs to be pointed out and we should all look more closely at how we exclude many from the conversation and the actions needed to make life more equitable for all woman. I appreciate how Zakaria points out that some of these same philosophies and actions are actually hurting the same white women who support them. Much like Heather McGee in "The Sum of Us" and Jonathon Metzl in "Dying of Whiteness" point the same out in their books. I gave this book only 4 stars for a couple of reasons: Zakaria was a bit redundant like when she pointed out 3 times in 3 separate chapters or sections the fact that British colonialists outlawed abortion (and enforced these laws) in India but did not enforce the same rules in England. I also think she should have opened her book with what she'd written in the final chapter so that white people reading the book would understand her intent was not to sow animosity but to open dialogue, something that is greatly missing in our cancel culture society. Sure she didn't have to do so but, doing so might have kept many fragile (as she refers to them) white people from putting the book down in the first chapter. My hope is that so many people - especially white women - read this book because I think it is really important to the discussion of feminism and the recognition that we are still very divided in our efforts to make life better for all women.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jen K

    Feminism sadly mostly caters to the rights, wants and needs of white women and often does not include non-white woman a voice or seat at the table to share how their rights, wants and needs are not the same and not being addressed by the supposedly encompassing feminist movement. Not only are needs different, they may even be in conflict perceptions of feminism held by some white women. The needs make sense when women are given a chance to speak up for themselves rather than being told what they Feminism sadly mostly caters to the rights, wants and needs of white women and often does not include non-white woman a voice or seat at the table to share how their rights, wants and needs are not the same and not being addressed by the supposedly encompassing feminist movement. Not only are needs different, they may even be in conflict perceptions of feminism held by some white women. The needs make sense when women are given a chance to speak up for themselves rather than being told what they need. Women and the platform just need to be open to listening, open to making space for other voices and open to sharing the benefits of the joint efforts. One chapter was dedicated to my own profession and as a white women, I learned much and will need to keep those considerations in self reflection and practice. I also appreciated her mention of white women making it in the men's world of journalism by sharing stories of non-white women. I've always thoughtlessly enjoyed those stories and appreciated learning of other cultures and traditions not thinking of the consequences assuming that the authors did their best toward their "informants". It is more than a shame if otherwise. Zakaria speaks for unity and doing better to be one womanhood and hope that the message is heard.

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