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White tears, white rage: Victimhood and (as) violence in mainstream feminism

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Alison PhippsORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© The Author(s) 2021.Using #MeToo as a starting point, this paper argues that the cultural power of mainstream white feminism partly derives from the cultural power of white tears. This in turn depends on the dehumanisation of people of colour, who were constructed in colonial ‘race science’ as incapable of complex feeling (Schuller, 2018). Colonialism also created a circuit between bourgeois white women’s tears and white men’s rage, often activated by allegations of rape, which operated in the service of economic extraction and exploitation. This circuit endures, abetting the criminal punishment system and the weaponisation of ‘women’s safety’ by the various border regimes of the right. It has especially been utilised by reactionary forms of feminism, which set themselves against sex workers and trans people. Such feminisms exemplify what I call ‘political whiteness’, which centres assertions of victimhood: through these, womanhood (and personhood) is claimed to the exclusion of the enemy. Through legitimating criminal punishment and border policing and dehumanising marginalised Others, claims to victimhood in mainstream feminism often end up strengthening the intersecting violence of racial capitalism and heteropatriarchy.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Phipps A

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: European Journal of Cultural Studies

Year: 2021

Volume: 24

Issue: 1

Pages: 81-93

Print publication date: 01/02/2021

Online publication date: 19/01/2021

Acceptance date: 02/04/2018

Date deposited: 14/01/2022

ISSN (print): 1367-5494

ISSN (electronic): 1460-3551

Publisher: SAGE Publications Ltd


DOI: 10.1177/1367549420985852


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