White Tears/Brown Scars: How White Feminism Betrays Women of Colour


I didn’t know what to expect from this book. I knew that I wanted to educate myself more on the subject of racism, but I did not expect that reading would make me think so much. Why? Because I realized that we still have a lot to do to make “intersectional” feminism actually be like that. That as a white woman (despite coming from a country with a completely different experience of systemic racism than colonies like the United States or Australia), I am hugely privileged in the world, even if I still experience various forms of oppression (for example, because of my gender.) And that my/our Polish discussions about feminism are very limited in context of the world.

Ruby Hamad comes from a Lebanese-Syrian family, but has spent most of her life in Australia. In a country that prides itself on tolerance, it promotes an idealized version of history in which brave “explorers” play the main role, not the rape of indigenous women. Hamad approaches the topic of race from many angles, but does more than just describe the successive atrocities that non-white women have experienced, especially indigenous women in Australia and the United States. Instead, it places white women at the center of its narrative – how they ignore the importance of other women’s experiences, how they often manipulate the discussion about racism, and how actively they have been involved in maintaining white supremacy around the world.

What took me the longest to figure out were the parts where Hamad writes about what roles white women take to maintain their status quo. Let’s look at the title “white tears” – typical gaslighting. What is it about? Let’s imagine a situation where a non-white person politely points out that something we said is racist, and instead of apologizing, we start crying that we’re trying so hard and she doesn’t appreciate it and we turn the whole situation around so that everyone starts to feel sorry for us, and the topic of racism is once again swept under the carpet. Or the archetype of the “damsel in distress” (who needs to be “protected” from “black” or “brown” men), which was used to dehumanize and exploit indigenous people, because if only white women deserve to be saved, it means that only they are real women. The standard among people who owned slaves or colonizers was to treat non-white women as an object that they can use at will, primarily sexually. And obedience was enforced by terrorizing the population. And – white women, despite the fact that they had it harder than white men on many levels – often took an active part in creating such a narrative.

White Tears/Brown Scars it is also a criticism of the so-called “white” feminism, which consider gender as the most important point of oppression and – although it often throws slogans about “intersectionality” and “openness” – drowns out the voices of those who focus on fighting other forms systemic discrimination or violence, for example racism. Those who try to show that the fight for gender equality is important, but that it cannot only be about white women’s fight for rights equal to white men, but also about equal opportunities for black or brown women against white women, are often silenced and accused of “distraction” or “creating divisions.”

Do you want to know more? Consider why we have such a limited view of feminism, why we make stereotypes about non-white women (whether African, Arab, or Asian), why the media pays so much attention to describing the success of white rich women, but not to giving vote for people who do not fit into this “ideal”? Then read White Tears/Brown Scars. And it’s best if you treat it as the beginning of your own search, because Hamad raises so many questions, leaves so many things for further interpretation, that for me it will be the beginning of discovering topics that I have not thought about before.

Czas oczekiwania: 4-5 weeks










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