White Tears / Brown Scars: How White Feminism Betrays Women of Color by Ruby Hamad

White Tears Brown Scars is a look at white feminism and its impact upon women of colour, from stereotypes of non-white women throughout history to the modern impact in the workplace and media. Combining the history of colonialism globally with specific examples particularly from Black and Indigenous women, Hamad exposes the ways in which feminism contributes to white supremacy and upholds racist power structures, and discusses the need for white women to actually understand and act upon intersectionality, by being aware of the inability to separate race and gender (and, as Hamad points out, class too).

This is a powerful and insightful book, that covers a lot of ground and uses a broadly global range of examples with some focus on Australia and the US at times. Hamad starts by looking at pervasive stereotypes about different groups of women of colour and how these have been created as a kind of binary with white womanhood, and then moves on to look in more depth at the actions and ideas of white womanhood, particularly the idea of ‘white tears’, or when white women react to criticism by people of colour by crying. It’s a concept I’ve read about in other places, but the in-depth focus is interesting and incisive, giving material examples of the effects upon women of colour this can have, for example in the workplace.

An important book for thinking about intersectionality (and then practically acting on those principles), White Tears Brown Scars focuses on an area of white supremacy that a lot of white people might not have considered much, and gives depth and history to an issue—white women’s tears—that has been discussed online (including by Hamad) in recent years. Drawing on a lot of previous work in the broader areas around colonialism, white supremacy, and stereotypes, the book will hopefully push people—especially white feminists—towards more that has been written on these topics as well, and, mostly importantly, to emphasise that change needs to happen.

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