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I am unnerved by Gal Gadot and the mainstream "feminism" that both ignores Black and Brown folk and is selective in its liberation.

Arielle Iniko Newton
Jun, 09, 2017

Author's Note: If you ain’t a Black woman or femme, this conversation ain’t for you.

Wonder Woman shattered box office records this weekend, due in part to the promotion carried by mainstream feminism, but also Black women who championed the DC superhero film to their large audiences. Black women like Ava DuVernay, Kerry Washington, and Lupita Nyong’o made public their delight in seeing the film starring Gal Gadot and Patty Jenkins (both of whom are White women) surpass expectations and reel in over $100 million in a matter of days.

When I first saw these iconic Black women express their laudations of Gal Gadot, who is pro-Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and a former combat trainer with direct ties to the oppression of Palestinian people, I thought of the longstanding and tacit requisite of upward mobility that requires Black people to distance themselves or abandon those of us without social influence, political clout, or financial security. I think about how we are left to scurry for scraps as we survive in a White supremacist world that sees us as disposable while our faves engage in behaviors that are antithetical to our Liberation.

I care little about Wonder Woman and if this film should qualify in its potential to empower Black women and femmes. Black women and femmes can do and feel whatever the fuck we want without scrutiny. Instead, I am unnerved by Gal Gadot and how she is poised to become the next White superstar whose problematic herstory is overlooked because any “progress” White women make in amassing wealth is sacrosanct.  

White women who can better embed themselves into capitalist superstructures are viewed not through the lens of suspicion, but through the guise of victory. I worry that powerful Black women are aiding and abetting, whether willingly or otherwise, in this duplicity.

I say this firmly - I love Ava DuVernay, Kerry Washington, and Lupita Nyong’o. Through their artistry, my dark skin Black femmehood has been represented, celebrated, and validated. I honor their creative prowess and appreciate their attempts to challenge major media industries that undoubtedly undermine and underpay them.

In recognizing their hardships, I continue to embrace my Black feminism, which is rooted in the core tenets of intersectionality and equity. In my identity as a Black feminist, my principle objective is to ensure that hyper-marginalized Black women and femmes are protected from White supremacist violence. My Black feminism has evolved into a radical militant stance that makes no room to lionize White women, and thus I refuse to celebrate Wonder Woman as a cultural victory. Especially given the misogynoiristic stereotypes the film relies upon to contextualize the heroism of the White female lead.

Black women are not responsible for the entrenchment of White women into racial capitalism. Doing so foils our own pursuit of Liberation, considering that racial capitalism is the destructive force radical militants wish to overthrow.

However, some Black women with access to power are undermining grassroots efforts to hold culpable those White women who weaponize their femininity to particularly oppress Black people, especially Black women. In this vein, I think of Donna Brazile who jeopardized her career and credibility when she allegedly fed debate questions to then-candidate Hillary Clinton. This complicity is an indelible stain on her decorated legacy as a political operative; a sacrifice she made to entrench a violent White woman into the highest rung of political power.

White women’s herstory of usurping our labor and capital for their own social and political gains is widely documented. Despite the tendency to minimize White women’s roles in bolstering anti-Black racism as merely complicit, we know that White women were (and still are) active in fueling anti-Black oppression. White women and their feminisms urge us to reform patriarchy and “crack the glass ceiling” with their 77 cents, while demanding we excuse their racist and misogynoiristic treachery for the greater female good.

We don’t have to. We don’t need to. And we shouldn’t.

My Black feminism is exclusive to Black people. My value system has no room to mitigate White women’s agency in advancing White supremacy, because to do so is inherently anti-Black and counterproductive to the Liberation I seek.

In my mission of achieving Liberation for myself and my People, I have completely abandoned any desire to get closer to centers of socioeconomic power, but I recognize my decision is not shared with all Black women and femmes who seek not overthrow but comprehensive reform.

So for the majestic Black femme agents of change who must suckle up to White power for resources and access, I wish you safety and extend my Black feminist love.